Sky at Night Magazine - - OCTOBER / BOOK - Jack Cle­mons

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

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