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Veteran space reporter Roy Neal dies

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(CNN) -- Former NBC News correspondent Roy Neal, who covered the pioneering years of the U.S. space program, died Saturday at a North Carolina hospital following heart surgery performed August 12. He was 82.

Neal, who retired from NBC in 1986 after a 34-year career, was well-known to TV viewers for his coverage of space exploration from Project Mercury, which sent the first American into space in 1961, to the space shuttle program, which launched the first shuttle in 1981.

The Pennsylvania native began his news career with WBIG radio in Philadelphia. After serving as a combat infantry officer in World War, he became program manager of Armed Forces Radio-Europe, then joined WPTZ-TV in Philadelphia.

He established NBC's West Coast bureau in 1952 and was based there for his entire career. While serving as science correspondent, Neal often reported on the U.S.-Soviet space race and frequently reported from NASA centers for manned and unmanned spaceflight in Houston, Texas and Pasadena, California.

An avid ham radio enthusiast, he was a co-founder of SAREX, a program that allowed school children to talk to orbiting astronauts via amateur radio. After retiring from the network, he taught journalism at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina.

Neal is survived by his wife Pat, sons Mark and David, and two grandchildren.

-- From CNNRadio Correspondent John Bisney

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