highlights a few of the dedicated Americans who have worked at the Johnson
Space Center since the Apollo 11 Moon landing on July 20, 1969.
University in 1961, Jerry Woodfill sat in the stadium as he listened to
President Kennedy’s famous words that launched NASA into the Apollo era:
“Before the decade is out, we shall send a man to the Moon and return him
safely to the Earth.”
At the time,
Woodfill was a college freshman at Rice, attending school with a basketball
scholarship. “I had no clue [working at NASA] would be my future,” he said.
rang in Woodfill’s ears, as they did for many people in the ’60s who were
interested in space exploration.
changed my life,” Woodfill said. “I gave up my basketball scholarship and
focused on my electrical engineering studies. NASA hired me on June 14, 1965 as
a 22-year-old employee.”
works as a Technical Manager’s Representative for the Software, Robotics and
During the Apollo
missions, Woodfill was the program’s Spacecraft Warning System Engineer.
safely back to Earth’ was my direct responsibility,” he said. “My greatest
challenge was dealing with ‘nuisance alarms.’”
These were alarms
that might falsely identify an issue, potentially distracting the astronauts
and putting them in danger.
Woodfill is one
of a small handful of employees from the Apollo era still working at NASA.
Today, only 19 Apollo civil servants work on campus: Bernie Embrey, Reagan
Redman, John Schliesing, Dianne Milner, Bob Savely, Hank Rotter, Billy Smith,
Garland Bauch, Alan Feiveson, Heibert Epps, Elvin Pippert, George Dickey Arndt,
Harry Miles, Charles Alton, Edward Fein, Jarrell Priess, David Owens and Jerry
As the 50-year
anniversary of the Moon landing approaches, the Apollo alumni are getting taken
back to moments from July 1969. Dianne Milner, an assistant in the Center
Director’s Office, worked as a runner between the Mission Evaluation Room and
the Mission Control Center back in the ’60s. She is now the last working woman
at Johnson from the Apollo days.
“I have vivid
memories of the Apollo 11 landing,” Milner said. “I did a double shift the
night of the landing. I remember I was rushing at the last minute to get papers
delivered between buildings so I could witness the touchdown on the lunar
Hank Rotter, now
a technical fellow for Active Thermal Control Systems and Environmental Control
and Life Support Systems, remembers walking outside every night and immediately
gazing up at the Moon during the lunar-landing missions.
“Today, most of
us still look up, remembering we put men on the Moon,” he said. Rotter was
responsible for doing hand calculations for each Apollo landing mission to
determine the purge required for the Command Module and Lunar Module cabins.
His calculations helped reduce the risk of decompression sickness for the
astronauts during their activities on the surface of the Moon.
Garland Bauch, an
aerospace engineer in the Technical Integration Division, has been at NASA for
55 years now. He began working for the LTV Aerospace Corp. and NASA-MSC
Aerospace Systems Technology Division.
and NASA-MSC Engineering Directorate ASTD were very futuristic design-concept
organizations during Apollo,” Bauch said. He was assigned to designing lunar
lander concepts by analyzing descent and ascent flight mechanics. He
analyzed concepts for future spacecraft, such as the flying Lunar Excursion
Module, the rotating space station, and Mars and Venus trajectories that used
Apollo hardware for interplanetary missions. “Apollo inspired me to pass on the
space exploration dream legacy to my children, grandchildren and future
Left: Garland Bauch then. Right: Bauch has enjoyed 55 years at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
just completed 60 years at NASA and, like his co-workers, he held many
responsibilities during Apollo. He was an engineer on the design and building
of the Digital Updata Link for the Command Module and the Digital Command
Assembly for the lunar module. He also negotiated performance and
interface specifications for many ground-to-space transmission links, including
several links with lunar systems, such as Saturn V, S-1B, S-IVB, CSM, LM,
ALSEP, LCRU, GCTA and PFSS. He supported the design and manufacture of the
Lunar Communications Relay Unit and Ground Commanded Television Assembly, which
were used on the lunar rover for Apollo 15 through 17. He was also the
project engineer on the Skylab TV cameras, which were refurbished Apollo TV
cameras that were used on both the lunar surface and in the command module.
Left: Bernie Embrey, at left, during Apollo. Right: Embrey has enjoyed 60 years (and counting) at Johnson.
Bob Savely was an
Apollo flight controller, as well as the lead developer for the onboard
navigation, a crucial function for every spacecraft.
“What I remember
the most about Apollo 11 is that due to unanticipated energy being added to the
lander orbit, Neil was required to maneuver past the pre-planned landing site
by over three miles into a difficult landing terrain,” Savely said. “Watching
him maneuver just above the surface, for what seemed like forever, was very
exciting and terrifying.”
works as the chief scientist in the Software, Robotics and Simulation Division,
and the Moon landing greatly affected where he is at NASA now: “Being part of
the achievement of landing a man on the Moon gave me the confidence and belief
that with teamwork, almost anything could be accomplished. This belief carried
over to all my future NASA work and my community volunteer achievements.”
As our Apollo
veterans look back on their time at NASA, they also look forward to the future.
They see the direct influence Apollo had on the nation and hope to see more
groundbreaking successes during upcoming missions to the Moon.
“[Seeing the Moon
landing] was one of the most exciting times of my life,” Milner said. “The
exhilaration of being a part of the team of this historical moment is
emblazoned in my heart forever. Being a part of the Apollo era is one reason
why I am still working. When you dream the impossible, it can be done. I feel
that same heartbeat at Johnson today that I witnessed back then with the
challenge to return to the Moon by 2024. I hope I am here to witness it.”
Employees of Mathematical Physics Branch are shown outside the entrance to the Mission Control Center. Image Credit: NASA