US space shuttle launch
US space shuttle launchNASA

A Jewish scientist who was a space race pioneer for his work on rockets has died at the age of 97, JWeekly reported.

Morris Rosenthal was one of the top rocket scientists in America during his time working on contributions to the early US space program and beyond, starting with work on the Manhattan Project during the 1940s.

Working for the US Navy and Air Force, as well as private aerospace firms such as Lockheed and Huges, Rosenthal had over 20 groundbreaking patents. His contributions were also instrumental in the first spaceships reaching the moon. His developments were key to the Apollo lunar module lander, the space shuttle program and the Hubble Space Telescope.

During his career, he was part of a group of scientists who oversaw the NASA space missions of astronauts such as Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and Alan Shepard.

Rosenthal went on to work on U.S. missile defense systems, including Minuteman, Titan and Poseidon.

He also worked on a high resolution satellite program, known as Hexagon, that was used to monitor arms buildups with a remote sensing apparatus. The program was used to detect weapons production by enemy and rogue nations, and could track the movement and buildup of arms.

“I honestly think that the Hexagon program was responsible for preventing World War III,” said Phil Pressel, who designed the program’s cameras.