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Monday, April 22, 2024
<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-101edcd1-7fff-fbed-defa-62907ffdaa3f"><span>A biker passes by the statues Wednesday evening for Gainesville Solar Walk, a four billion to one scale model of the solar system located along NW 8th Avenue.</span></span></p>

A biker passes by the statues Wednesday evening for Gainesville Solar Walk, a four billion to one scale model of the solar system located along NW 8th Avenue.

In his career at NASA, Charlie Welly was known as a behind-the-scenes man — always helping out but never the face of the organization. But here in Gainesville, his impact will be celebrated 50 years later.

Welly’s daughter — 68-year-old Gainesville resident Miriam Welly Elliott — is exhibiting space memorabilia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The exhibit will be at the Florida Museum of Natural History this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Elliott said.

The exhibit will showcase autographed photos of the original seven astronauts, a photo autographed by the Apollo 11 astronauts, a model of the Apollo lunar lander, Welly's Exceptional Service Medal from NASA, a small flag carried around the moon by the Apollo 17 astronauts and items from his time working on other projects like the Mercury, Gemini and Skylab missions and more.

Welly collected all these items from his time working at NASA. He started in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1947 — which was a precursor to NASA — and then retired from NASA in 1976, Elliott said.

During his time working on Apollo 11, Welly was chief of the spacecraft surveillance branch. For this, he would supervise those inspecting the spacecraft to ensure everything was done accurately.

“I was watching interviews on TV last night with Neil Armstrong where he was acknowledging the hundreds of thousands of people that work to get them to the moon,” Elliott said. “My dad was one of them. He’s a hero.”

Welly’s memorabilia is not the only event here at UF to celebrate this anniversary. UF’s Department of Astronomy is also having a free event at the Campus Teaching Observatory, said UF Teaching Observatories director Francisco Reyes. The observatory will be open this Friday from 9 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

At 9 p.m., director of the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium Jaydeep Mukherjee will be speaking about the moon. The observing session will start at 9:30 p.m. Some objects that may be visible are: Jupiter, Saturn, the binary star Mizar, the Ring Nebula and some globular clusters. The moon may also be visible at the end of the session.

However, this is all dependent on weather as most activities take place outside, Reyes said.

“If it is overcast, we can go ahead with the talk and we can show the Apollo 11 movie,” Reyes said, “but the viewing with the telescopes may not be possible.”

The main point of the Apollo 11 anniversary is celebrating the well-known individuals associated with the event, as well as the everyday people who worked tirelessly to make this amazing achievement happen — people like Charlie Welly.

“He [Charlie Welly] represents the people behind the scenes that make this possible,” Elliott said. “I’m just very proud of his contributions.”

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  • 1936: Parks Air College, St. Louis, MO 

  • 1938 - 1945: Curtiss-Wright Corporation, St. Louis, MO. 

    • In 1942 in Louisville, KY 

    • Supervising Foreman

    • Worked on engines, developed and built planes, including the C46 Commando Cargo Plane 

    • U.S. Army Air Corps based in Chanute Field, Illinois as an Airplane Power Plant Mechanic and Instructor 

  • 1947: Joins NACA (National Advisory Committee on Aviation) 

    • Worked in Cleveland Airport as an Aircraft Mechanic 

  • 1958: NACA changed to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) 

  • January 1960: Moves to Titusville, FL to work at Cape Canaveral on Mercury Program as a Spacecraft Inspector 

  • 1963: Name changed to Kennedy Space Center 

  • 1965 - 1968: Works on Gemini 

  • 1968 - 1972: Works on Apollo 

  • 1973: Works on Skylab 

  • 1975: Works on Apollo-Soyuz 

  • 1976: Retires




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