Review: John Houbolt: The Unsung Hero of the Apollo Moon Landings

Review: John Houbolt: The Unsung Hero of the Apollo Moon Landings
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Later this month, NASA is expected to announce awards of contracts for its Human Landing System program to develop a human lunar lander for the Artemis program. Several companies will likely get contracts for initial studies, with NASA later selecting one or two for full-scale development. But, whether they involve lander components being aggregated at the lunar Gateway or a single lander docking directly with an Orion spacecraft, they all share something in common: they will all use a version of lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) like that pioneered in the Apollo program.

But, 60 years ago, lunar orbit rendezvous was far from the clear choice for landing people on the Moon. As NASA was beginning planning for sending humans to the Moon, the idea of two spacecraft performing a rendezvous in lunar orbit—something yet to have been done in Earth orbit—looked to be too difficult and risky. Yet, thanks in large part to the advocacy of a single NASA engineer, John Houbolt, LOR was the approach NASA adopted, and used successfully.

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