Digital Exclusive: The life and legacy of spaceflight titan and Lackawanna County native Glynn Lunney

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Eyewitness News brings you a one-on-one interview with NASA’s Chief Flight Director Holly Ridings on the passing of legendary NASA Engineer Glynn Lunney.

“I think it’s important to see this and I hope they’re going to be seeing it a hundred years from now.”

Glynn Lunney

Those are the words of legendary NASA engineer Glynn Lunney talking several years ago about the 1969 moon landing. Lunney, an Old Forge native, was an on-duty flight director during that historic event. Less than a year later, he played a major role in Apollo 13’s “Houston, we have a problem” crisis. 

“His opportunity to shape where we are in human spaceflight and where we are as a country and where we are as a human race in terms of looking at space, to be one of those original groups to be the fourth flight director to be on console when we were trying to get the crew home in Apollo 13 after the issues, to be around when we landed on the moon, those first things just the force of personality and grit that it took to do anything the first time,” NASA Chief Flight Director Holly Ridings said.

Lunney passed away Friday at the age of 84. 

He had worked for NASA since its inception in 1958 and would later serve as manager of the space shuttle program. He left the agency in 1985, leaving an incredible mark on aeronautics history. 

“Where engineering meets the actual people who have to make it all work, that’s operations. Where you figure out how to get it done with the crew you have, the spacecraft you have, the team on the ground. And the flight director is really in charge of making all of that work,” said Ridings.

Ridings is NASA’s current chief flight director. Less than 100 people in the history of human spaceflight have held the prestigious title, including Lunney.

“We were really reliant on them to tell us what to look for in terms of technical challenges and also really just the teamwork and the motivation that it takes to do something that monumental,” said Ridings.

Ridings says she’s proud to follow in Lunney’s footsteps and he was a mentor both in and out of Mission Control.

“He was the most down-to-earth person you’d ever meet. If somebody didn’t tell you who he was, you would never know it,” said Joe Glynn, Lunney’s first cousin. 

Glynn lives in northeastern Pennsylvania. He remembers the early days of Lunney’s career.

“They showed him a picture of what would be the Mercury Space Capsule and asked if he wanted to go down and help work on something like that, and he said it was the easiest career decision he ever had to make,” said Glynn.

Lunney may be physically gone, but his out-of-this-world legacy will live on forever.

“We have a responsibility to Mr. Lunney to carry on and to do a good job and I walk in my office every day and see his portrait and think about it,” said Ridings.

Lunney attended Scranton Prep and the University of Scranton before transferring to the University of Detroit to study aerospace engineering in a cooperative program with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

The rest is history.

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