The 40th Anniversary of the Apollo program
This series of commemorative rocket launch flights are staged by FLARE, the Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts. We will launch scale models of both Historic White Sands rocketships, and Apollo era spacecraft.
Article by David Kovar and Thomas Kindig.
The adult members of our rocketry clubs the Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts (FLARE) and the Spaceport Model Rocketry Association (SMRA) are mostly of a certain age. We all remember the first time we saw a television set in our schools. It was when men walked on the moon. Back then most of us had only seen color TV fairly recently. There was no such thing as a video recorder, and “TV” was the three to five local stations that could be picked up with an antenna, several of them kinda fuzzy. Back then we did not know about heroes like Gene Kranz. We probably did know the names of the astronauts like Charlie Duke even though we had no way to really connect to them or appreciate what it was they went through. Today we know more. It seems to me that the main reason we rocketeers know more is due to that experience we had as impressionable young kids. We watched history being made on our TV sets. We watched, and we kept on watching for all of the years that followed. That which we could not do ourselves, we could at least admire from afar.
Somehow along the way to maturity, some of us got the idea that we too would like to be involved in really great dreams, really significant accomplishments, even if they paled in comparison to the accomplishments of our heroes. Dave Kovar is one of those dreamers. Working almost non-stop to commemorate every Apollo mission since the 40th anniversary of Apollo 8, his dream kept growing bigger, as did the scope of our commemoration events. What he found out is that word gets around the NASA culture, old and new. Las Cruces is not a big city, and we don't have the kind of money and size of audience to attract national heroes and stars like Charlie Duke and Gene Kranz. It turns out that money and gravity is not what you actually need to put together the kind of show that people would remember for a lifetime. What you need is a sincerity of heart, persistence, and an earned reputation for integrity. My friend Dave Kovar has these qualities. He took me and some of our friends along on a remarkable journey, the Commemoration of the Apollo 16 mission to the moon.
In November 2009 we had secured the participation of STS Shuttle Astronaut Colonel Mike Mullane to join us at the Apollo 12 Commemoration. In 2011 we attracted Flight Controller Milton Windler to help us celebrate Apollo 14, where we had over 650 students launch rockets they built in the classroom just for this event.
For the Apollo 16 Commemoration we obtained commitments from Gene Kranz and Charlie Duke. Most of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the enormous success of this project. We hit some snags along the way. At one point we discovered that we lost the venue site for the Apollo 16 Commemoration indoor exhibitions. The ballroom we thought we would use had been reserved, and that exhibitor took an option to utilize both Friday and Saturday March 9th and 10th, leaving us with no venue site for our Friday event. We could not afford the Las Cruces Convention Center, and all of the other venues appeared to be either way too small, way too expensive, or way too far away from the launch event for the bus loads of students. As fortune would have it, we had a real friend in New Mexico State University. We managed to reserve the Pan Am Center, the largest venue in town, at a price we could manage.
This is when things kicked into high gear. For Apollo 14 we enjoyed wonderful exhibit support from our friends at Johnson Space Center White Sands Test Facility (WSTF,) coordinated by FLARE member and retired NASA engineer Pleddie Baker. They brought several TONS of real Apollo era displays. Our friends at the Natural History Museum of Las Cruces, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, and the National Solar Observatory had splendid hands-on displays and science activities for our students. How could we make the Apollo 16 Commemoration event big enough to justify the attention of our guests? As usually happens, Dave was just swimming with ideas.
By the time we were wrapping up the arrangements we had: Two special showings of the Apollo 13 Movie, courtesy of Allen Theatres Las Cruces that included panel discussions with our guests, moderated by NM Museum of Space History Eduction Specialist Mike Shinabery; a huge NASA Apollo Program panel display, and simulated (touchable) moon rock curated by the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History; a special SEMAA (Science Engineering Mathematics and Aerospace Academy) student Eggloft competition launch with custom rocket kits designed by yours truly – the “Gene Kranz Mission Eggcellence Eggloft”; special semi-scale Atlas-Agena and Thor-Agena rockets (familiar space vehicles to Gemini Program veterans) added to the launch event; a one hour panel discussion at the Pan Am center with slide show and moderation by Mike Shinabery; special vip tours of WSTF, Holoman AFB, and White Sands Missile Range, and gifts for our guests Gene and Marta Kranz and Charlie and Dotty Duke.
Dave's brother Steve Kovar, Senior Engineer for Mammoth Cave National Park, joined us for the event. Steve had also supported Dave at the Apollo 13 celebration at the Cosmosphere in Kansas. According to Dave, “We were so fortunate to get invited to the Apollo 13 – Honoring the Mission celebration. Though Steve and I met Gene Kranz at the event (received his autograph and had our picture taken with him), the significant contact was Milt Windler. Milt and his grandson Nathan Fike really enjoyed being a part of our Apollo 13 Launch Reenactment, so much so that he agreed to come to our Apollo 14 Commemoration to honor his friend and Apollo 14 Lead Flight Director Pete Frank. Once again, he had a really great time. We owe Milt a huge debt of gratitude for putting us in contact with Gene.”
The Kranzes would be flying into El Paso. Gene had been working on a drone development program at Holloman AFB near Alamogordo from 1958-1960, just before he joined NASA. He had never visited nearby White Sands Missile Range, or Johnson Space Center White Sands Test Facility. There were a bunch of people at those places who were very eager to meet Gene and Marta, so Dave arranged special tours just for them. The Dukes were en route by car from Colorado, back home to Texas. Their stay would be a bit more limited due to a birthday party for a grandchild. Tours were out, so we came up a very special gift. Dave does his homework. He read Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz, and Moonwalker by Charlie and Dotty Duke in the weeks leading up to the event. He had a pretty good feel for what our guests might enjoy.
On the day that Dave and Steve drove to El Paso to pick up Mr. and Ms. Kranz at the airport the winds were howling through New Mexico. Visibility was down to less than a mile. We were swimming in dust. Gene and Marta did not seem surprised or concerned. They used to live out here, and knew what to expect. Steve commented that he had been a little worried about the long ride back to Las Cruces and what they might talk about to pass the time. He reported that, in fact, they had the most engaging conversations; that once Gene got to talking about something that interested him, no one wanted to it to stop, least of all Gene. Dave's wife Jenifer and her mom Judy were to take Marta down to Old Mesilla for a fine lunch and an afternoon of browsing the shops. NMSU SEMAA Asst. Director Laura Lomas, and Program Specialist Ligia Ford were to take Gene on tour of WSTF off NASA Road near Organ, NM. Dave, Steve, and I headed back to the Kovar Casa to apply some finishing touches to the media preparations and display items. Dave was making last minute confirmations of interviews and travel arrangements. The three of us set about packing the remaining items in the trailer for preliminary range setup for the event.
Next stop was NASA's WSTF. WSTF was commissioned by NASA Headquarters July 06, 1962 for the Apollo missions, and began the first engine tests on September 22, 1964. Today WSTF is a premier facility for testing propulsion systems, materials, and components that are flown on spacecraft, and it provides world-class expertise in safe handling of oxygen and hydrogen systems. Gene enjoyed a very warm welcome indeed. Every employee of NASA feels a sense of gratitude and respect for Gene's work. He is an integral part of NASA culture, even decades after his retirement. Gene was treated to a special tour of the facility's historical areas, the Apollo Command Module and Lunar module test articles, and the Propulsion Test Office building where Shuttle pods are being decommissioned. Kranz spoke to a panel of employees and talked about crucial moments in his experience with the Apollo program.
Later that evening Dave, Steve, and I were out at the NMSU launch site at 8:30 pm with the FLARE trailer. A full moon was coming up over the Organ Mountains. We were assembling the frames for our display banners (donated by Frankin HS Marching band in El Paso, TX). A stiff wind was blowing, adding to our apprehension about launch day. We were grateful for the moonlight and wishing we had worn coats. It took about an hour to put together frames, fill buckets with sand for our launch line rope barrier, and lay out buckets to indicate the location of the stage.
The following day Dave and Steve Kovar drove the Kranzes to Alamogordo in the pre-dawn hours for a sunrise radio interview with Mike Shinabery (the NM Museum of Space History Education Specialist). This was a rare opportunity for Mike to interview someone of Gene's importance on his weekly talk show. After the radio interview it was off to the Country Kitchen (an Alamogordo favorite) for breakfast. The breakfast entourage included the Kranzes Steve, Dave, Mike Shinabery, Cathy Harper, and Tom Fuller (Holloman AFB Public Relations). The tradition of eating at the Country Kitchen after the radio interview was started with Milt and Betty Windler during the Apollo 14 Commemoration. The accommodations were slightly improved this time. We were provided a quaint back room with a slanted floor which made Gene feel right at home. He commented that it was like the floor of the bar near JSC which he frequented with the other members of the Flight Control Team during the Gemini and Apollo days.
After breakfast it was off to Holloman AFB and White Sands Missile Range for abbreviated tours. Joining the Kranzes on the tours were Mike Shinabery, Steve and Dave Kovar, and Mike Marcucci and his film crew from Tanexis Productions out of New York City, NY. The tour of Holloman was a homecoming of sorts for Gene. He worked at HAFB from 1958-1960 as a Test Director for the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation Quail Decoy Program. The Quail Decoy was a drone launched from the belly of a B-52 and B-47 aircraft. The group was escorted by 2nd Lt. Logan Clark and Tom Fuller HAFB Public Relations). The visit included a briefing by the 46th Test Group Commander Col. Raymond Toth and a tour of the High Speed Test Track. After signing a few autographs, it was off to White Sands Missile Range For a visit with Lisa Blevins and retired WSMR Historian Jim Eckles. We were provided with a awesome Chicken Mesilla (baked chicken with green chili sauce) lunch at the Frontier Club before heading off to historic Launch Complex (LC)33. During lunch, Jim provided the group with an excellent historical perspective of WSMR. Once lunch was completed it was off to LC 33 to see the birthplace of the United States manned space program. It was at this location that Wernher von Braun launched V-2 rockets brought to the United States at the end of WWII. Before departing WSMR, the group stopped at the Missile Museum to tour the V-2 building. The building houses a fully restored V-2 rocket. On the one side of the rocket, the outer skin is peeled off to expose the inner workings of the V-2. Gene was highly impressed with the display.
Apollo 13 Movie night
When Dave contacted Allen Theatres in August, 2011, the co-owners, Larry and Russell Allen, were very enthusiastic about the idea of having a special showing of Apollo 13 the movie with our guests. The Commemoration event was on Friday March 9th, and the movie was the night before. Allen Theatres donated two showings in a 230 seat large screen theater in the Cineport Theater at the Mesilla Valley Mall in Las Cruces. This is their flagship theater. All they asked is that they not be involved with ticket sales, and that we supply the Blue-ray Disk of the movie. They purchased the rights to show the movie. They supplied a party room right outside the theater where the movie and panel discussion would take place, so that we could set up an area for pictures and autographs with our special guests.
FLARE sold the tickets on line at our web site, and for cash at the theater. We sold about 190 tickets. I have never met a friendlier or more grateful bunch of movie-goers. I don't think I have ever heard so many people say thank you in one day. Dave and FLARE member Daniel Giron did a drawing from the names of our on-line ticket purchases to determine who would win prizes. One group from each show would get a photo opportunity with Gene and Charlie. Second prize was a photo signed by Gene. Third prize was a genuine commemorative Apollo 40th Anniversary coin. Fourth prize was the two part book series “Astronautics” by Ted Spitzmiller. As our guests checked in, we announced the winners. Everyone was delighted.
Once the first show started, Mike Shinabery, The Kranzes, the Dukes, and my wife Gloria and I went to a nearby steak house for dinner. Gloria and I mostly listened to our guests talk about NASA matters, and recent public activities. Dotty Duke asked us about what we do. When they learned that Gloria is a teacher and that both of us are heavily involved in student science, technology, and engineering outreach, suddenly we all had something very much in common. Mike Shinabery, who is the official historian for the New Mexico Space Museum, felt quite at home too. Gene and Marta, Charlie and Dotty, devote a lot of energy toward working with young people. They spend time, and money out of their own pockets, supporting education. After our pleasant dinner, we proceeded back to the theater for the first of two discussion panels with Mike, Charlie, and Gene.Dave and Mike had prepared a simple slide show which guided the theme of the discussion. After an introduction, the discussion began with the Mercury program. Gene addressed some of the issues you might have setting up operations, communications, and testing for the most advanced challenge ever. He spoke about the limitations of computers at that time. He shared humorous stories about himself and people he worked with. As the talk moved on the Apollo program Mike had questions about Apollo 1 and the accidental death of White, Grissom, and Chaffee in a horrible fire inside the Apollo Capsule. Kranz and Duke both related stories about what everyone learned, and how the program changed, as a result of the lessons they learned.
Apollo 13 arguably made Gene Kranz a public figure, and real national hero, for the first time. Gene was, by executive decision, the recovery team leader − the team of controllers, engineers, and astronauts who needed to figure out how to get the crew back to Earth alive. Gene pointed out that despite what was portrayed in the movie, there was absolutely no issue with the last minute substitution of Jack Swigert for Ken Mattingly, who had been exposed to the measles. Gene said that primary and backup crews trained together and that they all got the same training. There was a certain amount of healthy competition in this, but there was never any question that Swigert could take his place as Command Module pilot. Charlie Duke (Apollo 13 Back-up Lunar Module Pilot) pointed out that he was the one who had unwittingly exposed Mattingly to the German Measles, earning him the moniker “Typhoid Mary.”
Just as shown in the movie, the most frightening part of the recovery was reentry into earth's atmosphere. The guidance systems and computer programs were not designed to steer a ship that consisted of a lifeboat (the still attached Lunar Lander) and the Command Module. The methods used to correct the trajectory for orbital insertion felt like something an engineer might do on a cocktail napkin. Secondly, there were questions about the heat shield. Due to instrumentation failure from the explosion, no one could be certain that the heat shield was going to hold, or if the explosion damage to the shield would send the astronauts to a fiery death as they entered Earth's atmosphere. As we know today, the heat shield held and the Apollo 13 astronauts were returned safely to Earth, due largely to brave planning and effort of the heros at Mission Control.
On to Apollo 16. Charlie Duke talked about the special training the crews got in field geology. Apollo 16 was the second “J Mission” where science took the lead. The landing site was chosen for its geological interest. They traveled in the Lunar Rover, which allowed them to cover a lot of terrain. They collected over 211 pounds (95.8kg) of samples as they drove a total of 16.6 miles (26.7km). Charlie spoke about the physical difficulties of doing work in a spacesuit. He told us that he really came to admire the physical grace of Commander John Young. John was a somewhat crazy driver in the rover, but he was very steady and graceful in the space suit. Duke ended up coated in lunar dust up to his shoulders, whereas Young was pretty much clean from the knees up. Charlie described the moment on the moon when he realized that he had just about thrown his life away. He wanted to see if he could set a record for high jump. However, he did not completely understand the physics on the moon well enough to pull this off safely. Positioning himself in front of the camera, he pushed off the moon as hard as he could. The weight of his backpack quickly caused him to tumble backward, where he landed flat on his back. He admitted that this maneuver might easily have broken his space suit and cost him his life.
As the discussion came to a close our movie-goers gave the panel a standing ovation. While everyone filed out of the Theater, Duke and Kranz proceeded to the VIP room for photos with our first prize winners, as we guided our second group into the theater for the second panel discussion. After that we showed the movie a second time. Although we did not sell out the two shows, we did sell more tickets than there were seats for one show. The evening was a smashing success with smiles all around.
The Commemoration Launch
On Friday March 26 the range setup crew met a 7:00 to get the range together. The stage was to have been set up the night before, and the sound crew were nowhere to be seen. As the rest of us set about preparing the flight line and launch consoles, Dave worked the cell phone to get assurances that everything would be ready by 8:25. It was clear and cool, around 48F, and there was a very steady 2-3 mph breeze. The official wind forecast was calling for 15-18mph winds by 9:00. That kind of wind would have scrubbed the commemorative model launch. A short time later the two 6 position racks, two large rocket pads, and controllers were set up and tested. By this time, the stage was set up and the sound crew was putting out the speakers. The first couple of school buses were pulling up. Our flight line was ready. We were getting a steady flow of volunteers from the community. The NMSU ROTC were on hand, both to the present the colors for our opening ceremony, and to act as crowd control and timers for our Eggloft event. Then, in rolls the best display of our show – bar none, The WSTF Lunar Ascent vehicle. This is the actual Apollo test article, in its second appearance at our NMSU launch field. It is an oversized load, and WSTF undertook the expense to get it out for our event. Not only does it make a splendid backdrop for our event, it comes with our special friend, retired Apollo veteran Don McMorris. Don was a technician on the launch tower for the Saturn V. He lives in nearby Tularosa NM, and he has appeared at most of our events since he found us. He has made it his business to brief all comers on the history of the LM (Lunar Module) including all that he was able to learn about the WSMR tests. He comes equipped with two binders full of illustrations related to the moon landing and LM. On this day when we greeted each other, he told me that he had done a lot more research so that he could answer questions he did not know the answers to last time around.
So the wind stayed calm and the sun shined strong. Our speakers mounted the stage, and the celebration was under way. The NMSU Air Force ROTC presented the colors as we played the Star Spangled Banner through the sound system. Following a brief introduction and some words from our guests, we started the launches. Mike Shinabery announced each rocket in historical context, then described the kit, and name the person who built it. The crowd would then count down from 5, and the rocket was off. The lineup was much the same as in previous launches, but Dave, Steve, and I all added some special models. Steve Kovar brought out his Soyuz model. Mike described a bit about the competition between the Russian and American space programs and how this servered as a catalyst for the race to the moon.
Dave scratch built a Thor-Agena, and I built an Atlas-Agena. These special missile systems, adapted to multistage rockets, were used in the Gemini program to test maneuvers required to couple two moving bodies in orbit. The Agena booster was a very special deal because it could be re-ignited in orbit. We built these models specially for Gene. With each launch, the students grew more enthusiastic and the cheers grew ever louder. When we got to the Gemini 9 we had another special surprise for Gene Kranz. During Gene’s career as Flight Director at NASA, his wife Marta has hand sewn a unique, one of a kind, vest for each mission. Gene says that these vests are in various museum collections around the U.S. Six members of FLARE had purchased white vests in honor of Gene and Marta. I packed them in white boxes. Just before the Gemini 9 launch, we gathered at center field as I handed out the boxes, and each of us donned the “mission vest”. The Kranzes were absolutely delighted. We could see them beaming from all the way across the field as Mike explained the historical significance of the vests. As we wrapped up the commemorative launches, we all paraded up to the stage to shake the hands of our special guests. We thanked them for their outstanding service, and they thanked us for an excellent show.
When I spoke to Marta Kranz a few minutes later, she expressed her delight and asked us for the name of our seamstress. I smiled and noted that we had not been able to find as good a seamstress as her, we bought ours on eBay.
We had a spectacular launch of Dave's Space Shuttle. At apogee, the Space Shuttle detaches and glides back to the ground, pretty much just like the real deal. In perfect form, the shuttle did the roll maneuver (that's precisely what it looks like, every time) to set up a spiral return trajectory that resulted in the shuttle glided gently back to the launch area. It glided for a good long time. Few of our guests ever expect this and they always get a big kick out of it, even after they are done exclaiming “would you look at that”! “Was that radio controlled”?
The final flight of the day was an awesome Apollo 16 launch reenactment from a working scale replica Saturn V launch pad. Dave began work on the Launch pad in Huntsville, AL years ago when working at Marshall Space Flight. He completed the Saturn V pad in Las Cruces, NM; near White Sands Missile Range. The launch pad base was completed just days before the first 40th Anniversary Commemoration Event, Apollo 8, in December of 2008.
We got a break of 20 minutes or so as the press interviewed our guests, and we prepared for the Gene Kranz “Failure is not an Option – Mission Eggselence Eggloft Competition”. (I had also suggested the suitably corny, but logically inconsistent title “Failure is not an Omelet”). SEMAA had formed 24 classroom teams to build Eggloft rocket kits to participate in this event. This took several months of preparation. I designed the the kits to be over-stable, and to fly on a D12 engine. In past events we had conducted classroom workshops to build Skill Level One kits, one for each student, and we had launched hundreds of rockets. This time we wanted to have a more challenging kit, built by teams. Dave suggested an EggLoft competition, and we ran with it. Laura Lomas of SEMAA ordered the raw parts. My wife Gloria and I, and several members of the NMSU Atomic Aggies USLI rocket team, cut and fit the parts, then assembled the kits in bags. These rockets used four basswood through-wall fins, and balsa nose cones. They are very stable, with or without egg, no nose weight needed. They were not designed to go high. I designed an eight page set of illustrated instructions to go along with the kits. We left the parachute design up to the teams.
The students did a splendid job assembling their rockets, and only an egg or two did not survive the mission. Out of 24 rockets, we only saw one with poor fin attachment. No parts were missing. No rocket surgery was required at the safety check-in. This was a parachute duration contest. As luck would have it, the winds really did cooperate. We had clear, stable, consistent flights throughout. The rockets all flew to 160-180ft. The most competitive teams had set aside the 2.5 and 3mil polymer sheets we supplied for parachutes, and used much lighter material to make larger parachutes. Every fight was excellent, and every student had a great time. We had clear winners to declare at the end of the event.
The Pan Am Center Event
The show at the Pan Am was in many ways as big and complex a setup as the Commemoration Launch. There were two major differences: It was not subject to weather and, we stirred up and eager cadre of volunteers who were experienced with such projects. We had eighteen science and engineering related organizations presenting information and interactive exhibits in conjunction with our speakers. The event required several months of careful planning and coordination. It looked easy, largely thanks to the efforts of Doug Parton, Director of the Pam Am, and his excellent staff. The largest single component of the event was the system of NASA Apollo 40 Program panels, and simulated moon rocks. This display needed to be sponsored and curated by a professional museum. The Las Cruces Museum of Natural History stepped up. They have, in fact, curated NASA and other exhibits in their halls, and coordinated such exhibits in other Las Cruces museums. Delivery and setup of the displays fell just in time, the day before the show.
Exhibitors included the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), WSTF, the Albuquerque Rocketry Society, FLARE, the Civil Air Patrol, the Asombro Institute for Science Education, the Challenger Center, Robin Hastings Hang Glider Demonstration, the NMSU Astronomy, Geology, Electrical Engineering, ROTC, and Education Services Departments, the NMSU STEM Outreach Center, the New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge, and “New Mexico’s contributions to Space Travel” author Loretta Hall. The displays were arranged so the the students, entering the south end of the Pan Am center following the launches, would spend time at the hands-on displays. The public, entering the main entrance at the north end of the building, went right to the static displays. Although we had superstars Gene Kranz and Charlie Duke speaking at this event, I do not want to give short-shrift to our exhibitors. They were just wonderful! The students had a great time and the entire Pan Am Center was absolutely full of smiles and the constant chatter of interesting questions asked and answered.
Our opening speaker was Ted Spitzmiller of the Civil Air Patrol, author of the books Astronautics – A Historical Perspective of Mankind's Efforts to Conquer the Cosmos, who spoke about the progress of mankind which lead to the NASA manned space mission programs. As Sinaberry, Kranz, and Duke took the stage, all of our other activities were wrapped up and the launch field taken down. The thematic slide show for this talk went into a bit more detail than the movie night discussions. It was displayed on the huge overhead jumbo-tron display, with a monitor on the stage so that our speakers could see.
The talk went for a little bit over an hour. It included a presentation of a special gift to Charlie and Dotty Duke, a genuine Olivine Bomb. This particular geological artifact is somewhat common in our area. Dave Kovar got the idea from Charlie's an Dotty's Book Moonwalker. Charlie commented that he had handled one of these when he was going through the Geology training with NASA and had been very impressed with it. He did not know where it had gone afterward. “This is great,” he said with a huge smile, “now I have my own.” John DeMar and his son Steven had mounted the rock on a special base with small plaques to commemorate to origin of the rock and the event where it was presented to him.
It has been weeks now since we wrapped up this event. Dave went right on working until everyone who contributed, right down to a local pizza franchise, got a personally signed certificate of appreciation. Many received autographed photos of our guests. The proceeds from the movie ticket sales went to the Houston Area of Habitat for Humanity on behalf of Gene and Marta Kranz, and to the Astronaut Scholarship fund on behalf of Charlie and Dotty Duke. All of us have told our stories about that day and the weeks leading up to it. When you contemplate an event of this magnitude, one that is is also a once-in-a-lifetime experience – you go through moments of self-doubt. “Is this really going to work?”, What if... ?” This has been our experience with the Apollo 40 Commemorations: dozens of people, and sometimes hundreds of people, will answer the call. You cannot know for sure until the actual moments when all of it takes shape, but these things work out in the most wonderful ways. In the end, all we really had to lay awake worrying about was the weather, and it cooperated too.
WSTF Article, SEMAA event photos, Charlie Duke talks before Apollo 16 Launch Reenactment and during Apollo 16 40th Anniversary Presentation at the Pan Am Center, Apollo 16 40th Anniversary Scale Rocket Launch Demonstration, Mike Shinabery Radio Interview with Gene Kranz, Tenaxis photos by Joe Woolhead.
I'll bet you can guess. Apollo 17! On October 11-13, 2012 The Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts and the New Mexico Museum of Space History will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission. The event is being held at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, NM and is once again an education and outreach opportunity for Southern New Mexico middle school students. Most activities are open the general public.
Apollo 17 was the last of the lunar missions and the first to lift-off at night. For this event we are very pleased to have New Mexico’s most famous geologist, Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, as a Guest of Honor. Harrison Schmitt was the Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 17, the final of only 12 astronauts to step foot on the moon, and the only true Geologist to perform field work on the lunar surface.
Harrison Schmitt was part of an Apollo 17 crew that also included Gene Cernan (Commander) and Ron Evans (Command Module Pilot). Their mission began on the evening of December 7th, 1972. The intense flames from the five Saturn V First Stage F-1 engines literally turned darkness to daylight as the crew catapulted toward their encounter with the moon.
Along with Harrison Schmitt, Jan Evans will be in attendance to pay tribute to her late husband Ron Evans who passed away in April 1990. A special dinner event is being planned as part of the Apollo 17 40th Anniversary Commemoration to raise funds for the Ronald E. Evans New Mexico Space Academy Scholarship Fund. This fund will provide the opportunity for underprivileged kids to participate in the Space Academy Summer Camp Program
There are so many people/groups/organizations to thank for their support to the Apollo 16 40th Anniversary Commemoration. This was truly a community effort.
Laura Lomas-Tomlinson, Assistant Director of the NMSU Science Engineering Mathematics Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) program and her staff for arranging the student launch component, classroom time, and transportation of the hundreds of students who joined us for the celebration, and for her contributions to secure grants funding the commemoration.
To Larry and Russell Allen, co-owners of Allen Theatres, Inc. and his staff for generous contributions to the community event special showing of the Apollo 13 movie. Through their generous support we were able to raise $3850 in combined donations to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (Charlie Duke’s Charity) and the Houston Bay Area Habitat for Humanity (Gene Kranz’s Charity).
Pleddie Baker, NASA retired for his extensive and ongoing educational outreach activities, and to Cheerie Patneaude and the staff of the Johnson Space Center White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) for the special tour of their facility and for the wonderful displays and promotional literature for the Apollo 14, and Apollo 16 commemoration events. Where on earth can you have an actual Lunar Module Ascent Stage as a display item? We had one.
Special thanks to Mike Shinaberry, Education Director of the New Mexico Museum of Space History for providing access to the Museum Archives, for writing much of the presentation material panel discussion outlines, for his assistance with preparing the slide shows that served as backdrop for same, and for providing transportation and escort for the Gene and Marta Kranz and Charlie and Dotty Duke. Mike has participated in most of commemoration events as emcee for the launches.
Mike Marcucci and his staff at Tanexis Productions for attending and documenting the tours and commemoration events.
A special thanks goes out to Steve Kovar for all the great event photos, serving as escort for Gene Kranz and Charlie Duke during the event, being the Kranz’s personal driver, and providing excellent moral support during times of high stress.
Kimberly Hanson, Education Curator for the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History for excellent displays and hands-on activities, and for arranging for underwriting the NASA Apollo era displays for the show at the Pan Am center.
Doug Parton, Director of the NMSU Pan Am Center, who made possible, and who closely coordinated and directed, all parties to the displays and presentations at the show.
Crystal Escamilla and the New Mexico State University Atomic Aggies NASA USLI team for assembling the educational rocket kits and mentoring and coordinating the SEMAA teachers and teams building and launching their rockets in competition.
Nate Turner, NMSU Student and SEMAA intern, who designed the original graphics, NMSU marquee display, posters and commemorative movie tickets for the event.
Bruce Beach and the El Paso Franklin High School Band for providing the outstanding photo banners that were displayed at the Apollo 13 Movie Night and at the NMSU launch Venue Site.
Tom Fuller and Lt Logan Clark from Holloman AFB Public Relations for arranging the site tour for Gene and Marta Kranz.
Lisa Blevins from the White Sands Missile Range for providing the site tour for Gene and Marta Kranz.
Spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson for providing the Opening Remarks during the Apollo 16 40th Anniversary Commemoration.
Major Jason Adams and all of the NMSU ROTC cadets for their outstanding support of the Apollo 16 Commemoration in providing the Presentation of Colors during the Opening Ceremony, providing rocket recovery support, and staffing a recruiting table at the Pan Am Center.
Thanks to Thomas Kindig, John DeMar, Gloria Kindig, Joe Pfeiffer, James W. Basler, Jim Basler, Vern Richardson, Russell Payne, Denzil Burnam, Daniel Giron, and Mike Maurer of FLARE Rocketry for all objects moving at high velocity and so much more. Also to Russell Diaz for volunteering his Atlas rocket for the commemoration flights.
Hugh Malcolm from the Alamogordo, NM Spaceport Model Rocketry Association for providing support during Launch Demonstration portion of the Apollo 16 Commemoration.
Pan Am Center Hands-on and Static Displays:
Patrick Turney of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronomics for the Paper Airplane hands-on demonstration.
Thanks to Jerry Cross and John Hornkohl of the Albuquerque Rocketry Society for the static model rocketry display. The high power rocketry display was especially impressive.
Ted Spitzmiller for arranging the Civil Air Patrol display, providing a presentation on the history of the NASA Manned Space Program, and serving as the Pan Am Center emcee along with Mike Shinabery.
Robin Hastings for the Hang Glider Display.
Cat Wu of the NMSU Astronomy Department for arranging hands-on astronomy display.
Austin Shock of the NMSU Geological Department for the hands-on geology display.
Anthem Furth of the NMSU Electrical Engineering Department for providing a hands-on display
Emma Beddome of the NMSU Education Services Learning Center for her support to SEMAA student activities at the Pan Am Center.
NMSU STEM Outreach Center for helping to support the Pan Am Center SEMAA Display and staffing of the Volunteer sign-in.
Janet Penevolpe and David Kratzer of Supercomputing Challenge for the great SEMAA hands-on activity.
I apologize for anyone I may have inadvertently left off. This truly is an impressive list of partners who helped to make the Apollo 16 40th Anniversary Commemoration the outstanding success that it was! —David Kovar.