Owen E. Maynard 1924-2000
By Chris Gainor
Owen Eugene Maynard, who died on July 15, 2000 at age 75, was an outstanding leader of the Apollo program and one of Canada's great space flight pioneers.
In 1960, Maynard was part of the small group of engineers at NASA's Space Task Group, which grew into today's Johnson Space Center, when he was assigned to a new human space flight program called Apollo that at the time had no specific goal or even authorization to proceed. Working under the direction of leading lights at NASA such as Robert Gilruth, Max Faget and Caldwell Johnson, Maynard helped sketch out the initial designs of what would become the Apollo Command and Service Modules. The following year, when President John F. Kennedy gave Apollo the goal of landing on the Moon, Maynard became involved in the debates that raged within NASA over how Apollo would fly to the Moon.
A little more than a year after Kennedy's call to land on the Moon, NASA had settled on sending astronauts to the moon and bringing them back home by a method known as lunar orbit rendezvous or LOR. This method was championed within NASA by John Houbolt, but Maynard was among the first at the Space Task Group to see the wisdom of using LOR to fly to the Moon at a time when other methods were favored.
Another Canadian, James A. Chamberlin, had been converted to LOR and proposed landing an astronaut on the moon using a Gemini spacecraft and a lunar "bug." Following Chamberlin's lead, Maynard began making the first serious sketches within NASA of what would become known at the Lunar Module. Maynard's conception of the LM was used by STG to help sell the idea of Lunar Orbit Rendezvous around NASA.
By 1963, Maynard was chief of the LM engineering office in the Apollo Program Office at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. Work on building the LM was already underway at the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. in New York, where Thomas J. Kelly was leading the engineering effort. Kelly, who today is known as the father of the LM, acknowledges that Maynard was the person at NASA most responsible for the design of the LM. In later years, the two would joke about how Maynard had a drawing of the LM hidden in his desk that Kelly and his team would work to match.
In 1964, Maynard was promoted to the position he would hold for most of the remainder of his career at NASA: chief of the systems engineering division in the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office. To many people, this made Maynard Apollo's chief engineer. While others above him such as Gilruth, Apollo program managers Joseph Shea and George Low, and program director Gen. Sam Phillips, could also lay claim to the title, Maynard's responsibilities boiled down to making sure that the constituent parts of the Apollo spacecraft worked together in a harmonious manner, not only amongst themselves but with the launch vehicle and ground facilities. Maynard moved out of systems engineering in 1966 to head up the mission operations division, and during that time he organized the Apollo Lunar Landing Symposium in June, 1966, where the leadership of NASA and contractors got their first detailed technical preview of Apollo's first lunar landing mission.
After the Apollo fire in January, 1967, Maynard moved back to systems engineering. That year, he and his group drew up the A to G mission sequence for Apollo test missions leading up to the first lunar landing on the G mission. Maynard remained in charge of systems engineering until he left NASA in 1970 following the successful achievement of Kennedy's lunar landing goal.
Owen Maynard was born in 1924 in Sarnia, Ontario. When World War Two broke out, he left school and worked as a boatbuilder and machinist before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942. He flew a number of aircraft, including the Mosquito, in Canada and overseas, although the war ended before he could see combat. After the war, he got work at Avro Canada while he earned his aeronautical engineering degree at the University of Toronto. He held a number of jobs at Avro, including working on the layout of the Avro Jetliner, and the design and testing of the CF-105 Avro Arrow weapons pack and landing gear.
When the Arrow was cancelled in 1959, Maynard was a member of the group of 31 Canadian and British engineers from Avro that joined NASA in 1959. Until Maynard became involved in Apollo in 1960, he worked in the Mercury program. Maynard was also part of a group at NASA that won a U.S. patent in 1967 for a space station design.
After leaving NASA in 1970, Maynard went to Raytheon in the Boston area, where he worked on many aerospace programs. During this time, he became an advocate for the use of satellites to collect solar power for use on Earth, and the use of solar power collected on earth for powering spacecraft. He retired from Raytheon in 1992, and he and his wife Helen returned to Canada, settling in Waterloo, Ontario. By then, Maynard was a citizen of both Canada and the United States, and proud of both countries.