Sun Lakes Aero Club to feature presentation on space race

“Why the U.S. won the race to the moon and why the Soviet Union lost.” That will be the topic of a presentation at the Sun Lakes Aero (SLAC) gathering Monday, January 19 at the Sun Lakes Country Club. The public is invited to attend.

The speaker will be Sun Lakes resident Don Palmer, who, in the 1960’s, was the youngest engineer working on Collins Radio (now Rockwell Collins) $40 million contract to design and build critical radio systems for the Apollo missions.

“We were in a space race, but only that, but we had to prove to Third World Nations that we were powerful,” he said. “You can’t imagine the passion our company had for the Apollo program.”

“In the early 1960s, NASA told us they wanted to go to the moon in a Volkswagen. It turned out to be one heck of a VW, because we produced a Saturn V rocket with no failures in six lunar flights.”

Palmer will use a power-point presentation to describe what went on in the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the space race.

Palmer worked at Rockwell Collins for his entire career. Now retired in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he works as an unofficial historian for the company’s involvement in the space program.

Now in its 18th year, 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, Gary Vacin at 298-7017, or at the club’s website at