The largest crowd ever to attend a Sun Lakes Aero Club (SLAC) gathering turned out January 19 to hear Sun Lakes resident Don Palmer tell why the U.S. won the race to the moon and why the Soviet Union lost.
Fifty-seven persons, including 18 guests, attended the session.
In the 1960’s, Palmer was the youngest engineer working on Collins Radio (now Rockwell Collins) $40 million contract to design and build critical radio systems for the Apollo moon missions.
“The USSR got off to an excellent start in the race to the moon,” Palmer said. “When they launched Sputnik in 1957, we knew how far behind we were. The Soviets were the first to put a dog into orbit, first to put a man into orbit, and to launch the first two-man and three-man probes into space.
“Then tragedy struck the USSR effort in the moon race when Dr. Serge Korolov, the Soviets’ leading architect in the Space Race, died. Between 1969 and 1972, all of their space launches failed, and eventually the program was cancelled.”
In 1961, President Kennedy decided to pursue what became the Apollo program when he asked for Congressional support for landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth in this decade. After his assassination in 1963, Kennedy’s memory was quite an impetus for the program, Palmer said.
“The key to our success was a commitment for a program management concept highlighting cost, schedule and reliability,” Palmer said. The program eventually paid off in July 1969 when, by landing on the moon, the U.S. effectively won the space race that had begun with Sputnik’s launch in 1957.
SLAC sponsors programs the third Monday of each month November through April at the Sun Lakes Country Club. The programs are open to all Sun Lakes residents and others interested in aviation. More information on the club is available from Bob Walch at 895-8869 or Gary Vacin at 298-7017 or at the club’s website at www.sunlakesaeroclub.org.