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Richard (Dick) Bolt

I had worked on a Lincoln Lab sponsored project of tracking Russian satellites as an electronic technician in 1962-63 period while in college in Massachusetts. I was building equipment such as an active electronic low-pass filter for the lab at the college where I was taking Electronic Engineering.

After engineering college I eventually ended up at Hamilton Standard in Windsor Locks, CT working on life support equipment including Portable Life Support Analysis (PLSS) 6 & 7 and the emergency backup related OPS. I was a Reliability & System Safety Engineer for the Space and Life Systems Division. I was then commuting from Springfield MA area every day. The PLSS was the life support back pack using a sublimator for astronaut suit cooling and a unit to remove the exhaled CO2 from the breathing air. The PLSS was to be used for both vehicle EVA and walking on the moon. I was responsible for Reliability on some of the system and then after the disastrous (Apollo 1) capsule fire, working full time of safety of the units. I analyzed and produced the Failure Modes & Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) for PLSS 6 & 7.

What this generation knows as Super Glue today was then Eastman 910 and was used to repair and assemble the astronauts space suits. Hamilton then still had the space suit contract for Apollo. I was always trying to find contacts in the suit group to acquire a bottle of expired date 910 so I could use it for winding small RF coils for my ham radio building projects! The astronaut suit contract was later lost to International Latex in that period.

The week of the Apollo landing, we engineers in the two large rooms in the building next to the airport were worked at least 70 hours. We stayed late into the night during landing day running up and down the aisles of desks on the grand open area of about 300 engineers in each room. We were working questions and minor problems related to the life support equipment both on the astronauts and in the modules.

Of course when the exciting points in the mission occurred, entering the Moon orbit, undocking of landing capsule, actual landing on Moon and of course the stepping out on Moon soil resulted in employee great jubilation and a sigh of relief. During periods when the Hamilton life support equipment was activated and/or changed state everyone was paying for continued proper operation.

After the 1st moon landing many of we Engineers at Hamilton Standard were to be laid off, but I was lucky enough to be transferred to another division of UAC that made Industrial Gas Turbines where I stayed for another 5 years. Before going, however I did manage to work on the Air Force MOL Program where I was singled out for finding a catastrophic single point failure late in the design that could occur when the astronaut life support system was connected to another system. The two separate design groups had not been talking between themselves enough and scotch taping the two schematics together quickly revealed to me the potential problem! The MOL Project was soon after cancelled.

It is only now as I enter my 70s, I realize how proud my dad was of me and live just long enough (80) to see my involvement in the US Space program after he spent so much of his later life getting me through college. If he only lived to see me continue on the space path years later working at NASA Goddard for 23 years.

Dick Bolt

May 2009