One of the fellows working on the same project was Allan R. Klumpp, an engineer who regularly trained for many marathons, but his dream was to run The Boston Marathon, a 23-mile challenge that is staged on Patriot's Day on the outskirts of the city. It was not uncommon for Allan to run into work from his home, and since this was before showers were considered part of the work benefits, on warmer mornings he was pretty damp by the time he arrived. But that is not the reason he was a memorable part of the team, at least not for me. He was a kind man, tolerant of my inability to be as precise as an engineer and ready and willing to review my equations to be sure they were correct. (The document shown here was something I remember typing for him.) I expect that without his attention to detail the LEM would not have landed on the moon. But it was at his expense this joke got passed around the inner circle: "What sound will the LEM make when it lands on the moon?" Answer: "Klumpp!"
All my memories of working for the Apollo Project came rushing forward today after reading about the passing last week of Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 and the LEM. I remembered meeting him one afternoon when he, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins came to the lab to go over documentation on the LEM. Back in the mid-60's an astronaut was on the 'star' list (pun intended) and NASA took full advantage of those draws. So did some of the secretaries at the Lab, using every feminine wile possible to be in the presence of these soon-to-be-famous entities. I was still too new to my job to risk leaving my desk, but thanks to Allan Klumpp it wasn't necessary. He brought all three of them to me, and introduced us, telling them that I was just as important as he was to the whole project and they needed to respect everyone who was working to get them up to the moon and back, "because," he said, "we cannot afford the luxury of one little error. One degree in calculations could throw everything off and you'd miss the moon, one mis-fire could ruin the return, one sloppy mechanical installation could mean failure." I worked harder to be accurate after that, and when I left the program to move to California with my husband and daughter, I received a commendation in the mail from NASA for my work.
But the greater part of the memory was on July 20, 1969 when Armstrong walked on the moon, after the LEM delivered them to it. I don't think there was any recording of the sound it made when it landed, but because my daughter was sitting beside me as we all watched on TV and she and her cousins were chattering in their toddler tones, I would have missed it anyhow. I can say that I was proud then and still am today for the very small part I played in that event, so that these three men had a successful mission and long lives thereafter.
For those who are interested, Don Eyles wrote an interesting hindsight report here about the screwups and how close the whole mission came to failure. Frankly, I am still amazed when jet aircraft fly, when my car starts and when my phone connects me to someone... my oldest and dearest BFF recently asked me, "How did we manage to do all we did without cell phones?"