RPI's Low helped NASA, Apollo take off

July 17, 2019 02:22 PM

TROY – A prized possession for the Dean of Science at RPI is a folder he's had for 50 years. Produced by TRW, a division of Lockheed Martin, it contains photos from the Apollo 11 – "The Eagle has landed" – moon landing on July 20, 1969.

"Pretty heady stuff for a 13-year old, I've got to say," said Curt Breneman on Wednesday. Showing the pictures from the original negatives even before Life magazine got them, he added, "One of my favorite ones is this one right here which is the first science done on the moon."


It came a few minutes after walking through the George M. Low Gallery on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which showcases awards and achievements from the school's 14th President. He earned his degree in aeronautical engineering in 1948 and his masters in that same study in 1950.

"It was a transformational moment," Breneman said. "It was when we realized something that was basically science fiction before."
Low was the manager of the original Apollo Spacecraft Program, part of the team that developed NASA and part of the team that would advise President John F. Kennedy who, in 1961, would say:

"I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth…

"…We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

WEB EXTRA: WNYT (WAST) 1979 interview with George Low, for the 10th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

Low served as RPI President from 1976-1984 when he died of cancer at the age of 58.

"He learned as a student at RPI how to learn how to learn," Breneman said. "How to solve problems that hadn't been posed and in fact that's probably the basis for his being successful in this area."

The gallery includes pictures of Low with Presidents Kennedy, Roosevelt, Nixon, Ford and Reagan. He earned the National Science Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom plus a picture signed by the crew from Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 "saying thanks for making it possible for this picture to be taken. It was basically the command module under the three parachutes," Breneman described.


WNYT Staff

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