Thursday, July 16, 2009
40 years ago today!
The year 1969 was a difficult year for many. People in the U.S. had grown cynical after the deaths of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and the re-election of Tricky Dick. There was racial unrest, war protests, and drug arrests. On June 27th, Life magazine published portrait photos of all 242 Americans killed in Vietnam during the previous week. But on July 16th at 13:32 UTC (9:32 a.m. local time), the bad news took a breather. People gathered around their TVs to watch as a Saturn V rocket launched Apollo 11 from the Kennedy Space Center. This would be the first mission to land people on the moon!
A condensation cloud, shown in the picture, formed around an interstage as the Saturn V approached Mach 1, one minute into flight. Saturn V entered orbit 11 minutes later. After 1.5 orbits, the S-IVB third-stage engine pushed the spacecraft onto its trajectory toward the moon with the trans-lunar injection burn. About 30 minutes later, the command/service module pair separated from this last remaining Saturn V stage and docked with the lunar module still nestled in the lunar module adaptor. After the lunar module was extracted, the combined spacecraft headed for the moon. (The third stage booster headed toward the Sun.)
Even those who were in despair over the state of the country celebrated. Well a few nay-sayers said the money should have been spent to reduce hunger, bring the troops home, etc. But certainly all of us future nerds celebrated. This was a huge achievement brought about by the makers of things: the engineers, designers, scientists, and project managers, and of course Neil, Buzz, and Michael.