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Citizens of the Solar System: The Big Question, “But Why Human...

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When someone asks, “What are we spending taxpayers money on human spaceflight?”, what's your answer?

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Apollo 16 Up Close

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The event that most dramatically highlighted the end of my time on Program Apollo was to be present at the launch of Apollo 16.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Phil Shaffer

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Phil Shaffer, an Apollo Flight Director and Assistant Chief of the NASA Houston Flight Dynamics Branch, was yet another extraordinary NASA veteran.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Reality Votes Last

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A complex system like Apollo or Space Shuttle is impersonal, amoral. It is indifferent to human objectives, human aspirations, or human lives. Like reality itself, it moves only to its internal agenda.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Apollo 13 (Part 3: Splashdown)

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If you know your history, or if you’ve watched the movie Apollo 13, you have an advantage those of us working on that mission didn’t. You know how it came out.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Apollo 13 (Part 1:...

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The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster demonstrated the hazard of reentering the atmosphere with a damaged heat shield. During my support of Apollo 13, that was the goblin hiding under my bed.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Flying The Command Module

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I always wanted to pilot a spaceship. During Program Apollo, I actually got to! (sort of).

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: The Command Module Training Simulator

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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.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Engineer’s Toolkit

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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.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Reentry Simulation Programs

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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’S (NOT) ROCKET SCIENCE: Does Science Fiction Matter?

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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...

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Ground Computers

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>With limited computer resources onboard Apollo, the real “heavy lifting” had to be done on the ground, in Houston’s Mission Control Center.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Apollo Guidance Computer

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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.

The Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Entry Corridor

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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 Program, A Personal Journal: High-G Roller Coaster

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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 Apollo Program, A Personal Journal: Hand-Held Calculators (Circa 1968)

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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!

It’s (Not) Rocket Science: John Aaron: “SCE to AUX”

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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...