Hometown Heroes: Space fuel workers

Hometown Heroes: Space fuel workers
NASA Center (Source: Jerry Webb)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - You may not realize it, but a fuel made for the space industry is made right here in Southwest Louisiana. A Moss Bluff man who helped make that fuel recently got the chance to meet some NASA rocket scientists who depended on hydrazine. Jerry Webb served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1976. So when he applied for a job at the Olin hydrazine plant in Westlake, it didn’t hurt that he was hired by a Navy veteran.

“His name was Harold Winfrey,” recalled Webb. “I asked Harold why he hired me. He said because of my military background. ‘You know how to follow orders. I didn’t have to tell you twice.’ He was an ex-Navy guy, Vietnam. We got along go. Most vets do.”

Webb says most people don’t realize that hydrazine is made right here in Calcasieu parish.

“All your satellites, telephone communication, HBO, Showtime, defense satellites, depend on hydrazine propellants. They were using the shuttle and the arm to grab the satellites and bring em in to refuel them.”

Webb recently visited the space center in Huntsville, Alabama and got to meet several rocket scientists and an astronaut involved in the Apollo and Space shuttle programs.

“I was like a kid in the candy store. I was thanking them just to get the chance to meet them and shake their hand. They turned it on me. They thanked me and the hydrazine unit in Lake Charles and operators past and present because they said if it wouldn’t have been for us, they would have never gotten back to Earth.”

The plant where Webb worked is still producing hydrazine for the space industry today, under the name, Lonza.

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