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Digital Subscriptions > Ad Astra > 2019 - 2 > Not So Hidden:

Not So Hidden:

Ten Unsung Heroes of Apollo
Dr. George Carruthers, right, and William Conway, a project manager at the Naval Research Institute, examine the gold-plated ultraviolet camera/spectrograph, the Moon-based observatory that Carruthers developed for use on the Apollo 16 mission.
NASA

“[Apollo 11] was a perfect example of teamwork. Thousands of people [were] working on an unprecedented project like that, and nothing serious went wrong.”

- Neil Armstrong, on a 1983 “Bob Hope’s Salute to NASA” television special

Of the nearly half-million Americans who worked on the Apollo project, we hear mostly about the astronauts and key figures in Mission Control. But behind these noteworthy people were countless more from varied walks of life that are far less heralded. Here are profiles of ten of these exceptional people.

This past December, the spaceflight community celebrated the 50th anniversary of NASA’s iconic Apollo 8 mission, in which humans orbited the Moon for the first time. During 2019, more Apollo anniversaries will continue, leading to July’s remembrance of Apollo 11.

During these months, famous names will be discussed in countless documentaries, books, and articles commemorating these milestones; astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, William Anders, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins are just a few. But there are many other men and women who contributed to the successes of Apollo, who never made the journey but were integral to its success.

According to NASA, a workforce of over 400,000 made the Apollo lunar missions possible, from its nascent test phases in the early 1960s to its conclusion in 1972. NASA’s Langley Research Center has stated that the program “required the support of over 20,000 industrial firms and universities.” While it is impossible to profile each of the diverse personalities behind Apollo, here are ten unsung heroes of the program. Though they may have not launched atop a Saturn V, stepped on the Moon, or driven an electric car across the lunar terrain, each pioneered spaceflight in his or her own way. While this list is presented in alphabetical order, each figure—well-known or not—was essential to Apollo’s success.

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