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Friday, March 09, 2012

And they did the math with SLIDE RULES.

Someone on Reddit questions the technological amazingness of landing humans on the Moon. Someone else sets them straight (salty language alert):

Oh no you fucking didn't. You have no idea.

The moon is 385,000 kilometers away, and spinning around us at roughly 1 kilometer per second. NASA engineers took a hunk of metal and explosions, stuck a few men in there, and managed to hit what is essentially a tiny moving target in the vast expanse of nothing that is space.

They also managed to make all of the technological shit work and stay working outside of the protection of our magnetosphere. You know, that thing the deflects the enormously damaging interstellar radiation and makes life on Earth possible. Those suits that keep astronauts alive out there? Those aren't just neat diving suits, they have to keep the pressure in, the radiation out, survive enormously abrasive moon dust, and still allow the person inside to move.

The lander had to come down safely on an uninhabited hunk of rock, not a landing strip, not a parachute into the ocean, a fucking slab of iron. Then, it had to shoot half of itself back up to the return capsule. All of this had to be precisely-calculated, otherwise they wouldn't have enough fuel. Or, if they weren't exactly correct, the could ram the return craft and kill everybody.

The mathematics and engineering involved are staggering. This isn't science fiction kid.

Preach it!


popeyemoon said...

Bad Astronomy has some neat stuff on this.

Chris Honeycutt said...


And let me say as someone who works as an applied mathematician the fact that we abandoned slide rules and chalkboards for the mentally lazy world of computers has hurt us considerably.

Just look at what a disaster Constellation was compared to Apollo:

We can't even build the things that we built in the 60's, such as the ablative heat shield and an engine that won't shake itself apart on takeoff.

Apparently travelling to the moon has become the Damascus steel of our time.

Doug said...

Yeah, it makes me think the Golden Age of Space is past us, peaked in the late 1960's.