August 1972 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Today is the July 20, 1969
anniversary of Apollo 11's landing on the moon, so I figured this article would
be a timely reminder of the contributions made to electronics technology as part
of the immense effort. The thumbnail to the left is the front page of my hometown
newspaper on July 21, 1969 (my father was the classified
ad department manager there - see inset).
launched on April 16 of 1972 and landed on the moon on April 19. By then,
as with Space Shuttle flights, moon landings were no longer front page news; The
Evening Capital carried the story on page 2. Popular Electronics magazine editor Snitzer wrote this short piece extolling the critical role that electronics played
in mission success. Apollo 17 flew next and December 10, 1972, marked the
last time mankind ever set foot on the moon. President Trump has asked NASA to explore
the possibilities of
returning to the moon by 2019, possibly as a next step toward
a mission to Mars. It is now 2023 and we're not there yet. NASA's
Artemis program plans to
land humans on the moon again in 2025, which means 2027 or 2028 is more likely.
Editorial: Apollo Without Electronics
By Milton S. Snitzer, Editor
By the time this appears in print, any excitement
that may have been generated by the successful flight of Apollo 16 to the moon and
back will have been dissipated. Even while the flight was going on, all it meant
to most people was reading a couple of newspaper headlines or watching briefly the
TV coverage. But how blasé can we get? Maybe it's just the enormity of the
achievement or because men have walked on the moon before. Or, maybe it's because
there were more important things to be concerned about at the time. Whatever the
reason, most people simply accepted the moon flight as a matter of course.
However those of us who are interested in electronics, either professionally
or as hobbyists, should pause for a minute or two. Would it all have been possible
There would have been no Saturn countdown computers monitoring more than 3000
parameters during the countdown leading to the takeoff. There would have been no
inertial guidance system to keep Saturn on course. We would not have been able to
track the flight from beginning to end using ground and shipboard radars.
We would not have been able to monitor the astronauts on the moon without the
color-TV camera assembly which was controlled on the earth. There would have been
no lunar communications relay unit to transmit voice, telemetry and color TV from
the surface of the moon and receive transmissions from the earth. What about the
lunar module communications system which transmitted and received voice, telemetry,
biomedical data, commands, ranging signals and television to and from the earth
on a microwave carrier a little above 2000 MHz, and to and from the command module
orbiting overhead on a little under 300 MHz?
There would have been no vhf ranging system to tell the distance between the
lunar module and the command module. And no backpack radios for the astronauts to
use while exploring the moon's surface. And no rendezvous radar/transponder, and
no lunar module landing radar. And on and on the list goes.
We are not saying that the electronics was the most important thing on the flight,
but we are saying that without it, the flight as we knew it would have been impossible.
Posted July 20, 2023
(updated from original post