Northern California man helped design radar system for Apollo missions

A Northern California man reflects on his role with NASA's first Apollo mission launch.

It has been 50 years since the first Apollo mission launched, starting the trajectory of the United States becoming the first nation in the world to put a person on the moon. 

In 1957, the Soviet Union became the first nation to launch a satellite into space. Just four years after Sputnik, the Russian's once again outdid the United States by sending the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space. 

America was losing the so-called space race and something had to be done. In a special joint session of Congress in May of 1961, then President John F. Kennedy called on the nation to do what mankind had never before. 

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth," Mr. Kennedy said. 

Then launched a massive operation under the name Apollo, which would become a series of missions to space and eventually to the moon.

Jim Weir, 73, who now lives in Grass Valley, California, was one of hundreds of thousands of people who pulled their minds together to get an American to the moon. 

Weir recently attended a reunion for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he met the likes of Jim Lovell and others who worked in the program. 

Fresh out of college from San Diego State University, Weir got a job with Teledyne Ryan Aeronautics, a NASA contractor and was assigned to the radar team. 

He said it was by pure luck that he had some experience working with metrological radar equipment that at 23 years old, he would be assigned to the Apollo mission. 

After his work with NASA's Apollo, he later worked on projects for the Viking Mars landing and Voyager aircraft, the first to travel the globe on a single tank of fuel. 

Since the 1980's, he has worked as a part-time professor teaching mechatronics or mechanical electronics at Sierra College while he also ran a small electronics manufacturing business. 

He lives in Grass Valley with his wife of five years, although they were once high school sweathearts but have only recently rekindled their relationship. 
 

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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