Questions And Statements from
5th Grade Class
QUESTIONS - About My Life and Career
As a kid, did you want this kind of work?
What did you study when you were younger?
What made you want to build things?
Can you build things like cars?
How did you become a scientist?
Where did you go to college?
I want to know more about you and your career.
I think that I was born with an inquiring mind, for as a young child, I had a reputation for taking all my toys apart to see how they worked. I got my first bicycle at about 10 years old. It was a hand-me-down, girl’s bike, from a cousin who had outgrown it. It was in bad shape. so an older cousin, who was quite mechanically minded, guided me thru taking it completely apart, cleaning everything and reassembling it, taking care to properly grease all the appropriate places.
I was never much interested in building things, but I did want to learn how things worked. After several failures of reassembly and being forbidden to take anything else apart, my curiosity led me to reading about how things worked. So I began reading mechanical and scientific books and magazines. I found most of them in the school and local libraries. I also took every science and mathematics class offered at my high school. At that time there was no Television available in our area but we had several movies houses and Hollywood was producing plenty movies about possible future scientific developments, now referred to as science fiction or “Si-Fi.” I never missed any of them, especially if they dealt with space travel.
From high school, I entered the University of Alabama pursuing a Bachelor-of-Science Degree, hoping it would lead to a career in some scientific or technical field.
What jobs did you have before you worked with Rockets?
My parents operated a grocery and general merchandise store in a rural area. We lived in an apartment attached to the store so we could go directly from our hallway into the back of the store. My first real job was helping in the store. I would unpack and put new merchandise on the shelves and other duties as directed. In the winter, our apartment and the store were heated by coal burning heaters each of which required several buckets of coal each day. Refilling the coal buckets was one of my other duties.
During high school, I also had a summer job as a YMCA Councilor where I led a groups of 8 to 10 year old boys thru gym, swimming, and camping experiences.
During my first year at the University, I worked as an Office Boy in the University Education by Extension Department. This was also a “duties as directed” job that mainly 1
consisted of collecting and distributing memos and mail. There, I also got to learn how all the copying, printing, and mailing machines (now much outdated) worked. But they would not allow me to disassemble any of them.
QUESTIONS - About My Marriage and Family
Did you get married in Space?
Are you still married to your first wife?
Did you have a Space Theme marriage ceremony?
No, we had a simple traditional wedding ceremony in her parents living room with members of both our families in attendance. We are still married after more than 60 years.
Just how old are you and your wife?
I was born in 1937 and my wife in 1938; you do the math.
Do you have children and grandchildren?
Do any of them work for NASA?
3 Sons, 9 grand children, 5 great-grands; none work at NASA. First son is a Paramedic, Second son builds houses, Third son is a Forensic Toxicologist.
How did you make your story into a book?
On my computer, using my own typing skills, and a stapler.
What type of engineer was your wife?
Data Input Specialist & Domestic Engineer
QUESTIONS - About Becoming a Part of the Rocket Team
How did you go to college and work at the same time?
Was it hard to go to college and work at the same time?
What made you want to work for Redstone Arsenal and NASA?
Before I entered college, I had read several articles about the German rocket team, headed by Dr.Wernher von Braun, that came to the Unite States after World War II. I knew that they were helping our Army develop rockets, but I did not know were they were located. I had seen the movies about the possibility of space travel that Dr. von Braun had helped Walt Disney make.
In February 1956, I was in the 2nd semester class of Basic Physics when the Professor announced that he would not be lecturing that day because we had a guest who would tell us about a special opportunity for Physics students. The guest told us that he was there to recruit Co-Op Students to work at REDSTONE ARSENAL and that we would be working with Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of Rocket Scientists.
I had no idea what a “Co-Op Student” was or where “ REDSTONE ARSENAL” was, but I did know who Dr. Wernher von Braun was. I immediately became interested in everything he had to say. He explained that “Co-Op” was short for “Cooperative Training Program” where a student would attend school for a semester, then work for a semester, and continue to alternate that schedule until they graduated. I soon learned that REDSTONE ARSENAL was located a little over 100 miles away in North Alabama near the city Of Huntsville.
As he continued explaining the program and how we could become a part of it, I sat there contemplating what a blessing I was being offered. I had reached a crisis point in my hopes for a college education. My father had developed some major medical problems and had spent the last 4 months in and out of the hospital. He had sold his business and all the proceeds had gone to medical expenses. He was unable to work and it looked like I should get a job to help support the family. While my mother and I were praying for his return to health, he was praying for a way to keep me in school. As we looked back on that time we were convinced that God answered all of our prayers. I had been granted a way to continue in college and have some income to share with the family. My father began to regain his strength and was able to open a new business.
QUESTIONS - About Working in the Space Program
Why did you make Rockets?
What inspired you to build Rockets?
Did you build Rockets or tell other people to build rockets?
What did you do at work?
Did you test the SATURN Rockets?
Do you still work at NASA?
I began my job as a Co-Op Student with the ARMY BALLISTIC MISSILE AGENCY (ABMA) on June 5th 1956. I was assigned to a group that tested the unassembled parts of the rockets and then tested the entire rocket after it was assembled. ABMA was a large organization with many people doing basic research, many designing rockets and all the necessary support equipment, many using the designs to build the rockets and support equipment, and many others to test every thing that was built. I never actually designed or built a rocket but I did develop and implement test procedures. I did, at times, need to design special test equipment, but the manufacturing group would build it. The particular group that I was assigned to tested the measuring sensors and the telemetry system that radioed the data back to the ground.
The first rocket that I worked on was named the “REDSTONE ROCKET” because it was built on REDSTONE ARSENAL. The REDSTONE was basically a development project used to refine and advance the science of rocketry. It was fired in test stands and launched in various tests but never deployed or used in a war situation. A REDSTONE rocket was used to put up the first USA satellite, and a REDSTONE rocket was used to put the first USA man into space. It was also used to put up several other satellites.
Before my Co-oOp days were over we were testing the next generation rocket called JUPITER which was used to launch a series of small satellites. When fully developed, JUPITER missiles were deployed in a defensive mode along the European border with the Soviet Union. In May of 1959 I completed my studies and received a BS Degree in Mathematics and Physics.
After graduation I returned to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency as a full time employee, but the future status of the Army / von Braun team was uncertain. NASA had been established and was given the responsibility for all non-military aspects of space exploration and the Air Force had been given the responsibility for all long-range rocketry efforts.
The von Braun team were still Army employees and still developing short-range military rockets for the Army. The were also supporting NASA in its satellite projects. They had in
development plans for a much larger rocket, named SATURN, which could act as a weapon over a much longer distance and could also be used to put much larger satellites into orbit. At that point the SATURN looked like the best candidate to put up larger satellites and send men into long term orbit and possibly to the moon.
With 3 different modes of rockery under development, the lines of responsibilities and management were getting complicated. The decision was soon made to give the Air Force the responsibility for development of all long range rocket weapons; the Army would be responsible for battle field and short range rocket weapons; and NASA would be given the von Braun team and the responsibility to develop the SATURN for space exploration.
In September 1960 we gathered in the parking lot of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency Headquarters as President Eisenhower conducted a ceremony which transferred the von Braun group and its facilities to the newly created NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. We would no longer work on military rockets, but concentrate our efforts on civilian space vehicles. We were also preparing a REDSTONE Rocket to carry the first USA astronaut into space. In May 1961, Alan Shepard, flying on a Mercury-Redstone became the second person and the first American to travel into space. After processing 2 more Mercury-Redstones for sub orbital flights, we begin to concentrate our full efforts on the SATURN.
In 1963, President Kennedy gave NASA the goal of placing a man on the moon before the end of the decade. The next 7 years of my career was spent in the development, construction and testing of the SATURN series of rockets that were used to perform various missions in earth orbit and to support the Apollo Program which put 12 men on the Moon.
During the early phase of the Saturn-Apollo program I participated in the testing of the prototype and test units of the Saturn stages. Up to this point my work had been pretty much a hands on operation. We received the various instrumentation boxes, powered them up on a bench in the lab and determined that they were functioning as required before they were installed on the rocket Once all the wiring, plumbing and boxes were installed, we powered up the instrumentation system and determined that the total system was working properly. This required that someone actually climb all over and inside the rocket, locate each and ever gage
and determine it was properly mounted, then stimulate it to produce a signal that could be seen in the control room,
When the production of the man-rated units were turned over to American industry, I worked as a test and verification specialist with the NASA project offices that had oversight of the contractors.
QUESTIONS - About the Rockets and Spacecrafts
Why are there so many different SATURN Rockets of different sizes?
Which Rocket is better, SA-204 or SA-514?
What is the difference in SA-501 and SA-513?
Different rocket configurations had different jobs to do. The following chart shows different SATURN rockets and a list of some of the jobs they performed. 4
THE SATURN ROCKET SERIES
The SATURN was developed in 3 phases:
Phase 1 : SA - 1 thru SA - 9 were called the Saturn I series.
SA - 1 Sub-Orbital Test Flight - Launched with 1st stage active
SA - 4 Sub-Orbital Test Flight - Launched with 1st & 2nd stages active.
SA - 5 Orbital Test Flight - Launched with 1st, 2nd & 3rd stages active.
SA - 6 Manned Orbital Test Flight - Launched with 1st, 2nd & 3rd stages active. Service module, command Module, and escape tower attached. SA - 9 Manned Orbital Test Flight - Launched with 1st, 2nd & 3rd stages active. Service module, command Module, and escape tower attached.
Phase 2: SA - 201 thru SA 205 were called the Saturn IB series.
SA - 201 Manned Orbital Test Flight - Launched with 1st, 2nd & 3rd stages active. Lunar Lander, Service Module, Command Module, and Escape Tower attached.
SA - 203 Unmanned Orbital Flight - Launched with 1st, 2nd & 3rd stages active. Payload attached.
SA - 204 Unmanned Orbital Flight - Launched with 1st, 2nd & 3rd stages active. Payload attached.
SA - 205 Manned Orbital Flight - Launched with 1st, 2nd & 3rd stages active. Lunar Lander, Service Module, Command Module, and Escape Tower attached.
Phase 3: SA - 501 thru SA - 513 were called the Saturn V (5) series.
SA - 501 Manned Lunar Flight type. Launched with 1st, 2nd & 3rd stages active. Service Module, Command Module, and Escape Tower attached & active.
SA - 513 Unmanned SKYLAB Flight. Launched with 1st & 2nd stages active and SKYLAB components attached.
The three SATURN series of rockets provided the boosters for putting larger payloads into orbit and for all the testing and practice required to get ready to send the APOLLO Astronauts to the Moon. The Saturn-5 was then used for the missions to the Moon. In addition a Saturn-5 was used to place SKYLAB, the worlds first Space Station, into orbit. Then three SATURN-1Bs were used to carry the 3 crews to SKYLAB. A SATURN-1B was also used for the APOLLO-SOYUZ mission where an Apollo spacecraft, carrying a crew of three, was sent into orbit and docked with a SOYUZ spacecraft and its crew of two, thus demonstrating the ability for mutual rescues between the space programs of the two countries.
The SPACE SHUTTLE
The Space Shuttle program was the fourth human spaceflight program carried out by NASA. It accomplished routine transportation for Earth-to-orbit crews and cargo from 1981 to 2011. It flew 135 missions, helped construct the International Space Station, placed the Hubble Telescope and other satellites into orbit and provided a laboratory for many important experiments. The Space Shuttle was the world's first reusable spacecraft, launching like a rocket, orbiting like a spacecraft, and landing like a plane.
The European Space Agency supplied a laboratory module to fly in the payload bay of the SHUTTLE. This module was called SPACELAB. It had its genesis in SKYLAB and became the progenitor of the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION. I transferred to the NASA Program Office that had the responsibility of coordinating the SPACELAB-to-SHUTTLE interfaces. I worked in that position through the development phase of the SHUTTLE and SPACELAB.
HUNDREDS OF SPACE EXPERIMENTS
After the, SHUTTLE and SPACELAB became operational, I spent the next 12 years of my career in a Payload Integration Group. This group helped scientists get their equipment and experiments ready to fly on either the SPACELAB, the SHUTTLE, the Soviet SOYZU, and the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.
In this position I got to meet many of the interesting scientists who developed and conducted experiments in space. These experiments ranged across just about every scientific and engineering discipline; from human cellular study to the forming of metals in zero-gravity.
The last experiment that I worked on went to the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION in 2004. After that I finally retired from work with NASA. Later, I became a volunteer at the U. S. Space and Rocket Center where I really enjoy showing people around and telling them about the Space Program and my involvement in it.
What Rocket was launched first?
How long did it take to make the first rocket?
Historically, rockets were first mentioned in Chinese writings in the year 1232 AD. The Chinese used rockets for both warfare and entertainment. Dr. Robert Goddard, a USA scientist, launched the first modern rocket in 1935 AD. Dr. Goddard is recognized as the inventor of the liquid fueled rocket. The first launch of a REDSTONE Rocket occurred in June of 1957. From start of design to first launch, the REDSTONE Rocket took about 5 years.
What is the biggest rocket you know?
What is your favorite Rocket?
The biggest rocket that I know about is the SATURN-V (5). However, there are much bigger rockets under development. The SATURN-V is my favorite; it flew many missions and never had a major failure.
Is there more than a 1,000 wires in a Saturn Rocket?
Yes, much more than a thousand wires,
What is it like making Rockets, good or bad?
Did you always enjoy working at NASA - what was it like?
What was the favorite part of your job?
Well, I actually did not make rockets, but I did test them. I really could not have asked for a better job. But just like in life, there were good times and there were bad times. Thankfully the good times out weighed the bad times. We often had to work long hours; some times in uncomfortable conditions; sometimes we had to travel and be away from home. But when a test went well or we had a successful launch and mission, it was very rewarding and worth any trouble that we had.
It was always great when we ran tests where the tested item met the specification and the test went according to plans. But many times the test did not go as planned because either the test item was defective or our test procedures were not sufficient. We then went into trouble shooting mode: determined where and what the problem was, fixed the test item or rewrote the test procedure, and eventually ran a test that showed that the test item was ready for flight. Those times were the most satisfying part of my work.
Have you sent Rockets into Space?
We had launch crews that sent the rockets on their way.
Did you invent all of that?
No, and it would be hard to say who invented the rockets that I tested for there were thousands of inventions, by many different people, used in making the rockets. I did, however, manage the development of some unique test equipment.
Did all the Rockets go to the Moon?
The SATURN-V was the only rockets that sent men and machinery to the moon, but the SATURN-V itself did not make it to the moon. It provided the thrust and speed to send the Command Module, the Service Module and the Moon Lander to the moon, then it was cut loose and fell back to earth.
QUESTIONS - About Other Things
If Space Aliens exist, would you be able to tell me?
Probably not! Many of us involved in the USA Space Program were Sci-Fi fans and occasionally speculated about the existence of other worldly beings but it was never a major subject of discussion. If any evidence of aliens was ever found they did not tell us workers about it.
Did you work on the Moon Rover?
I did not work on the Moon Rover but I knew many of the people who did. 7
What does it take to be a Rocket Scientist?
An advanced college degree in one of the basic scientific or engineering fields would be a good start.
How much did you get paid when working?
NASA paid it workers at levels comparable with private industry and maybe a little better. I could afford a good house and good automobiles, I fed and clothed the family, took an occasional vacation, sent my children to college, and saved some money for retirement. We had a comfortable but not luxurious lifestyle.
Do you still work at the Space & Rocket Center Museum?
Do you like your job?
Very much so.
How are you so smart?
I read a lot, especially about how things work.
How much do you get paid in retirement?
I earned a good pension from NASA; I also saved a portion of each pay check and made a variety of investments. We live a comfortable debt free life.
I like the Redstone Rockets, do they still exist?
Yes, Redstone Rockets still exist but they are not active and most are now displayed in museum situations.
I would like to know more about NASA and maybe work there or some technical company that makes games.
I would like to learn more about Rockets, Missiles and Spacecraft.
I want a job like yours.
I want to be a Rocket Scientist like you.
Can I be a Rocket Scientist and a Marine?
There is a lot about NASA, Rockets, Missiles and Spacecraft on the INTERNET: that would be a good place to start. Also, there are several NASA Centers scattered all across the United States: all of them have tour programs and some will even send someone to your school to tell you about the work they do. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located near you in Pasadena, California.
The best preparation for a job with NASA or a technical company is a college education in engineering or one of the basic sciences. However, just like any big business, NASA employs people in many other types of jobs; so if you develop a skill in almost anything, from accounting, taking care of the facilities, or managing contracts, NASA may have a place for you. Many that worked for NASA also served in the military first. Some even continued in the military reserves as they worked for NASA.
I would like to go into Space.
There are two distinct jobs in Space. The first is the job of driving (operating) the
Spacecraft. The second is the job of performing experiments. Depending on their training and
experience, some people may be qualified in both of these areas and will actually work some
at both jobs while in space. The best route for being one who drives is to get a college education and then become a military pilot. The best route for being one who performs experiments in space is to get a college education in a specialized field of science and 8
get a reputation for doing a lot of good experiments on earth.
I would like to see a Space Ship.
I would like to visit the Space and Rocket Center Museum. There is a great museum near you. Check out the California Science Center, Air & Space Museum in los Angeles. There you can see one of the Space Shuttles that really went into space. If you can make it to Huntsville, Alabama, let me know and I will be happy to conduct your tour of the Space and Rocket Center Museum here.
QUESTIONS - About Space Travel
What is your favorite Planet?
Did you ever go into Space?
No, but a lot of other people have gone into space.
Did you travel to Jupiter?
No. No one has gone as far as Jupiter. However, several robotic probes have gone to Jupiter and sent back many pictures and much data.
Did you send people into Space?
Yes, I along with many others prepared the rockets that took them there.
Did you ever want to go into space?
Yes, it sounds like something I would like to do, but I knew that I did not have the training to go into space.
Do you know anyone that has gone into space?
Yes, I have worked with several astronauts and scientists that have gone to space.
What did it feel like in Space?
Strange, because much of the time you are almost weightless.
I heard that Space is really cool.
Was it fun traveling in Space?
Was it exciting?
I hope you had a great time?
It must be cool, fun, and exciting because everyone I know who
has gone to space wants to do it again.
What planet did they land on?
So far, the Moon is the only heavenly body that men have set foot on.
What ships were used to go into Space?
Each type of rockets and spacecraft that I worked on has been used to send men or equipment into space. Also, other organizations and countries have sent men and satellites into space with their own rockets.
STATEMENTS - Of Students
You sent me many questions in your letters, but some times you just made statements. I feel that I should make a response to some of your statements.
I want to be and do many things and am not sure what I should study.
I like to write and would like to write books about NASA and sell them.
I want to be a Scientist and an Inventor; I also want to be a Politician.
I would like to go the University of Alabama.
I want to be a game designer.
I like books - I like to read.
I love Science.
I Love Art.
At your age, it is not unusual to be unsure about what you want to do with your life. What is good is that your are thinking about it. Keep thinking about your future and what you want to do to make a living and to enjoy life. Listen, read, keep learning. Regardless of what classes you take you will find what you learn will probably be useful somewhere in your future. Besides just learning and working, get involved in what is going on around you; volunteer for something that helps others and your community. Find something to do with you spare time that helps you relax and feel good.
It is also not unusual for people to switch careers as they go thru life. Some people working in the space program were teachers or in the military before they came to work with NASA. Others left NASA to become teachers, to work in other technical fields, to start their own business, or to pursue some other career. Many, like me are volunteering and writing down our memories for our children and grandchildren. MY story may even get published.
Other Areas of Science and Life
How is Iron made?
The simple answer is: By heating Iron Ore in a very hot furnace.
Is the Moon made of granite?
No. We have discovered that it is actually made of green cheese covered with a grey mold. **** Now, I hope you realize that is NOT TRUE. The Moon seems to be made of materials much like the Earth, but in different proportions.
How was life created?
Exploration of Space has not answered that question. In fact, scientific exploration of Earth has not answered that question. What we do know is that Earth is the only place where we have observed LIFE. And here on Earth we have observed it abundantly. Many people are still looking for the answer from both a scientific and a philosophical / religious viewpoint.
Most scientific speculators start with a microbe spontaneously forming in a swamp (or arriving from outer space) and then, over billions of years, evolving into all the life we observe today.
Many philosophical / religious speculators assume a Supreme Being started it all. One of the most popular versions is the story told in Chapter 1 of Genesis in the Bible.
So far, we have no hard “scientific result” to prove any of the speculations. Personally, I go with the Genesis version,“In the beginning, God.”
STATEMENTS - About War, Cold War, Bombs, and Bullets
Did you build Rockets for Space exploration and for War?
Are you still working on bombs because World War III is coming?
Who made the bombs?
How did the Army build Nukes?
The first rockets that I worked on, the REDSTONE, was designed to carry bombs. It was also recognized that it would be capable of putting satellites into orbit. After the Russians put up the Earth’s first manmade satellite, the army organization that I worked for was asked to use the REDSTONE rocket to put up a satellite for the United States. That effort was a success. The USA and he Russians continued to put up other satellites. Our president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, wisely decided that he USA’s ventures into space should be for peaceful purposes, like exploration and science, and not for military purposes. Therefore, NASA was formed and our organization was transferred from the Army to NASA. After that our group no longer worked on rockets to deliver bombs.
The Army has continued to develop the necessary rocketry and explosive devices for the purposes of war. In fact, the major part of that development is done at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama, but I know none of the details about that work.
Can you tell me more about World War I, World War II, and the Cold-War?
If the Cold-War was a war, why were there no bullets fired?
Do you think we will end up in a Cold-War again or maybe a shooting war?
Are you scared about war?
I am scared of World War III.
I was born just a few years before World War II (WW-II), so I was not around for WW-I and was a child during WW-II. I was a teenager during the Korean War and a young adult during the Viet Nam War. I have not studied much about war because I was busy getting my scientific education and working in the Space program. On the occasions, that I have been interested in a particular aspect of those wars, I turned to the libraries and found books about them. You will find that much has been written and is waiting for one who will take the time to read. Reading about things of the past is much easier now that we have the internet.
For most of my life, it has been said that the united States and Russia have been in a Cold-War. So what is a Cold-War? It has basically been the United States and Russia not liking what the other is doing in the world. So we fuss and call each other names and and take opposite sides in small wars fought by other nations. We do that because we both possess terrible weapons that if used in an-all-out-war could destroy much of our civilization. It is a scary situation and it merits our concern but there is not much that the ordinary citizen can do to make it better, but we have avoided that all-out-war for about 70 years. Any war is scary, so let us hope and pray out leaders keep us out of future conflicts.
Each of us have probably participated in some little Cold-Wars of our own. Let me give a simple example: You are angry at a sibling for breaking something that belongs to you. You are so mad that you would like to smack them upside the head, but you know that would bring you some trouble. As you walk thru the house you see a pair shoes that he thinks he has lost. You could say. “Here are your shoes.” but instead you kick them under the sofa where he might not find them for weeks. Now that is a cold war.
STATEMENTS - Other
I would like to meet you.
I wish I could meet all of you who sent me letters. I also wish that I had time to answer each of your letters individually, but I would not get them finished before this school term is over.
Albert Einstein used to be my favorite scientist, but now you are my favorite.
Do not give up on Mr. Einstein, he was a real scientist. He studied and explained things about the nature of the universe that still boggle my mind.
I was classified as aTest Engineer and I think I was good at that. There are hundreds of other engineering classification and we needed them all to carry out our missions in the Space Program.
Can I be as hardworking as you?
A wise man once said, “Find work you love and you will never work a day in your life.” As you move forward with you education, give special attention to the things that you really enjoy studying, but do not neglect the required studies that are not all that enjoyable. Hopeful when you enter the workforce, it will be in work you can enjoy and be proud of. Just remember that in all study and work there can be joy but somedays it will also be drudgery. Always strive to do your best in study and work whether it be joy or drudgery.
I loved reading your book and learning about you.
I would like to read more about you.
Are You planning on writing more books?
Yes, I am working on a book about my life and career.
Keep asking questions, keep studying,
Willie Weaver, NASA Test Engineer, Retired