Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes

By Billy Watkins | Go to book overview

7 HUGH BROWN
Telemetry and Communications, Kennedy
Space Center

They were out there: Russian submarines, sneaking around off the coast of Florida, trying to jam NASA's communications and tracking systems during Apollo launches, desperately hoping to sabotage America's race to the moon. Hugh Brown knows it the way a parent senses when his or her child is in danger. And enemy submarines aren't foreign objects to Brown, who flew reconnaissance missions in the 1950s along the east coast of the United States in the Air Force's RC-121 Constellation.

Other members of the Apollo launch team are convinced of it, too. Even the astronauts say they had heard rumors the Russians had tracking ships near the Cape during launches to collect data and study American technology.

“One of the things we had found during liftoff on a couple of the early Apollo missions was that when the astronauts would speak, their transmissions would cut out—not completely, but they were garbled at times,” says Brown, a telemetry and communications specialist at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) during Apollo and an expert in electronic countermeasures, having worked with the Air Force for four years and with International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT) for five. “With the intricate “communication” system we had, there was no reason that should be happening. … So the question was, what was causing it?

“Initially, we had no inkling. But we did find out, through our tracking systems, that there were Russian submarines in the area. They were in International Waters, so it wasn't like we could keep them out of there. But jamming our systems certainly would've been in their best interest,

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