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Thread: Man on the moon

  1. #1
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    Default Man on the moon

    Today, 16th July, my birthday, we celebrate 40 years to the day since NASA took off for the moon. I was twelve years old, and greatly regret that I wasn't able to personally witness a Saturn VB lift off. I did go to Cape Canaveral for the 30th anniversary though.

    The Saturn VB has some six million parts. It was the heaviest and fastest moving machine ever built. It was incredibly reliable and that means it must have been extremely well designed and thoroughly tested. The moon programe employed about 400,000 dedicated, serious people who individually and collectively ensured that man got to the moon - and even more significantly for me - back safely again. Everything about the moon-mission technology is deeply impressive - example: read the whole BBC article about the core memory - long since abandoned for semiconductor memory. Not glamorous, but it did the job - and reliably too. To think, from this link, that the LEM programmer was just 11 or 12 years older than me! BBC. As he says, the 'computer' has a mere 76kB of memory (a typical PC has about 13 times as much memory) and as he says, every byte of code was minimalist in the extreme. That's good programing.

    One aspect of the moon story that's sadly never reported is the human drama of the designers and manufacturers of the hardware (and software). What was on their mind that woke them in a sweat at 4am? What were they thinking during the launch and mission about the potential for their component to malfunction - and with what consequences? How much psychological and physical stress were they under and how close to the edge of their knowledge envelope were they working? I've often promised myself that I'd take a month off to meet those very people behind the hardware to get their story, for the record.

    The other side to this story not reported is the mindboggling complexity of its project management. In an age when we are all too familiar with the failure of government projects which fail to deliver as intended, are massively over-budget despite all the consultants and computing power thrown at them, it is surely incredible that forty years ago a project of such astonishing complexity could be completed on time - indeed ahead of time. And working at switch-on exactly as intended. Has there been any project of such complexity since? I doubt it. Could we, with all our so called modern technology undertake such a challenge and make it work even now? I wonder. If you or I were tasked with managing such a huge undertaking how would we divide the responsibility down? How would we construct chains of command and communication so that we could keep track of the overall progress, and understand the risks, threats and challenges? And how would we attempt to do that without PCs, software, the internet, mobile phones? Without even pocket calculators? It beggars belief. So it implies that the calibre of people from top to bottom was of the very highest standard and integrity such that everyone involved could trust everyone else to do their bit.

    So - hats off to NASA, to so many brilliant people in the great USA working together towards a national goal and to Kennedy's bold vision at a time of great international tension. And of course, let's not forget the Shuttle - also taking off today.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    Hi Alan,
    Happy birthday to you. Wishing you happy everyday!

  3. #3
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    Default "In the shadow of the moon" - the ultimate movie

    Thank you.

    It reminds me to draw your attention to the movie "In the shadow of the moon". Amazon link and preview here.

    I watched this from end to end twice on a 747 from USA to UK last year, the perfect environment. I was moved to tears both times at the sheer ingenuity of the engineering and the human spirit despite (or perhaps because of) the limitations of the technology available in the 50s and 60s. If you watch only one of these moon-mission movies, this is the one. Beautifully edited, restrained and understated: those involved speak for themselves.

    I'm not sure if the Haynes car-repair manuals are known outside the UK, but I've ordered the Haynes NASA Apollo 11 manual - just in case I have to repair one broken down by the roadside. Unlikely, but statistically possible! Amazon package deal here.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    Congratulations Alan! My birthday was on the 12th this month, so we are both cancer, a very good birth sign of you ask me... ;)

    Another great movie about the Apollo mission is For All Mankind (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097372/), it can be bought on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...9/imdb-button/ It is a Criterion DVD, with the usual extreme attention to detail in the mastering of the disc.

  5. #5
    Vlado Guest

    Default Re: Man on the moon

    Alan, congratulation to your birthday! and keep on going! with excellent speakers!

    Kindly

    Vlado

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post
    Today...we celebrate 40 years to the day since NASA took off for the moon. I was twelve years old, and greatly regret that I wasn't able to personally witness a Saturn VB lift off. I did go to Cape Canaveral for the 30th anniversary though.

    The Saturn VB has some six million parts. It was the heaviest and fastest moving machine ever built. It was incredibly reliable and that means it must have been extremely well designed and thoroughly tested. The moon programe employed about 400,000 dedicated, serious people who individually and collectively ensured that man got to the moon - and even more significantly for me - back safely again. Everything about the moon-mission technology is deeply impressive - example: read the whole BBC article about the core memory - long since abandoned for semiconductor memory. Not glamorous, but it did the job - and reliably too. To think, from this link, that the LEM programmer was just 11 or 12 years older than me! BBC. As he says, the 'computer' has a mere 76kB of memory (a typical PC has about 13 times as much memory) and as he says, every byte of code was minimalist in the extreme. That's good programing.

    One aspect of the moon story that's sadly never reported is the human drama of the designers and manufacturers of the hardware (and software). What was on their mind that woke them in a sweat at 4am? What were they thinking during the launch and mission about the potential for their component to malfunction - and with what consequences? How much psychological and physical stress were they under and how close to the edge of their knowledge envelope were they working? I've often promised myself that I'd take a month off to meet those very people behind the hardware to get their story, for the record.

    The other side to this story not reported is the mindboggling complexity of its project management. In an age when we are all too familiar with the failure of government projects which fail to deliver as intended, are massively over-budget despite all the consultants and computing power thrown at them, it is surely incredible that forty years ago a project of such astonishing complexity could be completed on time - indeed ahead of time. And working at switch-on exactly as intended. Has there been any project of such complexity since? I doubt it. Could we, with all our so called modern technology undertake such a challenge and make it work even now? I wonder. If you or I were tasked with managing such a huge undertaking how would we divide the responsibility down? How would we construct chains of command and communication so that we could keep track of the overall progress, and understand the risks, threats and challenges? And how would we attempt to do that without PCs, software, the internet, mobile phones? Without even pocket calculators? It beggars belief. So it implies that the calibre of people from top to bottom was of the very highest standard and integrity such that everyone involved could trust everyone else to do their bit.

    So - hats off to NASA, to so many brilliant people in the great USA working together towards a national goal and to Kennedy's bold vision at a time of great international tension. And of course, let's not forget the Shuttle - also taking off today.
    Nice thoughts Alan. Many Americans (self included) feel that a seismic shift, and a loss of innocence occurred in the US with the assassination of Kennedy. The space program (playing catchup with the Soviets) and the moon landing were a high point in human endeavor. Along with the moon landing, I remain in awe of the tremendous complexities and coordination required by so many to persevere in WWII. Now if we Americans could only teach our school children about what really happened to the native peoples from Plymouth forward, and have them understand how our forefathers could write about freedom and equality whist owning slaves to accomplish their material aims. America has been crippled for so long by a myopic nationalism and by our history of slavery. I'd like to think that the election of Barrack Obama was another seismic shift, alas I see a retrenchment of many to the old ways of resistance to change.

  7. #7
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    Default Today, 40th anniversary of Aldrin and Armstrong's landing

    BBC coverage here of this special anniversary. I remember watching all of this live in 1968 as a twelve year old schoolboy.

    It's particularly poignant to see and hear Neil Armstong recently talking about the benefits to USA/USSR relationships. Notice who we briefly see in the audience? And here where Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin meet with President Obama who avows to make 'science and technology cool again'.

    How sad to be reminded that even for these three great explorer whose position in history is assured, that time does not stand still. How short our tenure here. Can we truly say that we make each day count as these men did?
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    'Twas 1969, my good man! I, too, was 12 at the time.

    Cheers!

    Bob LaBarca
    State College, PA
    USA

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    I'm terribly sorry my dear chap. 1969 it was.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Man on the moon ... photographs

    I have never doubted that man went to the moon, walked on the moon and returned safely to earth. I also believe in the 'scientific method', what engineering can produce and what committed humans can achieve pulling together towards a common goal. I consider it hugely disrespectful of the enormous engineering and scientific effort that was invested in these Apollo missions to think anything else. Furthermore, as we British know from our experience with our former Empire, eventually and inevitably the potential and capabilities of other nations matches and exceeds that of the the initial technology leaders. A great democratic nation would not be so reckless and irresponsible to set themselves up for the utter humiliation and irreversible shift in international politics should technological progress amongst up-and-coming nations expose them as charlatans.

    Well, now NASA have been able to take photographs from the LRO craft currently orbiting the moon of the landing sites and the equipment left behind.

    From orbit, pictures of man's first adventures on the moon are still visible here. Click on the high-res picture link. Note: it says in the article that further 3x higher resolution images will follow when the orbiter is in optimum position.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    Hi Alan,

    Actual videos of the landing can be found in the youtube.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    Indeed, all credit to the US as a nation and to all the individuals involved for the wonderful, historic achievement.

    However, to be just a little bit nationalistic, let me point out that there was a substantial Canadian contribution, which is (as ever) generally unrecognized. This is an extract from a Macleans/Canadian Press news story dated July 18, 2009:

    TORONTO - When the world marks the 40th anniversary Monday of man's first landing on the moon, it will be paying tribute to American ingenuity and what arguably is one of that country's finest moments. But it was one of Canada's proudest moments, too.

    Many Canadians are unaware that a group of their countrymen working at NASA was instrumental in delivering the Apollo 11 astronauts to the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 - and getting them safely back home to Earth.

    In fact, even before Neil Armstrong's booted feet stepped onto the rocky, crater-pocked surface of the moon, Canadian-made legs on the lunar landing module had settled into the satellite's dust first. The splayed legs were produced from light-weight aluminum using a compressible honeycomb design by Quebec's Heroux-DEVTEK, which won the NASA contract.

    The landing module was primarily designed by Sarnia, Ont.-born Owen Maynard, an engineer who worked on the famed Avro Arrow before the federal government under Diefenbaker abruptly cancelled the supersonic jet program in February 1959.

    Maynard and about 25 others laid off from Toronto's A.V. Roe aircraft on what was dubbed Black Friday were quickly snapped up by the Americans to help them fulfil President John F. Kennedy's 1961 edict that the country land a man on the moon within the decade.

    "Canadians contributed a massive amount to the space race and Apollo," says Robert Godwin, a curator for the Canadian Air and Space Museum in Toronto that houses a full-scale replica of the Arrow.

    "Not meaning it to be a derogatory remark, but the Americans benefited greatly from the demise of the Arrow," he says. "All of these genius engineers ended up going to help put men on the moon."


    Full story at this address: http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=n176739932

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    "Indeed, all credit to the US as a nation and to all the individuals involved for the wonderful, historic achievement. However, to be just a little bit nationalistic, let me point out that there was a substantial Canadian contribution, which is (as ever) generally unrecognized."

    Thank you Eric for reminding all of us that most human endeavors/inventions come about through the confluence of contributions from people of many background and nationalities. I like to think of myself as a human being first, a freethinker second, and an American by birth.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Man on the moon

    Quote Originally Posted by Pencey View Post
    "Indeed, all credit to the US as a nation and to all the individuals involved for the wonderful, historic achievement. However, to be just a little bit nationalistic, let me point out that there was a substantial Canadian contribution, which is (as ever) generally unrecognized."

    Thank you Eric for reminding all of us that most human endeavors/inventions come about through the confluence of contributions from people of many background and nationalities. I like to think of myself as a human being first, a freethinker second, and an American by birth.
    Thanks, Pencey. That is a nice hierarchy of attributes, and one that I'll subscribe to myself.

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