As part of the upcoming 50thanniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the City of League City is sharing inspiring stories about people who played a role in the historic event.
Jerry Woodfill, an employee of NASA for over 54 years, recently visited the Helen Hall Library to share his remarkable story with local residents. Woodfill served as a warning system engineer during the moon landing.
After graduating from Rice University, Woodfill began his career with NASA at 22 years-old and was tasked with managing spacecraft “caution and warning” systems. Initially, his assignment was to serve as the project engineer for Apollo’s switches, gauges, and display and control panels.
“The purpose of the system was to alert the astronauts about any kind of malfunction that might happen on their trips to the moon, and my responsibility was to make sure they got back to Earth safely,” said Woodfill.
Throughout his career, hebecame responsible for fixing, redesigning, and analyzing warning system performances during testing and early flights, which involved regular consultations with astronauts, flight controllers, and system engineers. Woodfill monitored the spacecraft Eagle's descent when Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969 and monitored Apollo 13's warning system when the vehicle exploded on April 13, 1970. His system gave the first alert of the life-threatening malfunction depicted in the popular movie “APOLLO 13”.
“You know everybody says failure is not an option, well for me it was really true!”
For his effort in the rescue of Apollo 13, Woodfill shares a Presidential Medal of Freedom along with others members of the Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team. Woodfill continues to work under NASA’s robotics division as a technical managers representative. He also regularly speaks to educational groups as part of the Johnson Space Center’s Education Volunteer Program. His goal is to encourage young people to pursing a career in STEM(science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
“I hope a career in STEM makes a big difference in their lives like it has in mine,” he said.