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47 Years Ago Today, Apollo 11 Landed On the Moon ( 185

An anonymous reader writes: At this point 47 years ago we had begun our orbit around the Moon," writes Buzz Aldrin in a tweet. Today, Wednesday, July 20th, 2016, marks the 47th anniversary of when NASA astronauts landed on the moon for the very first time. Fox News reports: "Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Earth on a massive Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. Four days later, the Eagle module landed on the surface with Aldrin and Armstrong inside; Collins stayed behind in the orbiting Columbia craft. Millions of people back on Earth watched, captivated, as Armstrong was the first down the ladder, then uttered his now-famous line: 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' The astronauts eventually returned to Earth, splashing down four days later in the Pacific. On the moon, an American flag and a plaque that read, in part, 'We came in peace for all mankind,' remained." To this day, only 12 people have ever walked on the moon. Hopefully, that number will increase within the next decade. NASA is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Viking 1 lander's arrival on Mars. Viking 1 was the first American craft to land on the red planet on July 20, 1976.
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47 Years Ago Today, Apollo 11 Landed On the Moon

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  • Today is Thursday July 21.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Time lag at postings of stories is sometimes causing problems with causality.

      In any case the Apollo program seems to have been the pinnacle of human exploration of the solar system. After that we have been using robot probes with a lot less risk for human life but also a lot less challenges that could spawn new useful technology.

      • "In any case the Apollo program seems to have been the pinnacle of human exploration of the solar system. After that we have been using robot probes with a lot less risk for human life but also a lot less challenges that could spawn new useful technology."

        But now that the private sector is getting into manned programs, this will soon change.

      • Time lag at postings of stories is sometimes causing problems with causality.

        I think there are some serious problems with the story submission and approval process. Given that clickbait isn't going away, I would suggest that more stories be posted. I've seen some interesting and relevant stories languish, while the clickbait runs right through. But enough of that.

        In any case the Apollo program seems to have been the pinnacle of human exploration of the solar system.

        It was an amazing tour de force that miraculously was carried out in a few short years. And it is almost impossible to choose what was the most impressive innovation. Was it the balls to the wall power of the mighty Saturn

    • Not yet, at least not everywhere on the planet, there are still places where it's the 20th.

  • The Finest Day.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Thursday July 21, 2016 @03:11AM (#52552161)

    I remember this like it was yesterday. Was four and a half years old, and I watched the landing with my father.

    My dad was a pretty brilliant guy in the technology of the time. And he had tears welling up in his eyes when seeing Armstrong jump off the ladder to the lunar surface.

    I remember his words to me: “We did it...”. Then he sobbed for a while but was ashamed of having his emotions that close to the surface.

    Dad was a pretty smart guy in the high tech of those days. And he understood exactly how big this achievement was. He knew how hard the work was to do it. A lot of people in our family were involved in technology- it felt like the family had a part in it (and in fact my uncle educated NASA engineers in electronic engineering).

    To this day, it is the most important moment in my life. It set the tone for everything I did in the future. And led to a career in technology.

    That day- was perhaps my greatest lesson learned. It influenced countless other people I know in technology as well.

    My proudest day as an American.

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      I was eight, watching it unfold on black & white TV, impressed because my parents told me how amazing it was, then going to school and not quite understanding just how significant the whole thing was.

      We had information packs with lots of diagrams, and blocks of text with arrows all over. Info about the moon, the trajectory, the astronauts, a foldout showing the layers of the space suits, the rocket and stages, etc. Still got most of it somewhere in storage.

      It was only later I found out how much involvem

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        A couple of things that made "The Dish" look very realistic despite the plot never happening (it all went off like clockwork with no crisis).
        1/ The building is on the edge of the site so just pointing the camera the right way is enough to make it look the same as in 1969.
        2/ When looking for a computer about the right age for a prop they found the original one that was used in Parkes in 1969, still in working condition!
      • I was two years away from being born, and I feel betrayed that man's greatest accomplishment happened before my lifetime.

        • You were born precisely at the moment you were supposed to be.

          Don't worry, ~2024 First Contact is coming and it will make the moon landing look like kindergarten.

          The golden era of mankind hasn't even _started_ yet.
          The bigger question is: "Why the hell is the humanoid template so common across the universe?

      • It was just a few days after my second birthday. My parents tell me I was kept up to watch it on the TV (not even sure what time the landing would have been in BST) but I have absolutely no recollection of that.

        And I agree, "The Dish" was a good film.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday July 21, 2016 @04:25AM (#52552337)

      It was something pretty much everyone in the US had a hand in, directly or indirectly. Even a farmer in Kansas could credibly say that his efforts fed the people who built the rockets or shot it to the moon.

      That's what makes this feat so great, not that 12 people hopped about on a moon that happens to orbit our planet. What made this a powerful achievement was the "WE did it" feeling. WE. Not "the US" but everyone really could feel that he did something for that.

      That's really lacking today. There is no WE. NASA is that space agency that is doing its shit, the US military is fighting a war somewhere, US economy is building this or that and US TV is showing yet another dumb reality show, which is, scarily enough, pretty much the only thing the average American has a chance to feel part of by participating in the freak show.

      There is no WE in the US anymore.

      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday July 21, 2016 @07:04AM (#52552731)

        Your post pretty well captures a key value of manned spaceflight. It demonstrates a pretty astonishing human achievement that is largely bereft of politics and presents an image of human civilization moving forward.

        I'm sure the lander/robotics crowd are right that we can do more *science* (as measured by dollars per mission) without people in space, and while the achievements are no less amazing in terms of technology, they don't capture the imagination quite like human space fight.

        • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday July 21, 2016 @08:27AM (#52553097)

          Erh... well, the whole moonshot thing was a political thing if there ever was one. Kennedy wanted to do this to "one-up" the Russians. They were the first in orbit, so the US had to be the first on the moon. There wasn't really any other "real" reason to do this.

          Of course, in the end it gave the US an incredible boost in many economic fields, purely out of necessity. This was the beginning of modern process management, and various fields in technology made groundbreaking leaps ahead, materials research alone was enriched with a wealth of new materials that came into existence out of pure necessity, plastics and composites, ceramics and metal alloys that are heat resistant and cold resistant, efficient heat and electronics conductors or insulators, a LOT of materials that can withstand extreme conditions from vacuum to the stress of reentry.

          And of course the already mentioned "WE did it" spirit that filled the country. This is important, it gave people something to believe in, not something intangible like some religion or a promise for much later, something that people of all trades had a part in that they could be proud of, from the astronaut who put his foot on the moon to the assembly line worker who could imagine that the screws he sorts are used to hold two parts of the Apollo space ship together.

          And something like this is sorely missing today. Yes, of course you can send a probe to Mars instead of men. But, again, the value of the moon shot was not in the rocks they brought back. The value is the research necessary to get them there and back. The technological advantage the US got out of this carried them well into the 90s, at the beginning of the 1970s the US was more than a decade ahead of the rest of the world in technology and management. And that reflected on their industry. "Made in the USA" was highly prized, and I mean globally, because it was the synonym of "made by someone who knows what he's doing".

          This was taxpayer money funneled into various corporations, much like it is today. But back then it was done way more sensibly. Not only did that taxpayer money indeed trickle down to the working people (because something as secret and high-tech as bleeding edge space technology isn't something you outsource easily, you have to employ US workers), it also was an investment into US technology and research, which led to the aforementioned edge in international trade and a competitive advantage over foreign products which were invariably inferior due to inferior technology, worse materials and production processes.

          Today, taxpayer money poured into corporations is siphoned away to pad C-Level salaries. That's not going to give the economy a boost. That's money wasted on parasites.

    • It surely was a fine day, but what is even more impressive than the technology is the ingenuity and determination of the crew. There was tons of stuff that did not work, such as switches that broke off so that they had to stick a pen into the remains of the switch to operate it. Landing the lunar module was another issue because there were only seconds to spare until the module would have been without sufficient fuel left to return to the orbiter. It was a great achievement, but I think there are much big
      • by rbrander ( 73222 )

        The ascent engine had its own fuel tank. The descent engine, it's fuel, and the whole lower half of the LM were left on the lunar surface. The complete loss of fuel before the LM was landed would only have necessitated leaving before landing, triggering the ascent engine while still above ground.

    • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Thursday July 21, 2016 @08:18AM (#52553055)

      The second finest day: It was 9 Sep 2002 outside a Hollywood hotel.
      One small punch for one main, ... []

    • For some reason I never quite made the connection until today. I always knew my grandfather worked on the Apollo 11 mission, but for some reason it never clicked that it was the one that got us to the moon. While I'm not old enough to have seen it, I did see pictures of the Apollo 11 engineers and crew. Right there next to the familiar faces was my grandfather. He worked his entire career at Lockheed in CA before retiring ~25-30 years ago.

      Side note, due to all the cold war paranoia none of the names were
    • I was ~9 years old and watched the whole thing from start to finish. I was glued to the TV in the den for about 30 hours straight, lol. Got to skip school for part of it if I remember correctly. When they landed you could hear people all over the neighborhood screaming and cheering.

    • by VAXcat ( 674775 ) on Thursday July 21, 2016 @09:59AM (#52553647)
      Funny, I remember it vivdly too, but not like that. I was in my room reading "Galactic Patrol" by EE "Doc" Smith. My mother interrupted me to call me in and make me watch the landing coverage on TV. I was really annoyed, because, compared to ripping through the spaceways with Kimball Kinnison, this lunar landing was boring small potatotes.
    • I was too young during Apollo 11 to remember anything coherently, but Viking 1 memories are robust.

      Our TV was acting up at the time such that Viking 1's first images didn't show up very well on the news.

      But a few days later at summer school, the teacher unfolded the daily newspaper at her desk while students were (supposed to be) studying. Her eyes suddenly lit up, and she stood up and walked toward the center of the room and placed the paper flat on a desk in the middle of the classroom without saying wor

  • The computer was slower than an Arduino and used about 10K lines of code to land on the moon

  • Obligatory xkcd (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • Despite lots of other crap going on at the time - Vietnam, Race Riots and so on, mankind basically hit its pinnacle that day. It's been a slow downhill ride ever since. The election of Trump will prove me right.
  • Don't hold your breath. It's been more than 40 years since the last person walked on the moon. The US has no program started to get anyone up there again in the foreseeable future. Russia is happy just making money as a taxi service to the ISS. The private initiatives don't have the resources to make it happen either. Unless China pulls off a huge upset on the matter, I'd be surprised to see someone on the moon again in my lifetime.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday July 21, 2016 @09:01AM (#52553275) Journal

    ...was the direct result of the unique experiences of WW2.

    First, the US - despite the existential military challenge from the Soviet Union, which was only possible due to the disproportionately cheap annihilatory threat of nukes - was basically unchallenged as Earth's superpower economically, culturally, and militarily.

    The rest of the world was still recovering from the aftereffects of WW2, from which the US had emerged largely unscathed but with a newfound taste/appreciation for the power of its science & industry marshaled by a central government (again, born of WW2).

    At that same time, you had an entire generation of men that came back from war with a "we can accomplish anything" confidence (which in some cases tragically proved to be a dangerously entitled arrogance) AND an understanding that some things in the span of human events were WORTH the sacrifice of life and treasure. They accepted that.

    I doubt we'll ever see such a time again.
    We live in what remains the wealthiest, most comfortable society ever in human history, yet we still can't afford everything we buy.
    47 years ago, we celebrated the triumph of landing people on the moon. In a short time, it became so pedestrian that it wasn't even front-page news anymore.
    Today's triumphant news is about a new Tinder app that lets you 'hook up' with multiple people.
    I know it's very "get off my lawn" but where we had an outward-looking, achievement-oriented society 50 years ago, today I see nothing but an enervated country suffused with ennui and a narcissistic obsession with carnality that leaves us paralyzed like a heroin addict on a buzz.

    • by kackle ( 910159 )

      Today's triumphant news is about a new Tinder app that lets you 'hook up' with multiple people. I know it's very "get off my lawn" but where we had an outward-looking, achievement-oriented society 50 years ago, today I see nothing but an enervated country suffused with ennui and a narcissistic obsession with carnality that leaves us paralyzed like a heroin addict on a buzz.

      Wow, I really enjoyed your comment, so I "liked" it, Tweeted it to all my "friends", and will post it on Facebook too!! (...After I'm done playing Pokemon Go for an hour or two.)

  • Not trivializing the achievement but what's the news here?

    The fact that it's the 47th anniversary or the fact that Buzz Aldrin is tweeting about it? I don't see how either is newsworthy.
  • And look how far we've come since then. Seriously, look for me because I can't see much.
  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Thursday July 21, 2016 @12:09PM (#52554799)

    All you old timers remember the "we got a 1201 alarm" (or something like that) the LM computer indicating to Neal and Buzz it is taking in data too fast to handle. I was always puzzled by that story as what action can an astronaut do for something like that (unlike low fuel, high temperature, off course, loss of Bus A voltage, etc.), the book "Apollo: Race to the Moon" by Charles Murray and Catherine Cox gave a detailed explanation of that. Disclaimer: I'm extracting what I read 20 years ago so some details a little off.

    Authors of this book interviewed many key and other notable people of the Apollo program but not much of any astronauts. That 1201 and similar alarms were intended for computer programmers for debugging (the digital display will flash certain numbers to indicate software problems). The LM software obviously thoroughly tested before flight but this situation occurred the Flight Dynamics Officer "FIDO" in MOCR heard this call on the loop. He then talked with one of his backroom guys (each one of those controllers in that "Mission Control" room, formally Mission Operations Control Room, has a group of guys with more monitors and indicators he can talk realtime intercom with). FIDO asked one of them should he call for an abort? One of the backroom guys said its ok as long as that particular alarm code doesn't occur again if a 1205 alarm is flagged. So FIDO says to Flight Director, "Flight, we're go as long as we don't see that code again [or 1205]." Flight says to Capcom they are go, which Capcom radios "you're go for landing."

    So a 23 year old in the backroom says to a 27 year old in the main control room they are go for landing, who relayed it to Kranz and rest is history. If they said otherwise, then Pete Conrad would have been the first man on the moon.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      Followup on the book "Apollo: Race to the Moon" that describes mission control consists of three major portions. MOCR that makes realtime decisions, Mission Evaluation Room (MER) that makes neartime decisions, and Spacecraft Analysis (SPAN) that interfaces MOCR and MER. The "captain" of MOCR is Flight Director, i.e. one of the shifts during Apollo is Gene Kranz as portrayed by Ed Harris in "Apollo 13." When there are systems that don't quite look right, they call MER that is a room with several tables with

Yet magic and hierarchy arise from the same source, and this source has a null pointer.