Thinking Tech

The young will innovate, solve problems just as they did in the Apollo Program

Posting in Energy

The ranks of the Apollo 11 engineers was predominantly populated by 20-30 year-olds because they had the "Imagination and stamina" that best serves innovation. The point being made is that we're expecting young professional to solve difficult problems like the energy crunch.

You probably think I'm a space nut, but I'm not. The Giant Leaps Symposium at MIT last week was so rich in content and space heroes, I can't help but dissect every last morsel from the heroes of the Apollo 11 program.

Here's a few things worth a mention. The ranks of the Apollo 11 engineers was predominantly populated by 20-30 year-olds because they had the "Imagination and stamina" that best serves innovation. The point is that we're expecting young professionals to solve difficult problems like the energy crunch. I can't recall if it was Joe Gavin who oversaw the development of the Apollo 11 lunar module at Grumman (now Northrup Grumman) or mission control legend Chris Kraft who said this, but I think it was the latter. Kraft is now 85.

Gavin, who was a key player in helping to bring Apollo 13 back to earth in 1970 following an explosion,  told a story about how NASA was on his case for paying his team too much overtime, but that it was justified. "When you do something truly novel, there isn't anybody who can tell you how long it's going to take or how much it will cost."

In developing the Lunar Module nicknamed "Eagle," Grumman engineers found 14,000 anomolies all of which had to be checked out. "We tested and retested," he said, adding the failure of switches and electronics was among the top concerns. In the end, the lunar module "always worked," he claimed.

The next speaker was Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt who was the last American step on the moon and to pilot the lunar module. With a twinkle in his eye, he several times referred to the lunar module "that always worked."  Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

One final "axiom" from Gavin was "Do not change anything that works."

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure