The last man on the Moon

 

lastmenonmoonMention Neil Armstrong and every one will know who he is and even what he said when he set foot as the first man on the Moon.

However the name Eugene Cernan will mean very little to most people. Although he was just as important to the Apollo missions. Eugene Ceman was the last man on the Moon, but he was also part of the Apollo 10 mission.

Apollo 10 was  the second manned mission(Apollo 8,had been the first) to orbit the Moon. Launched on May 18, 1969, it was the F mission: (the ‘dress rehearsal’ for the first Moon landing) testing all of the components and procedures, without actually landing on the surface.

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It was also the mission which set the  highest speed attained by a manned vehicle.24,791 mph on its return to earth on May 26 1969.

Eugene Cernan Cernan flew two other space missions: Gemini 9A, where he struggled during NASA’s second spacewalk ever. Cernan was originally selected with Thomas Stafford as backup pilot for Gemini 9. When the prime crew was killed in the crash of NASA T-38A “901” (USAF serial 63-8181) at Lambert Field on February 28, 1966, the backup crew became the prime crew—the first time this happened.

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Cernan was surprised, as were others, that he was selected as the commander for the Apollo 17 mission. Shortly before the selection of the crew, Cernan had crashed his helicopter. After the crash he said  “if he couldn’t fly a helicopter without incident, how could he command a journey to the moon?”  Richard F. Gordon Jr. would have been a more likely candidate as commander for the mission, partially because he had been a member as the back up crew of the cancelled Apollo 15 mission together with Harrison H. Schmitt.

Schmitt was a geologist, making him the first scientist-astronaut to land on moon.He was assigned as Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 17 mission.

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Scientific objectives of the Apollo 17 mission included, geological surveying and sampling of materials and surface features in a pre-selected area of the Taurus-Littrow region; deploying and activating surface experiments.

Cernan’s role as commander of Apollo 17 closed out the Apollo program’s lunar exploration mission with a number of record-setting achievements. During the three days of Apollo 17’s surface activity (Dec. 11-14, 1972), Cernan and Schmitt performed three EVAs (Extravehicular Activities)or Spacewalk and moonwalk in this case, of  a total of about 22 hours of exploration of the Taurus–Littrow valley. Their first EVA alone was more than three times the length astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent outside the Lunar Module.

As Cernan was getting ready  to climb the ladder for the final time, he spoke these words; which are the last spoken by a human standing on the Moon’s surface to date:

“Bob, this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

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Sadly Eugene Cernan died on January 16, 2017 but what a legacy he left behind, they just don’t make them like that anymore. A true hero.

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Sources

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The space flight that didn’t happen- The forgotten story of Apollo 1

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On January 27 1967, U.S. astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire aboard the Apollo 1 spacecraft during a launch simulation at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The Apollo program changed forever , when a flash fire swept through the Apollo 1 command module during a launch rehearsal test. The three men inside perished despite the best efforts of the ground crew. It would take more than 18 months, and extensive redesigns, before NASA sent more men into space.

The launch simulation on January 27, 1967, on pad 34, was a “plugs-out” test to determine whether the spacecraft would operate nominally on (simulated) internal power while detached from all cables and umbilicals.

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Passing this test was essential to making the February 21 launch date. The test was considered non-hazardous because neither the launch vehicle nor the spacecraft was loaded with fuel or cryogenics, and all pyrotechnic systems (explosive bolts) were disabled

At 1:00 pm EST (1800 GMT) on January 27, first Grissom, then Chaffee, and White entered the Command Module fully pressure-suited, and were strapped into their seats and hooked up to the spacecraft’s oxygen and communication systems. Grissom immediately noticed a strange odor in the air circulating through his suit which he compared to “sour buttermilk”, and the simulated countdown was held at 1:20 pm, while air samples were taken. No cause of the odor could be found, and the countdown was resumed at 2:42 pm. The accident investigation found this odor not to be related to the fire.

Three minutes after the count was resumed, the hatch installation was started. The hatch consisted of three parts: a removable inner hatch, which stayed inside the cabin; a hinged outer hatch, which was part of the spacecraft’s heat shield; and an outer hatch cover, which was part of the boost protective cover enveloping the entire Command Module to protect it from aerodynamic heating during launch, and from launch escape rocket exhaust in the event of a launch abort. The boost hatch cover was partially, but not fully, latched in place because the flexible boost protective cover was slightly distorted by some cabling run under it to provide the simulated internal power. (The spacecraft’s fuel cell reactants were not loaded for this test.) After the hatches were sealed, the air in the cabin was replaced with pure oxygen at 16.7 psi (115 kPa), 2 psi (14 kPa) higher than atmospheric pressure.

The Apollo 1 crew commander, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, was an Air Force veteran of the Korean War. He was chosen was among NASA’s first group of seven astronauts, the Mercury Seven. Grissom was America’s second person in space in 1961. On that mission, Mercury’s Liberty Bell 7, the hatch door blew for unknown reasons upon splashdown. Grissom ended up in the water and was rescued by a helicopter (which at first tried, in vain, to pick up the spacecraft; the spacecraft was later pulled from the ocean floor in 1999).

Some in the Astronaut Office were skeptical that Grissom’s reputation would recover (many believed Grissom blew the hatch; he swore he didn’t). However, Grissom successfully commanded the first Gemini flight, Gemini 3, and was selected to do the same for Apollo.

Fellow spaceflight veteran Ed White, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, was the first American to make a spacewalk, on Gemini 4 in 1965. The images of him soaring in space for 23 minutes are still frequently seen today; it is considered one of history’s most memorable spacewalks.

Roger Chaffee was a seasoned Navy lieutenant commander who joined the program in 1963. Although a rookie in space, he had spent years supporting the Gemini program, most publicly as CapCom on Gemini 4. Now getting a chance to fly after five years in the program, he said, “I think it will be a lot of fun.”

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Every astronaut in the Apollo program had flight experience, and many were test pilots. They were used to seeing machines under development and dealing with delays, and assessing the airplanes’ readiness for flight. In the view of many of these astronauts, the Apollo command module just wasn’t ready yet. Engineering changes were still in progress as NASA prepared for the countdown test.

On his last visit home in Texas, Jan. 22, 1967, Grissom grabbed a lemon off a citrus tree in the backyard. His wife, Betty, asked what he was going to do with it. “I’m going to hang it on that spacecraft,” he answered as he kissed her goodbye. He hung it on the flight simulator after he arrived at the Cape.

The morning of the test, the crew suited up and detected a foul odor in the breathing oxygen, which took about an hour to fix. Then the communications system acted up. Shouting through the noise, Grissom vented: “How are we going to get to the moon if we can’t talk between two or three buildings?”

With communications problems dragging on, the practice countdown was held. Then at 6:31 p.m. came a frightening word from the spacecraft: “Fire.”

Deke Slayton, who oversaw crew selections at NASA and was present for the test, could see white flames in a closed-circuit television monitor pointing toward the spacecraft. The crew struggled to get out. Technicians raced to the scene, trying to fight the fire with extinguishers amid faulty breathing masks. [Video: Apollo 1 Remembered – Report from the Archives]

At last, the door was open, but it was too late.

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The Great Moon Hoax

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On this day in 1835, the first in a series of six articles announcing the supposed discovery of life on the moon appears in the New York Sun newspaper.

Known collectively as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles were supposedly reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The byline was Dr. Andrew Grant, described as a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day.

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Herschel had in fact traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 to set up an observatory with a powerful new telescope. As Grant described it, Herschel had found evidence of life forms on the moon, including such fantastic animals as unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats. The articles also offered vivid description of the moon’s geography, complete with massive craters, enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation.

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The New York Sun, founded in 1833, was one of the new “penny press” papers that appealed to a wider audience with a cheaper price and a more narrative style of journalism. From the day the first moon hoax article was released, sales of the paper shot up considerably. It was exciting stuff, and readers lapped it up. The only problem was that none of it was true. The Edinburgh Journal of Science had stopped publication years earlier, and Grant was a fictional character. The articles were most likely written by Richard Adams Locke, a Sun reporter educated at Cambridge University. Intended as satire, they were designed to poke fun at earlier, serious speculations about extraterrestrial life, particularly those of Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed in his bestselling books that the moon alone had 4.2 billion inhabitants.

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Readers were completely taken in by the story, however, and failed to recognize it as satire. The craze over Herschel’s supposed discoveries even fooled a committee of Yale University scientists, who traveled to New York in search of the Edinburgh Journal articles. After Sun employees sent them back and forth between the printing and editorial offices, hoping to discourage them, the scientists returned to New Haven without realizing they had been tricked.

 

On September 16, 1835, the Sun admitted the articles had been a hoax. People were generally amused by the whole thing, and sales of the paper didn’t suffer. The Sun continued operation until 1950, when it merged with the New York World-Telegram. The merger folded in 1967.

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