New Book Talks About Need To Preserve NASA's Apollo Sites

Apr 14, 2017

“The Final Mission: Preserving NASA’s Apollo Sites” is a new book that discusses in great detail NASA’s Apollo sites, and the need to preserve them. The book is authored by Lisa Westwood, a professional archeologist and professor at Chico State University, Wayne Donaldson, Chairman of National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Beth O’Leary, Professor Emerita of NMSU’s Anthropology Department.

Beth O’Leary recently was a guest on KRWG-TV’s “In Focus.” O’Leary says that the book is about space archeology and heritage.

“There’s rocket test stands, launch complexes, there’s manufacturing facilities. All of these contributed to getting those people up there on the moon,” says O’Leary.

O’Leary says the book discusses about what has happened to the Apollo facilities over time. She says some are still being used and are re-purposed, but others are abandoned. O’Leary shares why it is important to preserve

“We’re running up now on the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon,” says O’Leary. She says that through preservation we can evaluate that era. 

During the time of the space race the Soviet Union and United States were locked in a cold war. O’Leary says that the decision to launch Apollo 8 was made early due to the race with the U.S.S.R.

“The fact that we went into space is really set in the context of the cold war, and the cold war fashions a lot of the decisions made,” says O’Leary.

O’Leary says that there are plenty of ways that New Mexico contributed to the space race like the efforts of Col. John Stapp, known as “The fastest man alive.” Stapp rode a rocket sled over 600 mph to test the g-force effect on astronauts.

“His ability to withstand that, and the equipment that was developed to allow him to do that in a ten-mile track at Holloman (AFB) is New Mexico’s contribution,” says O’Leary. O’Leary also says that the efforts of Col. Joe Kittinger to test parachutes also played a huge role in the space race. 

Beth O’Leary and some of her former students helped get the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base registered in the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties due to what O’Leary says are the connections and our history in developing the spacecraft and the rockets that put the first astronauts on the moon. 

The authors of the book continue to voice the need to preserve the places and artifacts of our space history.