TWO MINUTES WITH
What are your most memorable moments from the Apollo era?
Being in a NASA Mission Control support room during Apollos 11 and 13. My speciality was atmospheric re-entry and both had unexpected changes I could help with. Apollo 11 moved its splashdown location late in the mission because of some nasty Pacific weather and Apollo 13’s return to Earth was unlike anything we’d planned.
What effect, in your opinion, did the retirement of the Shuttle have on the staff working at NASA at the time?
I’d moved on before the last Shuttle launch in 2011, but my colleagues on that programme were disheartened. An era of US leadership in human spaceflight had ended. We’re no longer able to launch our own astronauts into space. The greater loss is that those professionals who knew how to get us back into orbit have moved on or retired – a resource no amount of new funding can recover.
What are your thoughts on NASA working with Space X and Boeing?
I’m in favour. NASA’s role was to develop the new technologies required to put humans into orbit around Earth and on the Moon. Private enterprise wouldn’t have had the expertise, financial resources or business motivation to undertake those tasks. Now NASA has made that investment, so the future of near-Earth human spaceflight is, as it should be, in the hands of private industry. And maybe they’ll even get us back to the Moon.
Aerospace expert JACK CLEMONS was a lead engineer on NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle programmes