FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON


I am sure that you have already seen this famous picture of the Apollo 11 astronauts footprints on the moon.

Here is the story of how I helped make those footprints.

 

In 1967, I was in college and working in a work-study program at General Electric. I would alternate going to school for one semester and then working at GE for one semester. It was a great situation. GE was very good to me and even though I was still an undergraduate, they gave me a real engineer's salary with real responsibilities.

At this time I was working at the Silicone Products Department in Waterford, NY where they made silicone coatings, adhesives and specialized silicone rubber. I was put in charge of one particular production line that made RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) rubber. This material was very similar to normal hydrocarbon chains except the silicon replaced the carbon. The RTV rubber was a thick paste that could be molded and cured at room temperatures into a material that stayed flexible at very low temperatures and very harsh conditions.

At one point my production line made a batch of special material for a company in Texas. I remembered that particular customer and the product we made for them, because there was some sort of government contract involved and we had to fill out lots of extra paperwork certifying the purity and characteristics of the material.

Two years later, in 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon and made those famous footprints. Afterwards I read an article about the moon landing which mentioned the company that made the boots that made the footprints. The article said that the boots were made from a very high-tech specialized material called RTV silicone rubber. Sure enough that was the same company that I made the rubber for.

The astronauts made the footprints with the boots made from the rubber I made. Therefore, I was ultimately responsible for those footprints on the moon.

It was very exciting for me to realize as a very young engineer that I had an impact on the universe and created something that would last for millions of years to come.