Our SGAC team is saddened to hear of the passing of long standing SGAC friend, James D. (Jim) Burke.
Jim Burke was recognised as the first recipient of the SGAC alumni award in 2019, based on his ongoing support to SGAC and genuine care for the next generation, actively supporting and empowering space young professionals and students. Mr. Burke, an Apollo Era Engineer and expert on lunar settlement and exploration, was one of the advisers at the founding conference of the Space Generation Advisory Council during UNISPACE III in Vienna, Austria.
Since then, he attended almost all SGAC activities, supporting SGAC both with his time and through donations. His support of young professionals and students extends beyond SGAC, having contributed to the International Space University (ISU) as a faculty member and the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) activities as well. He is known for being the first program manager of the Ranger Program, and considered one of the pioneers of America’s space program. Jim is an inspiration to the many SGAC members who have interacted with him at the Space Generation Congresses and other SGAC events.
Our deepest condolences to his family and friends during this sad time. Past SGAC leadership shared the following reflections, highlighting the tremendous impact that Jim made to SGAC over many years.
Jim Burke wasn’t just a supporter of SGAC he was its forever member, as his spirit had always been aligned with that of SGAC. His support to the organisation was a game changer that allowed us to grow and to better support our members. All of his support had been done in an anonymous manner because that’s how Jim was, he wasn’t looking for attention, he just wanted to help. You will never be forgotten, friend. Ad Astra Jim!
Dr. Agnieszka Lukaszczyk, Former SGAC Chair and Executive Director
Jim and Lin Burke have been some of the strongest supporters of SGAC from the very beginning. They have given their time and energy for decades to SGAC. I will always remember Jim and Lin in the front row of several SGCs listening intently. They may have been the oldest in attendance, but they were the youngest at heart. May we all be so generous with our time and knowledge to the next generation.
Ariane Cornell, Former SGAC Executive Director
I met Jim and Lyn Burke for the first time at the SGC 2010 in Prague – a humble, friendly and very polite couple sitting in one of the front rows of the audience hall. I had no idea of their lifelong dedication to education and their support to SGAC…but I very quickly realized the competence and depth of their knowledge when they asked the best, most to the point questions during the final presentations. Young in spirit, fresh in mind, Jim had the uncanny skill to (apparently) not pay attention to the ongoing discussions or presentations in the room, yet always pick the right moment to ask make a clear, very relevant point that would put discussions back onto track, or derail heated engineering discussions with wit and proper context.
I am very grateful for their long and unwithering support to the education of young men and women. The space generation is standing on the shoulders of giants, and Jim was one of the most humble, present and steadfast of those shoulders.
On a personal note, his guidance made me appreciate the power of listening, humility, and stepping back to allow those coming after us to take charge and make their own mistakes, instead of putting myself on top of everything. Thank you Jim for being here for us. Ad astra!
Chris Vasko, Former SGAC Chair
I met Jim Burke in person first at SGC 2013 and later at the ISU in 2014. He was a presence: Quiet and attentive, but then he would say a few words, and put you on a path you never even thought of. That is what stood out to me: so much experience, and knowing exactly what to say and which questions to ask to steer you in the right direction. He was also a long term supporter of SGAC, from the days when we were in our infancy, to today. He really believed in the next generation, and you can see that with his involvement with all the organizations that shape the next generation of professionals in the space sector. I remember many of us missing him these past few years at SGAC events, and I think that in itself shows the impact he has had on this generation of space professionals.