I have spoken to many different audiences over the past several decades about my experiences as a test pilot and astronaut. A centerpiece of my commentary is on the Apollo 13 mission, which received great notoriety through the Hollywood movie of that dramatic rescue. I find it a great subject in my public appearances to highlight the ingredients that make for success: having the right people and the right training, and working together as a team with the right leadership. I make it a point to ask if anyone in the audience knows the number of people who worked at the peak of the Apollo moon program. The answers I receive are always numbers fewer than 100,000. It is apparent that not many people really appreciate the true size of the team and brain trust that enabled us to travel to the moon. The workforce peaked at over 400,000 people a year or so before we achieved the first landing on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Of course, I have noted that a large number of the people I speak to today either were not yet born at the time of the Apollo program or were too young to remember it. The media attention has focused on the astronauts who fly and on mission control personnel who are the visible “real time” participants during the missions. Behind the scenes, solutions to many of the problems that arose during missions leaned on talent from NASA centers and their contractors across the country. Such was clearly the case during my Apollo 13 flight, which offered the team across the country a suite of challenges to be worked out.
But years before the final act—that is, the launch—the team was at work on the design, the manufacturing, the ground testing, and finally the launch prep at Kennedy Space Center. Through this process the team