Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy 44th Anniversary Tranquility Base

Hey Space Placers!


44 years ago the world held its breath while the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) "Eagle" carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin came in for a landing at the Sea of Tranquility. Watching Walter Cronkite and astronaut Wally Schirra on CBS News was spell binding. I still have the Kodak Ektachrome 200 slides I took of the TV broadcast.

Listening to the live feed from Mission Control one could sense the tension, even through the TV. The worrisome 1201 and 1202 alarms, and then the "60 seconds" call for the amount of fuel remaining - all added up to the world watching and waiting.

When Neil gave the call, "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed", you could feel the planet wide relief and instant exhilaration. I don't think there has been a shared POSITIVE world wide moment like that since then.

Image from Lunasociety
Neil and Buzz would explore the Moon for a few hours and get the all important science experiments deployed and pick up lunar samples. All went well with the remainder of the mission and they fulfilled the second part of President Kennedy's mandate of "before this decade is out landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

The full measure of Apollo was never realized as budget cuts to pay for the Vietnam War and other troubles in America cancelled Apollo 18, 19 and 20 - spacecraft and rockets bought and paid for to go to the Moon on the most scientifically interesting and longest duration missions abandoned.

Mankind has not been back in person since. One wonders if America will ever return to the Moon with manned missions - the Chinese will and possibly others.

NASA and other world wide organizations keep the dream of space exploration alive. I can only hope that the current and future Congress keep funding flowing for manned and unmanned space missions.

Go out and look at the almost Full Moon tonight - the image above shows where the Sea of Tranquility is. Also go to Tranquility Base courtesy of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and see the hardware and footsteps left behind:

I hope humans go back to stay one day.

Sky Guy in VA

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