Milojko Vucelić

Jun 11, 1930 - Sep 7, 2012(82)

The first aircraft

Why do kids who jump off roofs become America's most famous engineers?

Milojko Vucelic, a famous NASA engineer, was born back in 1930 in Garešnica. His father worked as a railroad supervisor, which meant that the family moved often.

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As a five-year-old boy, he watched the trains arrive at the Mišulinovac railway station near Veliko Trojstvo. Every day he would go with his father to inspect the railway, and he was most surprised to see the bulky kilns from the nearby brick factory.

That's how Milojko became fascinated by technology, and at that time he couldn't even dream that one day, he would be the one, from the control headquarters in Houston, solving malfunctions on the spacecraft that would land the first man on the moon.

But he had no problem dreaming about people going into space. His imagination was first stirred by Jules Verne's story, A Trip to the Moon, in which men cannonball their way to Earth's nearest space body.

Through stories, little Milojko became obsessed with the concept of flying. For a long time he thought about how he too could experience at least a fraction of that wonderful experience he heard about on the radio.

Namely, those years were very difficult for the population of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. They had the lowest per capita income in all of Europe, and most of the arable land and factories were owned by foreigners. The Vucelić family was not extremely wealthy either, but Milojko's incredible ability to improvise (which, so many years later, enabled the astronauts to always return home successfully) existed from an early age.

The boy's eye was caught by his father's large black umbrella. His child's mind saw in that object a very good potential for an aircraft. Well, as the characters from Verne's stories can fly, so can he!

He gathered his courage, crept out of the house and silently climbed the iron stairs that led to the attic of the family's one-story house. The height of the narrow terrace was not great, but it was enough for the little pilot to realize his long-dreamed-of dream.

However, the coordinates were not correctly estimated, so instead of rising into the air, his craft landed straight on the floor! And Milojko together with her. Fortunately, the little pilot remained unharmed, and the short-lived happiness due to the short flight turned into tears and moans. His mother took him crying and bleeding to the hospital, and the scar on his chin reminded him of his first launch for the rest of his life.

It seems that Vucelic has never lost his courage, creativity and perseverance. Sitting forty-four years later with Gene Kranz, the director of the Apollo mission, in the control room in Houston, he watched the landing of the module on the lunar surface. Kranz told him in delirium: - Impossible, we are there on the moon! –

Smiling, Vucelic calmly answered him: - Impossible, that's our goal! –

All his life he reminisced about his childhood, and he reminded anyone who would listen about how as a boy he had to fall painfully to the ground so that one day he could send someone to the moon.

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