A Bunch of Plumbers

The Unsung Heroes of the American Space Program A Bunch of Plumbers is the behind-the-scenes story of how NASA engineers, armed with butcher paper, slide rules, and punch card computers, accomplished two of the most successful missions of the 20th century-the Lunar Orbiter Project that placed five spacecraft around the Moon and photographed the proposed Apollo Landing Sites, and the Viking Project that succeeded, against all odds, in placing two landers on the surface of Mars in 1976. John Newcomb’s account is a tribute to the Lunar Orbiter and Viking Project Teams and the thousands of other engineers who were the unsung heroes of the space race. Woven throughout this book are stories of extraordinary people like Derwood, who launched rockets from Wallops and continued to play the violin despite losing an arm in a launch accident; superstitions like Lee Scherer’s lucky coat; and Newcomb’s save-the-day calculation involving rolls of butcher paper. It is a wild ride mixed with sobering realities of sacrifice and dedication. And …you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy this book.


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About the Author

While attending Virginia Tech, John had many adventures through the Virginia Tech Cooperative Engineering Program, alternately working in the NASA, Langley Research Center’s wind tunnels, laboratories, and at Langley’s rocket launching site, Wallops Island. After graduating from Tech, John joined the Langley Research Center as a young engineer and quickly became involved in two of NASA’s early space missions – the Lunar Orbiter Project and the Viking Project. After Viking, John headed NASA’s Physics and Chemistry Experiments in-Space Program that performed experiments in the free fall environment of NASA’s Space Shuttle and The International Space Station. John Newcomb died in 2015.  His wife, Peggy, live in Gloucester Point, Virginia and carries on his legacy.

Additional information

Weight 1.1 lbs

1 review for A Bunch of Plumbers

  1. hightidepublications23043

    5.0 out of 5 starsEXCELLANT BOOK!
    ByAmazon Customeron September 29, 2015
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    This is an amazing book about a small town boy with a dream. This book outlines the early days of NASA and how much incredible work was done with what we would consider today to be cave man type tools. It’s amazing to read how one man was able to be intimately involved in two major space programs that discovered things that our space program today is re-discovering. Awesome book, easy, great read with lots of pictures.

    5.0 out of 5 starsA wonderful, interesting tale by a scientist who to me …
    ByArthuron May 2, 2016
    Verified Purchase
    A wonderful, interesting tale by a scientist who to me is far too modest in this account of his work with the Viking Project on the moon landings and the landers on Mars. I won’t spoil the story behind the title but the surprise is the person who bestowed it on the group.
    I had the pleasure of meeting the author shortly before his untimely death and hearing some of the stories in person was a delight.
    This is a revealing behind-the-scenes account of how little scientiss knew of the mysteries of space-travel at the time and how they overcame its problems.
    I really enjoyed this book.

    5.0 out of 5 starsDetermination breeds Success! Read all about it…..!
    ByRebecca Stephenson January 26, 2016
    Verified Purchase
    How fascinating to read first hand behind the scenes stories of the early NASA days. Told by a true scientist who is as humble as he is brilliant, John Newcomb not only catalogs in detail the progression of the Lunar Orbiter and Viking Project, but generously honors and salutes his team members/cohorts and their various contributions along the way. The further the reader progresses, the harder it is to put the book down! I hated to reach the end.

    A great read for those interested in science, aviation, mathematics, and early space travel. You will be AMAZED!

    ByBill Lon April 14, 2016
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    I knew John and love the book

    5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars
    Bykrison October 12, 2016
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    Can’t wait to read this book.
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    5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars
    ByErin Lon August 28, 2016
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    Enjoying it thoroughly!

    5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars
    ByGary Milgromon July 12, 2016
    Verified Purchase
    Great book thank you.

    5.0 out of 5 stars”JOHN NEWCOMB” is on Mars…really…NO KIDDING!
    ByAmazon Customeron October 23, 2015
    W O W! John Newcomb did a fantastic job of documenting a critical piece of history! To know that his printed name is ACTUALLY ON MARS is incredible (explained in the book). John Newcomb explains the contributions of his talented team and colleagues on a very personal level. The extremely complex technological and engineering accomplishments were explained in layman’s terms with appropriate humor and a sense of all the personal emotions and challenges involved in the process of the Lunar Orbit and Viking programs. John Newcomb and all the talented professionals working on the team is what makes the United States the best country in the world…to describe them: incredible intellect…incredible drive…incredible sacrifice…incredible character.

    BUY THIS BOOK…GET IT IN THE SCHOOLS. As you read it, continually consider how all was accomplished with the available technology of the time. Their accomplishments will amaze you; especially, considering all was done with handwritten mathematical equations. The explanation of the various “tests for life on Mars” was expertly done. I am still amazed at the complete functionality of the Mars lander. Unreal. Must read this one!

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