RANCHO CORDOVA — Fifty years ago, NASA launched three astronauts into space with the goal of setting foot on the moon.
The Apollo 11 mission was launched from Florida, but one of the rocket engines that helped carry Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins was built in Rancho Cordova.
Aerojet Rocketdyne, then just known as Aerojet, dedicated more than 20,000 workers towards winning the so-called space race.
Scientists and engineers worked around the clock developing engines that could launch a manned rocket to the moon.
“We have such incredible computing power now. Back in the old days, you had to test, test, test, and that’s all you could do was test to demonstrate reliability and robustness,” Aerojet Rocketdyne Chief Engineer David Daniewicz said.
Sixty-three engines were developed at Rocketdyne facilities across the U.S., including Rancho Cordova.
“We had the main engines, the F-1 engines, for the Saturn 5 first stage,” Daniewicz said. “We had the J-2 engines for the second stage and the third stage.”
Eight years later, Apollo 11 was built and ready to make history.
Then, on July 20, 1969, millions watched around the world as Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.
Fifty years later, the Apollo 11 mission remains one of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s greatest achievements. The company has taken part in every space shuttle mission since — and they’re working to make sure our next moon landing is just as smooth as the first.
“There’s so many things out there that we can go see and go do and go learn from,” Daniewicz said.