Monday, May 3, 2010

I vonder vere Guenter vendt?

Today I am in Dallas, again (haha, just left on Friday). And while I’m here in the “trenches” as Gene Kranz calls it, working away, “under the radar” (pun intended), NASA has lost one of its own “trench” members today: Guenter Wendt. Does the name sound familiar? No? Add a heavy German accent…now does it sound familiar? Does the movie Apollo 13 ring a bell?

Guenter was a “pad leader” during the days of Redstones, Atlases, Titans and Saturns. He was literally one of the last people to see the astronauts before they left Earth. A naturalized American, Wendt became known as the “Pad Fuhrer” for his strict reputation. But he was one of the people the astronauts came to rely on in those last few Earth-bound moments. In other words, his strictness was not necessarily a bad thing.



He may have retired from NASA in 1989, but his legacy will be forever felt throughout manned spaceflight. He understood the magnitude of the space program and was always appreciative of all the thousands of people that made it successful. He took his work personally and tried to minimize risk wherever he could.

"Sometimes you have to make a stand, without caring what the consequences are. You have to be living with your own conscience. It does not matter if you lost a lot of money, or got fired. You can't be telling yourself later that you killed somebody because you screwed up. You have to live with your conscience."

Today, America lost a national hero. He may not have been born here, but I think it is safe to say he was more patriotic in service to his country and fellow countrymen than many Americans today. Maybe this is the perfect time to echo that phrase that made him famous, “I vonder vere Guenter vent?"