"13 Minutes to the Moon"

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rwilkinson
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"13 Minutes to the Moon"

Post by rwilkinson » Mon May 13, 2019 1:09 pm

BBC World Service has compiled a series of podcasts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.
The first 45-min episode has just been released: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w13xttx2

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Re: "13 Minutes to the Moon"

Post by rwilkinson » Sat May 25, 2019 6:49 am

The second episode https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz4dk features interviews with some of the young men who operated the Mission Control Center and explains how their response to the Guidance Computer's infamous Program Alarms was only formulated after the final practice simulation, a fortnight before the launch.

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Re: "13 Minutes to the Moon"

Post by rwilkinson » Mon May 27, 2019 3:23 pm

The third episode is now available: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz4dl

This covers the extraordinary design of the Grumman Lunar Excursion Module ("it looks like an angry creature with four legs, staring at you, daring you to call it ugly!") and its landing procedures. As Neil Armstrong said "there were a thousand things to worry about in the final descent!" I'd never realised that the LEM's Descent Engine was the first-ever rocket engine designed with a throttle (to control the descent rate).

The programme features an interview with astronaut Charlie Duke, who was CapCom on Apollo 11 and later the LM Pilot on Apollo 16. He said "I probably landed on the Moon 2000 times in simulation - but I crashed 1000 times too!"
They also talk to one of the Grumman technicians who had to retro-fit extra thermal insulation onto the Eagle's lower stage and legs just a few weeks before launch - when it was already stowed on top of its Saturn V!

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Re: "13 Minutes to the Moon"

Post by rwilkinson » Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:53 pm

Episode Four includes the catastrophic fire of Apollo 1, and then the successful test-flight of Apollo 7 just 21 months later:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz4dm

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Re: "13 Minutes to the Moon"

Post by rwilkinson » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:00 am

Episode 5 is all about the Apollo Guidance Computer - the "fourth astronaut" on each mission.
This was the world's first portable digital programmable computer, and the first electronic flight-control system.
As well as shrinking a computer from the size of a room down to that of a couple of shoe-boxes, they also had to make it ultra-reliable, using the emerging technology of Integrated Circuits.
The team at MIT also had to develop the software to run on a machine with 76KBytes of memory (only 4K of which was RAM), which then had to be woven into magnetic-core "rope" memory.

I've since found an interesting simulation of this remarkable machine: http://svtsim.com/moonjs/agc.html

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