Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11

Exactly 40 years ago, man walked on the moon for the first time. But you knew that.
You may not have realized how many Orange Countians were involved in making that walk (and other trips into space) possible. From the mid-1950s on, O.C. was chock-full of aerospace industry workers. Everyone, from the engineers to the janitors, at each of the umpteen aerospace businesses involved in the space program can be proud of their contributions -- large or small. Yes, it took a smaller number of geniuses to plan Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, etc.,... but it took tens of thousands of Americans working together to make those plans a reality. And a fair percentage of them lived right here, working for organizations like Douglas Aircraft, Rockwell International, Zenith, Ford Aeroneutronics, McDonnell Douglas, the Aerospace Corporation, and the U.S. Air Force.
Today I'm posting a series of 1960s photos of the Seal Beach construction facility for the second stage of the Saturn rockets that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon.
These buildings were located off of Seal Beach Blvd. Note the sign, "Saturn S-II Production Facility. Under construction by the Bureau of Yards and Docks, U.S. Navy, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration." The photo above is dated 1965. This particular project was connected to Douglas Aircraft, which opened its Space Systems Center just down the road in Huntington Beach in Nov. 1963.
Here's an earlier photo of the construction facility, still under,.... um... construction.
Employment at Douglas' Huntington Beach facility peaked at 10,000 around the time of Apollo 11.
Notice the sign at the gas station across the street: "Minute Man Service." Wrong kind of rockety-type-thing, guys!
The Apollo program was clearly a high point for mankind. But I think we're all still waiting for the fantastic future it seemed to promise. Imagine what we could have accomplished had we kept our focus. Instead, our money goes to pay for giant corporate bailouts, unstimulating "stimulus packages" (both GOP and Dem), bread and circus programs, foreign aid, and a vast assortment of pork. (Not the tasty kind -- I could probably support that.) The good news is, it's never too late to get back on track.


CoxPilot said...

Even L.M. Cox Mfg. Co., Santa Ana, CA (Cox Thimble Drome of Disneyland Flight Circle) had a plastic injection molding contract for the square buttons in the space capsules.

Arianne said...

My grandfather was manager of test engineering at the Field Propulsion Laboratory for Rockwell and was responsible for testing the F-1 components and eventually the actual engine. Prior to the development of the testing grounds at Santa Susana he was in charge of running tests of liquid propellant rocket motors at the NAA east parking lot off Aviation & Imperial in Inglewood, and I believe this was circa. 1946-49. It's nice to see someone acknowledge the people who helped make (in large part) the space program possible.

colony rabble said...

One of those people was your very own Daddy, yes? I was reading in the paper that we now have astonauts who were not born yet when the Space Race began. Very cool. But not being a warm fuzzy way of forcing other people's standards across the board onto all of us, it is no longer a priority. Bummer, because I can think of a few politicians I would like to see launched into space.

outsidetheberm said...

Great post. Just about anyone living in So Cal at the time knew somebody working on getting us safely to the moon. My father included. Thanks.

Chris Jepsen said...

Thanks for sharing aerospace memories from your own lives and families. Keep 'em comin'!

And yes, my dad was in the Air Force and was involved in the manned space program. During parts of the Gemini and Apollo programs, he worked with NASA at Houston Control, and he knew a number of the astronauts. He was responsible for a bunch of the fancy photographic equipment they took with them. He also helped figure out ways to time critical functions during flight using astrogation, in case the computers and/or radios died.

By the time Apollo 11 came along, he was helping track the spacecraft from Vandenberg.

He later went on into the management end of things, but I have to think those days in Houston were much more exciting.

ColonyRabble: I'm not sure I understand what you're saying: "But not being a warm fuzzy way of forcing other people's standards across the board onto all of us, it is no longer a priority."

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that these same aerospace workers in OC won the Cold War.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

My dad was, rather like yours, involved in the army in the 50's and NASA brought our family to OC and HB with Gemini and Apollo. My dad worked on the Saturn V 2nd stage with the Germans. Is there any ex-NASA workers group I could contact who might have members who might have known my Dad when he worked at Douglas in OC?

Thanks again for the great post!