Apollo: a personal/biographical perspective

40 years ago, we watched the landing on television like much of the rest of the world. Days before, my father had packed our little family into the car and drove to the causeway overlooking the Kennedy Space Center to watch, and feel, Apollo 11 send men to land on the moon for the first time. My father worked for Grumman, which had the contract to develop the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), later dubbed simply the Lunar Module (LM), for the Apollo space program. He worked on the LEM's telemetry systems. Part of my father is on the moon.

My Dad at work, circa 1960s
Dad at work

My family moved twice while I was growing up. Until I moved to New York City, I didn't live anywhere longer than six years. In the winter of 1964-1965, we moved from Long Island, east of new York City, to Merritt Island, Florida. As you can see from this map, our home was just a little over 10 miles from the Apollo 11 launchpad. I used to watch rockets launch from my bedroom window. On most launches, our windows shook.

View Apollo in a larger map

The Apollo program had an enormous economic and human toll, an important part of the story which I've yet to read anywhere else. Shortly after we moved to Florida, my father began working 60-80 hours a week, a pace which didn't let up until nearly the end of the development program. Once it became routine to send men to the moon, the development program ended abruptly. Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs simultaneously in a region whose development was triggered by this one program. My dad was able to find another job within Grumman, but it required moving back to Long Island. With no buyers, we were only able to sell our home at a greatly reduced price, losing all our equity, and having nothing with which to buy a new home.

We moved back to Long Island in the fall of 1970, just in time for me to start the school year, though just one week late.


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Rob K said...

Wow, you right in the middle of it all--great post and I love that picture of your dad.

Chicago Garden said...

Nice post Xris, thanks for adding some perceptive to event. Don't think I've ever thought about the people, like yourself, who were touched, in one way or another, by the space program. We always hear so much about the astronauts but rarely about the people who made it possible or about their families.

Brooklyn Beat said...

Great remembrance, Kris. Hope you are doing well.

scott said...

I wonder if our Dads knew each other. They both worked for Grumman, had fairly important engineering roles with regards to the LEM and of course you and I grew up in the same town (and at the same time)!

Best to you Chris as we fondly remember this time in our lives.


Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Chris, you may be interested in my friend Pete's perspective. He's a physicist/astronomer and muses about APollo, as well as describes attending the MLAS launch earlier this month, here: http://peteralway.livejournal.com/.

Brenda from Flatbush said...

Great picture, cool post, truly an unknown chapter of the story and a great personal connection to it all. Thanks!