George Derderian, a former Republic Aviation and U.S. Navy physicist, died Feb. 25 in Atlanta. He was 92.
The cause was heart failure, his brother John said.
Derderian was a member of the team that developed one of the experiments Neil Armstrong placed on the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Known as the Laser Ranging Retroflector system, it allows scientists to calculate the distance from Earth to the moon with unprecedented accuracy by measuring the travel time of light shot from Earth and bounced off its reflectors. That distance, which is constantly shifting, averages 385,000 kilometers, but thanks to the retroflector, which is still in use, scientists can measure it almost down to the centimeter.
As head of the U.S. Department of Navy Physical Sciences Laboratories in Winter Park, Florida, Derderian also developed training equipment that led to modern flight simulators.
Derderian was born Nov. 19, 1922, in Rochester to Sirkes and Sogoma Derderian, Armenian genocide survivors. Sirkes, his father, was a carpet layer; his mother was a homemaker.
Raised in South Ozone Park, Queens, Derderian attended John Adams High School and Queens College, where he won a scholarship.
His college studies were interrupted by World War II and front-line service in Europe in the 7th Army, 63rd Infantry Division, for which he was later awarded the Bronze Star for Heroism in Combat.
After the war, Derderian received his master's degree in physics from New York University and married Alice Kenney, a fellow physicist, in 1953.
The couple moved to Seaford after they married, and while on Long Island Derderian worked for Republic and Sperry. He also taught physics at Pratt Institute and Hofstra University.
Derderian's work took them to Florida in the mid-1960s.
Derderian was predeceased by his wife and a brother, Charles, of Manhasset. He is survived by brothers Robert and John, of Manhasset. He and his wife are also survived by a son, Gregory, of Ponte Vedra, Florida, and daughters Jeanne Seeb and Elizabeth Wood, of Atlanta, and Susan, of Marietta, Georgia.
Derderian was buried at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs, Georgia.