An all-star contract!
Apollo 11 LEM on the Moon – Copyright © Chaîne du Québec
When NASA gave the company its “ticket to the moon”, the hope was that this landing gear would help the company really take off! This contract—the most prestigious in Héroux’s short history, at a value of $340,000 (about $2 million today)—was to build eight telescopic legs with shock absorbers. It may sound simple, but as no one had ever set foot on the moon, the engineers had no idea about the ground on which the Lunar Module would make its landing. But the challenge was too exciting to pass up!
In engineering, every now and then special assignments like this come along. These projects are often secret, because they are highly strategic. But when an engineer spends every day immersed in plans, testing and assembly, he forgets about the end use. His sole obsession is perfection. Nevertheless, late at night when he lies down to sleep, taking stock of his day, his head on the pillow, he sometimes momentarily comes “back down to Earth”: “I’m actually taking part in a trip to the moon!” Falling asleep with that on your mind can be disconcerting… but also so exciting!
The module’s landing system devised and produced by Héroux-Devtek had specific goals:
- Bring the vehicle to rest
- Prevent toppling
- Absorb the landing impact energy
- Limit the loads induced on the spacecraft’s structure
- Provide a stable launch platform for lift-off so the astronauts could return home.
“The sky is the limit”
It may look simple, but as the work proceeded into virtually unknown territory, with the technology and knowledge of the time, it was quite a challenge. And all of this was in the context of the Cold War with the Soviet Union! Winning the space race, being the first to walk on the moon, was President John F. Kennedy’s “Moon Objective”, and the American people were on board with him. Not such a relaxed atmosphere! Let’s just say our engineers and workers also felt the “G-Force” on them!
Of course, you know how the story ends: Héroux-Devtek successfully manufactured and delivered the landing gear systems for this historic mission and five other space missions. After making history like that, the company can safely say “the sky is the limit”!
The Earth as seen from Héroux-Devtek
The fame gained by Héroux-Devtek led to its exponential growth throughout North America, especially in the United States. The company is a “little guy” with 70 years of experience, recognized as an international leader in aerospace. When you work at Héroux-Devtek and you know everyone’s passion for engineering there, you just might hear a worker embark on a new project by shouting, “To infinity . . . and beyond!”
A quote from Gilles Labbé, President of Héroux-Devtek
“We were the first Canadian company to go to the moon. This allowed Héroux to enter the American aviation industry more effectively.”