When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in July 1969, he did so with the help of Bellaghy man Fred Kennedy.
As a child, Fred lived in Castle Street. He was educated at Bellaghy Primary School, Rainey Endowed, Magherafelt and later QUB. Fred was appointed the first thermodynamics engineer at Shorts Aerospace Company in Castlereagh, Belfast where he worked on innovations for the emerging supersonic aeroplanes (Concorde). He later moved to Canadair in Canada before taking up a job with Radio Corporation of America (RCA) an electronics firm that led to his life-long interest in space exploration and secured his link to one of the most momentous events in modern history.
When he was just 30, the physics and maths graduate was dispatched to the company’s aerospace department, where he worked on classified projects including a ballistic missile early warning system and other schemes including a top-secret proposal for the Apollo moon mission.
RCA designed the computer which would control the decent of the landing-module on to the moon and the software devised by Fred Kennedy and his team, based on simulations of the mission, helped secure the contract.
His ground breaking work later led to a top job with International Business Machines (IBM) in New York and then Paris before he returned to Ireland to set up Captec in 1979, where he has worked on various projects with the European Space Agency.
His company is behind pioneering technology which will guide two powerful telescopes far into space in a bid to unravel some of the universe’s enduring mysteries.
Fred Kennedy passed away March 2015.