RICHMOND, Texas — One of few people on earth with handiwork on the moon lives in Richmond, Texas. He built the flagpole Apollo 11 astronauts used after their lunar landing.
Fifty years later, the flagpole maker is still engineering, inventing and reaching for stars in new ways.
“This is my command center,” Ken Parr, 89, said.
The mechanical engineer remains a fix-up-anything guy with out of this world creations, including one still in orbit -- he thinks.
“(President) Trump said he was going to send another team to the moon to see if the flag was still in the moon,” Parr said. “Well, I can tell him that it is. Save that money.”
Mankind’s giant leap planted America’s flag on the moon with Parr’s creation.
“A lot of (ESCO company) stuff came out on stamps,” he said.
In 1953, between mechanical engineering classes at the University of Houston, Parr worked for ESCO, a fabrication and engineering company. Both believed NASA was on to something big and wanted to be part of it.
Hoping to earn contract work with the government, they tackled jobs at the Astrodome and AstroWorld to prove ESCO’s worth.
Parr’s machinist work caught NASA’s eye. Ever since he molded a meat-cleaver from aluminum in high school shop, metal work and engineering felt like his calling.
“It’s making something from almost nothing,” he said. “(It’s) making something beautiful that’s useful that fills a need for whatever you need at the time.”
At the height of the space race, NASA called ESCO often.
“We had to have 20 men on-call at any given time to do anything (NASA) needed done day or night,” Parr said.
Perhaps the agency’s most significant ask proved easy, Parr said. They wanted Parr’s group to build a special flagpole to plant America’s flag on the moon.
“It was made with 7075 aircraft aluminum,” he said. “We had to make everything as light as possible.”
Seeing it happen changed Parr’s life.
“That inspired me to do more,” he said.
His company made poles for Apollo 16, Apollo 17, worked on the lunar rover and engineered a parasol that saved Skylab, NASA’s first space station.
“How do you do something bigger than that?” Parr asked.
Presidents personally write congratulations letters to Parr and his wife of 70 years on their anniversary.
In 2011, the University of Houston gave Parr an honorary doctorate degree.
These days he is building safes from PVC pipe-like material. It’s mostly for people to lock up firearms. A child suicide close the family motivated his creation.
Selling the safes is the next step for a man used to reaching for the stars.
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