• Home
  • The Lure of Space Exploration

The Lure of Space Exploration

Dr. Lundquist was one of those talented individuals who found space exploration to be irresistible, but he was prepared in the sense that he had learned thoroughly the basic concepts of physics, and furthermore was always willing to learn something new. The objective of education is not merely to teach someone to do a job, but to produce a prepared mind (and body) that can cope with future unexpected situations. We can see this in the experiences of former teachers and students, as we read the following pages. Furthermore, solving a difficult problem (whether scientific or otherwise) gives a great feeling of satisfaction!

After the Explorer I adventure Lundquist continued to be involved in orbit determination and the scientific analysis of data acquired during subsequent satellite launches. For example, in the late 1950's he was a member of the team that participated in operation Argus, where several low yield nuclear devices were detonated at high altitude. I would guess that before embarking on this project, he had to learn much about nuclear explosions and the manner in which x-rays interact with the atmosphere.

He then worked for some time at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, where among other things he managed project Celescope. This consisted of a four-telescope array with ultra-violet sensitive television cameras that was based on an orbiting observatory. The project generated the first catalog of stellar ultra-violet magnitudes for a significant sample of the sky. He also became the co-editor with George Vais of the book Geodetic Parameters for a 1966 Smithsonian Institution Standard Earth. This work contained the first accurate combination of geometrical observations of earth satellites and dynamical data obtained from satellite orbit analysis. This project was undoubtedly very difficult, and demanded the coordination of a number of very competent (and compatible) individuals.

During the Apollo Program (President Kennedy's project of the 1960's to land a man on the moon) Lundquist was a member of the NASA Group for Lunar Exploration Planning, which was responsible for analyzing and recommending landing sites and objectives for the several lunar landings. This is the type of project where good judgment is paramount; I remember at the time that the depth of dust on the lunar surface was considered to be uncertain, and there was much argument about it.

He then returned to the Marshall Space Flight Center as Director of the Space Sciences Laboratory. There he participated and directed such projects as Gravity Probe, which confirmed the Einstein gravitational red shift, and LAGEOS I, where a high-orbit satellite covered with corner cubes was observed using reflected laser light in order to infer earth dynamics. Also he organized a team to observe the sun-grazing Comet Kohoutek ('rooster' in Czech) from the Skylab space station. Lundquist certainly got involved in a variety of projects! Not all scientists like to do this, I might add.

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where Lundquist is located presently (1988), experiments are being carried out within the low acceleration environment of suborbital and orbital spacecraft, mainly through the Consortium for Materials Development in Space of which he is the Director. The Consortium also sponsors other investigations performed during rocket flights and on the Space Shuttle, including preparations for the International Space Station.