My parents always reminded me that being the oldest of 13 children I had to set an example for my brothers and sisters and that was to go to college and get an education.  My 5th grade teacher, Sister Mary Louis demanded to know what I wanted to be when I grew up, which prompted me to tell her I wants to be an aeronautical engineer.

After my hitch in the Unites States Marine Corps, I used the Veterans Bill of Rights to go to the university and get a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering.  I was employed by North American Rockwell in 1960 as a test engineer and began working on an Air to Surface Missile.  On May 5, 1951 President John F. Kennedy made a pledge that the United States would place an astronaut on the moon by the decade’s end, scoffing at critics of Project Apollo, NASA’s Moonshot Program. 

North American Rockwell had gotten the contract to design and develop the Apollo capsule that would ferry the astronauts to the moon and back to earth.  It would also develop the Main Propulsion System and the Service module.  It was an ambitious program which would involve several major aerospace companies from throughout the United States, not to mention small businesses that would produce nut and bolt, electrical, plastics and other components that would be essential to assemble an Apollo Vehicle.  It was also an ambitious program to compete and establish space superiority over Russia, who had launched the Sputnik Satellite.  Shortly after, I was transferred to work on the Apollo Program as a Reliability Test Engineer.

The technology that came out from the Apollo Program far outpaced the federal investment (computer systems, microchips, lightweight materials, medical equipment, satellites, communication, agriculture, printing, clothing, Velcro, etc) and has earned its worth tenfold.

As a test engineer I played a small role investigating failures and anomalies that occurred during test and developing of the Apollo capsule and assuring that the failures were resolved.  I also feel a sense of pride that I was a test engineer on Apollo 11, which ferried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon and back to earth.

On July 20, 1969 I was glued to the black and white television in our home, just like millions of people around the world, watching as the spider-like Lunar Module, the EAGLE landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong in his controlled pressure astronaut suit took “ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, ONE GIANT STEP FOR MANKIND” and was followed by Buzz Aldrin, to become the first humans to set foot on the moon. I remember going out at night to graze at the moon 238,900 miles away and try to imagine what the astronauts were experiencing on the moon

What I felt emotionally and with pride to have played a small part in history is something that I will never forget, the experience, the comrades and fellow employees relationship developed will always be remembered.  I hope my 2 cents worth working on the Apollo Moonshot Program made a difference.

Jake Alarid