Sunday, July 20, 2014


I was riveted to the TV screen when Armstong stepped onto the moon. In the summer of 1961 I worked for GD Astronautics where I designed the liquid hydrogen and oxygen tanks for the second staged of the Saturn rocket. My design didn't win the competition because of inexperience with sandwich construction by GD Astro. The summer of '62 I designed a table at Hexcel Corporation in Berkeley, CA that was used to test the reaction rockets for the Apollo Command Module. The table had to move through 180 degrees with no deflection. That was a tough design problem but we got the deflection under a few thousands of an inch.
Then summer of '63 I worked for NASA in Houston on the structural design of the Command Module and the Lunar Lander. My primary assignment was to ensure that no astronaut would be killed by a meteoroid strike. We knew nothing about the meteoroid environment so it was a tough job but when I watched the landing they were untouched by meteoroids. During the landing I was more concerned about the landing pads. I had sat in on some of the discussions to decide how large the feet needed  to be. At that time we also knew nothing about the strength of the moon's surface but we had to decide then how large to make the pads. In one meeting I thought I was going to have to referee a fist fight over the surface conditions. A geophysicist, Dr. Gold, (I think from MIT) argued that the surface was formed by meteorites striking the surface of the moon and falling back into the vacuum so that it was a fluff that could be 100 feet deep. The geologists at UT disagreed. But we designed the pads as large as we could stuff into the rocket capsule for the launch. Fortunately when they landed they were on fairly solid ground. By the time of the landing we had landed surveyor and knew that the surface was solid, so that wasn't as much of a worry as to the uneven surface they were facing.
I really sweated the liftoff from the moon when the visit was over. I knew that every thing on the design was triple redundant except the rocket engine that took them back to the orbiting Command Module. If that engine failed to fire the astronauts were doomed to die because there was no escape method to be used to rescue them. I also saw the entire world praying for their safe voyage and believe that God answered those prayers. This is the only time in the earth's history that everyone was joined together in  a common goal. Only Russia didn't receive the TV transmissions of the landing and takeoff.

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