When I joined Honeywell about a year ago, someone told me an interesting fact: Honeywell has been involved in every one of NASA's manned space missions to date. This weekend marks the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 -- the famous U.S. mission that put men on the moon and yes -- Honeywell was there.
I'd assumed Honeywell worked on a couple of products used on Apollo 11 -- but it didn't take me long to find out that our organization contributed to this major NASA milestone in a big way.
When Crew Commander Neil Armstrong took his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, Honeywell’s contributions included:
Environmental control systems that kept the astronauts alive
Analog flight computer for the blast-off rocket
Controls that helped maneuver the spacecraft and landing module.
The Apollo 11 mission particularly captured the interest of the country – and the attention of the world – as the U.S. raced to be the first to reach the lunar surface.
Hundreds of employees working for Honeywell – and Sperry, Bendix and Garrett AiResearch, all now part of Honeywell Aerospace – were among those contributing to the Apollo 11 effort. Here’s how:
Bendix was involved in almost every type of NASA space activity through the Apollo missions – from as far back as Mercury and Gemini.
Employees of the Bendix Field Engineering Corporation operated space tracking stations to monitor manned missions, unmanned scientific satellites and deep space probes. This team operated six of the stations in the worldwide tracking network for the Apollo missions.
Sperry, another Honeywell legacy company, helped provide thrust vector control for the first rocket stage.
In Phoenix, Ariz. and Torrance, Calif., Garrett Airesearch employees worked on the environmental control system (ECS). This provided a safe and comfortable environment with pure oxygen and drinking water for Armstrong and crew members Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Additionally, the ECS regulated suit cabin pressure and temperature levels and kept other landing equipment at safe levels.
Honeywell established a facility in Clearwater, Fla. in 1956 due to its proximity to the space coast. Select employees from Minneapolis, Minn., came to the location to launch operations that would eventually contribute to Apollo 11 and other space missions.
Honeywell employees in Minneapolis and Clearwater contributed the design, development, integration, qualification and production of the stabilization and control system. It allowed the crew to maneuver the spacecraft during various stages of the flight from launch to touchdown.
Garrett Airesearch also contributed to Apollo 11’s landing module. Garrett’s gimbal drive actuator contributed to Armstrong’s ability to aim the thrust from his descent engine and maneuver away from a boulder-strewn landing site on the moon.
Bendix employees made ground and airborne telecommunications systems for NASA during the 1960s, with NASA selecting Bendix Aerospace Systems Division in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1966 to build and test the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package (EASEP) that was part of Apollo 11 and the larger Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) for subsequent Apollo missions. The instruments, designed to run autonomously after the astronauts left, could also make long-term studies of the lunar environment.
The lunar module also featured Honeywell-built rotational hand controls that piloted the vehicle, forward and lateral velocity indicators that functioned as moon “speedometers” and more than 50 flag warning devices, switches and indicators that helped the crew monitor flight maneuvers and landing area conditions. A Honeywell evaluation engineer, pictured above, manipulates one of the two rotational hand controls which kept the Apollo command module stabilized.
Garrett’s work in cryogenic fluid storage systems – at minus 150 degrees C – reduced weight and volume compared to high-pressure gaseous storage at ambient temperature. That allowed the lunar module to use cryogenic helium for descent propellant tank pressurization.
Bendix air pumps were crucial to the success of several Apollo missions. Designed to inflate airbags quickly, the pumps assisted in a safe ocean landing.
CBS News Coverage of Apollo 11 Landing
Filled with pride from helping make history, employees from the assembly floor to executive offices shared hugs and tears of happiness at site celebrations the next day. Today, Honeywell employees are helping shape history again as they work on NASA’s Orion exploration spacecraft program- the next generation of human space travel and the Space Launch System (SLS) which will lift Orion into orbit for deep-space exploration missions.
Continuing with the current Orion exploration spacecraft program, Honeywell has the distinction of being one of the few U.S. companies involved in every NASA manned-space mission.
Deborah Mallory, a Honeywell employee in Clearwater, designed power supplies for Orion’s crew module.
“Orion and the Space Launch System will allow humans to travel further into space than ever before,” said Joe Zarrella, Project Engineering Manager – Human Space, “The targets include both asteroids and Mars so we have a long journey ahead of us – one that will inspire our children and their children for many decades. We’re proud to be a part of that.”
Honeywell Aerospace Helped Get Astronauts to the Moon
NASA Flickr Album: Apollo 11
Orion Avionics Ready for Launch