Saturday, July 20, 2019

One Small Step For A Man...

"Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. 
July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind." - 
text from a commemorative plaque on one of the Eagle's legs.

Fifty years ago, at 10: 56 EDT on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong was ready to step out of the "Eagle" and become the first human being in history to set his foot on the surface of the Moon. 

More than half a billion people all over the world were watching the first televised images. As Armstrong climbed down the ladder, the viewers could hear him say his famous words: 

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

A few minutes later, Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the Moon surface. For Aldrin the Moon was a "magnificent desolation." 

The two astronauts planted an American flag and spent the next two and a half hours exploring the surface of the Moon, collecting rock samples, and taking photographs. 

The mission was a success. It ended when the Columbia capsule carrying the astronauts splashed into the ocean off the coast of Hawaii on July 24, 1969. 

A new era has begun. New missions to the Moon followed over the next three and a half years. Some people, most notably Wernher von Braun, Vice President Spiro Agnew, and the Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins, were talking about mission to Mars that could be accomplished before the end of the 20th century. Kids like me hoped that by the year 2000 we would be spending our summer vacations on the Moon. In 1973 NASA abandoned its lunar program and all our dreams became science fiction once again. 

By Dominique Allmon

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lift Off

Fifty years ago on July 16, 1969, an incredible human adventure has begun: Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket at 9:32 ET (13:32 UTC) from Cape Kennedy (formerly Cape Canaveral,) Florida, and headed for the Moon.

The spacecraft carried three American astronauts - Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. It consisted of three parts: a Command Module with the cabin for the three astronauts; a Service Module designed to support the Command Module with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water; and a Lunar Module "Eagle" that had two stages - the descent stage for the landing on the Moon's surface, and the ascent stage for the transport of the astronauts back into the lunar orbit.

Almost a million people descended on Cape Kennedy to watch the lift off of Apollo 11. Millions of people all over the world watched the lift off and followed the progress of the mission on television. It would take another four days for the spacecraft to reach its destination.

The mission to the Moon was initiated on May 25, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy issued his famous challenge to Congress and the American people: “I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

Incredible 410,000 people were involved in the mission's success, many nameless, but many well known and remembered to this day. The Saturn V rocket itself was a pet project of a German aerospace engineer, former SS Wernher von Braun, who was involved in  the construction of the V2 rocket in Peenemünde during the WWII. The American space program included a few more Germans with a Nazi past, some of them war criminals like Arthur Rudolph who also worked on the V2; and  Hubertus Strughold who conducted various medical experiments on inmates from the concentration camp in Dachau.

These "details" cast a very dark shadow over the American space program. They were not revealed to the American public at that time. In the middle of Cold War, NASA simply wanted to succeed in the space race against the Soviets and this would not have been possible without the knowledge and expertise of the German scientists. History was made. The mission was a success. This was all that mattered.

By Dominique Allmon

*Hitler's secret V2 project at Peenemünde was an incredible advancement in war technology with grim statistics. In 1944 more than 1,300 rockets were fired at England, Belgium and France killing 2,724 people in Britain alone. Estimated 20,000 slave workers lost their lives in harsh working conditions at the facilities at Peenemünde and Mittelwerk manufacturing the deadly weapon.