Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Group Effort 45 Years Ago

During my Purdue Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering years and engineering internship at General Dynamics Space Systems (San Diego), I had the privilege and honor of meeting and chatting for several minutes with several astronauts (Apollo and Shuttle eras).

My older co-workers told me the Apollo astronauts would come around the workplace to introduce themselves to EVERYONE.

Not out of ego, but for another purpose– to make a human connection.

They were as courteous to the janitors as to the engineers who made final decisions about the safety of the hardware that would propel them to the Moon. The astronauts thanked everyone for their efforts thus far and asked them do the very best job they could.

Back in the 1960’s as well as during my Purdue years, it was never spoken, but the subtle message was understood- if we made bad decisions on the job, we would be answering to their widows and orphans.

Their lives were in our hands (a sobering thought to us 19 and 20 year olds still in school).

The astronauts who came to informal hour-long cookies-and-punch receptions in Purdue’s Grissom Hall had faith in the rigor of our knowledge, having graduated from the course of study themselves.

So my salute today, on this 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, goes certainly to Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins…. and also to the thousands of unsung heroines and heroes who excelled at their jobs, culminating in the almost-unbelievable accomplishment of landing people on the Moon.

To the ladies who hand-sewed and glued the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space suits… launch vehicle assemblers handling delicate equipment… people staffing the remote transmission sites around the world that echoed the communications from the Apollo craft back to Houston… technicians making spit-second life-or-death calls in Mission Control… and many, many more, you have my gratitude.

 

–“The Rocket Science Coach” ™

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