• Its a complete Farce ! Sunny D is the way to be ! - Trajan K

Walking on the Moon

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Tang is a farce. That was the first thing Neil Armstrong told me last night. “We did not use it on the Apollo missions.”

I asked him, of all of the systems and stages of the mission, which did he worry about the most? (the frequently failing autopilot? the reliance on a global network of astronomers to spot solar flares in time to get the warning out? the onboard computers being less powerful than a Furby?....)

No, none of those. He dove into a detailed description of the hypergolic fuel mixing system for the lunar module. Rather than an ignition system, they had two substances that would ignite upon contact. Instead of electric valves, he wished he had a big simple mechanical lever to open the valves. He kept using his hands to show how easy a big lever could be.

That seemed a bit odd to me at first. So, I asked if he gave that answer because it really was the most likely point of failure, or because it symbolizes a vivid nightmare – having completed the moon mission, pushing the button... and the engines just wont start.

He responded that he had dreams about that for two years prior to the launch.

recurrence, Bistrosavage, gdsanders, and 24 other people added this photo to their favorites.

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  1. Jeff Clow 58 months ago | reply

    Great story, Steve.....I've read a lot about him but never that story about his nightmares.

  2. jurvetson 57 months ago | reply

    thanks. I just read this interesting passage in Apollo (p.359):

    For Mike Collins, circling the moon alone, the lunar liftoff was the most nerve-wracking moment of his long flying career: During the six months since he had been selected to be the command module pilot, his secret terror had been that he might have to come back to Earth alone.

  3. london3609 57 months ago | reply

    If you haven't already you must pick up a copy of Mike Collins's Carrying the Fire. I've read just about all the astronaut books and his is by far the best!

  4. ideastoday 57 months ago | reply

    Agreed! Carrying the Fire is excellent.

  5. jurvetson 57 months ago | reply

    Thanks! Will read that one next.

  6. ParishTorch 56 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called People Who have Had Their Photos taken With Celebrities, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

  7. jurvetson 54 months ago | reply

    And this just in from the LRO... footsteps from Apollo 11...


  8. jurvetson 49 months ago | reply

    london3609 & Ideastoday: Yes, that book was awesome. Read a little bit of Buzz's new book, and I have a new thick one with me on vacation.

    Here's a very interesting update on the story that Neil told me. My buddy Erik was bidding on an Apollo 11 checklist page that was used on the moon. Buzz wrote a letter to accompany the document, in which he says:

    "A few hours earlier, after we returned to the LM interior once completing the first lunar moon walk, I noticed that the ascent engine arming breaker push/pull switch was broken. Apparently during movement wearing our large space suit 'backpacks,' either Neil or I bumped into this panel and broke off that particular switch. This switch was the direct means of arming our Ascent Stage engine which would allow us to leave the lunar surface. Mission Control verified that the switch was open, meaning that the engine was currently unarmed. If we could not get the engine armed, we would be stranded on the Moon. They advised us to leave the switch in the open position until the timeline called for it to be engaged. I started to think of ways to activate the switch if pushing it by hand failed. As it turned out, the very pen I used to record these notes was the perfect tool to engage this circuit breaker."

    An amazing background stressor during the mission's activities!

  9. london3609 49 months ago | reply

    Incredible! Thanks for sharing that, I never would've seen it otherwise, it was fun to browse through some of the other lots as well.

    It amazes me to think of how calm and collected the Apollo-era astronauts had to be to survive. I attended a book-signing last summer of Alan Bean's latest and he gave a lecture afterwards. I was astounded at the optimism and courage of the entire Apollo program, and he just embodied it so perfectly. Sometimes I wonder if we could collect a group as ambitious, intelligent, and dedicated to return-- I know it's corny to say it but these guys really had The Right Stuff! And how cool was it to hear from Neil in the news? His letter was profoundly stated, and I loved the way it was signed also by Lovell and Cernan, all Commanders of Apollo missions-- that's hard to ignore! It's painful to hear people that undermine the importance of NASA. The advances to technology aside, the economical benefits, etc., all that aside-- how could anyone get used to the idea that we went to the moon? I mean, that's just amazing.

  10. london3609 49 months ago | reply

    Also--
    you'll have to tell us how Buzz's new book is. I don't think I've read any of his books entirely. I'll have to check it out.

  11. ideastoday 49 months ago | reply

    Glad you enjoyed it! Have you seen the "When We Left Earth" series that was on Discovery? It's a pretty sensational account, but the great footage from the early NASA years makes it worthwhile.

  12. Archivist Llewellyn 49 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Apollo 11 40th Anniversary Celebrations Around the World, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

  13. jurvetson 40 months ago | reply

    : I only read the first part of Buzz's book, but I am really enjoying Chaiken's A Man on the Moon as a bedtime book with my son. Very well written.

    P.S. I recently acquired a Valve Package Assembly from the LM ascent engine, the complex beast that Neil referred to:

    Lunar Module Ascent Engine Valve Package Assembly

    I also have a LM descent engine, and the valve package is much simpler...

  14. Ramones Karaoke 22 months ago | reply

    I still have nightmares about sitting my final examinations at university - 30 years on. His nightmare wins.

  15. lookseeseen 21 months ago | reply

    tang was used on john glenn's mission and the gemini missions..

  16. jurvetson 20 months ago | reply

    Neil Armstrong takes one giant leap to the other side.

    May he rest in peace, ensconced with the sublime smile of symbolic immortality.

    And in a surreal nod to his disdain for commercial exploitation of his good name, the advertising on the Washington Post obituary failed for me:
    Neil Armstrong

  17. Ramones Karaoke 20 months ago | reply

    Just caught this on a news feed. Another real hero down, but he'll never, ever be forgotten.

  18. Ramones Karaoke 20 months ago | reply

    And I'd take a broken Javascript obit any day!

  19. meligrosa 20 months ago | reply

    thanks so much for sharing this, and the comments are rather fascinating <3
    have added Carrying the Fire to my to-read list

  20. jurvetson 9 months ago | reply

    and a Happy birthday tribute I posted for him today...

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