Jorgen Jensen, aerospace research engineer for Martin Marietta, dies

Jorgen Jensen, a well known aerospace research engineer, died.

Jorgen Jensen, a Martin Marietta Corp. aerospace research engineer who fled his native Norway after the Nazi occupation in 1940, died Aug. 7 of heart failure at the Charlestown retirement community.

He was 96 and a former Lutherville resident.

The son of Jorgen Jensen, a sales manager, and Ida Oline Espelid Jensen, a homemaker, Jorgen Jensen was born and raised in Bergen, Norway, where he graduated in 1938 from high school.

He enrolled at the University of Oslo in 1938, and his college studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II and the German occupation of Norway, which commenced on April 9, 1940.

Mr. Jensen was living at the Blindern Student Home near the university when his sleep was disturbed.

"We were awakened by the wailing air raid sirens at about 12:30 in the morning. We tumbled out of bed, and milled around the corridors, together with the rest of the students, asking ourselves what had happened," Mr. Jensen wrote in an unpublished memoir, "As Time Goes By."

In a while the students returned to their rooms. "We knew the situation was tense," he wrote, after Norwegian citizens were told by the politicians that the Germans were coming to help them defend themselves against a British invasion.

"The behavior of the responsible politicians was criminally irresponsible," he wrote. "I still get mad when I write about it, seventy years later!"

In the afternoon, the bombing began.

"It was very scary for us, having had only a few hours to become accustomed to war," recalled Mr. Jensen.

After the Nazis occupied Norway, they installed Vidkun Quisling as prime minister, "who had visions of a very central place for Norway, and himself, in the pure Aryan Thousand Year Reich," he wrote.

Mr. Jensen escaped to Sweden after the Germans began deportation of university students to labor camps that had been organized by the Quisling regime for the benefit of the German occupiers.

In 1944, Mr. Jensen enlisted in what was a Norwegian Army that had been raised within the borders of Sweden, a neutral, and was known as the "Reserve Police," of "which I was a member," he wrote.

After the war ended, he returned to Oslo, where he earned a bachelor's degree in physics in 1946.

In 1946, Mr. Jensen left Norway and emigrated to New York. He then moved to Cleveland, where he was given a scholarship to attend the Case Institute of Applied Science, which later became Case Western Reserve University.

After a year, he enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1949.

He was an assistant professor at Tulane University before going to work in 1951 at Chance Vought, an aerospace firm, where he worked on a radio-controlled cruise missile for the Navy Department. He then was employed at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Mass., where he worked with a small group of engineers that were developing Doppler radars.

He joined the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River in 1953, where he became an expert in orbital and lunar flight mechanics.

In 1959, he became a U.S. citizen.

His book, "Design Guide to Orbital Flight," was published in 1962. Werner Von Braun, also an aerospace engineer who was the father of the V-2 rocket and director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, wrote the introduction.

Other projects he worked on at the Martin Co. were the Vanguard and Titan II missile programs, and he was a member of the design team that developed the Earth Resource Instrumentation that went into space aboard the Skylab space station.

He lectured widely on many space topics, including the Vanguard rocket launch vehicle, and had a short educational television series on planetary exploration.

"Everybody wants to go the moon, and after that, they'll want to go to Mars," Mr. Jensen said in a 1957 Baltimore Sun article.

In his lecture, Mr. Jensen said the difficulty of going into space is not "getting out there, but getting back," and predicted that "manned space flight is quite a way off."

After retiring in 1978, Mr. Jensen joined the faculty of Goucher College, where he was an assistant professor of mathematics and taught advanced math and computer programming for a number of years.

Mr. Jensen moved to a home on Tally Ho Road in Lutherville, where he lived for 30 years before moving to the Charlestown retirement community in 2005.

While living in Lutherville, he became a mainstay of the Heathfield Community Association, where one of his achievements resulted in the installation of a noise barrier along Interstate 695.

Mr. Jensen wrote that he was president of the association "for so many years that I was referred to as president for life, like Idi Amin."

At the Catonsville retirement community, he took courses and became a teacher again: He taught Excel programming and a course on "Norway, The Land, The People, The History."

He also enjoyed writing poetry and short stories for the Charlestown newspaper. A history buff, he donated his extensive library of U.S. and world history books to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

His wife of 25 years, the former Tordis Hvidsten, died in 1975.

Funeral services for Mr. Jensen will be held Sept. 21 in Bergen, Norway.

Mr. Jensen is survived by three sons, Olav Jensen of Glenelg, Jorgen Jensen of Leesburg, Va., and Eirik Jensen of Oslo; three daughters, Ingrid Jensen Vaughan of Ellicott City, Karen Jensen and Tine Jensen, both of Oslo; 10 grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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