Great Engineers & Scientists Blog

Great Engineers & Scientists

In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." In this blog, we take Newton's words to heart, and recognize the many great engineers and scientists upon whose shoulders we stand.

So who do you think of when you hear "Great Engineer"? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add him or her to the pantheon. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

Previous in Blog: Happy Birthday, Srinivasa Ramanujan!   Next in Blog: Happy Birthday, Julio Garavito Armero!
Close
Close
Close
3 comments

Gerald Ford: From Project Nike to NASA and Beyond

Posted December 28, 2006 3:57 PM by Steve Melito
Pathfinder Tags: December 26 July 14

Most of the media coverage surrounding the death of President Gerald R. Ford has focused, understandably, upon Watergate and the Vietnam War – twin events which lead many observers to view the past through a lens, darkly. While leaving the broader, brighter scope of Gerald Ford's legacy to others, I would like to invite readers of "The Y Files" to consider the President's presence on matters of science and technology. From Project Nike to the birth of NASA and beyond, Gerald R. Ford was there from the beginning.

Elected to Congress in 1948, Gerald Ford was a 35-year old Navy veteran who rose from membership on the House Public Works Committee to chairman of an important House Appropriations subcommittee on defense spending. During the 1950s, Congressman Ford watched tests of Project Nike, a U.S. Army program which developed America's first operational anti-aircraft missile. Back in Washington, Ford's legislative support ensured continued funding for the program during a period of inter-agency squabbling between the Army and the Air Force. Later, NASA modified the first-stage of the Nike-Ajax solid rocket booster for upper atmospheric research, an important step on the space agency's path to the moon.

Although Ford eventually lost his Congressional chairmanship, he was named to the Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration in 1957, after the Soviet Union stunned observers with the launch of Sputnik I. With Ford's help, the Select Committee hammered out the details of landmark legislation that President Dwight D. Eisenhower eagerly signed into law. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) completed its first lunar landing in 1969, an event which prompted then-President Richard M. Nixon to remark that "any culture which can put a man on the moon is capable of gathering all the nations of the earth in peace, justice, and concord."

Nixon's legacy, the "long national nightmare" of Watergate, provided Ford with the first of many challenges upon assuming the presidency in August 1974. Along the way, however, the new president earned front-row seats to happier events. In July 1975, President Ford spoke with American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts aboard the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a joint mission between the Cold War rivals. A year later, President Ford watched Viking I land on Mars, a mission which prompted him to remark how "in the span of a single lifetime, the exploration of air and space has grown from the dreams of a very, very few individuals to such a massive cooperative reality." The successful landing of Viking II and the launch of additional interplanetary probes prompted President Ford to further praise space exploration as "a major contribution to our quality of life and economic growth".

Ford's years as President bridged the gap between the end of NASA's Apollo program and the beginning of the Space Shuttle era. In addition to supporting continued funding for the shuttle, Ford attended the rollout of the first test orbiter in September of 1976. Although America's first reusable space vehicle was supposed to be named Constitution, President Ford deferred to the thousands of Star Trek fans who sent letters to the White House, asking for the new ship to be named Enterprise. Americans also enjoyed President Ford's presence when he attended the opening of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, calling the new facility "a perfect birthday present" for the nation.

Rest in peace, President Ford.

Steve Melito - The Y Files

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Commentator

Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 83
Good Answers: 1
#1

Re: Gerald Ford: From Project Nike to NASA and Beyond

12/29/2006 10:39 AM

President Ford is an example of what politicians should be but often aren't--workers for the good of the country, not just self promoters. His courageous decisions during a critical time for our country helped put the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam war behind us and begin healing. Thanks for sharing this story!

__________________
If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy? A Great American
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - Organizer Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Engineering Fields - Nuclear Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 3464
Good Answers: 32
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Gerald Ford: From Project Nike to NASA and Beyond

12/29/2006 10:53 AM

You're welcome, habib. Glad you enjoyed it.

Moose

Reply
Associate
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 48
#3

Re: Gerald Ford: From Project Nike to NASA and Beyond

12/30/2006 8:08 PM

Thank you for your article. Do you mind if I forward it to some other forums/publications? I will give you credit.

David

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 3 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

habib (1); halldavidl (1); Steve Melito (1)

Previous in Blog: Happy Birthday, Srinivasa Ramanujan!   Next in Blog: Happy Birthday, Julio Garavito Armero!

Advertisement