218 – A Life in Apollo
Gast: George Knudsen Host: Markus Voelter Shownoter: Alexander Grote
George Knudsen started working in 1958 on the Redstone missile, and moved on to working on the Atlas ICBM. Later he worked on the Saturn 5 launch vehicle, where he was responsible for the fuel tanks. He was on the launch team at Cape Canaveral for various Apollo missions. In this episode with talk with George about his work in this fascinating period of science and engineering history.
Introduction of George Knudsen00:03:10
V2 | General Dynamics | PGM-11 Redstone | Short-range ballistic missile | Relay Logic | SM-65_Atlas | Titan rockets | Multistage rocket
Saturn Moon Programm00:25:12
Cryogenic rocket engine | North American Aviation | Saturn V | Engine Actuators | Kennedy’s rice stadium moon speech | Atlas V | RD-180 Engine | J2 Engine | Pressure regulator | Countdown | Nasa Mission Control | Launch Control | Liquid Helium
Wernher von Braun never admitted his personal involvement in the Nazi slave labor system in the american public. There is plenty of evidence that he was involved to some extent. However, he never talked or wrote openly and honestly about these aspects of his life.
At least this point for me is ethically not acceptable.
Beyond that: I really love to hear about the history of science and technology
Very interesting episode! I would like to hear more of those ‘behind the scenes’/real life stories. While the high gloss stories are always very impressive and everyone appears to be brilliant, I think, to see with which normal problems they had to struggle gives always a much better understanding how big the challenge really was. Most of the big science/technology projects were not just a brilliant idea, letting the idea become reality, with all the problems and hick-ups, is often the bigger endeavor.
At 1:12.50 George Knudsen mentions the von Braun biography and ‘Stages to Saturn’. Anyone who knows exactly which biography he refered to?
Great episode! Thanks.
I think it is this one, sorry for not linking to it in the shownotes: https://www.amazon.de/Stages-Saturn-Technological-History-Vehicles/dp/0813026911
I agree, this is problematic.
There are more than one von Braun biographies, but I presume he was talking about ‘Space frontier’ by Werner von Braun himself, in which he describes in not too much technical detail the challenges for space projects and how they overcame them step by step at NASA. But be aware that this book saw since 1952 multiple editions, last one in the 70s (for Apollo), to expand and update it again and again. The German editions are from the 70s and 80s and running under the titel of ‘Bemannte Raumfahrt’ and are a bit easier to get. But please don’t expect too much from this book, it is not a book on project management. But maybe George Knudsen was talking about another book.
George and Marcus,
Excellent historical chat about engineering and getting things done. I’ve sent it to all my ‘rocket’ friends and a cousin who grew up in Mims FL (Brevard county) in the 60s. His father might have been at North American as well.
Thanks Matthias and Craig :-)
Hey, I want to thank you for this particular episode. Brought back a lot of childhood memories. I had Saturn V models and many books about the moon landing, Wernher van Braun, etc. I visited the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral already twice. Had official tickets for a Shuttle launch but they messed it up and postponed it. Bad luck for me. Great to hear from someone who worked there. I always wondered how they could go to the moon so fast and successfully and later they were in trouble with the Shuttle almost every time. The spirit of all those engineers from those glory days and van Braun’s supervision must have been the key element here. George kind of confirmed that for me.
I understand that you do not want to turn into a history podcast. However, such types of episodes every now and then are really awesome. Thanks.
Thanks John. I am indeed planning something similar about the DEW line.
Your show is with out a doubt the best podcast on the magic mirror.Markus thanks to you and the people who work with you . I only wish that the German language editions were converted in text to English, but what the hell. Again my thanks
Thank you Steven :-)
Hi, I have now skimmed the book “Space Frontier” by von Braun. I don’t think this was the book referred to, at least I was looking for the leadership/management part in the space program. The book mainly contains theoretical and technical explanations and reflections, which might be of historical interest to the science and engineering people in here. The book that I’m going to try out next at the library is by Bob Ward, called “Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun”. Cheers again!
Great episode indeed! I would really appreciate adding more episodes of this type. As for countdown and Cape Kennedy facilities, there are two fantastic books on that topic byJonathan Ward, “Countdown to a Moon Launch: Preparing Apollo for Its Historic Journey” and “Rocket Ranch: The Nuts and Bolts of the Apollo Moon Program at Kennedy Space Center”.
One tiny nitpick – around 20 minute mark there goes some talk about using the surplus Atlases in Gemini program with the Centaur upper stage. In fact, Atlas was used as a launcher for Agena target vehicles (Gemini spacecraft would rendezvous and dock with these) where Agena itself functioned as the stack’s upper stage. The version with Centaur was used for unmanned probes like Surveyor, Mariner and Pioneer.
However, Atlas-D had a good stint as a launcher of Mercury orbital flights.
Thanks again for this website, often I cannot wait for another wonderful episode to show up!
I would also be curious to know which Von Braun biography George recommends, as there are many.
I have asked George to provide the details of the bio he mentioned.
Alright, so here is the bio George mentioned: https://www.amazon.com/Von-Braun-Dreamer-Space-Engineer/dp/0307389375/
I concur Markus, the historical aspect of these podcasts is fascinating. You are essentially collecting oral history of some amazing developments of technology. This is a service to the world at large. Keep it up. To bad you couldn’t interview Von Braun himself. You missed that opportunity by about 40 years.