With the 50th anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 mission which saw the first humans set foot on the moon, Canada Post has released a new commemorative set of stamps including Canadian contributions.
Did you know the Apollo 11 lunar legs and feet were built in Longueuil, Quebec? It’s a fact many Canadians aren’t aware of.
Here’s the background on the Apollo 11 lunar lander legs.
The first legs to stand on the moon didn’t belong to Neil Armstrong – they were from Héroux Machine Parts Limited of Longueuil, Quebec. Now known as Héroux-Devtek, the company manufactured the spider-like landing gear legs on the lunar module to NASA’s specifications. The legs were also part of the launch platform that let Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin lift off from the moon and reconnect with the main command module. Those legs remain on the moon at the Apollo 11 landing site, in an area known as the Sea of Tranquility.
While many Canadians played important roles in the Apollo program there are two of note that are part of the commemorative set. They are James (Jim) Chamberlin and Owen Maynard.
James (Jim) Chamberlin
Jim Chamberlin was a leading figure in aircraft design in Canada before moving to the U.S. in 1959 to work for NASA. He became head of engineering for Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program for the United States, and project manager and chief designer for the Gemini spacecraft that preceded Apollo. He helped determine the type of spacecraft that would transport the Apollo 11 astronauts and was one of the first at NASA to recognize that flying directly to the moon wasn’t the best option. Instead, Chamberlin favoured having a smaller landing module travel to lunar orbit attached to the main spacecraft, then descend to the moon’s surface and later reconnect with the main spacecraft. This approach, known as lunar orbit rendezvous, became fundamental to the Apollo program.
One of Canada’s top aircraft engineers before being hired by NASA in 1959, Owen Maynard went on to head the Systems Engineering Division for the Apollo spacecraft program – effectively making him the chief engineer. He sketched early designs of the main Apollo command module and is credited as the person at NASA most responsible for the design of the lunar lander. He also served as Chief of the Mission Operations Division and was responsible for planning the sequence of missions that led to Apollo 11. Like Chamberlin, Maynard also played an important role in determining the safest way to reach and land on the moon.
The stamps and related collectibles are available at canadapost.ca/shop.