Video: See our full interview with NASA propulsion engineer Norman Chaffee
While many of our interviewees had "front office" jobs in the space program—pilots, astronauts, flight controllers—some of the most interesting interview bits came from the pure engineers. That includes folks like Norman Chaffee, who started his career at NASA in May of 1962 and who, during the course of that career, worked on the Gemini and Apollo programs. Chaffee didn't fly the spacecraft—he helped make them.
Specifically, Chaffee was a propulsion engineer. He helped make the reaction control thrusters on the Gemini capsule a reality. Those are the little thrusters, often fueled by either hypergolic propellants or cold gas, that are used during the mission to change the spacecraft's attitude in roll, pitch, and yaw. After Gemini, Chaffee worked on thruster design for the Apollo command module and then, finally, on the reaction control thrusters for the Grumman-manufactured Lunar Module. (Chaffee's NASA oral history page has some amazing stories in it for readers who want to know more).