Tag Archives: Apollo 11

Apollo 11 First Stage liftoff

An evening pause: This was originally posted as an evening pause in 2016. I think that today, the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, it is appropriate to repost it. As I wrote then,

Though the video is more than 8 minutes long, the actual events recorded lasted only about 30 seconds, beginning 5 seconds before T minus 0.

What struck me most as I watched this was the incredible amount of complex engineering that went into every single small detail of the rocket and the launch tower and launchpad. We tend to take for granted the difficulty of rocket engineering. This video will make you appreciate it again.

It is also mesmerizing. A lot happens in a very short period of time.

Tonight’s evening pause begins eight days of pauses dedicated to celebrating, and reliving, the Apollo 11 mission. To the Moon!

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Apollo 11 in real time

Link here. I should have posted this link earlier. As I post this the Saturn 5 has just launched.

Pick your moment. They will be showing the mission in real time over the next week.

Hat tip Steve Golson for prompting me.

Correction: If you go to the link you can either choose to watch from one minute before launch, or click on the “Now” button to see the status at this moment fifty years ago.

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Apollo landing tapes for sale

An intern who in 1976 purchased more than a thousand surplus 2-inch videotapes from NASA for $218 is now going to auction off three of those reels that show the Apollo 11 moon walk.

Back in 1976, NASA gave 1,150 reels of 2-inch Quadruplex videotape to a government surplus auction. Gary George, a former intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, snapped up the lot of them for $218, in the hopes of selling them to news stations to record over for $50 a pop. He never watched them, but because his dad was a space buff, kept three of the tapes marked as “Apollo 11 EVA” (aka Extravehicular Activity, better known as a spacewalk). When he eventually watched the tapes, he realized that he had one of three surviving copies of one of the greatest feats of human ingenuity, the July 20, 1969 Moon landing. Now, those videotapes will be auctioned off to the highest bidder when Sotheby’s will mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by putting the tapes up for sale on July 20th, at a starting bid of $700,000.

“I had no idea there was anything of value on them,” George said in an interview with Reuters. He started to get suspicious in 2006, after NASA admitted they had lost the tapes, and believed they could have been in the 2,614 boxes of Apollo mission tapes that were sent to a storage facility in late 1969. George got in touch with video archivist David Crosthwait in California, who had the necessary equipment to view the vintage tapes. In December 2008, George played the reels and quickly realized what he had been storing over the last few decades. He contacted NASA about the reels but “an agreement could not be reached,” according to the auction listing, and off to the auction block they go as part of an auction dedicated to Space Exploration.

The saddest part of this story are the tapes George sold to television stations to use to back-up their daily broadcasts. Some of those tapes probably contained historical recordings of the Apollo missions. While I suspect these tapes were not NASA’s only copies, I cannot be sure, which means some of the source material for the Apollo missions was likely lost.

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Take a 3D tour of the Apollo 11 capsule

The effort by the National Air & Space Museum to create a 3D model of the interior of the Apollo 11 capsule has now resulted in a 3D player where you can take a detailed interior tour.

The actual tour is here When you click on the image you can then use the mouse to pan about and see the whole interior..

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Apollo 11 First Stage liftoff in Ultra Slow Motion

An evening pause: This footage was taken on July 16, 1969 at 500 frames per second, and shows only what happened at the base of the launch tower as the engines of the Saturn 5 rocket ignited and lifted the rocket into the air. Though the video is more than 8 minutes long, the actual events recorded lasted only about 30 seconds, beginning 5 seconds before T minus 0.

What struck me most as I watched this was the incredible amount of complex engineering that went into every single small detail of the rocket and the launch tower and launchpad. We tend to take for granted the difficulty of rocket engineering. This video will make you appreciate it again.

It is also mesmerizing. A lot happens in a very short period of time.

Hat tip Kyle Kooy.

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The graffiti inside Apollo 11

An effort to create a 3D model of the inside of the Apollo 11 capsule on display at the National Air & Space Museum has revealed previously undocumented notes and scribbles that the astronauts put on the capsule’s walls.

Needell and his team also decided that they would provide access to the lower equipment bay, the area located below the astronauts’ seats, which housed the ship’s navigation sextant, telescope and computer. “No one from the Smithsonian, as far I knew — not as long as I’ve been the curator for 20 years, has ever been below there to document the conditions or any of the aspects of the lower equipment bay,” said Needell. “We’ve been able to sort of see above the seats, but that’s about all.”

So, for the first time, the curators removed from the lower bay the large bag that held the Apollo 11 crew’s pressure garment assemblies — in other words, their spacesuits — as well as several helmet bags and a checklist pocket that command module pilot Michael Collins used while orbiting the moon alone.

And then they saw it, the literal writing on the wall.

They have located at least one post-landing image that shows some of the writing, which indicates that in 1969 no one considered this important enough to note. Then the capsule was put on display, and no one was allowed in it for decades.

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Looking Forward

In the past week there must have been a hundred stories written celebrating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11. Here’s just a small sampling:

These articles try to cover the topic from all angles. Some looked at the wonders of the achievement. Others extolled the newspaper’s local community and their contribution. Some used the event to demand the U.S. do it again.

None of this interests me much. Though I passionately want humans, preferable Americans, back on the Moon exploring and settling it, this fetish with celebrating Apollo is to me becoming quite tiresome.
» Read more

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A flag in the dust

Bumped: I posted this essay last July 20th on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. I think it is worth rereading again, even as the shuttle is about to return to Earth for the last time.

Today, July 20th, is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, the first time ever that a human being arrived on another planet. Americans love to celebrate this event, as it symbolizes one of the finest moments in our history, when we set out to achieve something truly great and noble and succeeded far better than we could have imagined. Not only did we get to the Moon as promised, over the next three and a half years we sent another five missions, each with increasingly sophisticated equipment, each sent to explore some increasingly alien terrain. Forty-plus years later, no one has come close to matching this achievement, a fact that emphasizes how difficult it was for the United States to accomplish it.

There is one small but very important detail about the Apollo 11 mission, however, that most Americans are unaware of. In mounting the American flag, the astronauts found the lunar surface much harder than expected. They had a great deal of trouble getting the flagpole into the ground. As Andrew Chaikin wrote in his book, A Man on the Moon, “For a moment it seemed the flag would fall over in front of a worldwide audience, but at last the men managed to steady it.” Then Armstrong took what has become one of the world’s iconic images, that of Buzz Aldrin standing on the lunar surface saluting the flag of the United States of America.

Aldrin saluting the flag

What people don’t know, however, is that when Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off from the lunar surface, the blast wave from the Lunar Module’s rocket knocked the flag over. As Chaikin also wrote, “Outside, a spray of gold foil and debris from the descent stage flew away in all directions. The flag toppled to the dust.”

Thus, for the last four decades this American flag, shown so proudly unfurled on the surface of the Moon, has actually been lying unceremoniously on the ground, in the lunar dust.

It might actually be possible to see this, though the photos at this time remain unclear and quite blurry.
» Read more

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Footage of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon

An evening pause: Since it is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, let’s watch it as it happened on July 20, 1969. This footage, in a single continuous shot, shows the view out of the lunar module window, beginning when the spacecraft was approximately 40,000 feet above the lunar surface. The key quote as they drop to less than 100 feet off the surface is a voice that first says “60 seconds,” than later “30 seconds.” This is astronaut Charlie Duke, the capsule communicator (capcom) in mission control, telling Neil Armstrong exactly how much time he has left before running out of fuel. Despite these warnings, Armstrong took a careful, almost deliberate look at the surface, realized they were heading for a crater and decided he needed to reposition the landing site. As a result he used almost all the fuel in his tanks, which had people in mission control going nuts as they watched.

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