Looking Up to Those Who Made the Original Moonshot a Reality – and Looking at How We Can Start to Realize the New One
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch and moon landing. So it’s a good time to honor the people who contributed to Apollo 11’s success.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong did just that in concluding the final television broadcast from Apollo 11 the night before it splashed down into the Pacific Ocean. He thanked the people “… who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their hearts and all their abilities into [the] craft.”
Armstrong was referring to those who not only accepted President John F. Kennedy’s famous 1961 moonshot challenge of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth” by the end of that decade – but also worked to carry out the mission to what was then near-fruition. That group included many people who worked for Sperry Rand Corporation and its divisions – especially the UNIVAC computer unit. The company later merged with Burroughs Corporation to become Unisys, which still serves NASA today.
Forest Crowe, who was then vice president and general manager of UNIVAC Federal Systems, delivered this letter to his team the day Apollo 11 completed its mission. The letter notes that making the Apollo 11 mission a success “took the combined skill and capabilities of literally thousands” of company employees.
The Apollo program involved more than 300,000 people throughout the world. Each has their own story.
One of those from Sperry was Don Mager. Don worked on the UNIVAC 1230 that handled deep-space telemetry for Apollo 11 at 18 land- and sea-based locations around the world. He remembered what a relief it was when the computer was loaded onto a semi for shipment, saying: “It felt like 1,000 pounds had been lifted off my back.”
Steve Anderson, who celebrated his 50th anniversary as a Unisys associate in February, also contributed to Apollo 11. During the mission, Steve operated a UNIVAC 494 that served as a hot-standby backup to the 494s in the command communications network. “Although we were on the edge of our chairs worrying about a failure, no problem occurred,” Steve recalls. “I don’t recall touching the operator console because I feared I might accidentally cause a problem.”
Retired Unisys associate Keith Sorvari contributed to NASA efforts, too. He was on-site in the Houston area five years before Apollo 11, when the Johnson Space Center – home of Mission Control – “was still under construction . . . and out in the middle of nowhere, with only a 7-Eleven [store] and one motel in the immediate area. The Gemini astronauts [Apollo predecessors] had just taken up residence in the area (with their fast Corvettes for Texas highways).”
I would like to encourage anyone who is inspired, as I am, by the people who made the original moonshot happen to follow in their footsteps by taking part in the new one.
The Cybersecurity Moonshot aims to make the internet safe and secure by 2028 for the delivery of critical services. Like the Apollo 11 mission, the Cybersecurity Moonshot will require great people and hard work. But, as Apollo 11 taught all of us, visionary yet pragmatic contributions from dynamic people can help us all reach new heights.
How can you help? As I suggest in my new opinion piece in the Philadelphia Business Journal, get involved. The best way to start is to download the Cybersecurity Moonshot report and read it with a critical eye. The next step will be to insert yourself into the dialogue. We created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on our informational site that lets you see what others are thinking, ask questions and make suggestions. Past moonshot-like efforts have shown us the value of being open to helpful ideas and encouraging active discussions.
But don’t delay. Become an early adopter. Become an early influencer. Become an early ambassador. Now. Because it’s clear that the only way we will reach the new moonshot’s goal is the same way we reached the last one’s: together, one story at a time.