Monday, July 06, 2009

MAN STEPS ON MARS

What if that happens the same day that some uber-celebrity dies? What will the lead/searched story on the internet be? Will it be the top twitter tweet?

Well who knows - maybe twitter will be gone by then. I didn't write 'front page headline' because it appears newspapers maybe gone by then. I hope not.

It will be big news. I would like to be around when it does happen. I hope that people appreciate the wonder of it all. How many people today know about the rovers that roamed around Mars landscape?

Today there's a big difference between 'walking on the moon' vs. 'moonwalk'.

But 40 years ago - no internet - no twitter - plenty of newspapers - big time TV news and Michael Jackson had not yet thrilled us with his moonwalk.


Sunday afternoon/evening July 20, 1969 (Chicago time) -

As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended onto the moon they were confronted with an overloaded computer. Looking out those small windows, Neil thought he was headed for a boulder field. Armstrong takes over manual control and steers the craft to a smoother spot.

I recall watching those first TV images at home. But to be honest I don't remember many details of what my parents said or who was sitting where.

I do recall looking at the moon during those July nights and saying "Just think, there are people up there!"

My interest of space and science has lasted and most of the Apollo details I've learned has come from documentaries and books. Of course now with the internet it much easier to find information about the Apollo program.

One important aspect of the program was the 'Cold War'. The race against the Russians was what really kept the long expensive program going. I watched a CSPAN discussion with the Apollo 8 (first to orbit the moon) crew. When asked what he thought after their accomplishment, Frank Borman replied,
"We beat the Russians!

Immediately after landing on the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin prepared the Lunar Module (LM) for liftoff as a contingency measure. Following the meal, the astronauts requested their scheduled sleep period be postponed. The astronauts wanted to get out onto the lunar surface. I can't imagine being able to sleep having just landed on the moon.


As he was climbing back into the LM Buzz bumped the switches with his backpack. This created another problem with grave potential. (From Buzz's book, "Men from Earth":)

"We discovered during a long checklist recitation that the ascent engine's arming circuit breaker was broken off on the panel. The little plastic pin (or knob) simply wasn't there. This circuit would send electrical power to the engine that would lift us off the moon...We looked around for something to punch in this circuit breaker. Luckily, a felt-tipped pen fit into the slot."
So a pen was needed to get them off the lunar surface!

They had problems sleeping up there. Not much room and chilly - plus how do you relax camping out on the moon?

They stayed on the surface less than a day (21hr:36min:17sec).

Missing tapes - the Land of OZ




Hours after landing when Armstrong opened the hatch on the lunar module, and stepped out onto the moon the tracking stations with a direct line on the Apollo's signal were the ones in Australia.

One important tracking site was Honeysuckle.

The TV pictures from the moon were transmitted via Slow Scan TV format, a special technique to save precious radio bandwidth. This format needed to be converted for regular commercial TV. This conversion degraded the picture quality. The people who saw the best pictures from the moon were the Aussie operators.


The original Slow Scan signal was recorded onto tape. NASA went looking for the tape because with today technology the conversion could be redone with much better results. NASA appears to have misplaced the tapes.

Luckily those operators took some photos of their monitor screens. This web page shows the quality difference in the picture.

Honeysuckle tribute web site
NASA site for the 40 anniversary.

Here's an article suggesting the first nation to the moon might not be the next nation to go there.

Please share in the comments any memories you have of the Apollo program - thanks.

13 comments:

Maureen at IslandRoar said...

I was 7 when they landed. My parents had us go to bed, then woke us up to come downstairs and watch, because they said we needed to be able to tell our grandchildren we saw it live one day.
We followed all the Apollo missions. Watched the landings in the water. It was always big news. We knew if something was wrong and worried about them. It was exciting.

Joanna Jenkins said...

My folks made sure us kids were tuned in for the landing. I was about ten at the time and it was regular dinner conversation at our house. But honestly, I remember very little. Your post was a terrific reminder. Thank you.

And sadly, when uber-celebrities make the news, little else is heard. It's pathetic.

Thanks for following my blog! I'll be back to see you again soon

Kelli Piperata said...

great post.

lisleman said...

@maureen thanks for sharing - sending humans is much more exciting than just the robots/probes. Apollo 13 sure put us on the edge of our seats.

@Joanna J - thanks - unfortunately I don't think space/science is common enough in dinner conversations.

Kelli P - thanks for the visit

PillowNaut said...

great pics! i'm celebrating apollo all month long, and can't wait until i get to the moonwalk post, lol... i'm envious of anyone who got to see it live. i was still inside my mother at the time... born 3 months afterward :)

lisleman said...

@pillownaut well maybe you could say you were inspired very early. Your blog has great pics and info.
thanks

Anonymous said...

If the papers are gone when we land on mars what item we collect for memories?

Lilly said...

Yes this was a great post. There was an Aussie movie made about this called The Dish - it was at Parkes not far from where I live. A small country town in fact. They had a huge role in the moon landing which not many people are aware of. Check out the film if you can sometimes.

Yes we have our priorities all a bit wrong dont we? I liked what Obama said about MJ, "I think it's time we got back to worrying about nuclear weapons instead."

I am taking a break from blogging for a little while to catch up on things I have been putting off - blogging has a habit of taking over bit by bit.

I will come and visit though. Thanks for the memories and of course letting people know about the Aussie connection.

lisleman said...

@Lilly - Good that you made it over to the blog. I agree that the interaction with readers and joy of finding new readers can take your focus off other activities.
Isn't it common advice that you should do things that you enjoy? It's all about balance in the end.

About that 'The Dish' movie - I watched it on DVD a long time ago and after I posted this I couldn't remember the title. So of course I when searching around - one site I found described all the mistakes the movie made. Parkes was part of the picture but it was more of backup and Honeysuckle played a bigger role in the NASA communications.

thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Ellie Great said...

Great post!

Nothing Profound said...

Okay, I'll admit it. I was one of those cranks who couldn't care less that a man walked on the moon. It all seemed like vanity and frivolity to me. Why not spend our money and time trying to do something worthwhile on the earth-like feeding people and educating them not to hate each other? Besides, I'd rather stare at the moon in abject wonder than weigh its rocks or measure its canyons. I'm still not a big fan of science, although in my saner moments I can see all the good it's done. I suppose I'd feel the same way about a man or woman walking on Mars. Complete indifference-which I guess just shows what a big boob I am.

lisleman said...

@ellie - thanks

@Nothing profound - Hey you have an opinion and I'm glad you shared it. I probably don't agree much with it but considering other views is a good thing.
One thing the Apollo mission did (of course a robotic mission could have done this too) was take a picture of earth. Our white and blue spaceship that we all share in our travel through space.

Those pictures make us (some of us and I hope more join in) realize we need to take care of this place and those traveling with us.

lisleman said...

@ellie - thanks

@Nothing profound - Hey you have an opinion and I'm glad you shared it. I probably don't agree much with it but considering other views is a good thing.
One thing the Apollo mission did (of course a robotic mission could have done this too) was take a picture of earth. Our white and blue spaceship that we all share in our travel through space.

Those pictures make us (some of us and I hope more join in) realize we need to take care of this place and those traveling with us.

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