Today we stand on the threshold of human flights to Mars—yet another giant leap from that one small step onto the moon. But Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride would have never made history, and humankind would not have touched the stars, if not for the men and women on the ground who lit the fuse that launched the first rockets.
Enthralled as a boy by the exploits of Flash Gordon and the novels of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke—who put the science in science fiction—James French became one of the original unsung engineers of America’s groundbreaking space program. His fascinating memoir offers an up-close-and-technical look at building, testing, and perfecting the pioneering Saturn rockets and original lunar landing module, and he shares true tales, both humorous and harrowing, of life—and near death—on the front lines of scientific exploration.
If you’ve ever said, “It’s not rocket science,” you’re right. It’s rocket engineering—and here’s your chance to marvel at how it changed the world and made it possible to explore all that lies beyond Earth.
James R French graduated from MIT in 1958 with a degree of BSME Specializing in Propulsion.
His first job was with Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation where he worked on developmental testing of H-1 engines and combustion devices hardware for F-1 and J-2 engines used in Saturn 5. Mr. French has also worked at TRW Systems, where he was Lead Development Test Engineer on the Lunar Module Descent Engine, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he was Advanced Planetary studies Manager as well as Chief Engineer for the SP-100 Space Nuclear Power System and worked on Mariners 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9; Viking 1 & 2 and Voyager 1 & 2. .
In 1986, he helped found American Rocket Co., a commercial launch company.Since 1987, Mr. French has been consultant to a variety of aerospace companies, SDIO, NASA, and USAF. He has participated in various startup companies in the private space flight arena and currently consults extensively to Blue Origin. Mr. French is co-author with Dr. Michael Griffin of the best-selling text Space Vehicle Design, published by AIAA. The second edition of the book has received the Summerfield Book Award for 2008.
Mr. French is a Fellow of both AIAA and the British Interplanetary Society and a 50+ year member of AIAA. He has held several Technical Committee and other posts in AIAA.
Cover design by Evan Twohy