July 17, 2019

The Moon from Apollo 11 Lunar Transit

The second day of Apollo 11 was a true journey into outer space.

Having left behind the earth, gotten a ‘night’s’ sleep, and with the moon more than a day in the future, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were occupied with checklists and a great many adjustments and procedure, many of which were manually performed, as well as a mid-course correction burn of the engine. They exercised and ate meals, and periodically rolled the spacecraft to distribute heat from the sun.

Their communications reveal few expressions of the beauty of space, and were mostly business-like in performing a multitude of vital tasks. This is ‘the right stuff.’ Laser-focused.

Samplings of communications between the crew and Houston show the relaxed attitude of the crew as they worked:

024:45:35 Collins: It’s really a fantastic sight through that sextant. A minute ago, during that Auto maneuver, the reticle swept across the Mediterranean. You could see all of North Africa, absolutely clear; all of Portugal, Spain, southern France; all of Italy, absolutely clear. Just a beautiful sight.

024:45:54 McCandless: Roger. We all envy you the view up there.
027:27:47 Lovell: How does it feel to be airborne again, Buzz?
027:27:51 Aldrin: Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve been having a ball floating around inside here, back and forth, up to one place and back to another. It’s like being outside, except more comfortable.
027:28:04 Lovell: It’s a lot bigger than our last vehicle.
027:28:11 Aldrin: Yes. It sure is nice in here.
027:28:13 Lovell: I said it’s a lot bigger than the last vehicle that Buzz and I were in.
Jim Lovell is referring to his and Buzz’s flight in Gemini 12.
027:28:17 Collins: Oh, yeah. It’s been nice. I’ve been very busy so far. I’m looking forward to taking the afternoon off. I’ve been cooking, and sweeping, and almost sewing, and you know, the usual little housekeeping things.
027:28:30 Lovell: It was very convenient the way they put the food preparation system right next to the nav station.
027:28:43 Armstrong: Everything’s right next to everything in this vehicle.
027:28:48 Aldrin: Not where the waste management’s concerned.

Each of the three had done an orbital mission in the Gemini program, but there might have been something entirely different in leaving the somewhat familiar orbit of earth; to leave behind our world. Outside the windows it was either the black of space, the sun, or a diminishing earth and a growing moon. Here’s Buzz Aldrin describing one view:

034:18:28 Aldrin: We see out our side windows the Sun going by and, of course, out one of our windows right now we’ve got the Earth. Right behind my window, of course, we have the Sun, because the Sun is illuminating the star charts that we see. This line represents the ecliptic plane and these lines, vertical lines, represent our reference system that the spacecraft is using at this time. As we approach the Moon, the Moon will gradually grow larger and larger in size and eventually it will be in eclipse. It will be eclipsing the Sun as we go behind it, as we approach the Lunar Orbit Insertion maneuver.
In this video you can see views in the command module and watch the crew exercising.

While day two was relatively relaxed, the tasks in preparation for the landing would increase on day three.

More tomorrow.

Photo credit: NASA. Communications transcripts credit: Apollo Flight Journal

July 16, 2019

Apollo 11 - Launch Day as the World Watches with Awe and Excitement

Imagine this: It is July 16, 1969, and hundreds of thousands of people camped out near the Kennedy Space Center overnight waiting for the launch of Apollo 11. Millions more around the world are glued to their TVs and radios, awaiting the magical moment. It's a bright sunny morning and Apollo 11 is gleaming on the launch pad as technicians check the million-plus systems that all must work perfectly.

The astronauts wave to the cameras as they depart for the pad, and ascend 365 feet to the top of the Saturn V rocket. The hatch is closed and the world awaits...

All systems are GO! The time is 9:32 AM. The world holds its breath!

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0! Smoke and fire billow from the mighty engines and slowly the rocket rises, then faster and faster. Humanity cheers on the launch of Apollo 11 on its historic mission to land Americans on the moon.

Apollo 11 is now in orbit. Two hours and 44 minutes later, the engines fired to take the spacecraft out of earth orbit and towards the moon, still a quarter of a million miles distant.

The adventure begins.

July 12, 2019

Apollo 11 -- The 50th Anniversary -- and the Return to the Moon in 2024

50 years ago, the combined work of 400,000 American space workers was cheered on by billions of people around the world as the mighty Saturn V rocket launched towards the moon.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins--these names will be remembered a thousand years from now. They sat atop the Saturn on July 16th as it shook the earth to break free of earth's gravity. They carried the hopes and dreams of humanity. They were making history.

The journey was short by most standards. 500 years ago, a sea voyage might take many months; 150 years ago, a stagecoach across the country would take weeks or months; in 1969, a jetliner covered 600 miles in an hour. Yet in just three days, they traveled a quarter of a million miles and reached lunar orbit.

Michael Collins remained aboard the Command Module, responsible for getting the others home. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the moon, forever being the first people on the surface of another world. They raised the flag of the United States in tribute to all Americans who helped their journey with hard work and with encouragement--and in honor of the liberty we enjoy that made it possible for the mission in the first place.

Their feats got the headlines, but the 400,000 NASA and contractor employees got them there and back--they are as much the heroes of Apollo 11 as the astronauts. 

Returning from the moon, they received a hero’s welcome. The world united in peace watching the launch, landing and return of our astronauts.

Today, as we salute and honor the Apollo 11 astronauts and the space workers who got them to the moon and safely home, we can look forward to the next giant leap, as NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024.

Achieving this ambitions 5-year goal after decades of bureaucratic thinking and a lack of serious goals will not be easy, but we must remember the words of President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 commanded us to literally aim for the moon: "We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win."

It is our human nature to explore, to discover and expand our knowledge--even at the ultimate risks.
Let us on this anniversary, recommit ourselves to President Kennedy's challenge to again do the things that are hard and challenging, and to be determined to win, as were the three Apollo 11 astronauts and everyone who got them there.

Let's go for the Moon in 2024 and then on to Mars in the 2030s!

Coalition President Art Harman is available for interviews and speaking engagements for this historic anniversary.

May 23, 2019

Artemis Returns Americans to the Moon in 2024!

Following the Vice President's order to NASA to send a man and a woman to the Moon in 2024--which would be the first return in more than 50 years, industry and NASA have risen to the challenge. The above image is of NASA's new roadmap through 2028, with the landing in 2024.

Now named Project Artemis, the return will need lunar landers, many commercial and NASA launches, and the elements of a scaled down lunar-orbital "gateway." Blue Origin unveiled their lander concept, and NASA is preparing to award a contract for part of the gateway. To meet the 2024 deadline, many contractors must start to design and build elements this year.

The hard work is NOT building rockets or training astronauts--NASA and both new and legacy space industries know how to build rockets--after all, we learned how to do it 50 years ago, and your phone has far more processing power than the Apollo lander.

No, the hard work is all political.

Congress must now pass the necessary authorizations and appropriations or it won't happen, including the $1.6 billion supplemental appropriation. Space has always been non-partisan, and everyone in Congress should get behind this with enthusiasm. It helps further JFK's legacy, it continues American high tech leadership and global competitiveness, and it will inspire millions of students to go into STEM fields. It will also avoid a confrontation with China had we let them in our absence claim strategic locations of the Moon as their own, as in the South China Sea.

Unity of space advocates is essential. Some may favor a "moon first" or a "Mars first" approach to sending humans to Mars, but fighting the return to the Moon will only delay ever getting to Mars. So it's time to rally around this, the most bold plan to return to the Moon and then go to Mars.

The target of 2024 offers commercial space a golden opportunity to try to beat Boeing's Space Launch System and Lockheed Martin's Orion. The Vice President commanded that we will go regardless of who gets us there.

Moon 2024 is exactly the target the Coalition advised officials on in the campaign, transition, White House and Congress for the past three years.

So this is a new space race between legacy and new space. Build it! Fly it! SpaceX and Blue Origin: Build your rockets and landers! Bigelow and ATK Orbital: Build surface habitats! And others should be building life support, ice mining and processing equipment, space suits, and the thousands of other elements needed for that next giant leap.

The administration and NASA have hard work ahead, including promoting 2024 on the Moon to the American people. The media largely ignored this wonderful news, with the Washington Post drowning the story on page A-24 behind 50 other stories the paper thought more important. So you can help spread the great news on social media. The public loves space, kids will get enthusiastic, and it takes attention from the negative of politics to looking at the future of humanity.

Please call your members of Congress in support of returning to the Moon and in support of the $1.6 billion request to get started. 202-224-3121.

March 27, 2019

To the Moon in 2024!

President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation in 1961 to go to the Moon "in this decade," and on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took that historic giant leap. Without that deadline, we might never have made it--the program might have become bureaucratic and consumed by cost overruns, and public enthusiasm would have waned.

March 26, 2019 might be remembered as the date America shook off the lethargy and inertia and rededicated our great nation to return to the Moon and then journey to Mars. Vice President Mike Pence challenged our nation to return to the surface of the Moon in 2024, specifically the south pole, where water ice can sustain humanity and enable commercial mining and tourism.

The specific deadline of 2024, and the Vice President's order that "the President has directed NASA and Administrator Jim Bridenstine to accomplish this goal by any means necessary," is proof that unlike the past decades, we will truly return to the moon.

The Vice President endorsed using either the Space Launch System or commercial rockets such as from SpaceX and Blue Origin, which will spark a new space launch race to win the contracts to land Americans on the Moon.

The Coalition advised the Trump campaign, transition, and White House to target 2024 for a return to the moon, at the water-ice-bearing south pole so that a future president can't cancel it, to not give China the opportunity to claim strategic areas of the moon in our absence, an to secure our high tech, space-faring future.

Today's meeting of the National Space Council approved these dramatic and welcome changes to our space program. Now it is up to Congress to make the dream come true. Call your members of Congress in support at 202-224-3121.

December 31, 2018

China Admits it Will Seize the Moon and Mars -- Like the South China Sea

Please read this Wall Street Journal article. China often telegraphs it's global ambitions and we are fools to ignore their clearly stated warnings.

“The universe is like the ocean, the moon is like the Diaoyu Islands, and Mars is like Huangyan Island,” Ye Peijian, head of China’s moon missions, said in a 2017 interview with state TV, using China’s names for islands in the South and East China Seas that China is trying to illegally seize. “We will be blamed by our descendants if we don’t go there…and others get there before us.”

Source: wsj.com/articles/china-pushes-for-primacy-in-space-11546171206

Note that this is not just a commentator testing the waters or rattling sabers as with a recent threat to sink two American aircraft carriers (which would mean war and an end to China's dominance in manufacturing), but is effectively the official position of China's moon program. Of note is that China has an high official specifically in charge of sending astronauts and robots to the surface of the moon--and the U.S. doesn't.

The South and East China Seas are the current and initial battlegrounds in China's ambitions to violate 400 years of freedom of the seas, international law, the Law of the Sea treaty, and the sovereign territories of many nations in the region. 

Search for China's "first island chain" scheme that swallows the South China, East China and Yellow Seas as well as Taiwan, the "second island chain" which swallows Japan and Indonesia, the "third" which could reach to Hawaii, the "fourth" which could encircle Australia and India, and the "fifth island chain" which could reach to the shores of Africa and you'll see the magnitude of their possible illegal conquest of half of the world's seas and many nations' sovereignty.

Lately, China has been very clear that they will be staking out the lunar south pole, and this is of alarm because the lunar pole craters contain water ice, making them the only place humanity can ever build permanent bases and cities on the Moon.

To further this goal, Starting as soon as next year, China plans to send their Chang'e-6 lunar rover to the south pole, followed by Chang'e-7

"Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects, but it's confirmed that there will be another three missions after Chang'e-5," said Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the CNSA, at a press conference of the State Council Information Office.

According to Wu, the Chang'e-6 mission will be designed to bring samples back from the South Pole of the moon.

"Whether the probe will land on the near side or the far side of the moon, we will make the decision according to the performance of Chang'e-5," he said.

The Chang'e-7 mission will carry out comprehensive surveys around the South Pole, including studying terrain and landform, physical composition as well as the space environment in the region.

The Chang'e-8 mission, in addition to scientific surveys and experiments, will test key technologies to lay the groundwork for the construction of a science and research base on the moon. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-01/14/c_137743306.htm

The deputy director of China’s Lunar exploration center, Pei Zhaoyu, stated at a 2018 ESA/Chinese lunar cooperation workshop that, “NASA will focus on building the LOP-G. CNSA, (China’s military-led space agency), will build the lunar scientific research station on the surface. LOP-G has low economic effectiveness.”

Liu Jizhong, director of China Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center amplified on this in 2017: “China is planning and designing its future lunar exploration program. We will focus on the south pole region of the moon. The research on water and the permanent shadow area of the lunar south pole region will bring greater scientific discoveries.”

Another plan that received initial funding is for their military-run space program is to place a giant manned military radar on the moon to map in near-real time every military asset in the world. China's concept of "vertical sovereignty" in violation of the Outer Space Treaty is yet another effort to seize outer space.

American astronauts left plaques on the moon declaring "we came in peace for all mankind," yet China is now signaling they may not have such peaceful plans for the Moon and Mars. The above quote should be taken seriously by the White House and Congress, and industry should ready plans for near-term lunar landing and base-construction programs.

Our continued access to space is a non-partisan issue and should be supported by both parties, or we face a catastrophic defeat for our future in access to space, high technology, national prestige and national security.

In 2014, then NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated: “We will never lead a mission to the moon in my lifetime, in spite of our ISS partners begging us to do so!” It is time to move beyond this holdover restriction from the previous administration, and lead the way back to the surface of the Moon, this time for keeps.

The Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration is making it the number one priority in 2019 to advocate replacing NASA's "Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway" (LOP-G) with actual crewed lunar landings at the south pole in the early not late 2020s, and constructing a permanent crewed base there, all with our partners on the International Space Station. India, South Korea and UAE should be invited to participate as well.

Sadly, we must protect our access to the bright 'space age' future we dream of before we could lose access to the Moon and Mars short of war to defend our rights.

December 25, 2018

50 Years after Apollo 8

This Christmas marks the 50th anniversary of the spectacular Apollo 8 mission around the moon. We still are awed by the famous 'Earthrise' photo and the incredible progress in going to the moon less than eight years from President Kennedy's challenge to go "in this decade."

Apollo 8 was the mission that validated our ability to go to the moon and return safely, which set the stage for further validating flights of Apollo 9 and 10. Only then were we ready to safely land Americans on the Moon.

A half century later, we haven't been back to the moon or gone on from there to Mars, a fact that would have outraged anyone living in the Apollo era. "Of course we will have lunar and martian bases by the year 2000," they might have exclaimed.

In spite of learning how to successfully go to the Moon 50 years ago, NASA's current plans might only return Americans to the surface of the moon by the late 2020s--perhaps in time for the 60th anniversary of Apollo 8 or Apollo 11.

Yet the surface of the Moon is where we will learn how to live on Mars, and where cities and commerce will one day arise. But there's a serious race for the only parts of the Moon where humans can live: the poles where there is water ice in the craters.  America might not be participating in this race, unlike in the original race to the Moon, however China has set their plans to conquer the poles. The danger is they will claim the strategic poles as theirs, following the example they are setting to try to seize the international waters and sovereign territories of the South China Sea.

It's time to get our priorities correct for the 2020s, with a determined program to land Americans back on the moon in the early 2020s followed by constructing a permanent lunar base with our partners from the International Space Station, and then, with lessons learned, go to Mars in the 2030s!

Watch the Apollo 8 astronaut's Christmas Eve broadcast from the Moon, including reading from Genesis: