I Remember Paris

In the mid-sixties, my employer contracted with the French Space Agency (CNES) to provide pointing control subsystems for scientific payloads on their Veronique rocket. We integrated our subsystem into the payload at the CNES labs near Paris and went on to launch operations in Algeria or French Guiana.

In the spring of 1967 we launched from Algeria. Under the accord following the French-Algerian war, this was to be the final Algerian launch. At this stage of withdrawal, only military personnel were permitted access to Algeria. The French solved the problem by making me a provisional member of the Armees Francais.

I loved all of this. Beau Geste come alive! We landed at the French Foreign Legion Headquarters airstrip in Coulombe Bechar. (The Sidi Bel Abbess headquarters of Beau Geste had been occupied by Algerian forces.) We then moved south by roadway to the Foreign Legion fort at Hamaguir on the northern fringe of the Sahara where we berthed during launch operations. I found the French operational style vastly different from the American: more emotionally charged, more comradely. I reveled in it.

The adventure continued in the fall of 1968 with another stint in Paris followed by operations at the new French launch site in French Guiana on the Atlantic coast with Devil's Island in sight from our gantry.

All this fun and exciting but hard on my family. In the '68 campaign I was at home for less than two weeks from late September until Christmas Eve when I arrived just in time to take my girls to midnight mass. I've drawn upon some letters of this period in my JOAN section pages: "Arcady ( )." They tell the rest of the story.


At the Hotel Royal Magda on Rue Tryon ($6/day, breakfast included)

The view from my window

CNES lab

Launch gantry in French Guiana (with my friend Howie Robbins)


My "certificat"

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