Who is John Houbolt? Now retired, he was an engineer who had a significant influence on how NASA eventually landed men on the Moon.

Houbolt was perhaps the strongest advocate of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) concept. To refresh your memory, LOR involved using a separate lunar module that landed on the Moon and returned to lunar orbit to rendezvous with the command module for the return to Earth.

In the early 1960s, NASA was considering methods to meet President Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The other two concepts being considered were the Direct Ascent (what I call the Big Ass Rocket) and the Earth Orbit Rendezvous. LOR was the most controversial of the three and was almost ruled out. Houbolt felt so strongly about LOR that he wrote a nine page letter directly to NASA’s number two administrator, skipping official channels and risking his job. Eventually the LOR concept was adopted by NASA.


Houbolt was later awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

You can read more here and here. Images via NASA