I missed many of the important dates in the 20th century: October 1st, 1908 when the first Model T rolled out of the Piquette Ave plant; the end of the war to end all wars in 1918; the crash of ’29; Pearl Harbor; and the WWII victory celebration in 1945.
What I do recall – what’s a seminal memory for me – is Apollo 11. I was enthralled with the whole Apollo program. It was everything a little boy could love – technology and sports (beat those Ruskies!).
Amazing how you can go from no space program to landing men on the moon in just 10 years. So in the spirit of the Apollo anniversary, here are some fascinating facts:
- Neil Armstrong brought wood and fabric from the Wright Brothers’ airplane with him to the moon.
- The astronauts wrote “moon rocks” on the customs declarations they were required to submit on their return to the US. (There’s no word if duty was charged.)
- The astronauts suffered severe flatulence from the fuel-cell generated drinking water. Imagine – Three men. Tiny Cabin. No window to open.
- The first food eaten on the moon was a communion wafer and sacramental wine. Aldrin, an elder in his Church, read scripture, took communion and drank wine shortly after landing.
- When the lunar module undocked from the command module, residual pressure inside the connecting tunnel wasn’t sufficiently vented. The additional boost of separation caused them to overshoot their landing site. Armstrong was able to find a smooth landing area in the midst of the boulder-strewn moonscape, and land with just 25 seconds of fuel to spare.
- Many at NASA were sure the lunar descent was doomed when a never seen before 1202 alarm appeared. A 1202 had never happened in any simulation or any test. We now know that the tracking radar hadn’t been turned off and was flooding the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) with interrupts. The AGC rebooted several times during the descent to clear those excess interrupts. Armstrong piloted his craft to the moon and found a new landing site all while his onboard computer was continuously rebooting!
- A pen saved the mission; Collins used a Duro pen to close the broken ascent engine circuit breaker.
- Specs on the AGC: 2K RAM, four 16-bit registers, 32K storage, 1.024 MHz clock.
- Almost 600 million people watched the landing, probably everyone with access to a television.
In those days, nothing was impossible.
We were largely united and not only committed to space but to solving poverty and doing BIG things. Unfortunately, today, most things seem impossible. Unlike Apollo, government programs take too long, spend too much and seem to not accomplish much. Today, instead of uniting on common goals, we live with rancor and many of us lack respect for the opinions of others. Instead of honest debate, we strive to shut each other up.
I miss the days of Apollo and the unity, compassion, and respect we had as people. I hope and pray that those qualities are only temporarily absent from our society.