NASA Headquarters Oral
Edited Oral History Transcript
Ronald C. Woods
Interviewed by Rebecca Wright
Houston, Texas – 28 March 2012
is March 28, 2012. We’re at the NASA Johnson Space Center [JSC]
in Houston, Texas to talk with Ron Woods, who we consider a legendary
space expert, who has spent the last 45 years in his field. I’m
Rebecca Wright with the Johnson Space Center History Office. I thank
you for being part of today’s discussion. Most importantly,
we thank Ron for giving up his time to share his knowledge and many
of his experiences during this next hour, hour and a half. So thank
you, Ron. We’d like for you to start by just briefly telling
us something about your background.
I grew up around Houston here. My dad was an aircraft mechanic in
Ellington [Air Force Base] in the early ’50s. From that he went
off to Japan, and then when he got back we moved around the United
States quite a bit. I don’t know who he upset, but we wound
up moving from Homestead Air Force Base [Florida] to Minot [Air Force
Base], North Dakota in the middle of the winter. So that tells you
something there. After high school I came back to Houston, and didn’t
know what I wanted to do exactly. I wasn’t ready to go to college,
so I decided to go in the Army.
In the Army I had volunteered to go in in the engineering field. When
I found out, really what I was doing in there was combat engineering.
The guy says, “Well, you actually go in before the infantry
and make bridges and put landmines and stuff in.” It wasn’t
the engineering I wanted to do. So they said, “Well, if you
want to change direction you can go to jump school, be in the airborne.”
So I did that. Then they said, “Well, how about being a parachute
I said, “Well, that sounds kind of cool.” My mom early
on had taught me to use a sewing machine if you needed your clothes
darned or something, you do them yourself. So it was a real education
there. I went to parachute rigger school, and we learned to use all
kinds of machines. Our quality control at the end of jump school was
you jumped the parachute that you packed, the last one that you did.
That gave you a little upgrade there, your thinking about, “Yeah
I got to make this thing right.” I spent from ’64 to July
’67 in the Army, and we worked on parachutes, we did jumps there
at Fort Campbell [Kentucky] and also packed for the Air Force out
in California for a while.
I only had two months left in the service, and my mother called and
left word at the company office. We didn’t have any of the technologies
that we have today for communicating, so she left word, and I got
in line to call her from the outside pay phone, and lots of quarters
in my pocket. I made the call. She said, “Well, you need to
check on this job at JSC. It’s for survival tech [technician].
You have to use sewing machines.”
I called the next day and got an interview. I flew home. I went into
CSD [Crew Systems Division] at the time in Building 7. I didn’t
know anything about the space program, other than what I read or saw
in the news; [Alan B.] Shepard takes his flight, that sort of thing.
So the guy says, “Well, here’s the material. Sit down
and sew me a box with a lid.” So I did that and gave it back
to him. He goes, “That’s pretty good, come see me when
you get out.”
I got out on the morning of the 27th, came here, had another interview,
and he hired me on. I went to work on that Friday, and we were working,
with all the new materials, pretty much seven days a week except for
the holidays at Christmas. But that’s what got me into that.
But it was thanks to my mom for recognizing that ad in the paper.
That’s what got me my job.
always good to do what your mother says.
what you said the other day. Do what your mother says. That’s
you arrived here and reported to Building 7, it was not too long after
the Apollo 1 fire. So you were dealing with new materials. Can you
talk to us about what you walked into, and how materials and the equipment
were starting to be ready for the next crews?
two things happened. First of all, working in that survival lab, we
did have a lot of new materials. I think where I had a good advantage
was the guy says, “Well, why don’t you go back to this
bond room area and organize it?” In that bond room was a lot
of Mercury and Gemini type hardware. I would get a chance to go down
and talk to Joe [Joseph J.] Kosmo, or I think that’s where I
first met Joe, and Jim [James H.] Barnett, and even Ralph [J.] Marak—he
still works in Crew Systems Division there—and talked to them
about what is this, what material is it made from, and make out 911
tags for it and bag it and put it away.
Plus we were also receiving I think the first of the beta cloth. I
remember going down and talking to Dr. Fred [Frederick S.] Dawn, who
was the material expert at the time in CSD, and he would come up to
the lab and say, “Okay, this is what this material is, here’s
the work order for it, how we purchased it.” Plus we got to
do the sewing for the designs that the engineers came up with using
all the fire retardant material. It was really interesting because
it was a challenge for the engineers as well as technicians to try
to make the materials work.
I can also remember at some point in time we had Red Adair, one of
his guys. The famous firefighting company [Red Adair Company]. I think
it was Boots [Asger Hansen] or Coots [Edward Owen], one of the guys
that worked for him actually came out. We were building layups of
asbestos into things for fire suits. So we had every kind of material
you could think of there. Raw beta, one pass beta, everything you
could think of that they were using to get the spacecraft safe. Even
Astro-Velcro I believe at the time was being developed. It was a real
interesting place to work. You gained a history and worked with those
guys in the Mercury and Gemini program as well as making your skills
a lot better at doing fabrication work.
mentioned that these folks from Boots and Coots came when it was tested.
But also part of what you did was you were a suit subject. Could you
share with us what that meant and what your role was in being a suit
and Root-Northrop had the contract at the time to support suit subject
events. So we went over and got the physical so we could get in the
suits. It wasn’t a major part of the job, but we would get in
the suit and cycle test bearings or get in the spacecraft, and they
could try different configurations of hardware. You might be just
a volume in there, suited. There’s things like that that we
did. We didn’t fly zero-G at that time, but we had an interesting
time. I always said once you got into a spacesuit, you were just like
hooked. What better job could anybody at my age have? I was just I
think 21 at the time and had been out of the military, and then walk
into a job like that. You’re looking at all this hardware and
meeting all these engineers. The pioneers of Mercury, Gemini, and
then start of Apollo.
of your duties at that time, you were performing maintenance on different
classifications of training suits. Can you share with us what those
roles and those duties were? As well the different types of suits,
and then how that evolved.
we were doing the suit subject work, you got to meet all the interesting
people that worked for ILC [International Latex Corporation, Government
and Industrial Division] across the bay there. That’s where
their office was on site. They had said, “Well, you know how
to use a sewing machine. We need people over here to do that work.”
So I quit my job at Brown and Root-Northrop and went over to ILC to
be a certified trained technician. They put us on second shift, and
once again you’re working seven days a week. We were on second
shift breaking suits down that they had used during the day, of course
with supervision. Everything we did, they would have to quality check
it. We were working on mainly Class III suits that were used for training
and also in the water tank. So we got our skills based on that, and
we finally got a certification for it. Anyway, that’s how you
got to be a certified suit technician.
pioneers that had been the first space suit technicians certainly
were very instrumental in your life. Can you share some of the lessons
that they taught you early in that time period that you carry through
the years that you’ve been here?
it right the first time. That was the key to it, since you’re
working on a life support system. Just like going back into the military
and doing the quality work that we did on personnel parachutes. We
worked on 100-foot diameter cargo chutes, everything. But to work
in that environment so that you made sure everything was right, even
though you had inspectors come through from time to time, check the
records. We had three guys working on layout tables packing chutes,
so it was very important that you maintained that level of quality.
That’s the way we did it with the suits as well. We had ILC
quality and NASA quality, which I always thought was a great thing
to have. They stressed that to us, to do it right the first time.
there a lot of differences between the quality assurance between ILC
and from NASA?
you did your work and your initial inspection was done by the ILC
quality. Then you had these veterans that worked in NASA quality that
came in and looked at that work, and pointed out things even in documents
or the workmanship that you could do better. You always tried to do
your best, but they would point out things to us. It was a good quality
inspection way to go for the suits, the life support system. It was
first crew assignment was Apollo 8.
Woods: I was
fortunate enough—I think it was stated by Buzz Aldrin one time.
He said, “I had the great good fortune to walk to the Moon.”
I had the great good fortune to get introduced to guys like Joe [Joseph
W.] Schmitt, Al [Alan M.] Rochford, the first NASA suit techs. From
that, working on the suits at night and then we got on day shift,
we actually went out and supported some of the testing. You always
had somebody there with you that had been doing the suitup for quite
some time. Joe would always come in and look at us and say, he and
Al, “Good morning, space worker.” It was always a nice
thing to hear from those guys. Joe asked me one day. He said, “Hey,
how would you like to come along and be part of the team that suits
the guys up and actually puts them in the spacecraft?” Insertion
I said, “That’d be a lot of fun.” We’d go
over to the trainers and Joe would show us the interior of the Command
Module and where all the switches were, and how you should hook the
guys up properly, a list that he would give us to study. After doing
that for so many times, then you’d actually get assigned to
a crew. We went from Building 7, and we actually moved to [NASA] Kennedy
[Space Center, Florida, KSC] to work.
That was a neat thing. The supervisor came in one day—we’d
been going TDY [temporary duty assignment] there—and he said,
“Hey, anybody in the room here want to go to Kennedy and work?”
I said boy, that was a lot of fun going down there, I said, “Yeah,
He says, “Well, when can you go?”
I said, “Probably this afternoon after work.” He looked
at me like strange. I said, “Yeah, sure, I’d love to go
He said, “Well, go downstairs and get some travel orders. Go
to the Nassau Bay Bank, get some money, and be on your way.”
I said, “Sure.” So I went home. I had moved back in after
an event in an apartment. I lived in an apartment, got out of there.
So I was back home for a while.
My mom said, “What are you doing?”
I said, “I’m getting the car loaded up. I’m heading
“Yeah. I’m going now.” So I went down there and
I worked there from ’68 till after Skylab. So working on Apollo
8, you got assigned to a crew member, and that way any time that crew
member came in it was a confidence builder for them that the suit
was laid out the last time like this, it was that way again, because
Joe had really good detailed instructions for us to go by. He and
Al Rochford had the background from the Mercury and Gemini days and
knew what the crews wanted to see each time. Of course back in those
days too we all had short hair, no mustache or facial hair because
we were all military people, and that was our standard. We wore white
shirts and ties all the time. So it was strict on how you dressed
and presented yourself around the crew. It was a lot of fun. It was
great working with Joe with all his experience, and a good mentor.
were also working with the Apollo 11. Tell us what it was like to
suit Buzz Aldrin and then go out to the launch pad.
once again Joe was the lead NASA person on that mission. He asked
me, “Would you like to be a part of this?” You have to
remember that being on the team you put a lot of hours in. It wasn’t
just you go in there and work your eight hours and go home, because
if you were supporting chamber runs you might start early in the morning;
the different events that we had to support. They had the Flight Crew
Training Building and they had a simulator: a Command Module, LM [Lunar
Module], and they also had a full size Lunar Module there, and also
the lunar landscape. These guys actually did a lot of work. I can’t
believe how much time these guys spent training to go to the Moon.
It was just incredible.
So you had the Class III training suits and you had the Class I suits
that we kept in the O&C [Operations and Checkout] Building. We
had another room for the Class III in that Flight Crew Training Building.
Basically, as a backup insertion tech for Apollo 11, you watched Joe,
helped him out with getting the prime crew in. Then the backup crew,
it was your job to do all that work, and you would become the prime,
so you would have to do the insertion. Being as nervous as I always
was anyway, it was a lot of fun, but I’d always sweat a lot
on the helmet putting him in there. Anyway, it was good to do that
and be in the spacecraft, because you actually got down on the struts
and moved around and put each crewman in at a time. You had the ventilators
to deal with, and you always had to reach up in the tunnel because
that’s where the switches were, and know that from memory.
The next chamber, the right chamber, was the Lunar Module. To actually
get in there with the backup crew and stand there and hook them up
and watch the switches, you didn’t hit something. So it was
interesting to look back in time and say, “I was in the Command
Module and I was also in the Lunar Module that went to the Moon.”
In going out to the pad you had to support emergency egress training.
Also S0017, and then final is S0007. During any of the emergency egress
training, the fire department had something cool over there. It wasn’t
tunnels, it was—well, above ground tunnels. I was watching the
guy one day, and he’s got all the hatches open. It was quite
a lengthy tunnel as well, so you’d have to go through with a
fire extinguisher, and they had these little fire pits, you’d
have to put out the fire. Well, I’m watching this guy, and he’s
got the doors open, and he’s already got the flame things going.
I’m going, “So what are you doing?” He said, “I’m
trying to get all the snakes out of here.” I’m going like
oh no. So you were hoping you would be like the third or fourth group
to go in. From that, you would go through the dress rehearsal of S0017
with the prime crew only.
I know probably a lot of you in here know this, but for all the prime
crew, you had three suits all custom-made. You had the Class I prime
suit, a backup suit, and you had a Class III training suit. Then the
backup crew had a prime suit and a training suit. We had many many
suits to take care of. The people that weren’t assigned to the
crew, that was your job to go and backfill and work on those space
suits as required.
The S0017, just like in the Shuttle, that was your practice run to
go to the pad. It was interesting because Buzz Aldrin was flying center
seat for liftoff, not Mike [Michael] Collins. When you got to the
pad, especially on launch day, everything is fueled. Seeing the Saturn
V was just incredible. You got up there, and you had to stand by the
elevator and wait, because the flight room is so small. Joe walked
around with Neil [A. Armstrong] and Mike to get them started, and
I would wait by the phone in the elevator for the test conductor to
call and say, “Okay, it’s his time to go around.”
Buzz had moved over to the railing, of course they’re all suited,
and looking over the side like this, you could hear that Saturn moan
and groan, which was just incredible.
The only thing Joe forgot to tell me was when the fire pit would ignite.
It was off in the distance. So we got Buzz around, and my job was
to start carrying GSE [ground support equipment] back to the elevator.
As I was doing that, I was coming across the swing arm, and all of
a sudden this thing goes [makes ignition noise]. Holy smokes, it’s
not time. So anyway, we got all the GSE back and the van went back
to the fallback area, which was A11 roadblock, and watched the successful
launch. That was a real treat.
Then I got to work again on Apollo 15, not as the backup. Then the
three Skylabs and then we closed the lab down and came back to Houston.
Then we went back to work Apollo-Soyuz [Test Project, ASTP], and then
completely shut the lab down after that. But it was a tremendous experience
to work all those suits and back other people up when they were the
prime and actually working on the suits just doing all the maintenance.
Removing zippers, replacing them, doing all the custom fit of the
overgloves that went over to protect, the Chromel-R [woven steel],
so it didn’t get wear and tear on it that they used for the
drills on the lunar surface. They all had to be custom-fit because
of the custom gloves that they wore.
changes did you have to prepare for Skylab?
Woods: I think
we had a lot of changes for the Skylab. It was still the suits. It
did go from the A7L configurations on Apollo 15 to A7LB for more mobility
to get in and out of the lunar rover. They just made a couple things
there. But we got to support basically what they called the CEIT [crew
equipment interface test] for the lunar rover down in the high bay
in the O&C Building before it actually was installed into the
Lunar Module. So that was neat to have the guys suited and actually
sitting in the rover, but it was jacked up off the wheel. Couldn’t
put it on the wheels obviously. But they would go through and cycle
everything and make sure it worked suited. Then watch it actually
get loaded into the side of the LM before they took it out to the
VAB [Vehicle Assembly Building] for stacking.
figure out a way how to just slip in there.
Woods: I would
love to. I think like anybody else that supported the program, you
might have never got on the ship, but you flew a lot. In your dreams.
guess when you closed down the building until ASTP was that an interesting
feeling to know you were shutting those doors on all those suits and
having a few years in between before you went back?
it was one of those things. It’s like after the Shuttle Program.
We were up to like 50, 60 people at ILC there supporting those events,
the technicians, engineers. You have to remember back in those days
it was always amazing to me to see the maintenance manuals come out
of Delaware. Not based on computers. This was the real art of it.
Everything those guys did up there was just unbelievable. We got a
chance to go to Pear Street where they actually built the suits, the
early ones. It was just amazing to see the ladies there that actually
put those suits together. When we did start closing down, it’s
sad just like it is for the Shuttle Program. A lot of people that
you worked with for many years, and you go your separate ways.
Anyway, we came back to Houston and started working on a lot of the
things for development for Shuttle.
us about those.
of the gloves and different things. We built that sphere. Walt [Walter
D.] Salyer, Sr. and Walt Salyer, Jr., to name off some of the other
folks that were in there. Jack [K.] Coverdale, Sr. was my lead, and
Bob [Robert B.] Epperson. All those guys, we were in there in that
room together just at the sewing machines building anything that the
engineers came up with. We built those rescue spheres, and all kind
of stuff for the Shuttle Program. A lot of the crew-worn harnesses,
the early development of that, and then they would be obviously turned
over to another contractor to be built for flight. But some interesting
times in transition. And building a lot of the stuff unsupported.
Like the urethane bladders that were used. It didn’t have a
nylon backing. In those days we didn’t have the vent hoods and
everything that you have now, so working conditions weren’t
the best. But anyway we survived it and did some interesting projects.
’79 you left ILC and became part of the NASA federal community.
You were talking about too that you were working with some of the
ejection seats and the suit.
Getting ready for the STS-1, I had an opportunity go to work for NASA
as a suit tech there. Myself and Troy [M.] Stewart actually. He was
one of the Air Force guys and came out of the MOL [Manned Orbiting
Laboratory] program. He supported on Apollo 11, but he and I started
basically the same day with NASA. So we were working with Jim [James
O.] Schlosser, was our lead engineer for the ejection seats and the
crew escape system for the first five flights. It was interesting.
It’s what we use now. It’s a David Clark [Company, Inc.]
based suit. One of the things that come to my mind, one of the training
buildings, they had an ejection seat there. We were trying to figure
out how you get that seatback angle. Because when you’re in
the Shuttle you would have been head down.
So to correct for that, we were coming up with inflatables, all kinds
of things. They finally decided on pressurized shocks so that it would
push the crewman forward and better in a flying position. We were
over there one day, and they had it all roped off. We’re asking
the guys what happened here. He goes, “Well, we don’t
know if the hardware has been deactivated.” We were going like
we’ve been sitting in this thing, and if somebody had pulled
the handle inadvertently you would have gone through the roof of the
building. I think they found out that it was deactivated, so we felt
a lot better the next day when we went over there.
We actually built a system, Jim Schlosser did, so that if we were
at the pad we could repressurize the shocks. That was the case when
we went in on STS-2. The CDR [commander] had gone down some. It wasn’t
on its marks, and it was a nitrogen system. So we were able to hook
that bottle up and actually pump it back up into the right position
before we put the crew in.
We were out there doing pre crew ingress type work. Even though we
had worked some zero-g stuff on early suits with Ellison Onizuka,
he’s just such a tremendous person, but he was our ASP.
support person on those two first missions. It was always fun to work
got to be able to see the Shuttle launch as well.
one I was Joe’s backup again. Then on STS-2, I got to do the
insertion work. It was always so different because when we first went
down there on STS-1 we were out there doing our first check. So it
was first time we’d seen the real vehicle in vertical like that.
I always remember going in the white room. That’s all you could
see was Schlosser halfway in the vehicle looking in there and these
cowboy boots sticking right up in the air. It was kind of funny. But
yeah it was a lot of fun. Then the next three flights that I worked
landing in New Mexico, and that was a real treat for us with all the
gypsum everywhere. Then the next two in California, and then that’s
when I took the job in Florida.
heard people talk about the orbiter and how it was affected from the
gypsum, from landing at White Sands [New Mexico]. How were the materials
that you were responsible for affected from being in that environment?
was really interesting from the point that when we got out to White
Sands, Troy Stewart and I were out there. They would get these dust
storms in the afternoon. There’s I think one or two days that
they were going to attempt a landing, and then they decided not to.
Well, we were already staged, and you couldn’t even see five
feet in front of you. The gypsum would just blow like crazy on the
high winds. So we would have to clean the van again, because it would
actually seep through the cracks in the windows. It was everywhere.
It had blown over some of the structures, the winds had picked up
so high out there.
I’m not sure what it was like for the guys after we recovered
the suits, but I’m sure they had a heck of a time getting that
vehicle out of there with the cranes that they had to use, number
one. Plus to deal with all the cleaning when it got back to Kennedy.
It was quite a job. I know our suits, we had to spend a lot of time
on those as well.
you would share with us a little more detail about the testing of
the suits. You were in a new era with the Shuttle, so you had a new
suit. As you were testing, I know you talked before about being I
believe in the WIF [Water Immersion Facility], and you were taking
the suits into zero g. Can you give us some examples and share some
stories about what it was like to go through those testings?
Woods: I think
Brian [M.] Pacheco and Ronnie [Ronald L.] Newman were here when we
first got the first Shuttle suit in. The one I do remember was that
it had a long extension here. I think it was Story Musgrave. The body
seal closure was way down here instead of up here. We had him in a
donning station, and had a heck of a time getting him out because
of that tunnel length. Then the next one we saw it had moved up. I
don’t remember if it was SP1, SP8, one of those suits. It was
the first one. We would support the water tank with maybe Mr. [John
W.] Young in the morning, Mr. [Robert L.] Crippen in the afternoon,
and the next day [Joe H.] Engle and [Richard H.] Truly. So we were
resizing at lunchtime. We really used the heck out of that suit, and
even took it out to Colorado to support the MMU [Manned Maneuvering
Unit] activities out there.
So it was a lot of fun. You got to see the early stages of what would
eventually be the Shuttle suit. Just about that time I went back to
KSC. I got a job opportunity there to work the GSE in Kennedy.
talk more in detail about that. What did that role involve? What were
your responsibilities with that?
first of all it was one of those that they said, “Well, you
go down and watch out for the EMUs [Extravehicular Mobility Unit]
and that sort of thing, for stowage, V1103 testing with the suit with
the vehicle. Just look over the stowage.” As it worked out,
there was myself and Leonard Dikum [phonetic]. He was our TV engineer.
Of course once again we didn’t have the computers or anything
else. I would sit there late in the day typing TPSs [test preparation
sheet] to get this work accomplished. It grew quite rapidly from there.
At the end of the program we had nine people that worked for USA [United
Space Alliance] across off site that was our support team, TV engineers
and doing all the final packing.
One of the things that always amazed me—and it’s nice
to go back and look at history in the Shuttle program. We always reference
the document here which was written in ’77. It was the intercenter
agreement between KSC and JSC on flight crew equipment. This was pretty
much our standard throughout the program, because it defined what
Houston would provide as far as documentation that came with hardware.
Upon receiving what you did if you found a problem. Inform the JSC
resident office, which was us. So it really was a really good document.
It fed into the KSC system so well.
As we matured through the program, even down working with anybody
that was our customer—I always said this to the guys that worked
in our office—anybody that walks through the door, we want to
be the host with the most. Everybody’s our customer. If it’s
got an SED designation on it or SEG for when you got into station,
that’s who we work for. It was a good policy to have, because
somebody could come in late at night and say, “Hey, I just was
delayed. I brought my hardware in.” Well, okay, we need to get
it on the ship tomorrow. You were up against schedule in the suit
room and in that lab. It was a lot of responsibility but yet the way
we worked it, it managed a lot of hardware in a very unique way. Any
time we needed help, you went back to the people that were responsible.
See some folks here from the decal lab and the importance that they
played. When configuration changes were made by Gary Morgan and Ray
Malone and company. It was just tremendous.
You didn’t have any set hours, like we didn’t in Apollo.
We were just there. If it was 14 hours that day, so be it, you were
there. Actually we were very successful over the years. If I remember
right, we only missed like one cable in all those flights. That’s
the only one I ever had reported back to me. There was a couple close
ones that we got down towards the end, and that goes back to configuration
management. It’s that handoff that was good. It was knowing
the people that were back here that you supported and everybody that
could make something happen there. It wasn’t behind the computer.
It was actually going to the facilities and talking to them and thanking
them for a job well done.
Like our transportation people at Kennedy. We would actually go out
there and talk to them every so often. Hey thanks for getting us that
FedEx truck that we needed quick to get hardware back to Houston when
we had a suit that they needed to look at, check it out, and make
sure that the suits that we had on board at the time didn’t
have the same problem.
When you’re doing your certificate of flight readiness you want
to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row. You had clean
paper. There’s no guesswork to it. It was cut and dried. It
was there. I know the people back in Houston, I couldn’t imagine
what they were going through when they would say, “Hey, we need
the suit back,” and we get the answer from somebody that goes,
“Well, it’s too late for a truck.” Well, that wasn’t
the right answer, so we’d go to the Logistics Building and talk
to another individual and say, “We can’t fly without this.
You’re going to stop the mission.” With that in mind,
“Hey, Ron, we got a truck, it’ll be there in two hours.”
Let me tell you a couple background stories there. Early in the program,
when you land at [NASA] Dryden [Flight Research Center, Edwards, California]
all the hardware was left on the ship except for the early return
bags, the med [medical] kits, flight data file, that sort of thing.
Those came back on the STA [Shuttle Training Aircraft] with the crew.
The rest of the hardware went back on the ship in place. They did
a weight and CG [center of gravity], and we’d get it back at
Kennedy. So you had like two-, three-week delay getting hardware off
and back to Houston. Then they decided well, let’s do the smart
thing. Let’s take it all off at Dryden, and then those things
like EOS [emergency oxygen system] bottles, that sort of thing, anything
that’s pressurized that’s going back to Kennedy, we would
put it in certain cushions, put it back in the shop, and off it would
go with the weight balance hardware.
We really cut a lot of time out of the processing when you’re
flying eight times a year. So it was really tough to manage all of
it. In our lab, some guys came up with these ideas, we used bread
racks. Rollaround bread racks. It was a beautiful thing, because you
would mark each of them, color-coded, and you might have one that’s
all these racks supporting CEIT [crew equipment interface test], the
next rack you might have for S0017 or the next one a download from
a mission. So that’s how we separated everything.
Basically we had the philosophy in our lab, it was just all a bond
room, even though we had a caged area where we kept items that weren’t
in the flow at that particular time. But basically it was a big bond
room, and it worked very well for us.
Then also streamlining documents that we had between early ISS [International
Space Station] when we first got the hardware, there were a lot of
steps to get it to the ISS Program and we found that our step was
three. Houston, our lab, and the ship. From the ship back to the lab
back to Houston. We finally made some changes on the other side of
the house that got it there. It was almost as crisp as our system
in our lab.
there a time that you remember that technology helped you streamline
even more? I remember you said before you typed, you wrote, you hand-delivered.
So did computer processing and barcoding, at what point did you feel
like technology was helping you?
Woods: I think
when we did finally get computers—we had some guys in the office
that had already been using them at home. Just like our TV systems,
we were able to put everything in there as far as the TPSs go. Manage
them better that way. We had our own tare station, which was good,
because we had books that we would go look at every morning. That
was the first thing I did, go look what’s open, what PRs [program
requirement] do we have. Then we would have a meeting every morning
with Bud Hicks [phonetic] and Billy Luttrell [phonetic], all those
guys that would orchestrate everything that we did. They didn’t
work for them, but everybody did work for them, because they were
the ones that said, “Okay, you got to be at the pad with the
suits at this time, this particular locker.” We’d have
a big map. “This locker has to go in. We’re waiting on
an experiment from Dryden for this one. You need to tell those folks
that they have to be here at this particular time. They have 10 hours’
worth of work to do in the lab.” Those guys did every bit of
it. It was just incredible what they did.
But the computer system was a big advantage for us. Plus, we did have
operational agreements between organizations, which before we were
shipping almost like across the hallway. So we got rid of that, because
when you put a payload in the vehicle, you do it by an operational
agreement [OA]. You didn’t ship say a Spacelab to USA or Lockheed
Martin and say put it in the vehicle. No, it was just done by an OA
between those two organizations. Then all your OMIs [operations and
maintenance instructions] and TPSs would actually hook it to the vehicle.
Well, we got to the point where we could do that between Station and
ourselves, only for the integration and deintegration process. If
it was going off site you had to do the shipping. But we kept streamlining
it like that. It worked out very well for us.
Let me do a go back on this getting hardware in. One of the things
that came up one day was when a guy calls me from the warehouse. If
you ever looked at the LC39 logistics facility, it’s pretty
wide loading dock. Very long. One end of it is receiving. All of our
containers were marked do not open. They knew that. It was coming
to the lab, so they didn’t have to do a receiving there. Receiving
was done in our lab by our own logistics. That’s what made it
really advantageous, more so than other areas.
Anyway, the guy calls me up and says, “Hey, you got to come
out here and look at this blue suitcase.” We were waiting for
an LTA [lower torso assembly] to come in so you could finalize after
V1103 the configuration of the airlock and close out. So he’s
telling me about this, and he says, “Well, the winds kicked
up. Bad storm coming through. We really had some strong winds.”
I said, “Yeah, tell me what happened.”
He said, “We’re standing here by this big double door.
There was this suitcase.” You can imagine all these guys ran
out the door and they’re chasing this suitcase down the loading
dock. It went like this off the end of it. So we got in the truck,
took it back to the lab.
Of course we had all the EMU guys online and said, “What do
you want to do with this?”
He says, “Well, what does the plastic look like?” So we
look at it, and it had creases in the pink poly. So they said, “We
want it back.”
We’d already started the PR [purchase request] process. That
was good having the logistics there, because we could move hardware
out of our lab with a PR condition usually in less than two hours.
It was to the warehouse and ready to take to Orlando [Florida]. The
guy said, “Well, you have your credit card. Why don’t
you hand-carry it?” So I did. Off to Houston I went. They worked
off site overnight on it. I hand-carried it back the next day and
got it stowed, so the mission went off on time. But a lot of things
like that happened over the years. You go like wow, that’s really
We had another LTA out there. We used to tell them, “Your configuration
management has to be in the lab. That’s the wrong time to do
it when you’re basically at the pad doing your stowage. You
do it all by documentation. Prepacks in the lab, and then you stow,
affix it to the orbiter out there.” We had some quality guy
that wanted to look at the parts tag inside the LTA cover. As he did
that, or directed the technician to do it, the zipper broke, so they
brought it back to the lab. First you go through what would the EMU
guys ask? Well, first of all is it a planned EVA [Extravehicular Activity]?
It was no. If it was, was it going to be resized on orbit? So it was
all these no no noes. We got our Nomex thread out with their approval,
whipstitched it all closed, edge-locked it, and off it went back for
closeout. So we had a lot of little things like that over the years
that would bite us a little bit, but fast recovery.
nonstop as you mentioned 24/7 for years back and forth from Kennedy
to Houston and back. You transferred yourself back and forth and worked
in a lot of different areas. What do you feel has been the most challenging
aspect of working in this field?
developing the communications with everybody. I’ve always taken
the approach that I don’t care where you work, I think you should
always try to know as many people as you can. It’s always been
a goal of life to make sure you get out there. Like I said with logistics,
wherever they’re at, it doesn’t matter. Make sure you
know who that person is. Because it really did, it helped us a lot
over the years in that form of communication.
another good lesson to share. You talked about doing it right the
first time and having good communications. Do you have others that
you would like to share that you feel are just good items to remember
as you work through these processes?
I think another thing too is when you start doing processing, like
we were doing there, with so much hardware, to make sure that you—and
we were doing this way before lean team was the talk of the town or
some of the other things that NASA has—you got to make sure
that you streamline, you do that handoff properly. You can’t
assume—and we saw it so many times in the Shuttle—that
it’s out of my hair, it’s gone to the Cape [Canaveral,
Florida]. So many times—when we were sitting here and communicating
back and forth. Like side view cameras when we had an issue, and it
was that quick response. Well, okay, so out of the six you got a bad
nut plate. You run it over to the machine shop because you know those
guys and the PR is being written as you go along, because it’s
got to go back in on second shift. It’s that kind of a process,
that you’re always thinking about what if, what if, to make
sure that when it comes to what if that you react to it and make it
happen quickly. Hopefully one of these days maybe we’ll have
another Shuttle. It’s a great machine. Good processes.
let me shift a little bit from how you took your interest and your
skills and put them into a different aspect of your life. Let’s
talk a little bit about your paintings and your interest in artistry
and how you captured your experiences on canvas.
Woods: I always
thought that especially when you were working early in space suits,
I was always amazed when you’d pick up a helmet and you’d
see that Air-Lock label on there. Like who made this, where, the brilliance
of some of these engineers. Just like the people in this room here.
You look at the pioneers of Mercury and Gemini, and then I had a chance
to work with them, and going back and asking the questions, “What
is this?” Look at all the fine-tune of the stitch marks through
there. Relating back to the ladies that used to come down from Delaware
when we’d get in a bind, we couldn’t handle all the work.
So they would actually send several ladies down to Florida, help us
change out zippers on the A5, 6L, 7L suits. It wasn’t that bad
on an A7LB, but the others were just unbelievable, how much time it
took just to do that. Seeing as they were the experts, we could do
it, but not like they did. Those ladies were just incredible.
Just to see how that stuff is all fine-tuned and just the artistry
of it. I was reading something here. I’ll see if I can find
that name. We can find out the author of that and send it out. It
was piece like if Leonardo da Vinci lived today and what he thinks
of art and engineering, and it just goes hand in hand. It’s
When I started college, I was going to be an architect, and found
that very difficult. I couldn’t do the ink drawings because
it would splatter. I said this is nuts, I can’t do this, so
I said well, I’ll just change to art. That’s what I did,
and mostly did pencil for years, and then I bought a little Prang
watercolor set one day at the store. I said I’ll try that. It
had a brush with it and everything. So that’s when I started
doing watercolors. I taught myself to do that. I was taking still
just pencil work in college and finally finished 11 years later over
here at U of H [University of Houston] with a degree in art. It’s
just been a lot of fun.
People say, “Well, you see that all the time.” Things
get so hidden in books. It’s like the Gene [Eugene A.] Cernan
here, Apollo 17. It was from a brochure that NASA had, a book on Apollo
17 or Apollo. I always just thought it was fascinating. If I did suit
him up, I don’t remember, or maybe I worked on his suit. But
being the last guy on the Moon, I’m going like wow, it just
can’t be locked away in a book or somebody’s drawer. It
has to be out in the public. That’s when I took those photographs
back in the ’70s where we had all the suits lined up. I know
somebody else took one. I never knew it even existed, but the one
I took was the one I did all the suits, but the neck rings were missing.
The reason the neck rings were missing, because HS [Hamilton Sundstrand]
was building the hard upper torso with those same neck rings the way
they were manufactured. You look back at that and you go like well,
we want to make sure that somebody remembers why that was missing
off that suit.
We were taking these parts and pieces and developing new hardware
with it. That was called Hanging Around after a Walk on the Moon.
Then I did some gloves on a shelf. One with Neil’s [A. Armstrong]
name with a glove sitting like that. I Don’t Think We’ll
See Flight Again. I got to talk to him about that many years ago.
He says, “Yeah Ron.” He says, “That’s pretty
cool. We don’t get to fly like we used to.” It’s
those things that are just treasures to me that you want to make sure
that it’s out there. Of course space art is a hard sell anyway.
It’s not something that everybody has in their living room or
their den, but it’s still a lot of fun. I do it just as respect
for what was out there before. I like to capture that. That’s
what led me to do that.
for that. Well, as we start to come to the close of our session, I
wanted to of course leave some time for questions. But I thought you
might have some thoughts since you’ve been around for four decades,
a little more than that, and you’ve seen programs come, and
you’ve seen them close. As NASA starts to look forward to its
next level of exploration, what type of advice or what kind of suggestions
would you give to the space suit technicians and the people that are
coming up in your field?
Woods: I just
look at the people that are involved, especially in the building where
I work now. I had the great good fortune to come back and work with
some people in that CTSD [Crew and Thermal Systems Division] again.
It’s just amazing what they’re building. You go in these
different labs and you see these engineers in Amy’s group and
the PLSS [portable life support system] people. First time that this
has been done in many many years. It’s just incredible to see
the new hardware and technology, the materials alone. Looking back
at what we started with and how complicated the custom suits were
of Apollo, where you had cables running everywhere, and the dipped
rubber goods. Now it’s all based on different materials, for
axial where you have webbing as opposed to all this other complicated
It was another thing. I always liked reading. I found this. It was
a poster many years ago. With all the pioneers that we have in the
room here—and you are the pioneers of the future. But it says,
“Someday I would like to see you stand on the Moon, look through
a quarter of a million miles of space, and say to yourself there certainly
is a beautiful Earth out tonight.” So I really do, I hope someday
we get that drive I guess, or can maybe soothe some of the world issues
by going back to the Moon, putting another American flag on there.
I think it’d be a great thing for this country to do.
I always think of people saying well, there’s not enough money.
You wonder when people say well, there went another million dollars.
It never left the Earth. It all stayed right here. It’s fed
back into the communities and the people that actually worked on the
hardware. All these companies and individuals, especially all these
people here in this room. It’s a cycle that I don’t think
we should stop.
I think we’ll end for now. We’d like to thank Ron for
all of his great experiences and open it up for some questions. He’s
agreed to take some of those. Is there anyone that has a question
they’d like to ask?
I’ve got three questions actually. In Apollo 11, on launch morning
you see the three astronauts in their suits carrying their ventilators.
You see Joe Schmitt walking behind them. Where are you when that happens?
you’re coming out of the building there, I was over on the right-hand
side all the way in the back. You know Al Rochford. I asked Al one
day, I said, “Why is Joe always in the pictures and you’re
His answer was “Well, Joe always puts his hand over my face.”
That’s how he got there.
Second question. STS-1 launched April 12th. On April 10th they tried
to launch and I believe had a launch-entry suit problem that contributed
to the delay from that day. Do you remember the details of that or
can you relate some of that?
problem that I remember—and I was really sweating bullets that
day—was there was a hatch there inside. It was like on the older
helmets where you could take off the cover. It was hatched, sealed
off. There was something in our procedure where you had to test that,
but it wasn’t closing properly, and we didn’t find that
out until after that you actually had to go back inside of it and
push it. So during our preflight test. But anyway instead of knowing
to push that into place and do the final pressure test, manned suit
testing, they said change it out. So I did right there on the floor.
Anyway, we got it accomplished but then after the fact we found the
Last item was before STS-1 you were staying in the Econo Lodge. Nearby
the Econo Lodge you noticed a large flagpole. A story you can relate
We borrowed the flag with permission. We had taken that and in that
room we just had the two La-Z-Boy recliners there. Then we actually
put the flag—it’s huge—and hung it, and then had
it draped over some of the pack tables there. So when Crippen and
Young came in for that mission, they looked and went wow, beautiful.
It’s like what we did with the launch-entry helmets that Jim
Schlosser had worked on and put the dual microphones. They had the
NASA worm, which was very sad, but they wanted the meatball. So we
had actually done some really el cheapo watercolor. I don’t
know what happened to them, but showed them what that would look like,
and they all agreed. I tell you, this is great, put it on the back
of that helmet. That’s how that got there. Schlosser sent it
off. The worm was on the side of it and real small, but it had that
meatball on the back. As a matter of fact when we went out for closure
on STS-1 and then we got scrubbed, Joe and I had the NASA meatballs
on our closeout clothing. We got back, and this guy says, “Hey,
you guys are in trouble.”
We said, “Why?”
He says, “You got the meatball on the back.”
We said, “Well, we were told to do that.” Anyway, we mentioned
a couple names. Last time we heard of them. They never came back.
He said it, you’re good to go. So that was nice to see the meatball
you have other occasions where you sketched up or drew drawings that
helped along with the suit development or evolution?
did, when we’d actually have to mail those up to the ILC. Not
much, but some of the things. They’d say hey, can you draw this
out, and we’ll send it up, with some Polaroids or whatever else
they had. But not a whole lot. Then when we started working over at
what was ILC Space Systems for a while, I worked over there. We were
actually doing some drawings of different pieces of hardware.
else have a question?
Are you still doing watercolor, or are you using other mediums on
I’m doing watercolors. I just got back. I did a couple pieces
in acrylic. Then this I worked on over the weekend, so it’s
stage four of that one. That’s the second time I sanded it.
I started over because I found my reference material when I took that
in the Smithsonian [National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.]
at the [Paul E.] Garber [Preservation, Restoration, and Storage] Facility.
That’s the way [Charles C.] Pete Conrad’s suit was. Amanda
Young had pulled it back so we could take a look at it. I just thought
wow, suits that you worked on many years ago. That’s his suit
number 614 Skylab suit.
That’s oils, right?
is oils, yes. So I’m working in all three of them. Yes.
When you’re going through insertion on the day of launch, I
know the time is very structured and it’s very tight, and you
rehearse over and over and train. Is the conversation very structured
or is there any levity? Is there some chit-chat?
is. Like when we were closing out on STS-2 and Onizuka was our ASP,
you’re working with the guys to finalize the suits, because
actually with ejection seats you have to get in there and put their
heel clips into position. Everything. It was a lot of work to do that.
You had the set procedure, your checklist. I just remember El sticking
his head up over the background and going, “Don’t mess
up.” Yes sir. That gets you back on the straight and narrow
there. But it was structured. You had platforms that you had to help
remove and make sure that all the cue cards were in place, and watch
where you walked. It was a tight ship. I can’t imagine the guys
like [S.] Jean Alexander and Rochford and all these people that transitioned
all through the years, and the USA technicians that actually came
to the Cape and did that work. I was used to doing two people, but
when you started doing seven, my gosh, even though there’s two
technicians. But in that crowded vehicle, that’s just incredible.
That was what always amazed me. Whatever happened in the counts, you
always had room to stuff that flight crew equipment in. You might
get delays and delays. They say, “Okay, well, we were going
to give you six hours, but now you have four.” My hat is off
to those technicians, for all those years, Jimmy Blake [phonetic],
John Beaker [phonetic] and Dave Andrews [phonetic]. I used to leave
work, driving on 528, and it might be 9:00 at night, and here’s
Dave sitting in his Dodge truck at the red light just coming out of
work. Talk about dedicated people. It’s just incredible.
But 8,000 pounds of hardware or so, whatever it was in that vehicle,
plus all the camera systems that we had. The ABCD [phonetic] and the
elbow and the wrist cameras, and the sensor packages later on, and
the coordination it took. Even the GSE that supported all of it that
had to be custom-made for that so that when you lifted the sensor
packages that nobody could do other than lift it right straight up.
You couldn’t move it, because we had a problem with a stop on
one of them one time. To get all that right was a big effort.
Who were you assigned to on Apollo 8?
[James A.] Lovell. I think Dave [David R.] Scott on [Apollo] 15. I
don’t remember. Owen [K.] Garriott. But then of course after
when you’re doing the Skylab, all the things that you used to
do over in the Flight Crew Training Building, all that went away except
for the command module simulation. They can go over to train. One
other thing. Some of the guys when they came out of the MOL program,
Frank Hernandez and Troy Stewart and Byron Smith. Byron was a real
jokester. He was underneath the trainer, and we had a way we could
do pressurization and liquid cooling. So he waves me over and he had
cut off CDR water. He said, “I got to go out for a minute. Here.
I didn’t look at the flow meters or ask him even. I just knew
they weren’t pressurized. So I put the headphones on and couple
minutes later it’s like “Suit tech.”
“Who told you to cut the water off?”
“Don’t know what happened, sir. It’s back on, sir.”
“I’ll tell you when to cut the water off, damn it, listen
to me.” You could see Byron over there laughing. Gotcha. He
was good when you had the suit pressurized to like eight psi, to come
behind you with one of the surgical pans that we used to clean hardware
in and just drop it behind you. You want to tear the console down.
sure you never played any pranks.
don’t want to confess any, that’s it.
Ron, I would like to know who was the most influential person in your
life and why.
my mom, because she’s the one that told me about the job out
And taught you to sew.
me to sew, yes. But no, I just look at everybody that I’ve ever
known. It’s really been an honor to work out here, but just
the people themselves over the years. It’s just tremendous.
To see different faces come into the flight crew area down there on
a fact finding mission, or looking at their hardware and knowing that
hey, if you ever need anything we’re here. Call us and we’ll
help you out.
we’ve gone through the suit evolution, I didn’t get a
chance to ask you about the impact on your team after the [Space Shuttle]
Challenger accident [STS 51-L].
what we did after—I know here in Houston Tim [Timothy E.] Pelischek
and those guys were working on the crew escape pole. They had to come
up with the launch-entry suit. So at that end we had things we had
to do to support that, and to reactivate the Apollo suit room. We
had used it for a staging area early on. It was our flight crew area.
Then we went to the VAB for like nine years and then finally wound
up in the Space Station Building. But we had to go back and put a
contract in to build the consoles. We actually used the existing plumbing
that was used from Apollo and the bottle bank downstairs. It was a
cost-effective way to do it. Then we also had the charging of the
EOS bottles, so they had to put in a program requirement document,
ESR [engineering support request], to have life support support that
activity. So there was a lot of things we had to do differently, but
the mechanics of that document, the intercenter agreement, was always
so helpful to us because we could reference that. Whatever the hardware
was, this was what you needed to support.
Then it melded in with our paper system that we had already for doing
the locker stowage or shipments or anything else. The TPS system and
PR system. Then we had Bill Allen [phonetic] come down, and he was
our suit engineer, and he had all the books that were approved procedures
from USA or anybody else. Then we would take that and write our TPSs.
So we had a good system. It worked out well for us.
You worked with a lot of different suit designs hands on. Is there
anything that jumps out at you as a feature or where we should head
with mobility? Or something about disconnects? Anything at all that
Woods: I don’t
know. I think from what I’ve seen over in Building 7 already
it’s just incredible what the young engineers are doing. The
teams that Amy works with and Dustin [M.] Gohmert’s team and
the PLSS team. I always take the philosophy of just try everything.
Don’t limit yourself. Look at Peter [K.] Homer. He came up with
a different glove design. So I think anything you try is worth a shot
at it. I don’t know of any particulars, or I can’t think
of them offhand. I still think with newer materials—and don’t
throw out the old hardware. Look back on some of the Apollo hardware.
I was looking at it the other day. That thing is 40 something years
old, and you put an elbow connector in there, and it still locks down
perfectly, and just works great.
Could you tell us a little bit about each of the paintings behind
you? A story?
see, this one here. This represents a payload bay flag that was early.
It’s a 101 ILC type number. We had this hanging on our wall,
plus another large flag that one of the crews had flown for us. I
always liked the way that when they applied the Velcro to it and you
did the stitching it wouldn’t wrinkle the fabric. It was just
a beautiful flag in our lab, so took a picture of that. These are
the pictures I took at the Smithsonian of Jack’s boots. I did
the watercolor first, then tried in oil, and next time I’m going
to try it in acrylic.
This one here, of course one of my favorites, of Gene Cernan on the
Moon with the flag. That’s an original watercolor. This one
over here, once again that’s Pete’s suit number 614 in
the Garber Facility the way they had it. Then a couple years ago I
did this one here. Went out and photographed [L. Gordon] Cooper’s
suit. This was in the [Kurt H.] Debus Center in Florida [KSC Visitor
Complex]. It’s amazing. There was a big poster of Pete Conrad
up on the other wall. I wasn’t trying to put that reflection
in there. I think I was shooting it straight on. But anyway here’s
this reflection of Shepard in there, so it’s the first guy and
the last guy in the Mercury Program. I call it The Reflection of Shepard.
Most of this stuff here, it’ll be because it’s a real
fine watercolor. You do it with a magnifier, so you really get some
good detail with the hardware. I love working in any of the mediums.
It’s a lot of fun.
to rumor, these are not door prizes. They are not door prizes.
I was fortunate enough to get one of your prints about 25 years ago.
What’s available today?
my Web site is not good. But hopefully it will be soon. There is a
place across the way there in Nassau Bay that was accepting some of
my paintings in there. But if you want to talk to me about it too
that’s fine. I appreciate the interest.
there another question, comment?
Did you have a favorite astronaut that you worked with over the years?
several of them. They’re all great to work with, but like I
said Ellison Onizuka was a favorite. He was just such a funny guy
to work with. Individual. No matter where you were, if he spotted
you, he’d always stop and say hello. Jerry [L.] Ross is another
one. Any time I’d see him he’d always go, “There’s
trouble.” Yes sir, it is. I don’t know. There’s
a lot of them. Vance [D.] Brand was always a very good guy to work
with. I just remember the first suitups I ever did. It was Al [Alan
L.] Bean. We’d already got him in the suit and the gloves were
lying there, and com cap on. So I picked up the left glove. He had
his comfort glove on, so I was going to put it on. He puts his hand
down, and he puts his right hand up. Being a rookie, I took the glove,
and I set it down, and I get the other glove. I go to put it on, and
he goes [raises his other hand] and I’m going like, “Okay.”
Then he starts laughing about it. We finally got him suited. He was
One more comment. Ron, I’m struck by the number of names that
you’ve just thrown out like you know all these people, and I
know you do. It really is amazing. I know there are hundreds if not
thousands of people that have worked with you over the years and really
appreciate the obvious dedication that you have. So thank you very
much for what you’ve done.
thank you. Like I said, anybody I’ve ever worked with, it’s
always been an honor and a lot of fun. We do. We have some good jokes
and I appreciate that very much. One other thing. Billy Luttrell [phonetic].
You talk about people who orchestrate and put things together really
well. I don’t know how many of you knew Billy Luttrell, but
just the funniest guy. He looks like Sean Connery a few years back.
We’re in a restaurant in California, and one of the ladies there
kept looking at him. So Billy gets up, pays his bill and he leaves.
So I notice, and I said, “Ma’am, do you know who that
was? Sean Connery.”
I said, “Yeah. I think he’s going in the bar next door.”
Well, sure enough she goes in the bar looking for him.
So Billy, being the ops guy, he was always right there in the front
of the room. We had a couple of Center Directors come in one day.
One of them didn’t always have the best sense of humor. The
other one was great. As a matter of fact, he was the JSC Center Director.
I’m nervous about them coming in there because I’d never
met the guy from here, even though I’d worked for him.
He came in and we showed him around the lab. Billy puts his feet up
on his desk, and he’s got this sign up there that says, “God,
I love my job.” He sets it right here, and he’s like he’s
asleep. Well, out walks the not so friendly person, and looks like
this. Out comes the next one, and he kicks Billy’s foot and
goes, “I wish I had your job, buddy.”
Then the other thing he would do. A lot of times you would get all
this hardware loaded up, the guys and flight crew, and out they go
to the pad. Get out there, well, something happens they can’t
do the stowage. Well, Billy sends these guys out to the pad to do
the stowage. He gets a call, and they’re already halfway there.
You can’t do the stowage, we got to shut the white room down
or do something. He’s going oh, no. So he runs inside the lab.
He gets this cheesecloth, it looks like gauze, and he wraps it around
his head, and he goes in the break room. He goes in the refrigerator
and gets the ketchup, and he pours a little dab of it right here like
he’s been wounded. He sits at the ops desk like this. The guys
walk back in, and go, “Billy, what happened?”
He’s going, “Don’t hit me again, please.”
But anyway, we always had a lot of fun in that lab. Of course after
making 32 trips to Dryden as well, seeing the Shuttle land out there,
and doing all that work too, it was a lot of fun. Thank you all. I
really appreciate you coming over here today and listening to me.
Thank you very much.
more. Did you want to ask real quick?
You mentioned Al Bean. Have you ever been able to visit with him about
What was that like?
my first event was I had some stuff in Building 7 back after Apollo.
I think he was moving that direction to be a full-time painter, and
he came and he gave me a few pointers. Then several years ago once
again I got to show him, I believe it was this one here. He’s
such a great guy to talk to. He told me. He said, “You know
what? You need to stop using so much black.” So I took his advice,
and now I put a little blue in my black. So anyway I’m getting
there. But he’s a tremendous artist. I have one of his prints,
The 25th Anniversary of Apollo. I don’t know if you’ve
ever seen it or not but it’s incredible. Around the side of
it it’s got all the mission patches. I think it has 19 original
pencil signatures on it. But just beautiful. Yeah, I really admire
him for all the work he does. It’s tremendous. It’s all
acrylic that he does.
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