OBU’s Division of Science Forum welcomed Don Cooper, OBU class of 1960, to campus for two lectures Friday, Oct. 14. The first lecture “Apollo Talks” was held at 10 a.m. and the second took place at 11 a.m. Both lectures took place in Yarborough Auditorium in Raley Chapel.
During the general lecture, Cooper used a Saturn V rocket scale model, a slideshow and a voice recording of the lunar landing to share his experience in creating the technology to launch Apollo 11. He also shared how his team contributed to bringing the Apollo 13 crew safely home in 1970.
Cooper graduated with honors from OBU in 1960 with a degree in physics and minors in mathematics and chemistry. He attended graduate school at the University of Alabama.
He then went to work for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama, as a member of the Advanced Design Laboratory. They designed a new missile for the Army that was deployed to NATO.
In 1961, he transferred to NASA as a mathematician at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in the Guidance Theory Section, helping to create the trans-lunar targeting equations for the manned Apollo missions. NASA archives contain a number of his publications. In 1965, he moved to Houston and worked on the Apollo missions at the Johnson Space Center. He also worked on the operations team during the Apollo 13 crisis, performing valuable calculations which ultimately brought the crew safely back to Earth.
In 1972, he joined TRW Controls as a software project manager to create control systems for electric utility companies. He left TRW to start FD Systems to sell and install inventory control software. After 15 years, he sold FD Systems and joined Professional Compounding Centers of America as the Chief Information Systems Officer.
Since retiring in 2002, he has volunteered to speak at schools and libraries about the moon landing and to show how a practical application of calculus created the Saturn V Apollo guidance equations.
He has received commendations from the Army, NASA, TRW and OBU, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom as a member of the Apollo 13 operations team.