Robert W. Farquhar, 83, a retired astrodynamicist, has died

Robert Willard Farquhar died Oct. 18. He was 83.
Robert Willard Farquhar died Oct. 18. He was 83. (Baltimore Sun)

Robert W. Farquhar, a retired NASA astrodynamicist who was also an expert on the postal history of Manchuria, died Oct. 18 of cardiomyopathy at his home in Burke, Va. The former longtime Columbia resident was 83.

Robert Willard Farquhar was born and raised in Chicago and graduated in 1950 from Parker High School.


He enlisted in the Army in 1951 and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. He was later deployed to Korea where he served with the 187th Infantry Regiment until being discharged.

He earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1959 from the University of Illinois, and that fall, began master's degree studies at the University of California at Los Angeles where he earned a degree in 1961 in engineering.


Dr. Farquhar earned a Ph.D. in astronautics from Stanford University in 1968.

He began his professional career in 1960 with NASA at the Marshall space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and later joined the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Dr. Farquhar developed what he called the "halo satellite," which would orbit more than 40,000 miles above the moon, which enabled astronauts to remain in contact with the earth even though they were on the far side of the moon.

He also designed many space missions including a 2000 mission that put a small NASA surveillance satellite into orbit around the asteroid 433 Eros that was 160 million miles from earth.

On Valentine's Day in 2000, Dr. Farquhar persuaded the International Astronomical Union to name an asteroid after his wife, Irina, and they complied naming it 5957 Irina.

"I'm terribly in love with my wife," he explained to The Washington Post at the time. "Without her, I'd be lost."

He retired from NASA in 1990, and then joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, where he was mission manager until retiring a second time in 2007.

He was a prolific writer of scientific papers as well as books, some of which included "Analog Studies of the Limit Cycle Fuel Consumption of a Spinning Symmetric Drag Free Satellite," and "Fifty Years on the Space Frontier: Halo Orbits, Comets, Asteroids, and More."

In his private life, Dr. Farquhar had devoted more than 50 years to collecting and documenting he postal history of Manchuria which resulted in "Manchuria in Transition" being published in 2006.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Witzke Funeral Home, 5555 Twin Knolls Road, Columbia.

In addition to his wife of 11 years, the former Irina "Irene" Vostokova, Dr. Farquhar is survived by his daughter, Anna "Anya" Farquhar of Arlington, Va.; and four grandchildren. His first wife, the former Bonnie Gail Johnson, died in 1992. Another daughter, Patricia Lee, died in 2011.

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