After Nearly 60 Years of Covering Space, Jay Barbree is Retiring From NBC

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    Bill Recto

    After Nearly 60 Years of Covering Space, Jay Barbree is Retiring From NBC

    Congrats to NBC News oldest staff member

    One of the foremost reporters of the U.S. space program, Jay Barbree, is retiring from NBC News.

    Barbree did his first live report for NBC News on July 21, 1958.

    “In 1958, after serving in the Air Force, a young man caught the space bug and moved from his native Georgia to Cocoa Beach, Florida just outside Cape Canaveral,” writes NBC evp David Verdi in a note to staff, announcing Barbree’s retirement. “The Russians had just launched Sputnik, the space race was on, and Jay joined NBC News to begin reporting on space travel and the lives of Astronauts, a new breed of American heroes.”

    Barbree, 83, is the only journalist who has covered all of the USA’s manned space missions and many robotic missions as well. He has reported from Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center on all the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions as well as all 135 Space Shuttle missions.

    In 1969, Barbree was part of the team that won an Emmy for NBC News’ coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  In 1986, following the Challenger disaster, he broke the news that it was faulty O-rings that caused the fatal accident.



    Most of Jay Barbree’s work for NBC, especially during the “Moon Race” years, was on NBC Radio, where he anchored their space coverage (at the same time, the late Frank McGee anchored NBC’s television coverage of space shots).

    In later years, you could see him anchoring live space coverage on MSNBC; Barbree also co-anchored (at the Cape, along with Brian Williams in New York) the final flight of the space shuttle program in 2011.

    You can see Barbree’s (and Williams’s) coverage of the final shuttle launch here: .

    I was a bit surprised Barbree would retire now; I thought he’d stay for a couple of more years and anchor, as his last broadcast, the launch of the first manned flight of the Space-X Falcon program.

    Truly the end of an era for space journalism as Barbree is (or is just about) the last surviving link among broadcast journalists to the pioneering years of the U.S. space program. McGee, Walter Cronkite, Jules Bergman, Charles VonFrend, Frank Reynolds, Roy Neal, and John Chancellor are all gone.



    To learn more about Jay Barbree’s career with NBC News “from the horse’s mouth”, read his memoir Live From Cape Canaveral. Space and broadcasting buffs will find it an enjoyable read.

    I hope that with his retirement, he’ll republish that book with a couple of new chapters describing the end of the Space Shuttle era and the beginning of the Falcon 9/Space-X program.

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