Apollo: The Epic Journey that Launched a Generation of Engineers
In the early 60’s John F Kennedy mandated that the US would be the first country to put a man on the moon.The Gemini and Apollo programs accomplished just that. This webcast will provide an opportunity for engineers around the world to ask these Space Pioneers about their greatest challenges and accomplishments.
John Aaron, EECOM, Gemini and Apollo programs, NASA
John Aaron of Wellington, OK., joined NASA straight out of college (B.S., Physics, Southwestern State College) in 1964 and quickly became a prime EECOM (electrical, environmental and communications) engineer for the two-man Gemini program. Aaron quickly rose to chief EECOM controller for Gemini and the Apollo lunar landing program. He also managed several post-Apollo manned space programs, including Skylab, the space shuttle and space station program. He is credited with saving the Apollo 12 moon landing after its Saturn V rocket was struck by lightning shortly after launch. Aaron quickly recognized that the crew had lost all power and identified an obscure cabin switch that restored electrical power. His decisive action earned Aaron the coveted title among Apollo flight controllers, “steely-eyed missile man.” Aaron also played a critical role in rescuing the crew of Apollo 13, which was crippled by an oxygen tank explosion on the way to the moon in 1970. Aaron developed the never-before-attempted power-up procedure needed to bring the dead command module back to life shortly before reentry. John Aaron retired from NASA in 2000. He lives in Marble Falls, Texas.
Sam Avati, Lunar Module Engineer, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp.
NASA’s Apollo program, launched under President Kennedy in 1961, sought to transport Americans to the Moon amid the intense rivalry of the Cold War. Sam Avati helped oversee construction of a critical piece of that program–the most ungainly but reliable manned spacecraft ever, the Apollo Moon lander, aka the Lunar Module (LM). Avati worked for 35 years at Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. of Bethpage, N.Y. (now a unit of Northrop Grumman Corp.), prime contractor for the LM.
In 1955, Avati applied for a job at Grumman headquarters during a visit to Long Island to attend a wedding, and subsequently spent his entire career at the aerospace company, building airplanes, fighter jets and the Moon lander.
Avati bent a lot of metal during the height of the Cold War, including work on the F-14 fighter built by Grumman for the U.S. Navy. But it was the Moon lander that defined his career, perfected his skills as a resourceful, dogged manufacturing engineer and taught him how to help manage one of the highest-profile engineering projects in the history of human exploration.
Nothing since has topped the exploits of the Apollo engineers. And it was Grumman’s LM team that safely transported the Apollo astronauts those last few miles to the lunar surface and back to their mothership, having built each of the 14 LMs, the only spacecraft ever designed to travel to another world, by hand.
George Leopold, News Editor, EETimes
George Leopold is news editor of EE Times and oversaw its Apollo 11 anniversary digital edition. He has written about electronics and aerospace technologies for 25 years.
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