Route 66 heroes:  Joliet’s native son John Houbolt, whose big idea got us to the moon and back


Unless you’re from Joliet, IL or are a big fan of the space program, you may never have heard of John C. Houbolt.  He was a man with a Big Idea, and without it – and him – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin might never have stepped on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969.

Engineers are perhaps the least glamorous of all the techies and ‘geeks.’  The public sees them as the most narrowly focused, least creative of the STEM professionals, but that need not be the case.  Houbolt was certainly imaginative enough.  When President John F. Kennedy told the world that we were engaged in the feat of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s and returning him safely to earth, JFK took his space program people by surprise.  Nobody in NASA knew by which mechanism that was to be accomplished. There was no plan; no process had been discussed.  They had no idea what kind of spacecraft was needed or even where to start.

John_Houbolt_and_LOR2 (NASA photo)

The late John C. Houbolt explaining his big idea, the lunar orbit rendezvous, which the Apollo moon landing program eventually adopted.  (Photo courtesy of NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

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Route 66 Summer of Fun update for June-July 2013


Last month was a busy time for Route 66 fans in northern Illinois.  Not only was it the start of cruising season (technically, that began on Memorial Day weekend, but let’s not split hairs), it was also the month when the Route 66 Association of Illinois had its 24th annual motor tour up and down the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway; the Czechoslovak American Congress and the city of Crest Hill held their annual Lidice remembrance at the monument in town (more on that later this week); and many fellow 66 roadies began their own personal summer road trips down the historic highway.  Yes!  Please forgive us for posting this so late:  we were having too much fun.

The Route 66 Experience is a permanent exhibit at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center on Ottawa St.   Photo copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved

The Route 66 Experience is a permanent exhibit at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center on Ottawa St. Photo copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved

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Springmania: Route 66 gets some love on Chicago media


You can tell spring is really here in Chicago:  the lilacs are blooming, the days are warmer, overnight temps no longer approach freezing, and Route 66 got some attention on local television this weekend.  Oh, and the local landscapers are now waking people up at the crack of dawn with their edge trimmers, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, earning a colorful cussing from many a sleeper … but I digress.

Drive time has arrived!

The Associated Press led off the weekend early Friday morning with a news item from Santa Fe, NM:  law officers across all eight states of the Mother Road participated in a 24-hour-long campaign to get drivers on the historic road to buckle up.  Local press covered it, too, mostly by citing AP.  Given that seat belts and child restraints save about 13,000 lives yearly and you’re 75 percent less likely to die in a rollover crash if you’re wearing a seat belt, according to federal statistics,* it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.  But it did mean a crackdown all the way up and down the route this weekend.

* National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s figures

The Route 66 roadie's dream

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