One Giant Leap ~ Celebrating Apollo 11: Sheldon Buck

July 20, 2019

By Meredith McCulloch

Sheldon Buck graduated from MIT in 1958 with a degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics; he worked at MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, Earth and Planetary Science Department, and then The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, now Draper Lab.

He writes, “My early work at the MIT Instrumentation Lab was performing missile guidance work for US Air Force programs: Atlas, Titian 2, and Minuteman 3. “Polaris became the core of Apollo,” he explained. “The concepts we learned on Polaris basically were the key points up through Apollo.”

I transferred to Apollo during the summer of 1966 before the Apollo 1 fire.  I returned to US Air Force missile guidance work during the mid-1970s to complete the Peacekeeper program at the Draper Lab.”

The management team that designed the Polaris missile guidance system transferred to Apollo at the start in the early 1960s.  “My primary supervisor, Philip N. Bowditch, also joined at that time and was responsible for designing the Apollo space sextant.”  Later Buck’s primary Apollo role was as Technical Director for the Lunar Transfer Gravimeter Experiment, which flew on Apollo 17 in December 1972. During that time he trained the Apollo 17 crew and performed all the instrument data reduction at mission control in Houston, TX during the flight.

Thinking about the moon landing, Buck said that when he looked at the pictures of Earth taken from Apollo, he could see how thin the atmosphere is. “Earth is the only planet we have for human survival. Going to another body is not a solution, “he said. “If we want to survive, we better protect it.”

Editor’s Note: Meredith McCulloch has sought out individuals with Bedford connections who were part of NASA’s Apollo program – Click this link to learn more about her project – each of the interviews will appear separately, under the individual’s name, and will be collected in a single reference document once all are posted.

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