Retired rocket scientist to share memories of Apollo launches

Retired NASA physicist Don Cooper.

NASA launched Apollo 11 to the moon 44 years ago. What exactly did it take to accomplish this successful, history-making mission? Hear a behind-the-scenes account from one of the NASA scientists who helped make that dream a reality, at a special program at Fort Bend County Libraries’ Missouri City Branch Library on Saturday, October 19, beginning at 2:00 pm, in the Meeting Room of the library, located at 1530 Texas Parkway.

In the program “Have Rocket, Will Travel,” retired NASA physicist Don Cooper will share his experiences creating the technology that helped launch Apollo 11 in 1969, and the efforts that his team went through to successfully bring the Apollo 13 crew home safely in 1970. Cooper will also discuss the history of U.S. rockets, and his role in designing the Saturn V ascent guidance and trans-lunar targeting equations that would help make space travel possible.

An Oklahoma native, Cooper became fascinated with math and science while still in high school. He attended Oklahoma Baptist University, where he majored in physics and mathematics with a minor in chemistry. His career after college took him to Huntsville, Alabama, where he worked at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center on NASA’s Apollo program, developing the targeting equations to guide the manned spacecraft from earth orbit to the moon. His career then led him to Houston’s Johnson Spaceflight Center, which would later become known as the Johnson Space Center. During his years there, Cooper worked on eight Apollo missions, the Atlas Centaur, the Air Force Dyna-Soar, and the Mars rocket NOVA. For the Apollo 13 mission, he provided the trans-lunar coast abort options to Houston Mission Control.

Cooper retired from NASA in 2002, and soon found a new calling – that of encouraging a new generation of students to pursue a future in the physical sciences. He enjoys speaking to youth groups, community organizations, schools and colleges, hoping to inspire the technology leaders of the future.

“Students do not know much about Apollo since it all happened before they were born,” says Cooper. “My objective is to show them how it happened, emphasize that education is essential, and show how math and physics solve real-world problems.”

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call the branch library at 281-238-2100 or the library’s Public Information Office at 281-341-2677.

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