Fly Me To The Moon: Apollo 11 And The Unsung Hero Who Made It Happen

Fly Me To The Moon: Apollo 11 And The Unsung Hero Who Made It Happen

5:01pm Jul 08, 2019
Dr. John C. Houbolt at work as a consultant with Aeronautical Research Association.
Arthur Schatz/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s blastoff.

The mission landed the first two people on the Moon — Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. But it wouldn’t have been a success without one key figure: NASA engineer John C. Houbolt, who’s been merely a footnote in much of Apollo history.

Long before NASA knew it would send humans to the Moon, Houbolt was working to convince leaders and colleagues that he knew how to get there. His landmark idea was called lunar-orbit rendezvous (LOR), which entailed linking two spacecraft in orbit in order to ensure a smooth and successful landing. LOR had never been attempted, and Houbolt’s colleagues dismissed him.

But Houbolt was spot on, and with a little rule and rank-breaking, he eventually convinced NASA’s leading engineers that he was onto something. And the rest, is history.

We speak with Todd Zwillich, the author of a new audiobook called The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon, about Houbolt’s groundbreaking work.

Show produced by Kathryn Fink.


Todd Zwillich, Political journalist; radio host; author, “The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon”; @toddzwillich

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