Avro Engineers:Rod Rose
excerpt deals with the flight of Apollo 8, carrying the first
humans to leave the vicinity of the earth for lunar orbit.
Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders departed
Kennedy Space Center on December 21st, 1968, and arrived at
the moon three days later.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, Apollo 8 was given a "go" for lunar orbit and passed into radio silence behind the moon, where the spacecraft's main engine would have to fire nearly perfectly to ensure that the crew of Apollo 8 avoided crashing into the moon or flying into a path that would take them away from earth. If the engine failed to fire at all, Apollo 8 would simply loop around the moon and head back to earth. When Apollo 8 came around the side of the moon on its first orbit, a relieved mission control learned that the engine worked as planned. After another engine firing to change Apollo 8's orbit at the start of the third orbit, spacecraft commander Frank Borman called to mission control to see if Rod Rose was there.
Rose was expecting the call, because he and Borman had been
working on a special task. The men were friends and neighbours in El Lago, the
subdivision near the Manned Spacecraft Center. At the local Episcopal Church,
St. Christopher's, both were members of the vestry, the group of lay advisors
who helped run the church.
At the time of Apollo 8, Rose was 41, a native of Huntingdon,
England. As a student in wartime and postwar England, Rose had attended the Manchester
College of Technology while serving a five-year apprenticeship at A.V. Roe in
Upon graduating from the college and completing his apprenticeship,
Rose won a scholarship to the newly established College of Aeronautics at Cranfield,
which he attended from 1949 to 1951. He then went to Supermarine, where he worked
on aircraft performance, loads and engine performance.
By 1957, Rose concluded that he had gone as far as he could
at Supermarine, and he was frustrated by a conservatism in the British aircraft
industry that restricted who could supply vital parts and who could do what.
After reading in the paper about Avro Canada, Rose crossed the Atlantic with
his wife Leila and their two sons, the youngest then just 11 months old, aboard
the SS Homeric.
During his 23 months at Avro Canada, he worked as an aerodynamicist
on the CF-100 and the Arrow, and also in flight test and in advanced design.
Five years into his career at NASA, he moved to flight operations
for Gemini and quickly became a key member of Kraft's team, drawing up the Flight
Operations Plans that guided all Apollo missions. Apollo 8, the first mission
to travel to the vicinity of the moon, presented a special challenge to Rose
and his planning group, a challenge that had been fully met.
Two Sundays before Apollo 8 blasted off, Frank Borman found
out that he was on the duty list as a lay reader for the Christmas Eve communion
at St. Christopher's.
Borman, knowing that he would be circling the moon at that
time, got agreement from the minister, Jim Buckner, that he could deliver his
reading from lunar orbit for recording and later playback at the service.
Rose selected for Borman's reading the Prayer For Vision,
Faith and Work by G.F. Weld from "Prayers for the Church Service League," published
by the Diocese of Massachusetts. Rose gave a copy of the prayer to Borman. "We
decided to call it experiment P 1, and Frank agreed to give me one lunar orbit
notice before he read the prayer so all the recording could be finalized."
A few minutes after Borman's call to Rose, capcom Mike Collins
said, "Rod Rose is sitting up in the viewing room. He can hear what you
"I wonder if he is ready for experiment P1?" Borman
"He says thumbs up on P1," Collins replied.
"Rod and I got together and I was going to record say
a little prayer for our church service tonight," Borman said. When Collins
gave the go-ahead, Apollo 8's commander continued, "Okay. This is to Rod
Rose and people at St. Christopher's, actually to people everywhere.
"Give us, O God, the vision which can see Thy love in
the world in spite of human failure. Give us the faith, the trust, the goodness
in spite of all of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we
may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each of us can
do to set forth the day of universal peace. Amen."
"Amen," Collins replied.
"I was supposed to lay read tonight and I couldn't quite
make it," Borman concluded.
"Roger, I think they understand," Collins said.
This was the first prayer broadcast from space. That evening,
the crew of Apollo 8 sent their second television broadcast from lunar orbit,
showing views of the earth and the lunar surface. As the broadcast neared its
end, first Bill Anders, then Jim Lovell, and finally Borman read the first 10
verses of Genesis as the grey, battered surface at lunar sunset appeared on the
"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night,
good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you all of you on the
good earth," Borman said, concluding both the reading and the broadcast.
Rose went to St. Christopher's with tapes of both the prayer
that Borman had recorded that morning and the Genesis reading, and both were
played at the service.
While the service was going on, Apollo 8 went behind the moon
again at the end of its 10th orbit, and the spacecraft engine fired its critical
burn to put Apollo 8 on its way back to what Borman had memorably called the
good earth. Rose had arranged to get a phone call at the church when Lovell confirmed
to the world that Apollo 8 had left lunar orbit and was homeward bound.
"They did that when Jim Lovell made his famous statement,
there is a Santa Claus, and the timing was beautiful, because we could give that
to the minister just as he was giving his final dismissal to the congregation," Rose
said. "That was a great way to start Christmas Day."
Two days later, Apollo 8 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean,
completing one of the most historic and memorable space flights ever.
By Chris Gainor
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