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Local inventor played key role in space program

IRON RIVER— “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
    On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module of Apollo 11, walked down the module’s ladder and planted his foot on the moon’s powdery surface. As he did, he spoke those 11 words that have echoed in history ever since.
    The American effort to send astronauts to the moon was a herculean effort, one that restored a sense of pride in the country that had become spooked by the idea of the Soviet Union eclipsing the United States in science and technology when on Oct. 4, 1957, its Sputnik 1 successfully launched and entered Earth’s orbit.
    According to NASA, in an interview years later, Armstrong praised the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the Apollo 11 project. One of those folks was Walter J. Kudlaty, who was born in Stambaugh and went on to become a prolific inventor before later retiring back in Iron County.
    This summer has been a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. This year also happens to be the 25th anniversary of Kudlaty’s passing.
    Kudlaty developed a “revolutionary” sealing device that was used on the first satellite the U.S. attempted to send into orbit. According to a fact sheet that was prepared by Kudlaty’s family for the Iron County Museum, Kudlaty created the Tru-Seal pipe sealing device in the mid-1950s while working as an engineer in the Fluid Power Industry Division of Flick-Reedy Corporation in Bensenville, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
    The key aspect of the invention was the use of eight tiny nuts, 1/8-inch thick and 1/2-inch across.     
    The Chicago Tribune published an obituary of Kudlaty after his death on May 11, 1994. The obit began with an acknowledgement that Kudlaty was a machine-tool designer with 51 patents, including the Tru-Seal pipe sealing device.
    “The Tru-Seal was developed to lick a multimillion-dollar headache to industry-leaky pipes,” the obituary read. “Reception of the fitting was so promising that Flick set up a new division to manufacture it. Kudlaty was the division’s chief design engineer.”
    The Tru-Seal was used in 1957 on the satellite that the U.S. launched in answer to the Soviets’ Sputnik. It failed to enter orbit, but was highly received in the space industry, leading Flick’s decision to manufacture Tru-Seal.
    Kudlaty’s nephew, Jon Zawislak, recently spoke of his family’s pride in their highly accomplished family member.&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href=""><span style="font-size: 13px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">To view more, please log in or subscribe to the digital edition.</span></a></p>