Friday, July 19, 2019

It's ain't over until the parachutes open...

I love this picture of a part of Apollo 1 being assembled
Credit: Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images
In the New York Times recently, an interesting view of the Apollo 11 moon landings, from the perspectives of the people who built the equipment:
...Many Americans thought that the dream of the moon was impossible, but Apollo was a siren call to engineers. 
Charles Lowry was living in Columbus, Ohio, a parachute expert working at a division of North American focused on fighter jets. He remembered being in church when the topic came up. 
“At some point, the leader said, ‘I understand now that the United States government has a plan to go to the moon. How many people really think we’re really going to the moon?’ And my hand went up. I looked around me, and no other hands went up. Not even my wife’s hand.” 
Mr. Lowry wanted to move to California and join the moon effort, which would need parachutes for the Apollo capsule’s return to Earth. But his wife did not want to move far from their families. “Finally, she said to me, ‘If you’ll buy me a big swimming pool, we’ll go to California,’” Mr. Lowry said. “So we did.” 
...When the lunar module, named Eagle, was finally on the moon, Dr. Gran said, “Then I jumped up and down. It’s like winning the lottery.” 
Others were also elated, but had more yet to worry about. The parachutes of Charles Lowry were still packed, waiting for the return to Earth. That development was more arduous than first anticipated, as the command module had gained weight during its development. The parachutes had to successfully slow down 13,500 pounds. 
But four days later, on July 24, 1969, the astronauts returned to Earth. The parachutes deployed, and Mr. Lowry could celebrate, too. 
“It was,” he said, “an amazing feeling of ‘Yeah, we really did it.’”
It's a funny aspect of certain fields where thousands (millions) of intricate little things have to work right, either thousands of times, or as in Mr. Lowry's case, just once. Those on the outside may think that it's all a smoothly running machine, but only those on the inside know the cracks and crevices and where the risks will pop up. Here's to the folks behind the scenes that made it work and still do.  


  1. It amazes me that they got everything to work on the first try in the moon landing. I've never been involved in a new product launch that didn't include some kind of unforeseen disaster with the first few customers!

  2. Talk about women in STEM!

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looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20