Kiwanis receives first-hand information on the NASA program at a recent luncheon | Calendar

At the August 10 Kiwanis Lunch Program, Executive Director Sandra Carrier introduced Nancy Christenson, who shared information about her father, Francis L. Coenen.

Coenen was nicknamed “Mr. Cool” as operations manager for the Boeing Launch Systems program of the Saturn S-1C program in New Orleans, where it was built. Christenson was just a teenager at the time, but she remembers the excitement of the program and the stresses and pressures the project had on people.

Christenson proudly presented a PowerPoint program on his father’s technical responsibilities throughout his career, and shared photos of his team and letters and citations he received for his contributions to the NASA program.

During his four years as director of operations for S-1C, the first-stage booster of the Apollo-Saturn lunar probe, Coenen led a 4,000-man organization force that built and assembled the rocket. 138 feet for the lunar probe. Later, he became the director of the Boeing Atlantic Test Center in charge of launches at Cape Canaveral, overseeing a technical team of 5,000 people.

Christenson sprinkled stories and photos with personal memories of his father’s dealings with astronauts and technicians like Dr. Wernher Von Braun. She also shared the thrill of being in the close-up celebrity seats during launches and felt the ground vibrate as the rocket launched. Christenson was barely old enough to sit in that VIP area. Her younger siblings must have seen the launch from a nearby press barge.

Ryan H. Bowman