Thursday, July 2, 2009

God of Moon Landings


Greek literature describes Apollo as God of the Sun, partially replacing the Titan Helios as a deity of light and radiance. In his horse-drawn chariot, Apollo pulled the Sun in its course across the sky each day, though he also found time to inspire cults at 10 Oracular shrines, not the least of which was the Oracle at Delphi.

The son of Zeus and Leto, and twin brother of Artemis, Apollo was also the god of prophecy, music, dance, poetry, plague, medicinal healing, archery and intellectual inquiry. Wouldn't the Greeks have been awed if they knew that one day, their idealized hero would be the god of manned moon missions!

Apollo Program Insignia So while Kennedy was giving his rousing speeches, a few thousand engineers, scientists, builders and astronauts were trying to make the goals of Project Apollo a reality:
1. To land explorers on the Moon and return them safely to Earth.
2. To establish the technology to meet all national interests in space.
3. To achieve for the United States preeminence in space.
4. To carry out a program of scientific exploration of the moon.
5. To develop man's capability to work in the lunar environment.

Project Apollo spanned the years 1961 to 1975, and to this day, it stands alone in achieving manned missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO); it is also the lone space program in the history of our planet to have set landers on the surface of Earth’s satellite, and provide the life-support for 12 Earthlings to survive and work in the lunar environment.

Just the process of "attempting" to launch moon missions led to technological leaps in rocketry, avionics, computers, telecommunications and "life support" in lifeless environments. It would not be an over-statement to say that the collective work of innumerable people across the civil, electrical and mechanical engineering fields made Project Apollo one of the greatest feats of humankind.

We left our planet. Members of the human race stepped onto another orbiting world. It was astoundingly miraculous then, and it's still pretty damned mind-blowing now, despite how blasé people have become with a "been there, done that" mind-set, in an age where the average cellular telephone contains more technology than the Apollo capsules.

But At The Time... SIZE MATTERED
This rendering is to scale, and shows the relative sizes of NASA crafts, from the first three spaceflight programs. The first astronauts joked that you didn't so much "ride" in the tiny Mercury capsules as you "wore" them; there was only one seat, and not much room to maneuver! The Gemini capsules were an improvement – room for two seats in the command module, but still rather claustrophobic.

NASA Space Crafts
A major goal of Apollo was to allow room for three astronauts per mission; added to the mix was an additional service module behind the command seats, and later of course, as pictured above, the lunar module. Some interesting facts about all the components tomorrow!