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Feet on the Ground, Eyes on the Stars: The True Story of a Real Rocket Man with Jim Ogle (8/3/37 – 8/15/20)

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Feet on the Ground, Eyes on the Stars: The True Story of a Real Rocket Man with Jim Ogle (8/3/37 – 8/15/20)
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Welcome to this very special, quite literally out of this world episode with my father, 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

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: He 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)


PICTURES


TIMELINE

  • Aug 3, 1937 – Touchdown
  • 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
  • Aug 15, 2020 – Liftoff

VIDEOS

Video Podcast Interview

Because I didn’t travel with a capable video camera, my cousin who’s a NASA space reporter, lent me his GoPro. Bottom line: I suck at GoPro and the first half of the interview is audio. But alas, the second half is actual video and includes a really special slideshow at the end.


A Real Rocket Man: My Father’s Compelling Life/Space Career Story in Pictures

This is the slideshow I put together to honor my real-life rocket scientist father. The late, great G.A. “Jim” Ogle (8/3/1937 – 8/15/2020). I had the great privilege of interviewing him and capturing his compelling and moving life/space career story at his Space Coast home in the days following his 80th birthday celebration.


Lake Worth with G.A. “Jim” Ogle

My father talking about his upbringing in the golden years and how that shaped him and reflecting on his most monumental memory.


Overcoming Adversity with G.A. “Jim” Ogle

My father talking about his dramatic life-altering accident at the very scene and how it shaped his life and mindset (pardon the audio…from the street, literally)


Apollo 50th Anniversary Discussion/QA

On the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, my rocket scientist father (Jim Ogle) re-tells his experience of the events that took place from the Firing Room the day of the launch on July 16, 1969, leading into the unforgettable and awe-inspiring day of July 20, 1969 when the U.S. achieved the unimaginable feat of landing the first humans on the moon. He also answered attendees questions live!


Remembering Apollo 11 and What it Took to Get to the Moon with Jim Ogle – Central Florida Spotlight

Greg Warmoth interviews Apollo 11 launch team member, Jim Ogle, and captures his personal reflections on events leading up to this historic launch of the first moon landing.


Eyewitness to History – Apollo 11 Fifty Years Later – Eyewitness News 11

This program presents interviews with several Apollo 11 launch team members, including Jim Ogle, on the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing mission.


Jim Ogle on SpaceX Launch w American Astronauts – News 13 Special Report

My Pop got some major coverage in sharing his first-hand perspective on his illustrious space career journey prior to a recent SpaceX launch.


ARTICLES

Florida man remembers Wernher von Braun, Huntsville lunar legacy

Jim Ogle remembers meeting Rocket Scientist Werner von Braun in the strangest of places

WAAY 31 met up with a man (Jim Ogle) who worked the Apollo missions and remembers von Braun’s legacy and the strange place he met the famous rocket scientist…Read more


Boeing engineer on effect of Apollo 11: ‘We leap-frogged ahead of the Russians’

Boeing engineer Jim Ogle on effect of Apollo 11: 'We leap-frogged ahead of the Russians'

Apollo-era electrical engineer G.A. “Jim” Ogle had two wishes for his 80th birthday in 2017. One was to celebrate his46th wedding anniversary with his wife, Barbara, a former secretary whom he met at an Apollo 14 launch party. The other was to make it to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch, which he watched from the firing room as a launch control operator. Both wishes were granted…Read more


The hard-charging space program: Breakthroughs, breakups and breakneck

Mathematician and return-to-Earth specialist Frances “Poppy” Northcutt with colleagues, in Houston, March 16, 1969. She was one of the highest-ranking female space pioneers to work in NASA’s Mission Control during Apollo 8.

An awesome Washington Post article where both of my parents were cited. I’m literally a result of the space program and Apollo moon missions as my parents met and fell in love (and defied the odds by staying together 50 years now) while both working on this important, and still most incredible achievement known to mankind…Check out the article


OBITUARY: Space Program Veteran George A. ‘Jim’ Ogle of Merritt Island Passes Away at 83

It is with great sadness that the family of George A. “Jim” Ogle announced he passed away suddenly on August 15, 2020, at the age of 83. Jim was in the firing room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for the historic launch of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission on July 16, 1969, and would later describe it as one of the most exhilarating moments in his life… Read more


MOON MISSION

Special thanks to Jason Harrod for use of his amazing song, “Moon Mission” at the end of the episode. 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!


EXTRA EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT
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