Allan Klumpp

Allan Klumpp spoke to the Walden Forum about how we follow the example of our forefathers and take responsibility for posterity – how humanity can protect water supplies, reduce CO2, end global warming and continental glaciation, and preventing extinction-causing impacts with celestial bodies.

After a 44-year career exploring the moon and planets, Mr. Klumpp resigned from Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2003 to devote his efforts full time to the more- important task of developing concepts for sustaining civilization indefinitely. The Walden Forum is held at the First Parish Meeting House, at the intersection of Routes 20 and 27 in Wayland, Mass.     Klumpp is responding to the second major crisis in his lifetime. The first, 1957’s launch of Sputnik, was the Soviet Union’s challenge to U.S. technical leadership. Today’s near-term threats are disappearance of  the world’s fresh water, depletion of  finite sources of energy, and runaway population and atmospheric temperature. Near- and far-term threats endanger civilization. When approaching the end of a career that contributed to putting 12 men on the moon and robotic spacecraft on missions to five planets and the moon, Klumpp became increasingly concerned with whether humanity would endure challenges to its survival, which seemed easier to understand than earlier challenges.

Klumpp described practical approaches for handling not only near-term threats, but also far- term threats, including renewed glaciation of temperate-zone continents, extinction impacts with celestial bodies, and the sun extinguishing itself.

Allan Klumpp graduated from MIT in 1955 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, and took a job with Douglas Aircraft developing control systems for Navy planes. He designed the electro- mechanical switch for opening the F5D’s bomb-bay doors. After learning Douglas airplanes were strafing civilians in Vietnam, Klumpp vowed to never again contribute to weapons.

In 1959 he received an M.S. from MIT, and joined Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He first contributed concepts for orienting Ranger spacecraft, which photographed the moon’s surface en route to impact. Then he designed the autopilot for Mariner 62’s mission to Venus. In 1960 he was appointed JPL’s representative on a team at Langley Research Center, with their Space Task Group, evaluating industry proposals for Apollo missions to the moon. In 1962 he was appointed to JPL’s Systems Support Group at NASA Headquarters. In 1963, Klumpp joined the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (MIT/IL) to continue work on Apollo missions.

At MIT/IL Klumpp developed Apollo Lunar Descent Guidance, and then the Lunar Module’s steering system. Both flew on all six missions that landed on the moon. After Apollo 17, NASA decided that Apollo had accomplished all objectives, and the program ended. Then In 1973 NASA began developing concepts for Shuttle ascent steering. Klumpp was asked to develop his ideas, and he wrote the preliminary design adopted for Shuttle.

Klumpp returned to JPL in 1976 and spent another 27 years writing software used on missions to Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, ending with writing the simulation used for designing the landing trajectories for rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004. Klumpp resigned from JPL in 2003, and for the past six years has been developing concepts for sustaining civilization indefinitely.