Larry Haug: at Madrid


Station Roster 1972

Larry Haug has shared this scan of a February 1972 Madrid Personnel Roster. (Click the image for a PDF file.)


Larry Haug at Madrid
Larry Haug at Madrid.

Larry served as Data Systems Supervisor at Madrid during Apollo. He writes –

“All of our splash down parties were held at a bar in Valdemorillo. We had a custom that anyone who came in with a tie on had it cut off and nailed to the wall.

After Apollo 11 splashed down I had to stay at the site as Easep Ops Controller and forgot about the custom. So when I finally joined the party I walked in with one of my favorite ties on and it is probably still there nailed to the wall.

Also right outside of that town a young Australian/English couple built a camp ground with a huge swimming pool. They were good friends of ours and the families of the crew at the station. We spent a lot of time there having picnics and swimming pool parties. My youngest son, who was born in Spain, learned how to swim in their pool. They had a flag pole where they flew the flags of Australia and Great Britain. One night, before a July 4th party (the U.S. Independence day), I snuck in, climbed the pole and replaced their flags with the U.S flag.

They wondered all day who had done this dastardly deed and I confessed just before we left at the party’s end.

In Madrid there was a bar (the Red Lion) where the expatriates gathered to drink and shoot darts. The team from the Australian Embassy invited us to a dart game at their embassy. I think they cheated because the game did not start until after they plied us with sufficient quantities of food and Swan Lager beer. They drank as much as we did without the effect it had on us. I figured they must have been weaned on beer instead of milk and that accounted for the difference.

Fond memories of some of the best years of my life.”



Here are some more stories from Larry – about going to the NTTF, the Network Test and Training Facility at Goddard

Forty of us from all the NASA stations were brought to Goddard to attend a 3-month course on this new piece of equipment called a SCE (Spacecraft Command Encoder).

NASA contracted with the various companies who developed the subsystems to teach us on their subsystem. The course started out with the company that developed the Display system. This part was a one-week course and the guy who taught it had a speech problem. Every sentence he said he ended with “OK”. This got pretty bad after two days of listening to “OK”. I don't recall who started our first lottery but I believe it was one of the guys from Australia. Everybody chipped in five dollars and guessed how many times he would say “OK”. In order to ensure accuracy we had three volunteers get “mechanical counters” and keep track. At the end of class on Friday we would average the three counters and award the winner. So for the next three days every time the instructor said “OK” you heard “click, click, click”. He caught on after a few hours and the pain on his face as he tried to avoid saying “OK” was hilarious. Sadly to say I did not win.

That went so well that we started our second lottery. It was fate that in our classroom there were 20 fluorescent light fixtures and 40 of us. We numbered the light fixtures from 1 to 20. So again everybody put $5 in the pot and this time we drew a number. Two of us therefore wound up “owning” a light fixture. The lottery was based on which light would go out first. We decided on having a first place and a second place in this lottery. Every morning when we came to class and on all our breaks we would cycle the light switch controlling “our” light in hopes of getting it to burn out. I didn't win this one either.

Our last lottery involved what became to be known as our class philosophy. Some of the instructors were real bad and the documentation was so atrocious that we created our class philosophy: “We were all mushrooms and the only way that NASA could train us was to keep us in the dark and feed us manure”. After all that’s how mushrooms really grow. Two of our class mates went out and bought this huge stone mushroom. It was about one and a half feet tall and 1 foot in diameter. We placed it at the head of our classroom. Our lottery was to guess the exact weight of the mushroom. One chance cost $1. By this time our class was famous at the NASA Test and Training Facility so we allowed anybody in the building to buy a chance. You could also buy more than one. You could not touch or lift the mushroom for your guess. Awards were to be given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Even the Station Director bought a chance. On the last day of school we had our official weighing. I don’t recall where we got the scale but it was accurate to one tenth of a pound. I remember that there was a lot of money in the pot and the winners walked away very happy. Don’t know what happened to the mushroom and for all I know it is still there where we left it.

Two other incidents also happened that are still in my memory:

The first involved one of the guys from one of the stations who will remain anonymous.

This guy had a problem with alcohol and could really put it away. I used to pick him up in the morning and drive him to class. One Monday morning I drove to the motel where he was staying and knocked on his door for about 10 minutes without success. So I left and went to class.

About 9 am the facility secretary comes down and says I have a phone call. I go down to the office and this guy is on the phone and says he is lost and wants me to come pick him up. He gives me the street corners where he is and I leave class to get him. When I get there he looks like he got run over by a bus. I asked him where he spent the night and he points across the street to a firehouse and says, “I woke up in that fire engine”. He had no recollection on how he got there nor how long he was in it.

Needless to say when the word got out about this incident (honestly I did not tell anybody, oh maybe one other person), he comes to class one morning and on his desk is a fireman’s hat.

The second incident involved a crazy guy from South Africa. He had a brand new Ford Mustang convertible that he was renting while he was in class.

One afternoon as four of us were coming back from lunch in his Mustang we left the Beltway to get on Greenbelt Road doing about 75 mph. He was used to driving a manual shift and instinct kicked in as he tried to down shift from drive, through neutral right into reverse. The rear end of the car rose up and a terrible noise came from the transmission as the car tried to back up going forward at 75 mph. He recovered nicely and we drove the mile or so to Goddard. We pulled into the parking lot and barely made it to a parking spot. You could move the transmission handle through all the positions and there was absolutely no friction or resistance. The car would not move in either direction. We all got out and went to class.

After class he called the rental car company and said his car would not move. They came out with a replacement and towed the other car away. He never got a call from them and nothing happened when he left the country. I would have loved to have been at the rental car maintenance shop when they looked at the transmission. It probably did not have a single gear in it with teeth.

That first SCE class was a unique experience and one that I will never forget.



Would anyone else who worked at Madrid like to share their stories? (contact)