Ed Grace, NASA Designer, Apollo 13

  • August 12, 2020
  • 12:00 PM
  • Zoom Virtual Club Meeting

Edward Grace Portrait

Edward J. Grace worked on Project Apollo from 1963 to 1972 while employed at the MIT Instrumentation/Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, MA as a Principle Engineer. MIT had a contract with NASA to design and develop the Primary Guidance Navigation & Control System (PGNCS) used for the Apollo Command and Lunar Modules during flight missions. The PGNCS included the Apollo Guidance Computer, its operating system software and flight specific software used for each of the Apollo missions. Ed was working at the at Johnson Space Center Houston in support of NASA Mission Control Center (MCC) personnel for the duration of the Apollo 13 mission. He was a member of the Apollo 13 Operations Team awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon on April 17, 1970.

After Apollo, Ed was a member of the MIT/Draper team (approximately ten engineers) that designed and developed the first Digital “Fly-By-Wire” computer controlled airplane system which culminated in a successful flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 1972. The F-8 Fly-By-Wire System was developed by modifying an existing Apollo PGNCS System which had become available when the Apollo program was cancelled early. Based in part on a recommendation from Neil Armstrong, who was directly familiar with the Apollo Guidance Computer through his historic lunar landing, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center chose to work with MIT/Draper Lab to adapt the Apollo PGNCS for aircraft flights. In 2010 the MIT/Draper Laboratory’s Fly-By-Wire technology was chosen to be included in the Space Technology Hall of Fame. The Space Foundation, based in Colorado Springs, CO, in cooperation with NASA selects technologies to be included in its Space Technology Hall of Fame, that have transformed space technology into commercial products that improve the quality of life for all humanity.

Ed resigned from MIT Draper Laboratory in 1973 to start his own Company, Design Data Inc., which was acquired by Data General Corporation, a New York Stock Exchange Company at the time in 1977. After a four-year stint with Data General he resigned and started another high-tech company, Avatar Technologies. Ed has been retired since 2004 and currently lives in Naples, FL. He is an instructor at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and lectures regarding Project Apollo and Space Exploration to schools and private organizations. In his younger days, Ed was a football official for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, (ECAC), officiating college football games for the ECAC schools as a hobby.

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