Sunday, 24 May 2009

Apollo 10...40 years ago

In the Warren House Inn on Dartmoor, conspiracies were a big topic of conversation. And the biggest? Did (hu)Man really walk on the Moon? Of course we’ve all seen the videos and bought the t-shirts, but who believes them? I mean the videos seem pretty conclusive. But the t-shirts!

On May 18 1969, Apollo 10 – the "dress rehearsal for the first manned lunar landing" – launched. Three men - just men - were ready to rocket over 200,000 miles to the Moon to test the waters, for want of a much better phrase.

You start to realise these people are just humans. The men in the suits at Ground Control knew as much as the men in very expensive spacesuits sitting in the big fiery bird. But their dreams, desires, aspirations were super-human.

It’s amazing how reading the Apollo 10 countdown increases my heartbeat. Reading from T-28hrs. Official countdown starts, to T-0 Liftoff brings a flutter to my heart, a shiver to my skin. My year with the Moon helps place me there, in front of my crackling television, family gathered around, all watching, waiting, dreaming about what these men must be going through. Pioneers. Heroes. Lunatics.

Today, 40 years ago, Thomas Stafford (mission commander), John W. Young (Command Module pilot) and Eugene A. Cernan (Lunar Module pilot) began their return to Earth with the "transearth injection", and firing of the service propulsion system (SPS). Then came the 54-hour trip home from behind the Moon, when all three men were alone, completely cut off from Life.

If this, and the subsequent Apollo 11 mission, were a hoax, they were very well planned. Very expensive. Very time-consuming. Hugely clever. Crazily elaborate. In fact, it would have been easier to fly to the Moon than hoax it.

All this information comes from the Apollo 10 press kit, which comes free with the June Sky at Night magazine. In there you see the efforts NASA went to in order to convince the world’s media that a manned Moon mission was worth the money and risk.

You're seeing some excerpts from the kit, which comprises an 8-page press release and Background Information. Which comprises 146 pages of comic-strip-like diagrams, calculations, mathematical conversions, glossary, maps, detailed breakdowns of ships, diets, examination of the processes involved in lunar orbit, and pilot profiles,

Eugene A. Cernan
His hobbies include gardening…

If NASA’s dream to send more humans to the Moon by 2020 comes true, expect to see a few more of these in the newspaper in the next ten years.

Oh, and if you have time for a quick conspiracy, try this one - it's good fun.

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