An Irish scientist who was part of the NASA team that first put a man on the moon has looked back at his experience and the role he played in the historic event.
Patrick Norris spoke to the Irish Times and recalled his involvement in the generation-defining moment Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.
Norris explained that he had gone to a Christian Brothers school IN Ireland, and remembered he had “a very good science teacher”.
He excelled and earnt a place at University College Dublin where he studied Physics and Maths.
He graduated from UCD IN 1964 and went to work in a radar laboratory in London.
He was spotted by an American company who had a contract with NASA and moved to America.
Norris revealed he was shocked by the everyday wealth he encountered in the US, with his apartment having air conditioning, a tumble dryer and wall-to-wall carpets.
It was not long before NASA noticed Norris’ talents, and he was invited to move to Texas to work on the Apollo programme.
There had been an issue with the accuracy of the tracking of satellites, once they got to within a few kilometres of the moon, and so Norris was appointed as a team leader to solve the problem.
Norris described his first mission with NASA, Apollo 8 which saw the first manned spacecraft leave the gravity of the earth and head towards the moon.
Norris said: “We continued to grapple with the problem of how do you predict where Apollo will be a few hours ahead of time.”
Key lessons were learned on the missions that led up to Apollo 11, and calculations were made to factor in previous misjudgements in the hope that the landing spot on the moon could be accurately planned.
Eventually, on 20th July 1969, the mission was complete and Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong uttered the iconic words: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Norris said: “It was early evening in Houston when they landed on the moon. It was a very comfortable viewing activity for me. The next morning, I went into work and started getting data in from Apollo 11 to analyse.”
“The astronauts were superstars, celebrities and so I didn’t get anywhere close to them. We were slaving away in the background. I mean they were very busy, sorry I don’t mean to be derogatory at all. They were fully occupied training for the mission. They didn’t need to interact with people like me, so they didn’t, they did only what was really necessary. Because we didn’t need to talk to the astronauts, it didn’t happen.”
To watch the full interview with Patrick Norris visit the Irish Times.