For Simsbury man, it was rocket science
SIMSBURY, Conn. (AP) — To the untrained ear, Bill Newman seems to talk in code. Everything is turbine pumps and red fuming nitric acid and supersonic flight.
Once Newman gets going, it's hard to get him to stop talking. Here is a man who built the first bipropellant throttleable rocket engine, who once met Neil Armstrong , who lived in Houston, Arizona and California. It's understandable; the guy has a lot to say.
The 82-year-old rocket engineer is long retired. All of this knowledge, this understanding of the ins and outs of one of the most complex industries on the planet is of no use to him now. Outside of the occasional consulting gig, knowing about unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine isn't all that useful in the quaint town of Simsbury. All it is these days is a story, which Newman is more than willing to tell with the same concise level of detail that it took to design the engine of the Bell X-1 fighter plane. Newman remembers every nut and bolt and rivet, each chemical code.
Tracing back the lineage of Newman's rocket fascination would land you in, of all places, Winsted. In an empty parking lot at Winsted Center School, Newman and a few friends would set up model planes. He was 16 years old and the year was 1948. In two years' time he'd graduated from the Gilbert School . Newman had already decided that