Archive for December, 2006

Apollo-Saturn V model

December 31, 2006

Well, I’ve just about finished, at last. I’m not sure how many hours this has taken me, but all of them were very relaxing. If you look very carefully you’ll find a figure I’ve cut out for scale. He’s scaled to be my height (183 cm, 6′). It gives you some idea of the scale of this thing. It was about the length and mass of a warship – 110 m tall and weighing about 3000 tonnes at lift-off. To give you more idea of scale look at Exeter Cathedral. Its towers are only 44 m tall. Exeter Cathedral

I’ve just a few little things to sort out. The stages don’t stay together very well, so I’m going to sort out a system which will allow me to clip them together, but still separate them when I want to.

Apollo 8

December 24, 2006

Men of the Year, 1968Thirty-eight years ago, on Christmas Eve 1968, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders took their Apollo 8 spacecraft around the back of the Moon and fired its SPS engine to, for the first time, orbit the Moon. This was a bold mission. The LM wasn’t ready, so couldn’t be tested in Earth orbit, as was planned. Mission planners decided (under some pressure from Soviet advances) to send the CSM to the Moon to test navigation and communications and to demonstrate manouvers such as trans-lunar and trans-earth injection.

It was on this mission that Jim Lovell, later Commander of Apollo 13, named ‘Mount Marilyn’ in honour of his wife. Lovell was fated to pass the Moon twice, but never to land. His leadership of Apollo 13 is regarded as similar to the leadership Ernest Shackleton offered on the Endurance expedition in 1914-1916. He never lost a man.Earth rise

It was on this mission that people first saw ‘Earth rise’. Reading the astronauts’ words (mission elapsed time 075:47:30) as they come over the lunar horizon to see the Earth rising gives some idea of the excitement they felt. Imagine. The photographs they took are now iconic and perhaps, as much as anything, kick-started the environmental movement.

Apollo 8 is also famed for a moving reading from Genesis the astronauts made as they entered Lunar sunrise.

086:06:40 Anders: We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.

In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth. And the Earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness.
086:07:29 Lovell: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters. And let it divide the waters from the waters.” And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
086:08:07 Borman: And God said, “Let the waters under the Heavens be gathered together into one place. And let the dry land appear.” And it was so. And God called the dry land Earth. And the gathering together of the waters called he seas. And God saw that it was good.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.”

And to everyone who reads this I can only repeat what the astronauts said: it is a good Earth. Merry Christmas.

Life magazine

December 20, 2006

I’ve just bought this (for more than I probably should have)! It’s a copy of Life magazine, 1969Life magazine immediately after the July 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing.  I love this contemporary stuff. The stories and photos of family life are great (although very staged), and there’s a section on the Lunar Receiving Laboratory that I hadn’t seen before. There are a few more images of the pages on flickr if you’re interested in more.

Life magazine had the exclusive rights to astronaut stories throughout Gemini and Apollo (and maybe through Mercury, but I don’t know), in much the same way that today Hello magazine might buy exclusive rights to cover someone’s wedding. The advantage of this for the astronauts was extra income (being paid a civil servant’s salary, or a salary according to rank most were not well off) and the rest of the press leaving you alone. Things are different today, although space doesn’t hold the hero-worship it did then.

I’m pretty sure my family owned a copy of Life before the landings. I really hope I can find it when I’m home for Christmas, but it has more than likely been disposed of.

Rocket Science

December 17, 2006

I’ve been enjoying making this 1:96 card model of a Saturn/Apollo booster. At first I got it completely wrongOops!  Start again! as there are very few instructions, and really just the photos to go on. However, the models are very accurate and good fun to make. I used to make Airfix models when I was a teenager, but this is much less modelling by numbers and I am forced to learn a huge amount about the rocket.

Apollo model 17.12.06I’ve been reading the Saturn V News Reference as a way of finding out more. I’ve always been stunned by the sheer scale of everything – the 10m rocket diameter, and especially the F1 engines. Making the model also highlights this, especially now I’m getting to the top of the stack and finding the Apollo spacecraft to be very fiddly indeed!

I’ve been using the Saturn V blueprint poster, produced by Boeing, as a reference. This prints brilliantly, and I’ve managed to get a very large (~1m long) version printed, white on a blue background. It looks great. The Apollo Maniacs website is a superb resource on all things Apollo.

One small niggle: the decals don’t seem to match any of the flight articles, although there is an Apollo 11 version. I’m not really that bothered.Apollo launches

I was going to start with the 1:48 version of the model. This would be truly huge. The 1:96 model will be about 120cm tall. Maybe one day…

More about this when I’ve finished, probably.