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Aug. 17, 1925 – Nov. 21, 2012

Walter H. Wurster, a retired Calspan scientist whose work was a key to the success of the space program, died Wednesday in Orchard Park. He was 87.

Mr. Wurster, an Orchard Park resident, was born in Germany and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Buffalo.

Mr. Wurster worked for Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory/Calspan from 1955 until his retirement in 1995. He built an international reputation for experimental methods and advanced quick-response instrumentation for measurements obtained in a few-thousandths of a second. Wurst was known by his colleagues as “Dr. Optics.”

His experiments ranged from the laboratory to large ground-test facilities to field operations and actual flight measurements. His research was key to safe re-entry for NASA space vehicles to earth.

Mr. Wurster authored more than 50 technical papers and reports – several presented during international meetings. He was a member of several government working groups, including the American Physical Society and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.

An avid sailor, he was a member of the Buffalo and Youngstown yacht clubs.

Survivors include his wife of 42 years, the former Sharon A. Murray; a daughter, Judy; and a sister, Eleanor Friberg.