On Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong On The Moon

He’s not the first of the twelve to die, but certainly the most notable, and perhaps the most modest. The first person on earth to ever step onto a non earth body simply described himself as:

“I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer,”

He walked on the freaking moon, and he simply describes himself as a nerdy engineer, as if he were one of the legions of IBM or HP employees at their peak.

The youngest Apollo astronaut to have walked on the moon is Charles Duke, who is 76 years old in a nation where the life expectancy for a man is 75.6 years. We’ve effectively got no space program together other than a few rovers being shot to Mars. Within a decade, for the first time in my life, it’s possible there won’t be a man alive who has walked on the moon.

Credit must be given to the generation who pulled it off. We may be capable of having a video call across the glove, but we’re far from being able to repeat what they did decades ago visiting the moon.

Thanks Mr. Armstrong for literally shooting for the moon.

We Choose To Go To The Moon

Moon Landing 40th Anniversary

It started during a Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961 with John F. Kennedy challenging the United States to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. 1969, 6 years after JFK was assassinated Apollo 11 landed on the moon and this famous newscast with the late Walter Cronkite who coincidentally passed away on Friday.

For the 40th anniversary NASA restored some of the old video of the landing, now available in H.264 to view. It’s not true HD in today’s terms but still impressive to see. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) also manged to snap a few pictures of the landing sites of the Apollo missions just in time. I believe this is the first time they have ever been identified since the actual landings. 2-3X higher resolution images are under way.

Lastly The John F. Kennedy Library launched “We Choose the Moon” a clever “live” broadcast of the Apollo 11 mission in its entirety with exactly a 40 year delay.

Now 40 years later NASA is embarking on Constellation which even in vehicle design parallels what was done in Apollo. We may be back on the moon by 2020 assuming Constellation, Aries IV or DIRECT succeed.

NASA Constellation Program

NASA Constellation Ares V/Altair

NASA has posted a very cool video showing the status, and some renderings of the Constellation program. The parallels to the Apollo program are obvious and intentional as they are trying to minimize cost and risk by utilizing what was learned a generation ago. In just 3 years they seem to have done a lot of work, though there’s still years to go until the first flight, and a while longer until we’re looking at a return to the moon. That’s of course assuming that the program isn’t canceled or modified by then.

Altair in a sense is a modernized enlarged version of the lunar lander and Orion is in many ways a larger Apollo Command Module.

The Ares V rocket is a real monster of a rocket. It will be able to lift more than even the Saturn V (famous for being the rocket that shot the Apollo missions into space). Interestingly the Saturn V used the J-2 rocket for the second and third stage (the first used the F-1). The Ares V will use the J-2X rocket which is a modernized version for it’s second stage.