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Finally got to watch @apollo11movie and was curious who this was...
Her name is JoAnn Morgan, and she was the only woman inside the control room at the historic launch of #Apollo11 in 1969. A glimpse of her is seen in this documentary, but that’s only the beginning of her story.
At the time, JoAnn was a 28-year-old instrumentation controller and the first woman permitted to be inside the firing room (where all personnel were locked in 30 minutes before blastoff) during an Apollo launch. #Apollo11
In a famous photo taken in Firing Room #1 of @NASAKennedy on July 16, 1969, the day of #Apollo11’s launch, the consoles are populated by dozens of men in white shirts and skinny black ties, some in lab coats, many wearing pocket protectors. There is only one woman at a console.
JoAnn Morgan had a career whose inception more or less coincided with @NASA's own in 1958, as a 17 y/o about to attend U of Florida. She interned at @USArmy Ballistic Missile Agency at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and never looked back, becoming an engineer and exec at NASA
ICYMI @MrKamp of @VanityFair tracked down JoAnn Morgan for an interview and wrote this great article on her story, check it out: vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018… #apollo11 #WomenInSTEM 🚀
In case you didn’t read the article, (1) you should, but (2) here are some interesting tidbits about JoAnn Morgan and what it was like sitting at console for the first time to support the #Apollo11 launch on July 16, 1969...
For #Apollo11, Jo Ann had recently advanced from Junior Controller level to to Senior level as the Chief Instrumentation Controller, KSC Technical Support, and she sat in Launch Control (Firing Room) Area A Row D Seat 15. Ref nalfl.com/?page_id=2523&…
As Chief Instrumentation Controller for KSC, JoAnn was responsible for the guidance computers at the Central Instrumentation Facility (CIF), but also lightning and fire-detection systems at the pad, ops comms, TV systems, and monitoring the command carrier for any interference**
*Interference meaning a ship or submarine trying to get on the frequency that NASA was using to send commands out to the vehicle. (Wait, what? This happened?) Oh, yeah, it happened...
“On Apollo 8, the Russians were offshore with a trawler and submarine, and they tried interfering with our [NASA’s] transfer of command. They would try to block frequencies so we couldn’t give commands to the pad and the capsule. And it continued some on Apollo 9 and 10.” -JoAnn
”What we had to do is put different antennas on and direct them differently so we could block them from interfering with our command process.” -JoAnn Morgan #Apollo11
Fun fact: Russia meddled in NASA’s Apollo missions. One of the things NASA learned in early Apollo launches was that when the astronauts would speak, their transmissions would cut out - not completely, but they were unexpectedly “garbled.” Ref clarionledger.com/story/magnolia…
With the intricate (comms) system NASA had, there was no reason for garbled comms. Using the tracking systems, they were able to ID Russian submarines in the area. It was International waters, so the US couldn’t keep them out of there.
Given the space race, jamming NASA’s systems certainly would've been in Russia’s best interests. As a countermeasure - just before Apollo 11 - NASA installed a gigantic surveillance dish on KSC’s tallest building to pinpoint the source of any foreign interference. #Apollo11
Going full circle, as Chief Instrumentation Controller for KSC, JoAnn helped monitor the command carrier for any foreign interference, which helped #Apollo11 launch without any communications interruptions.
Fun fact: the request for JoAnn Morgan to be on console for #Apollo11 went all the way up to the KSC director.
Having JoAnn locked in the Firing Room as the only (and first) woman was breaking new ground; it was a change in tradition. So the request ran to the top, and was approved without hesitation.
Q: Was there some resistance somewhere?

A: I did have little tidbits of resistance. I got obscene phone calls on my console a couple of times, and I would just report those to comms. The worst was in the old blockhouses, there was no ladies restroom...
“...so either the security guard had to clear the men’s room, or I had to walk, just like the ladies in @HiddenFigures, to a different building to use the bathroom.” -Jo Ann Morgan #Apollo11
One time, we had finished prop load after Apollo 9 or 10, and NASA allowed the media in. They‘d go down each row. I’ll never forget, one of the rudest remarks I ever got was from one of the photographers. He said, “I wish you could let her go out and put on some lipstick.” -JoAnn
The #Apollo11 launch was a historic moment in everyone’s life. Many dressed up for the occasion, some sporting their lucky shirts. For Jo Ann, that decision was “What can I wear so that I don’t stand out like a sore thumb?”
Despite the challenges, Jo Ann soared passed it with a passion that overrode anything else - the lonely moments, the little bits of negative. “They were like a mosquito bite. You just swat it and push on.”
As for the #Apollo11 landing, Jo Ann’s job was complete, so she and her husband took a boat out to Longboat Key and watched the lunar landing on TV with champagne in hand. After watching the landing, her husband reached over and said, “Hon, you’re gonna be in the history books.”
Jo Ann continued her success at @NASAKennedy and went on to complete a Masters of Science at @Stanford in ‘77 on a Sloan Fellowship. Two years later she was promoted to Chief of the Computer Services Division at KSC and then moved into the Shuttle program.
Here’s JoAnn inside shuttle Atlantis as Associate Director for Advanced Development and Shuttle Upgrades, alongside Director Roy Bridges (seated at bottom left), Laural Patrick (standing left), a systems engineer with MEDS, and George Selina (at right), with United Space Alliance
JoAnn served as Director of External Relations and Business Development during her final years at KSC with a brief stint in 2002 when she was appointed as acting Deputy Director of KSC for several months. She retired in August 2003 with 45 years of service to @NASA 👏
Her list of accolades and honors are immense, including a Presidential Honor as a Meritorious Executive, being inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame, Exceptional Service Medals and Outstanding Leadership Medals from @NASA, and much more.
What started as a simple question from @apollo11movie turned into an awesome research adventure. 'Thank you' to the trailblazers that helped pave the path for the next generation of engineers and scientists. #Apollo11 #NASA
Another *fantastic* article on JoAnn Morgan by @ninatypewriter of @SunSentinel. "Twenty years from now, I'd like us to be on our way to Mars and colonizing the moon." -JoAnn, 1993. Check it out: sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-19…
Curious what the Blockhouse restrooms are like now? Thanks for this tidbit @julia_bergeron:
Also for anyone that asked about the interference (thanks @MrKamp):
Awesome late observation: one of those ladies in the background of the firing room photo is Katherine Johnson 🙌 #HiddenFigures
Interesting. I have not been able to confirm that is actually Katherine Johnson there (position #73). Anyone have insight? @MrKamp @DrPhiltill @NASAhistory 🚀 Ref (Dead end) nalfl.com/?page_id=2523&…
If you made it this far in the thread, (1) kudos to you, and (2) check out this great, recent podcast interview with JoAnn Morgan thanks to @CNN's @brianstelter (+HT to @stiffphillips)
Anyone have a question for JoAnn Morgan after reading this thread? Please share with @julia_bergeron here:
Thanks to @julia_bergeron for sharing this experience with the rest of us 👏
Thanks to @MrKamp and @BBCr4today for sharing this thoughtful wish from JoAnn...and I think you'd make an incredible astronaut 🙃
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