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Local "hidden figure" worked on team that helped Apollo 11 mission return to Earth safely

Posted at 10:20 PM, Jul 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-20 22:30:59-04

CINCINNATI — Gussie Wallace, a 99-year-old woman living in Forest Park, remembers working long hours and striving to to her best as part of a team that helped ensure the lunar module could return to the orbiting spacecraft from the surface of the moon.

"She did a lot of hard work," said Glenda Davis, Wallace's daughter. "She came home tired many days."

Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar mission, and the historical moment that saw thousands of workers laboring behind-the-scenes to ensure the mission was completed without a hitch.

Wallace worked for Avco in 1969, developing new technology for the first lunar module. Her team specifically worked on the digital uplynk assembly, which she saiid helped make sure the lunar module could get from the moon's surface back to the orbiting spacecraft overhead.

"We were just trying to be real, and wanted to be right," said Wallace.

She still has many of the old photographs of her with her team, and letters of thanks from officials and supervisors thanking her for her contribution to the program.

"'Your work on the digital uplynk assembly contributed directly to the succesful landing on the moon,'" Davis reads from one letter.

Wallace worked on other missions too, including Apollo 13. She still has one letter, from President Richard Nixon, thanking her and her team for the technology that helped bring the astronauts from Apollo 13 home safely.

Now, 50 years after man first walked on the moon, Wallace and her daughters look fondly on the memorabilia that marks her role in history.

"They were really proud that we had built it, and built a good system that brought them to the moon and back home," said Wallace.