Rocket engineer Ed Hujsak of La Jolla launches several careers throughout his lifetime

Approaching his 90th year, La Jollan and rocket engineer Edward Hujsak (he was the propulsion engineer on John Glenn’s famous orbital flight), has become an artist, sculptor, poet and builder of fine furniture, musical instruments and toys for children in need.

Hujsak was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, the son of a Polish farmer. He graduated in chemical engineering from the University of New Hampshire in 1949. His first job was at Bell in Niagara Falls, where he worked on the liquid rocket engine for the Rascal air-launched missile. In 1955, he moved to Convair in San Diego as a Senior Design Engineer for the Atlas ICBM engines. He rose in the engineering hierarchy, moving from the Atlas to the Centaur program, finally being a senior staff specialist for advanced upper stages and future expendable launch vehicles.

He retired from General Dynamics in 1988, but continued as a consultant for out-of-the-box concepts, such as sea-based launch systems and future electronics. In the course of his career, Hujsak was granted many patents. He has written eight books, among them, “The Future of U.S. Rocketry.”

What brought you to La Jolla?

My first job after graduating from college was with Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, New York, developing small air-launched rockets. When I heard that Convair in San Diego was starting development of a big rocket, ATLAS, I took employment in the engineering department.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add to the area?

Mothering seals and sea lions in shore waters and beaches while they destroy the local eco-balance doesn’t make sense. I think they should be captured and boated to the uninhabited islands where they will be just as happy. It might be a steady job for someone until the marine mammals get used to it.

When the post office ceases operation, I would convert the building to a small theater to replace the badly missed Cove Theater. It could double as a community gathering spot, for example, hosting lectures and political meetings, as well as a concert hall for the Athenaeum, an upgrade from the too-close, folding-chair arrangement they now use. The building is in the middle of a thriving restaurant center and there isn’t a walk-to theater in sight.

Who or what impresses you?

That would be the incredible cosmic scale and the insignificance of humans in it, and yet (humans are) capable of stupendous deeds, as well as a growing capacity to understand it all.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would invite?

Probably musicians; they are entertaining both during and after dinner.

What are your five favorite movies of all time?

I’m not a big fan of movies, but other than ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird,” science fiction dominates … “2001,” “2010,” “Dune,” “Aliens.”

What is it you most dislike?


What do you do for fun?

I have a well-equipped shop, so enjoy making things, both art and utilitarian. I think most sculpture is dreary, even though well executed. I lean to the whimsical and comical. I also make hundreds of toys that are distributed to kids locally by the Woodworking Society. And I write.

What is your most-prized possession?

My dog, a rescued Rhodesian Ridgeback named Barney.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Breathe serenity. Love someone dearly. Do no harm.

What would be your dream vacation?

Oh yes, La Jolla. Living it every day.