New Mexico Museum of Space History
Alamogordo, New Mexico – When Edward Chris Dittmer was born on September 24, 1918, very few people thought about man travelling to space and even fewer considered that Dittmer would play an important role in that effort.
Dittmer, who passed away on January 2, 2015 in Alamogordo, was instrumental in man’s early research into space flight. A decorated veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, he joined the service in 1942 as part of the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry. In 1946, he enlisted in the Army Air corp. While serving in Vietnam in the early sixties, Dittmer flew pilot rescue missions into enemy territory.
Dittmer’s last duty station was at Holloman Air Force Base where he worked in the Space Biology Department. During his time there, he trained six Astrochimps including HAM and Enos both of whom flew into space as a precursor to manned spaceflight. In addition, he also worked on Project Manhigh, which put the first three Americans into near-space in gondolas lifted aloft by balloons. This work was made famous when USAF Col. Joe Kittinger made a record breaking high altitude jump from 102,800 feet, proving that an astronaut could survive a high-altitude ejection.
It was during a practice ascent for Manhigh III that Dettmer proved his heroism once again, just as he had done during his wartime tours of service. “The Holloman Story” (UNM Press, 1967) said Captain Grover Schock, who was the prime mission pilot, was nearly killed when a “freak mishap plunged the car….a hundred feet to the ground.” Schock had “his throat cut almost from ear to ear.” It was Master Sergeant Ed Dittmer who sped to the scene, refusing to even stop for pursuing law enforcement. He administered expert first aid and is credited with saving Schock’s life.
Dittmer retired in 1973 with the distinction of having been named NCO of the Holloman Air Force Base Aeromedical Field Laboratory’s Space Biology Branch by USAF Col. Dr. John Paul Stapp. After retirement, he became a valued volunteer at the New Mexico Museum of Space History which inducted him into the International Space Hall of Fame in 2001 for his work with the Astrochimps. Dittmer also spent many hours at local elementary schools talking about his experiences and was interviewed frequently by reporters, authors and filmmakers.
A reception paying tribute to Dittmer’s life will be held at the New Mexico Museum of Space History on Thursday, January 8, at 4:00 pm on the museum’s first floor. “We are honored to have the opportunity to host Ed’s family and friends here where he spent so many hours sharing his remembrances and insights with our visitors and staff,” said Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll. People interested in attending should let the museum receptionist know that they are onsite to attend the Dittmer reception.