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The Crow Connection

Glen Crow

     After graduating from high school in 1949 I went to St, Louis where Bob and Lorene found work for me as a billing clerk for a trucking company. In the spring of 1950 I came home and worked with dad on the farm. In the fall of 1950 I went to Flint Michigan with Paul and Ruby and we stayed with the Whiteheads (Ruby’s parents). I worked at a Chevrolet assembly plant until spring, when I returned home for a short time and joined the Navy in June of 1951.

     The Navy put me through the Aviation Electronics technician school, and I worked in this area until June of 1955. While in school in Memphis I married my high school sweetheart Clara Lee Tripp on July 4, 1951 at the home of Reverend John Coates. Dad got the marriage license for us at Bloomfield, and mom told Clara and me to "always be good to each other". We’ve tried. We were living in Sanford, Florida when Bruce was born at the Pinecastle Air Force station in south Orlando about 5 miles from his present home. Louis and I were stationed together at Sanford for about 10 Months when I was transferred to Kingsville Texas. I was in Kingsville, Texas when my Navy enlistment ended, and I enrolled at the Texas Arts and Industries College pursuing an electrical engineering degree.

     During college Clara worked at the Durham Music store, I had the benefit of the GI bill, and I also worked about 30 hours a week helping maintain the transmitter for the local radio station. I would take Bruce with me to the radio station and one day a tornado hit Robstown, Texas and it must have came close to our building which was really shaking, dust came in through the floor and around the window sills making it very scary. We rented our 2-bedroom house for $45. Robert and Robie Quinn visited us here while checking out cotton-picking equipment. I also killed a rattlesnake while mowing the yard. I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1959, and accepted employment with General Electric, light military division in Utica New York.

     I worked on the Polaris program testing the guidance system components before installation in the vehicle. I later changed to the Skybolt program and was responsible for the special purpose computer used in the missile when the program was cancelled due to " vehicle complexity" supposedly. We successfully launched a Skybolt from a B52 down the Caribbean Range as President Kennedy and England’s Prime Minister McMillan were meeting in the Bahamas. (Britain was our partner in this program). I heard Kennedy make a speech to the troops at Eglin Air Force Base (Fort Walton Beach, fl) when he visited during the Cuban crisis.

     I joined NASA when the program was cancelled in March of 1963. Scott was within a month of being born when we moved to Cocoa, Florida so I was keeping track of the nearest hospitals during the trip. NASA was stepping up the space race with the Mercury (1-man vehicle) program and the Gemini vehicle (2-man vehicle) was being built and tested. I was hired to follow the design of the Guidance and Navigation system being designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the future moon landing, Apollo program. I was at their Cambridge, Mass. Campus when the big electrical blackout of the northeast occurred in the mid 1960s. It was difficult returning to the Madison hotel across the St. Charles River to Boston without the traffic lights working. I was on the 14th floor and had to go up the stairs since the elevators couldn’t be used. I could see several emergency vehicles and traffic cops from my room.

     Dick Scobbie (Commander for the ill-fated challenger flight) worked closely with our shuttle flight control group during the early phases of test planning.

     I witnessed the two NASA vehicle disasters that stopped the programs for extensive investigations. We had three vehicles being tested when the Apollo fire took the lives of Grissom, Chaffee, and White on the launch pad. I was in an adjacent control room performing tests on another Apollo vehicle and we had a TV monitoring the vehicle on the pad and could see the smoke coming from the capsule.

     During the Shuttle Challenger final launch, I was the NASA representative for the flight control systems during launch checkout. After liftoff we monitored the flight data which stopped updating and we looked to the video monitor on our console and saw the disaster occurring. Scott and Clara saw the occurrence from their vantage point on the Indian River. There was complete silence in the control room until the launch director notified all personnel to leave all support documentation and notebooks and exit the control room. The shuttle vehicle has many redundant methods to perform the numerous actions that must occur to have a successful flight making it many times safer than the earlier programs.

     The highlight of my career was working on Apollo eleven, the first Lunar Lander. During checkout, we had meetings with the crew (Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins) to make them aware of all checkout problems and their resolutions. During the mission, we brought up the consoles at the Kennedy Space Center to follow the lunar landing data, and the communication between the Lunar Lander and the Manned Space center, Houston. I was responsible for the pre-launch checkout of the Guidance System on the Lunar Lander for this mission and had the Altitude versus Time plotted so that I could follow the descent to touchdown. The Houston capsule commentator provided a periodic "fuel time remaining" update to the crew during the final portion of the landing and I believe there was less than 10 seconds at touchdown. While landing, they were nearing the lunar surface when they stopped and performed a translation maneuver to a smooth landing site. The control room roared when the touchdown indicator was received, and Armstrong said the Eagle has landed.

     My final four years with NASA was a first shift only job. I was the project office chairman for the Ground support equipment used to check out the shuttle vehicle. This included new equipment required in testing the vehicle, and modifications to existing equipment due to test problems or changes to the vehicles under test.

     Since I retired we have had more time for camping. We particularly like to camp at springs where we can skin dive (mask and snorkel) with our favorite being Juniper Springs in Ocala National Park. Jetty Park at nearby Cape Canaveral is another of our favorites. We enjoy the Smokey Mountains and have spent many vacation weeks through the years from Georgia to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. My family goes to Lake Lure, N.C. the last of October to see the mountains and the turning of the leaves. We were at Lake Lure the first week in April 1997 and saw the Dogwood and azaleas blooming and this was as spectacular as the changing of the fall leaves.


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