Flying to the moon and back

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Ann Thomas’ aerospace class deviated from the norm Tuesday, and got a real life lesson in the world of space.

And Jeremy Peeples came one step closer to his dream of one day becoming an astronaut.

Jeremy’s youthful passion for &uot;science and lasers&uot; kept his eyes and ears open as the School of Discovery Genesis Center’s guest speaker told of the important role he played in launching the first man to the moon.

Email newsletter signup

Donnie &uot;Don&uot; Wooldridge Sr., an Apollo team member, shared with Jeremy and a handful of other sixth-graders in the school’s Pickard Auditorium

the &uot;highlight&uot; of his life, how team work is inevitable in all life situations and that a little inspiration can take one a long way, as it did for him.

Following his inability to fly planes due to an inner ear disease, Wooldrigde focused his career efforts elsewhere. And not long after, he applied for a position at NASA or any of its affiliated contractors for a job.

The rest is history, literally.

Following a career in the Air Force as a Fuel Lab Technician Specialist, he became one of 17 planners and scheduling specialist for the ground, pre-launch and launch testing of the Apollo and Skylab spacecraft from 1967 to 1974, and was one of only three of the original 17 General Electric planners and scheduling specialists to actually fulfill the NASA contract.

The students

looked in curiosity as Wooldridge spoke of the elaborate construction of the rockets, explained the processes before launching and what it took to actually get it in the air.

To test the students knowledge of the mission to the moon, he asked

a question.

The hand-full of students who challenged their memory came up with the magic answer of Neil Armstrong’s famous quote: &uot;One giant step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.&uot;

Wooldridge’s work with the Apollo missions, especially with the fuels, was definitely relative to what Thomas’ class has been doing since the beginning of the school year, Thomas said.

Although their mini rocket launching experience is the first step of the learning process for the students in Thomas’ class, she said the true value of the lesson learned yesterday was that the students &uot;realized the value of self in relation to the world.&uot;

After completing his work with NASA, Wooldridge took a position with Carolina Power and Light. In 1985, he became lead planner for construction of Harris Nuclear Power Plant in New Hill, N.C., followed by lead planner and supervisor of the power plant’s system start-up and check out.

In 1991, he became lead planner and supervisor for the plant’s refueling and outages, then retired that same year.

Wooldridge was born in Clay County Arkansas, has two adult children and is engaged to Dee Reagan, the visual arts instructor at the School of Discovery.