John Houbolt explains Lunar orbit rendezvous
John Cornelius Houbolt
April 10, 1919
Altoona, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||April 15, 2014 95) (aged|
Scarborough, Maine, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, ETH Zurich|
|Awards||NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, 1963|
|Institutions|| National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics |
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Langley Research Center
John Cornelius Houbolt (April 10, 1919 – April 15, 2014) was an aerospace engineer credited with leading the team behind the lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) mission mode, a concept that was used to successfully land humans on the Moon and return them to Earth. This flight path was first endorsed by Wernher von Braun in June 1961 and was chosen for Apollo program in early 1962. The critical decision to use LOR was viewed as vital to ensuring that Man reached the Moon by the end of the decade as proposed by President John F. Kennedy. In the process, LOR saved time and billions of dollars by efficiently using existing rocket technology.
Lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) is a key concept for efficiently landing humans on the Moon and returning them to Earth. It was utilized for the Project Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s. In a LOR mission, a main spacecraft and a smaller lunar lander travel to lunar orbit. The lunar lander then independently descends to the surface of the Moon, while the main spacecraft remains in lunar orbit. After completion of the mission there, the lander returns to lunar orbit to rendezvous and re-dock with the main spacecraft, then is discarded after transfer of crew and payload. Only the main spacecraft returns to Earth.
Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun was a German-American aerospace engineer and space architect. He was the leading figure in the development of rocket technology in Germany and a pioneer of rocket technology and space science in the United States.
The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third United States human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which succeeded in landing the first humans on the Moon from 1969 to 1972. First conceived during Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in an address to Congress on May 25, 1961. It was the third US human spaceflight program to fly, preceded by the two-man Project Gemini conceived in 1961 to extend spaceflight capability in support of Apollo.
Houbolt was born in Altoona, Iowa in 1919.He spent part of his childhood in Joliet, Illinois, where he attended Joliet Central High School and Joliet Junior College. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, earning a Bachelors (1940) and a Masters (1942) degree in civil engineering. He later received a PhD in Technical Sciences in 1957 from ETH Zurich. Houbolt began his career at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1942, and stayed on at NASA after it succeeded NACA, until retirement in 1985.
Joliet is a city in Will and Kendall counties in the U.S. state of Illinois, 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Chicago. It is the county seat of Will County and a major part of the southwest Chicago metropolitan area. At the 2010 census, the city was the fourth largest in Illinois, with a population of 147,433. A population estimate in 2018 put Joliet's population at 150,495, which would make it the 3rd largest city in Illinois if accurate.
Joliet Central High School is a public secondary school located in Joliet, Illinois. Central is part of Joliet Township High Schools, along with Joliet West and Joliet East. Before the opening of Joliet East and West, the school was called Joliet Township High School. In 1993, when Joliet Central and Joliet West combined many of their athletic and other competitive extracurricular programs, the combined program took the old "Joliet Township" name.
Joliet Junior College (JJC) is a community college in Joliet, Illinois. Founded in 1901, it was the first public community college founded in the United States. JJC offers pre-baccalaureate programs for students planning to transfer to a four-year university, as well as occupational education leading directly to employment. Additionally, JJC offers adult education and literacy programs, workforce development services, and student support services.
Houbolt was an engineer at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and he was one of the most vocal of a minority of engineers who supported LOR and his campaign in 1961 and 1962. Once this mode was chosen in 1962, many other aspects of the mission were significantly based on this fundamental design decision. He was a guest at Mission control for the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
Langley Research Center located in Hampton, Virginia, United States, is the oldest of NASA's field centers. It directly borders Langley Air Force Base and the Back River on the Chesapeake Bay. LaRC has focused primarily on aeronautical research, but has also tested space hardware at the facility, such as the Apollo Lunar Module. In addition, a number of the earliest high-profile space missions were planned and designed on-site.
NASA's Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center, also known by its radio callsign, Houston, is the facility at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas that manages flight control for America's human space program, currently involving astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The center is in Building 30 at the Johnson Space Center which is named after Christopher C. Kraft Jr., a retired NASA engineer and manager who was instrumental in establishing the agency's Mission Control operation, and was the first Flight Director. Prime contractor for systems integration at Houston was Philco Corp., selected by NASA in January 1963.
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He was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1963. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.He was awarded an honorary doctorate, awarded on May 15, 2005 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his papers were deposited in the University of Illinois Archives. In 2009, the Illinois House of Representatives adopted HR 540 in his honor. He is additionally commemorated in the city of Joliet: The street fronting Joliet Junior College, which he attended, was renamed Houbolt Road; a mural in Joliet Union Station includes a Lunar Module, in reference to his work for NASA; and a wing of the Joliet Area Historical Museum became a permanent exhibit to celebrate his achievements.
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He lived in Williamsburg, Virginia.In later years he lived in Scarborough, Maine. He died at a nursing home there in 2014 of Parkinson's disease.
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Scarborough is a town in Cumberland County on the southern coast of the U.S. state of Maine. The town is a coastal resort area. Located about 7 miles (11 km) south of Portland, Scarborough is part of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine metropolitan statistical area. The population was 18,919 at the 2010 census.
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In the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon , Houbolt was played by Reed Birney.
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Although the basics of the lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) concept had been expressed as early as 1916 by Yuri Kondratyukand 1923 by German rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth, NASA would provide the first practical application of the concept. Some engineers were concerned about the risks of space rendezvous, especially in lunar orbit, where there would be no fallback options in case of a major mishap. Houbolt had presented the LOR concept to a series of panels.
Houbolt has a scheme that has a 50 percent chance of getting a man to the moon and a 1 percent of getting him back
His figures lie, he doesn't know what he's talking about
After many technical conferences debating Direct ascent, Earth orbit rendezvous, and LOR, Wernher von Braun supported the concept.
While some aspects of Houbolt's initial estimates were off (such as a 10,000 pound Apollo Lunar Module which was ultimately 32,399 lb (14,696 kg)), his LOR package proved to be feasible with a single Saturn V rocket whereas other modes would have required two or more such rocket launches (or larger rockets than were then available) to lift enough mass into space to complete the mission.
Leading up to the first mission of the Space Shuttle, STS-1, in 1981 Houboult co-wrote a letterwith structural engineer Holt Ashley to Chris Kraft, director of Johnson Space Center, imploring him to delay the launch believing the orbiter would suffer major loss of thermal protection tiles, and potentially lose the vehicle.
Of particular concern was a strut attaching the nose of the orbiter to the External Tank. Langley Research Center urged further wind tunnel testing, which Kraft reluctantly agreed to do. While the tiles had been an ongoing concern since the original development of the Shuttle, the teams involved believed it was safe to fly by that point.
Upon jettisoning, the External Tank did show heat damage around the forward strut area, as feared. On reaching orbit some tiles were visibly missing around the tail of the Shuttle, and fears that the more-critical tiles on the underside of the vehicle were damaged led to a hastily-arranged effort to use KH-11 KENNEN spy satellites and the Kuiper Airborne Observatory to acquire imaging of the Shuttle in orbit to assess the damage. Fortunately, the damage was minimal, and the mission concluded safely.
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