Chapter 4 To the Moon, Without Me

John Hornung graduated from college in 1963 with a degree in Physics and was immediately hired by the Chrysler Corporation Space Division and assigned to the Space Division’s Engineer Management Training Program.  The company constructed the first stage of NASA’s Saturn IB Space Launch Vehicle at NASA’s Michoud Rocket Plant in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Eventually, John became a Reliability Engineer working in an organization that was the first to develop the mathematics and techniques of Artificial Intelligence.  This technology was applied to deciphering the weak points in the Saturn IB rocket's design.


The Saturn IB was critical to achieving the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him to earth because it was NASA’s workhorse in testing components of the giant Saturn V and its payload to the moon.  It launched and tested the Saturn V’s third stage the Saturn IV-B, the Apollo spacecraft, the Saturn’s brain, and the lunar lander.  The testing culminated with the Saturn IB’s launch of Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo spacecraft.  With the very next Apollo mission, Apollo 8, the Saturn V headed to the moon.


Many of John’s assignments became a baptism of fire in the sink or swim approach to getting the job done that existed in the early years of the Apollo Space Program.  He tells what he did after discovering that imaginary numbers were missing; an incident that may have led to his arrest; his attempt to discover what went wrong during a critical test of the Saturn IB’s superstructure; the little known facts surrounding the fire atop Saturn IB 204 which killed three astronauts; and the unseen test flights of the Saturn IB.  The reader will find this and more written in an entertaining fashion.  The chapter contains several fantastic photographs.


NASA provided the photographs below.  Click on a photo.