He was on his way to start an internship at the Manned Spacecraft Center – now the Johnson Space Center – where he would work on the Apollo program.
Since his days standing in fields with decibel meters and tracking clouds of toxic gas (he’ll explain later), Cantwell has researched turbulence, combustion and, most recently, hybrid rocket fuels.
Cantwell spoke with Stanford News about his time working on Apollo, watching the moon landing from a guard tower in Monterey and what he thinks about a return to the moon.
Virtually everyone who lived around the Manned Spacecraft Center – which is now NASA Johnson – was connected to the space program somehow, so the idea of a little bit of rocket oxidizer floating down the street didn’t bother them all that much.
My students David Dyrda and Flora Mechentel also recently did some testing at the Jet Propulsion Lab to demonstrate a new ignition system we’ve been developing on a small motor that NASA hopes to use for some planetary exploration missions.
Going back to the moon is a more reachable goal in a reasonable period of time and it could be used as a stepping stone to a much longer mission out to Mars and possibility eventually other moons of other planets.
The idea of the Gateway – which is a proposed space station in orbit around the moon – is NASA’s response to administrations that flip back and forth between wanting to go to Mars and wanting to go to the moon.