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Feet on the Ground, Eyes on the Stars: The True Story of a Real Rocket Man with G.A. “Jim” Ogle

User Defenders podcast

User Defenders podcast - "Rocket Man" -G.A. "Jim" Ogle

Welcome to this very special, quite literally out of this world episode with my father, G.A. “Jim” Ogle. You know how they say it doesn’t take a rocket scientist? Well, my Dad is one. On a recent vacation to Florida to celebrate his 80th birthday, he spent nearly three hours telling me his compelling story.

BIO
G.A. “Jim” Ogle fell in love with airplanes at the early age of 8 years old. The circumstances that presented this initial passion were far from ideal.

He was recovering in a hospital bed following a 7-hour surgery to essentially re-attach his badly mangled right leg from a horrible school bus wreck. He awoke from the operation to see a model airplane hanging down from a wooden structure over his bed that was to be used as a traction device to slowly pull his left leg back into place. It was broken at the hip and rammed almost three inches into his lower torso.

His injuries would prevent him from being a pilot in the Air Force. But this reality would not deter him from being in the air with airplanes because 12 years later he became involved in space with missiles and rockets on his first job at Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1958. This was the beginning of his 51-year career of being associated with every manned moon mission and all 135 Space Shuttle missions. He finally got his layoff notice along with 8,000 other space workers following the final Shuttle mission, STS-135, in July 2011.

He likes to tell folks questioning his unusual longevity in this field that he was fortunate to be “in the right place at the right time and the right age.” He considers himself blessed for having had the opportunity to be a part of this truly exciting time in America’s beginnings in space.

Fun fact: Jim requires 10 lemons and multiple servings of tartar sauce with every seafood meal. The last lemon squeeze after the meal is used to clean his hands!

TIMESTAMPS

  • Tragic Beginnings (08:50)
  • Missiles (21:58)
  • Meeting Wernher von Braun (42:36)
  • Apollo I Fire (48:36)
  • Moon Missions (55:55)
  • How in the World Was this Possible? (67:27)
  • Space Shuttle (87:57)
  • Challenger: What Went Wrong? (105:35)
  • Columbia: What Went Wrong? (112:08)
  • Next Chapter of Space Travel (118:50)
  • Takeaways from Space Stories (132:32)
  • What Drove You to Overcome Your Adversity? (136:15)
  • Advice for Those in the Midst of Adversity (139:48)
  • In Closing (144:11)



TIMELINE

  • 1958 – Left Georgia Tech in my junior year (money problem) and got job with Douglas Aircraft Company (DAC) as a technical writer for the Thor IRBM Missile program being conducted at Cape Canaveral, FL
  • 1961 – Transferred into the Space Vehicle Electronics group as a draftsman writing field Engineering Orders for the Thor missile and Delta launch vehicles
  • 1962 – Returned to Georgia Tech to complete Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering
  • 1964 – Completed BEE degree at Georgia Tech and returned to DAC as a checkout engineer on the Saturn I, Block 11 two-stage launch vehicles launched from Launch Complex 37 on the Cape
  • 1965 – Relocated to the VAB/Complex 39 to work on the Apollo Program’s Saturn V and Saturn IB launch vehicles as a Telemetry, RF, and Instrumentation checkout engineer and launch console operator for all Apollo launches
  • 1975 – Started with TRW in support of the Delta launches in Hangar AE for each Delta mission
  • 1976 – Started with Rockwell as a Communications & Tracking (C&T) station design engineer. Designed and built C&T station checkout racks for the Digital Range Safety and UHF subsystems used on the Shuttle launch vehicle
  • 1977 – Managed the creation and maintenance of the Data Bank for the Command Control & Monitor Subsystem. The Data Bank is a storage area for the technical attributes associated with all Shuttle measurements and commands
  • 1984 – Transferred to Downey, CA and managed the creation and data input for measurements and commands into the Johnson Space Center computer
  • 1997 – Transferred back to Florida with Boeing (Previously Rockwell) to repair failed black boxes on the Shuttle
  • 2006 – Received 30-year service award from Boeing
  • 2011 – Received 35-year service award and my first layoff notice from Boeing. The layoff ended my 51-year aerospace career and the careers of 8,000 other contractor employees at the end of the Space Shuttle program with the conclusion of the final Shuttle flight designated STS-135 in July 2011

MOON MISSION

Special thanks to Jason Harrod for use of his amazing song, “Moon Mission”. Please be sure to check out and support his incredible music mission.


  • Rocket Ranch book
  • Rocket Ranch book

    This deep-dive into the origin story and evolution of the space program opens up with my Dad’s compelling story, and touches on his space experience again later in the book.


SPECIAL THANKS
To Mitch Devine for using his copywriting superpowers to name this episode!


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