Jim Lombardo, USDoE RTG Programs, 1920-2011

TO:  Friends and colleagues of Jim Lombardo
FROM: Gary L. Bennett

This evening I spoke with Catherine Lombardo (Jim’s wife) and Carol (Jim’s daughter), learning that Jim had passed away on Saturday, 12 February.  Carol sent me the obituary pasted below.   Catherine Lombardo’s address is 10816 Longmeadow Drive; Damascus, Maryland 20872-2241.

I had known Jim since we both worked on the NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Applications) program at what was then NASA’s Lewis Research Center.  Jim headed the NERVA materials branch and was instrumental in putting that work on a sound basis (I was in the reactor branch).  With the cancellation of NERVA Jim and I transferred to the Multi-Hundred Watt RTG program at the AEC-NASA office in Germantown, Maryland where Jim became the MHW-RTG program manager.  The continuing success of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft testify to Jim’s technical management skills.

I personally believe we wouldn’t have had the GPHS-RTG had it not been for Jim’s determination and dedication.  He overcame almost impossible odds to deliver the highest powered, highest specific powered RTG ever.  Galileo, Ulysses, Cassini and New Horizons owe their success to Jim’s focus on delivering the best RTGs to date.


Dr. Gary L. Bennett
5197 West Redbridge Drive
Boise, Idaho 83703-3431

Telephone: 1+208.333.7764

James J. Lombardo, 90, died peacefully at his home in Damascus, MD on Feb12, 2011.  He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Catherine Adams Lombardo; daughter, Carol Lombardo of Damascus; son, Michael Lombardo of Maplewood, NJ; three grandchildren, Adrienne Gvozdich Gondouin, Michael Gvozdich and Grant Gvozdich; brother, Joseph Lombardo of Pocasset, MA and a sister Maryann Nespoli of Ocean City, NJ.
Born September 14, 1920 in Philadelphia, PA to the late Michael J. Lombardo and Anna Caruso Lombardo, he served in the US Navy for 4 years during WWII and graduated Lehigh University in 1951 with honors. He served as Chief of Materials and Structure at NASA and later became the Director of Special Applications for Reactor Systems Development and Technology for the Department of Energy.  His group was responsible for developing the RTG power source for the Voyager, Galileo and Ulysses Space Missions.  Today, Voyager 1 is at the edge of our solar system after a 33 year odyssey and continues to send scientific information back to earth.
A memorial service will be held March 10, 2011 at 11AM at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Damascus, MD. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St Paul’s Building for the Future Campaign, 9240 Damascus Road, Damascus, MD, 20872. 
Immediately following the service please join us for lunch at Carol’s home. 9401 Damascus Road, Damascus.  (301) 253-5899

An important paper by Lombardo may be downloaded by following this link:

Mission of Daring: The General-Purpose Heat Source Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator
GL Bennett, JJ Lombardo, RJ Hemler, G Silverman…