Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eduardo C. San Juan and the Lunar Rover (Moon Buggy)

The connection of a filipino mechanical engineer to a lunar rover has been a topic of debate for a very long time.  Many have doubted that a filipino can be considered as the primary designer of a vehicle used by astronaut on the moon.  Some considered it as an urban legend that a filipino can worked with a team of world-class scientists that made possible the exploration of the moon.  I listed below online evidences that will show some historical facts on Eduardo C. San Juan and the lunar rover. 

Here is the technical design of lunar rover submitted by Eduardo C. San Juan to NASA which can be found on-line in the catalog library of The Lunar and Planetary Institute (a division of the Universities Space Research Association, established during the Apollo missions to foster international collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program):

The complete pdf file of Eduardo C. San Juan's contractor report (100 pages) can be found in the NASA archive:

"The concept of a lunar rover predated Apollo, with a 1950s series in Collier's Weekly magazine by Wernher von Braun and others, 'Man Will Conquer Space Soon!', describing a six week stay on the moon, featuring ten-ton tractor trailers for moving supplies. In the February 1964 issue of Popular Science, von Braun, then director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, discussed the need for a lunar surface vehicle. In anticipation of this as-yet unfunded project, NASA officially changed the name of the lunar lander from Lunar Excursion Module to simply Lunar Module in an effort to make clear that the capability for powered lunar surface mobility ('excursions' away from the lunar lander base) did not yet exist.  The author of the general idea, design and form of the LRV were engineers Mieczyslaw G. Bekker and Eduardo San Juan. The final lightweight design, the new tires, and the folding mechanism of the assembly were the inventions of engineer Ferenc Pavlics."

"From the start of MSFC, Huntsville, Alabama-based Brown Engineering Company (BECO) had participated in all of its lunar mobility efforts. In 1965, BECO became the prime support contractor for MSFC’s Propulsion and Vehicle Engineering (P&VE) Laboratory. With an urgent need to determine the feasibility of a two-man LSSM, von Braun bypassed the usual procurement process and had P&VE’s Advanced Studies Office directly task BECO to design, build, and test a MTA for the vehicle.[8] While Bendix and Boeing would continue with work leading to LSSV\M concepts and designs, the MTA was vital for MSFC human factors studies involving spacesuit-clad astronauts interfacing with power, telemetry, navigation, and life-support equipment on the rover. Eduardo San Juan,[9] an immigrant from the Philippines who had led the earlier study by Hayes International, joined BECO to lead the LSSM MTA development.

Eduardo C. San Juan was born in the Philippines.  He graduated from Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT). He studied Nuclear Engineering at the University of Washington at one of the first programs in the nation in the 1950s. He was an naturalized American Citizen married to a foreign-born American.

Prior to this the Apollo Program, he was a troubleshooter for ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles); he would ensure that those that did not emerge from their underground holding areas could.
It was 1960 in Huntsville, Alabama. Along with the cultural and social heritage, Huntsville was a wondrous place. A place of possibilities.

After World War II, German V-2 rocket scientists were spirited away with one group taken to the USA and the other to USSR. The race for control of space was on. Wernher von Braun of Peenemünde fame and his Paperclip Scientists worked at Marshall Space Flight Center.

The 1960′s were exciting ". . . yet a turbulent time in history. John F. Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States; protests raged against segregation in the South and the Vietnam War; the American Football League was formed to rival the National Football League; FORTRAN was the standard computer programming language; and Chubby Checker introduced “The Twist.”

It was also the year NASA — a new federal agency dedicated to civilian space exploration — created the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama–and many test were also conducted at nearby Redstone Arsenal. Both E. C. San Juan and his wife worked at Boeing then not Lockheed. When he submitted the conceptual design for the Lunar Rover he submitted it via Brown Engineering, a company owned by Lady Bird Johnson.

Due to all the engineers and scientists in Huntsville, it was unlike any where in the South or the world. Because he was a Filipino by birth, this did not invalidate his conceptual design of the Lunar Rover and other designs at that time. The Lunar Rover was just one of many.

On one occasion, all NASA families, our family. assembled with all the other Paperclip scientists and their families. John F. Kennedy’s plane was landing and he gave a speech asking every engineer and scientist to do use their ingenuity, science, and talent–to do their utmost to put a man on the moon. No one ever thought that was not going to happen. It was a question of how well and when.

The mix of booster propellant and Saturn C-5 boosters would rocket the astronauts to make the lunar shot. This was the best team that our Nation could assemble. Many were vets of WWII, they knew application and theory. They knew how to design to build and manufacture things that worked.

Eduardo C. San Juan was the only conceptual designer for the Lunar Rover and the Articulated Wheel System. In engineering circles, the concept is a well understood step in a development process. This process is not unlike designing the information architecture and graphical user interface for a website.

You as the creative have a vision, translate that concept to prototype to share your vision with others. This was pre-CAD. All drawings were to scale and done on paper by him. After the concept was proven and the contract accepted (in the case of the Rover by NASA) small teams are pulled together to address the details and weight and redundancy of certain components are built by others. E. C. San Juan did not build the electronic components and subcomponents for the Rover or transmitters and receivers as he was not an electrical engineer.

During the final test demonstration to select one design from various submissions, his was the only one that worked. Thus, his design won the NASA Contract. His overall concept and specific design of the Articulated Wheel System was considered brilliant. Each wheel appendage was mounted not underneath the vehicle, but were outside the body of the vehicle and each wheel was motorized. Each wheel could work independently of the others. It was designed to negotiate crater ingress and egress. The other vehicles did not make it into or out of the test crater.

At that time, the Paperclip Scientists thought that the moon surface would have little or no traction, because in the 1960′s, they thought the moon was covered in 15 feet of moondust and debris. The mockup test site was covered in 15 feet of Styrofoam pellets. Difficult traction at best.

When you worked for certain companies or on certain contracts, you cannot own the patent on a design if it is stated in the contract. The company owned it or per the contract, the buyer or contract owner could patent the design. NASA provided an award ceremony; he was honored with others. When he left NASA, he had 300 engineers and scientists working for him. When he spoke at NASA, it was standing room only. The Paperclip Scientists liked his work and they liked him–and they like that he had a different accent than theirs.

In the 1970s at UC Berkeley legal ownership of code, programming, if considered functional but inelegant was considered technology and could be owned by the University. And if elegant, it was considered art and could not be patented or owned by the University.

He left the von Braun team in 1965, after working on many concepts for space shelters, the Lunar Module (called LEM), etc., he was not happy with the prelim design of the Space Shuttle as it supported a vertical takeoff and horizontal landing–thus doubling the structural stress and loads. He wanted a horizontal takeoff and landing. When engineers and scientists do not agree on approach, it is a technical matter, not personal.

Von Braun said that he had 100 percent success with vertical takeoff with the V-2 Program in Peenemünde and he would not change. It could not be debated. Hard to argue with the boss, so E. C. San Juan and two other German PhDs left NASA for Lockheed in Sunnyvale, California where they worked on improving existing missile technology. His employment followed his employment with Boeing, Brown Engineering, and NASA.

You will find not find any notation of Lockheed and the Lunar Rover. He created the conceptual design long before he was offered a position at Lockheed.  At Lockheed, he made the front page of the Lockheed Star. Big deal news having an internationally recognized engineer-scientist join Lockheed.

E. C. San Juan was hired to address increasing propulsion and thus missile trajectory initially. He had many other assignments over the years. One for example, after the Space Shuttle blew up; he was asked by the Lockheed, CEO and friend, Dan Tellup. to get the Shuttle payloads in space, he hadn’t done propulsion in years; he would often create the winning concept and then move to the next challenge.

Later, he was Chief Systems Engineer on other–multiple programs–for ground lasers and space-based platforms, etc. But our Country’s had a need and his talent was required, so he’d take a hiatus from his program’s to get this job done.

Special circumstance, special request, and after all it was for NASA. Once you are part of the NASA family . . . you are always family.

In addition to his passion for his work and his love for his family, he was a huge mentor to local students. He spoke at school science fairs and to children in challenged economic areas to encourage them to follow their dreams and not be deterred by anthing. He “reached for the stars” and encourage them to do as well.
We have original documentation and film footage of the Lunar Rover and also of the electric model built to demonstrate the Articulated Wheel System. As many of E. C. San Juan projects were classified during the last decades of his life, a low profile was preferred.

Many interviews and articles have been written about him and have been published since. National interviews. Many have claimed the title, but he did the work. Recognition from the Country, NASA, or the Smithsonian are not expected as many that built the Space Program and Apollo Missions have passed away.

Wernher Von Braun died in 1977 and Eduardo C. San Juan died in 1988.

- excerpted from an e-mail of Elisabeth San Juan (daughter of Eduardo C. San Juan)

See also http://inventors.about.com/od/filipinoscientists/p/EduardoSanJuan.htm


1 comment:

  1. The comment "When he submitted the conceptual design for the Lunar Rover he submitted it via Brown Engineering, a company owned by Lady Bird Johnson." is incorrect. Lady Bird Johnson owned a part of Brown & Root. Brown Engineering (aka BECO) was the prime contractor for MSFC P&VE lab in 1964 and was directed by von Braun in 1965 to build a prototype lunar rover while Boeing and Bendix were performing conceptual studies. BECO was acquired in 1966 by Teledyne and continued their lunar rover work through the 1960's for MSFC.