Recently Ken Richardson wrote and published a book entitled “Hughes After Howard.” His book is a personal memoir about his career at Hughes that culminated in his role as President and COO of the company. As a former long term Hughes employee I, of course, felt that I should buy and read this book, which I did. Ken covered a lot of ground and I learned quite a bit about the company. However, I had been looking forward to a book that provided more extensive coverage of the space achievements of the company. Since Ken wished to describe the exploits of the entire company rather than just the space achievements I didn’t find this.
I decided that we needed such a book and all I had to do was to find an author or institution that would sign up for this task. I first contacted the Smithsonian Institution—surely they would be interested in a effort such as this. After all they are the repository of many air and space artifacts in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D. C. and the Smithsonian Space History Division has published a number of important books and articles. So I fired off several e-mails to this group resulting in mild interest, but it became obvious after several more unanswered e-mails that I was going to have to look elsewhere.
Another series of contacts led me to the Huntington Library in San Marino. The Huntington had received in 2010 a $367000 grant from the National Science Foundation to archive Southern California aerospace history. This sounded like a really good lead and I followed up with e-mails to Peter Westwick, USC historian, and director of this project. The project included an exhibition of aerospace artifacts at the Huntington entitled “Blue Sky Metropolis” that included the Hughes Syncom prototype. I took the opportunity to visit this exhibition and found it interesting. My contacts, however, again tapered off after a few more e-mails.
I began to realize that writing a book would depend upon a lot of research and gathering of many individual recollections of Hughes space achievements. This would be a task that few authors might care to undertake without some compensation. I certainly couldn’t afford to sponsor this sort of project. So what alternatives might be considered—possibly an oral history project. But, I felt that this was also beyond my skills and resources.
At this point I talked to Steve Dorfman and we came up with the idea of sponsoring a website that would provide a place for all of us to record our experiences at Hughes. This in itself, when complete, would provide a record of our achievements, and would also serve as a resource for prospective authors who might like to write the book that I have in mind.
The first implementation of our website is the blog that you are visiting right now. Are you willing to participate in our Hughes Space Heritage project? We, collectively, are the only ones who can make this happen and our time to do so is not unlimited. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, our health and memories are not what they used to be. Steve and I feel that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to document the many space achievements of Hughes and we hope that you will join us in this endeavor. You can do so by posting your recollections in this blog or commenting on other posts. Please give us feedback by posting your comments.