Supply Chain Now Episode 405

The ‘This Week in Business History’ Series on Supply Chain Now shares some of the most relevant business and global supply chain events from years past. It will shine a light on some of the most significant leaders, companies, innovations, and even lessons learned from our collective business history.

In this episode of ‘This Week in Business History,’ Supply Chain Now Host Scott Luton shares the lasting impact of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

On July 20th, 1969, the Apollo lunar module Eagle landed on the moon, changing the trajectory of human exploration in space forever. But while this is generally regarded as a monumental moment for science, the implications for business have been significant as well, including:

· The first-ever computer guidance system

· Integrated circuits (or microchips)

· State of the art dampers and shock absorbers


Scott Luton (00:12):

Good morning, Scott Luton here with you on this edition of this week in business history. Welcome to today’s show on this program, which is part of the supply chain. Now family of programming. We take a look back at the upcoming week, and then we share some of the most relevant events and milestones from years past, of course, mostly business focused with a little dab global supply chain. And occasionally we might just throw in a good story outside of our primary realm. So I invite you to join me on this. Look back in history to identify some of the most significant leaders, companies, innovations, and perhaps lessons learned in our collective business journey. Now let’s dive in to this week in business history.

Scott Luton (01:15):

Hello, and thanks for joining us. My name is Scott Luton and today we are focused on the week of July 20th and one historic event would take place this week, 51 years ago, that would impact business and the world for decades to come the Apollo 11 mission. And they, everyone knows the story of the moon landing, but have you uncovered the legacy, especially from a business standpoint of what many folks call the human races, greatest achievement of the 20th century. That’s what we’ll focus on today. On this week in business history, powered by our team here at supply chain. Now on July 20th, 1969, the Apollo lunar module Eagle landed on the moon, but the stage was set about seven years earlier. U S president John F. Kennedy was speaking to over 40,000 people at rice university on September 12th, 1962, when Kennedy had been sworn in the office, many Americans had a sense that the country was behind in the space race. The Soviet union had successfully launched the first artificial satellite a few years earlier, Sputnik one, which largely shaped American’s views. In fact, prior to the 1962 address, president Kennedy had challenged Congress in May, 1961, that the United States should commit to quote, landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth in quote. But that address didn’t really move the needle much, both in DC and across the country.

Scott Luton (03:05):

Warm late summer day, rice university, president Kennedy was able to indeed rally folks to see the vision he saw in a speech that is still quoted often today, the president said, quote, we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we’re willing to accept. One. We are unwilling to postpone and one we intend to win and the others too, in quote, there was also another big reason. JFK was at rice university that day. Rice is in Houston, Texas, and the school had just been, had just served as the intermediary in a deal that was critical to Kennedy’s famous challenge that he’d pose that day in his speech.

Scott Luton (04:05):

In order for NASA to have the resources to land on the moon, they would need a world class facility, perhaps a plethora of world-class facilities. Thus, the humble oil company donated the land to form the manned spacecraft center, which would later be called. Of course the Johnson space center in Houston. This massive site would become part of one of the key components of the legacy of the Apollo program. Some say a space industrial complex, big money, big corporations, lots of jobs, lots of bureaucracy. More on that in a moment, the Kennedy address at rice university was one of the moments that continued to help gain momentum for a mission to the moon. John F Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in 1963 would also prove to be a major catalyst for the Johnson and Nixon administrations to fulfill the bold vision of a moon landing before the end of the sixties.

Scott Luton (05:14):

And on July 20th, Apollo

Scott Luton (05:17):

11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and buzz Aldrin would land on the moon while astronaut Michael Collins remained back in the command module. Columbia, in fact, Michael Collins spent a full day in solitary confinement as Armstrong and Aldrin made history on the balloon or surface on every orbit of the moon. Collins would lose radio contact with mission control and really civilization for 48 minutes. I wonder if we all might benefit from this practice of the ultimate approach to unplugging from it all a few hours after they landed on July 21st, 1969, of course, Neil Armstrong would be the first human to step foot on the moon. And on July 24th, 1969, the command module, Columbia carrying all three national and now international heroes and really new celebrities. Well, it would splash back down in the Pacific ocean on earth, Apollo 11 mission into there, but the ultimate impact and ripple effect was just beginning. Let’s take a look at a few of the technologies that continue to shape the business world today and all that came about due to the Apollo program.

Speaker 1 (06:45):


Scott Luton (06:45):

It takes an entire department at NASA to track and catalog all the innovations and technologies that space program has contributed over the years. Let’s start with a technology that would go on to make a big impact, especially in aviation. Did you know that the first pure electronic fly by wire aircraft was the Apollo lunar landing research vehicle, which first flew in 1968? Its nickname was the flying bedstead way back when the Apollo program started. Every plane in the air was essentially controlled mechanically. This meant cables and rods had connected the pilots instruments to the aircraft’s controlled surfaces. So the pilot would pull a stick or push a pedal, and that would cause the wing flap or the rudder to move in the right direction, all mechanically and or with hydraulics. But that wouldn’t cut it for landing on the moon. Check out this quote from Don owls, a computer scientist that was part of the Apollo program quote, the job of flying a spacecraft is to meth mathematical for a human to do it by the seat of their pants.

Scott Luton (08:02):

So there really is a necessity to have a computer in quote, I wonder how that legendary pilot Neil Armstrong, who flew 78 missions over Korea and was one of the most talented test pilots in the history of the us air force and NASA. I wonder just how Neil Armstrong felt about leaning on computers to fly a spacecraft NASA contract NASA contracted rather with Draper laboratory to develop a computer guidance system for the Apollo command module and lunar module. This revolutionary system would use electronic signals generated by the pilot’s actions and feed those signals into a guidance computer. Along with some of the, a lot of, a lot of other data based on these inputs, the computer then would make a decision and trigger that propulsion and navigation equipment to act accordingly. Truly remarkable. Now let’s learn a little bit more about the organization behind this development. Draper laboratory is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1932 to focus on aircraft technologies. The organization was an official part of MIT until 1973, when it became independent as a not-for-profit R and D corporation with locations in key space, industrial complex cities, such as Huntsville, Alabama, and Houston, Texas Draper laboratory continues to do big things in business and technology. With over 1700 employees, the company had revenues of about $640 million in 2019,

Scott Luton (09:48):

Following the Apollo program, NASA and many of its suppliers and contractors would work with the aviation industry to help companies learn and adapt this new digital approach, which is now of course, commonplace the Airbus. A three 20 would become the first airliner to fly with an all digital fly by wire control system in 1984. In fact, you’ll find digital fly by wire technology in other surprising places, such as courage, cruise control and antilock braking systems on your automobile. A second big innovation that stems from the Apollo program integrated circuits. Now it’s important to note that NASA and the Apollo program didn’t invent the integrated circuit, AKA the microchip. However, it’s also important to understand that there wasn’t a huge market in the 1960s for this new technology component.

Scott Luton (10:49):


Scott Luton (10:50):

In fact, there was a fierce debate at NASA about whether the Apollo program would utilize the new integrated circuits provided by MIT instrumentation lab, by the way, that would later become Draper laboratory or would they stick with IBM and a circuit called the unit logic device. The new integrated circuit would win and the Apollo program would need a lot of these new microchips. In fact, the computing demands for the program hardware was so great that NASA was using about two thirds of the world’s supply of integrated circuits at the height, of course, of the manufacturing of the Apollo program equipment. Now the integrated circuit driven Apollo guidance computer never missed a beat and worked just about flawlessly. And that went a long way to assure global business that the microchip works and it’s reliable. And just like that the integrated circuit began to take root.

Scott Luton (11:55):

Of course, now it serves as a critical core that powers just about all of our tech devices we use in 2020. And here’s one other more interesting innovation that I bet you didn’t know came from the Apollo program. So we’re all familiar perhaps with the powerful Saturn five rocket and iconic component of the Apollo program, consider this. It went from concept to flight in six years, the Saturn five was 360 feet tall and remains the most powerful rocket ever built, even though it hasn’t flown since 1973, it weighed a massive 6.5 million pounds when fully fueled and own the pan, as you might expect a sound and sturdy infrastructure was paramount for operating the Saturn five, this included massive arms to stabilize the vehicle and incredibly durable launch pad that could absorb all of that powerful thrust of the world’s largest rockets. Rocket engines, NASA would need state of the art dampers and shock absorbers to ensure safe and successful launches of the Saturn five.

Scott Luton (13:16):

A lot of the research and technology in this area was applied later to safely operating the world’s largest rocket. And, and that same technology is being applied to help companies, organizations, and others mitigate the risk posed by earthquakes around the world. That’s right variations of this same NASA space program. Technology has been applied for decades to buildings and bridges and the like helping to reinforce their foundation and resilience, especially in quake prone areas. So digital fly by wire integrated circuits, damper technology, all just a small part of the Apollo program, legacy food, safety advancements, battery innovations, fireproofing technology tires. Yeah, I mean the lunar Rover really drove technology tire technology to new Heights. And that’s still just scratching the surface in terms of business impact that NASA and its army of experts have had on our world in the last 75 years or so. But no, this expect a lot more to come via current NASA programs, such as the space launch system, that’s expecting to power humans to asteroids the moon again, and perhaps even Mars Landsat nine, which builds on a successful critical legacy of satellites. The James Webb space telescope, which will be the largest, most powerful and complex space telescope ever built. Watch out Hubble those three and many other active projects keep the NASA and greater space community owned the move, or some would call it the space industrial

Scott Luton (15:14):


Scott Luton (15:20):

The Apollo program came to a close in 1972. It cost over 200, rather check that $24 billion adjusted for inflation that somewhere in the neighborhood of $170 billion today, NASA managed 500 contractors, several prom contractors, and over 200 subcontractors, the bureaucratic system and infrastructure can still be seen today. You know, last week on this week in business history, we dove into Boeing’s birth and iconic global brand, despite recent channels.

Scott Luton (15:59):


Scott Luton (16:01):

Boeing North American aviation and Douglas aircraft company would be the biggest contributors and contractors that develop the Saturn five rocket. Since that time, Boeing has acquired both both of those companies, North American aviation and Douglas aircraft company. Boeing was a big supplier for the space shuttle and the international space station. And now Boeing is the prom contractor for one of NASA’s big current projects. The one we mentioned a minute ago, the space launch system, but some question, these massive contracts and whether they push NASA forward or they have the organization clinging to the past some 0.2 longtime contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, rocket, Don, and others, along with the long established NASA sites like Marshall space flight center in Alabama, the Stennis space center in Mississippi, and of course Johnson space center in Houston. And the question that comes to mind is this is the same infrastructure that built the Apollo program, still a good fit for NASA’s needs.

Scott Luton (17:17):

In 2020, Lori Garver, formerly served as deputy administrator of NASA under the Obama administration. She was quoted by the verge in 2019 saying, quote, we have been building to the infrastructure and centers versus building a program that is responsive to the needs of the country in current times because we had those centers and we had to use them. And same with the people. It’s almost impossible to imagine what you would do differently without that, but you wouldn’t recreate them in quote, others have found NASA’s management approach to be flawed a year long GAO assessment in May, 2018 stated quote, the cost and schedule performance of NASA’s portfolio of major projects has deteriorated. But the extent of cost performance deterioration is unknown. The G a O pointed to the lack of cost estimates as one of those chief reasons behind their finding former NASA team member, Mark syringe Willow was quoted as stating quote, people look at the technology as the only piece of the puzzle, but oftentimes it’s the way you manage the technology is the way you manage the contracting. It’s how you set up the program. Those things need to be innovative as well.

Scott Luton (18:56):

In a break from tradition NASA’s partnership with the private company space sex to send astronauts in the space could be a sign of things to come, or is it just a minor blip in the history of a government governance agency that remains inextricably chained to the suppliers and partnerships of decades past, only time shall tell. But what is for certain as this, the extraordinary Apollo program made a Mark bigger than many would have expected doubted by most when it launched in those hot July days in 1969, when the world was glued to televisions and radios, NASA delivered now over 50 years later, what will be the next big NASA game changer?

Scott Luton (19:46):

We’ll find out

Scott Luton (19:49):

That wraps up our look at the week ahead from a business history standpoint, the Zenith of the Apollo program and its impact on global business stood out to us. But what do you think there were certainly no shortage of other big stories during the week of July 20th in business history. It’d be tough to top Apollo 11 in our, in our opinion, but what stands out to you? Tell us, shoot us a note to Amanda at supply chain. Now or join our supply chain. Now inside our group own LinkedIn and share your feedback and perspective. We’re here to listen. I hope that you’ve enjoyed our latest edition of this week in business history focused on the week of July 20th. On that note, be sure to check out a wide variety of industry thought leadership. You can find, fondness and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from on behalf of the entire team here at this week in business history and supply chain. Now this is Scott Luton wishing all of our listeners, nothing but the best. Hey, do good give forward and be the change that’s needed. And on that note, we’ll see. Next time. Thanks for buddy.

Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott introduces you to This Week in Business History through our YouTube channel.

Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


Upcoming Events & Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Subscribe to Supply Chain Now:
Connect with Scott on LinkedIn:
Supply Chain Now Ranked #1 Supply Chain Podcast via FeedSpot:
Supply Chain Now Ranked #3 Supply Chain YouTube Channel:
UPCOMING WEBINAR: Post COVID-19 Supply Chains: What is Needed to Adapt” –
Supply Chain Now is a Media Partner for SourceConnecte’s Virtual Small Business Expo
August 4th-5th:
Listen and Subscribe to Supply Chain is Boring on Supply Chain Now:
Listen and Subscribe to TECHquila Sunrise with Greg White on Supply Chain Now:
Listen and Subscribe to This Week in Business History on Supply Chain Now:
Listen and Subscribe to Veteran Voices on Supply Chain Now:
AIAG Virtual 2020 Supply Chain Conference:

Check Out News From Our Sponsors:
U.S. Bank:
Vector Global Logistics: