Feature

Engineer Celebrates 50-year Milestone at Spaceport
12.07.09
 
Working at Kennedy Space Center for half a century can offer someone many memories. For Charlie Buchanan, a design engineer with EG&G Technical Services on the Institutional Services Contract, his 50 years of Kennedy recollections brought him back to the Complex 30 blockhouse at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where his journey as a draftsman began.

"I recall when a safety flight officer had to detonate a Pershing missile a few seconds into flight," Buchanan said while remembering some of his first experiences at the Cape. "It was the biggest nighttime fireworks display I've ever seen."

Buchanan has witnessed nearly every test flight and launch from Kennedy and the Cape, and was recognized for his many years of service on Sept. 14. Richard Hatcher, acting branch manager and lead architect for ISC Engineering Services, presented Buchanan with a special plaque to mark the milestone.

"I think what works for Charlie is that he is always coming into work with a smile and a positive attitude, even when things aren't going as well as they could," Hatcher said.

Buchanan worked on Project Vanguard for the Martin Company, now Lockheed Martin, in Baltimore. When the launch vehicle he worked on was sent to the Cape in 1959, he transferred there shortly afterward and lived in the small community of Sunrise Beach, Fla. He moved to Melbourne, Fla., in May 1962.

Throughout the years and as contracts changed, he worked for Boeing Services International, Space Gateway Support, and twice for EG&G. When his job within the Apollo Program ended in 1970, he was laid off for one year, but returned on the Base Support Contract in June 1971. Charlie Buchanan with EG&G Technical Services

Image above: Charlie Buchanan, a design engineer with EG&G Technical Services, recently was recognized for 50 years of service at the spaceport. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann



Since that time, he's created design packages for facility remodels, and acquired the materials and equipment to complete the modifications.

"I'm one of the people who workers out here don't like to see," Buchanan joked. "If they see me, it usually means they're going to have to move."

In fact, Buchanan said he's created the design packages for nearly every worker's move from one room to another, or from one facility to another.

Buchanan said one of the challenges of his job was transitioning from drafting the designs by hand to learning the computer-aided design program Micro Station.

In all his years, Buchanan said he's only had three bad days. The first was the Apollo 1 fire, the second was the Challenger accident and the third was President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

"It's hard when you get to know the astronauts and then a tragedy occurs," Buchanan said. "We've seen a lot . . . and been through a lot here."

The most enjoyable part of his job is meeting and getting to know so many people, including most of the early astronauts. One of his most memorable experiences was standing next to Alan Shepard at the Cape's Skid Strip as President Kennedy gave John Glenn an award for his suborbital flight.

Another time, he attended a semi-formal dance at the Merritt Island Skating Rink where astronauts Tom Stafford and Pete Conrad wore roller skates and glided around the dance floor.

While Buchanan cherishes his early years on the Space Coast, he also is looking ahead to the launch center's future.

"I hope NASA will continue to move forward with the Constellation Program and Ares vehicle," Buchanan said.

He and wife, June, live in Rockledge, Fla., and will celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary in February. They have three children, daughters Yvonne and Janet, and son, Charles E., and six grandchildren.

June worked for NASA in the Education Division. She coordinated several education and science fair programs for students, and retired from Kennedy in 1995.

 
 
Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center