2006 MAPLD International Conference
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
with a session at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
September 26-28, 2006
NASA Manned Spacecraft Center/Johnson Space Center
Sy (home page) began his engineering career with North American Aviation, in Downey, CA, before graduating from California State University-Los Angeles with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1963. His space career began at North American at the very inception of the Apollo lunar program when he joined a newly formed Flight Operations Group. In 1964, he transferred to Houston, Texas as a member of the Flight Operations Group in support of NASA Mission Operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center, which had just opened.
Sy switched over to NASA after about a year to qualify for a "front room" flight controller position in the mission control center in order to "get in on the action." He became a veteran flight controller of many flights serving as Operations and Procedures Officer on AS-202, as Assistant Flight Director On AS-501 (the first Saturn V launch), and as EECOM (Electrical, Environmental, Consumables) Flight Controller on Apollo missions 8 - 15.
Sy was the Lead EECOM Flight Controller throughout all Apollo manned missions and an EGIL (Skylab EECOM) for all of the Skylab program missions. On the international scene, Sy was the Lead EECOM for the American-Russian Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission. He contributed his experience to early shuttle missions and to the space station design.
Sy, as a Senior Project Engineer, directed the design and fabrication of the astronaut neutral buoyancy trainers for the International Space Station (ISS). He remains an active booster and international public speaker of NASA's space accomplishments and the importance of a good education. He lives in Pearland, Texas with his wife, Craig.
What's An EECOM?
EECOM is an acronym introduced for the Mercury Program. It originally stood for Electrical, Environmental and COMmunication systems. This historic radio call sign is unique to manned space flight operations.
The EECOM position in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) in the Mission Control Center is steeped in tradition. Men who sat at the EECOM console during Apollo inherited standards of professional behavior and performance that gave newcomers to the position some pause. Ongoing Gemini flights and the addition of Apollo operations required training of additional EECOMs, subjecting them to a steep learning curve.
The Apollo EECOM Flight Controller was responsible for the life support systems of the Command and Service Module (CSM), which amounted to roughly half of the systems of that spacecraft. These were the systems that provided all electrical power and its distribution, heating and cooling, cabin atmosphere pressure control, breathing oxygen, cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cell electrical power plants, the sequential system that controlled the separation events and the parachutes, and many of the mechanical systems. The EECOM was also responsible for the CSM communications system though Apollo 10, thereafter the responsibility was moved to a new console named INCO. The EECOM position responsibilities became even further diluted on the Shuttle program.
The Flight Directors historically saw EECOM as a catch-all: if a function didn't fit anywhere, then it belonged to EECOM. An EECOM was willing to take responsibility for situations or anomalies not claimed by anyone else. "That's yours, isn't it EECOM?" was a common Flight Director query. Consequently, an EECOM was required to develop a broad understanding of the spacecraft systems and their operation.
- 1963: BS Electrical Engineering California State University
- 1961-4: North American Aviation Flight Operations Group
- 1964-1986: NASA
- Flight Controller
- Lead EECOM Flight Controller - Apollo
- Lead EGIL (EECOM) Flight Controller - Skylab
- Lead EECOM Flight Controller - ASTP
- Project Design Team - Space Shuttle
- Project Design Team - ISS
- 1995-2001: SpaceHab Senior Project Engineer for Design of Astronaut Neutral Buoyancy International Space Station Laboratory Trainers
- Seattle Museum of Flight
- Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Museum
- Johnson Space Center
- National Space Society International Space Development Conference
- Return to the Moon Conference VI
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Students for the Exploration and Development of Space Conference
- Presidential Medal of Freedom- Apollo 13
- NASA Commendation Award- leadership role in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) international space mission.
- Distinguished Alumnus- California State University-Los Angeles School of Engineering and Technology
- Museum of Flight "Wings of Heroes" Honoree
- Space Frontier Foundation 2005 Hero of the Moon
Publications and Consulting
As EECOM in Mission Control on Apollo 13, Sy was at the focal point of the crisis when the spacecraft oxygen tank exploded. He has advised and contributed to several books concerning Apollo 13 including the movie, Apollo 13; and was the technical adviser for an archival multi-media CD-ROM entitled Apollo 13, A Race Against Time, which is devoted to the Apollo 13 mission. He has appeared in the PBS NOVA series, the History Channel Modern Marvels, and the acclaimed Public Broadcast System documentary Apollo 13, To The Edge and Back. He served as the on-camera host for a space documentary entitled In the Shadow of the Moon, produced by the CBS affiliate in Austin, Texas. He recently has published his autobiography entitled Apollo EECOM: Journey Of A Lifetime.
2006 MAPLD International Conference - Session G
"Digital Engineering and Computer Design: A Retrospective and Lessons Learned for Today's Engineers"
2006 MAPLD International Conference Home Page
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