Flamsteed Astronomy Society

“How we reached the Moon” by Jerry Stone — September 20, 2010

‘How we reached the Moon’ — well-trodden ground (as it were), and Jerry has given this talk many times before.  But he makes it very fresh and most interesting, and the Flamsteed audience loved it.

Jerry traces the story of manned spaceflight starting with a reminder that manned, powered, flight only began at all just over 100 years ago with the Wright Brothers in 1903!  Almost within 20 years (1926) Goddard was experimenting with liquid-fuelled rockets, and by 1944 Werner von Braun and team were aiming for the stars (but sometimes hitting London and Antwerp) with the 1-ton payload A4/V2.  The von Braun team was spirited off to the US, but the first post-war honours in the space race went to the Soviets — Sputnik I (1957), and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin in 1961.

The US changed gear with JFK’s legendary speech on May 25, 1961 “..by the end of this decade... send a man to the Moon, and return him safely to Earth”— gutsy stuff considering the US’s best effort to date had been Shepherd’s 15-minute sub-orbital flight.

Jerry described the remarkable efforts that followed — Glenn’s orbital flight in 1962; the Mercury program; the 2-man Gemini flights; EVAs; RVs; EOR v. LOR; more TLAs* than you can shake a stick at.  And of course the Apollo program.  The von Braun team had resurfaced with their Saturn launchers — the Saturn V: taller than Big Ben; the size of a destroyer perched on end.

By 1968, with the Lunar Module not ready to fly, NASA decided to go to the Moon anyway, at least to fly round it and return.  Two of the most enduring memories from Apollo will be the Christmas reading from the Bible in Moon orbit, and the image of Earthrise — we went to the Moon to discover the Earth.

The Apollo 11 landing may be the most famous moment in the history of the 20th Century (at least the second half of the Century) and Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins the most famous people.

A magic story, excellently told.  Jerry fielded many, many, questions, including the inevitable “Did we really go to the Moon?”.   The last word stays with Flamsteed member HF (a proud American citizen) and his question — “Whadda ya mean? How WE reached the Moon?  I thought the US paid for it all!”

Jerry retired to sign copies of his book ‘ One Small Step’.

Great stuff!



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*TLAs — Three- (and Two-) Letter Acronyms

Jerry Stone

[Pics: Mike Dryland]

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