This Arizona Company Played A Big Role In Moon Landing

By Grayson Schmidt
Published: Monday, July 15, 2019 - 5:05am
Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - 9:21am
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Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon and uttered that now-famous phrase, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” And the reason those iconic words could be heard back on Earth was technology made in the Phoenix area.

Though it was a division of Motorola at the time, the radio transmitters designed by Scottsdale’s General Dynamics Mission Systems were used in the Explorer, Mercury, Ranger, Mariner and Gemini missions before ultimately broadcasting Armstrong’s words to nearly 600 million people across the world.

That moment is also what inspired Manny Mora, vice president of Space and Intelligence Systems at General Dynamics, to become an engineer.

“I used to see that as one of the most amazing things, how could we launch what essentially looked like an airplane into outer space, and then have it come back and land,” Mora said. “One of the main reasons I came to work for Motorola is because of that history they had with the Apollo missions and NASA and landing on the moon.”

According to Mora, Motorola had never tested the S-Band transponders in space prior to Apollo 11. So those first words on the moon were the first time a transmission had been sent at that distance.

“That was breakthrough technology; that was breakthrough capability,” Mora said. “This was the first time that full link was established, and it worked as designed.”

Mora has been with General Dynamics for 35 years and has witnessed the company at the forefront of GPS technology and its partnership with NASA for other missions such as communications with the Hubble telescope and the Mars rovers.

“The technology on the Mars rovers, is very similar to the technology from the Apollo 11 missions and the evolutions there,” Mora said. “Now there's another major initiative by our country to go back to the moon and put a man on the moon, but this time, it's more to establish habitat on the moon.”

Mora said that he’s proud to work at a company that had such a major role in arguably one of the most important events in American history, the space race with the Soviet Union.

“We feel proud of that legacy that we have that we enabled that transmission of the voice and the data that the American public saw on their television sets when man first landed on the moon,” Mora said.

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