Ep 168: What gave a space engineer confidence to get a man on the moon?
It's been 51 years since the moon landing and we go behind the scenes with someone who helped make it happen. We hear the stories of a NASA engineer who was in the control room when Challenger disintegrated and we hear something bigger which inspires and gives confidence.
Our guest: Ron Bledsoe is a retired NASA engineer who worked in the space industry for nearly 40 years. He worked on the Apollo and Shuttle program. He is retired now, but takes an active interest in the space program and he joins us from Huntsville, Alabama, nicknamed the Rocket City.
Check out the video from our Monday night Facebook Premiere (you can still access the video after the Premiere).
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Bigger Questions asked in the conversation
So Ron, why is Huntsville the Rocket City?
We ask the really big questions here on Bigger Questions. So how realistic is Star Wars?
Well Ron to kick off Bigger Questions we usually like to ask a couple of smaller questions, just to get everyone thinking. Now today we’re talking about space, so Ron, I thought I’d ask you just one smaller question about the propulsion systems of Star Wars.
You started working with NASA just before the Apollo program started. What was it like working in the space industry during the great space race? It must have been an exhilarating time to work in the space industry?
Now this year marks the 51st anniversary since the Apollo 11 mission - the mission which landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Did you have much to do with the moon landing mission?
Which Apollo mission do you think was the most significant?
The Saturn V rocket, used in the Apollo program still remains the world’s most powerful rocket even to this day - the most powerful machine humans have ever made. Did you have much to do with the development and production of the Saturn V?
Were you surprised with how powerful and strong it was?
Can you describe what it was like looking at the Saturn V on the launch pad?
Was it satisfying when Saturn V worked perfectly on the launch of Apollo 8?
There were some massive technical challenges to overcome to get to the moon. It’s 384,000 kilometres away and there is no oxygen. In the First Man movie - it seemed like they got to the moon in a tin can. What do you think was the most substantial technical challenge to get there?
Shuttle experiences - Challenger disaster
Now the Challenger disaster of 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke up 73 seconds into flight. That must have been a dark day at NASA?
Source of strength and confidence: Isaiah 40
You are a Christian believer and there is a part of the Bible which is important for you - it’s from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, Isaiah 40:28-31. Which says,
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
It says here that the Lord gives strength and power - how did he do that for you in these challenging times?
The passage in Isaiah goes on to say,
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Is there something about the image of soaring on wings like eagles that inspires a NASA engineer?
Are the wings like eagles more inspiring to you than a Saturn V rocket?
The Christian message has given you strength at many times - but what convinced you that it was for you? What convinced you to follow it in the first place?
Although being in space was a challenge to the faith William Anders, who read the first chapter of Genesis to the world on the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. He admitted that his faith was somewhat undercut he looked back at a tiny earth. Did your work in the space program strengthen or diminish your faith?
The Big Question
So Ron, What gave a space engineer confidence to get a man on the moon?