In June, Kilgore Public Library hosted a series of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, including meetings with four former NASA employees.
Now, two of those men look back on the significance of the Apollo 11 anniversary and forward to the future of manned spaceflight.
Johnny Ferguson was a flight controller for the Apollo program. He reflected on the significance of the anniversary.
“I guess the key element is the friendships that have gone by the way and seeing people I work with again,” Ferguson said. He’s kept in touch with former co-workers over the years and plans to head to Space Center Houston over the weekend for NASA’s Apollo 11 50th anniversary event.
“We had a reunion down there last summer but there a lot more now. There were about 200 at that point but there’s 650 now and their family members,” he said of the former co-workers attending the event.
Ferguson, who said he spent about 42 years in the human space flight program, said the moon landing was more than just an achievement of technological progress and human skill.
“I could express the biggest accomplishment from that program was that it prevented the Soviet Union, with its atheist, communistic philosophy from dominating the world. It was more than just going to the moon. It was a big psychological event for Christianity.”
Ferguson cites divine influence as the primary factor ensuring the Apollo 11 mission’s success.
“Failure is not an option when you are with God.”
He sees privately-funded space exploration as the way of the future.
“Several multibillionaires who grew up in the early space age, they have taken over a lot of the expense of development and future exploration of space. I think that’s a great way for it to go to get it out of the national budget and let private industry take over it. That’s what is happening and I have a really positive outlook on that. I’m really excited seeing the development that’s taking place in those industries.”
“If you look back on human history it’s always been kind of that way. You have to start getting profit to get it to continue on.”
Chuck Goodson was a flight controller for the space shuttle program and worked in mission control. He was known as an INCO, an Instrumentation and Communications Officer.
“I was there in the early 2000s, during the early stages of the space station construction. I actually was not there for very long but I did have the privilege of working the 100th space shuttle flight. I was there when we put men into the space station and we’ve had continuous occupation of that station since that time.”
Noting the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Goodson allowed he experienced a combination of feelings.
“They’re mixed,” he said. “It’s amazing the accomplishments that man can make when we come together to accomplish something but also how quickly we can lose that when we don’t.”
“We don’t currently have a manned space vehicle program so it’s a mixed bag for me.”
He said it was a privilege to speak on the library panel alongside three men who worked during NASA’s manned spaceflight era.
“That was one of the coolest things about speaking in Kilgore. We stayed afterwards talking until the librarians were ready to go home,” he laughed.
Looking to the future, Goodson believes the United States may once again take to the heavens in the spirit of exploration.
“I do think we will achieve a mission to Mars or the moon within probably the next two decades.”
He said the spirit of exploration is an integral part of human nature.
“It’s innate. It’s wired in us. We did it exploring the globe, the oceans. Man will continue doing it. It’s just a question of how many countries will be doing it.”
Goodson said it would be wonderful to see the U.S. once again aggressively pursue space exploration. That spirit was what first drew him to science and a career at NASA.
“That’s why as a child I chose to pursue my dream to become an engineer and go work at NASA. Seeing that as a kid, that inspired me to a profession where, even though I’m doing things outside the space program, I’m still doing things because I got a higher education.”