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GE Phone Home: GE Technology Helped Fly Humans to the Moon

NASA attached a GE jet engine to the Lunar Lander Test Vehicle to simulate the moon’s weaker gravity.

It was 44 years ago last Saturday that Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s boots touched the surface of the moon for the first time. Those soft boots and other systems supporting NASA’s Apollo missions relied on solid GE engineering.

GE scientists developed the silicon rubber for the moonwalking boots and the super-strong plastic for the visors of Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s helmets. They also built the Apollo program’s radio command and guidance equipment, and tested Apollo 11’s command and lunar modules. “With so much riding on this one, an extra effort was made to solve all the problems, no matter how insignificant,” said Earl Wayne Turner, GE test director for Apollo. “This one had to be absolutely clean.”

A total of 6,000 GE employees from 37 different operations helped NASA run the Apollo program between 1961 and 1972 and send 24 people to the moon and back.

GE and NASA keep working together. Carbon fiber blades developed for NASA’s “unducted turbofan” jet engine now serve on GE’s most advanced engines like the GEnx. Crews on the International Space Station are using a GE ultrasound device to study the impact of microgravity on Astronaut vision loss, which is still poorly understood. Take a look at our slideshow.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong went for a walk in boots made from GE silicone rubber. imageLeading up to liftoff, GE computers were continuously monitoring vital booster systems on Apollo 11’s huge Saturn rocket. imageGE engineers ground-tested Apollo 11’s command and lunar modules. NASA attached a GE jet engine to the Lunar Lander Test Vehicle to simulate the moon’s weaker gravity. imageGE’s ship-to-satellite system provided the first simultaneous live transmission of color TV images, newspaper copy and radio commentary from Apollo 11’s splash-down and recovery in the Pacific. imageWhile the astronauts slept on the moon, GE engineers examined a broken switch on a circuit breaker critical to the startup of the lunar module’s ascent engine. The circuit closed, the engine fired, and Armstrong (pictured) and Aldrin went home. imageNASA used GE displays to receive pictures of Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the moon. imageThe visors of the astronauts’ helmets were made from Lexan, a transparent, super-strong plastic developed by GE Global Research (GRC). imageGRC also developed a new geological dating technique for analyzing Apollo 11 moon rocks. GE was one of two private companies selected to study lunar samples and search for clues about the formation of the solar system.

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