Saturday, December 27, 2008

Apollo+40: Welcome Home Apollo 8!

All times listed are in the form MET/EST:

146:51:42/10:42 - The communications blackout is over, and Apollo 8 and its crew are fine after man's first lunar reentry!

146:54:47/10:45 - At 30,000 feet altitude, Apollo 8's drogue parachute successfully deploys, slowing and stabilizing the spacecraft for main parachute deployment.

146:55:38/10:46 - All three main parachutes deploy succesfully!

147:00:42/10:51 - SPLASHDOWN! Apollo 8 is home! It would take about another 90 minutes for the crew and spacecraft to be recovered by the USS Yorktown, but crew and craft are safe back on Earth.

Man's first voyage to the Moon has ended, and the course to Man's first landing on the Moon has passed a critical waypoint!

Apollo+40: Entry Interface

Apollo 8 has begun its violent descent into Earth's atmosphere - faster and hotter than any manned spacecraft to date. In just 25 seconds, all communications from the spacecraft will be blocked by the ionized gas surrounding the spacecraft. For five minutes, no one will know if Apollo 8 and its crew survive. If they're coming in too steep, they will be incinerated. Too shallow, and they'll skip off the atmosphere never to return.

And assuming they do make it through the atmosphere alive, the parachutes still need to open...

Apollo+40: Approaching home

Apollo 8 is speeding towards the very narrow reentry corridor. The Service Module was just jettisoned, leaving just the cone-shaped Command Module left of the massive vehicle that left Earth just six days ago...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Apollo+40: There is a Santa Claus!

Apollo 8 had been out of touch now on the far side of the Moon for almost forty minutes. Any second now, contact would be regained with the spacecraft if the TEI burn had been successful.

Mission Control waited. America waited. The world waited. Would Humanity's first Moon voyagers be coming home?

Telemetry received, right when it was supposed to be with a successful TEI! Waiting for the crew's voices...then, through some static:

Apollo 8 (Lovell): Apollo 8, over.

CAPCOM: Hello, Apollo 8! Loud and clear.

Apollo 8 (Lovell): Roger. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!

CAPCOM: That's affirmative. You are the best ones to know!

Apollo 8 is on the way home. One critical point is left - hitting a very small reentry corridor, with only one chance to do so.

Apollo+40: Tenth and final orbit?

Earlier at 23:56 EST/88:05 MET, Apollo 8 had been given the go from Mission Control for the critical Trans-Earth Injection (TEI) burn - the firing of the SPS engine that would if successful sent Apollo 8 on a long coast back to Earth. Should it fail, Borman, Lovell, and Anders would become a permanent fixture in Lunar orbit, along with their spacecraft.

At 00:42 EST Christmas morning, Apollo 8 passed behind the Moon for what was hopefully the last time. TEI would happen on the far-side...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Apollo+40: In the beginning...

At 21:36 EST, 85:45:00 MET, Apollo 8 began a historic televsion broadcast from lunar orbit:

Apollo 8 (Borman): This is Apollo 8 coming to you live from the moon...What we will do now is follow the trail that we've been following all day and take you on through to the Lunar sunset. The moon is a different thing to each one of us. I think that each one of us - each one carries his own impression of what he's seen today. I know my own impression is that it's a vast, lonely forbidding type existence, great expanse of nothing...and it certainly would not appear to be a very inviting place to live or work. Jim, what have you thought most about?

Apollo 8 (Lovell): Well, Frank, my thoughts are very similar. The vast lonliness up here of the moon is awe inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth. The Earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space. Bill, what do you think?

Apollo 8 (Anders): I think the thing that impressed me the most was the Lunar sunrises and sunsets. These in particular bring out the start nature of the terrain...

The crew of Apollo 8 then continued to describe lunar features and geology for several minutes. They closed their broadcast at about 86:06:15 MET with the following:

Apollo 8: We are now going over approaching one of our future landing sites selected in this Moon region called the Sea of Tranquility, smooth in order to make it easy for the initial landing attempts...We are now approaching the lunar sunrise and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.

Apollo 8 (Anders): In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth. And the Earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, "Let there be light." And there was light. And God saw the light and that it was good and God divided the light from the darkness.

Apollo 8 (Lovell): And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, "Let there be a fimament in the midst of the waters. And let it divide the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament. And divided the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And evening and morning were the second day.

Apollo 8: (Borman): And God said, "Let the waters under the Heaven be gathered together unto one place, and the dry land appear." And it was so. And God called the dry land Earth. And the gathering together of the waters called He seas. And God saw that it was good.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we pause with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth.

Apollo+40: Earthrise!

Forty years ago, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders witnessed the first Earthrise in human history! Cheers went up around Mission Control when contact was regained with the spacecraft at 69:31:00 MET.

Apollo 8 is in lunar orbit!

Apollo+40: The first LOI

Apollo 8 is out of touch on the far side of the Moon, and if everything is going according to plan, the Service Propulsion System engine is burning to slow Apollo 8 so it can be captured by the Moon's gravity and into Lunar orbit. Assuming a good burn, Mission Control expects to regain contact with the spacecraft at 69:31:00 MET, about 23 minutes from now.

Apollo+40: Loss of Signal

From the Ground-to-Air Communications:

CAPCOM: Apollo 8, Houston. 1 minute until LOS. All systems go. Roger, safe journey, guys.

Apollo 8: Thanks a lot, troops. We'll see you on the other side.

CAPCOM: Apollo 8, 10 seconds to GO. You're GO all the way.

Apollo 8: Roger.

At 69:01:00 MET, about 04:52 EST, Apollo 8 passed behind the Moon and out of touch of Earth. Mankind would have to wait to find out whether Apollo 8 was able to enter Lunar orbit or would be coming home on a free-return trajectory.

About seven minutes to LOI.

Apollo+40: Go for Lunar Orbit

At 68:04:00 MET, Mission Control has just notified Apollo 8 that they are GO for their Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) burn, to take place behind the Moon and out of touch with Mission Control in a little more than one hour.

Less than an hour now until Apollo 8 passes behind the Moon, and out of communication.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Apollo+40: In transit

Forty years ago, the crew of Apollo 8 were progressing towards their date with the Moon. The Earth-Moon transit wasn't without concern though. Frank Borman, Apollo 8's commander, suffered the first American case of what is known today as Space Adaptation Syndrome, e.g. motion sickness. Borman recovered, and the mission progressed as planned.

Apollo 8 would be executing their 2nd mid-course correction tonight at 20:50 EST - 60:59:56 Mission Elapsed Time (MET).

The mid-course correction would be used to direct Apollo 8 to the point in space where they would pass behind the Moon, and enter Lunar orbit on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Apollo+40: Where No Man Has Gone Before

At 2:50:37 MET (Misson Elapsed Time) - 10:41 AM EST - Apollo 8 became unlike the any previous voyage in Human history. The third stage of Saturn V booster 503 was relit. This is known as Translunar Injection (TLI), and sent Borman, Lovell, and Anders on their way to the Moon.

Fellow Astronaut Michael Collins, originally to have been an Apollo 8 crewmember but who was replaced by Jim Lovell due to a back injury, acted as one of the spacecraft communicators in Mission Control for Apollo 8. Collins' first stint for the flight was for the launch and TLI phases. In Collins' wonderful memoir, Carrying the Fire, he recounts the moment (pages 305-306, emphasis mine):
The next big event was reigniting the third-stage Saturn V engine to set
sail for the moon. Known as TLI (translunar injection), this burn had to
take place precisely at 10:40 Eastern Standard Time [NASA mission reports
indicate 10:41], which meant that before then the crew had to check everything
on a long list of equipment, each item of which had been deemed vital to making
the trip. If something was broken, we should know about it now, not after TLI,
when trajectories become very complicated. Fortunately, the checks went
smoothly, and spacecraft 103, Dave Scott's pampered baby, seemed to be purring
along flawlessly. Now the big moment came. As we counted down to
S-IVB ignition for TLI, a hush fell over Mission Control. TLI was what
made this flight different from the six Mercury, ten Gemini, and one Apollo
flighs that had preceded it, different from any trip man had ever made in any
vehicle. For the first time in history, man was going to propel himself past escape velocity, breaking the clutch of our earth's gravitational field and coasting into outer space as he had never done before. After TLI there would be three men in the solar system who would have to be counted apart from all the other billions, three who were in a different place, whose motion obeyed different rules, and whose habitat had to be considered a separate planet. The three could examine the earth and the earth could examine them, and each would see the other for the first time. This the people in Mission Control knew; yet there were no immortal words on the wall proclaiming the fact, only a thin green line, representing Apollo 8 climbing, speeding, vanishing - leaving us stranded behind on this planet, awed by the fact that we humans had finally had an option to stay or leave -

and had chosen to leave.

TLI completed successfully just over five minutes later. Godspeed Apollo 8!

Apollo+40: Man's First Voyage to the Moon Begins!

At 7:51 AM EsT on December 21, 1968 the human race began its first voyage to the Moon. American Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders had earlier boarded Apollo Spacecraft CSM-103 atop Saturn V booster 503. After a normal orbital insertion, Apollo 8 awaited the moment that would make this voyage different from any undertaken by man: Trans-Lunar Injection.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

TFH 12/4: First to Jupiter!

Thirty-five years ago today, NASA's Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to fly by Jupiter and photograph the planet up close! Pioneer 10 and its brother Pioneer 11 paved the way for the follow-on explorations of the outer solar system by Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Galileo, Cassini, and New Horizons.

December 3, 1973 was a finest hour for NASA and our great, space-faring Nation!

More information:
Encyclopedia Astronautica

Who put Chambliss convincingly over the top?

Saxby Chambliss would probably have won the run-off on his own, but he gives credit where credit's due for his overwhelming victory. Guess who?

Thank you, Georgia

Saxby Chambliss of Georgia decisively crushed his Democratic opponent in yesterday's run-off to hold onto his Senate seat, and deny - at least in numbers - the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority.

In some instances now, we'll have another line of defense besides Justices John, Antonin, Clarence, Samuel, and Anthony as the Left tries to completely deconstruct American society and trample the Constitution.

Far, far too many RINOs in the Senate though - filibusters won't always be able to be sustained. Coleman is still ahead in the MN recount; here's to hoping it stays that way.