The Ultimate Geotechnical Engineering Challenge


I have very fond memories of those days and the excitement that surrounded one of mankind’s greatest achievements. To this day I cherish the commemorative pins shown in Figure 7 that Grumman’s management gave to their employees. I left Grumman in 1972, about the time funding for the Apollo and Post-Apollo Programs was being substantially cut. To make a bad pun, it did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that, with NASA’s lunar landing and exploration programs being phased out, the days of a geotechnical engineer in the employment of an aircraft manufacturer were numbered. Fortunately, I was able to obtain a position with a geotechnical engineering consultant in New Jersey and get back to earth so-to-speak. That position was the beginning of a career that has involved entirely different types of geotechnical engineering challenges almost every day, but none as great as the one described above. It was the ultimate challenge, period!

By the way, I never took a course during my entire academic career through the Ph.D. that covered any of the topics discussed in this essay. Neither did Les Karafiath.

Figure 7

Commemorative pins distributed to employees of Grumman Aerospace Corporation
Left – Lapel pin given to personnel of Grumman’s Apollo Project.
Right – Pin signifying the lunar contact light on the LM – given to all Grumman employees.


The author wishes to acknowledge Dr. Naresh C. Samtani, PE, PhD, President of NCS Georesources, for his effort in reviewing this article and providing comments.