Mieczyslaw’s Moon Car
Once people got over the first impression caused by the astounding news that man had circumnavigated the moon, the news that American astronauts had explored a corner of our satellite’s surface on board a mooncar, was received with no great surprise.
The last exploit should leave us Polonians proud, seeing that the chief constructor of the vehicle was our compatriot Mieczyslaw Bekker.
Bekker was born at the beginning of the century in Strzyzow, near Lublin. He completed his secondary education in Konin and graduated Warsaw Technical University in 1929 with the diploma of mechanical engineer.
After completing his military service, he began his professional career at the Institute of Research Engineering, an organization responsible to the Ministry of Defense.
At this early stage, he was already interested in research work which would eventually become the principal subject of his studies on the construction of vehicles intended for cross-country purposes.
After Poland’s defeat in the September 1939 campaign, Bekker made his way to France and later, after the French collapse, reached Canada.
In Canada he started work at the Office for Research on Armored Vehicles of the Canadian Ministry of Defense. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1943 and resumed his interrupted studies on the construction of mechanized vehicles.
When the war ended, Bekker remained in the Army for many long years. In fact, he did not don civilian clothes until his retirement from the Army in 1956, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
With that, the Canadian interlude in his life came to an end. He moved to the United States where he was engaged by the Military Mechanized Vehicles Laboratories in Detroit.
Parallel with this employment, he lectured at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, and subsequently at Michigan University.
After years of intense research on the mechanics of cross-country locomotion, which he conducted in a laboratory specially allocated to him, Bekker obtained his first positive results…
For the ordinary man in the street to understand the nature of problems he had to deal with, it is enough to say that Bekker was trying to find a way of eliminating shocks and vibrations in a vehicle traveling cross-country. In his solution, Bekker used observations of analogous vibrations in ships laboring in heavy seas and of stresses and vibrations in planes taxiing at high speeds on the runway.
When he obtained these results, Bekker was working for General Motors in Santa Barbara, California, where in a research institute some 800 people were working.
In 1965, Bekker was appointed head of the institute. From then on he devoted all his time to research on those “strange vehicles” as he himself called them.
Our government frequently entrusts the General Motors Institute with research work on different projects. One of the problems entrusted to the institute was connected with the Moon Research Project. Work conducted by Mieczyslaw Bekker was connected with this project.
The General Motors Institute was entrusted with building the mooncar after winning a competition for which several great concerns had entered. Thus, it came about that the chief designer and constructor of the vehicle used by American astronauts on the moon was none other than our compatriot Mieczyslaw Bekker. Our Polonia salutes you!
SEE YOU SOON, GOD BE WILLING