When someone asks, “What are we spending taxpayers money on human spaceflight?”, what’s your answer?
The event that most dramatically highlighted the end of my time on Program Apollo was to be present at the launch of Apollo 16.
Phil Shaffer, an Apollo Flight Director and Assistant Chief of the NASA Houston Flight Dynamics Branch, was yet another extraordinary NASA veteran.
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.
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 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.
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, he offered us a reason: “Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills”. […]
>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!
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 edge discoveries in astronomy and cosmology and other sciences, and noteworthy new information about spacecraft and space travel. Where I […]