Thursday, July 16, 2009

40 Years Ago (Updated)

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could open a window into the past?

Right now, forty years ago, Apollo 11 is nearly 100 hours into the mission that will land two men on the surface of the moon.

Columbia and Eagle are mated up, but the LEM is still resting inside Stage 3 of the largest and most powerful spacecraft ever built, the Apollo moonship.

The astronauts have just armed the explosive bolts that will separate the LEM from its cradle. In a couple of minutes Michael Collins, the command ship pilot, will fire Columbia’s maneuvering thrusters and extract the lunar lander. Then the combined Columbia and Eagle will leave the now spent 3rd stage behind and continue on to the moon.

I clearly remember watching this event on my folks’ crappy little black and white TV set.

I was seven years old – and the flight of Apollo 11 is still one of the defining moments of my life.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could look back in time and live it again?

You can.

Every single minute of it.

This will be running continuously on my big screen computer until Columbia splashes down a week from now.

God, I love the internet.



Well, let's correct that previous statement to read: "God, I love most of the internet - except for the trollish Trolley MacTrollersons of it, I mean.

Over on the Discovery site, Bad Astronomer Phil Plait talks about efforts to digitally restore the orignal video recordings from the Apollo 11 mission and make them available to the public. Predictably, a science-impaired troll named Virgil showed up and started in with the whole tired "The moon landings were faaaaaaaake!" conspiracy crap. Feel free to head over there and slap the idiot around a bit.


  1. I was 21, at Patch Barracks Germany, and listening to it on the radio. AFN had no TV service there then.

  2. My dad had us go to bed early the night of the "Giant Step" so he could get us up to watch man set foot on the moon for the first time. We followed every minute of all the launches back then, but this was the BEST!!!

    Of course, our dad had always gotten us up in the middle of the night, bundled us up in blankets & carried us outside to see the first satellites (Sputnik) go over, or a meteor shower or something like that.

    I'll still go hunt a patch of clear sky when there is something to see and have spotted the space station many times as it passed over head.


  3. I was in school in England. The entire school, staff and pupils sat in front of the three TV's we had there and watched, completely enthralled. I hope I never forget that time.

  4. It's always been one of my dreams to witness a space launch in person. And now, hopefully, I might be able to see a space launch that goes back to the moon.

  5. My first wife and I lived in Florida at the time Space Lab was launched.

    We got tickets. They simply turned the 4 lane outside the facility into a parking lot. We were over 5 miles away but could see it clearly.

    The last of the Saturn V launches as I recall.

  6. Man, something like this makes up for a lot of spam. I agree, hooray for the Internet.

  7. My parents, me and one of my big brothers were in a motel in Atlanta. Dad, who defined a successful day of vacation as "more miles traveled than EVAH", pull over early that day so we could watch the moon landing.

    I was 9.

  8. I was a few days shy of 3, but my parents woke me up and put me in front of the TV. I have no recollection of the event, but I am glad that they did wake me.

    I have seen a real shuttle launch, but that is a blog post in progress...

  9. Just wait until some of the whackaloons find out some tapes with file footage were recorded over. Then the gibbering shall begin in earnest.

  10. They know, Steve, it's one of the "discrepancies" they point to, without understanding either the state of the art, budgets, storage requirements and the media of the time, or the procedures in place back then. Of course, this sloppiness is part and parcel of the whole conspiracy theorist mind in the first place - they consider themselves experts on everything, in this case from gravity to photography (under extreme conditions) to early computer systems to astrophysics and aeronautics. One of the things I found particularly amusing about the troll in question, Virgil, is that he tried to school Phil Fucking Plait on how inertia works. That would be almost as stupid as Walter Wagner attempting to lecture Stephen Hawking about quantum mechanics...oh, wait...never mind.

  11. Steve, I lived in Central Florida for about 3 years, near Orlando. So the Cape was due east from us. We could see the shuttle launches clearly from there. Several time I went up on the roof of where I was working to get an unobstructed view, we'd have half the store up there!

    The first night launch was such a huge deal, our complex had an impromptu block party! We wandered out in our PJs in the middle of the night to see what we could see and found the whole rest of the neighborhood was out in the parking lot too!! Some of them had done some advanced planning and had pitchers of tasty beverages ready to toast the launch with. Quite festive.

    A year or so later we got to go over to the Cape for a launch. You don't see it as much as feel it... in your bones. Watched from Melbourne Beach one time too.


  12. The one and only shuttle launch I saw was from Navy Boot Camp in Orlando. It was a night launch. The drill instructor marched us all outside and made us stand in formation and watch it. Even as far away as we were it was astounding.

    Still, if you want to talk launches, I stood on the forecastle of USS Valley Forge and watched as the other ships of our strike group launched wave after wave of Tomahawk cruise missiles during the initial assault on Iraq - that was also in the middle of the night. We were in a unique position, being the only cruiser not equipped with Tomahawks. Valley Forge was assigned to defend the missile ships since they were vulnerable to attack during their launch operations. Because they were launching, they were buttoned up and their crews only saw the launches on TV like everybody else - we on the other hand got to watch hundreds of missiles streaking skyward from less than a mile away, live and in person.

    It was good to be on the Ugly Yellow Dog of the Fleet, very good indeed. I miss Valley Forge, she was a truly great ship.

  13. I think I was a zygote when this happened, so my memories aren't very clear.

  14. Go sit in the back of the room, Chris.

  15. I wasn't even a gleam in anyone's eyes, as my parents hadn't married yet... >.>

    My sister was a rocket scientist for several years, and got to work at some of the shuttle launches. She sent pictures from time to time.


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