sábado, maio 11, 2019

EVA: "First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 - 50th Anniversary Experience" by Rod Pyle



For me the first words on the Moon were not the "One small step, etc" but the wonderful point when the Apollo lander actually landed and the crew changed from the call sign "Apollo 11" to "Houston, tranquility base here, the Eagle has landed" (not a single word wasted; technically, the first words from the surface of the moon were "contact light" - i.e., the LM was in contact with the lunar surface.). God, I wish I could have seen it live...those words still make me well up every time I hear them. Pilots doing their thing, superbly, and sounding calm and imperturbable as they made history. Has the world gone backwards in the last 50 years? Yes and no. "No" from a technology perspective, but most definitely from a sense of adventure perspective. No chance the Apollo programme would happen today - too many bleeding hearts complaining about how many schools and hospitals it could have paid for...

Aldrin said that he long suspected that one reason he'd been overlooked was the furor over the Gemini 9 mission, when he was had suggested (behind Gene Kranz' back) that Cernan conduct an incredibly risky spacewalk to try to cut the badly installed lanyards on the Agena docking vehicle's shrouds. The EVA wasn't undertaken -- the possibility of injury or death when the spring-loaded shrouds released was considered far too high -- and Kranz almost resigned as a result of the breakdown in command. (He told Kraft that he would leave after Gemini 9, but was later persuaded to stay on.) This all left a suspicion in Kranz/Slayton/Kraft's minds over Aldrin's judgement. Of course, it's just as likely that they chose Armstrong because he was considered a better role model for 'first man'... [See Kranz and Kraft's flight controller biographies for more on these.]

Sixty six years from the first heavier-than-air flight to landing on the Moon is a breathtaking rate of change; and the bending of an entire nation to the single purpose of building and flying Apollo is one of the greatest achievements in history (and this is the ultimate proof that Kubrick didn't fake the moon landings. If he had we'd have got up to Apollo 160 before he was satisfied). I was three years old and I'm still trying to forgive my mum for not waking me up. But I do remember her crying when it looked like the Apollo 13 men were not coming back. Remarkable times.

I think there's an interesting debate to be had about technological progress too. Sure, tech has become ubiquitous, but almost all of it is based on stuff that was developed in the 60s and 70s, just smaller and more powerful - and almost all of it developed in publicly funded projects too. I wonder what could possibly have happened at the start of the 80s that destroyed that sense of research for the sake of research rather than for the sake of shareholder value?

I just wish Pyle had put more stuff in the book. I'll have to look elsewhere to get something more of the 50 years Moon Landing craze...

2 comentários:

Francoluis disse...

Manuel have you seen the 2019 documentary on Apollo xi? 1h30 of pure original images filemed in medium format video. Amazing!

Manuel Antão disse...

Nope. Give us the link please.