Sunday, July 1, 2012

Apollo engineer's four decades on New Frontier

Dan Dipaolo
Daily American

Davidsville, Pennsylvania native Lee Wible Jr., 67, spent more than four decades in the country’s space program often training astronauts or in mission control during Apollo missions to the moon.

When astronauts stepped safely outside their spacecraft to conduct scientific tests, collect rock samples or to just generally push the limits of human exploration, it was thanks in part to engineering work Wible had done on their portable life support systems (PLSS.)

“Some of those EVAs (extra-vehicular activities) were in excess of seven hours,” he said. “That was pushing right to the bitter end. That was the whole thing — exploration,” he said.

During some of the later moon missions in the early 1970s (Apollo 14-17), Wible was often one of the engineers in the back room of mission control in Houston, Texas, talking with the astronauts while they walked the moon or rode the Lunar Rover to various geological formations.
"I had a damn good life," - Lee Wible, Jr.
A team of six men — often armed only with stacks of paper, pens and slide rules — would be sitting in the mission control room nearly 239,000 miles away from an astronaut eyeing up an interesting rock formation or meteorite crater.

They were responsible for monitoring every movement an astronaut made outside the spacecraft.

Other groups of flight controllers were responsible for almost every conceivable stage of the mission — from lift-off of the massive Saturn V rocket to landing on the moon in the lunar module.

“They’d have to ask permission to go over and we’d go to work figuring if they could get there and back,” he said.

The controllers would radio back to the astronaut that he either had enough consumables (air, water and power) to get to the formation and back to the lunar module or not.

His position’s radio call sign was often EVA-2 or EVA-COM (for consumables.)

“There was no margin for error,” he said. “It was like biting your fingernails for 24 hours.”
Read the full article, HERE.

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