Where Did the NASA Expression "Steely-Eyed Missile Man" Come From? | Summary and Q&A

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December 13, 2020
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Where Did the NASA Expression "Steely-Eyed Missile Man" Come From?

TL;DR

The term "steely-eyed missile man," used to describe individuals with exceptional problem-solving abilities under pressure, has a long history in American space flight, originating from the ballistic missile silos of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in the late 1950s. This phrase became associated with NASA's best and brightest, with notable individuals such as John W. Aaron and Gene Kranz exemplifying this title by their heroic actions during Apollo missions.

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Key Insights

  • ✋ The term "steely-eyed missile man" originated from the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and was associated with individuals who displayed extraordinary composure and problem-solving abilities in high-pressure situations.
  • 👋 NASA adopted the term to honor their best and brightest, using it sparingly to describe individuals within the agency.
  • 💅 John W. Aaron, Gene Kranz, and Verna von Braun are among the notable individuals associated with the title of "steely-eyed missile man."
  • 🤔 John W. Aaron's quick thinking saved Apollo 12 from failure after a lightning strike disrupted the spacecraft's systems.
  • 🎟️ Jack Garman and Steve Bales prevented an abort scenario during the Apollo 11 mission by correctly managing the guidance computer's overloaded data issues.
  • 👨‍🚀 The contributions of these "steely-eyed missile men" highlight the vital role of the brilliant minds behind the astronauts' achievements in space exploration.
  • 😑 The "Shepherd's Prayer" and the "A-OK" expression also have their origins in the early days of NASA and space exploration.

Transcript

in the 2011 novel the martian and its 2015 film adaptation orbital dynamics expert rich panel devises a maneuver to get nasa's hermes spacecraft back to mars and rescue marine astronaut mark watney upon carrying out the maneuver the crew of the hermes sends a signal back to mission control stating houston be advised rich pernell is a steely-eyed mi... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the origin of the term "steely-eyed missile man"?

The term is thought to have emerged from the ballistic missile silos of the Strategic Air Command in the late 1950s as a reference to the extraordinary composure of missile crews facing the threat of a Soviet attack.

Q: Who received the title of "steely-eyed missile man" within NASA?

The title was used sparingly within NASA and referred to individuals who demonstrated exceptional problem-solving abilities and composure under pressure. Notable individuals include John W. Aaron, Gene Kranz, Verna von Braun, and Chris Kraft.

Q: How did John W. Aaron save Apollo 12 from disaster?

When a lightning strike disrupted the spacecraft's systems, John W. Aaron recognized the garbled telemetry data as a similar issue he had previously encountered during a training exercise. He instructed the crew to switch a specific device to auxiliary power, restoring normal operations and preventing an abort scenario.

Q: What role did computer engineer Jack Garman and guidance officer Steve Bales play in the Apollo 11 mission?

Garman and Bales saved the Apollo 11 mission from a possible abort scenario during the descent to the lunar surface. Despite receiving multiple program alerts, they understood that temporarily suspending non-essential tasks would allow critical operations, such as running the landing radar, to proceed uninterrupted.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The term "steely-eyed missile man" originated in the Strategic Air Command (SAC), where missile crews waited for signs of a Soviet attack and displayed nerves of steel to save the world from nuclear annihilation.

  • Within NASA, the term was used sparingly to describe individuals who excelled in solving complex problems under pressure.

  • Flight Controller John W. Aaron's quick thinking saved Apollo 12 from disaster when a lightning strike disrupted the spacecraft's systems, while computer engineer Jack Garman and guidance officer Steve Bales prevented an abort scenario during the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

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