40 years after one small step

July 21, 2009 02:56 by scibuff

Date: July 21. Time: 02:56:15 UTC. 40 years have passed since the moment in which approximately half a billion people worldwide watched in awe as Neil Armstrong said those immortal words taking the first step on another world.

That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind - Source: NASA

That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind - Source: NASA

The first words on the lunar surface actually belong to the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Buzz Aldrin. At 20:17:39.9 UTC just moments before the touchdown, Aldrin informed Armstrong of the “Contact Light” – meaning that at least one of the 1.73 meter-long probes hanging from three of the footpads has touched the surface.

At 03:15:16 UTC Buzz joined Neil out on the surface. They examined the LM, placed the TV camera away from the spacecraft, deployed scientific instruments (seismometer, laser reflectors, solar wind collectors, etc) and started to familiarize themselves with working in one-sixth gravity. The first lunar Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) lasted for 2 hours 31 minutes and 40 seconds. After closing the hatch and stoving samples and equipment, the crew had a 5-hour resting period. The LM’s ascent engine fired at 17:54:00 UTC leaving the first footsteps of men behind in Tranquility Base.

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) ascent stage taken from the Command Module (CM) during rendezvous in lunar orbit as the LM makes its docking approach above Mare Smithii - Photo Credit: NASA/Apollo 11

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) ascent stage taken from the Command Module (CM) during rendezvous in lunar orbit as the LM makes its docking approach above Mare Smithii - Photo Credit: NASA/Apollo 11

Despite the tremendous achievement of the Apollo program, we can consider ourselves to be only temporary visitors to Moon. The 12 days 11 hours and 28 minutes of presence on the surface combined from the six successful missions are shorter than a summer vacation for most of us. The 12 astronauts whose footprints will remain in lunar “soil” for eons, total for even shorter 80 hours and 28 minutes spent outside the LM during 14 EVA’s between Apollo 11 and Apollo 17.

Unfortunately, the public lost interested in Apollo Program not much later than politicians who saw the Kennedy’s challenge met. Have it not been for the accident that nearly cost lives of Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and John Swigert, Apollo 13 would most likely not get a second of live TV. Ultimately, the splashdown of Apollo 17 on December 19, 1972 meant the end of glorious days of lunar exploration. Nevertheless, hardly anyone would have thought that the words of Gene Cernan

Okay, Jack, let’s get this mutta outta here

a few seconds before Apollo 17 LM’s lift-off from the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, would be that the last from the lunar surface in the 20th century.

See inside the Apollo 10 command module

May 24, 2009 12:20 by scibuff

Date: May 18, 1969. Time: 16:49:00 UTC. Place: Kennedy Space Center. The Saturn’s V first stage F-1 monster engines just sucked up 43 tons of kerosene and liquid oxygen in nine seconds before lifting up the 3,000-ton rocket with Apollo 10 from the Pad 39-B.

The Apollo 10 (Spacecraft 106/Lunar Module 4/Saturn 505) space vehicle is launched from Pad B, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida at 16:49 UTC, May 18, 1969 - Source: NASA

The Apollo 10 (Spacecraft 106/Lunar Module 4/Saturn 505) space vehicle is launched from Pad B, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida at 16:49 UTC, May 18, 1969 - Source: NASA

Apollo 10 was a full dress rehearsal for Apollo’s 11 meeting with destiny two months later. With the permission of the Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz the Command/Service Module (CSM) was named Charlie Brown and the Lunar Module (LM) Snoopy. The crew of Thomas Stafford (Mission Commander), John Young (CSM Pilot) and Eugene Cernan (LM Pilot) had 10 spaceflights between them and Gene also performed an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) on Gemini 9 (the third EVA ever).

On May 24 40 years ago, Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan were orbiting the Moon after the first-ever manned CSM – LM docking in lunar orbit carried out at 03:11:02 UTC on May 23, 1969 (at 106:22:02 MET) preparing for the Trans-Earth Injection (TEI) maneuver to set them on the course home. The TEI burn started at 10:25:29 UTC on May 24, 1969 (at 137:36:28.9 MET) and lasted 165 seconds. Apollo 10 landed successfully at 16:52:23 UTC on May 26, 1969 (at 192:03:23 MET) about 200 km east of American Samoa.

Science Museum in London, the home of Apollo 10 CSM – Charlie Brown, prepared a special event for its visitors for the 40th anniversary of the mission. For only one day (Saturday, May 23 2009) the module’s hatch cover was removed from the spacecraft to allow visitor to look at the actual controls.

Apollo 10 Command Module with the hatch cover removed

Apollo 10 Command Module with the hatch cover removed

The entrance to the Apollo 10 Command Module

The entrance to the Apollo 10 Command Module with John Young's and Gene Cernan's seats visible

The Command Module pilot seat

The Command Module pilot seat

The Command Module controls board with a guidance computer on the left

The Command Module controls board with a guidance computer on the left

Lunar Module Pilot seat with a storage for the Flight Plan, Malfunction Procedures, CSM Updates and the Crew Log

Lunar Module Pilot seat with a storage for the Flight Plan, Malfunction Procedures, CSM Updates and the Crew Log

Charlie Brown's Heat Shield (or what's left of it after the re-entry)

Charlie Brown's Heat Shield (or what's left of it after the re-entry)

More photos are available in my flickr photostream.

For great inside info about Apollo 10 read Eugene Cernan’s The Last Man On The Moon.