Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that we’ve all been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by Apollo 11. On July 20, 1969, the first steps by humans on a planetary body other than the Earth were taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
I was 12 years old at the time. I remember my father calling me into the front room, sitting me down, and pouring us both a tot of whisky (mine was more of a hint of a sniff). We watched the descent on our black-and-white television and, when Neil uttered the immortal words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has Landed,” we raised our glasses and knocked them back.
A few minutes later, once I’d ceased coughing and my eyes had stopped watering (it was my first taste of whisky), my dad told me that I should always remember that moment because it was one of the most amazing things that had ever happened.
I do still remember it as if it were yesterday. Whenever I re-watch that descent, I choke up and it brings tears to my eyes. Recently, I watched the 2019 documentary film Apollo 11, which consists solely of archival footage, including 70 mm film previously unreleased to the public. There is no narration, interviews, or modern recreations, and the result is incredibly powerful.
Over the years, I’ve seen multiple launches (on television and in film) of the Saturn V rocket that took us to the moon, but I just saw this video, which made me say, “Wow!”
The link to this beauty was sent by my chum, Matt Pulzer, who bills himself as “Lord High Executioner, Witchfinder General, and Editor in Chief,” at the UK’s premier electronics and computing maker magazine, Practical Electronics.
I think the thing that makes this launch stand proud in the crowd is that most such videos proceed fairly quickly to the rocket clearing the tower. By comparison, the bulk of this “Ultimate Saturn V Launch” video concentrates on the initial stages of the launch, looking at the rocket from multiple vantage points as the engines light up, the tower disengages, and the 36-story-tall, 2.8 million-kilogram (6.2 million-pound) behemoth commences its ascent.
All I can say is to turn the volume up full, sit back, and feast your eyes on one of the most amazing engineering achievements in the history of humankind.
That is an impressive video. I’m curious how much it’s slowed down.
I know you’re just a few miles from NASA in Huntsville. Are there still any launches from there?
Hi Rick — I don’t think NASA ever launched anything from here (the folks at Redstone Arsenal may have launched the occasional test missile) — but they did orchestrate the design of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions here — also I think they used to do (maybe still do) some of the communications with the spaceships as they pass overhead.
It still amazes me on what great strides they made in computer technology to get them to the moon. The AGC and the backup navigation computers were leaps beyond for the time.
On the one hand, that’s very true (the ahead for the time) part, although having said that, they were still using old (for them), proven technologies; on the other hand, the fact they did so much with so little (electronics and computing-wise) still blows me away.
When I worked in the space industry (https://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=28&doc_id=1328685#) I heard stories that NASA specifically avoided MIL-Spec procedures, because they wanted to show there were a civilian agency. As a result the workmanship was somewhat shoddy, although I can’t remember the details now.
I was also told that in order to show that “13” was not unlucky the team was somewhat blasé about the checks since this was already the 3rd time there were going to the moon. Di that temp fate?
Here is an interesting article on “Apollo 11 and other screw-ups”
Hi Aubrey — as I recall, you worked on the The Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), also known as Canadarm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadarm — that must have been amazing!!!
I was six when Apollo 11 landed. I recall two things: 1) my father, who I consider to be a truly brilliant man, sat awestruck at what was happening. So, my father’s reaction is what I remember most. Men traipsing about on the moon, eh, not so much. 2) when those rockets launched, you could almost feel it viscerally through the TV. Such raw power. I still remember believing I could actually feel it.
If I ever get my time machine working (you can’t get the parts in Alabama), going back to see the Apollo 11 launch in the flesh (and a Hawaiian shirt) would be at the top of my bucket list.