NToddcast RSS Feed

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Psalm 8:3

"This has been far more than three men on a mission to the Moon; more, still, than the efforts of a government and industry team; more, even, than the efforts of one nation..."


July 23, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Obama's So Alien

The Prez met with Mike and Buzz and Carol Armstrong yesterday, but this older vignette stuck out for me:

After his last meeting with the crew — marking the 40th anniversary, in 2009, when Armstrong was still alive — Obama said he remembered following the Apollo missions, sitting on his grandfather's shoulders to watch the capsules coming into port in Hawaii.

How quintessentially American to watch our conquering star voyagers' spacecrafts coming into port!  But not even that counts for somebody like Rep Steve King (R-IA).


July 23, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coming Home

A converstation with Capcom Charlie Duke on July 22:

05 12 17 21 CC
...Mrs. Robert Goddard said today that her husband would have been so happy. "He wouldn't have shouted or anything. He would just have glowed." She added, "That was his dream, sending a rocket to the Moon." People around the world had many reasons to be happy about the Apollo 11 mission. The Italian police reported that Sunday night was the most crime free night of the year. And in London, a boy who had the faith to bet $5 with a bookie that a man would reach the Moon before 1970 collected $24.000. That's pretty good odds. 
05 14 37 53 CC
Apollo 11, Houston. You are GO for TEI. Over. 

05 14 37 59 CMP
Apollo 11. Thank you. 

05 14 49 25 CC
Hello, Apollo 11. Houston. You've got about 8 minutes till LOS. Your AOS with the burn, 135 34 05, no burn 135 44. Over. 

05 14 49 43 CMP
Okay. Thank you. 

05 14 49 46 CC
Yes, sir. 

05 14 56 35 CC
Apollo 11, Houston. One minute to LOS. Go sic 'em. 

05 14 56 41 CMP
Thank you, sir. We'll do it. 

05 15 19 -- BEGIN LUNAR REV 31 

05 15 35 14 CC
Hello Apollo 11. Houston. How did it go? Over. 

05 15 35 22 CMP
Time to open up the LRL doors, Charlie. 

05 15 35 25 CC
Roger. We got you coming home. It's well stocked. 

That first beer call on terra firma must've been nice, even if it was with Nixon.


July 22, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gotta Learn To Crawl Before You Can Run To The Moon

We had to figure out how to even stay up there before Gemini, let alone Apollo.  Ole Gus, he did alright.


July 21, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Speaking Of Going Biblical On The Moon

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

 - Psalm 8:3-4

From The Inside Story of America's Apollo Moon Landings:

"Eagle, Houston," he spoke into his microphone. His words raced across space at 186,300 miles per second to the two men. "If you read, you're GO for powered descent."

Armstrong and Aldrin were not alone in space. A third member of the Apollo 11 crew, Michael Collins, was 50 miles above them, in lunar orbit in their command ship, Columbia. He had heard clearly the vital message from the control center.

"Eagle, this is Columbia. They just gave you a GO for powered descent," Collins said.

The two men glanced at each other. "Roger," Armstrong acknowledged. They were now headed for a waterless sea known as Tranquility.

Inside Houston's Mission Control Center, a small army of tense flight controllers sat with eyes riveted to their data consoles. "Hey, gang." Heads turned. Gene Kranz, flight director, smiled. "We're really going to land on the moon today."
When the instruments told them that they were 192 miles from their projected landing site, Armstrong and Aldrin would unleash decelerating thrust and begin slowing their speed for the touchdown.

This was it. PDI. Powered Descent Initiate.

On earth, radio listeners and television viewers held their breath. People prayed. Fingernails dug into palms.

Gently the ship descended through the black sky. The Eagle's electronic brain monitored the deceleration, measured the loss of velocity, judged height and confirmed the angle of descent. The invisible hand of the computer then began to add power.

Throttle up. Full power!

Flame gushed beneath them. The Eagle rocked from side to side and pitched violently. The computer fired control thrusters to hold the craft steady.

Gravity pulled at Eagle with a vengeance as it decelerated. Inside their capsule, Armstrong and Aldrin, who had been weightless, were once again in a gravity field. Their arms sagged. Legs settled within their suits.

Armstrong smiled, immersed in the reality of their incredible adventure. He saw Aldrin grinning like a kid.

They were going to land on the moon!

SPOILER: after sailing the breezes of heaven, they make it as Dog intended.  And weren't deported by Christian Loonies.


July 20, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

John 15:5

I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way. Over. 

 - LMP from Tranquility Base, 105:25:38 MET

Buzz wrote in his 2009 book, Magnificent Desolation:

Landing on the moon is not quite the same thing as arriving at Grandmother's for Thanksgiving. You don't hop out of the lunar module the moment the engine stops and yell, "We're here! We're here!" Getting out of the LM takes a lot of preparation, so we had built in several extra hours to our flight plan. We also figured it was wise to allow more time rather than less for our initial activities after landing, just in case anything had gone wrong during the flight.

According to our schedule, we were supposed to eat a meal, rest awhile, and then sleep for seven hours after arriving on the moon. After all, we had already worked a long, full day and we wanted to be fresh for our extra-vehicular activity (EVA). Mission Control had notified the media that they could take a break and catch their breath since there wouldn't be much happening for several hours as we rested. But it was hard to rest with all that adrenaline pumping through our systems.

Nevertheless, in an effort to remain calm and collected, I decided that this would be an excellent time for a ceremony I had planned as an expression of gratitude and hope. Weeks before, as the Apollo mission drew near, I had originally asked Dean Woodruff, pastor at Webster Presbyterian Church, where my family and I attended services when I was home in Houston, to help me come up with something I could do on the moon, some appropriate symbolic act regarding the universality of seeking. I had thought in terms of doing something overtly patriotic, but everything we came up with sounded trite and jingoistic. I settled on a well-known expression of spirituality: celebrating the first Christian Communion on the moon, much as Christopher Columbus and other explorers had done when they first landed in their "new world."

I wanted to do something positive for the world, so the spiritual aspect appealed greatly to me, but NASA was still smarting from a lawsuit filed by atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair after the Apollo 8 astronauts read from the biblical creation account in Genesis. O'Hair contended this was a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. Although O'Hair's views did not represent mainstream America at that time, her lawsuit was a nuisance and a distraction that NASA preferred to live without.

I met with Deke Slayton, one of the original "Mercury Seven" astronauts who ran our flight-crew operations, to inform him of my plans and that I intended to tell the world what I was doing. Deke said, "No, that's not a good idea, Buzz. Go ahead and have communion, but keep your comments more general." I understood that Deke didn't want any more trouble.

So, during those first hours on the moon, before the planned eating and rest periods, I reached into my personal preference kit and pulled out the communion elements along with a three-by-five card on which I had written the words of Jesus: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me." I poured a thimbleful of wine from a sealed plastic container into a small chalice, and waited for the wine to settle down as it swirled in the one-sixth Earth gravity of the moon. My comments to the world were inclusive: "I would like to request a few moments of silence ... and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way." I silently read the Bible passage as I partook of the wafer and the wine, and offered a private prayer for the task at hand and the opportunity I had been given.

Neil watched respectfully, but made no comment to me at the time.

Perhaps, if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion. Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind — be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists. But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience that by giving thanks to God. It was my hope that people would keep the whole event in their minds and see, beyond minor details and technical achievements, a deeper meaning — a challenge, and the human need to explore whatever is above us, below us, or out there.

As I've said before, I never had a problem with Genesis on Apollo 8 and think it would be completely appropriate for Buzz to have been more public, too.  Now if Nixon had done something like that, it would've been a different story.


July 20, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Look Out For Chang'e

Just before Neil and Buzz entered Eagle for final descent prep:

03 23 16 32 CC
Okay. Church services around the world today are mentioning Apollo 11 in their prayers. President Nixon's worship service at the White House is also dedicated to the mission, and our fellow astronaut, Frank Borman, is still in there pitching and will read the passage from Genesis which was read on Apollo 8 last Christmas. The Cabinet and members of Congress, with emphasis on the Senate and House space committees, have been invited, along with a number of other guests. Buzz, your son, Andy, got a tour of MSC yesterday. Your Uncle Bob Moon accompanied him on the visit which included the LRL. Among the - - 

03 23 17 27 LMP
- - Thank you. 

03 23 17 28 CC
Roger. Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, there's one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported. 

03 23 18 15 LMP
Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl. 

About 7 and a half hours later, they were on the surface.


July 20, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Saturday, July 19, 2014

061:39:55 MET

11's crossing the equigravisphere today, so here's a refresher on what that is:

Between the Moon and Earth, there came a point where the gravity of the approaching body became stronger than that of the receding body. When this point of gravitational equality was reached, it was customary for mission control, and especially those concerned with flight dynamics, to switch their frame of reference from one world to another.

However, because the Moon itself was in motion around Earth, the numbers representing the spacecraft‘s speed and position appeared to jump. Journalists, more used to figuring out the trajectories of political figures rather than those of spacecraft, found it difficult to make sense of this change in the velocity figures being fed to them by the NASA public affairs people, and some got the impression that a ‘barrier’ was being crossed and that this must surely be felt by the crew. 

Mike Collins later related how Phil Shaffer, one of the flight dynamics controllers in the MOCR struggled to explain the truth to reporters as Apollo 8 entered the lunar sphere of influence: “Never has the gulf between the non-technical journalist and the non-journalistic technician been more apparent. The harder Phil tried to dispel the notion, the more he convinced some of the reporters that the spacecraft actually would jiggle or jump as it passed into the lunar sphere. The rest of us smirked and tittered as poor Phil puffed and laboured, and thereafter we tried to discuss the lunar sphere of influence with Phil as often as we could, especially when outsiders were present.” 

As a homeward-bound Apollo 11 crossed the imaginary line between the gravitational spheres of influence of the two worlds, Capcom Bruce McCandless called the spacecraft to inform the crew: “Apollo 11, this is Houston. Stand by for a ‘mark’ leaving the lunar sphere of influence." He then indicated the moment’s passing, “Mark. You’re leaving the lunar sphere of influence. Over.”

Collins saw a chance for some mischief. “Roger. Is Phil Shaffer down there?“ The FIDO console was being manned by Dave Reed rather than Shaffer. “Negative.” said McCandless, “but we've got a highly qualified team on in his stead.”

“Roger. I wanted to hear him explain it again to the press conference," teased Collins. “Tell him the spacecraft [definitely] gave a little jump as it went through the [equigravisphere].“

“Okay. I'll pass it on to him. Thanks a lot," said McCandless, “and Dave Reed is sort of burying his head in his arms right now.”

Oh, those astronauts, always playing pranks!  Anyway, tomorrow's a big day...


PS--NASA defined the equigravisphere as 40,000 statute miles (64,374 kilometers) from the center of the Moon.

July 19, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Friday, July 18, 2014

177k Miles From Earth

If that's not the Earth, we're in trouble.


July 18, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Riding The Fire

Michael Collins describes his first launch, flying on Gemini 10 with John Young, on July 18, 1966:

10 — 9 — 8 . . . grab the ejection D-ring between your legs with both hands; one jerk and our seats will explode free of this monster . . . 7 — 6 — 5 . . . it’s really going to happen . . . 4 — 3 — 2 — 1 . . . engines should be starting—IGNITION—pay attention to those gauges—LIFT OFF!

A barely perceptible bump, and we are airborne. Fairly high noise level, but we feel the machine, rather than hear it. Down below the engines shift back and forth in rapid little spastic motions, keeping the cigar-shaped load poised in delicate balance despite gusty winds and sloshing fuel tanks. Up on top we feel this actively in the form of minute sideways jerks.

There is absolutely no sensation of speed, and only a moderate increase above one G as we are gently pushed back into our contoured seats. I am dimly aware that a thin overcast layer above us seems to be getting closer when pow we burst through the wispy clouds in brief but clear contradiction to the seat-of-the-pants feeling of standing still. Cod- damn, we are moving out! As the G level begins to build, so does a choppy, buzzing vibration, not side to side now, but fore and aft.

This is the so-called POGO motion, and we are expecting it; it is no surprise and no discomfort, causing only a high-frequency quivering of body and instmment panel, which makes the dial faces appear slightly out of focus. In fifty seconds we pass our ejection seat limit and I loosen the death grip on my D-ring. Noise and vibration increase sharply as we approach Mach 1; then there is an abrupt smoothing effect as we reach the supersonic domain in the thin upper atmosphere.

The G level is getting noticeable now as the first-stage fuel tanks are nearly empty, but the two first-stage engines are still churning away at full thrust. "Staging" (the shut-down of the empty first stage, separation from it, and ignition of the second-stage engine) nears, as the clock approaches two and a half minutes and the C meter creeps up over 5.

Staging is a shock. Too many things happen too swiftly for the brain to render a verdict. The eye barely has time to register catas- trophe and rescue: the G load abruptly ceases, and I feel myself flying forward against restraining straps. The window is instantaneously full of reds and yellows and bright parficles and whizzing pieces of debris, and then, as quickly as chaos has come, it evaporates, leaving black sky and quiet ride as the second stage hums serenely along.

On the ground Pat watches her TV screen and thinks that the vehicle has exploded. She is right. An instant after the two stages separated, the first-stage oxidizer tank ruptured explosively, spraying debris in all directions with dramatic, if harmless, visual effect. Back in the cockpit we have no time to discuss the matter. John, up for his second time on a Titan, knows this one is different, but not me—I luxuriate in my ignorance and begin to enjoy this ride.

He had to do stuff like this to get himself and the whole program ready so he could be coasting toward the moon a mere 3 years later.


July 18, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Peanuts In Space

You can tell we're approaching the moon landing (and Sadie's birthday):

[T]he agency wanted a symbol, a Smokey the Bear-type mascot for safety in the reinvigorated Apollo program. The agency approached Charles Schulz, the cartoonist behind the Peanuts comic strip, for permission to use Snoopy. He promptly sketched an image of Snoopy as an astronaut for NASA to use.

As a sometimes aviator, Snoopy was a natural choice. Throughout the long-running comic strip, the beagle had frequent fantasies of flying a Sopwith Camel in a dogfight against famed WWI fighter pilot the Red Baron. In all his daydreams, Snoopy refused to accept defeat, even after being shot down and sent to kitchen detail for losing too many aircraft (yes, in his own fantasies). He also had an ‘outside the doghouse’ way of looking at things, a trait NASA wanted its workers to adopt in moving forward with Apollo. A series of Snoopy-in-Space – Astrobeagle – products emerged as part of this campaign.

I resent Ericka for not letting me call our daughter Buzz.  I mean, really, at least I didn't try to name her after a cartoon beagle...


July 17, 2014 in Family Life, Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

To Infinity And Beyond, Bitches!

Not sure who was CapCom during the morning news, but at 23:14:23 MET the Apollo 11 crew got this news update:

Washington UPI: Vice President Spiro T. Agnew has called for putting a man on Mars by the year 2000, but Democratic leaders replied that priority must go to needs on Earth. Agnew, ranking government official at the Apollo 11 blastoff Wednesday, apparently was speaking for himself and not necessarily for the Nixon administration when he said, "We should, in my judgment, put a man on Mars by the end of this century."

Yeah, well, we missed that one.  Not entirely clear when, if ever, we'll get there.


July 17, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

The Case Of The Missing Flying Cars

Yeah, some good points: there's been no human footfall on the moon since 1972, and there are also no flying cars, because our development has gone in different directions.  But still...


July 17, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thank You Very Much, We Know It Will Be A Good Flight

Good luck and Godspeed, 11.


July 16, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

When The Comet Came Knocking

I remember Shoemaker Levy very well.  It was a seminal moment when I was able to convince the technical staff and really everybody at my company of the Internet's value.  I scoured FTP sites (remember those?) for images and loaded them onto our quaint NetWare server for folks to view easily.  Rather primitive by today's standards, quite real time, but close enough, with amazing pictures.


July 16, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Monday, July 14, 2014

Missing Words


Do you remember Kentucky State Sen. Brandon Smith's (R-Again) explanation of why we needn't worry about climate change because "the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here"? Of course you do, it was hilarious. It's also brought national fame to Brandon Smith, in the form of making him a national laughingstock, and he's letting constituents know he's not happy.

It amazes me that you have no idea what I actually said, weren’t at this meeting yet bought into this bogus quote posted about me so entirely that you took time to actually send me an email. Really? I have some lake front property you might be interested in! Please do not kick yourself for being duped by this, 56 other people in the world did as well.

What Smith meant to say, he sez, is that the climate of Mars is changing and they don't have coal mines or factories or wayward Cheneys so it must mean climate change on Earth is not caused by any of those things. 

I'm gonna be fair and say that he probably did just mispeak, meaning to say the temp is changing exactly as it is here.  From my years standing in front of corporate and collegiate students, I know what it's like to be on a run when speaking extemporaneously and dropping words and otherwise saying something not quite what I meant.

He's still totally wrong, but it's clear to me that he didn't mean "the temp is exactly the same" as it has been reported and mocked.  


July 14, 2014 in Biofuels, Bitches!, Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mars Needs Fossil Fuels

Time to colonize and terraform Mars!

We know that Mars is a colder, much drier place than it once was, long ago. We know that it lost almost all its CO2 and water over geologic time, but we don’t know yet exactly why or how that happened. The next step toward resolving these questions will be the arrival of the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft at Mars on September 22nd. Increased levels of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere unarguably result in higher average surface temperatures over time: it’s happened several times before, and left clear evidence of it in the geologic record: it's settled physics and settled geology. Even those who refuse to accept that the level of atmospheric CO2 is increasing as a result of human activity ought to be able to understand and accept those truths. I’m not holding my breath.

Recommend that NASA send KY state Sen. Brandon Smith and his coal to Mars first to prep the planet for the rest of us escaping climate change.


July 10, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

When's Tail-end Charlie Getting A Building?

First, Neil gets the Dryden Flight Research Center named after him, now this:

The NASA building where Neil Armstrong stayed — and his lunar landing spacecraft was readied — before launching to the moon 45 years ago this month is being renamed for the late astronaut.

The historic Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center will be retitled for the first man to walk on the moon during a July 21 ceremony to be held at the Florida spaceport. Armstrong's Apollo 11 crew mates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins will be joined at the ceremony by NASA administrator Charles Bolden and the center's director Robert Cabana to deliver remarks, NASA announced on Monday (July 7).

Members of Armstrong's family are expected to attend the event as well. 

Michael and Buzz better get some love--preferably before they die.


July 8, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Saturday, July 05, 2014


Thanks, Phil!

[F]olks in Ukraine aren’t terribly happy with Russia, especially in the form of its President, Vladimir Putin. I would think having part of your country invaded by Russia and then seeing a suspiciously high (96% or more affirmative) voter referendum to join the Russian Federation would make anyone a little sore.

So some Ukrainian activists decided to exact a small bit of revenge. They adopted a star, listing their name as “Putin-Huilo”.

Why is this funny? Because the name means, um, well, something not terribly flattering toward Putin. I found a few explanations that should draw you a fairly clear picture.  

It's a real pleasure to combine my love of space stuff with my juvenile sense of humor.


July 5, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NToddcast RSS Feed

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Happy Martian Birthday, Curiousity!

Has it really been a year since I stayed up late on my own birthday to "watch" Curiousity land on Mars?  Yes, indeed:

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover will complete a Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- on June 24, having accomplished the mission's main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

One of Curiosity's first major findings after landing on the Red Planet in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms. The answer, a historic "yes," came from two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill. Analysis of these samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth. If Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them. 

Naturally, the rover took a selfie to mark the day.  Looking good, buddy!  And keep up the great work...


Contribute to the Eleventh Blegiversary *

June 24, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack