Arthur D. Little reflects on anniversary of Apollo moon landing

30 July 2019 4 min. read
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Management consulting pioneers Arthur D. Little commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing – and the part its consultants played in history.

As the UAE today sets it sights on the colonisation of Mars, Arthur D. Little – often described as the world’s oldest management consulting firm – has taken the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing to reflect on the role that more than 80 of its staff played in the success of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission – back in a time when Boston Consulting Group was barely out of diapers.

In fact, the consultancy is more than just a fading footnote in the history of humankind’s first extraterrestrial footstep, having left a lasting scientific legacy with its participation in the analyses, design, fabrication, assembly and testing on the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector (LRRR) experiment – a means to calculate precise earth-moon distances which continues to function to this day.

“For more than 130 years, the Arthur D. Little name has been synonymous with technological ingenuity and innovative thinking,” commented ADL CEO Ignacio García Alves. “We are extremely proud to have been a part of the team to develop the LRRR and we congratulate NASA on this momentous anniversary. In the words of our founder, Arthur Dehon Little, ‘Who says it can’t be done?’

Arthur D. Little reflects on anniversary of Apollo moon landing

With the aim of gaining a greater understanding of the physics of the earth and the moon, the LRRR trial was one of a number of scientific experiments conducted on the surface of the moon during the first landing, and “left on site as the astronauts went back home in their lunar module.” Incredibly, the LRRR is still active and functioning 50 years later, the last of the original crop.

In a description which would still probably boggle some of the brightest contemporary consulting minds, the LRRR experiment was achieved by “measuring the time required for a laser pulse to make a round trip between a moon-based retro-reflector array and an earth-based laser telescope installation”. Thanks to the experiment, we now know, among other cold comforts, that the moon is apparently spiraling away from Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm/year.

In addition to the LRRR array, ADL also partnered with NASA during the 1960s on the ‘Heat Flow Experiment’, which “measured temperature gradients on lunar surfaces as a function of time and soil thermal conductivity”, along with contributing to the development of additional innovations for astronaut protection, including durable lubricant and insulation for space-suits and (!) anti-meteoroid bumpers on space probes.

While it sounds as if consulting isn’t what it used to be, Arthur D. Little still maintains a respected Aerospace & Defence practice till this day, serving leading companies across the supply-chain in the civil aeronautics, defense and space sectors in areas such as mastering emerging technological challenges and leveraging the “breakthrough value-creation potential of (in-house and external) technology”.  

Preparing for take-off

The following is a brief snippet from the summary of Arthur D. Little’s 100-page final report delivered to the Aerospace Systems Division of the Bendex Corporation (a former US engineering company ultimately bought out by Honeywell) on the 30th June 1969, just twenty days before Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon: “The LRRR Experiment is one of two experiments constituting the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP).”

“We built and tested three arrays… testing included vibration, shock, optimal alignment, and thermal distortion tests of the engineering test model, and vibration and optical alignment tests on the qualification and flight models. The qualification and flight models were built to meet space flight hardware quality assurance requirements… Qualification and flight models, meeting all performance requirements, were delivered in accordance with the EASEP program schedule.”

The full 1969 report can be accessed via the Arthur D. Little webpage.