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Historic Moon Landing Leaves Lasting Impression, Inspires a Generation of Innovators

Historic Moon Landing Leaves Lasting Impression, Inspires a Generation of Innovators

1969 was a monumental year that included Woodstock, Chappaquiddick, the Vietnam War and the hippie movement. But nothing was more memorable to me than the Apollo 11 moon landing. The 50th anniversary of this important occasion leads me to reflect on what that event meant to my generation.

Even though I was only seven years old, I remember this time vividly. My grandparents had a color television set, which was rare in 1969, and my entire family gathered to watch the lunar landing in real time. Oddly, even as a kid, I knew I was a part of something historic. I can remember stepping outside, gazing up at the moon and squinting my eyes to try and see the astronauts.

The moon landing inspired a whole new generation of scientists, engineers and innovators, including myself. Kids in the Sixties had a different outlook on scientific discoveries. If we could put a man on the moon, what else could we do? The moon landing encouraged young people to push the envelope and to dream about things that just a few years prior would have been unimaginable.

Ultimately, my passion about the moon landing helped fuel my educational goals and later my career ambitions. In high school I searched out STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes and set my sights on exploring a career in engineering. Like other students of the time, I was hungry for new technology. Lasers were just introduced to the physics program at my high school, and getting to work hands-on with technologies like that fed my passion to explore even more opportunities.

There is no doubt in my mind I was destined to work in the aerospace industry. From the time I watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon’s surface, I knew a career in this industry was my fate. I was in college in the early 1980s studying electrical engineering when NASA launched the first Space Shuttle flight. On that day, my engineering friends and I gathered together to watch the next generation of space exploration unfold. Amazingly, I also met my wonderful wife on the day of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 and I accepted my job at Honeywell on the day the Space Shuttle returned to flight almost three years later! Even after nearly 31 years at Honeywell, I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Honeywell has a legacy of being involved in the space program for decades. In the 1960s, we helped make sure the Apollo 11 astronauts had fresh air and clean drinking water with our environmental control systems. We also manufactured ground and airborne telecommunications systems designed to run autonomously and provide studies of the lunar environment.

Today we are instrumental in developing key technologies and systems for NASA’s newest manned spacecraft, Orion, as well as the navigation and engine control computers for the Space Launch System rocket that will carry Orion into deep space. These systems are invaluable for missions that go to the International Space Station and eventually – one day soon – will help a human travel back to the moon and to Mars.

These days I am fortunate enough to act as a mentor too, and I am awestruck at what our newest generation of scientists and engineers are accomplishing. They are not afraid to push technology. They ask insightful questions and use technology like cell phones and computers to their advantage. I can’t wait to see how these innovators change the world for the better with their fearless attitudes!

Joe Zarrella
Sr. Systems Engineer
Joe Zarrella is a Sr. Systems Engineer at Honeywell Aerospace, based in Clearwater, Fla.

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