Fifty years after Apollo 11 re-entered Earth, a group of Chinese-Americans who played an integral part in the Space Race will share their experiences during Re-Entry…Mississippi, an event hosted by the Delta State University Archives and Museum and DSU’s Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum on July 7-8.
The event is being hosted in conjunction with the July 20, 1969, 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, when an estimated 650 million people watched televised coverage of astronaut Neil Armstrong's “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
And this momentous occasion would not have occurred without help from the Mississippi Delta.
Clarksdale’s Gilroy Chow, an engineer at the Kennedy Flight Center during that time, will speak at the event.
“It was very a humbling experience to work with this team of very competent professionals operating at an accelerated pace to achieve demanding goals under extreme scrutiny,” said Chow, who is also the president of DSU’s Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum. “It is not commonly known that there were Chinese-Americans across the country, in particular from the Mississippi Delta, that made significant contributions to accomplishing Apollo mission goals.”
During the height of the civil rights movement, NASA broke barriers by hiring Americans of different racial, ethnic, and gender backgrounds, unifying them under a common goal of space exploration.
Re-Entry…Mississippi shares the story of the Delta Chinese among them—including Chow, an engineer for Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., the prime contractor for NASA. Chow was part of the team that built, tested and checked the Apollo Lunar Modules (LM), from 1965 to 1973. He was with the launch team that processed the LM at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Apollo 11.
“We have created a marvelous exhibition and a really exciting series of lectures and activities to bring attention to the Mississippi-Chinese contribution to the ‘race to space,’” said Delta State Archivist Emily Jones ’99. Other topics include why NASA was formed and why the Space Race was historic. The exhibit features items on loan from guest speakers and others who had a prominent role in NASA's Apollo programs and STEM discovery—such as authentic mission patches, objects that were carried into space, computer punch cards, and period photographs.
The event also includes a mini space camp for children age 5-17, a Wiley Planetarium themed show, and a presentation from the Hancock County-based Stennis Space Center. The exhibit and activities are free and open to the public. For children to attend the mini space camp, their parent/guardian must attend the main lectures.
Fellow speaker Josephine Jue, born in Vance, joined the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as a mathematician in 1963 and assisted with the Houston Avionics Language/Shuttle compiler for both the space shuttle onboard and ground based computers. With a career spanning 34 years at NASA, she will talk about equality challenges and her role in the development of STEM.
“I was one of eight women at the time and the only Asian,” Jue said. “The opportunities were good when I started, but there were few women. [And] women were an integral part of the team that helped put astronauts on the moon.”
Other participants include Cleveland High School alumnus William Moon, who has worked at NASA-Houston since 1965 and was the only Chinese-American in the Mission Control Center’s operation control room (as a flight controller) during all Apollo expeditions, among others; Peter Joe, former longtime engineering manager at Rockwell International, which was a leading American aerospace contractor; and Martin Jue (no relation), president of MFJ Enterprises in Starkville, an electrical engineer by training and an expert in ham radios, which were popular during the Space Race.
This project was made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program and/or exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Mississippi Humanities Council.
About Delta State University: Delta State University is a four-year public institution whose more than 3,500 students come from most U.S. states and more than 50 countries. The university offers numerous unique programs, including the Delta Music Institute entertainment industry program, and is the only university in Mississippi to offer undergraduate and graduate aviation programs. Situated in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, which is recognized as the birthplace of American music, Delta State has become the center of music and culture for the state and the region. The university is also the academic center for the blues, offering an online blues studies curriculum that leads to a certificate for advanced study of blues music. In addition, Delta State offers top-notch academic programs in business, arts, sciences, nursing, and education, among other areas.