Ken Johnston 🚀 282
👯 January 18, 2016
Tonight our guest is Dr. R. Ken Johnston, a retired aerospace engineer who has been called a NASA whistleblower because he decided to save, rather than destroy, some perfectly good glossies from the Apollo program. Also, please check out Ken’s Moon, his own personal recounting of his experiences.
Here is his official bio:
Dr. R. Ken Johnston, Sr. one of 4 Civilian Astronaut Consultant Pilots from the Apollo Moon Program, is a retired aerospace engineer, US Marine, and “NASA Whistleblower.” He refused to strictly follow orders and destroy a nearly-complete collection of 8″ x 10″ glossy photo-prints from the Apollo program, photos that are not available from NASA at this time and are of a higher resolution than what is found online. Johnston was born Fort Sam Houston US Army Air Base in San Antonio, TX. 1942, and studied at Oklahoma City University. He enlisted in the US Marines in August, 1962 and reported to Pensacola as a Marine cadet for flight training in September 1964. He left the Marines in August 1966.
Johnston was hired by Grumman Aircraft as pilot with an avionics background to become a principal contractor for the Apollo Lunar Module to assist with cockpit and instrument development and training in Houston. He has described his status at that time as a “civilian astronaut consultant pilot.”
Ken worked with the Lunar Lander LTA-8 that was in a large vacuum chamber training all the astronauts on the systems of the Lunar Lander. He has a log book with names of many of the astronauts from the Apollo days and after. When the first men landed on the moon, NASA rewarded all the research and development personnel with lay offs but Ken’s skills were needed elsewhere.
Ken Johnston worked as a contractor from 1969 to 1972, during the Apollo Program, and he was employed by Brown & Root, principal contractors to NASA for management of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, where all the moon rocks were stored, curated, cataloged and, in some cases, distributed to scientists who had successfully applied to carry out analysis in their own labs.
An important part of Johnston‘s duty was to package and ship lunar samples to science labs, together with photographs documenting their exact location and orientation in situ. As such, he had in his office several sets of photographs taken by Apollo astronauts with their chest-mounted Hasselblad cameras. When the moon rock distribution wound down, he was instructed by Bud Laskawa, his boss, to destroy what remained of the photo archive, but Johnston kept one set as a personal collection for a work portfolio.
Johnston applied to NASA for the 1977 astronaut selection for duty as a Space Shuttle astronaut, but was turned down because NASA wanted the astronauts to be PhD level scientists. The ideal astronaut was no longer a jet-jock, but men with scientific accreditation. Johnston applied when NASA was recruiting again, Johnston says he was considered too old. He did, however, join NASA’s educational outreach program as a “Solar System Ambassador” traveling and speaking to civic and youth groups about space exploration and careers in engineering and science.
Ken Johnston spent 23 years at NASA working with numerous space programs as well as the astronauts who manned those missions. He was one of the five original pilots who tested all of the Apollo equipment including the lunar module which later carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. He is familiar with the processes of checks and balances used within NASA to secure the safety of a mission.” 🚀