Author's bio

Frank O'Brien

For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about three things: Space exploration, aviation, and computing. What has been more remarkable is that I've been able to involve myself significantly in all of them.

As the son of a career fighter pilot, I was never far from a runway while growing up. In 1986, I earned my private pilot wings, and ten years later fulfilled my dreams by becoming the owner of a classic Cessna 150. My wife Stacey and I often used the plane for weekend trips or sightseeing along the northeast coast. Sadly, it was sold a few years ago, but the memories will be with me forever. She was a good ship.

I have been involved with computers for over 35 years, and have worked on the entire gamut of computing from systems programming on punch card mainframes to personal computers, networking, and most recently on state-of-the art Unix systems running the latest enterprise software. Currently, I am a SAP Basis administrator, and also administer Oracle and DB2 databases. I am active in the IEEE Computer Society, where I am the historian for the Princeton-Central Jersey Section.

My formal involvement with space history community began with joining the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal community around 1995 or so. Most of my contributions have been with the AGC and LM systems. In the later 1990’s, I met David Woods, who was in Washington DC to receive an award from NASA. We discussed his idea of creating the Apollo Flight Journal. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical (I remember asking, "How many P52's can our readers endure?"), but in the end, David's vision was the correct one.

All of this led me to be invited to the Cradle of Aviation museum on Long Island, New York, to assist in preparing exhibits for their May, 2002 reopening. I configured the only remaining Lunar Module Mission Simulator for exhibition, and wrote software for a Lunar Module cockpit trainer. The simulator is significant as every astronaut to fly in the LM trained with it, and it played an important role in the successful return of Apollo 13. Most amazingly, it was the same one I “flew” when touring the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston almost 40 years ago! Additionally, I prepared an Apollo space suit for the museum’s centerpiece Apollo 11 diorama.

I'm now working at creating a new museum, the Infoage Science/History Learning Center at the New Jersey shore. One of the greatest artifacts we have is a rare Apollo Guidance Computer (Block I , model 100). I do several lectures a year about the AGC and other space topics for the museum. However, my greatest thrill was to speak at the NASA MAPLD conferences in Washington DC.

Finally, I graduated from Rutgers University in 1979 (Computer Science), and several years later returned to Rutgers to earn my MBA. Most importantly, I'm madly in love with my wife, Stacey, and live in West Windsor, New Jersey.