Of the historical flights of the Apollo program the world knows a lot about Neil Armstrong e Buzz Aldrin, a little less than the courageous and passionate people who were able to allow the implementation of the project.
A small army of engineers, scientists and NASA employees. Among them, also an Albanian, the engineer Wilson Kokalari.
Illyria, an Albanian magazine founded in New York, i has dedicated in the 2007 an article signed by Ruben Avxhiu. Here is an extract translated into Italian
An Albanian engineer behind the first landing on the moon
Neil Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11, the spaceship that landed on the moon, made history when, as he first set foot on "remote land" in the 1969, he said: "A small step for man, but a great leap for humanity. "
Humanity had just shown that it was not only possible to travel in space, but also to probably land on other planets; technology had radically changed to the point of running with the imagination and it was easy to dream of other conquests.
However, until the moment when the public was presented with everything on the silver platter, only a handful of people had the exact knowledge of how close America was to this gigantic leap.
One of those few who knew everything was an Albanian engineer, Wilson Kokalari, in charge of planning the final test of the entire Apollo system, before he left for this interplanetary adventure.
45 years after starting work for the world's most secret and largest technology program and 38 years after the historic moon trip, Wilson Kokalari had agreed to issue an exclusive interview to the newspaper Illyria, at the invitation of its publisher Vehbi Bajrami.
Wilson Kokalari was less than 2 years old when his family emigrated to the United States, from Gjirokaster, in southern Albania. Musina Kokolari, a prominent member of her family and one of Albania's first intellectual women, had been executed by the communists.
From the beginning, unlike many other immigrants, his father Hilmi Kokalari put into practice his business acumen, selling olives and cheeses brought from Albania.
His business trips were going to cost him dearly and he had just time to return to the United States in the 1939, a few days before the Italian invasion of Albania. The war and then the communist isolation put an end to its trade, so it concentrated on the real estate sector. Over the years, 50 had already acquired a series of buildings in Manhattan. It could have been a very rich family, if the children had undertaken the same career as their father. But they had other plans and the buildings were sold.
Instead of trying to become a sort of Albanian Donald Trump, Wilson Kokalari started studying engineering. He joined Perdue University, the best for those who want to become astronauts. Even Neil Armstrong, future commander of the Apollo 11, had graduated from this university.
Reach the moon: the hot race of the Cold War
The Apollo program took shape during the administration of President Eisenhower, but struggled to develop due to lack of funds.
In April of the 1961, the Soviets sent the first man into space and, within the framework of the cold war, the impact of the propaganda of such an event was enormous. A month later, President Kennedy, in his historic congressional speech, promised that "before the current decade comes to an end, the man will go to the moon and return to earth safe and sound".
In the following years, NASA would employ 400 thousand people and spent 24 billion dollars. In this context, thousands of companies set out to become NASA's main contractors.
Two private companies won the tender for the construction of the main parts of the spaceship that would make the trip to the Moon possible: the "North American Aviation" from California would build the Apollo Command Service Module - CSM, while the "Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation "from Long Island, New York, assumed the task of creating the Lunar Module or Lunar Excursion Module - LEM.
Wilson Kokalari is one of the few people who have worked for both of these companies.
The engineer of Albanian origin played a key role in the project.
For two years, his were detailed reports of engineering tests on electronically tested systems, insimulation, without the astronauts being inside the spaceship. Only once the tests had passed positively, the project would have been licensed to be applied to a full spaceship.
A plaque with his name on the moon
The first astronauts who set foot on the Moon, in gratitude for the extraordinary work of those who made this historic flight possible, brought with them a plaque, with the names and signatures of the members of the technical team. Among these names, also that of Wilson Kokalari. The plaque is positioned on the lunar soil, where the American flag has been embedded.
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