I’ve seen the Apollo rockets and there is no way in hell I would sit in the command module of one of them.
They are often described as the single most complex machines ever built. Certainly, if a bit of plumbing went wrong, that could be game over, and these things were mostly plumbing. Plumbing that had to withstand crazily extreme conditions of both heat and cold and pressure and everything.
Would you trust a plumber with your life?
Behind all that though, we still rely on the principle that these rockets use, the principle that has been around as long as fireworks - burn some stuff, and as the exhaust gases rush away use them to propel an object.
Twentieth century plumbing, wrapped around sixteenth century principles. Basically untested. And when you look at this thing, it’s not a sleek futuristic triumph of elegance. No, the Apollo rockets have rivets and quite clear large nuts holding their bolts together.
Like I say, I would not want to be on top of that thing.
If they had utterly failed, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins would still be heroes of mine, but they were the pinnacle of an American can-do boldness that achieved a thing that, to be perfectly frank, was something we never should have done so early. As a species, men on the Moon at the end of the 1960s was as ridiculously ahead of our time as a steam-powered ramjet would have been a century before.
And yet, this stupidly impossible task, we did it. Humanity landed on the Moon over a century before we really had the technology to do it. We still don’t really have the technology to do it.
The reason Neil Armstrong’s Giant Leap was Great wasn’t simply that he got further from Earth (and the Moon is a lot lot further away than the ISS or than Yuri Gagarin went) than any man before him, wasn’t solely Western territorialism or propaganda, but that given the technology of the time it was fucking impossible and utterly fucking suicidal to even fucking try, and our species managed it anyway.
Imagine cavemen going from hunter-gatherers to having biplanes in a single generation. That’s really what we’re talking about.
I am deeply sad Armstrong has died, but primarily because no one seems to be following him up there. Rest in peace Neil, and I hope we trace your footsteps really soon.
There were times on board when it felt very much like being on a spaceship. The constant, inescapable low-frequency hum of engines far below powering us forwards. Nights at sea, no lights anywhere except for the stars, hanging there in the black. The faint creaks as the entire structure flexed gently around you. And the gravity. The gravity which was, averaged over several seconds, 1g straight down, but as you walked around, “down” would swing slightly left and right, forwards and back, and at any instant could be a little over or under that 1g mark as the floor rose to meet you or fell away from you.
It took two days on dry land for me to finally lose that constant sensation of motion, lying in a perfectly stationary bed as some complicated part of my brain failed to get the message that I was home and desperately tried to compensate for movement that was no longer happening.
Space shuttle Enterprise, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), is seen off in the distance behind the Statue of Liberty, Friday, April 27, 2012, in New York. Enterprise was the first shuttle orbiter built for NASA performing test flights in the atmosphere and was incapable of spaceflight. Originally housed at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Enterprise will be demated from the SCA and placed on a barge that will eventually be moved by tugboat up the Hudson River to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in June. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
+1000XP for getting this many incredible things in a single shot.
It’s OK, I’ve designed the memorial to me & my future spacefaring adventures I’m expecting you to build. (Taken with instagram)
I think I perfectly captured myself here, except that can of beer may be disappointingly large. Other than that, a perfect representation of reality. I am expecting this to be constructed to stand astride the entrance to Yorkshire Spaceport.
Don’t worry, I’ll construct Yorkshire Spaceport first. It’ll just be up to you to make the statue.
50m high and made of aluminium is fine by me.
This is from the cutest book about Russia I own.
Aww Yuri I will never tire of your cuteness
“So Ed, we thought for the video for your new single that we’d put some other guy in it and barely show you at all except in a few brief shots where you’re stood in a darkened room and backlit so we can’t see your face, yeah?”
What an odd video. Ed Sheeran is the white guy in the very final shot, for those of you to whom it’s unclear from this video. That aside, this is a really good song. Witty, well-crafted, and doing something new. In my life I have seen waaaaaay too many damn singer-songwriters who seem to think that so long as they’re playing a guitar and singing that’s all it takes. You need to get some good songs guys.
But as I chip the ice off my brain this morning, a thought occurs to me - this song also works perfectly with the lyric to the Spitzer Space Telescope song. I smell a karaoke mashup in my future…
And we did it in less than ten years from inception to completion, using technology that is eclipsed a thousandfold by disposable cell phones.
Whenever some halfwit in Congress drones on and on about how we can’t do something, or we don’t have the will or the money or the imagination, I want to grab that idiot by the collar and scream this quote into its stupid corrupt face.
THIS THIS THIS.
Also, to put the cost in context, SpaceX (who I mentioned yesterday) have, in less than a decade, gone from being founded (2002) to planning a manned mission to the ISS before this year is out, and they have very serious future plans for The Moon, and Mars.
This is a private company, employing 1,250 people, founded for just $100 million.
Which sounds very big and expensive and all, yes, but it’s really not. NASA currently get $17.6 billion EVERY YEAR and they employ 18,800.
And as for that $100 million price-tag for founding your own space exploration agency, on the 12th of July this year, Colin and Chris Weir won the Euromillions jackpot that had been rolling over for a few weeks.
They got €185 million.
That’s $265 million.
They could start TWO FUCKING SPACE AGENCIES FOR THAT MONEY, AND STILL HAVE ENOUGH MONEY LEFT OVER FOR A MANSION AND EVERY CAR ASTON MARTIN EVER MAKE.
THE MOON IS NOT OUT OF REACH. IF WE WANT IT, IT’S OURS.
Man, I had no idea any private firms were so far down the line with this. It’s one thing making a high-altitude low-speed sub-orbital parabola and saying “Well, we sort of went to space for a couple of minutes there.”
It’s another thing entirely getting a vehicle high enough and fast enough to hit LEO (the ISS is around 300km up, moving at seventeen thousand mph, going round the entire planet once every hour and a half). SpaceX only launched their first Dragon capsule last year; now they’re planning to basically equal everything that America and Russia have been picking away at for the past three decades, and get it done before Christmas this year. Holy fuck that’s fast.
I have a ton of respect for Elon Musk (even if I do crave his beautiful and brainy wife). Apparently they’re finishing off a new Dragon every three months now. Mind-boggling.
Probably quite a relief to astronauts too. Currently, the only manned vehicle that visits the ISS is the Soyuz. Which was designed in the 1960s. *shudder*