Apollo 11 Pioneers

It was a moment of triumph for America that few who were alive at the moment will ever forget. When Neil Armstrong said: “Houston, Tranquility Base here”, you could hear the sigh of relief across America. The three astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins became American heroes.

There were other heroes who made Apollo 11 and subsequent moon landings possible. They are not given much credit today, but America would not have won the space race without them.

First, was Wernher von Braun who designed the Saturn V rocket that carried the astronauts into space. It was one of the most powerful rockets ever built at the time. Von Braun’s rocketry knowledge was developed in Nazi Germany. When he was captured at the end of the war, he was on a special list of Germans to be interrogated by the U.S. He was cleared by the FBI, and America would not have been able to even think about space travel without his rocketry knowledge.

Next was Maxime Faget, a mechanical engineer born in Belize, Central America. He has been called the essential genius of the early U.S. space program. He was the designer of the Mercury spacecraft and made vital contributions to Gemini, Apollo spacecraft as well as the Space Shuttle.

Then there was Margaret Hamilton, who developed the onboard software for the Apollo program. Without her software, the moon landing would not have been possible. In all of the coverage of our space program, little mention is given to the women who made vital contributions.

Finally, there was Harry Allen who developed the blunt body theory that led to successful reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Without his innovative design work, the space capsule carrying the astronauts would have burned up.

Why don’t we celebrate the achievements of these hidden heroes? That’s just the way our society has evolved. We give celebrity status to those who are the most visible, but we tend to forget that any successful venture comes from many others who make vital contributions.

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“There can be great joy in seeing the success of your work may even if when you do not receive credit.” – Unknown

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