Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo 11 Launch - 40th Anniversary!

Forty years ago, today, was the launch of the Apollo 11 Mission - the one that eventually landed the first men on the moon.

You can actually re-live (or for people under 40, like me, live for the first time) the Apollo 11 mission at - the website tracks the mission in real time, showing where it was and playing the radio messages that occurred between mission control and the Apollo 11 capsule. It also has lots of other multimedia - pictures, videos, etc. Definitely check it out.

There are other random things, like this Louis Vitton ad celebrating the lunar landing.

And this ad for Omega watches - "The First and Only Watch Worn on the Moon."

There are also a million (it seems like) articles about Apollo 11. I enjoyed this one by a reporter from the New York Times. He covered the original Apollo 11 mission and describes it all step by step.

I thought this one in BBC was very interesting. It's about how they made the flight computers for the lunar lander - they put in the code by actually weaving wire to create the 1's and 0's. It gives you a bit of the sense of all the people involved in the effort.

There are also many, many articles that go on to ask, "What's next?" Which is a good question. Our current plan is to build new "Constellation System - made up of two new rockets and a new crew vehicle - Ares I, Ares V, and Orion. It will look more like the Mercury or Apollo vehicles, and not like the shuttle. We'd use those to go back to the Moon and eventually on to Mars.

However, Obama created the Augustine Commission whose job is to spend the summer reviewing all of NASA Human Spaceflight, so those plans could change. Should we go back to the Moon, or straight to Mars, or maybe to an asteroid? How quickly can/should we get there?

They're also looking at what to do with the International Space Station (ISS). After 12 years of construction, the football field sized ISS will be completed in 2010. Then, in 2016, the plan is to de-orbit it! Hopefully, there will be support for continuing participation until 2020 or later, so we have more time to actually use this amazing resource we spent so long building.

People never seemed to be that excited about the ISS, but I think it's one of the coolest things NASA has done. There are people LIVING IN SPACE! For months at a time! That's amazing! It's not just a quick trip out and back. It seems like there's so much you could learn from having a permanent outpost in space - to really understand what it's like to stay there. I think it will be exciting when people move off the Earth in bigger groups and start really living in space or on other celestial bodies - to me that's an important part of exploration, and this is the start!

Anyway, you'll probably hear more from me on space things in the next few days - this coming Monday, July 20, is the 40th anniversary of men landing on the moon!

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