The man responsible for Apollo 11 launch telecommunications 25 years ago
says America would need a new space agency today to send another manned
spacecraft to the moon.
Ed Hildreth, a 1950 UT engineering graduate, was telecommunications
director at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.,
through the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.
Rockets for those programs were built at Marshall.
Hildreth, who lives in retirement here with his wife Marie, said many of
the scientists, engineers and technicians responsible for Apollo 11 are no
longer with NASA.
He said NASA has lost the public and governmental support necessary to
return man to the moon.
"When an agency becomes old like NASA, the best thing to do is start a new
agency because you've got so many rules and regulations...that become a big
problem," Hildreth said.
"We (NASA) were a new agency, and we had a mandate from the president to go
to the moon by the end of the decade. So we did."
"We were really motivated, and we weren't hindered by bureaucracy. (NASA)
became more bureaucratic when the shuttle came along," he said.
Hildreth attended the first staff meeting called by Wernher von Braun,
director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, after President Kennedy's
1961 speech committing NASA to a moon landing within nine years.
"Dr. von Braun explained how we were going to do it. We had the right
management, leadership with vision and a team that was motivated, and we
succeeded," Hildreth said.
The von Braun team, building on its World War II work at the German rocket
center at Peenemunde, did the basic research and development which produced
the Saturn V moon rockets and the earlier Redstone and Atlas rockets for
the Mercury and Gemini manned missions.
While the July 20, 1969 moon landing left Hildreth with a feeling of
immense accomplishment, he says the NASA mission that pleased him most was
the first unmanned launch.
"We had spent so much time and so much money, and I had seen it being
assembled," he said.
Present NASA incapable of sending man to moon
Published: Tue Jul 26, 1994 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 12:44 p.m.