President John F. Kennedy's vision was put into motion, stretching America toward the goal of landing man on the moon during the 1960s. A group of daring, talented men was specially chosen for the success of this heroic, pioneering effort. They were not astronauts but a team of young Grumman engineers about to embark upon an historic journey filled with technical design challenges in an extremely hostile environment. Their goal: to protect the lives of the many crews of astronauts that would be ferried to the moon and back.
Roserio (Ross) Bracco was selected as one of the initial group of 25 engineers who would begin development of the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) in November 1962 at Grumman's Bethpage, NY, facility. The contract was completed in 1966 with 21 LEMs built-14 for flight and seven designated as LTA (LEM test article) -1 through -7.
Bracco is a graduate of Cooper Union in New York and was one of the first students there to receive a master's degree in mechanical engineering. When I visited him recently at the Cradle of Aviation Museum
in Garden City, Long Island, NY, where he volunteers, he shared some incredibly interesting memories of his design journey in pursuit of a dream to have the first man safely set foot on the moon.
Most of the pictures in this article were taken at the museum; it has an extraordinary display of LEM history, including actual, full-size LEM test articles. One is located in a huge room simulating the lunar surface and sky, complete with stars and the earth as it looked to Neil Armstrong when he stepped onto the moon's surface. The museum also has an exhibit that chronicles the entire history of flight, including some amazing restorations and models of aircraft. It's definitely worth a visit!
Bracco was part of the Grumman ascent-stage team in the propulsion area. The ascent stage of the Apollo LEM is the control center and manned portion of the space vehicle. The vehicle's three main sections are the crew compartment, midsection, and aft equipment bay and tank section. The crew compartment and midsection make up the cabin. The ascent-stage structure consists of several subassemblies: the front face, cabin skin, midsection, and aft equipment bay.