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In Their Own Words: Peter Kachmar on Lunar Orbit Rendezvous

Peter Kachmar
Norman Sears
John Houbolt

Peter Kachmar worked closely with the software engineering team at Draper during the Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs.

"My name is Peter Kachmar. I was hired by Norm Sears to work the rendezvous part of the problem.

Rendezvous was bringing together two vehicles in orbit, using the orbital mechanics equations to know where you are relative to the other vehicle so you can perform guidance calculations to get to the other vehicle. It's important because you land one vehicle, the other vehicle’s in orbit, and you have to get back to the vehicle within a certain amount of time accurately and be able to take the crew members back to Earth.

The rendezvous itself is critical. You have two astronauts in the lunar module that if they don't make it back to the command module they're lost. There's no way about it. The rendezvous was important because it allowed the concept of lunar orbit rendezvous to be successfully executed and put man on the moon.

The thing that was interesting on Apollo 11, everybody's there for the lift off, you know, we get into orbit and then everybody leaves and Gene [Muller] and I were dumbfounded. We were sitting there alone in this. Now, we have to get the guys back, that's critical, but we're saying where are you all going. I mean this is a critical part of the mission. Well, number one, they didn't want to stick around for four hours. But number two, they said, you've been doing it all this time, it's been successful, we're leaving. So Gene and I are sitting there, I'm sure Norm [Sears] is with us. We watched it for our rendezvous to the successful dock but nobody else was there. It was just a wonderful moment. We carried out the successful rendezvous as you know on 11, 12—not 13."