2018 is an important anniversary. Most people think Apollo 11 represents man's first adventure to the moon, but it is not. It is the first time astronauts landed on the moon, but there were two manned missions to the moon before that which did not involve landings, Apollo 8 and Apollo 10. The first was Apollo 8 and it took place over the Christmas period of 1968, fifty years ago. This half-century chalk-mark should give us an opportunity to look back and reassess NASA's lunar missions and ask the questions about them that I have been asking for many years, see the background links below. I reported just before Christmas that President Trump had announced America's intention once again to put human footsteps on the moon, and that his speech totally lacked the conviction and lustre of John F Kennedy's 1961 proclamation: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade...!" etc, see: https://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/this-week-in-space.html. Now a new article has been published in The Washington Post revealing that NASA are not entirely sure how to return to the moon anyway. Despite being under less political pressure and enjoying 21st century technology, the agency seems to lack confidence that this objective can be achieved. The director Robert Lightfoot said: "We have no idea yet." NASA are considering asking private companies to help them, or even other countries. Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/01/09/nasa-is-going-back-to-the-moon-if-it-can-figure-out-how-to-get-there/?utm_term=.fe0c71d7b207.
This news story must make some people pause and think, especially those who are old enough to remember the early Space Race. On
the 25th of May 1961, six weeks after
the Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, President Kennedy made
a speech announcing his intention to place American feet on the moon before the
end of the decade; and they made it, with just five months to spare. It is
incredible that in just over eight years, with the earliest rocket technology,
just twelve years after the first ever artificial object left the earth, with
space itself being mostly an unknown environment, NASA not only put a man on
the moon, they went on to put eleven more within just four years. Only one subsequent
Apollo mission went seriously wrong and no astronauts lost their lives. Yet
today that same agency is scratching its head, blushing and making excuses when
all anybody is asking them to do is repeat the endeavour. Nexus magazine has recently run a fascinating series of articles by
the physicist Phil Kouts, for example: https://www.nexusmagazine.com/articles/doc_view/343-leaving-apollo-s-legacy-behind.
Kouts explains how NASA ought to be able to continue manned lunar missions fairly
proficiently by building on top of the progress they made in their earliest days.
For example, NASA recently wondered how they could construct a spacecraft heat-shield
strong enough for re-entry at lunar transit speeds, which would have to be far
more robust than the ones used by craft descending from low earth orbit like the
Soyuz or Space Shuttle. Why not just use the same ones the Apollo capsules did?
They worked well enough didn't they? Even Apollo 13's which had been damaged by
an explosion. One explanation is that the Apollo missions were not real manned lunar
missions. I am forced to agree that this is by far the most likely one. See the
background links below for more information.
See here for background: http://hpanwo-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/programme-179-podcast-marcus-allen.html.