Isn’t this an amazing admission? Chemical engineer and NASA’s oldest active astronaut at age 62, Don Petitt says, “I’d go to the moon in a nanosecond. The problem is we don’t have the technology to do that anymore. We used to but we destroyed that technology and it’s a painful process to build it back again.”
Really!? The dog ate my homework! How “painful” can it be to regain old technology that succeeded so brilliantly. Gimmee a break. Petitt admits we do not have the means, the technology, to get “back” to the moon despite all the scientific, engineering, materials, digital and other tech advances since 1969, 48 long years ago. I agree with him that we “don’t have the technology to do that” today but the rest of his statement is nonsense, namely, “anymore” and “we used to but we destroyed that technology.” What a whopper. And even if true, we could recover that old technology with little pain. The reality is that we never had the technology to land a man on the moon and return him safely in the first place, certainly not in the 1960s slide rule era. Petitt has pared back the big lie a little but left it in tatters nonetheless. Many thanks Don!
Radiation, of course, is the show stopper for human travel in deep space but just consider one of thousands of engineering problems NASA and its contractors could not possibly solve in the ’60s: separation and descent/landing of the lunar module (LM) from the Command/Service Module (CSM) and, when ready to leave the Moon, “the LM would separate the descent stage and fire the ascent engine to climb back into orbit, using the descent stage as a launch platform. After a few course correction burns, the LM would rendezvous with the CSM and dock for transfer of the crew and rock samples.” OK, sounds simple enough but it is not! The first time two manned spacecraft docked was allegedly the Soviet Soyuz 4 and 5 spacecraft on 16 January, 1969, in low earth orbit only six months before Apollo 11 allegedly did so over the moon, 240,000 miles from earth.
Suppose the CSM is orbiting the moon at nearly 4,000 miles per hour (5,500+ feet per second = 3,750 mph), completing each orbit in slightly over one hour and 48 minutes depending on CSM altitude and (orbit) “plane” changes (NASA claims equatorial circumference of the moon is 6,783.5 miles). The LM must “chase” the CSM and mate up with it. “Orbital mechanics, it is often said, is real ‘rocket science'” writes Frank O’Brien. Here is an excerpt from his extended analysis which shows how difficult rendezvous and docking is:
“Key to the flexibility of the various maneuvers was of course, the spacecraft computer. Each phase of the rendezvous had a separate computer program associated with it, which was started at the completion of the previous maneuver. Monitoring the computer, and inputting commands and data was a large part of the workload from lunar orbit insertion through terminal braking. Many of the entries appear to be rather mundane; distances, velocities, burn timings [precise rocket thrust on and off!] and the like, but they are tightly integrated into a larger picture of ‘where you are, and where you need to go’. Providing distance information and angles relative to the CSM was the rendezvous radar. Capable of providing information directly to the computer or to the crew via tapemeter displays on the Commander’s console, the radar was able to provide ranging data accurate to 0.1 nautical miles (0.18 km), and angular position, relative to the LM, of 0.01°. Working together, the radar and computer were able to calculate to exact location of the CSM, and its relative position to the LM. The radar takes ranging marks about once per minute, and with each mark, also records the shaft and trunnion angles of the radar antenna to establish the direction to the CSM.”
What kind of computing capacity was aboard the LM? Wickedpeedya, the fount of conventional wisdom, says, “The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) is a digital computer produced for the Apollo program that was installed on board each Apollo Command Module (CM) and Lunar Module (LM). The AGC provided computation and electronic interfaces for guidance, navigation, and control of the spacecraft. The AGC has a 16-bit word length, with 15 data bits and one parity bit…The computer’s performance is somewhere around that of the first generation of home computers from the late 1970s, such as the Apple II, TRS-80, and Commodore PET.”
I’m no computer expert but how the heck can primitive 1st generation home computers do rocket science in real time space flight? I don’t believe they could. Granted, ground control could update calculations and intervene but all critical phases in navigation, control and docking must be solved aboard the LM and CSM correctly and quickly. Houston, you have a credibility problem.