Sunday, 23 September 2012

Moon Landing Pt. II

One of the major hurdles in space flight was energy to escape the earths gravity. Explaining why we see rockets larger than the actual space capsule/shuttle. This fuel is required to leave the earths orbitsuccessfully. Something in the range of 5,625,000 lbs of propellant, this was for each section of the rocket. The first stage of the rocket uses the most violently, this is for the Saturn V rocket to achieve orbital velocity. Bearing in mind all the fuel is for the whole trip. Including the traveling in space part, even after reaching zero-gravity, the craft still requires energy to direct the ship in the desired direction and more importantly, to slow down.

A surprise to many people at the time and now was that the launching of the Saturn V could of ended in disaster, leaving the rocket to explode violently and shoot the wreckage in any direction for 3 miles. This was known to the astronauts, but they still had the courage to take off, even in the face of danger, which still merits valour to this day. Its funny to assume that the computing power that was required to send a rocket of to space in the 60's was less computing power than a cell phone by today's standard. There were many issues with the space flight, but over all it was a success.

 Fig. 1 Picture of Niel Armstrong next to the American flag on the surface of the moon.
Credit: NASA

The mission was sequenced into stages. First was the take off (or launch), where a massive amounts of fuel ignited allowing the Saturn V rocket to exit the earths gravity within 12 minutes. Millions watching as it made its mark in history. Then reaching orbital space, the S-IVB rocket engines came to full ignition pushing and guiding the Apollo spacecraft towards the direction of the moon, escaping from the earths orbital gravity. Almost sling shotting itself towards the moon. An important aspect of reaching the moon was to consider that the moon itself was not sitting still. The moon was also orbiting around the earth, making the landing dynamic. This is where theory of gravity comes into full effect. Once reaching the moon, the lunar craft, orbited the moon taking 2 hours for each circuit. During this phase the Lunar module (LM) also called the eagle decoupled from the main ship, housing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldwin. Leaving Michael Collins in the orbiting in the Columbia CMS capsule. While Aldrin and Armstrong decoupled from the CMS it made its slow descent t the lunar surface. The LM descent thrust engines were powered on for 30 seconds to allow for slow and smooth landing. Knowing that the LM was their only way home and damaging it was an option they had. No one was going to come to their aid if they got stuck. After about 8 minute, the LM was 25,000 ft over the moons surface and away from their destination landing site by about 5 miles. Thrust engines were still being used to decent the LM to the ground, which was actually piloted by Armstrong at the time. Interestingly enough the LM never reached its destination, landing instead in the sea of tranquility, 4 miles far from its intended destination and the touch down occurred 1:30 seconds earlier than planned, counting towards the missed Landing zone.

 Fig.2 The Sea of Tranquility was the landing zone for the Lunar Module.
Credit: NASA

Once, landed Armstrong and Aldrin did not leave the LM for nearly 4 hours. Then turning on the camera and filming the footage that is known around the world. Neil Armstrong said the famous line “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. This in itself summed up the feelings if the world and brought mankind together, even just for a small time. During such hostilities and violence, this endeavor put humanity into perspective.

People even today argue that the moon landings were fake. Criticizing the pictures that were taken of the moon landing and even the video images of the landing. People claimed that the stars were not visible and the flares of light and casted shadows on the astronaut clearly assume it was in a studio. All of these anomalies have been explain in pure science and corrected where needed.

Even if the moon landing back in 1969 was fake (Which is not likely) it no longer matters as space exploration is now a collaboration between all countries and no longer a competition, such the space race between the US and USSR was back in 1969. Interestingly enough, President Nixon, had drafted a speech for either outcomes. One detailing and commemorating their success and their courage, and the other was for their death or failure. Both had been ready as this endeavor was uncertain and with the 600 Million international viewers, this mission could not be kept secret. Everything was counting on it.

Since then our science has become more advanced. Better understandings on physics, sophistical aerospace and electrical engineering. All have allow for a more comfortable and safer journey into space. With the birth of the International Space Station (ISS) and missions to Mars and other exo planets, the collaboration is international, where we can put together out best minds to achieve goals, which before were near impossible alone.


Post a Comment