Loretta “Aleta” Jackson DeLong
July 11, 1948 – December 4, 2016
Loretta “Aleta” Jackson DeLong’s passion was aerospace, not only for that which exists, but for making ideas and dreams come true.
DeLong, a founding member of XCOR Aerospace and partner in Agile Aero, succumbed to chemotherapy treatments for ovarian cancer. She died Sunday in Midland. She was 68.
“She was someone who never let the fact that she wanted to do something impossible stop her from doing it,” XCOR founding member Jeff Greason said on Monday.
In a statement sent to the Reporter-Telegram, XCOR President and CEO Jay Gibson said: “The entire XCOR family was saddened to learn of the passing of Aleta Jackson DeLong. As one of the founding partners of XCOR, Aleta was instrumental in forming XCOR’s unique and positive personality of innovation, creativity and persistence during our formative years.”
In reflecting on DeLong’s importance to XCOR, Greason said, “There wouldn’t have been an XCOR without Aleta. When we were all laid off from Rotary (Rocket Co.), she really ran around behind the scenes telling us we were too close to quit and we had to try this again.”
Greason, who is now the founder of upstart Midland-headquartered Agile Aero, said DeLong’s role in XCOR was invaluable in helping ideas become reality but that she always stayed in the background.
“During the time before I came to know her in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the idea of commercial or reusable space vehicles was a lonely idea to be a champion of,” he said. “She was one of a very small number of people running around and keeping that idea alive. She was never somebody who put her name on the front door, but wherever you turned ... you’d find her as the person keeping the community together.”
DeLong’s first aerospace work was as an engineering co-op from Indiana Institute of Technology working on the Gemini project for McDonnell Aircraft Corp, according to a eulogy provided to the Reporter-Telegram. She left her pursuit of an engineering degree to take care of her ill mother.
She later joined the U.S. Air Force. She worked 10 years as a repair technician for Xerox and wrote science fiction and nonfiction.
DeLong worked for the L-5 society and later became aid to Gen. Daniel Graham and helped create the DC-X, or Clipper Graham, launch vehicle. She also edited the Journal of Practical Applications of Space while with Graham’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.
She was the office manager of Rotary Rocket Co. and is credited with encouraging fellow XCOR founding members Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong and Doug Jones to “stick with it” after their layoffs from the company’s propulsion group.
DeLong earned money as a reporter and editor at the Mojave Desert News while the upstart XCOR grew. She wore many hats at XCOR: purchasing, personnel, bookkeeping, editor, receiving, community outreach and travel.
She and longtime partner Dan DeLong were married this year. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer the next day.
“Her diverse and rich history in and around the space industry as well as serving our great nation in uniform was truly special,” Gibson said in his statement. “We at XCOR extend our thoughts and prayers to Dan DeLong and her entire family.”
When asked for parting comments, Greason said. “It’s hard to capture someone with that much energy in so few words.”
Her body of work and her impact on the space community speaks volumes.
Arrangements under the direction of Ellis Funeral Home, Midland, TX.
- Memorial Service
Loretta “Aleta” Jackson DeLong
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February 7, 2017
I was saddened to hear of Aleta's passing. We spoke by email and phone many times, and she is a large reason I decided to work and live in Mojave, and enter the private space field. I regret not getting to know her better, but do believe that pioneer spirit and temerity she so aptly displayed and ignited in me will live on through the countless others she influenced. One just never knows the impact they can have on others, and Aleta is one of my aerospace heroes.
December 29, 2016
Dan - So sorry to learn about your wife's passing. (Vic keeps me informed about the family ties.) You were together so many years; keep those memories in your heart. We love you.