Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Most Complete History of Man's Moon Missions That I Have Ever Seen

"For the harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning-point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation — or any nation so conceived — can long endure — whether our society — with its freedom of choice, its breadth of opportunity, its range of alternatives — can compete with the single-minded advance of the Communist system. Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction — but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men's minds?"
--John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The quote above is an excerpt from John F Kennedy's remarkable acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, when nominated to represent the Democrats in the upcoming 1960 presidential election. It is the first time he used the term "The New Frontier." The vision was massive, and inspirational.

In this one segment alone I highlighted several features. They are:
1. A Turning Point in History
2. Can our nation, organized in the manner we are, endure?  (A free democratic republic.)
3. We are in a race for the Mastery of the Sky.
4. And we are competing to capture men's minds.

I believe we've lost sight of how big a thing this was.

"We can have faith in the future only if we have faith in ourselves," he said. Kennedy was calling each of us to aspire to something bigger and to believe that we could achieve it.

Eventually Kennedy gave a very focused objective with regard to this New Frontier, a key performance indicator. That very specific target was laid out on May 25, 1961, when JFK gave his famous moonshot speech in which he promised to put Americans in space and on the moon before the end of the decade.

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President delivers historic speech to congress. May 25, 1961. Public domain.
On Thursday I started listening to the audiobook American Moonshot, which goes into detail about the American space program. It begins with John F. Kennedy's vision, and even though I am very early in the book, it is laden with details and stories.

Yesterday morning, while surfing through a website by Cambridge Professor Subroto Roy, I stumbled upon an incredibly succinct summary of the our human efforts to reach the moon. It's titled A Complete History of Mankind’s Moon Missions (2006)

What makes it fascinating is that he covers other country's efforts in addition to our own U.S. achievements and disasters. The first few entries will give you the flavor of what you can find here.

1. Pioneer 0, Aug 17 1958 Failed lunar orbiter. 1st stage rocket exploded 77 seconds after liftoff.
2. Luna 1958A Sep 23 1958 Failed lunar impactor. Rocket exploded after liftoff.
3. Pioneer 1, Oct 11 1958 Failed orbiter. 2nd and 3rd stages failed to separate evenly; failed to achieve trajectory, but sent data on Van Allen Belt and micrometeorites.
4. Luna 1958B , Oct 12 1958 Failed impactor. Rocket exploded after liftoff.

Some of the later entries have more detail. I encourage you check it out. It's only around 85 entries or thereabouts, but quite insightful.

Professor Roy's list of mankind's achievements and failures is a good read. I had no idea how active the Russians had been and had forgotten that we sent un-manned spacecraft to the moon in the Ranger series of rockets that preceded Apollo.  Here's a video of Ranger 9 crashing into the lunar surface.

We weren't the only ones out there in this new frontier. The Russians were exceedingly active. The Zond 5 was the second ship to circumnavigate the moon and first to return back to earth, Sept 15, 1968. And the Russians landed an unmanned craft on the moon just weeks before our successful Apollo flight 50 years ago this summer.

Again, check out this web page by Professor Roy:
https://independentindian.com/2008/10/22/complete-history-of-mankinds-moon-missions-an-indian-citizens-letter-to-isros-chairman/

And if the subject interests you, American Moonshot might make a good addition to your ever-expanding reading list. Depending on your taste for detail you will either find it thrilling or tedious. Mr. Brinkley has most definitely done his honework.

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Thank you, Dr. Roy, for your work in assembling the above cited history of moon exploration.

1 comment:

LEWagner said...

It's a shame the technology necessary to land man on the moon to walk, snap photos, and cruise around and spin up moon-dust with battery-powered moon-buggies has been lost since the 1970's.

But, onward to Mars!