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The Unsung Heroine of Apollo 13: Judith Love Cohen's Remarkable Journey

In the vast expanse of the cosmos, one woman's journey from a math-loving teenager to a pioneering engineer stands out as a beacon of inspiration. The remarkable life of Judith Love Cohen, born on August 16, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, takes us through a narrative where societal norms failed to deter her unwavering spirit. Besides being the mother of famed and loved Jack Black, Judith Cohen helped shape astronomical history. As we dive into the story of Judith Love Cohen, we uncover the awe-inspiring tale of a trailblazing engineer whose contributions to the Apollo 13 mission were nothing short of heroic.


A Passion Ignited: Early Dreams and Educational Triumphs


From a young age, Judith Love Cohen's heart was set on the realms of math and science. Although her dream was to explore the mysteries of astronomy, the societal norms of her era often discouraged women from venturing into such pursuits. Cohen's determination, however, remained unshaken. She chose to become a math teacher, nurturing her love for mathematics from the very beginning.


Her fascination with numbers and equations was not confined to the classroom. At home, her father used unconventional methods, such as ashtrays, to explain geometry concepts. By the time she reached fifth grade, her mathematical prowess was so remarkable that other students paid her to solve their math homework. Against the advice of her guidance counselor, who suggested finishing school, Cohen enrolled at Brooklyn College to pursue her dream of studying math.


"I always had this passion for math, and I wasn't going to let anything stand in my way." - Judith Love Cohen


However, her journey took an unexpected turn when she discovered the fascinating world of engineering during her freshman year. It was also during this time that she met Bernard Siegel, whom she later married. The couple soon embarked on a journey that would lead them to southern California, where they started a family. Despite the challenges of motherhood, Cohen persevered in her educational pursuits, ultimately earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California (USC). This marked the beginning of her incredible engineering career.


Cohen and the Atlas / Able satellite on which she worked in 1959. Source: Wikipedia


Pioneering Engineering: Cohen's Trailblazing Path


In an era when female engineers were a rare sight, Judith Love Cohen fearlessly embraced her role as a trailblazer. Her career was marked by involvement in groundbreaking projects, including the guidance computer for the Minuteman missile, the Abort Guidance System in the Lunar Excursion Module for the Apollo space program, and the ground system for the Tracking Data and Relay System Satellite, which astoundingly orbited for 40 years.


"I didn't see any reason why I couldn't do what I loved, even if it was unconventional." - Judith Love Cohen


Cohen's commitment to her work was nothing short of extraordinary. She once went to her office on the very day her son, Jack Black, was born. Remarkably, she even brought a computer printout of a problem she was working on to the hospital. Later that day, she called her boss to inform him that she had successfully solved the problem. Her most significant achievement, among many, was the development of the Abort Guidance System (AGS), a pivotal component of the Apollo 13 mission.


A Heroine's Role in Apollo 13


The Apollo 13 mission is a renowned symbol of a life-threatening crisis, but it was Judith Love Cohen's AGS that ultimately saved the day. In April 1970, when the Apollo 13 crew lost power, they had to rely on Cohen's guidance system to navigate their way safely back to Earth. Her expertise and innovation transformed her into the unsung heroine of that fateful mission.


"In those critical moments, it was my work that made the difference. It was a team effort, and I'm proud to have played my part." - Judith Love Cohen


Apollo 13

A Legacy of Empowerment


Judith Love Cohen's impact extended far beyond her engineering achievements. In her retirement, she co-authored books with her third husband, David Katz, aimed at inspiring young girls to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers. She recognized the importance of encouragement in these fields, having experienced a lack of it herself outside her home. Her efforts continue to pave the way for future generations of female scientists and engineers.


"I want young girls to know that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. I'm proof that unconventional paths can lead to extraordinary results." - Judith Love Cohen


Conclusion: A Tribute to an Extraordinary Journey


Judith Love Cohen's journey from a math-loving teenager to a pioneering engineer is a remarkable testament to determination and dedication. Her contributions to the Apollo 13 mission are a shining example of her brilliance, and her commitment to encouraging young girls in STEM fields is a lasting legacy of empowerment. While she may be known as Jack Black's mother, the impact of Judith Love Cohen on the world of science and engineering is a story deserving of recognition in its own right.


The loveable Jack Black

In the World of the Unexplained: A Deeper Dive


As we celebrate the life of Judith Love Cohen, it's impossible not to wonder if her extraordinary journey might hold more secrets than meet the eye. Could her unconventional path and remarkable contributions have connections to the unexplained and mysterious? Join us as we explore the untold stories and potential enigmas within the lives of remarkable individuals like Cohen, and how they may intersect with the world of conspiracy theories and cover-ups on The Not Top Secret Podcast.

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