Brunson: There is a family feeling

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 8, 2003

Johnny Brunson, a Crenshaw County native and retired employee of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said there is definitely a &uot;close-knit&uot; connection between everyone at NASA.

Brunson was working for NASA when Apollo-I burned up during testing, killing the three astronauts in the command module.

&uot;I was on the console at Kennedy the night Apollo-I burned up on the launch pad, as a result of a spark in the cockpit,&uot; he said. &uot;I knew Chaffee and the crew personally.&uot;

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Brunson also worked for NASA during the time of the Challenger explosion following its launch 17 years ago.

&uot;When Challenger exploded, I had just left Kennedy Space Center to take assignment at Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Ala.,&uot; he said. &uot;Marshall is where the boosters, tanks and main engines are designed.&uot;

Brunson said he was involved with the Columbia Shuttle craft prior to its maiden voyage into space.

&uot;We worked on Columbia before it was ever launched,&uot; he said. &uot;I was on the ground support and instrumentation crew during that time as an electronics engineer.&uot;

Brunson said not only is NASA a &uot;family-type&uot; agency, but two of his family members also have worked for it.

&uot;Both my daughter and son have been involved NASA, working for Rockwell,&uot; Brunson said. &uot;They both installed tiles on Columbia. And my son still works for NASA today.&uot;

Brunson said he is proud to have been a part of the NASA team.

&uot;When I first started with NASA, we were sending monkeys into space,&uot; he said with a smile. &uot;Things have come a long way, but no one can actually appreciate the feeling of being a part of pioneering science unless they have been there.&uot;

Brunson said that technology has come a long way since manned space flight began.

&uot;There are many more-advanced technologies now that were not there when Columbia was first developed,&uot; he said. &uot;But Columbia was refurbished whenever it was necessary, as technology advanced.

&uot;It is definitely a team effort n if any part of the NASA family finds something, it is troubleshot until it is resolved,&uot; Brunson said. &uot;I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the NASA family n it is a fascinating field, and I would love for the children of this are to be able to be a part of it, by participating in Space Camps' held in Huntsville, or taking trips to Kennedy.&uot;

With the feeling of family, comes a tremendous amount of respect.

&uot;Everyone at NASA is a close-knit family n there is a very deep sense of respect for the astronauts, because they are all test pilots, testing the unknown,&uot; Brunson said. &uot;They and their families all know the risks involved in the space program, but they accept them as a part of the challenge for mankind. And there are always new developments for the betterment of mankind, regarding science, technology, medicine, and countless other areas that could be beneficial to those of us on earth.&uot;

Brunson said that although he has felt the loss during each of the three NASA disasters, he takes comfort in knowing that those who perished did so for the betterment of humanity.

&uot;The program must go on,&uot; he said. &uot;Or the losses would be in vain.&uot;