Tips from the Pros

This website is dedicated to our children and our grandchildren, and all those of  men and women everywhere who came together as a team of Americans to meet the challenge of space travel, and to demonstrate success by transporting man thousands of miles into space, landing him on the surface of  the moon, and returning him safely to earth. This was our national goal, as declared by President John F. Kennedy, and vowing that our total team  would accomplish this within a decade.

The Team

The Apollo Customer Training and Support  Documentation Department  of  North American Rockwell  were participants in this effort, small as we were, but very proud indeed to have played a part in this great  achievement.    

With the assistance of many engineering, support and administrative functions within our company, the NASA,  the military, and many educational and associate contractor organizations, our guys functioned to develop a systems approach to training, enabling us to prepare and present an accelerated  training program as space systems were being designed and developed.

  Engineering Instructors from many Aerospace organizations came together to form our group, and to participate with the total Apollo program  team in the  "space race to the moon" of the 1960's.  Our instructor-engineers worked initially from only design specifications and mission objectives to prepare and present  spacecraft   subsystems courses and Apollo mission familiarization briefings for a wide and diverse student population.

To accomplish this our team overcame many obstacles to get the job done, and were the recipients of many awards and recognition for our performance. However, all recognition, including kudos and awards for the success of our  efforts are shared with all who supported  us in this task, for without them... it would not have been possible.


H W McNeese

Manager & Supervisor

John L Winton

 Lead Instructor

 Electronic Systems

William O Ruffin



Gary L Steinbeck


PCM  Data

Len P Urbaniak



 Alfred H Sohler

Guidance &


Don P Bennet Stabilization

& Control

Willard A Waddell Sequential Systems

Clyde O Steele Environmental Contro

Thoral E Gilland Sequential Systems

Meet the Team:

Apollo- Soyuz


William H Green


 " With Pride In Our Participation "

In Memorium

Program Overview


Photo Album

  Missions Apollo 7-17

Apollo Soyuz

Sky Lab

 View the entire Cadre

During the early years of the 1960's, the Space & Information Systems Division (S&ID) of North American Aviation in Downey, California, (prime contractor for the Apollo Spacecraft), was engaged in a massive recruiting effort. This effort was to bring on board the engineering, fabrication, technical, and logistics personnel required for the development and space mission phases of the Apollo program.

One contracted support task was the preparation and presentation of systems & mission training briefings for the customer (NASA) personnel during all program phases. The plan was to provide an accelerated training program as the systems were developed, in order to meet the demands of the space race to the moon.

Instructors were selected from the most skilled and experienced personnel available on the job market. Only those personnel having a high degree of related background experience from the aerospace community were considered. Candidate instructors were assigned subject tasks and were given "wire brush" auditions before being considered for a member of the training team. Dry runs of a particular briefing were conducted by key personnel to ascertain that objective material was presented, and with a high degree of professionalism. When meeting these criteria, the briefings were scheduled for the customer. A course critique system was also established for the customer to provide feedback on the material and presentation. The target student population included the astronauts, flight simulation and control personnel, launch pad personnel, as well as the engineering & technical support staff of the NASA.

Flight Crew Training

Early Astronauts were mostly selected from the military service, so as pilots or test pilots, they were already familiar with the operational levels of the systems training anticipated for those of the Apollo Spacecraft.

 Many of these systems were actually less sophisticated than those previously designed for atmospheric flight, and intentionally kept less sophisticated by design in order to achieve maximum reliability.

Early training specialist selected for our team came from military field engineering organizations and were therefore experienced in working with pilots and ground crews in a training and maintenance capacity. Therefore, the presentations of accelerated briefings and courses were possible to keep pace with the demands of our Space Race training objectives. Courses were tailored, presented, and accepted based on 'need too know' information with little demand for the details beyond the scope of the flight crew.

However, in view of the critical nature of their task, our engineering instructors were advised that all questions deserved an answer, and to provide the information if within his/her knowledge level. or obtainable from the applicable engineering department.

 This approach worked very well during the Space Race years but became increasingly more difficult to stay within the scope of prepared material (and allocated instruction time) following the Apollo 11 and subsequent lunar missions.

General Critique

Follow on missions unfortunately came at a time when our training department was downsizing in accordance with our contractual obligations. Many engineering instructors had been discharged at this time along with their companion sub contractor training representatives, leaving only a core group to support the final mission update briefings. The core group was those instructors having multi subsystem instruction capabilities, yet not having the knowledge level of those who had been assigned and dedicated to a single course during the earlier training effort.

Consequently, all follow on Earth Orbit mission update briefings were limited to the specific objectives, and discussions beyond this scope would be entertained only if time permitted and within the knowledge level of the retained instructors.

These latter update briefing were presented to students having a high degree of knowledge and experience from previous missions, all of which sometime led to classroom discussions and conjecture far beyond the objective material.

Perhaps the training effort for future programs should remain at full strength until the last mission has been completed.

Flight Control Division (FCD)Training

The classroom training courses for this group were among the the most technical courses presented and tailored with the degree of detail required to eveluate, from a remote location (Mission Control), the health status of a particular subsystem of the Apollo spaceraft. The courses covered both normal operation and contingency moding as seen through telemetry (PCM) data during space missions.

Adjunct training manuals were prepared also for the FCD personnel using programmed instruction text books. Classroom instructors were active also in the preparation of these documents under the direction of the NASA FCD training group, and coordinated by the Lead Instructor of the Training Team.

All spacecraft systems and subsystem courses were presented to engineering and techical personnel assigned to the Launch Operations  at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, as were courses involving the ground testing and checkout of the CSM and Lunar Module.

Many of these courses, including those on Ground Support Equipment (GSE), were presented on video tape and produced in the recording  studios of  Rockwell International at Downey, California.



a Cosmonaut gift 

Apollo 11 Launch Video