Tony Christopher David Knight
February 11, 1936-December 1, 2023
Born February 11th, 1936, Tony Christopher David Knight has joined his beloved wife Bernice in death. Tony grew up in various places around the world. He sailed out of Liverpool, headed to Trincomalee Ceylon, in 1941 with his family. In 1942 he traveled through India to South Africa where he resided until 1944. He returned to a ravaged London in time to hear the WWII bombers and resided there for a year. He eventually moved, with his parents, to South Hampton where he attended King Edwards VI Academy.
At King Edwards VI he was quickly recognized for his intellect and started learning physics at the age of eight. These were good years for Tony, where he learned not only academics but athletics and decorum. He would walk home for lunch each day and listen to the BBC classical lunch time concerts. This was the beginning of his great love of music. It was at King Edwards VI that Tony began to understand his potential.
At Bristol University he played football (soccer) and rugby for the university's teams. He earned his degree, with honors, in nuclear physics and while there he met a young nursing student destined to be his wife. Because of his ballroom dancing skills, on that first night, Tony was able to sweep Bernice off her feet with his tango!
Tony and Bernice married soon after college and having few resources had a working honeymoon on the Isle of Wight. Living in a small room at the back of a hotel, right on the beach, Tony was a barman and Bernice the waitress. He spoke of these months very fondly right before his death. In ensuing years Tony's career and his family expanded and grew rapidly.
He first became a teacher but did not make enough to support his growing family so moved into industry. He was a research physicist in the opening of the first nuclear power plant in England but was unhappy because they were moving forward too quickly without answering, what he thought, were the necessary questions.
Then Sputnik went up and Russia was winning the space race. Suddenly top scientists were in demand around the world. Tony chose to immigrate, on a genius visa, to the United States. He arrived in the United States with his beloved wife and five children (one only ten days old), a few crates of belongings and a bit of savings; and he immediately started work. Working for Bendix in Ann Arbor, MI, he helped NASA develop the Apollo space program.
Tony worked on the Viking missions to Mars at Martin Marietta Aerospace near Denver. The two Viking Landers, that became the first ever spacecraft to land on Mars, contained (among other experiments) a seismometer, a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, and an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer Tony helped design and build. Heading up entry sciences on the Viking Landers Tony briefly relocated to the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena to work on mission control. Tony earned a NASA public service award and a presidential medal for the first exact measurements of mars. A replica mockup of this lander can be seen on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Space and Technology and the landing sites will be monuments should future explorers visit Mars.
In 1977 two Voyager probes took off. Tony was involved in this project. As originally designed, the Voyagers were to conduct closeup studies of Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn's rings, and the larger moons of the two planets. Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are still traveling and collecting valuable scientific data from the farthest reaches of space.
Tony's next project was the Galileo mission to Jupiter: the first spacecraft to orbit an outer planet. Tony was in charge of designing and building the 6 instruments aboard the Galileo Probe: The Atmospheric Structure Instrument, the Neutral Mass Spectrometer, the Helium Abundance Interferometer, the Net-Flux Radiometer, the Nephelometer and the Lighting/Radio Emission instrument. In 1995 the Galileo probe traveled 50 million miles away from the spacecraft at speeds of 106,000 MPH to descend through the atmosphere of Jupiter. All instruments performed as designed, giving us the first detailed analysis of Jupiter's atmosphere. Then Jupiter's gravity crushed it into the size of a grain of sand.
Tony led the design and build for the Descent Imaging Spectral Radiometer (DISR) aboard the Huygens Probe. Holding the record for the most distant landing from our earth the Huygens Probe landed on the surface on Titan (Saturn's largest moon). The famous images sent back from the surface of Titan were from the DISR.
Due to a massive heart attack Tony's career ended at the age of 55. At the time of his retirement, he was Director of the world renowned "Payloads, Sensors, and Instruments" group at Martin Marietta Aerospace. His "awards wall" is full of awards too numerous to detail from NASA, JPL, and Martin Marietta.
Tony was given a life expectancy of two months to two years after his heart attack. Typical of Tony he excelled and lived an extra 32 years. He loved music, wood working, performance cars, science, the outdoors, family and friends. Throughout his life he was a fabulous husband and father. From many travels and adventures to making kites out of newspaper with his children. He loved well and was well loved. Being in his presence brought a sense of calm love that will be greatly missed. He noticed people's needs and did his best to fulfill them. He could talk to anybody, quietly and often alone, and help solve their individual issues. No problem was too big, or small, whether it was reaching the stars or learning the correct way to kick a soccer ball. He had time for people he loved and they were precious years!
He succumbed to his damaged heart on December 1, 2023 in his sleep. He died peacefully and painlessly. A much-loved husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, and a very accomplished man.
Tony is survived by his children David (Coleen) Knight, Gillian (Mike) Christensen, Jeff (Julie) Knight, and Graham (Alora) Knight; eleven grandchildren; four great- grandchildren; brother Colin (Pat) Knight. He is preceded in death by his wife Bernice Knight; son Andrew Knight; parents Cyril and Edith Knight.