Keynote event celebrates space exploration

A crowd that filled this hotel’s main ballroom Sunday evening celebrated engineering, honored several American icons, and listened to an intriguing story of teamwork, perseverance, and ingenuity told by a living hero.

It all came under the theme of “Space Exploration: Commemorating the Past, Envisioning the Future.”

On hand to celebrate with ASME were Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, and T.K. Mattingly, an astronaut originally scheduled to fly on Apollo 13 but who instead played a pivotal role in safely returning the mission’s astronauts to Earth.

Dr. Buzz Aldrin

In recognition of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, ASME President Amos Holt and Immediate Past President Thomas Barlow presented one of ASME’s most prestigious prizes, the ASME President’s Award, to the crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.

In accepting his award, Aldrin stirred the crowd by his presence and his words. His remarks emphasized the importance of engineering and teamwork. He said the Apollo 11 mission succeeded only because of the commitment to cooperation exhibited by countless engineers behind the scenes. He credited engineers and scientists for the success of the overall space program.

Aldrin also urged everyone in the room to continue to dream beyond the Moon. But behind every dream, he said, lies the good work of engineers.

Dr. Buzz Aldrin with a reprint of an article from Mechanical Engineering magazine.

In his introduction, Thomas Barlow said of Aldrin: “In 1963 he was one in the third group of astronauts named by NASA. He flew with Jim Lovell onboard Gemini 12 and, at the time, set a new record for extravehicular activity spending five-and-a-half hours outside the spacecraft. In 1969 he served as lunar module pilot for Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission. He followed Neil Armstrong onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, completing a two-hour and 15-minute walk on the Moon. When all was said and done at the end of his NASA career, he logged a total of 289 hours and 53 minutes in space.”

The crowd jumped to its feet at the sight of Aldrin and greeted him with a standing ovation.

Dr. Neil Armstrong in a videotaped message.

Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins were unable to attend the ceremony, but Armstrong sent a videotaped acceptance. He thanked ASME and the Society’s president, Amos Holt, for the prestigious award and also spoke of the critical role engineers play in space exploration and in everyday life.

Immediate Past President Thomas M. Barlow

In a prelude to another presentation, ASME Executive Director Thomas Loughlin said to the audience: “From a storied and historic past which set the foundation for current-day achievements and milestones in space exploration—to envisioning the future of human exploits in space, ASME members have and continue to play a pivotal role in providing technological knowledge and innovation at NASA and to the related aerospace industries.”

ASME Executive Director Thomas G. Loughlin

Then Loughlin introduced ASME member and NASA Mission Specialist “Danny” Olivas who returned recently from space onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

In a video message, Olivas, who called himself a “proud” ASME member since 1991, described his recent flight some 220 miles above the Earth. Among Discovery’s payload of laboratory and experimental equipment was an ASME patch created to commemorate his shuttle flight. The patch flew on the mission and returned to Earth with Olivas.

T.K. Mattingly then delivered a 50-minute keynote address emphasizing the importance of a systems engineering approach to solving technology problems.

Admiral T.K. Mattingly

ASME President Amos E. Holt

He kept the audience captivated by anecdotes related to the safe return of Apollo 13, after the ill-fated mission endangered the lives of the three crew members.

Mattingly’s role in Apollo 13 was depicted in the movie of the same name. Mattingly later went to the Moon as part of Apollo 16.

ASME President Holt said Mattingly’s life story is “one of the most inspiring examples of teamwork and crisis management in recent memory.”

3 Responses to “Keynote event celebrates space exploration”

  1. 1 Mary Grace Stefanchik
    November 19, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Nice photos from the keynote! That was a great event.

    Good luck with the blog!


    • November 20, 2009 at 3:14 pm

      Mary Grace,
      Thank you for the kind words. I still have a few more postings from Congress to write, then we’ll transition it to a more general blog and discuss other matters realated directly to ASME, and some non so. John

  2. November 29, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Mr John,
    Nice blog.. hope to see you more frequently here..
    I too had a paper accepted at the conference and i wish i could attend it. only if i didn’t had exams on same days…

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The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

November 2009

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