George Samuel Mattingly helped NASA astronauts walk in space.
George Samuel Mattingly helped NASA astronauts walk in space.

George Samuel Mattingly, who with his business, Environmental Research Associates, helped NASA astronauts walk in space, died Nov. 4 at Coastal Hospice in Salisbury of a toxic reaction to iron infusion treatments. The former Timonium resident was 88.

Mr. Mattingly's company helped create the neutral buoyancy training system at the McDonogh School pool that NASA used to prepare astronauts in bulky spacesuits to move with ease in space.

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"What the business did was instrumental," said Mattingly's son Randall Mattingly, who had urged his father to write down his experiences. This year, the company's work on neutral buoyancy was recognized by a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

"In retrospect, it's very obvious, but NASA was looking for ways to solve the spacewalking problems," said John B. Charles, a NASA program scientist and an unofficial collector of the space agency's more obscure history. "Sam, of course, lived history. He helped develop the technique" later used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin before they took their historic first steps on the moon in 1969.

"We felt we shared in their accomplishments," Mr. Mattingly said in a 2009 Baltimore Sun story. "It was a great period to live through, and to be closely associated with such great people."

Mr. Mattingly was born in 1926. He was the third of four children of the late Howard T. Mattingly and Anna Lorene Shepp Mattingly, and grew up on 33rd Street in Charles Village.

He graduated from Calvert Hall College High School in 1944, where he played football and ice hockey.

After graduation, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the end of World War II. He worked as a flight engineer on C-47 planes in Puerto Rico, when the country was preparing for a possible invasion of Japan, according to his family.

After the war, he returned to Baltimore and attended several colleges before working in several management jobs. He would return to complete his college degree in 1983, at age 58, at Towson State University.

In 1951, he married Nancy Jane Carter, whom he met in Ocean City. Their first son, Randall, was born a year later. Their second son, David, was born in 1955.

During this time, Mr. Mattingly played in the Baltimore Hockey League for the Betholine Braves and Bowers Batteries. He also coached the Calvert Hall ice hockey team that won the MSA championship in 1954 and playoff championships that year and in 1955.

Mr. Mattingly worked for Thompson Trailer Corp. in the mid-1950s as a purchasing agent. In 1958, he left to start his own business, Dolphin Trailers, which specialized in boat trailers, his family said.

In 1960, Mr. Mattingly began working for Flight Refueling as a sales representative for the aerospace industry. The company was an early pioneer of mid-flight refueling technology. He left to join his friend Harry L. Loats Jr. to form Environmental Research Associates.

The company began experimenting with neutral buoyancy training in an Air Force swimming pool near the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. But the steady stream of people there caused them to relocate to McDonogh. Mr. Mattingly told The Sun in 2009 that they approached the headmaster at McDonogh because he had sold water filtration gear and "they had the best indoor pool in the area." The superior filtration made the water clear, which was important for photography, Mr. Mattingly said.

The company had just six employees but found itself competing with global corporations that were also exploring neutral buoyancy.

David Mattingly said his father was a very successful manager. "He was a quiet leader. He wasn't very outspoken, but he was highly influential. He was very effective at bringing the best out of people."

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Eventually, NASA took note of ERA's experiments and began sending astronauts to the Owings Mills pool. Among the astronauts who trained at McDonogh's pool between 1964 and 1966 were Mr. Aldrin, Scott Carpenter, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan.

"He was not going to say, 'look what I did,'" Randall Mattingly said of his father. "Over the years, he would consistently tell me stories about the involvement he had in the training of astronauts. I implored him to write this stuff down."

In 1974, Mr. Mattingly and Mr. Loats dissolved ERA after NASA moved its operations in-house. After that, Mr. Mattingly got into a variety of manufacturing management positions, Randall Mattingly said.

He continued to play hockey, and from 1968 to 1971, he was player-coach of the National Brewers and was playing full-contact hockey, his family said, as well as coaching his sons.

"He taught our boys how to skate," said Mrs. Mattingly. She said he was very proud that he continued to play well into his 40s, when he was able to take the ice with his sons.

Mr. Mattingly was an "all-around good player," recalled Stu Hyatt, who played with him. "He was a very clean player, a team player, and worked well with anyone."

Mr. Mattingly and his wife traveled to Moscow in September 1972 to see the last four hockey games in the Summit Series between Canada and Russia. In 1974, he created the Maryland Aces, which his family said was the first junior hockey team in the area to play in a league with teams from New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. From 1990 to 2000, Mr. Mattingly directed Mount Pleasant Summer Hockey for young players. In 1999, he helped establish and coach the first Perry Hall High School ice hockey team, Randall Mattingly said.

Mr. Mattingly was also an avid sailor, his family said, and was a member of the Chesapeake Bristol Club.

In 1999, he and his wife moved to Ocean Pines, where he played pingpong with the Ocean Pines players group until 2013, when he became ill.

A funeral service will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Burbage Funeral Home 108 Williams St., Berlin. A celebration of his life will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Mount Pleasant Ice Arena, at 6101 Hillen Road in Baltimore.

In addition to his sons and his wife of 63 years, Mr. Mattingly is survived by his daughters-in-law, Susan Mattingly of Perry Hall and Lynn Mattingly of Germany, and three grandchildren.

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