ALUMNUS Spring 2022 - Mississippi State University

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n the summer of 1969, the world was captivated by the successful Apollo 11 mission that put the first man on the moon. By April 1970, America was focused on another Apollo mission, this time watching with unease as an onboard explosion in the command module put the Apollo 13 crew’s safe return to Earth in jeopardy. At both points, the public was seeing the results of dedicated work from Mississippi State University graduates. Alumni Ed Smylie and Gilroy Chow were among the Bulldogs that took part in the all-hands-on-deck effort to safely return the three Apollo 13 astronauts to Earth. Smylie and Chow shared their stories as part of a new documentary from the MSU Television Center, “XIII.” Chow came to MSU from New York in 1958 due to family connections in the Mississippi Delta. After graduating with a degree in industrial engineering in 1962,

Gilroy Chow

“You could sense the importance of what was happening. We were going to the moon, and we were going to get it done.” ~ Gilroy Chow he returned to New York to work for Grumman Aircraft. The company was selected as the contractor to build the lunar module used in the Apollo program, giving Chow an opportunity to work on the project at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. “You could sense the importance of what was happening,” Chow recalled. “We were going to the moon, and we were going to get it done.” After Apollo 11 and 12 successfully sent astronauts to the moon without any major incidents, Apollo 13 turned out to be different. Chow received a call from his manager shortly after the explosion caused a drastic drop in oxygen in the command module. He soon reported to Kennedy Space Center. Smylie was in his home, located just down the street from astronaut Fred Haise’s house, when he learned of a major problem onboard Apollo 13 as the news broke on television. Working as the acting chief of the crew systems division in NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, the two-time mechanical engineering graduate and Crystal Springs native quickly put his team to work addressing a key challenge that emerged in the aftermath of the explosion.

Ed Smylie