Giant Leap

By Tim Parker

Somehow, as a guy from a small New England town who ultimately became an aerospace engineer, I found myself center stage before the Apollo 11 launch in 1969 for the first lunar landing. Standing in front of a myriad of press microphones and cameras under the hot lights at Cape Canaveral in Florida, I explained what a space suit was and why it was necessary to protect the astronauts from the hostile environments of space and the lunar surface.

In government parlance, the suit was called a Pressure Garment Assembly. An Integrated Thermal Micro-meteoroid Garment is worn on top of the PGA for additional protection. At this joint press briefing, DuPont’s corporate marketing people were there to field questions on their high performance materials developed for use in the Apollo Manned Space Program to get astronauts to the moon and returned safely. I was surprised to see so much interest expressed by the international journalists. If their enthusiasm had been bottled. the excess energy could have supplied the Saturn V rocket with an extra boost off the Kennedy Space Center launch pad. Due to their excitement, the foreign press couldn’t seem to ask enough questions. Many scribbled notes as fast as possible, but most extended their arms with tape recorders through the sea of flashbulbs so as to not miss a bit of information.

Then I had a call that my one-year-old son was in the hospital and I had to race home. Among other things he had a heart defect. At that time, if it became worse, he would have needed open heart surgery to determine if it was a valve problem or a hole in his heart. Recently my brother had a catheterization where a tiny pressure transducer was threaded up through an artery to measure blood pressure differentials in the heart. The miniaturized transducers were developed to monitor the astronauts in flight along with a zillion other advances from the space program which allows things like a room full of 1960s computer power to sit on your desktop.

Since my son has been an adult, he has asked how does it feel to reach my goals in life? I’m certain I gave him a strange look when I replied, “What?” He started to list:

You were a rocket scientist and helped get people to the moon and back.

Your pictures were in World Book Encyclopedia under Aerospace and Engineering.

You have the Apollo Achievement Award for contributions to the space program.

You hold numerous patents.

You wrote “the great American novel” twice so far.

I told him that none of that was planned. What I did wasn’t in anyone’s crystal ball before I did it. I just kept meeting challenges head-on and had a lot of fun solving problems. After I was hurt, writing was one of the few things I could do at my own pace because I didn’t know when I would have a good day to be able to work. Now I’m in the process of writing my aerospace memoir to encourage the next generation to solve tomorrow’s problems and meet new challenges as they are encountered.

"flashmemoirtimparker"Tim Parker grew up on a farm in western Massachusetts and worked his way through college. An aerospace/industrial career in engineering and management followed. After an accident, he started a writing career. Combining his diversified background and experience at running businesses, he addressed conflicting world environment to protect our shores.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *