He’s 88 years of age and he has a story to tell. His name is Kevin and the first thing you learn is the name is pronounced ‘Keeven’ because his mother selected names for her children for which there is no nickname. You might meet Kevin (Keeven’) and his dog Maggie at the Walnut Park Dog Run which I find to be an excellent place to become acquainted with interesting people.
Sharing a bench located in the shade of a Sycamore tree is the best place to pass pleasantries which usually begin with the history and virtues of the attendant animals then drifts to such questions as “How long have you lived in Winters” and “Where did you come from?”
Upon learning that he attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology I commented that he was the first person that I had ever met that attended M.I.T. He was recruited by Lockheed Corporation during the era of the Cold War. Lockheed paid for his advanced schooling at Stanford University where he earned a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. He worked for Lockheed for more than 30 years, eventually promoted as director of the Mechanical Engineering Department. Somewhere in this timeline he was also drafted to serve two years of active service in the military.
Kevin relates that he was a participant in the development of the first successful US Satellite which was equipped with cameras and used to fly over Russia. This program was called Corona and it pushed forward rapidly following the shooting down of the U-2 Spy Plane over Russia on May 1, 1960. He said “it took 13 launches before they achieved a successful orbit. Each failure occurred for a different reason.”
While the Francis Gary Powers U-2 spy plane incident is familiar to most of us old timers the ‘Corona’ project is not. It was top secret at the time, but you can Google it now. Kevin remembers seeing a photo of a man sitting on a bench in Moscow reading a newspaper and he could make out the printed letters. Retrieving the film from space was another new challenge. Engineers devised a method whereby the satellite would jettison a capsule containing the film. As the capsule drifted to earth by parachute an airplane equipped with an extended boom would snag the parachute. Look it up, you can see a picture of the plane with its snag device.
You can experience a lot relaxing on a park bench. Imagine being on the forefront of this technology. When asked, Kevin confirmed that he still remembers how to use a slide rule. In fact he said, “I just had it out a few days ago”.
Gramps failed to mention that Kevin rescued Maggie from the Animal Shelter in Woodland. This makes Kevin my hero. I don’t get going into the hostile environment of space, the moon and mars when you’ve got a perfectly good earth with everything you need right here.