Space, NASA topics for library panels in July

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By Karolyn Gephart

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and NASA’s impact on the City of Friendswood, two incredible panel discussions were held with key individuals recently at the Friendswood Public Library.

Wives of Apollo 11 Support Team spoke July 11 and the panel was composed of Marilyn Lunney, Carolyn Benson, Janet Burtzlaff, Mildred McElya, Joyce Pavelka, Jean Strouhal, and Betty Windler.

The seven were wives of NASA employees and two worked at NASA also. The women and their families moved to Friendswood in the late Sixties to find it was still a very new community that did not have many businesses or amenities.

The community welcomed them with kindness and hospitality.  The wives in turn contributed to Friendswood in many ways, from starting its first pre-kindergarten school, opening shops, volunteering in the schools, starting or helping grow new churches and serving on various boards, including the library and school board. One become the first female judge in Galveston County.

On July 11, Origins of NASA beginning with NACA, Langley, and the Canadians panel was presented with Brian Erb, Stan Faber, and Harold Benson. 

Topics discussed included Creation of The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1917 to compete in aviation technologies during WWI, and later in WWII; The “Man-in-Space” project, conceived by a small team at the Langley Research Center of NACA, to counter the perceived threat from USSR’s space programs; and The creation of NASA to manage the efforts began by NACA and the start of Project Mercury.

Additional topics included NASA hiring 40 Canadian engineers from AVRO to work at Langley on Project Mercury as members of the Space Task Group; The Space Task Group becoming a new NASA Center in the Houston area; the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) designation in the Fall of 1960; and Friendswood as home to some of the new NASA staff in 1961-62.

Additional workshops are planned. Those wishing to attend the free events should register so the library staff will be prepared with chairs and equipment.

On Thursday, July 18 at 7 pm, The Space Suit with Larry Bell, Jerry Ross, and Amy Ross will be presented. When President Kennedy decreed that the United States would land astronauts on the moon by the end of the decade (1969), a major development was the Space Suit that would be required for the astronauts to walk on the moon where no atmosphere exists. This panel will review work conducted on the space suits by Friendswood residents. 

Apollo 11 Flight Control and Recovery will be presented Thursday, July 25 at 7pm  at the library with Gemini and Apollo flight director Glynn Lunney, and Chief of Recovery during Apollo 11, John Stonesifer.

To register, call the Library at· 281-482-7135. The library is located at 416 S Friendswood Dr, Friendswood, TX 77546.

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