Growing up Apollo

His defense career was inspired by his NASA astronaut father

Jack Roosa, a Raytheon program director in Tucson, Arizona, holds a picture of his late father, Stuart "Stu" Roosa. The elder Roosa served as command module pilot for the Apollo 14 mission, the third to land on the moon, in 1971.

When so many American kids dreamed of being astronauts, Jack Roosa was living with one. His late father, Stuart Roosa, served as the command module pilot on Apollo 14 in 1971.

“He would talk about the feelings that you would get as you saw the earth from 200,000 miles away, and it would give you pause for reflection, that everything you knew and all the history you knew and all the people you knew are on this little, tiny jewel that sits out in this blackness of space,” said Roosa. “It’s a pretty overwhelming feeling.”

A pilot with an aerospace career, the astronaut's son is carrying on the family heritage. Roosa, a program director at Raytheon, will represent his father at the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings, serving on a panel and being recognized at a gala dinner. The celebration, sponsored by the Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation, will take place in July at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Before joining Raytheon 15 years ago, Roosa became a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, again like his father. He spent 20 years flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon, completing 80 combat missions.

Jack Roosa, combat sortie
Jack “Kanga” Roosa, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, flew the F-16 Fighting Falcon in 80 combat missions. (Photo: Jack Roosa)

He considers himself lucky to have grown up in the Apollo family, attending school with the children of other astronauts. He even went to barbecues at Neil Armstrong’s house.

Roosa remembers being in a parade and traveling to Washington, D.C., after the Apollo 14 mission, where he and his family attended a state dinner with President Richard Nixon at the White House and spent time at Camp David.

“Once all that was over with, you’re just a normal kid trying to make the grades and pressing on,” he said.

Roosa stays in touch with a few surviving Apollo astronauts, including Walt Cunningham, Apollo 7 astronaut; Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot on Apollo 11; Al Warden, Apollo 15 command module pilot; and Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 lunar module pilot.

“The older we get, the more you marvel at the technology, and then you realize that there was just a very small group of guys who were trained to do this,” Roosa said.

And they had no fear, he said. When the command module pilots dropped off two of the astronauts and traversed the back side of the moon, the darkest part away from the earth, they were totally secluded, with no radio communications.

"This was a call from the President and a challenge to the country to put a man on the moon," Roosa said. "It was not really in the context of science at that time; it was in the context of the space race."

Published On: 07/12/2019
Last Updated: 07/12/2019