Neil Armstrong’s First Steps Wouldn’t Have Been Possible Without This New Yorker
The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing is coming up this summer. Without one New Yorker's help, nicknamed "Father of the Lunar Module", Neil Armstrong would have never walked on the moon.
Everyone remembers the names Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins of the Apollo 11 mission. Have you ever heard of the name Thomas Kelly? Kelly worked on the Apollo Lunar Module with a team of thousands. Kelly was in charge of one of the most important parts of the Moon landing, the lander itself.
Kelly was born on June 14th 1929, in Brooklyn. In 1946, Kelly attended Cornell University. During this time he earned himself a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a Reserve Officers' Training Corps commission in 1951. Kelly later earned a master's degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.
Jump ahead to the early 1960s, when President Kennedy challenged NASA and this nation to land a man on the moon before 1970.
Kelly was moved to Grumman's Apollo and Lunar Module proposals. During this time Kelly helped develop the lunar orbit rendezvous concept. This was something never heard of at the time, or even attempted in Earth orbit let alone Lunar orbit.
In late 1962, Grumman won the $2-billion government contract from NASA. Kelly was promoted to lead the design team for the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM). He was in charge of more than 7,000 employees in design and building the Lunar Module. Kelly's group came up with the idea of a two-stage spacecraft (ascent & descent stage), that would take two astronauts to the Moon's surface while a third member would stay in lunar orbit.
In all, Grumman built fifteen lunar modules, but only six of them had the opportunity to land on the Moon's surface. Each one of these modules had significant upgrades compared to the last one. The Lunar Module is among the most significant accomplishments of Kelly's career, as it is still the only spacecraft to take humans to another celestial body."
Kelly had just turned 40 when Neil Armstrong took his first historic step on the Moon July 20th 1969. Without Thomas Kelly's hard work, attention to detail, Neil Armstrong would have never walked on the moon.