Moon Landing

The Last Steps on the Moon

Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the moon in NASA’s Apollo program. It took place in 1972. No doubt we’ll go again at some point although at the moment its tough to imagine any single country or the world getting focussed enough to make it happen.

Some of us are old enough to remember the Mercury program and John Glenn orbiting the earth, the Gemini program and various astronauts doing the first space walks, and then Apollo and the moon landings. All of that was over in 1972, and then we had Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and now the International Space Station.

This entire arc of space exploration is incredible but nothing has caught my imagination like the moon landings. I’ll never forget Walter Cronkite taking his glasses off and looking awestruck as he announced that Neil Armstrong was on the moon. This video brings some of that feeling back. Zoom it out, its well worth it.

[via Devour]

John Young on the Moon

Young

My flickr contact NASA posted this incredible image taken April 21, 1972.

Think about how long ago this picture was taken and where it was taken. Quite a bit of the world wasn’t born yet when this happened. I continue to be awed by these images which are a reminder of this incredible accomplishment.

Astronaut John W. Young, commander of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, jumps up from the lunar surface as he salutes the U.S. Flag at the Descartes landing site during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA-1). Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., lunar module pilot, took this picture. The Lunar Module (LM) “Orion” is on the left. The Lunar Roving Vehicle is parked beside the LM. The object behind Young in the shade of the LM is the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph. Stone Mountain dominates the background in this lunar scene.

Weaving the way to the Moon

Weaving the way to the Moon

The BBC has put together a great back story on the building and programming of the computer aboard Apollo 11 that guided and controlled the trip to and from the moon. The video interviews are amazing as is the entire story.

Programming the computer, doing navigation with the sextant, and wrapping the “rope cores.” Gad. It was an amazing feat but given this piece of the technology it was even more amazing. Building an iPhone app looks like child’s play compared to this stuff.

However, the entire computer was not so hi-tech. In order to make sure that the software was robust it was “woven” into so-called “rope core memories”.

These used copper wires threaded through or around tiny magnetic cores to produce the ones and zeroes of binary code at the heart of the software.

Pass the copper wire through the core and the computer read it as a one. Pass it around and it was read as a zero.

“Once you get it wired it’s not going to change without breaking those wires,” said Mr Hall. The rope core memories would become know as “LOL memory” after the “little old ladies” who knitted together the software at a factory just outside Boston.

These ladies would sit in pairs with a memory unit between them, threading metres and metres of slender copper wires through and around the cores.