10 YEARS AGO — 2003

Fly the lonely skies: U. S. aerospace employment is the lowest it’s been since 1953, dropping to just 689,000 at the end of last year, according to the U. S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry’s workforce was cut in half in 1989 after the Cold War ended. It took another major hit after 9/11, at which time aerospace employment dropped 13%. The 9/11 attacks, combined with what the Aerospace Industries Association calls a civil aviation and commercial-space business crisis, as well as industry mergers and acquisitions, have contributed to the decline.

30 YEARS AGO — 1983

Warranty claims streamlined: A switch to computer-assisted microfilm retrieval (CAR) is saving space at Mack Truck Inc. and eliminating labor-intensive filing of paper documents. The firm adopted CAR for its warranty-claims program; company policy requires that claims from 40 branches and 200 distributors be kept for three years in active files and eight years in inactive ones. Using Kodak micrographic equipment, the company transferred claim forms that filled 22 filing cabinets annually to microfilm kept in one access file for each year. The access file requires about 4 sq ft of floor space and saved around $102,000 in wages, storage space, and supplies the first year.

50 YEARS AGO — 1963

Nuclear generators powering IMP (Interplanetry Monitoring Probe) satellites will eliminate problems of orientation and space radiation experienced by solar-cell systems. Swinging through an eccentric orbit — apogee of 150,000 miles and perigee of 110 miles — the satellites will plunge into the natural and artificial radiation belts, gathering data necessary for direct support of Apollo flights. An operational IMP must be in orbit at all times during the project. Atomic generators, because of their immunity to space radiation, may extend the useful lifetime of the satellite and, therefore, reduce the number needed. The Martin Co., Baltimore, which has been contracted to build the generators, estimates that an IMP with nuclear auxiliary power could be operational by 1964.