There’s nothing quite like having Walter Cronkite narrate live on national TV how well you did your job on Apollo, especially on the day that Neil Armstrong was coming back from the Moon.
I was pretty proud of myself by then. Barely three years out of school and here I was teaching the Apollo astronauts how to pilot their spacecraft, for God’s sake. As I was to discover many times over in my career, smugness invites its own reward. This one arrived while I was briefing an Apollo astronaut for an upcoming mission.
I always wanted to pilot a spaceship. During Program Apollo, I actually got to! (sort of).
The Apollo astronauts had more than a dozen really cool simulators to train them for a flight to the Moon. I had to learn how to fly one.
To explain to a generation born after PlayStation how we simulated Apollo reentries in 1968, using Stone Age implements and dragging our knuckles, I’ll need to go into a little detail.
Once I’d written a set of FORTRAN programs (yes,. paper and pencil) to model an array of Apollo reentry profiles, I sat down at a punched card machine and typed them in. This device was basically a desk with a built-in typewriter keyboard
It sure does to me. It’s the reason I worked on Apollo. When President John F. Kennedy gave his “We choose to go to the Moon” speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas in September of 1962, […]
>With limited computer resources onboard Apollo, the real “heavy lifting” had to be done on the ground, in Houston’s Mission Control Center.
The first task I was assigned in October of 1968 was to determine exactly how the onboard autopilot was supposed to operate during reentry, and that meant digging through the inner workings of the Apollo Guidance Computer itself.
Before I could develop a backup plan for the reentry of the Apollo Command Module, I had to get answers to two questions.
The Apollo Command Module is shaped like an oversized Hershey’s Kiss and entered Earth’s atmosphere broadside first, giving it all the aerodynamics of a misshapen rock.
The first manned landing on the Moon occurred in 1969. The first hand-held calculator didn’t come on the market until 1972. So we got men to the Moon using pencil and paper and a slide rule. Really!
In 1968, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Clear Lake City, Texas was a hot and humid place, built three years earlier on a thousand acres of undeveloped cow pasture 25 miles southeast of downtown Houston, in the middle of nowhere.
This post has been removed because its content may be incorporated into a forthcoming book by the author. To find more articles by Jack Clemons, go here. Information about Jack’s new book will be […]
I was watching the TV commercial featuring the Space Shuttle Endeavor the other night – you know, the one where a truck tows the Shuttle through the streets of Los Angeles to its permanent exhibit […]
A recent report in Astrobiology raised the possibility of new places to look for extraterrestrial life: on the moons of distant planets. Astronomers have now discovered evidence of well over 3000 extra-solar planets (that is, […]
This post has been removed because its content may be incorporated into a forthcoming book by the author. To find more articles by Jack Clemons, go here. Information about Jack’s new book will be forthcoming.
INTRODUCTION This is a blog about rockets and science and rocket scientists. I’ve spent my career in this field, working among the people who make some very, very cool things happen there. I’ll discuss cutting […]