NASA contractor guest speaks about working on Apollo Project

Aerospace engineer Michael Matoni was the guest speaker for the Society of American Military Engineers presentation last Friday at Saddleback College. (Diana Tomseth/Lariat)

Aerospace engineer Michael Matoni was the guest speaker for the Society of American Military Engineers presentation last Friday at Saddleback College. (Diana Tomseth/Lariat)

Over two dozen students came to hear aerospace engineer Michael Matoni, 73, share his experiences working with the Project Apollo Lunar Modules last Friday. The engineer, who worked for Northrup Gumman as a NASA contractor, displayed industry tools and handed out advice to inquiring students.

Drawing on his long-lasting career spanning decades, Matoni highlighted his proudest accomplishments in a presentation hosted by the Society of American Military Engineers chapter at Saddleback College.

“How can you top working on the Apollo Project, and getting all these astronauts safely to the moon and back?” Matoni asked.

He was initially responsible for the Apollo program’s electrical luminescence lighting, the backlighting for all of the panels in the vehicle, the paneling, the labeling for all the switches in the vehicle and all of the displays. As people began to leave the program, he also took on more responsibilities as well, including working on much of the lighting and then docking targets.

Michael Matoni, mathematics instructor Larry Perez and a student chat before Matoni's presentation last Friday at Saddleback College. (Diana Tomseth/Lariat)

Michael Matoni, mathematics instructor Larry Perez and a student chat before Matoni’s presentation last Friday at Saddleback College. (Diana Tomseth/Lariat)

“We didn’t see any boundaries between NASA and Grumman who were all part of one team that were all trying to be successful, keep the guys safe and accomplish the mission, which we did multiple times” Matoni said.

Being a part of the Apollo project allowed Matoni to work on different hardware. Matoni enjoyed traveling, working with people at NASA and North American and with different vendors from around the U.S.

Brian Fonseca, 25, a Saddleback engineering student, said he is very interested in a career in engineering and enjoys going to the SAME monthly presentations like this to be exposed to engineers who are working in the field or who have been in the field, as well as forming connections with other engineering students. He was inspired by Matoni.

“The fact that he was confident in what he was doing, so he didn’t have a problem thinking or saying what he thought was better or was right.” Fonseca said.

Samantha Novak, 21, is a graduate from Saddleback College who recently transferred to California State University of Northridge. She encouraged Fonseca to keep attending the engineering meetings, to network and continue learning and gaining advice from engineers like Matoni.

He wants students to know what they are getting into and encourage them to have the right outlook.

“I want them to be motivated. They have a lot of work to do in school and a lot of hard work, you know engineering is not an easy profession, but I want them to know that it will pay off,” Matoni said.

If students keep current, they will have fun and will offer valuable contributions to society, Matoni added.

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