Thoughts on Apollo, part I

Its the anniversary if the first moon landing tomorrow. Here’s yrstruly on Twitter:

I really can’t get enough Apollo XI anniversary coverage. An extraordinary boundary in human achievement.

Two minor thoughts on why I find the Apollo missions so fascinating. First, the technology seems so basic by today’s standards. I’ve read widely on the engineering behind the Apollo programme, so I know the machines were cutting edge in the 1960s. But I also know that the speed at which inventions were taken from theory to prototype and then to implementation, was much quicker than comparable projects, such as airliners and military hardware, are developed today. The images of the Apollo space craft modules make me think of the word ‘contraption’.

In addition, they were supported by such meagre computer power. Famously, there is more computer capability in a modern mobile phone than there was on the Apollo missions. Worse, the lunar model computer actually crashed during the descent stages of Apollo XI and Apollo XIV. What a contrast to all the back-ups, fail-safes and diagnostics that go into modern aviation technology.

To go so far in such vehicles was brave to the point of insanity. It is almost as if they went before their time. Most people speak of the Apollo programme as being a feature of the Cold War, part of the Arms Race, quintessentially 1960s. But I see it as being rather incongruous with the earthbound history around it. A tangent to the timeline that no-one was ready for, that no-one can parse. An alien act.

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