We have been celebrating a great achievement by the USA for the past week. The 50th anniversary of the first man to walk on the moon. The astronauts were indeed heroes. The mission controllers who monitored every aspect of their voyage 24/7. The engineers who designed the vehicle that took them to the moon and back.
This brings me to the reason I am writing this column. The people who manufactured the nuts and bolts, the spacesuits they wore, the communications equipment and the life support gear they required. They also are heroes because they worked for a successful mission.
Few people will remember that here in Waynesboro GE supplied a good portion of the electrical system for the lunar module. Even fewer will remember the relays manufactured in Waynesboro were extremely important for the success of the mission. The four pole relay (four switches in one sealed package) made at GE in Waynesboro replaced 44 relays planned to be used on the lunar module that weighed over 100 times the weight of the GE four poles. This was important because it allowed the contractor (Grumman) to add additional equipment. But that is not why the employees that carefully assembled these relays are heroes.
Each of these 44 relays was required to work flawlessly for the astronauts to be able to return to earth.
The lunar module had two sections. The descent vehicle (the bottom section that landed on the moon) and the ascent vehicle (the section that the astronauts would use to return to the command module). They were held together by 44 bolts (explosives bolts). When the astronauts left the moon they returned to the ascent vehicle to return to the Apollo Command Module for the trip home leaving the descent section on the moon.
For the lunar module ascent vehicle to separate from the descent vehicle when the command was given to fire the explosive bolts and allow the astronauts to return to the command module, each of the four pole relays had to work perfectly. If not our astronauts would still be on the moon with the descent vehicle. Hundreds of relays made by employees at GE Waynesboro were used on the Apollo missions and they worked.
All of the employees who produced these wonderful relays that worked flawlessly are indeed heroes. Our astronauts returned safely.
As an aside, Micheal Collins, who piloted the command module to the moon, visited Waynesboro before his trip to the Moon.