Saturn V launch

October 25, 2008

While I’m at it embedding videos, what about this one?  We’ve all seen this launch sequence so many times, but this is a case of seeing not being enough for believing.  It’s hard to imagine the forces (more than 33 000 000 N) lifting this 3000 tonne machine into the air. 

Neil Armstrong interview

October 25, 2008

I’ve previously written about James Hanson’s biography of Neil Armstrong, First Man.  I recently found this CBS 60 Minutes profile of Armstrong broadcast to mark the publication of the book.  It’s nicely done, and Armstrong speaks more than I’ve heard, well, ever.

In addition, if you like the Onion and it’s like, you’ll like the other video posted here!

Constellation Spacesuit

June 19, 2008

NASA have contracted for new spacesuits to be used on Orion missions. They look like hard shell suits, mainly, and the innovation here seems to be in a modular approach which will allow a capsule/EVA suit to be modified for Moonwalking.

Have a look at NASA’s page and New Scientist’s page. See what you think.

The lost 400 000

May 29, 2008

I’ve just found this blog and this one, written by a lady who seems to have worked on the F1 rocket engine in the 60’s. I’d love to learn more from her about her experiences and the technology.

And of course I’d love to hear from other Apollo engineers. What a time it must have been. Or was it just a job?

Hammer & Feather II

April 18, 2008

Time I posted some video of my favourite astronaut experiment. This is such a simple demonstration, and Dave Scott carries it off well. He actually carried two feathers with him as he wasn’t sure how the static building up as he moved around would allow him to drop the first one. He didn’t need it, of course, but no-one knows what happened to the second feather. Do they?

Apollo Bookshelf

April 14, 2008

I thought it would be interesting to publish a list of some of the Apollo books and stuff I’ve collected over the years. I can recommend just about anything on this list, but top 5? Here’s a first stab, but I might change my mind:

  1. Apollo: the race to the Moon [the story of the engineers and managers of the Apollo program]
  2. Carrying the Fire [Mike Collins’ experiences of the Gemini/Apollo programs]
  3. A Man on the Moon [Andrew Chaikin’s famed history of Apollo. HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon was based on this]
  4. Full Moon [one of the most beautiful books: a collection of Apollo photographs]
  5. First Man [the only official biography of Neil Armstrong]

I’ll have a look at DVDs in the same way sometime perhaps, but what’s missing from my collection that is a must read?



A Man on the Moon Andrew Chaikin
Apollo Al Bean
Apollo: the Race to the Moon
Charles Murray & Catherine Bly Cox
Apollo 11:1 Ed. Robert Godwin
Apollo 11:2 Ed. Robert Godwin
Apollo 12 Ed. Robert Godwin
Apollo 13 Ed. Robert Godwin
Apollo 15:1 Ed. Robert Godwin
Apollo 16:1 Ed. Robert Godwin
Apollo 17:1 Ed. Robert Godwin
Apollo Orbiting Moon, Heads Back Today (newspaper original edition)
Astronomy Now: Man on the Moon 30th Anniversary (magazine)
Carrying the Fire Michael Collins
Facsimile: Guardian 21/07/69 Front Page
First Man James R Hansen
Friendship 7 Ed. Robert Godwin
Full Moon Michael Light
History of the 20th Century: Man in Space: A New age of discovery (magazine)
Life: To the Moon and back (magazine)
Lost Moon: the perilous voyage of Apollo 13 Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger
Moon Map Philip’s
Moondust Andrew Smith
NASA LM Chart Series: 1: 1 000 000 NASA
On Mars Patrick Moore
On the Moon Patrick Moore
Project Apollo Charles Coombs
Project Constellation Tim McElyea
Rocketman Nancy Conrad & Howard A Klausner
Saturn V News Reference NASA (printed from website)
Spaceflight Jan 1968
British Interplanetary Society magazine
The Last Man on the Moon Eugene Cernan & Don Davis
The Man Who Ran the Moon Piers Bizony
Virtual Apollo Scott P Sullivan
Virtual LM Scott P Sullivan

Orion solar panels

April 12, 2008

It seems to me that the Altair and Orion spacecraft, in their journey from Earth to Moon will need the same thermal control as the Apollo spacecraft did. This was achieved by a ‘barbeque roll’ of the spacecraft, perpendicular to the direction of the Sun meaning that no part of the structure got too hot or too cold.

Altair/Orion spacecraft

Now, Altair/Orion (let’s just call it Orion shall we?) will have the same problem, and I presume a similar solution. However, with the winglike solar panels on Orion will it be simple? I suppose it might be possible to drive the panels so that they were always facing the Sun, but with current design concepts it looks awkward, with some kind of universal joint being necessary.

Perhaps the heat management of Orion will be different so that the passive thermal roll is unnecessary, or the solar panel orientation is easier to control than I suppose (and I’m no engineer). I do know that a single axis rotation such as that achieved by the Apollo crews was very difficult to manage, but guess it would be simpler with modern avionics.

Moonwalk I

March 28, 2008

Armstrong and Aldrin spent about 2 and a half hours walking on the lunar surface. This map, showcased on favourite blog Strange Maps, demonstrates the limited ambition of the first moonwalk. Kennedy’s imperative was the priority. Anything else was a bonus, and Armstrong’s furthest distance from the LM was barely half a football pitch.

Wrong Way Round

February 29, 2008

I’ve just noticed something odd about the configuration of the Earth Departure Stage (EDS) and Orion, with the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM – which I’m now reading is to be called Altair).

After Earth Orbital Rendezvous the stack will then depart for the Moon, with the EDS (effectively the Ares V 3rd stage) providing the thrust. It’s just that the thrust is the wrong way. The astronauts will be accelerating in the opposite direction to that in which they left Earth. They will accelerate in the -x direction, rather than +x. The cone of the CEV will be accelerating blunt end first rather than sharp end first as they will for the other main acceleration phases of any mission, including transEarth injection (TEI) and reentry/landing.

I can imagine astronauts basically suspended in their harnesses as the up they were familiar with on take off becomes down. I can’t imagine it is easy to design couches that are reversible in this way.
This just doesn’t seem right. The acceleration of the EDS stack must be significant, and will be several minutes in length if it is anything like Apollo/Saturn. You’ll recall that the Apollo/Saturn TLI stack, with the SIVB pushing it, was in the same +x axis as at launch, TEI and reentry. How will astronauts cope?

So, have I just ruined a whole vehicle development programme, or am I missing something, or is the problem just not as serious as I think it must be?


February 2, 2008

Constellation logo

I’ve been reading a bit about the Constellation Program, the suite of boosters and spacecraft NASA are currently developing to replace the shuttle, return to the Moon and go on to Mars. I’ve been keeping an eye on developments, but haven’t even trawled through all Wikipedia has to offer. It’s nice to see books appear, just like they did for Apollo, which summarise the craft being developed. I shall be interested to see how quaint they, like the Apollo material, look when we see the real thing.

I wonder if Constellation/Orion will capture the imagination like Saturn/Apollo? Is it just that Apollo is no more that it seems more romantic? Is it a love of something lost, a kind of nostalgia? Or is it that we know, in our world of mp3 players, mobile phones, pocket calculators forgoodnesssake that it all seems so amazingly primitive.

Remember the first ‘mobile’ phones? The ones you kept in the car. The ones that, if you wanted to walk with it you had to unplug from the car and carry a briefcase with the battery? Sophisticated weren’t they? That was what, 15 years or so after Gene Cernan stepped off the Moon! But the laws of physics, as NASA engineers are fond of saying (or was it Scotty?) haven’t changed. Electronics can help streamline and automate systems, but massive boosters are still needed (the Ares V, for example, is likely to be nearly as tall and more powerful than Saturn V).

I think the main challenges of any travel outside low Earth orbit are likely to be physiological and psychological. We’re planning to go back to the Moon to spend weeks and months at a time there. A Mars mission is going to take years. Crew will be isolated (in communication time as well as in space) from all but a very few others. The toll of weightlessness or 1/6 gravity is known to be significant, and medical emergencies are inevitable but unthinkable. Space will be limited (ironically, I suppose).

So, will crew members on a 6 month cruise to Mars, and during their 2 year stay there be given holiday? How would that work? Or will they be kept busy every day for 3 years? How will they get away from it all?

The astronauts of the future really will have to have the Right Stuff.