The engineers who helped guide Apollo 11

Remembering the people on the ground who took us to the moon

A Raytheon worker programs the guidance computer for an Apollo mission in 1969.

Raytheon's Bob Zagrodnick programs the guidance computer for Apollo missions in 1969. Raytheon built the computer; Zagrodnick was program manager in the final phases of the project. "Everybody wanted to do the best they could do all the time," he remembers today. (Raytheon photo courtesy of the collection of David Meerman Scott)

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before a joint session of Congress and made a bold pledge:

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth,” President Kennedy said. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.”

July 20, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 landing on the moon and the realization of President Kennedy's dream. Raytheon products and engineers helped to get the Apollo lander there, and the company has remained a leader in space technologies ever since.

In the 1960s, Raytheon built the Apollo Guidance Computer. One of the world's first integrated circuit-based computers, it provided exceptional navigation capabilities with only minimal adjustments made by the astronauts. Another Raytheon invention, the Amplitron® microwave amplifier tube, was at the heart of the powerful transmitters used to send signals from the lunar surface to Earth. On July 20, 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered his famous, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” from Tranquility base, it was through a Raytheon tube that millions of people witnessed the event on the hazy TV screens of the day.

Raytheon's 1969 Annual Report celebrated that moment: "Raytheon shared with the nation and the world the feelings of both awe and pride that followed man's first lunar landing. There was particular pride among the Raytheon people who produced the on-board guidance computer that performed so well all of the navigation computations required through the course of the complex and historic Apollo 11 mission.”

A Raytheon worker weaves copper wires used in the Apollo Guidance Computer
An unidentified Raytheon worker weaves copper wires used in the Apollo Guidance Computer, which helped astronauts navigate to the moon. (Raytheon photo courtesy of the collection of David Meerman Scott)

The Apollo mission was only one of the contributions that Raytheon and the companies it acquired after 1969 have made – and continue to make. Raytheon devices have mapped the surface of Venus, explored Mars, captured detailed images of Earth at night and day and enhanced satellite communications.

The Raytheon inventions of today have abilities far beyond those of the machines that placed a man on the moon.

"Innovation is a fundamental part of Raytheon's culture, brand and history and it inspires and drives us each and every day,” said Raytheon CEO Thomas A. Kennedy. "As a result, we strive for innovation in everything we do, from quantum computing to quantum leaps in satellite imagery. We leverage innovation to help our customers succeed, and we use it to continuously improve our efficiencies and how we operate as a company.”

Published On: 07/19/2014
Last Updated: 06/20/2019