Hal Walker; Rocket Scientist; Black History Month
During Black History Month (and all year long) let’s celebrate the historical accomplishments of Rocket Scientist Hildreth (Hal) Walker, Jr., who was the first man that was African-American to successfully fire the KORAD-1500 Ruby Laser to the moon in 1969 during the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.
On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans ever to land on the moon. Part of that mission was for Walker to precisely deploy the Laser Ranging Retroflector to transmit signals to Earth the moon’s surface. After astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin set up an 18-inch-wide reflector mirror on the moon’s surface, Walker directed a laser beam from Lick Observatory in Mt. Hamilton, California, and made contact with the mirror. This major achievement, now known as the Lunar Ranging Experiment (LURE), was the only interactive planetary experiment that took place for the first Moon Landing. It is also one of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Milestones: #198. These milestones celebrate major accomplishments in the field of electrical engineering and reflect Walker’s importance to the field.
Walker’s key role for KORAD which was contracted by NASA was not made known in history books or ledgers until it was discovered 25 years later by a curator from the Smithsonian Museum. Walker’s Apollo 11 Lunar Laser Ranging Interplanetary Experiment was replicated in 1994, in an interactive exhibit located in the Hands-on Science section of Science in American Life at the National Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Walker was also honored in the exhibit’s permanent section, “The New Moon.”
Hudson Valley Press