An interview with Ann Montgomery
, who was responsible for "testing hundreds of pieces of loose equipment that the [Apollo]astronauts used during each mission".
As lead crew systems engineer at Kennedy Space Center during Apollo, Ann Montgomery was responsible for testing hundreds of pieces of loose equipment that the astronauts used during each mission. The gear included power cables and oxygen lines that hooked into the astronauts’ space suits, flight logs, an optical site used for docking in space, and even the urinal and fecal bags used by the crew.
For Apollo 11, Montgomery processed the handheld tools, TV camera and the lunar sample return containers that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took to the surface of the moon. Following extensive tests in the lab, all the equipment was tested again with the astronauts in an altitude chamber, and then again on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center before it was cleared to blast off to another world.
After working on the Apollo missions, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and Skylab, Montgomery became facility manager of the Orbiter Processing Facility in 1979—the huge hanger where the space shuttles were prepared between missions. She processed the first ever space shuttle flight, and in 1986, she became NASA’s first female flow director of a shuttle, responsible for returning the Columbia orbiter to flight after the space shuttle Challenger broke apart shortly after launch.
Smithsonian spoke with Ann Montgomery about what it was like to work on the Apollo missions as a 21-year-old woman, the trials and the triumphs of Apollo 11, and some of the other highlights of her 34-year NASA career.