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The Journey To the Moon Went Through Joliet: The Story of John C. Houbolt

You may already know his name, but it’s more than just the street in front of Joliet Junior College.

Houbolt Road is named for the late John C. Houbolt, a former Joliet resident, JJC graduate, and without whom the mission to send a man to the moon and safely return him would not have happened.

Houbolt was the chief proponent of the concept of LOR – Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. LOR was the concept of having a main spacecraft orbit the moon and have the manned lunar lander detach and descend to the moon’s surface (“The Eagle has landed.”). Once the mission on the moon’s surface was over, the lunar lander would return to lunar orbit and reattach with the main space craft for their leisurely flight home.

That was Houbolt’s idea, and NASA most likely wouldn’t have made it to the moon without it. The idea was so crucial to the mission that Houbolt was an invited guest into mission control for the lunar landing 50 years ago, and received a personal thank you from the chief architect of the Saturn V – the rocket that lifted the Apollo spacecraft to the moon.

Here’s a great video from NASA’s Langley Research Center about Houbolt’s impact on the mission.

“He’s a prince among technical innovators.”

Here’s an interview done by the venerable Monica DeSantis on our sister station 1340 WJOL in Joliet with Joliet Historical Museum’s Mike Brick talking about Houlbolt’s legacy and the permanent Apollo exhibit at the museum in downtown Joliet (if audio player doesn’t appear, please refresh page):

Houbotlt’s story is truly fascinating, and I strongly encourage you to read more about him! Better yet, visit the Joliet Historical Museum on Friday! They are waiving the admission fee and have many really cool programs scheduled so you can learn more about Joliet’s own John Houbolt and his impact on manned space travel.

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