NASA Scientist Remembers Apollo 11

Arthur Winston Developed the Apollo Heat Shield and Encouraged Buzz Aldrin to Join NASA. Arthur Winston is also a resident at The Commons in Lincoln.
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Jul '19

On July 20, 1969, the world was changed as 500 million people watched Neil Armstrong become the first man to step foot on the Moon. The Apollo 11 astronauts and the people behind the scenes became instant heroes. One man, Arthur Winston, was monumental in inspiring Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, to become an astronaut. One day, Arthur was invited to lunch with Edwin and Buzz Aldrin to talk about Buzz's future now that he had graduated.

"I said the obvious," said Winston. "He's now gotten an engineering background from MIT, he's been a pilot, and he's a natural to do liaison work with NASA, so that's what I suggested. He did more than just become a liaison; he become an astronaut and became the second person to walk on the moon!"

But that's not all. Coming back from the moon had never been done before. The kinetic energy was going to be greater than they've ever dealt with, and they were worried about the heat shield. So Winston came up with a system for monitoring the temperature of the heat shield, developing the NASA Apollo Heat Shield Temperature Measurement System.

Winston grew up in Canada and, inspired by his inventor grandfather, became interested in math and science at an early age. He studied engineering physics at the University of Toronto, then went to MIT in 1951, graduating with a doctorate in physics… this is where he met Edwin Aldrin.

"I don't know how [Edwin] found out about me, but he had taken an interest in me," said Winston. "If there was an event at MIT, Edwin would invite me."

Arthur's achievements go even further than his experience with Apollo 11. He was one of the founders of the Tufts Gordon Institute, one of three recipients of the Bernard M. Gordon Prize by the National Academy of Engineering, and was the president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Winston is now retired and calls The Commons in Lincoln senior living community in Lincoln, Massachusetts home.

To learn his entire history of achievements and awards, visit this website for "Arthur Winston, an oral history conducted in 2009 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center."

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