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Men Walk On Moon - July 20th 1969 (nytimes.com)
155 points by Cherian_Abraham on July 20, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments

We need to be reminded that once we did great things.

I worked at MIT Instrumentation Lab on a compiler for the guidance software for the moon missions. My contribution was insignificant, but I am still proud to have been part of it. My only regret was that I never made it to Florida to watch a Saturn V take off.

Russell as in Steve Russell? Because, if so, I think you've done things much more significant than land men on the moon.

Looks like it: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3519747 and other comments verify.

I noticed that too, but Steve Russell wrote the first LISP interpreter on the IBM 704 in 1959 (http://www.iwriteiam.nl/HaCAR_CDR.html#Steve). The IBM 7094 came out in 1962 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_7090). So I'm betting that our russell isn't Steve. He's a perfectly good russell nonetheless :)

Sorry, I'm a much less famous Russell (Salsbury that is). The only connection between us is that I did play Spacewar on a PDP-1.

It's okay. You sound awesome anyway ;)

I had to write an assignment about Steve Russell just the other week... if that is indeed you, hats off and I commend you for your work. Small world.. :)

Exactly. Spacewar!

If it is the case that the space race was a byproduct of the cold war, then there isn't much reason to feel nostalgic.

I disagree. Firstly, whilst the ends do not justify the means, this was an incredible technological and cultural achievement. Humanity's first, faltering step out of the cradle.

Secondly, two great warrior tribes holding enough weaponry to kill every human on the planet many, many times over hold guns to each other's heads... and then divert competition from violence into technological achievement. The message no longer just "I'm best because I'm stronger" but now also smarter, more technologically advanced. Means of competition that does actually give the world a brighter future, rather than just ending it for the other tribe.

Really, if you’re going to commemorate it, cite a more authoritative source.


I recently picked up a box full of old copies The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction at a book sale. Whoever had originally purchased them had most of the 1960s and a good part of the 1950s, so they obviously had a lasting interest in science fiction.

The last volume he purchased was August 1969.

In my imagination, after the moon landing, he bought one more issue, and it just didn't work anymore. Science fiction had become science fact, and he had no need for any more fiction.

I wonder how he felt later, after we left the moon for the last time and never went back.

Mr. Armstrong replied:

"Thank you Mr. President. It's a great honor and privilege for us to be here representing not only the United States but men of peace of all nations, men with interests and a curiosity and men with a vision for the future."

Fucking awesome.

My appreciation circuits were fried at that point. Too few women, too many men.

So this text both brought me on the verge of tearing up and annoyed me. Bravo!

"Men" as in mankind. It's just the way that word is used. I'm pretty sure Armstrong wasn't trying to be misogynistic there.

I'm a bit disappointed that this rather useless post of mine has increased my karma points more than anything else I've written.

I know. But since I know that that kind of language is not ok my appreciation circuits are fried.

You just registered an account to complain about a message of unequivocal world peace from the first human to set foot on an extraplanetary body.

No, I did not.

And he did so with misogynist language. Which made me twinge. I don't complain, I state my feelings.

It just shows in what a weird time this was happening.

You're right, you didn't. My mistake, I apologize.

A few questions though. Would you be displeased at someone saying "Hey guys!" or "Hi fellas!" or "What's up, dudes?" to a group of mixed gender?

Do you feel that these greetings play a part in entrenching patriarchy in a real way?

Do you feel that a protest against such greetings would play a part in overcoming patriarchy in a real way?

Do you think it matters if the greeter knows the group they are greeting? If so, does it matter because of actual familiarity or just formality?

Uggh, I'm tired of people using that word so casually and where it doesn't apply.

The word "men" also means humanity you idiot.

Yes, that is exactly the problem. Is that really so hard to understand?

No, there is no problem. People looking for problems where are none are problem though.

All right, I'll pop in here I guess. This has obviously veered incredibly off-topic and I can absolutely forgive Armstrong for using that language so many years ago.

Now, that being said language is powerful and inclusive language is important. I wouldn't dismiss this as a problem so candidly. Just registering my support for Tieno's issues so you don't dismiss them as a lone super-PC-police-person.

Also, "that's just the way (the word is used)/(it is)" has never been a great defense of using non-inclusive language. Or anything, really.

At that time, it was commonly understood that "men" in such a context included "women". This was before womens' lib, etc. English is an evolving language; basically, 43 years ago, "men" in this use meant something different than it does today.

How do you "know" that kind of language is not OK?

this makes me wish that the "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky." story was true.

I remember the last lunar missions. We all thought that man would be going back to the moon within a few years or so.

Not the way it worked out.


Pretty much the reason why a lot of progress in manned spaceflight came to a halt is due to the Shuttle program. It was sold on a laundry list of promises that somehow a lot of powerful folks utterly bought into. But in the end it ended up being far less capable and far more expensive than just about every alternative. Although admittedly it does look pretty cool.

Even the cool look holds a fatal flaw....never again will we design rockets where the cargo rides adjacent to the fuel, rather than on top.

It wouldn't be so bad if the orbiter didn't have such big wings (due to a military requirement for a large cross-range flight ability that was never actually used). Big wings means a more difficult reentry scenario, which means exotic, and brittle, thermal protection systems on the wing leading edges, which means a much larger area of highly vulnerable thermal protection materials on the orbiter. And it wouldn't be so bad if the vehicle didn't use liquid Hydrogen, which is super-cryogenic, requires excessive thermal insulation, and is extremely prone to formation of ice. A lot of people think that we were unlucky with the loss of Challenger and especially with the loss of Columbia, but in truth it was the opposite, we had gotten extraordinarily lucky prior to that. In reality the chances were very high that we would have lost a vehicle to either of those failure modes very much sooner.

But yes, it's a very troublesome design for a lot of reasons.

It's not really a question of wings so much as weight. The real issue with putting something on top is that what's below needs to carry that weight which is easier to avoid if the shuttle has it's own engines and sit's on the side. More importantly if the shuttle was not designed to send a few tones of stuff to orbit it could use the same basic design without experiencing anywhere near the same thermal stress and having a lot more safety margin.

It's not really a question of wings so much as weight.

The wings - because they were wings - were vulnerable to debris strikes during launch.

Which wasn't important during _launch_ but was sure a problem during re-entry.

Again, the thermal protection system was delicate because of weight issues. If the shuttles design goal was to get 20 people to LEO safely and they had anywhere close to the same budget to work with they could have used a few inches of titanium as part of the thermal protection system vs just glued on tiles that are less dense than Styrofoam.

PS: The surface area to weight is directly related to reentry heating. A person can do reentry in little more than one of those old style space suits and a parachute, the shuttle needed something that was barely possible to build.

Again, the thermal protection system was delicate because of weight issues.

I was not disagreeing with you.

* A person can do reentry in little more than one of those old style space suits and a parachute,*

Are you sure? If one is in orbit, one will re-enter hypersonic. This implies a whole lotta friction as you careen through the atmosphere.

Here is an example of a one man entry system consisting of nothing but a strap on heatshield and a retro-rocket gun: http://www.astronautix.com/craft/moose.htm

Here is an example

Heh - I've seen that before, or something like it.

But that's more involved than 'space suit, retro-rocket, parachute'.

Be a heckuva ride.

Nitpick: It's not drag friction as much it was compressive heating. I suppose if you can avoid the compression, it wouldn't be as much of an issue...

Yeah, the shuttles were designed as nuclear, space bombers.

The wings WERE a military requirement but nothing quite that silly. It was to enable a launch from Edwards AFB in California, insert or extract a polar orbit payload and land on US soil.

Importantly it allowed them to choose the orbital insert point while they were over US territory where nobody was watching precisely where it went.

Silly? It's a well known design requirement - the shuttle has to be able to enter the atmosphere, slow down and deliver a nuclear bomb over any target on Earth (e.g. Moscow).

Looks cool? You only need to look at it alongside the awesome Saturn rocket to see which is inferior. It is clearly the one involving assorted cans held together with the rubber bands.

Yup. It's odd that WW2 is closer to the moon landings than we are today.

Doesn't seem totally odd, given that the war was the inspiration for much of the technology involved, was the platform for many of the brains involved to perfect their craft, and ultimately created the geopolitical climate in which space technology was one of the more important tools of the emerging superpowers of the age.

Yes, and "space age materials" now invokes a feeling of being quite out of date.

For me at least, I hope man goes back to the moon in my lifetime.

Dad has always talked about his memories of 1969 (he would have been a teenager at the time) and the excitement of it.

I feel like going back after so long will feel almost as momentous for some of my generation. Although possibly not the the majority, which is a little sad.

I was 11 then. I have a feeling the actual landing was early morning in the UK, not sure I actually saw that.

I'm afraid my dominant memory is the bleep they had between the voice from the moon and the reply from Houston. A fraction of a second long, and a bit higher than E above middle C. I can still hear that now, with the sort of echo at the end from the satellite relay I suppose.

Dad (born 1930s, RAF technician and then radio repairs) was really excited by it all and loved the technology. Grandad (born 1890s, trained as blacksmith, operated a static steam engine, the kind that powers a mill through drive belts) found it sort of funny. Mum liked it when they got out of the capsules on the aircraft carrier.

Those beeps are known as Quindar tones, and were used to mute and unmute the radio transmissions.


"Because replacement parts are no longer available, an "out-of-band signaling" system was installed in 1998 for the transmitters located in the U.S. This system uses a continuous tone that is below the normal audio frequency range. When the tone is present, the transmitters are keyed. When the tone is not present, the transmitters are unkeyed. It worked fine, but the Astronaut Office complained about the lack of tones which everyone had become accustomed to as an alert that a transmission was about to start. So, the Quindar tone generator, which was still installed in case it was necessary to key the transmitters at an overseas site, was re-enabled. "

Wonderful link, thanks. The quote above almost rivals Primo Levi's story about the paint recipe in The Periodic Table.

Emotionally, it would be great to see a return to manned space exploration, but the intellectual side of me has to ask 1) why return to the moon? and 2) how practical is it to send humans when robots can achieve 80% of the objectives at 20% of the cost, and so much of what is worth visiting is out of reach until we figure out how to dramatically increase the speed of space travel?

Note that the 80% and 20% are sheer rhetorical fabrications.

There aren't any legitimate scientific objectives (meaning we're excluding things like "studying sex at 1/6 G") people can accomplish on the moon that robots can't. And manned spaceflight is about a x20 multiplier, not x5.

So it should really be "100% of the objectives for 5% of the cost". Which, in a nutshell, is why we stopped sending people to the moon.

Another significant event on that day was me being born. :-)

Many of the Apollo astronauts still make themselves available to the public, and they appear at collector events where they will sign autographs for a small fee. More than fair considering what their government pay must have been in the 60's... Go and meet them while you still can!

43 years ago! I was a small kid on holidays by the seaside and I remember watching it on the B&W tv of the people who were renting us out their cottage. Nice to be able to know where you were when something good happened rather than something terrible.

I was 3 years old so don't remember it, but I do remember looking up at the moon and thinking that there were people walking on it right then. That would have been a few years later, but I can't have been more than 5 by then.

It was worth doing, but it's been done. I hope we go back in my lifetime, certainly in my children's lifetimes, but for better reasons than just 'because'.

Oh wow, I never realized that until now. There was a time when you could look up at the moon and know that a few guys were there right at that moment.

So I am optimistic we'll be returning to the Moon within the next 20 years. The reasoning is that technology is advancing to the point where its less and less of a 'big deal.' The last remaining hurdle is 'on-orbit refueling'.

Today, the last remaining challenge of landing on the moon, is carrying enough fuel for a trans-lunar injection orbit into orbit, and then for the lander to land on the moon itself.

With modern launch vehicles, it is straight-forward to launch a moon landing mission as three components (command module, lander, and engine/fuel. And link them together in orbit. However, there is a significant penalty to not launching all at once into the correct earth orbit to later elongate into a trans lunar orbit. So a 'modern' mission actually would need two loads of fuel in orbit, one to move the whole assembly into a prepatory orbit, and then one to move from that orbit to the moon.

If we have on-orbit refueling then you manage a depot of fuel for the second step, and the sequence becomes launch lander, dock it with a tug. Launch command module, attach that to the tug. Move the tug (with its command and lander modules) into the same ecliptic as the moon's orbit. Then refuel, and then use the tug to move you to the moon.

By re-using the tug multiple times the costs drop dramatically. (like $100M every time you re-use it, that is a tug you didn't launch from earth).

People want on-orbit refueling so that we can have longer lived satellites. (there are perfectly serviceable communication satellites in 'dead' orbits because they no longer have the fuel for station keeping.)

Once we get that capability it won't be a question of 'will' to get to the moon, it will simply be a question of money. And there is enough disposable income amongst the young billionaires of the world that getting the money won't be an issue either.

> The last remaining hurdle is 'on-orbit refueling'.

Nice. I often like to point out that a 2nd rate country like Iraq was developing the means to launch bulk cargoes to orbit for only $600/kg back in the 1980's.


High ISP plasma and ion rockets would also lower reaction mass requirements significantly.

Does anyone know how we got such high quality (live?) video of astronauts walking on the moon, but recent moon missions like LCROSS [1] didn't even have video AFAIK?

[1] http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LCROSS/main/prelim_water_r...

Most missions don't value natural light photography over other spectrum specializations and a video of the moon without anyone jumping on it would be pretty boring.

According to Wikipedia, LCROSS had one visible light camera, as well has four infra-red cameras. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LCROSS#Instruments. Presumably they were still cameras.

It was looking for water on the moon, so my guess would be that video just wasn't important.

Audio + video of the landing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCVySHDCqOA

Interesting writeup of the various alarms (beeps) that are going off: http://klabs.org/history/apollo_11_alarms/eyles_2004/eyles_2...

At 3:15 you can hear Charlie Duke say "60 seconds" - that's how much time they have until they run out of fuel and need to abort the landing.

Is anyone retransmitting a "real-time" audio feed of the communications between the Apollo 11 crew and mission control?

3 years ago, I took my laptop to the terrace atop the building I worked in and listened as the sun fell behind the buildings. I was one year old at the time of the actual landing and I'm glad I could join in, even if with a 40 year delay.

I watched it in Overland Park, Kansas, with awe. Several years later, I watched another moon landing in a room full of high-school classmates who were more interested in the sunflower seeds they were chewing.

Anyone want to place bets on the nationality of the next human to set foot on the moon?

I'd rather bet on Mars. And I'd bet American.

It'd be a Russian TV crew filming an empty spot that was supposed to be that of an Apollo landing :)

Why aren't there any pictures of the landing zones from orbit? Interesting.

There are some, but they are from NASA. A more interesting question is what happened to India's promise to release all its Lunar low-orbit reconnaissance mission data to the public. Or why there is virtually no data coming from Japanese mission of the same nature. Both with hidef ultrazoom cameras mind you.

In a couple of minutes of hunting I found the Kaguya data archive [http://l2db.selene.darts.isas.jaxa.jp/index.html.en] and the Chandrayaan-1 data archive [http://issdc.gov.in/CHBrowse/index.jsp]. So, uh, yeah, both countries released the data.

So you're implying that the Americans could fake several entire moon landing missions (to the satisfaction even of their bitter rivals the Soviets), but couldn't make some fake images from lunar orbit?

Unfortunately they weren't there. Only the Soviet robots had really been on the Moon.

meh, just a hoax..pbttt

One thing I wonder about is why astronauts get angry when it is suggested the landings were faked rather than just laughing their faces. Aldrin even punched a guy. What's with that?

Because they worked for a decade+ to fulfill their dreams, and achieved them. Then they get harassed by kooks for even longer. The idiot who got punched deserved it, I would have punched him too. There's video online. Apparently the cops agreed and dropped the case.

So what's the HN consensus - were there landings to begin with or was it all staged?


I like this reasoning: If NASA was willing to fake such a big accomplishment, why haven't they done another one in the next 40 years?

Because there is no need. Lunar race was for dominating ideologically. The USSR decided to 'lose' in exchange for more favorauble grain prices. Would NASA really be able to fly to the Moon, why'd they care to abandon Saturn V and start to buy Kuznetsov engines from Russia (effectively 40 years old tech). They simply were not on the Moon. Saturn was a weak rocket, unable physically to deliver Apollo module to the Moon. Also look for details of the Southwind icebreaker mission in 1970. 8 september. Sorry dude, its all lies, man never been on the Moon. Soviets did not wanted, Americans simply could not.

Because the technology for detecting such faking has improved dramatically since the 60s?

If that was the case then why has the 60s 'faking' not been discovered? If a 1960's faking is undetectable in 2012 then I expect a 2012 faking would be even more convincing. Thus there must be some other reason for not faking a mars landing.

PS: The exact name for my line of argument is 'begging the question'. Yes, that 'begging the question'. The one grammar nazis internet wide have been referring to since 1994. Bet you thought you'd never see it.

XKCD said it all: http://xkcd.com/202/

Did you mean this one? http://xkcd.com/1074/

Even better

The Stanley Kubrick connection is a fascinating theory. He did seem to go pretty bonkers after the moon landings.

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