Almost ten thousand engineers began their careers with NASA during the Apollo decade. Slightly over 60 percent were born before 1935. It was mostly these older engineers whom NASA's leadership, as late as 1984, considered to be the "most representative" of the agency's Apollo decade engineers.1 These older men (and they were almost all men) were the ones to leave the most lasting imprint on the space agency's culture.
1918- the year that Robert Strong was born-was the year the guns fell silent, bringing to an end four years of human carnage in the forests and river valleys, plains and hillsides of Europe-and bringing to an end the world that had created western civilization as it was then known. What was left of a generation once 10 million perished from disease or wounds, and 20 million more later succumbed to a world-wide influenza scourge, suffered yet another kind of death-the death of "the old lie," wrote Wilfred Owen: 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.'" 2
On the other side of the Atlantic, life had gone on much as before. An American president proposed his formula for perpetual peace, and the Red Sox won the World Series. Not far from a jubilant Boston, in North Andover, Mass., an old New England mill town, a boy began a life that would reach far beyond the American Woolen Company mill where his father was an overseer. Unknown to the boy, Gustav Holst had already put to music the vision that would carry Strong into the last frontier.3 The boy from Massachusetts would be among those who would launch the first human into the final vastness of space.
Robert Strong's career really began when he was eleven, the year Charles Lindbergh flew alone across the Atlantic Ocean. That crossing "is still one of the greatest achievements of the century.... North Andover was a small town; it  couldn't have been more than forty-five hundred people in that town at that time [with a] small high school [of] about three hundred and fifty students. My oldest brother was playing baseball that afternoon. [We] had a little, small, ball park, hardly anybody there; just a few of us. And the umpire stopped the game and announced... he was pleased to report that Captain Charles Lindbergh had landed in Le Bourget Air Field." After Lindbergh's flight "several of my friends and myself got interested in building model airplanes.... There was a flying field close by. We'd go up and do spare jobs with the ... airplanes that would come in from time to time .... Of course, kids my age all wanted to be pilots. But then, as I grew older and got interested in more scientific subjects, I decided I'd be an aeronautical engineer."
In 1934 Strong entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he discovered the work of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) "through those marvelous books they put out-the technical reports and technical notes and technical memorandum.... At MIT [the] NACA was a renowned place, even then." It was as a student at MIT that Strong discovered Jerome Hunsaker, the designer of the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic, who had introduced at MIT, in 1914, the first college course in aeronautical engineering.4 And it was at MIT that the NACA discovered Robert Strong, recruiting him in 1938, at the end of his senior year. "The kind of people who were attracted there," to the NACA's parent aeronautical laboratory at Langley Field in Virginia, "came from all over the states. During the Depression it was probably the only place they could do that kind of work.... At that time Langley was very small, it must have been two hundred fifty, three hundred people there, at the most."
On a late spring day in 1938 Strong and two others "rode the train to Washington and transferred to a boat and got off at Old Point Comfort.... The train ride... was ten dollars. I had a big steamer trunk with all my possessions, and got it on the boat, and that boat used to land at Old Point Comfort about 5:30 in the morning. You'd have to get off and spend the first night-as many did-in the Langley Hotel.... Hampton was a one stop-light town, at the corner of King and Queen Street, and that was it in those days. Many of the people, local, viewed the [Langley] group with a jaundiced eye. [We were] free spirits in many respects." Hampton people called them, less elegantly, the "NACA nuts."
A thousand miles from North Andover, below the southernmost foothills of the Appalachians, where the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad once crossed the Cahaba River, survives the small town in which Dan O'Neill was born. Centreville, Ala. was "a little place" when he was born there in 1920, and by last count it was a little place still, a town of about 2500. "There wasn't really much in a small town. You just didn't know much about what was going on in the world." The changes that would affect O'Neill's life were stirring when he was born, although few inhabitants of Centreville had the luxury, in 1920, of concerning themselves with the creation of the National Socialist German Workers' (NAZI) Party, much less the publication of Sir Arthur S.  Eddington's Space, Time and Gravitation- one of the first English language expositions of the theory of relativity.
O'Neill was one of seven children who "grew up on a small farm, like everybody else was doing in those days." His father "was ... a two-mule farmer" as well as "the local blacksmith." O'Neill is a maker and a fixer, which he attributes to the days when he was "just a small boy working in [his father's] shop, helping. My dad sharpened the plows for the local farmers. He did welding, welded wagon tires.... He fixed wagons and shod the mules and all those things.... A lot of woodwork he did by hand, making wagon axles and spokes. He could completely rebuild a wagon." O'Neill worked in the shop "turning the forge . . . to build the fire up, holding the material while [his] dad worked on it, beat on it." As he grew up, working with his father, he learned a lot of carpentry, which he does to this day.
"Back in those days, most of the books that we had to read were more like the westerns or Doc Savage. We used to subscribe to Doc Savage, and that had...some quite far out scientific things.... He was a super sleuth ... he had all kinds of scientific things that were way beyond-not like Buck Rogers.... He had chemists, engineers, and doctors, and they'd go out and solve all of these big problems."
O'Neill's mother "never finished college." She "taught school for a few years before she got married." She was "a good mother. She cooked and took care of the family. And she was, I guess, my inspiration ... she could help me with my school work until I got past what she knew, which I did, eventually.... My parents ... saw that we went to school. All seven of us graduated from college." When O'Neill finished high school, he "really had no desire to go to college. I don't know what I would have taken, had I gone. I got a job with the Alabama Power Company trimming trees." The pay "was seventy five dollars a month. I ... paid five dollars a week for room and board. I was making good money. But after working a few months with the power company, I observed that people who had been there twenty years were still climbing poles and stringing wire in the hot weather and the cold weather, and I decided there must be a better way to do things. So I saved a little money and I decided to go back to school."
O'Neill's oldest brother "took agricultural science [in college] and worked in that field for a year, but I'd had enough of farming.... And as I had the idea that I'd like to fly, I thought, well, aeronautical engineering is the thing to do. So that's why I started in aeronautical engineering.... I didn't know much about it until I actually started to school and began to learn some of these things." In 1939, when O'Neill started college at the University of Alabama, "we weren't really involved in the war yet. But listening to your professors talk about their experiences in aeronautics and what airplanes could do, and what they would do in the future . .. I began to realize well, this aeronautical business is really a coming thing'.... I guess I've been a dreamer all of my life.
"I put myself through college. I borrowed ten dollars one time to start my second year of college. That was [for] a bicycle so I could deliver papers.... I lived in a fire station... I worked in a shoe store. And I delivered papers." The college education m engineering that O'Neill could get at the University of Alabama in the early 1940s was "not broad by any means.... I never was as smart as some people. I had  problems, especially with math.... I did pretty good until I got to calculus, but I had problems with calculus." O'Neill struggled on for four years, working part-time, studying part-time. He was also in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Then, in March 1943, when millions of young Americans saw conscription looming before them, O'Neill surrendered and entered the Army's Officer Candidate School (OCS). "I went through engineering OCS right after ROTC and then I decided, if I was ever going to learn how to fly, now was the time. So I put in for flight training and I went through flight training as a second lieutenant and got my wings.... The next two and a half years, I enjoyed flying, but I kind of lost my desire to become an aeronautical engineer for some reason. That's when I went back to school. I transferred to industrial engineering.... I really didn't understand then as much about...the different kinds of engineering.... But I considered industrial engineering to be more in the management of business, rather than in designing.... I remember one college professor, whose name was Johnson. And he was an industrial engineer."
O'Neill finally got his bachelor's degree in engineering in 1949. He stayed with the U.S. Air Force Reserve, eventually retiring as a Reserve Lt. Colonel. "After I got my degree ... I went to work for a pipeline company that built ... gas lines. They called us 'progress engineers'.... I worked in Tennessee and Texas.... I worked on the line, on the powder crew, for four months ... loading poles and fuses and caps and shooting dynamite ... but ... like the power company job climbing trees, it was a job, but not much future.... When my job played out there, I went back home."
O'Neill and his wife married in 1949. They lived "in a trailer on the pipeline. And in order to have something to do, I started teaching school at a Veterans' Continuation School.... Some of the third graders could barely read.... That exposure really got me interested in education.... There were so many people who were not educated.... I lived about twenty-five miles from the University [of Alabama].... So I went to school in the morning and I got a master's degree in school administration and majored in elementary education.... Then I taught school for four years-math, science, physics. In 1957 I decided it was time for a change. I had an interview with ABMA [the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Ala.] and I came to work at ABMA, here on the [Redstone] arsenal, on the first of July, 1957.
"On the first of July, 1960 ... exactly three years from the time I started ... some five thousand of us transferred to NASA." (Congress had just transferred the ABMA's space facilities and personnel to NASA's newly designated George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.) O'Neill went "to work on Wernher von Braun's staff in his Technical Program Coordination Office, which [oversaw the] budget, funding, programming, and scheduling-making charts for meetings and presentations" for the Jupiter missile program. O'Neill has been at Marshall "ever since."
Located on what was once a vast mudflat whose Y-shaped rivers reached almost from Lake Michigan to the drainage basin of the Mississippi River system, Chicago was destined by its location as the water, and later rail, gateway to the American west, to become a great city. With the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 and the  Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848, Chicago became one of the United States' great geographic catch basins, gathering in its depths the raw material not only of much of this country's nineteenth century economic growth, but also its distinctive literary and social movements. Much of that raw material came from the second great European hegira, which brought to this continent the Italians, Poles, Serbs, Croats, Bohemians, and countless Jews from southern and eastern Europe who would constitute three-quarters of Chicago's population by the turn of the century.
Here, in 1920, Ernest Cohen was born, offspring of two families of Eastern European rabbis. "On my mother's side ... they came from somewhere up on the Russian-Polish border.... My grandmother might have come from Lithuania.... My grandparents remember the Cossaks getting drunk on Saturday night and. . .running through the village.... My grandfather ... was a peddler and he peddled in a Polish neighborhood ... because he did know the language. And they had large families." Both of his grandfathers "were rabbis. The one on my mother's side was a scholar.... On my father's side . . . they came from Germany. There was a great deal of difference in the way they ... cooked and the way they lived. Great grandfather" on Cohen's father's side "was a rabbi ... he didn't really work, but he owned a bakery.... The girls used to run the bakery.... My grandmother on my father's side learned to read and write and to figure, because she was too small to do the heavy work.... [Great grandfather] taught all of his sons to read and to write and to figure, but none of the daughters except my grandmother, so she could take care of the books for the bakery.
"Mother ... was the oldest of thirteen children.... The way the family ran, the oldest child used to raise the younger ones, and my grandma raised the babies. So mother actually raised most of my aunts and uncles.... We first lived next door to my grandma. And it was always more exciting for me to be at my grandma's place.... Part of the family would be fighting, the other part would be singing and having a good time.... I suspect that my grandmother probably raised me more than my mother."
Cohen's father "did a lot of things.... When he was young he was part of a blackface act" in Chicago vaudeville.... "He liked that kind of stuff. But when he got married, my mother felt differently.... He got a job as a milkman and he also was ... interested in the mail order business . . . he got a lot of mail and he did a lot of writing. He liked that." But having been "a singer and [done the] soft shoe, he always missed it." Many years later, when Cohen's parents moved "to Los Angeles, he actually bought a small bookshop right very close to the old Columbia studios, and . . . he and my mother both used to get quite a thrill when all the old movie stars used to come in and chat with them.
"We lived in an apartment building most of the time.... When I was small, my dad bought a house. The Depression came in'29... land values evaporated, and the place became a slum.... It was ... right ... on the west side of Chicago. But before it became a slum, it had a very large ... Italian population.... [They were] very, very nice people, except they were bootleggers.... We did eventually move to the northwest.... I was the oldest grandchild. I had all these uncles and I used-when I was small-to see most of the hockey games in Chicago. l'd get [to] the ball games,  the boxing matches, the wrestling matches.... I had an uncle who was, like, two years older than myself.... I guess the families were beginning to run together.... Friday night was Sabbath for us, so Friday was a big baking day for [grandmother]. She baked the cholla in loaves, great big pies and stuff. One thing she used to bake was apple strudle.... She had one of these great big, round tables [and] used to stretch this dough. And she used to chatter all the time to me.... My grandmother used to... dress my grandfather ... help him on with the coat and sweaters, used to have the whisk broom, clean him, pack the lunches.
"When I was very, very small one of my uncles bought himself an erector set.... When we'd go over to visit him, to keep me quiet, he let me use the erector set. But then, after a while, I kept losing the screws and he wouldn't give me the erector set any more. So my parents bought me an erector set, and I played with that damn thing for hours and days.... They always knew where I was ... I was building with this thing."
Cohen attended grade school and high school in Chicago, not deciding on engineering "until the ... last year of high school.... I got real interested in chemistry. And ... I felt that maybe I'd like to be a chemical engineer.... No one in our family ever was an engineer before. We didn't know much about that.... Engineering was the last thing they ever expected me to go into. They probably thought-a lawyer, or medicine, or something like that. Those were the two professions . . . that everyone knew something about. Maybe accounting, or something like that, but engineering kind of floored them ... because of my total ignorance of what engineering was all about." As it turned out, Cohen "was lucky [in] that I really enjoyed it.... I really consider myself extremely lucky to have chosen something that I just plain liked.
"Going to college ... was a real thing for my parents.... I'm one of the few people in my family that ever really did go to college." After he graduated from high school in 1938, Cohen went to the Armour Institute of Technology, which later merged with the Lewis Institute of Technology to become the Illinois Institute of Technology. "Money was . . . pretty tight . . . in the Depression," and Cohen largely worked his way through school. "My folks sacrificed a great deal in order to get me through college. I went to a private engineering college because they figured that . . . it would be cheaper to go to...college in Chicago than go down to the University of Illinois and be away from home.
"Most of my friends that went to college with me ... used to work, bring all the money home, and we'd get an allowance.... And even after I got a job, I was living at home. I still brought all my money home and got an allowance from my parents. They bought all my clothes and stuff.... The college ... was pretty close to about 60 percent Irish Catholic, and they had strong family ties that way too.... It was hard to get money ... but ... there was a lot of ways for us to have fun. Saturday nights mostly we used to get together and dance. Anybody whose parents owned a house in Chicago always had a basement. They used to paint the basement Chinese red and wax it. And there was usually a ping pony table down there, so there was always a chance to have a party. And in the winter time it was always things like ice skating, and summer time, [there were] places to have picnics and go to the beach.... We could have a good time on a very limited amount of money."
 At the Armour Institute, "there were only five kinds of engineering when I was there. It was straight engineering . . . electrical, chemical, mechanical, fire protection, and architectural. And that was it.... There was two years of English ... the English and math departments were the strongest departments in the school because everybody had to take English and math.... When I went in, as a [high school] senior, I got a book and the book gave the program, all four years. And you didn't get an elective until your fourth year. It was a choice between differential equations and thermodynamics."
When Cohen graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology he "got a job as an engineer in a small company" called National Die Casting. "The employees . . . were tool and die makers... their engineers were essentially draftsmen.... They were making at the time-the war had started-demand oxygen regulators, for pilots . .. and other aircraft instruments, and I sort of got interested in fluid mechanics and that kind of design.... I worked for about two years designing aircraft instruments.... Before the war it used to make orange juice squeezers... they made a lot of money [on them]. They had a lot of interesting things that they tried that were kind of foolish," including a mechanical scalp massager advertised to reduce hair loss, which was based on the orange juice squeezer design, and a die-cast juke box that failed commercially for lack of audio resonance.
The U.S. Army infantry claimed Cohen in 1944. "I was transferred into the [U.S. Army Corps of] engineers, and sent to Los Alamos, New Mexico [where] I was assigned to the Manhattan Bomb project for roughly about two years." He was discharged from the Army in 1946, got married and returned to Los Alamos to work for a short time, and then went to Cornell University. With the help of two stipends and the GI bill, he earned a master's degree in physical chemistry from Cornell. "From there I went to the Bureau of Mines in [Bartlesville], Oklahoma.... I was very interested in thermodynamics at the time and did fundamental research in thermodynamics.... My main job there was ...doing some bomb killer imagery there...we published some papers on that.... We used to do statistical thermal calculations.... I didn't do it all that much, but we had guys who used to do that eight hours a day, over and over and over again.... I liked the job a lot...it was...real exacting work. [But] after a while you were just doing the same thing over and over and over again.... I just felt ... too confined."
Cohen moved on to the University of Wichita, where "they had a research and development outfit that was associated with the school and did research and development work for Coleman lanterns and Coleman furnaces [and] other small companies around there.... It was a small group of people, about eighteen or tweet, engineers or chemists. We all got along very well." He had enjoyed teaching as a student assistant at Cornell, and he warmed to the collegial university setting with its lectures and concerts. However, by the time he and his wife had moved to Wichita, they had four children. "I wasn't making enough money . . . so it was starve or move on." In 1952 Cohen took his family "to St. Louis and went to work for par of an architectural design outfit, Sverdrup and Parcel." When Cohen joined the firm for which he would do fluid dynamics, their main business was building bridged roads, hospitals, laboratories, and other large facilities. The firm had had no  experience building aeronautical facilities. Nonetheless, thanks to the war-time contacts of its founders, it won a government contract to build the Arnold Engineering Development Center, for which it built the transonic, supersonic, and hypersonic wind tunnels. "They did real well, because they hired a lot of good people who really knew how to do this work.... They were very honest [and] a good company to work for.
"But then," he remembers, "I got caught up in the space age." When the AVCO Corporation (an aerospace research and development contracting firm) came to St. Louis to recruit, Cohen interviewed for a job. "And the way they explained it, they'd got a project.... What they really should have said is that they were proposing one " Cohen went to work for AVCO, but "about a year [later] I decided, 'well, they won't do It.' There was ... about eighteen or twenty of us who were doing nothing because there was nothing to do." As it turned out, the boss Cohen had had at Sverdrup and Parcel had moved on to NASA; he worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Md. "He came to see me one time, and he said, 'Hey, you know, you ought to come and work for me again."' So, in the fall of 1960, Cohen moved his family to Greenbelt. "I never really intended to stay this long but I've been here ever since."
New York City has been another great American catch basin, port of entry to the Land of Promise throughout the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century. It was here that Isaac Petrovsky, with his father, a once prosperous Lithuanian merchant, and his mother, an opera singer, caught his first glimpse of America in 1930. It was not an auspicious year for an Eastern European immigrant family in search of material security, if not prosperity. New York City's Bank of the United States, with its sixty branches and half a million depositors, closed its doors along with more than 1300 banks across the United States. Meanwhile, President Herbert C. Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, thereby assuring a precipitous decline m international trade. It is unlikely that the ten-year-old boy who stood before the immigration clerk at Ellis Island-or even the father who brought him there- knew or cared much about tariffs and banks.
The boy and his father, who had sold everything the family owned, left Lithuania with only their baggage. "We went by train to Bremerhaven, but before that we were stopped before we crossed over the border, and ... they took us back So my father had to bribe them to be able to get out. He left me in a restaurant by the train. I waited there for about three hours and didn't know what was happening. Then we finally got over [the border] and we stopped off in Germany for one night and then we got to Bremerhaven. It was a five to six day trip. So that's the beginning of my life.
"We came in on the Bremen. I was sick for five days. I and my father" shared a cabin with "two Hungarians. One of them smoked a terrible cigar." When they arrived at Ellis Island on April Fool's Day, "there was a crowd of people being pushed around ... we came over before the [immigration clerk's] desk.... I wanted  to be an American, right then and there, and I ... wanted an American name.... They told me to write down something. So I wrote down Ike-I didn't know how to spell it.... And the most amazing thing was, they gave me an orange! I knew what an orange was, because my Dad was wealthy enough to import citrus fruits from Israel -or Palestine, in those days.... He told me that one orange cost ... one Lithuanian dollar. But it had an exchange value of ten American cents."
When they came to the United States, Isaac Petrovsky and his father knew not one word of English At home the family had spoken Yiddish mixed with German and smatterings of Polish and Lithuanian. Their first refuge was Middletown, N.Y., where some relatives of the mother had made a home for themselves. "Eventually we moved to Brooklyn. My father felt very secure in that enclave of that type of people."
This American journey had begun in Kaunas, the capital city of Lithuania, where Isaac, as a boy, had "lived... in a very big apartment.... We did not have electricity. Heating was done by fireplaces. The kitchen was tremendous.... The house was full of servants... this was what distinguished you from people who could not afford it ... the number of servants you had.... Water was brought in two pails on a yoke-one of the servants would go down to the river and ... bring it up and put it in a barrel. We never drank any of the water; we drank tea, which means the water was boiled. My father was a businessman, and he apparently was quite well-to-do, because I never lacked for anything.... He was a 'luftmensch,' [which means] 'free agent'.... He started out ... when he was a younger man, before he was married ... in some lumber business. He bought lumber for some German firms ... and he imported and exported ... some medicines or perfumes.... My mother was a mezzo-soprano.... She was a beautiful woman." Her own family had emigrated to the United States a few years earlier, having (once she and her husband resolved to emigrate) left as soon as she could get an artist's visa. She survived by working with a traveling vaudeville company that presented exerpts from operas in between the silent movies then shown in theaters. "She knew the Sam Goldwyn people, and Warner Brothers, because they were starting out in the movies...back in the 'twenties."'
Her son Isaac, an only child, stayed behind to be "raised by nannies. When I was old enough, I went to the ... Hebrew gymnasium.... Everything was in Hebrew, everything they taught me.... They would also teach us something about the Bible.... During the day I would go to that school ... then I went home. [In] addition to that, I had teachers. I had piano teachers. I had teachers that taught me how to write and read German. They came to the house. I was an only child. I was one of those lonely little ones."
After the family emigrated and moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., Petrovsky's father "went into all kinds of business. He started out with a cousin of his, that he met, with the ladies' stocking business. And apparently the cousin took the money and disappeared My father went into restaurants.... He did whatever he had to do. He was a peddler, if he had to do that. He became very successful.... When I was in junior high, we lived [in]-I would call it now, in retrospect, a ghetto. It was an area ten blocks by ten blocks that was a Jewish neighborhood and an Italian  neighborhood.... We never really left that area." At long last the loneliness came to an end. "Friends . . . were all around the neighborhood there. I played stick ball and baseball, [but] I discovered really that I didn't have the patience for all of these games. I read, I listened to records, and I played the piano. I stopped playing the piano, I think, when I was about fourteen. My mother decided to give me violin lessons. I got tired of holding the fiddle after a while.... I discovered-of course, I didn't understand it then-that I didn't have a left hand.
"I went to Hebrew School ... all the way through junior high. We had Hebrew lessons in the morning and then the regular curriculum, and then I went to New Utrecht High School to finish off. I was what you call a standard C student. There were certain things that I took to quicker than other things. Like geometry was something that I could relate to. Algebra I could too.... I loved English because I was crazy about Shakespeare . . . to me that was the most beautiful language in the world. I also took four years of French, three years of Spanish. When I graduated, I worked for a year in the garment district in downtown New York and went to Brooklyn College at night.... I went to Brooklyn College because I didn't have any money to go to the university.... And I was studying ancient history and Spanish because I wanted to go into the State Department or the Foreign Service. But after that my father got enough money together and I went to New York University.... My father says to me, 'you know, Ike, go to college. I got the money. Go to college.' So I went to the nearest school that was a college. That was New York University.... And I said, 'what's the nearest thing to a trade?' And they said, 'engineering'.... I needed a trade. I needed to have something that I could earn a living with. That's the reason I became an engineer. That was it.... And I said, 'OK, I'll take that.' So I signed up for civil engineering. And I started taking the preparatory courses."
In 1941, after the United States was drawn into World War II, Isaac "took ROTC because they gave me a uniform. I didn't have too many suits of clothing.... They called us up and they said ... 'you have to sign up now, because otherwise you'll be drafted. This way you can become a second lieutenant.' So I signed up. They processed us . . . and they sent us to Fort Belvoir, Virginia for ten weeks . . . and I went through all that basic training.... I felt good. I mean, I had muscles I never heard of before. When I finished basic training, they said, 'now you go back to working on your studies and get your degree and when we have an opening for you, we'll send you back to Fort Belvoir for another ten weeks.' And I didn't want to have tear gas thrown at me and all that. Then they said that all students studying aeronautical engineering would be sent to Miami Beach, OCS. So I went over [to the registrar's office] at lunch time. The girl had gone out to lunch, so I said, 'I just want to change my courses right now.' The other girl said 'what do you want?' She pulled out my master file, crossed out civil engineering, and put in aeronautical engineering. She went out to lunch and I went down to Miami Beach. [Miami Beach] was fantastic.... It was the first time that I saw the beach sand and palm trees."
Not long after Petrovsky finished Officers' Candidate School he learned that he was due to be sent overseas. "I said, 'My God, you can get killed wherever they're going.... They sent me down to Miami to pick up a flight and I was flying-they still  wouldn't tell us [where]. And I'm flying and flying and flying and I see the jungle underneath me, and I said, 'My God, we're already over the Japanese!"' As it turned out Petrovsky had been sent to British Guiana, where he served as an aircraft maintenance officer until the war ended. In 1945 he returned to New York University to finish the course work for his degree in engineering, which he received in 1946. During the next year Petrovsky worked with Boeing Aircraft in Seattle until he was laid off. The separation was mutual: "I didn't care for aeronautics." He and his new bride returned to Brooklyn, where he worked briefly for an engineering company. He was on the road again in 1948, headed toward Florida to be close to his retired parents. Once there, he found work in civil engineering. That lasted until his wife, who did not get along with Petrovsky's mother, contacted friends in Hollywood, Calif., and arranged another cross-country migration.
Petrovsky settled down in Hollywood until 1966, working for various civil engineering firms as a structural engineer. "I was working and I had good jobs and I was doing very well.... I was recognized in my field, because I was never out of work. When a project would end with one company, I would get a call from another." Then, he remembers one day "walking up the stairs...and I think about the third or fourth stair ... a voice said to me in my head, 'you're going to be hitting that step for the next thirty or forty years'.... I missed the family...we had the children... my mother and father, they lived in Florida.... So that's when I decided to go back to the East Coast."
Back to Florida he went. Bendix Corporation hired him as a structural engineer at Kennedy Space Center, but he soon found that his job "was a paper shuffling job.... It was the first time I was involved with the space program, and I was completely shattered, because everything was paper, paper. Everybody was going to meetings. They used their own buzz-words, and I didn't understand a word of it, because I know steel, concrete.... I realized ... 'hey, you're stuck. You can't go back to California. Your furniture is on the way, so you're stuck here. You better make the best of it. The thing I need, then, is a job I can depend on. So I have to go work for the government."' In 1968 Petrovsky landed his government job-with NASA, working with the organization that oversees the contractors who maintain the launch pad facilities at Kennedy Space Center. "When I got the job, I didn't even ask what it was all about. All I wanted was to get into the system. Well, I got into the system.... There were about ten guys ... and we were all tracking the requirements documentation to support the testing for the Apollo program ... it was paper . . . and I learned one thing: you got to keep your nose clean for three years, so you can become a career [employee]. I did that, and I moved a piece of the paper beautifully. I punched the holes. I knew how to change the pages. I hadn't the foggiest idea what the hell it all meant.... I kept my nose clean for three years."
Years later the branch chief who hired Petrovsky told him why he had chosen him for the job: "You could do just so much page changes [his boss told him], and you wait for other offices to respond. So we would have discussions. We'd have about 10 or 12 guys having discussions. Each one is different. Each one has his input. They wanted all kinds." They thought a Pole would add something to their  discussions, but they didn't have a Pole. Since there did not seem to be all that much difference between a Lithuanian and a Pole, Petrovsky would do.
Deep in south central Michigan, about halfway between Lake Erie and Lake Michigan, the New York Central Railroad's largest maintenance and operations center west of Buffalo lay spread out in the town of Jackson, Mich. American railroading was flush when Henry Strassen was born in Jackson in 1922; he was the son and grandson of railroad engineers, and Jackson's railyards must have been lavish with the screech and soot of locomotives. The net annual income of the nation's railroads had surpassed the three-quarter of a billion level in the 1920s, approaching the billion dollar mark in 1929, a sum equivalent to 31 percent of the federal government's budget for that year. However, by 1932, as the Great Depression began to take its toll, that figure plummeted to a net loss of slightly over $100 million, recovered to its Depression era high of $220 million in 1936, and did not return to its pre-Depression high until it was rescued by the war-time traffic of 1942.5 The human cost was, as most human costs are, incalculable.
To the affected families in languishing railroad towns like Jackson, the human cost was the cost that mattered. As a boy in his early teens, Strassen was "deeply impressed" as Jackson "was pretty much destroyed" by the Depression, its population diminished from 75,000 to 45,000. By the early 1980s Jackson's townspeople numbered fewer than 40,000. Thus, as a teenager, Strassen knew "damn well" that he was not going to let his livelihood depend on "some outside group like Goodyear or General Motors." He would try to make a go of it on his own.
For Strassen, as for Robert Strong, "probably the most significant thing in my life was Lindbergh." Strassen had learned about Lindbergh's solitary crossing on the family's old radio, "one with three dials and a big antenna.... I was seven years old when he flew the Atlantic, and I was terribly impressed.... It's probably as vivid to me as the Apollo landing. I used to go out to the airport all summer long and spend time just sitting at the airport, and working. I'd earn 15 cents washing an airplane, or I'd work for an airplane owner for a week, or just riding around." While his friends "were all more interested in automobiles," Strassen built airplane models. When the chance eventually came to pursue a career involving airplanes, he would be ready. Strassen was the youngest of three siblings; it was his eldest sister's husband, a successful lawyer, who first interested him in college-initially law school. But Strassen was also interested in mechanical things. Believing that patent law would allow him to combine a secure profession (legal practice) with his first interest- machinery-he entered the University of Michigan in a combined law and engineering program. Then, for him, as for so many other young men, the ghost of war intervened. "I woke up one morning and I had a notice: 'Dear Mr. Strassen, you have a nice low draft number and you're about to be drafted. If you persist in going to law school, we will draft you immediately. But if you stay in engineering, we'll grant you a deferment until you graduate.' So that was when I decided to be an engineer." Strassen transferred to the engineering school and "almost bombed out  about halfway through.... I got the bug to go into the Navy.... I went over to Grosse Ile, near Detroit, where the Navy has an air base, and volunteered to become a naval aviation cadet.
"In those days they took you out and flew you around in a Navy aircraft. In this particular case it was a Navy dive-bomber. We went through the whole series of acrobatic and simulator dives. I can't imagine going through that today!" Strassen survived, but before he could sign up, the Navy recruiting officer urged him to return to school and get his degree. "It was the best thing that ever happened. I would have probably been a lieutenant at Pearl Harbor, flying out over the Pacific, and that would have been the end of that." In the fall before his graduation from Michigan, Strassen was approached by the Navy again, this time with an offer to send him to graduate school in exchange for a commission as an ensign. He could go where he wanted. He flipped a coin over MIT or the California Institute of Technology, and it came up MIT, which he entered in 1940. Before he could complete his degree, however, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Navy commissioned him and put him on active duty. He remained in the Navy until 1962, doing technical intelligence work and program management in areas from advanced fighter aircraft to guided missiles.
Strassen's work with the Navy gave him more than a career; it provided ever greater exposure to the possibilities of space travel, and it was while he served as the Navy's representative on a special NACA advisory committee that Strassen met Wernher von Braun. By the end of 1962 the prospect of a manned landing on the Moon and safe return "had gotten too compelling." He retired from the Navy and went to work for NASA, believing "there was just no doubt that there was the place to be." True space exploration, however, "didn't really sink in... until [Neil] Armstrong walked on the Moon.... It took a long, long time to accept that manned [space] flight was ... real."
From A. W. von Hoffman to Rudolf Diesel, from Werner von Siemans and Gottlieb Daimler to Hermann Oberth and Wernher von Braun, German culture in the 1920s continued a venerable tradition of engineering research. While the American intelligentsia has often been suspicious of technological change, leaning instead toward a world of pastoral images and populist values, science and engineering in Germany have occupied a well-established domain as respectable careers for those of aristocratic as well as middle class origins. Faustian ambitions of spirit and personality, rather than the aspirations of rootless tinkerers, seem to have fueled the German dynamo.
Born in 1923 in the old Prussian capital of Berlin to the family of a nationally prominent German banker, Werner Posen "had always an inclination and a great attraction.. to mathematics, physics, chemistry, to natural sciences." The elder Posen had regretted choosing a career in banking over architecture and, for that reason, may have encouraged his son's fascination with the workings of the physical world. The boy's parents bought him "the right kind of experimental sets and gifts,"  and especially "erector sets. [I] loved erector sets." Soon he was entering annual competitions for the best erector set designs. "I got one of those awards.... My parents were proud of that." His school friends "didn't know what they wanted to be," but he did: "I wanted to be a scientist, in particular, a physicist.
"I also read a lot of science fiction . . . and that got me into some close relationship to the rocket ship development, even though it was, at that time-the 1930s- certainly not something that everyone was familiar with." He remembers "many [science fiction] books.... We had a famous science fiction writer in Germany- Hans Dominic. I started with one [of his books] and I had to read them all .... He was, I would say, a predominant influence on my life."
Notwithstanding Posen's scientific leanings, his father insisted on a traditional liberal schooling for his son and sent him to a gymnasium in Berlin, where he had to learn Greek and Latin. "I didn't like it at all ... they didn't emphasize math and they didn't emphasize physics and all those things that I felt stronger in. [But] we had working groups for students with common interests, and one was a working group for physics.... We did gyro experiments and so on. So, I got ... as a young boy, the science fiction side and then, as a high school student, I got into serious matter. At that time I started buying-and my father actually helped ... serious books about math that went beyond school. I wanted to learn more than was offered to me.
"And then ... came the war."
Posen was drafted into the Luftwaffe, assigned to a communications unit, and sent to the eastern front. Illness saved him from the worst horrors of the German invasion of Russia, and he was returned to Germany, where he recovered in time to be sent out again-this time, to the North. "I got assigned to a station on the Baltic Sea...close to Peenemuende, which was, unknown to me, the development center for the V-2 and V-1.... I really marvelled about that.... There were so many millions of soldiers. And I was just picked for that right thing for me." Posen spent two years, from 1943 to 1945, "as a soldier assigned to do tracking. We call it now radar tracking of missiles . . . it was all very much clouded in secrecy. But I had good eyes and I knew my physics to the point that I knew exactly what they were doing two days after I arrived." Best of all, "I even met von Braun . . . and I knew . . . he was trying to. . . develop rockets that would eventually go into space. With my background in physics and my background in science fiction, that really made me determined at that time that I wanted to keep doing that."
When he returned to Berlin in 1945 Posen began a study program in experimental physics at Berlin's Technische Hochschule. Working in the field of secondary electron emission of semiconductors, he soon became immersed in "fundamental research" in electronics, completing work for his master's and doctoral degrees by 1952. In the meantime, Posen began working as "a physics editor for what you call in this country 'Chemical Abstracts'.... It was very good preparation for me because ... I had already set my eyes on going over to the United States, and my English was very good."
Posen had "set his eyes" on the United States for several reasons. "I was really unhappy about the political situation in Germany.... [There was the] devastation, and I wasn't really sure that the next generation of politicians in Germany would be  all that much better ... At least equally strong, maybe even stronger, was the desire to participate in rocket development. I knew the next step was space, and I wanted to participate in that, and it was very clear that I couldn't, in Europe, for many, many years." Aware that von Braun had gone to the United States, he asked an American friend in Berlin to help him locate von Braun who, by that time, had become technical director for the U.S. Army's Ordnance Guided Missile Development Group at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.
"I looked in all kinds of books and there was very little about Alabama, very little." Nonetheless, in 1955, at the age of 32, Posen left Germany with his wife and child, heading for Alabama. "When we finally got here, arriving in New York, they say [sic],
"'Where are you going?'
"'Are you sure?'
"My big problem, when I came [to Huntsville], was to listen to the southern stuff ... and even know what they are saying and, then, in turn, talk so that they could understand me. That was quite a culture shock.... I wished I had done that ten years earlier; I would have lost my accent." Nonetheless, Posen, like dozens of other German scientists and engineers, learned how to make himself understood. He remained in Huntsville-first with the Redstone Arsenal and then with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center-working with rockets (since given the more recondite name of launch vehicles) and their payloads for the rest of his career.
The city of Baltimore, largest city in the border state of Maryland, has been washed by every current to flow across the American landscape. Its history embraces the slave trade, industrialization, the growth of the railroads, the influx of successive waves of immigration, foreign shipping, urban growth and decay, and H. L. Mencken. Before the completion of the interstate highway system in the 1960s, millions of souls on the East Coast knew Baltimore mostly as the place through which one lurched northward, stop light by stop light, on blistering afternoons in July and August, to escape from the hot southern summer. As they went, they passed miles of brick row houses with prim, plain fronts and white door stoops. These marked the boundaries of the neighborhoods where working class people lived, people like the parents of Philip Siebold, who was born in Baltimore in 1926, the year Robert H. Goddard launched the world's first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Mass.
"My dad was a blue collar worker.... I grew up in a typical lower middle class, if you can even call it middle class, [area] in Baltimore." Siebold attended various Catholic schools in Baltimore, his aspirations largely limited to vocational education, so he "could learn to be an office worker, a secretary, or a clerk, or something like that " But he was a good student, good enough so that "someone casually said to me ... 'Why don't you apply to Poly?"' Baltimore Polytechnic High School, "back m those days ... took students from any place in the city because they had special  programs, one being a program called the advanced college preparatory course, which was very heavily college oriented." Siebold took up the suggestion without much purpose: "I accidentally walked in and did it ... by God's choice-I don't know."
Between his mother's and his father's family "of nine or ten [each], of all of us, there are only about three people who have gone through college, one being a Catholic priest.... I saw all these people suffering through the Depression and the poor guys working in the shops and coming home dirty and filthy and dead tired, and struggling, and I decided that I wanted a white collar job. And I was going to be an engineer.... Father and mother ... really didn't understand [his interest in engineering], but "they were willing for me to go to high school." So he went to Baltimore Polytechnic High School because "I knew I couldn't afford to go to college.... I went there knowing that a lot of the people that went there came out and got into engineering type jobs as draftsmen." With a strong technical curriculum that included calculus, engineering mechanics, and strength of materials, "we were admitted to most colleges in an advanced standing ... even in the Naval Academy, they accepted our students without entrance exams." But college was not for Siebold-at least, not then.
When he graduated in 1942 he found a job with the Martin Company, which "recognized the people coming out of this [Baltimore Polytechnic High School] program as being capable of going into their engineering department. Particularly in those days everybody started on the drawing board.... They even offered a course in their drawing system, their engineering system, to us in high school on Saturdays. So I went on Saturdays.... We even studied an airplane called the '167', which is a predecessor of one of the lightweight bombers that Britain and France bought and used in the Battle of Africa. With that background, I no sooner finished high school-as a matter of fact, I was still taking finals-when I went down and was hired as a junior draftsman."
Siebold worked for Martin for over twenty years, interrupted only by a stretch in the Army after he was drafted. He proudly remembers virtually every aircraft or missile program he worked on: the Dyna Soar, the Martin B-26, "a number of Navy airplanes, all of the seaplanes, the P5Ms . . . the B-57." In the 1950s he began working on missile programs. "A lot of them were military and a lot of them were research vehicles that came and went." As interesting as the work was, he "recognized that I needed to go to college.... If you're in an engineering department with lots of engineers and you don't have a degree and they do, it doesn't take you long to recognize that if you're going to get any place other than the menial tasks, you better get that degree." He began night school at The Johns Hopkins University, one of the pioneering institutions in continuing adult education, and earned his degree in mechanical engineering in 1961, at the age of forty.
During the 1950s Siebold worked on various advanced space vehicle designs as part of Martin's effort to get into the space business. "It was the little group of ten or twelve in so-called advanced design that put the basic concepts together. When an RFP [request for proposals] came in, we would look at those requirements and make the first cut at what the vehicle should look like, and then get more refined data from  people that then supported us." By the time Siebold finished his degree, he "had left the design world and was now working more on the management side and [on] things called configuration management, control and configuration.... When the Titan III program started, I went to Denver as engineering rep.... Baltimore was doing subcontract .. engineering work under Denver's direction for that program. I became the engineering liaison man stationed in the Denver division for...about three years." When it was time to return to Baltimore in 1964, Siebold suspected that Martin was "going downhill.... I saw the handwriting on the wall.... I purely looked at it and said, 'Who's got all the money? Where's the best future?'.... NASA was it. They were at the forefront." On his way back from Denver he stopped off at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston "to talk about a job." His background appealed to the center, and he was soon hired and detailed to NASA's launch operations center at Merritt Island, Fla. When NASA combined its growing launch complex there with the new Kennedy Space Center in 1965, Siebold opted to remain with the Johnson Space Center and move to Downey, Calif., where North American (later Rockwell Corporation) was building hardware for the Apollo program. There he worked as JSC's resident test director for the first Apollo unmanned vehicle. He would stay at Downey, as a NASA representative working in on-site quality control, for the next twenty years.
The immigrant neighborhoods of New York, the Bronx and Brooklyn, were home in the 1920s and 1930s to countless boys who would grow up to leave their mark on the postwar expansion of American science and engineering. Whether these boys' families instilled in them a love of learning inherited from their European or rabbinical origins, or whether those families were convinced that a cosmopolitan profession such as medicine or science was the best vehicle of ascent from uprooted or marginal places in the American scheme of things, the effect was the same: the Bronx High School of Science and the Brooklyn Technical High School nurtured a significant proportion of the talent and training that would find its way into the U.S. space program.
Take Michael Goldbloom, born in Brooklyn in 1926. What led him to become an engineer? "I guess it's my father that led me in that direction. My father had no formal education. But he was probably one of the best educated men I've ever met. He was a voracious reader. He was interested in science.... He used to take me to the planetarium and the museum of science and industry when I was just 6,7,8 years old. I became very much interested [in science] at that early age." Goldbloom went to the Bronx High School of Science. He enlisted in the Navy in 1944, before he reached his eighteenth birthday, and was sent to radar technician school. Twenty months later Goldbloom was discharged and returned to school. Using his GI Bill benefits, he was able to complete his work for a bachelor of science degree from the College of the City of New York. He still keeps in his desk "the first good slide rule" that he ever owned, bought with his GI Bill money.
 After earning a masters degree from Brooklyn College, Goldbloom took his first job, with the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Nassau County, N.Y. His training in the Navy and in graduate school had been largely in the field of automatic controls. "The reason that Sperry wanted me was to work on automatic pilots." In 1954 Goldbloom left New York, "never to return," and moved to Los Angeles to work for the Lockheed Missile Systems division. He stayed in California throughout the 1960s, working for various aerospace companies. He was working for the Northrop Corporation's planetary program division when Northrop decided, for business reasons, "to get totally out of the NASA marketplace." Goldbloom decided in 1970 to transfer to NASA in Washington so he could continue working in the planetary exploration program. What brought him to NASA was "the intellectual excitement of the job." Goldbloom had been fascinated by the notion of exploring the planets since he was a boy, "listening to Buck Rogers on the radio when I was six or seven years old. And the very prospect that I could earn a living doing science on Jupiter and sending a spacecraft to Uranus or Neptune.... I couldn't resist it."
Born in 1928, Charles Stern spent the first ten years of his life in Willimantic, Conn. and then moved with his parents into a middle class Brooklyn neighborhood of semi-detached homes. His father had graduated from Tufts University with a degree in chemistry, but had opted to go into business, working first in the haberdashery trade in Connecticut and then moving into a wholesale glass business in New York. Neither his father nor his mother-who had thought he would make a great accountant-had given him any particular encouragement to go into engineering. He was "not mechanically inclined. I'm not one of these kids from the sticks who was in my fourth car by the time I was fifteen, either.... I hardly knew what a car was. We had one, but I rode in it and that was it.... I had no great yearning to become an engineer or a scientist.... But World War II was on, and I thought ... 'Gee, I don't want to end up in a trench or in a tank."' Stern chose to become an engineer "one hundred percent because of the war. If I'm going to get shot at, I want to get shot at up [in the air], not downhere. If I'm going to fight, I'd like to fightclean." So he decided "I probably ought to go to a high school from which I could come out with some kind of technical training...and get into the [U.S. Army] Air Corps."
Charles Stern is another NASA engineer who received his schooling at Brooklyn Technical High School. He remembers it as "probably the finest technical high school in the country.... There were better scientific schools, but not technical. I took the aeronautical engineering course, which was ... a pre-engineering course, vocational . . . not particularly suited as a college prep course because it didn't offer some of the math and language required to get into a lot of the universities at that time." When he graduated in 1946, Stern "figured [that] coming out of high school, I wouldn't have a chance to fly. At least not as a pilot. That was officer or college stuff." He would do "anything I could do that would get me a head start...in the  aeronautical business.... It was, again, the war motivation, not any great desire to be a part of the national aeronautical research establishment." He applied for admission to Brooklyn Polytechnic School "because it was one of the few schools that would accept high school graduates with the kind of semi-vocational training I had: no language [or] math.... l didn't get in because there was this massive influx of veterans coming home from each of the theaters [of World War II]. So the next step was to . . . enlist" in the Army Air Corps. "And I went down and failed the physical." He entered the hospital for successful medical treatment and "I hadn't been home more than a few more days...when I got a call from Brooklyn Poly: 'We have a vacancy."' So fate finally smiled on Charles Stern and he got to go to college after all. "I took aeronautical engineering because that was probably all I was suited for- and because it sounded interesting. As I went through college, of course, it became more and more interesting and I did fairly well."
Stern graduated in June 1950 and war broke out in Korea shortly thereafter. Although he had applied for jobs with various naval research organizations as well as the NACA, he had hoped he would be able to work at the NACA's Langley Aeronautical Laboratory. But then, "all of a sudden, there was my greeting.... In November of 1950 I went to Fort Devens, was processed into Fort Dix, was processed down to Fort Eustis, Virginia, and spent my two years of Army [duty] at Fort Eustis." Fortuitously, Fort Eustis was "just up the road from Langley, which was wonderful, because it got me a head start." While still in the care of the Army, Stern was able to begin graduate work in a joint Langley-University of Virginia program in aeronautical engineering at Hampton, Va. He was released from the Army in November 1952 and began working at Langley before the year was out, completing his masters degree in aeronautical engineering during the evenings.
Aeronautical engineering did not become just interesting for Stern, it became downright exciting: He happened to enter the Langley laboratory at one of the aeronautical field's most creative periods. "You remember, we had a missile crisis gradually growing. In the early '50s we were trying to figure out how in the world to make a ballistic missile go intercontinental ranges-5000 miles or more-reenter the Earth's atmosphere at almost orbital speed . . . and survive till it reaches either the ground or air burst level. One of the things one had to do was study the [air] flow at those speeds. Or, if you couldn't simulate the flow at those speeds, you simulate the flow at the same energy levels, and at least you get a partial simulation for the heat transfer issues, which are the issues that are critical."
At both the Langley Laboratory and the NACA's Ames Research Center, established in 1939 at Moffet Field, Calif., aerodynamicists were struggling with the problem of designing a missile nose cone that would not burn up in the heat of reentry into the atmosphere. One way of simulating the extroardinary heat energy levels that affect nose cones on reentry was with shock tubes. When Stern went to Langley, he worked with the "aerodynamics of shock tube flows, shock tube boundary layers, shock tube heat transfer, shock attenuation behavior." It was through their shock tube work that engineers at Ames and Langley discovered the concept of blunt body flows, which dissipate the energy in drag, heating the friction layer of the shock layer rather than heating the body" of the missile's nose cone itself.
 "And you do that with a blunt body, not a sharp body, where all the heat goes into the skin."6
Stern's career with NASA was interrupted briefly when, succumbing to the lure of better pay, he moved to Massachusetts to work with the AVCO Corporation on reentry heating for ballistic missile nosecones. A year later, missing "the freedom to work in engineering science and not [to] have to worry about building [a] device," he left Massachusetts and returned to Langley.
Henry Beacham is a sociological rarity among the older engineers who became part of NASA during the Apollo years. Born in 1928, he was raised in an upper middle class neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., the son of well-educated parents. His mother was an editor for Vogue magazine and wrote for the Baltimore Sun. She had also done publicity work for the women's suffrage movement and worked for the National Council for the Prevention of War. In the 1920s she and Beacham's father, a veteran newspaper man, formed an editorial research business, for which she wrote using a masculine pseudonym: "It was in the days when you didn't use women's names in the newspaper business." The theory behind their business was that "an editor could find out what happened ten years ago in a book, and he could find out what happened two weeks ago by looking through the papers. But there was an enormous gap of recent history-the ten year to one year ago [period]. The trick of the game [was] to give a writer an assignment that would be completed in a month and put into the mail and have that be something that editors all around the country would be interested in. And it worked."
To any one of the country boys who made their way out of rural America in the decade between the wars, Washington was the city; but those with cosmopolitan upbringings would look back on Washington in the 1930s and 1940s as "a very small town." To be active in local politics, as Beacham's parents were, was to be active in national politics. The elder Beachams "were friends of Justice [Louis D.] Brandeis, people like that." Beacham was sent to an exclusive private boys' school in suburban Bethesda, Md., where he mixed with the sons of lawyers, doctors, high-level civil servants, and affluent Washington area businessmen. His principal boyhood enthusiasm was boats; he built his own kayak and rowboat, boated on the South River near Annapolis, Md., and resolved as a teenager to become a naval architect. A brief experience working for his father proved generally unsuccessful, from both his and his father's points of view, and by the time he was ready to think about college, he had decided to make a career of engineering. After graduating from preparatory school in 1944, Beacham entered Duke University. There he majored in engineering with a minor in naval science, as part of the Navy's ROTC program. "Whereas the Army had ninety day wonders, the Navy was still playing around with officers and gentlemen.... They felt their officers should be college educated ... so they were going to let us get our degrees before we were commissioned and sent to sea." When he graduated, the Navy had more officers than it needed, so he was commissioned  as an Ensign in the Naval Reserve. Since he was not called to active duty, he went to work for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y. "In Rochester they had two different labs: one, the film making; and the other, the camera operation. I was with the camera group for about a year and a half." Then his urbane upbringing caught up with him as he discovered (he thought) that he had in fact been "poorly educated." He went back to school at the University of Rochester, planning to take a graduate degree in physics-but not before taking courses in economics and government. "My father and mother were both newspaper people, and I missed a sense of what was going on in the world."
From the University of Rochester, where he obtained a master of science degree in mechanical engineering, Henry Beacham moved on to Syracuse University to do some teaching. Then, on the eve of the Korean War, he moved to the Naval Ordnance Laboratory at White Oak, Md. While working for the Navy could not guarantee that he would not be called to active duty, it might have helped; Beacham was able to stay at the laboratory for nine years doing "environmental testing and ultimately what used to be called operations research ... weapons analysis." In 1959 he transferred to the Navy's Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) at Anacostia. A few months after the Project Vanguard team was transferred from the NRL to the newly formed NASA in 1959, Beacham responded to the summons of a former NRL colleague and transferred to NASA's new Goddard Space Flight Center. There he began his NASA career by doing environmental testing for unmanned satellites.
Beacham could, he recalls, have gone to NRL in the early days and joined the Vanguard program, but "it never intrigued me." At the same time, NASA looked attractive compared to a career at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. "You get bothered, after a while, computing ... the optimum way to kill ... the maximum number of people. I don't think I was especially excited about the space program. [I was] excited about the challenge, the difficulty of it, but I was never personally interested in flying and-I had no sense of the potential of what you might learn, in physics particularly, until I had been around a while. That makes it exciting now. But at the time, it was mostly an engineering challenge."
Bob Jones was one of those "kids from the sticks" who had regularly dirtied his fingers with auto parts. Born in 1932 in the shadows of Pittsburgh's steel mills, Jones left the industrial city as a small boy after his father (an electrical engineer) died, leaving his mother to fend for herself and her small son and infant daughter. There was a good bit of moving around as his mother fended. "Mother moved in with relatives in various small mill towns around the area. [Then] an adventuresome aunt,,' his mother's sister, also a widow, "went to Florida ... and wrote back to my mother about how oranges grow on trees and you could pick them, and why didn't she come down there? And so mother just picked up the two kids and went. The two sisters rented a house" in St. Petersburg, where Jones grew up, save for a year in North Carolina, where he and his mother moved with his stepfather, who worked for the A & P.7 "We came back to Florida," where his mother made ends meet as a  registered nurse, and "remained there except for some visits up north. By then I was a southerner and I didn't really care for the north."
Many years later, as a grown man, Jones grew nostalgic at seeing an exhibit at the Library of Congress of a "number 4 1/2 model erector set . . . identical" to the one he played with as a youngster. "That was the toy I would never forget. I could hook it up early in the morning.... I remember all of those little parts, bolts, and brackets." Then there were the chemistry sets: "We made gun powder ... you know, kids get into things. We, in high school, got into building cannons ... take a four inch pipe, thread it, and put a cap on it, drill a hole in the cap and pour about two inches of lead for a good solid base, and then mix up your gun powder, which is saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur. Pour that in there and ram toilet paper down in it for wadding, and put a handful! of ball bearings in there.... St. Pete's, at that time ... was not as built up, and the high school was considered fairly out ... so there were undeveloped areas nearby and we would take one of those things and go out in the vacant lot and tie it down to a tree and we made fuses either out of regular fire crackers, or you would take [a] fuse and soak it in gun powder and then put it in the oven to dry." The ingredients for gun powder could be bought at the local drug store. "Saltpeter is an anti-aphrodisiac for animals, and we would say, 'my father has a horse, you know'. .. potassium nitrate and powdered sulfur is used for any number of things.... We put a ball bearing right through the grammar school cafeteria wall one time. It made a neat, one inch hole.... That was the big thing, then, besides tinkering with cars."
Before he got his first car, Jones bought himself a "Cushman motor scooter. One of my good friends and I built the first-we thought-bicycle with a telescopic or sprung front fork, rather than a rigid frame, so that the wheel would follow, like springs on a car." Then came the 1941 model Ford coupe. "The '40 Ford was the 'in' car in the '50s because it had a little better ride than the '41, [but] I could not find a '40 that I could afford. So that was my first car. It was black. [In high school] my friends and I and our crowd, we dated and socialized, but not so much as the 'in' group-the cheerleader, football team, football heroes and socialites.... My friend's house was directly across the street from the high school. It had a big two-car garage.... We would be over there working on [the] hot '41 Ford, and those guys- you could see them there going to the dance. They wouldn't be dancing with much delight, except it was an excuse to steal booze if you could get a hold of some.... We were always working on cars. Frequently there would be a dance across there and we could sense that we were one type as opposed to the partying crowd. Usually they had a lot more money, too, and I worked different jobs. I worked at the news company packaging magazines ... during high school. And mostly worked in gas stations, and then got a job in a wheel alignment shop and continued that."
Growing up, Jones was not sure what he wanted to be. "Mother ... just let me kind of find my way.... She insisted I get good grades, scolded me when I didn't.... I made honor society. But she didn't really tend to drive me toward any career.... I knew I didn't want to be any of the human skill-oriented people, because I didn't think I did well with interactions with other people, and I tended toward things rather than people.... Psychology classes [in college], where you had to sit and talk about yourself, drove me crazy; but a physics class, I loved."
 After he graduated from high school in 1950, Jones went to St. Petersburg Junior College, which was "dirt cheap, like, practically free. We didn't have any money and [the University of Florida at] Gainesville was the big state school.... I didn't know how I was going to make it up there, and wasn't motivated. Besides, it didn't have any engineering at all. [It was] primarily a business and liberal arts school]. Then I got an F in calculus, and that sort of just turned me off. So I continued to live at home and work at the Arrow Wheel Alignment Shop. They sponsored a quarter-mile stock car race, which I suppose was one of the reasons I went, because on Friday nights you could get the pit crew to a playing field ... in Tampa, and help ... mechanical things and contained energy.... That was heavy stuff!"
"All of my friends-the three guys that I ran with-one of them had dropped out in his freshman year and joined the Navy. My other good friend dropped out the semester before me, and let himself get drafted. And the third hung in there, but it was sort of like the neighborhood was coming apart. I didn't know where I was going, and I didn't know what I wanted to do, and everybody was going into the service, so I dropped out and went to work at the wheel alignment shop, knowing full well what would happen.... It took them about six weeks and they sent me my greeting. So I ended up in the Army, and I guess, subconsciously, I planned that, because I knew all about the GI Bill."
The U.S. Army sent Jones to Alaska, where he was stationed with a small company that ran a logistics depot. There he learned how to be a supply sergeant. Best of all, he could oversee the "weaponry, unit armor-which meant I got to maintain machine guns." While he hated the Alaskan winter, he loved its summer, and found a friend who introduced him to the natural wonders of the remote wilderness. "He was a registered big game guide, and I saw a lot of Alaska and had access to his car.... We went to Ghost Town, to the Kennecott copper mines. We went down to Chitina, salmon fished, and we hunted grizzly and shot caribou." Jones and his friend "hunted" with the camera too, often turning the lens on their buddies. But Jones was at heart a private person, and he still remembers the refuge he made for himself in the company supply room. "I even lived there for a while. I just put my cot in the back to get out of that mass-no privacy-type living, and an old cat came around and I befriended her. And so I had a companion. But they did move me out of there because of the fire hazard.... Those huts were so dry. At 30 below there is no moisture in the air."
While Jones was in the Army he realized that he knew what he wanted to do after all. "My interest had always been in the relationship between physical objects, and especially motion and linkages and those kinds of things." He would be an engineer. Two years later Jones returned to Florida; he managed, with the help of the Gl Bill, to graduate from the University of Florida in 1958 with a degree in engineering. He realized that he had a personal need for "security," and as a result he "wanted to stay around Florida." Helped by good grades, he interviewed successfully with various engineering companies. '~Ford came and wanted to make a regional service manager out of me. I knew enough about regional service managers to know that that was complaints, and that was really working with the public, and I didn't want to do that. Bendix did one of those ~fly me' [offers] up to Fort Wayne.... It was about ten feet of  snow on the ground and they do the typical recruiting trip. You had lunch and they met you at the hotel and took you around. And I remember this-what they call bullpen.... They all had white shirts, and they all had ties on, and one guy was working on, like, a little bracket. And I thought about that, and the cold, the snow in my feet." Jones also got an offer from Florida Power. But "that's making steam, making electricity. Man, you make electricity day and night, day and night.... I had liked my power plant courses, [but] that's all you do."
His true career would begin with the Army; he was due to be interviewed by the U.S. Army ordnance department from Aberdeen Proving Ground. "It was automotive and mechanical and things that go 'clank'.... I thought, that was the place for me." But an Army officer he was to meet with "didn't show, and here I was in my new Sears, Roebuck suit, and I wandered down the hall and there was this outfit called the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. It was interviewing for engineers to work at Cape Canaveral.... They painted a pretty rosy picture ... interviewing specifically for an engineer to work in the weight and balance section of the booster and nose cones down there-in the assembly test section they called it-to determine the center of gravity and the weight of the warheads and the thrust units for the Redstone and Jupiter missiles.... There were some photographs of this thing that looked like an oil rig, and the guys up there were in leather jackets and they had boots on, and a tie. The idea of working outdoors with the hardware, hands-on-[and] I could be close to Mom and Gerry [his sister, a "starving artist"], and it's warm." Most of all, Jones would be close to the sheer mechanical power that had always excited him:
"I got [to Cape Canaveral] just as they were finishing up the Redstone program.... I was there for the first lunar probe, and ... there was a Juno that went up and turned ninety degrees. It was sitting there, and it came back on the pad and a shock wave came up the flame trench and blew the covers off, and a cigarette machine outside was pierced and the candy bars and cigarettes went everywhere and big chunks of concrete-I thought, 'this is sporty business! This beats the hell out of drawing brackets!' There's something about working on the rockets that's different than working on the space station, space craft, or facilities.... I suppose it's contained energy. I remember working on the Saturn I and IB. You remained on the pad while the LOX [liquid oxygen] prechilled, with xenon lights, and the wind blowing, and as those pipes chill, they scream. The vents are blowing and you are clear and the techs are buttoning it up. You're in a headset ... and this thing is groaning and moaning and the hydraulic pumps are coming on.... The real highs were either in the blockhouse, as a nice OS-5, GS-7 weight engineer, at the moment of ignition, hearing that sharp crack, or, if my alternate was in there, being at the road block, which was a quarter of a mile away . .. sitting in the pick-up truck. We would watch that thing ignite a beautiful, absolute, thunderous roar, zillions of horsepower, and you visualize them valves workin' and them turbo pumps goin' ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-." Or when the rocket was just "clearing the pad, just before the structure went back, during final closeout. The liquid oxygen on board. The thing is smokin' and ventin' and shakin' and screamin'.
 "That's watching the hardware.
Robert Strong, Dan O'Neill, Isaac Kuritzky, Ernest Cohen, Isaac Petrovsky, Henry Strassen, Werner Posen, Philip Siebold, Michael Goldbloom, Charles Stern, Henry Beacham, and Bob Jones: born between World War I and the eve of the Great Depression, they were the progeny of an America that would be barely recognizable to the younger men and women who would be working with them at NASA at the height of the Apollo era. They were the sons of an older industrial America, predominantly from the upper Midwest and the Northeast. Only one came from the impoverished countryside of the deep South, and none came from west of the Mississippi. Three came from the Eastern European immigration that populated this country's older urban centers and trades. Only three were sons of engineers. And only two, by any stretch of the imagination, could be considered offspring of an intelligentsia which, in this country as much as in Europe, dwelt principally in capital cities. With these two exceptions, theirs was the class that experienced the pain of the Great Depression more than any other, with its longing for a more secure place in the world, for salaried middle class stability. What they sought could be found most directly through the profession of engineering, unencumbered-partly because of its novelty-by the social barriers entrenched in some of the older professions, such as law and medicine.
With the exception of the three who attended Duke University and MIT, all attended public institutions and supported themselves partially or wholly while going through school. They were in the first cohort of young Americans to benefit from a nearly fourfold increase in the number who were able to go to college (from 8 percent in 1920 to 30 percent in 1959). They included the six from "blue collar" backgrounds who would be among the first in their families to go to college, as well as those who were of age to begin college when World War II broke out. In career aspirations as well as education they were not, as a group, particularly drawn toward airplanes and spacecraft. Two, it is true, had been inspired by Charles A. Lindbergh's 1927 solo flight from New York to Paris; these two, thus inspired, were among the first university-trained aeronautical engineers; both studied at MIT. (These two, one of whom also attended the University of Michigan, and the graduate of New York University, were among the earliest beneficiaries of the Guggenheim Foundation's effort to promote aeronautical engineering.)8 For the rest, however, what propelled them forward was something more basic. Engineering provided not only relatively ready access to a salaried profession; it also provided an acceptable alternative to active military service, for engineers were eligible for draft deferments The military's ROTC programs held out comparable inducements. One astutely noticed that aeronautics was "the coming thing," while two others recall having read science fiction as children. Only two confessed outright to having had an intellectual interest in science or engineering, although a few indicated as much when they remarked simply that they "liked" engineering or machinery.
 All except the oldest, who was already at work at the NACA's Langley Aeronautical Laboratory when World War II broke out in 1939, joined the military as enlistees or draftees during World War II-one of them on the German side. Most of the eleven began their careers in the 1940s working for engineering firms; only one ventured to make a career with the military. Seven of these eleven engineers had no less than nine, and in two cases had had as much as twenty-one, years' experience working in private industry before they went to work for NASA. This group included two of the six who had been working with NASA's predecessor organizations-the NACA, ABMA, and NOL-when NASA was formed in 1958 and were thus among the new agency's initial engineering corps. Five joined the agency between 1958 and 1970.
Sharing, with few exceptions, generally similar social origins and career aspirations, these eleven men were bound together by the fact that the route toward the fulfillment of their aspirations was eased by the nation's need to mobilize not only military troops, but military technology, in the service of war. All were initially employed by either federal engineering agencies or private firms stimulated by wartime demands. That they were equipped for the jobs they found, or for which they were in some instances recruited, was attributable to the fact that the federal government, directly or indirectly, encouraged them to pursue engineering careers. Private aspirations converged with national need as World War II (like so many previous wars) became an engine of social change.
1. See Appendix C, table 4.
2. "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country" (Horace), quoted in "1914," by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918).
3. Holst, an English composer, completed his orchestral suite "The Planets" in 1918.
4. Jerome Clarke Hunsaker served as chairman of the NACA from 1941 to 1956.
5. The Statistical History of the United States from Colonial Times to the Present.(Stamford, Conn.: Fairfield Publishers, 1965), Series Q 106-116, Y 357-367.
6. The discovery of the blunt-body theory was made in 1952 by Harvey Allen at Ames Research Center. See Elizabeth A. Muenger, Searching the Horizon: A History of Ames Research Center, 1940-1976, NASA SP-4304 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985), pp. 66-68.
7. Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, a supermarket chain.
8. The Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics was established in 1926. Guggenheim grants went to eight major universities: California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, Stanford University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Akron. See Richard P. Hallion, Legacy of Flight: The Guggenheim Contribution to American Aviation (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977).