“One Giant Leap for Mankind”


As I write this in summer, much of the news stories are covering the 50th anniversary of Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin making their historic Apollo moon landing. I’m not sure if it will still be in the press as you read this.

I’m sure that historic accomplishment is well within the memory span of most all of us retirees. How do you think that event affected your life – then and now? At that time many young men wanted to be an astronaut. However, the astronauts were all military test pilots before becoming an astronaut, and since I didn’t have good enough vision to fly a plane I’d have to settle for some type of support function. I was still an undergraduate engineer as a junior at Milwaukee School of Engineering, just under two years from first walking in the door at Johnson Service Company. As a “gonna be Engineer” I had the naïve belief that if you threw enough engineering at a technical problem and cost wasn’t an issue, anything could be accomplished. That’s what my professors implied. It took awhile longer to realize how many things can go wrong on something as complex as a 250,000 mi. trip to the moon, and back.

Where would today’s technically be without the space race to that moon landing? The whole space program gave engineering a big boost in popularity. It took a lot of technology to win the space race, not only within NASA, but also within all the suppliers and outside research that was tied to it. Advances in computers, air and water purification systems, solar cells, freeze dried food, Tang, space blankets, navigation systems, heat shields, parachute systems, satellite TV, memory foam, artificial limbs (from the landing gear), are just some that come to mind. Without many of the computer, smoke detection, communications, and other advancements made during that time period, JCI might still be selling more pneumatic thermostats 😉

Regardless of whether or not you were a fan of the space program, your life and our time at JCI has been affected by that space race to the moon. The 1960’s were a period of many changes, and the commitment by President John F. Kennedy to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade was certainly a big one of them.

And then came Woodstock – significantly less planned and practiced.

Gene Strehlow

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