Kirt's Cogitations™ #254
"That's One Small Step for Man..."
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Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted thought or
reflection; meditation; contemplation.
Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
"That's One Small Step for Man..."
1969. It was the summer that
nearly wiped Biloxi, Mississippi off the map (I found myself there ten years later in
USAF Tech School). The NY Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts (yes,
in Super Bowl III. Nixon was sworn in
as America's the 37th president. The
Beatles gave their last public
Golda Meir became the first female prime minister of Israel. Ted Kennedy had his infamous
Chappaquiddick incident. I turned 11
years old. The first permanent
(precursor to the Internet) connection was established. Sam Walton
The Brady Bunch premiered on TV.
Boris Karloff died. The first Vietnam war
draftees were selected. The Woodstock
festival was held in upstate New York.
Charles Manson and his cult murdered Sharon Tate. The first
ATM was installed in Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, NY.
and the United States of American landed the first humans on the moon.
All the media are filled with
stories celebrating the 40th anniversary of the
Apollo 11 moon landing. It was on July 20, 1969, at 4:18
pm EDT, that lunar lander commander Neil Armstrong radioed those
second-most-famous of his words from the
moon, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Thirty seconds of fuel remained; a miscalculation of
distance in the planning caused pilot "Buzz" Aldrin to have to fly beyond a crater, pushing the craft to the very
edge of its capability
(remember the early
video games that were quite difficult to master?).
President Kennedy's belief "...that this nation
should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning
him safely to the earth," had been fulfilled.
to a lack of atmospheric dispersion, objects look closer than they really are both in real life and in
photographs, hence the erroneous measurement based on reconnaissance craft. Subsequent landing crews trained ahead
of time to judge distances based on shadow lengths of known objects, like their own heights. Even tasks as simple
as collecting lunar samples were noticeably affected.
A mere 6½ hours later, Armstrong's
were spoken upon descending the Eagle's ladder, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
NASA just recently found and restored some of the
videos that had been missing for
most school kids of the day, I eagerly followed the space program, and was very involved in model rocketry. I
vividly remember the first time I ever saw a television set in my school - it was on Wednesday, July 16, 1969. The
entire student population of
Mayo Elementary School gathered in the lunch room /
auditorium to watch Apollo 11 liftoff from Cape Kennedy (aka
Cape Canaveral) at 9:32 am EDT. Notice how slowly the pre-Shuttle era rockets accelerated. The shuttle goes up
like a bottle rocket
(I had the great pleasure of watching the launch of
STS-76 from the causeway at Cape Kennedy in March
Splashdown on Thursday, July 24, 1969 at 9:15
am EDT, was the second time we ever had a television set on in the school. Do you remember watching the cameras
from aboard the recovery ship USS Hornet bouncing all over the place waiting to get the first shot of the Apollo
module beneath its three parachutes? The Columbia module splashed down
from the USS Hornet, which is not far by car but is far by aircraft carrier. All three astronauts, Neil Armstrong,
Michael Collins, and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr., were put into a detoxification chamber before being exposed to the
Earth's environment lest an unknown Moon virus be upon them. An anxious world cheered their emergence from the
model rocket company was of course also closely following and promoting the space program. They had a deal whereby
if you launched any model rocket on the same day as the Apollo 11 liftoff
(or was it the moon landing?) and sent in a letter testifying to the launch,
they would send you a certificate stating that you had supported America's moon landing effort. I, of course,
dutifully launch a model rocket on that day
Alpha) and received a
certificate; . Unfortunately, like everything else from my childhood
(my own fault), it was lost. Back in those days, model rocketry and model
airplane hobbies were very much concentrated on not only flying but on design, building, and flying. Newsletters
and technical bulletins were published to foster youngsters' interest in space flight and aviation. I learned
about thrust and drag, recovery systems, the phases of rocket flight, specific impulse, center of gravity,
stabilization, model building, and much more from those publications. Nowadays, most model rockets come pre-built
or largely prefabricated. Same thing goes for model airplanes. Oh well, somebody else's loss, I suppose.
you see the video clip I posted of the 1/10th scale Saturn V launch? On April 25, 2009, the 36-foot-tall, 1600-lb
"model," powered by 9 rocket motors producing 8000 lbs of thrust, experienced an absolutely flawless launch and
recovery. Incredibly, the gigantic 1st stage landed standing up! More often than not, large projects like this
fail to execute - usually due to a recovery system malfunction.
With all the passion I have had for
airplanes, rockets, helicopters, parachutes, and basically anything that leaves the Earth and returns in
relatively good condition, one might think I would have ended up spending my life pursuing it/them professionally,
but alas, it did not turn out that way. I have managed to fly in a few helicopters and airplanes
(even began but did not complete a pilot's license), but have never parachuted
or blasted off in a rocket (OK, not many people have). Once, though, I did
manage to do something very few people have done - I sat inside an actual Gemini space capsule that had orbited
the Earth. Read about it here in, "My
Astronaut Days of Yore." Mostly, though, my airborne endeavors have had to settle for the less time-consuming
and less expensive option of modeling; that is not a bad second choice. My other passion is electricity and
electronics, so at least I have gotten to engage for a lifetime in something I enjoy; not everyone is so
December 17, 1972,
Apollo 17 astronauts were the last humans to step foot on the moon. They were also the last humans outside low
Earth orbit. Succeeding missions concentrated on space laboratories, including
Skylab and the
International Space Station.
One of the primary purposes for the space station experience is to gather information on and gain experience in
extended stays in zero gravity environments, with the ultimate goal of launching a manned mission to Mars. As with
the Moon program, there are those who object to spending money on a Mars program. Perhaps the unfortunate good
news for them is that it might be a country other than the United States - China - that will be able to claim
rights to our nearest superior planet. The first human Mars visitors might well be
Many benefits have resulted from the space programs of all nations, so opposing the investment based on cost alone
is rather foolish. If not for the technologies developed in transportation, materials, food production and
preservation, medicine, survival techniques, power generation and storage, computers and software, electronics,
optics, mechanics, chemistry, biology, physical fitness, and so much more, we would not have the ability to assist
the world's needy with the efficiency that we do now. Do a search on the spinoff technology resulting from space
program research; they go well beyond the digital watch and metalized survival blankets. It would be impossible
to motivate the great multitudes of engineers and scientists who engage in commercial enterprise to innovate with
such passion if the only incentive was to tend to the less fortunate. Maybe that is a sad statement, but
it is true. Utopian, socialist societies have always failed because of human nature. Ultimately, each person must
be allowed to follow his dream in order for happiness to drive creativity.
I am glad that NASA has chosen to make a big deal of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, both because it is
a good way to reinvigorate the public's enthusiasm for space exploration, and because by the time the 50th
anniversary rolls around in 2019, I will be 60 years old and might have already assumed room temperature.
Are you old enough to have witnessed the Apollo 11 mission's progress? Were you one of the lucky few who people
who watched the launch from Cape Kennedy?
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