Alton P. Mayo

Alton Parker Mayo passed away on Saturday, September 4, 2021, at the age of 93. He was born in Greenville, NC, and was a resident of Tidewater, Va. for 70 years. Alton received the BS in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University, the Master of Business Administration from George Washington University, and the MS in Aeronautical Engineering, and the PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic University. His dissertation studied orbital mechanics. He spent his entire career at NACA and NASA Langley, from which he retired in 1984. Among others, his orbital calculations enabled the Mercury mission, which accomplished the first manned space flight, the Lunar Orbiter mission, which mapped the moon in preparation for manned landings, the Viking mission, which accomplished the first Mars landing and the Planetary Grand Tour which became the Voyager mission, whose spacecraft is now the furthest distant man-made object in the universe.

Alton enjoyed ham radio, fishing, camping, and repairing tube-based electronics. On retirement, Al and Ruth Ann camped across North America. He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. Among a lifetime of beautiful memories, his children and grandchildren fondly remember surprise trips to the Virginia State Fair, summer vacations traveling the Intracoastal Waterway to the North Carolina Outer Banks aboard the converted oyster boat “Jean Ann”, Vanagon camping trips to Big Meadows, his interstate trips to repair their cars and Alton’s unwavering devotion to Ruth Ann during the poor health of her final years.

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 54 years, Ruth Ann Yates Mayo; his parents William L. and Mattie H. Mayo; seven brothers, Wilbur, Charley, Louis Allen, James, Curtis, Robert, and George Mayo; and a sister Mattie Harris Horne. He is survived by three children, Michael E. Mayo and wife Gail, Joseph W. Mayo and wife Eloise, and Jean A. Mayo and husband Kurt; two grandchildren, Catherine and Michael; five brothers, Bruce, John, Edward, Ralph, and Samuel Mayo; and a sister Lula (Lou) Ladson.

A graveside service will be held on Monday, September 13 at 11:00 a.m. at Peninsula Memorial Park, officiated by the Rev. Dr. Chester Brown. Arrangements are under the care of Peninsula Funeral Home, 11144 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601.  Expressions of sympathy should be sent to Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (


1 Comment

  1. Jay Bixler

    Alton was my mentor Fall of 1976 when I was a co-op student at Langley. He was unfailingly kind and helpful on the project I had comparing estimated picture coordinates between the Mariner and Viking missions. He knew what he was doing! Condolences to his family.

    Jay Bixler, Lafayette, CA

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