Connect with Us

Rabun Gap alumna helped make moon landing happen

Junior College alumna Lucy "Sue" Mashburn Blackwell '43 helped developed the math for computer data tracking in the Apollo and other space missions.
The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing is July 20, 2019, and Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School has a special connection to this historic event. 

Lucy "Sue" Mashburn Blackwell attended the junior college at Rabun Gap and graduated in 1943. Following Junior College, Lucy's career path soon took her away from rural North Carolina into the burgeoning aeronautics field. She became a Navy Link instrument flight trainer and an air traffic controller before graduating in mathematics from Duke University in 1952.

In 1958, she started at Cape Canaveral in the new space program. Lucy was promoted quickly through the system and became supervisor of the scientific research. During her long career, she developed the math for computer data tracking systems used in the Polaris missile and Mercury, Apollo and Gemini space missions.

Lucy Mashburn Blackwell, in reminiscing about her journey from Rabun Gap to the moon, said, "I feel like Cinderella. I can hardly believe that the barefoot girl from Appalachia could have done what I have done in my lifetime. I have not found the right words to express how important the junior college and its work was to me, for it was the critical first step toward a career that I can look back on with a sense of pride and accomplishment,"

Lucy is profiled in the "Mountain Legacy" Heritage book.  

Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School is a private, coeducational day and boarding school for grades Pre-K through 12. Centrally located between Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC, and Asheville, NC, we prepare young people for college, career, and a lifetime of leadership and service.