Alum Helped Develop Engines to Send Men to the Moon

Don Bostrom, a recent graduate of CSUN, then known as San Fernando Valley State College, sat in a control center at Edwards Air Force Base northeast of Lancaster. The year was 1964, and Rocketdyne — a major supplier of U.S. rocket engines — was testing F-1 engines for NASA. The engineers launched the engines from test platforms on a ridge, about 800 feet from the control centers where Bostrom ’64 (Electrical Engineering) and his team monitored the test runs. Bostrom was used to pioneering programs. He was one of 89 students in Valley State’s first engineering program, developed by dean George Harness in 1959. Shortly after Bostrom’s graduation, he scored a job at Rocketdyne, based in Canoga Park. “Only a few of us made it to [graduation], and jobs were scarce in 1964,” Bostrom said. “But I went to work at Rocketdyne on the F-1 rocket engine testing. For a 22-year-old engineer, this turned out to be a very exciting first job.” Bostrom said he was always passionate about technology and engineering.

He graduated from Birmingham High School in Lake Balboa (now Birmingham Community Charter High School) and decided to enter the new Valley State engineering program. When he went to work for Rocketdyne — at the height of the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the company had committed to supply NASA with engines for its Saturn V rockets, which were later adopted by the Apollo program to send astronauts to the moon. “After all that exciting testing and work, the idea of having helped put men on the moon (in 1969) is really what sticks with me,” Bostrom said. In retirement, Bostrom maintains close ties to the university. A passionate singer during his time at CSUN, he met his wife of 53 years while enrolled in music classes. His wife, Sandra J. Bostrom Aguado ’65 (Music), retired from teaching at CSUN, now composes music. “I enjoyed [CSUN] tremendously,” he said. “If you’re interested in science and technology, then be an engineer. There is nothing nicer than saying, ‘I built something’ or, ‘I made it work’ or, ‘I found a problem and solved it.’ These are all parts of being an engineer.”

by Cati Mayer