Tag Archives: Apollo+40

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. cheap generic Keppra 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 – buy modafinil nyc 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: To the Moon!

The big newspaper story for November 13, 1968 was NASA’s announcement the previous day (yes, I missed the actual day) that Apollo 8 – with Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot Bill Anders – would fly to the Moon in December!

This decision had been made previously but was not announced publicly until all of the data from the Saturn V test flights and the successful Apollo 7 mission in October could be reviewed. Final approval for the world’s first manned lunar mission was given by NASA administrator Thomas Paine on November 11, 1968.

Apollo 8, targeted for launch on December 21, 1968, would truly go where no man had gone before!

Source: Encyclopedia Astronautica


Apollo+40: Welcome Home 7!

Today at 7:11 PM, Apollo 7 with astronauts Wally Schirra, Don Eisele, and Walt Cunningham splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and was recovered by the USS Essex. Apollo 7, while ground controllers had to deal with a somewhat cantankerous flight crew, was successful in all respects, fully put the Apollo spacecraft through its paces during the 11 flight days, and got the Apollo Program off to a fine flying start.

Commander Wally Schirra, with the success of this flight, was the only American astronaut to fly in all three of our Nation’s first space programs: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. He retired as an active astronaut after Apollo 7. His crewmates Eisele and Cunningham, somewhat black-listed by the crew’s in-flight antics, also never flew in space again.

Regardless, the success of Apollo 7 started the end game of America’s journey to the Moon. For Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham, it was also a finest hour!


Apollo+40: Apollo gets Airborne – LIFTOFF!

Launch of Apollo 7 (NASA)

Donn Eisele, Wally Schirra, Walt Cunningham (NASA)

October 11, 1968 – 11:02 AM: Apollo 7 launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 34! Carrying Astronauts Wally Schirra (Commander), Donn Eisele (Command Module Pilot), and Walt Cunningham (Lunar Module Pilot), the Apollo Project’s first manned flight launched and while it only went as far as Earth orbit, started a necessary first step to the moon. This was the essential flight test of the Apollo Command and Service Module.
Just 10 minutes and 28 seconds after liftoff, Apollo 7 attained orbit. The Saturn IB booster – never having before flown manned – did its job flawlessly. All systems were go. America’s would-be moon ship was finally airborne.

After reaching orbit, Apollo 7 tested the critical Transposition and Docking maneuver – required on a lunar flight to extract the Lunar Module from the spent Saturn booster. The crew found that the hinged spacecraft adapter panels did not fully spread as had been intended; on later flights these panels would be set to jettison completely.

Over nearly eleven days, Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham would put their spacecraft through its paces, including critical tests of the Service Propulsion System (SPS) – the rocket motor needed to brake Apollo into lunar orbit, and more importantly, bring our astronauts home from the Moon.
Much rode on this flight. At this point the world did not know that should Apollo 7 be successful, the next flight, Apollo 8, would truly go where no man had gone before…

Apollo+40: Apollo 7 in readiness, Apollo 8 rolls out

Apollo/Saturn 503/CSM-103 on the way to the pad, and from there the Moon (NASA)

Two momentous occasions occurred forty years ago today.
First, Apollo program officials certified that all changes mandated by the review process after the Apollo 1 tragedy had been completed on Apollo 7 (CSM-101) and that the spacecraft was ready in all respects for its flight just two days hence.
Second, America’s first Moon ship – Apollo 8 (Saturn V booster #503 and Spacecraft CSM-103) – rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building destined for Pad 39A on its Mobile Launch Platform carried by the massive crawler transporter. Apollo 8’s beginnings were slow, but none the less impressive.
Two days to the launch of Apollo 7…

Apollo+40: The Phoenix Will Fly!

Welcome! Today begins my blog series, “Apollo+40: America Goes to the Moon”. Their Finest Hour was created to celebrate greatness, and American Exceptionalism in particular. Project Apollo is certainly one of the greatest examples of what the United States of America is capable of, given the national political and public will to accomplish the goal. In his special address to the Congress on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged our Nation:

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 the
Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to
mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none
will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

Then, on September 12, 1962 at Rice University in Houston, President Kennedy defined our quest for the Moon as effectively as could have been done:

If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation. We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war…

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon… (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

And now, the first installment of Their Finest Hour’s “Apollo+40: America Goes to the Moon”:

Thursday, October 3, 1968: NASA managers, engineers, and Astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walt Cunningham meet for the last approval required to let Apollo 7 launch – the flight readiness review.

Wally Schirra had wanted NASA to recind its rule against naming spacecraft so that he could call the mission’s Apollo spacecraft, CSM-101, Phoenix – as it would be rising from the ashes of the Apollo 1 tragedy in January of 1967.

40 years ago today America’s Phoenix – to sadly be known just as Apollo 7 – was determined to be fully ready in all respects to get our Nation back into space, and on our inexorable path to the Moon.

Launch was set for Friday, October 11th – 8 days later.

Sources: Encyclopedia Astronautica, NASA Human Spaceflight, and NASA KSC Apollo 7 History Page


Their Finest Hour – A Preview

Beginning October 3rd, I will be beginning a series that probably won’t be daily, but one that will run for over four years, through December 19, 2012. This series will honor the greatest human achievement in history.

Apollo+40: America Goes to the Moon

Forty years ago on October 3, 1968, the Flight Readiness Review for Apollo 7 – the first manned flight after the Apollo 1 tragedy – was held, clearing the mission for launch about a week later. This was the beginning of the final drive that put the only twelve human beings – all of them proud Americans – on the surface of the Moon between July 1969 and December 1972.

To whet all your appetites, here is the trailer for the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. Enjoy!