I have mixed emotions on this topic. I was watching the moon landing event on a color zenith TV (designed and made in the USA) at my grandparents house ? we had black and white at home ? could not afford a color set. We got 4 channels on rabbit ears (with good programming and ? today we get over 200 but most of the programming is junk, infomercials or rap music videos) The Apollo program inspired me to become an engineer ? I was already into it by then and had a Elmer ? mentor for ham radio who worked at RCA consumer electronics ? (also gear designed and built in the US.) My dad worked for a gas utility and part of his job was specifying radio gear ? he liked and respected Motorola (designed and built in the USA) ? they were promoting their part in the space program at the time. I remember thinking ? what a great company, if I just work hard enough and am good enough maybe I can work there someday. Well I managed to work for Motorola for 12 years before the management wrecked it? what happened to RCA, Zenith? and Motorola? same thing. And why could we not likely get back to the moon with today?s technology but we did it with 50-60?s technology? The shuttle is about to be mothballed with nothing to fill the gap until we design something else ? with what little or no money is left over from funding massive government social programs.
In one word ? what we are missing is leadership. Back then Engineers ran things and many technology companies were run by engineers. The finance, operations, MIS (now IT) legal, HR etc..Groups were all support organizations that supported the engineers and technical people. Today we live in the world of Dilbert ? the support organizations have promoted themselves to be in charge (but they are not really leaders) ? technical people are fungible assets to be outsourced, downsized, right sized, closed down, and replaced by people in far off lands for low wages.. . Finance and operations convinced everyone that moving money around was creating value and that technology, manufacturing, design, engineering, IP etc.. Did not matter- the engineers knew this was wrong all along but nobody listened.
Decisions are made that don?t seem to include common sense or logic ? engineers are often not listened to or discounted by management who believe that ? good managers can run anything with a spreadsheet ? a candy business, diaper design and manufacturing or electronics equipment and technology?that?s turned out to be wrong - very wrong.
Now our country, companies and organizations of all types find themselves in confusion. A friend of mine is an airline pilot ? he tells me that there are over 20 thousand un-employed pilots in the US and that they take free flying jobs (for filming movies, pipeline companies etc...) All the time just so they can keep hours up to meet FAA regulations. He mentions that during the Apollo program pilots and engineers were one notch down from astronauts in terms of cool factor, status etc.. ? Today we are all one notch up from the city bus driver. Our country, companies and organizations are staffed with managers who can control bar charts on excel spread sheets like an emotionless PID controller but where are the passionate leaders who inspire passionate followers? Patton, Sarnoff, Admiral Bill Halsey Jr, Paul and Bob Galvin, Lincoln?..read lee Iacocca ? ?where have all the leaders gone??
Maybe in my lifetime I will see engineers back in leadership roles and the support organizations can get back to supporting and stop screwing up companies -with their short term quick fixes that never work? then we can do great things like go to the stars, invent new exciting things? President Kennedy did not ask what the ROI was on going to the moon, he did not have Excel or Microsoft project? he knew it would pay off and it did and continues to ? common sense and logic..Funny thing is when he said it everyone did it.. Today if the president says something it ? it?s optional, we assume its posturing, politics and wait to see if it will get funded. We are still getting the benefits of the Kennedy decision? maybe in my lifetime I can see engineers back in leadership roles in technology again and support organizations can once again become support organizations just like back when things worked and we were going to the moon and dreaming big dreams - designing things and building them in the US and were not shipping our technology and our jobs to communist china.
I was interested in science even before the space program, and followed the space program from the very beginning. I remember delaying going to catch the bus as a young first-grader so I could see the Mercury launches, then running down the road to catch the bus (did the US Gov't schedule the Mercury launches so that schoolkids could see them?). As I grew older I continued to follow the space program. Intermixed in that was inspiration from Star Trek (Mr. Scott) and Mission: Impossible (Barney Collier was always special; he could do amazing things with clip leads!). I followed the space program through the end of Mercury, and Gemini. I was coming home from a school on ham radio on the night that Apollo 1 burned up on the pad and killed Grissom, White, and Chafee. That was a sad night. As a 13-year-old I watched Apollo 8, and the reading of the book of Genesis on Christmas Eve, and told my dad that if for some reason they didn't come away from the moon not to get me up on Christmas Day. Come Christmas morning, when he woke me up, my first question to him was "Did they make it?". I had turned 14 by the time Apollo 11 launched; I remember talking to other hams that morning as it roared off the pad. I remember sitting in a Volkswagen Beetle in the pouring rain on the Sunday afternoon when Apollo 11 touched down on the moon and listening to the radio. We then went into church, but I don't recall a thing about the service. I imagine not too many folks did. We went home that night, and the family gathered around the B&W TV to watch. We stayed awake basically all night. We were amazed at the pictures, and the communications in general.
I went on to become an electrical engineer. I worked for the US Air Force as a contractor at Arnold AFB (where they conducted simulated altitude tests on the LM engine, and the Saturn 1B engines, as well as the solid-fuel engines used in various ICBMs, and airframes, and all kinds of things). I got to work in the test chambers where they did the testing (including the chamber that extended 300' down into the earth); it was neat to look at what had been done there, and walk in those places again. I recall Challenger blowing up in 1986, and breaking into tears at random for a week. I also remember the first flight after Challenger in 1988, and watching grown men at the AFB (who knew all too well the risks involved in solid rockets) murmuring and groaning and finally shouting at the TV screen when that shuttle finally shed its solid-rocket boosters. One of the last things we did before I left was to requalify the 300'-deep test chamber for liquid rocket testing by obtaining a LM engine from a museum (!), reassembling it, and firing it in the chamber. It was a big deal.
I then went to NASA as a contractor at Stennis Space Center (where they tested the Saturn V engines, and now test the Space Shuttle main engine). I got to see the enormous ground-level test stands used for testing those engines. I asked myself once again why on earth NASA was allowed to "lose" the design documents for the Saturn V; it would have done the heavy-lift of the Space Station in a fraction of what has been required.
I left the Federal contractor role in 1999 and spent several years with Nextel. I finally went back to the Feds in 2007 and am now at a Federal research and development center near Washington.
The amount of work and dedication put into the space program is similar in style (although not in level) to what went into WWII, and it will always be special to me. It humbles me to realize that God has allowed us to know so much about the creation, and that He desires to share even more of His wisdom with us.
It's far too bad that my generation, which had probably the greatest amount of opportunity ever presented to a group of people, wound up squandering most of it by focusing on its feelings rather than its character, and by believing that it could redefine good and evil to suit itself rather than recognizing that those definitions are not and never have been in the purview of human control, and by blathering about "rights" and what it deserved instead of owning and executing its responsibilities. Who knows where we would have wound up if we had not sidetracked into emotional nonsense? I don't think we are going to leave anywhere near as much of a legacy for the generations to follow us as our parents did. My high-school junior English teacher summed it up neatly one fall afternoon: "Every generation has been told that they're going to hang the moon; yours is the first one that's been stupid enough to believe it!"
Regards to fellow engineers and scientists everywhere!
The space program got me to where I am today. My father moved us to ?Houston? to work on the cryogenics of the O2 tanks of Apollo. There were weeks when Dad was gone most of the time, working at MSC day and night leading up to or during a flight. He was certainly gone during Apollo 13.
We had followed the space program from its infancy. I still have a little book from 1965 titled Project Apollo which is off a little bit, but has many of the basics right about the eventual trip to the moon. Most of the kids in my high school were kids of engineers and a few astronauts. A few had already lost their fathers to the cause.
We?d watch what we could on TV (B&W- Dad couldn?t be bothered with color until I bought him one around 1978). If you can?t still hear Walter Cronkite?s voice and Wally Schirra describing various rocket and space activities, then you missed the whole space program. I was always amazed that the pictures and audio were better from the moon than transmissions from low-orbit Mercury and Gemini space flights - a good example of one technology advancing faster than another. Or maybe it was because they were only being transmitted by OJ, Brolin, and the eTrade guy from an undisclosed location in West Texas.
I was always interested in the heavens. Saturn?s rings still fascinate me. The still pictures from space continue to be awe-inspiring. ?Earthrise? will always show us our place. A footprint or salute - or even a monolith - from the moon conjures up a lengthy story. I always have a photo from space on my PC.
Perhaps the worst day of my dad?s life was when the Challenger blew up. He knew the boosters weren?t spec?d for firing in such cold conditions. The normally quiet man was visibly shaken for days. He died before some of the program?s later disasters.
I was destined to be an engineer. I was always trying to figure out how things work or fixing or improving things. I think engineers are made (by their mothers) not just trained by an education system. However, because of the high concentration of technical people in ?Houston? - actually 25+ miles from the big city that sported the Astrodome - my high school had a few very advanced math and science classes that were unusual in that day. I was able to skip with credit or breeze through most of my early college technical classes - not always good for new escapees from Mom & Dad?s domain.
The family moved back up to Seattle where Dad was soon laid off as interest in space travel waned. Dad ended up bitter about the business, but proud of his involvement as an engineer. While 1969 was great, 1973 was a bummer. Even as space faded, my sister became the science reporter for one (or another) of the Houston TV stations, with a special interest and insight into the space shots that did take off in the latter years. My son is now studying aerospace engineering and I think I hear my dad?s muffled curses.
It galls me to hear present-day politicians try to ride on JFK?s lighting the fuse of the space program with their bold declarations setting goals for science, technology, and engineering. There is no Cold War backdrop to play against; there?s a much more complex multinational partnership. We all know where the Internet came from, and what might cause global warming, and how to become more energy-efficient. Engineers will work it out, not politicians. Just give us our toys and let us go to work.
Tom Starnes, Embedded Processor Industry Analyst
My family accompanied me as we were staying with friends while on an interview for my first teaching position. My 13 month old son Steve took his first step that day going from the coffee table to his mother's outstretched arms. We will never forget it, but of course Steve remembers none of it.
Dave Voltmer, Prof Emeritus ECE, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
I don't recall exactly WHICH Apollo missions I remember watching, but I do remember being one of the ones dismissed from class to go to the library to watch the activity being broadcast on TV. It was a fascinating time that helped me wonder about our world and how things work. I still love to delve into learning new things and seeing how things work. As an engineer now, I am amazed to hear what LITTLE CPU horsepower existed in the spacecraft and even on the ground, and yet they were sucessful. It makes me wonder why we have to have so much power on our desktops now.
The very act of defying gravity and the nothingness of space is a very inspiring action that has led me into engineering.
I've been privileged over the years to have had many experiences seeing technology at its best...from working as a draftsman on a HUGE laser, to working at a PCB shop seeing how boards are made, to seeing how fiber optics were used long before they became popular, to seeing the complexities of keeping phone networks "up," to learning how technology can be used to detect fires in the forests.
I hope someday to once again have a job where this kind of discovery and wonder can happen.
Can't recall my age at the time, but I was in my parents living room watching the broadcast from the moon and seeing Neil Armstrong leaving the first footprint on the lunar soil.
This meant more to me than most, as I have always had an interest in science and space exploration.
This was more pronounced at the time because I had an uncle (he passed just recently) who worked in the Firing Room at Cape Canaveral during these astounding times and launches.
While my dreams of going out there were never realized, I came the closest when I had joined Westinghouse as an engineer and learned we made that very camera that took those amazing pictures.
I am just happy that I got to this place that gets me as close to space history as it has.
I can live with this, even though I wish I could be out there, among the stars.
Like everyone else, it seems, I was allowed to stay up (in England) and watched the landing live. There seems to be a whole generation influenced by this event - all of us in our late 40s and early 50s seem to connect our lives back to Apollo in some way. It certainly influenced me: I watched the entire programme from (I think) Apollo 8 through to Apollo 17, and then on through Skylab, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and into the modern age of the Shuttle. My whole school career went the way of science and I did a degree in Astrophysics, although I'm happy to admit that by this time it was becoming clear that a career as a professional astronomer wasn't going to happen (I wasn't clever enough, all that pesky vector calculus and statistical thermodynamics, not to mention the quantum mechanics - yikes!) Yet here I am at Altium, heading the communications function and now applying something of what I learned over 30 years ago!
It was a spectacular moment. I was 13 years old and had watched most of the Mercury and Gemini telecasts on my grandmother's TV. She would ask, "Are they in space now?". 1969 was also the era of the original Star Trek TV show, and I don't think that she really understood the difference, except that Walter Cronkite was on one set of shows, and not on the other. Her life spanned the transition from an era of local transportation only by horse to ubiquitous autos, people walking on the moon, and routine air transportation. I guess that that was the era of revolutionary changes in transportation. Now better communications and information processing provide an almost invisible, enabling foundation for changes in our lives.
I was nearly 10 on the day that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. From that point forward, I wanted to work at Grumman on NASA projects. I used to collect all sorts of magazines and NASA brochures from the Apollo program (burst water pipe destroyed the collection) as well as my Estes rockets.
In the mid-70's I really liked microprocessors and the bug books series when I saw my first MITS ALTAIR in the Computer Store of NY whose BASIC was written by William Gates. That was also the year of the TRS Model 80 and 5 1/4" floppies. If only I had Microsoft penny stock in those days. Just too young to buy it but that BASIC told me to keep an eye on this Gates person. I was the oldest of 6 and the first in my family to get any college degree (BEEE). That lucky St. Patrick's Day in 1981, I interviewed with the Grumman HR rep at Manhattan College and, low and behold, I got to start work at Grumman in Bethpage in 1981 for the E-2C program! Like others, walking past the Shuttle wing and the X-29 on my way to the cafeteria. Grumman was good, they paid for my Masters (MEEE- Computer Science Engineering). I have moved on to other companies and programs (EDO - Sonar, ATK/Westinghouse - Sonar/VxWorks, Allied Signal - AMLCD Displays, X33/VxWorks, LORAL/LM - my work is still flying for 10 years, Wind River - VxWorks needed breath of fresh air, GD/DLC & more - Flight simulators and projects that I can and cannot discuss).
Well, I've had a hybrid career of various opportunities in sytems, software and field work. Jobs have come and mainly gone as well as the companies in the NY metro area. As engineers, we all love the challenge of getting and seeing our products in operation. In nearly 30 years, you either become a specialist and hope the job stays in the area or become adaptable to new tasks. That's a personal choice, of course. One thing remains the same, you become a sum total of all your experiences. Change is inevitable. I just want to convey that to the new folks looking at an engineering career. What you are trained for in college may or may not become your permanent path in life, but enjoy the ride and keep up your education.
My dreams of working for NASA have been seen only now in recent years... in support of something that did not exist in 1969 -- GPS -- and I love it!
Please support GPS Mr. President. You have talked about investments... The money invested now will have it's impact for decades to come as the "birds" have proven.
In some smaller ways than Apollo, the investment has provided an order of magnitude of economic activity now far greater that what was spent on the program. It is has become a mainly American experience which is good for all of us in the US and our troops abroad.
When other countries copy this latest "space race" it attests to it's importance. Ad Astra!
I was 15, and was up all night watching the landing while building a Revell Apollo 11 capsule and LEM model. The post-landing pictures on TV from the outside LEM camera were lousy, but I couldn't look away. I remember Armstrong blowing his "One small step" line and thinking "huh?" I also remember Walter Cronkite and Wally Shirra barely able to contain themselves. Yeah... kids today don't have stuff like this to look forward to any time soon.
I grew up a few miles from Rocketdyne, where all the engines were made, and on occasion we could see the flames from tests in the local mountains. I went to elementary school with the son of one of von Brauns rocket boys - I didn't know it at the time, but he surely did have some neat pieces-parts in the den. All the kids I knew were totally junked out on space.
There was an S&L (Lytton Savings) in Canoga Park that was run by a space addict who had Saturday exhibits. During Mercury, he had a used Mercury capsule on display over a weekend. Another time, he handed out packets of "space food" (freeze-dried ham with peas and carrots). We'd never seen anything like it, and it was just the coolest thing imaginable.