Man on the moon with technology less powerful than a cell phone


With computers less powerful than a cell phone, the man reached the moon. On the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Aire de Santa Fe spoke with Buenos Aire's physicist Javier Rodríguez about the challenges of the trip to the Moon in 1969 and those to come.

With technology less powerful than a cell phone, man came to the moon. Image: ACN
With technology less powerful than a cell phone, man came to the moon. Image: ACN

Practically all the necessary technology to be able to travel to the Moon was developed in the '60s. It all started with the first satellite that was sent into space, Sputnik in 1957. The Moon adventure lasted 195 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds.

Less power than a cell phone

The technological challenge implied by the space race that stretched from the end of the 1950s to the mid-1970s led to a technological boom in those years. Until now, there was no technology for such a feat as putting a human on the Moon, but the demands of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union made it possible.

Everything had to be confronted. Taking a person out of the protection of the Earth's magnetic field and exposing them to radiation for several days was a challenge. In addition, they had to take into account the feeding of astronauts and the survival of a ship that would take off from a rocket, the great Saturn V, and then separate into several modules and unite until finally bringing back the minimum necessary material and the most important thing that were the lives of Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins.

The Challenges of Space Travel

The astronomical physicist and disseminator, Javier Rodríguez, spoke to Aire de Santa Fe about the challenges of the time and those to come.

"Practically all the necessary technology to be able to travel to the Moon was developed in the '60s. It all began with the first satellite that was sent into space, Sputnik in 1957. A satellite of what was the old Soviet Union. Sputnik's mission, launched on October 4, succeeded in putting the first artificial satellite in history into space. That situation generated the first impulse to be able to develop the necessary technology demanded by the space race.

"Shortly thereafter, the United States began to develop the technology to put a man in orbit. This first man was Yuri Gagarin, who was the first person to orbit the planet Earth," said the physicist.

At the time, he said, "everything represented a problem. For each idea, technological development was needed.

"The amazing thing is that in approximately ten or twelve years, the basis for achieving this great goal was achieved," he added.

"The computers that were used to send a man to the moon were less capable than any cell phone today. All the technology was developed at that time, there was a very big economic movement that helped make it possible," Rodriguez said.

Taking a ship, but even more so, human beings, to such an inhospitable place in space requires many precautions.

"The main problem is to make the population of individuals inside the ship not run any risk with respect to radiation or the problems it may generate. This is defined by the amount of food and resources I need for this population to survive. That is to say, to have the indispensable materials so that the radiation does not affect the individuals nor the artifacts. Being ionizing electrical charges can generate some problem," he explained.

In addition, the physicist stressed the importance of previous scientific knowledge to think about making possible any intervention in space.

In a trip to space, "Newton's laws are present at all times. What's more, "with this trip it was demonstrated that these laws are being complied with everywhere. And not only the physical theories of gravity must be taken into account, but also the chemical factors in the manufacturing process and the aerodynamic factors that allow the spacecraft to pass through the atmosphere.

"In the construction of the rocket, it must be taken into account that it is as aerodynamic as to leave the atmosphere and that it reaches the appropriate speed to be able to escape from the gravity of the Earth. Depending on what their function is, the rockets are going to be bigger or smaller.

Astronauts on the Moon

The Moon adventure lasted 195 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds. "On the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin spent about 22 hours and on the surface two hours. They didn't stay long," Rodriguez said.

Once there, the astronauts "placed a system of mirrors that from the Earth is used to measure, for example, the distance to the Moon. It is a laser with which they project light and when it bounces, the distance from the satellite to the Earth can be calculated.

"It also helps in recent research suggesting that the Moon is gradually moving away from the planet," he said.

The Apollo missions brought a large amount of material

"They brought rocks, they placed seismographs to see the activity of the lunar crust, what the movement is and other phenomena that are generated there," he explained.

And what about the theories that say we didn't go to the Moon?

In fact, no astronaut from the five missions that succeeded him.

The failure of Apollo 13 fed the theories that reaching the Moon was impossible

On this subject, the physicist explained: "The Earth and the Moon are linked by gravity. It is science. The conspiracies have their physical foundations. For example, they say why stars are not seen in the sky. This is an optical effect of the lenses. A camera is prepared to take a certain amount of light. If I take the light from the stars that is very low, the same reflection that the Moon generates causes the image to burn because it has a lot of brightness. So what is done is to adapt so that I can take the picture to the object I need. For the rest to come out, I need a camera with long exposure and capture all the bright objects around," he explained to counteract one of the arguments.

And he reflected: "I believe that the problem of the emergence of theories such as Conspiracy is through diffusion. In the 1960s, the trip to the Moon was a milestone. But the new generations see this as a long way off. As there is not a very updated development of all this generates a restlessness. But neither is it a necessity to send another person to step on the Moon. Why should I do this if I can send a probe, a robot that does the same work and is cheaper and less risky?".

For the scientist, science has no weight within cultures and therefore celebrates the momentum being given to the Mars mission.

NASA plans to send humans to Mars in 2033

"We have an abundance of information but we don't have a critical conscience of being able to analyze what is really happening within the scientific realm," he said.

As a good disseminator, Rodriguez believes that science should try to approach society in a friendly way.

"This is a bit of science's fault that it has no plan to be able to reach society in a pleasant way. This is how theories such as the Terraplanista or the theory that man did not reach the Moon and are not well-founded are generated. I believe that today's society is very divided and scientific achievements are not even questioned.

Back to the Moon

On repeated occasions, the administrator of the National Administration of Aeronautics and Space

(NASA), Jim Bridenstine, gave details of what will be the return of humans to the Moon, under the impetus of current U.S. President Donald Trump.

The project aims to establish a sustainable human presence on our satellite from 2028, in preparation for the real ambition, which is to go to Mars.

This second trip to the Moon will have different characteristics from the first. Part of this space technological transition came from companies like Space X, the billionaire Elon Musk.

"One of the new technologies emerging with Space X is associated with energy resources. It is a company that developed one of the most useful rockets in history. They are rockets that until 10 years ago nobody believed could land standing up and this company was able to do it" said Rodriguez.

Missions as important as those reached by Space X encourage to continue preparing the trip. His rockets such as the super heavy Falcon Heavy have attracted the attention of the world with their launches.

"They are reusable rockets. Until 15 years ago this was impossible. The rockets were lost in space, the objects were there and they were expensive to do again," he said.

Falcon Heavy, from Space X

And in fact, on the Moon, there are many objects and remains of rockets and Rovers that could never return.

"The fact of the high costs is one of the reasons why they did not return to the Moon. This company along with others, are wanting to generate a colony on the Moon and then be able to travel to Mars," he said.

What seems irrational today will become a reality in the future. History has shown that every decade has a surprise. "We were able to reach the Moon at the least thoughtful moment," added the physicist.

After the decade of the return to the Moon will come the decade of Mars in 2030

Regarding the ambitious mission, Rodríguez said: "For now, work is being done to generate new impellers or engines that can be driven in space and many other technologies associated with the radiation generated from the Earth's magnetic field, which is very harmful.

What they are looking for behind the arrival to the Moon, according to the divulger, is to reach the red planet.

"The idea is to use the Moon as a support base for future launches," he said.

Meanwhile, the Moon is still there. Immobile to our eyes but always falling towards the center by the gravity of the Sun. It's still alone, it's not rushing us. We can go back there as long as we agree, as many times as we want.

Although hostile in nature, the Moon receives us in its vacant valleys and icy climates. With a solitude that is often longed for on Earth but with the unquestionable company of the energetic universe.


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The historic trip to the moon

Houston, this is Tranquility Base. The Eagle has landed. It was 8:56 p.m. Central Time on July 20, 1969.

The words of astronaut Neil Armstrong, spoken more than 400,000 kilometers from Earth, made the entire group of technicians, engineers, and officials of the Houston Space Center jump out of their seats, who, together with millions of people on Earth, anxiously waited for confirmation that the dream had come true.

Four minutes before 9 p.m., televisions around the world broadcast the first live images from the Moon, our planet's natural satellite.

The U.S. astronaut's left space boot slid smoothly down the 9-step ladder of the lunar module to land on the Selenite surface.

"This is a small step for a man, but a giant leap for humanity," exclaimed Armstrong absorbed and amazed.

Behind him, in the Sea of Tranquility, the site of the historic moon landing, would descend Buzz Aldrin, his companion in this unforgettable space epic, who would be the second man to step on moon soil.

Above them, spinning miles from the surface of the Earth's satellite and aboard Columbia, the mother ship of Apollo 11 that would enable them to return to Earth, was his companion Michael Collins who completed a vital task in circumlunar orbit.

"The soil is very fine, with sand particles. There don't seem to be any difficulties to walk through it. I can see the footprints of my shoes on the fine sandy particles," exclaimed the mission commander, who along with Aldrin would conduct a series of experiments, install special exploration equipment and collect several kilos of shiny, purple rocks that would be part of the most precious treasure on his return to Earth.

"Both men moved slowly, dragging their feet as if they were figures of an aquatic ballet. Armstrong then placed the U.S. flag on the moon's surface and seemed to have some difficulty propelling the mast," noted chronicler Al Rossiter Jr.

President Richard Nixon, through the telephone, the first interspatial call in history, told them with emotion:

"For what you have done, heaven is already part of man's world."

Armstrong thanked the president for his comment and said at the time that it was a privilege for them to be on the Moon "representing not only the United States but men of peace from all nations; men of interest and curiosity; men with a vision of the future. It is an honor for us to be able to participate in this here today.

The crew of Apollo 11 ditched impeccably on the 24th in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. She was immediately transferred to the Hornet aircraft carrier where she began a period of preventive quarantine, for fear of probable contamination by microorganisms.

The lunar program, man's challenge to fly, cross space and visit other worlds endures in time. It was not only a dreamlike thought of poets or dreamers who were familiarly considered lunatics because of the supreme attraction that our natural satellite exerted on their behavior.

The famous science fiction writer, Jules Verne, anticipated in 1865 the journey that Apollo 11 would make a century later. His work From the Earth to the Moon is a premonitory chronicle of the journey that Neil Armstrong would lead in 1969.

Also, the English futuristic writer H.G. Wells in 1891 wrote the book The first men on the Moon. However, it would be until September 12, 1958, when not a man, but a machine, the Russian spacecraft Moon 2 would reach its surface, after 36 hours of flight.

A year later, the Moon 3 would take the first photographs of its hidden face, effort to which would be added the American ship Ranger 7, on July 28, 1964, which transmitted little more than 4 thousand television images of its surface.

In 1966, the USSR with the Moon 9 and the United States, by means of the Surveyor I, achieved the feat of gently lowering a space object without destroying it. Surveyor I sent more than 11,000 photographs to Earth.

With the invaluable support of the administration of President John F. Kennedy and the vast knowledge of the aeronautical genius of German origin, Wernher von Braun, whose greatest achievement was to develop the avant-garde technology that would be used in the gigantic Saturn rockets, which would make it possible for man to reach the Moon, the dream came true.

Apollo 11 was followed by 6 other missions. Apollo 12, sent into space four months later, also landed. Then astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean landed to the north of the Kiphaeus mountain range, about 180 meters from the place where Surveyor I had done it two years before, one of the first to analyze the soil of the Euna and broadcast television images from there.

The next space mission, Apollo 13, was a failure and almost cost the crew their lives, due to the explosion of one of the oxygen tanks in the command module.

To resolve this emergency, the astronauts were advised by specialists from the Space Center in Houston, in order to improvise, with the resources at their disposal, an oxygen recycling machine. The moon landing was canceled and the whole world was waiting for the fate of these 3 men who turned yellow on April 17, 1970, near Pago Pago Island in the Pacific, where they were picked up by the helicopter carrier Iwo Jima.

Lovers of the supernatural are still captivated today by the circumstantial fact that the dangerous flight of Apollo 13 began at 13:13 hours and the accident occurred on April 13.

Nine months later, astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar D. Mitchell, of Apollo 14, landed and collected more than 45 kilos of samples, among which were rocks older than those collected by other missions.

The flight of the Apollo 15 captured the world's attention, as for the first time an electric vehicle was used that allowed them to travel more than 28 kilometers.

Led by David R. Scott, the mission is also remembered for having set a 16-minute spacewalk record on its return journey, 315,400 kilometers from Earth.

The U.S. lunar program ended on December 1972 with the Apollo 17 spacecraft.

The era of the shuttle

Eight years later, NASA would initiate a program called the Space Transportation System, better known as the Space Shuttle.

In this novel program, which remained in force until July last year, took part the space vehicles Columbio, Challenger, which exploded with its crew on board, a few seconds after having taken off, Endeavour, Discovery and Atlantis, although NASA officials advocate to crystallize the construction project of the X-30 spacecraft, which could supposedly take off like conventional aircraft and is self-propelled to the Earth's orbit zone by means of efficient stator jets or the Orion project, whose capsule would be propelled by a kind of hybrid between shuttles and Apollo mission rockets, which since 2009 has been frozen for lack of funds.

However, space engineers have analyzed the real possibility of establishing lunar bases whose function would be to supply astronauts en route to other planets.

Mars in the sights of scientists

In 2004 Mars was the subject of constant unmanned expeditions, using Pathfinder and the twin probes Opportunity and Spirit, which transmitted direct images of its surface, in addition to analyzing the chemical composition of the soil and its atmosphere.

Today, technological advances have allowed NASA to put the new robot vehicle, Curiosity, back on Mars. Curiosity has amazing exploration capabilities and the project involved Mexican Eduardo Guizar Sainz, who contributed to the design of the rover's tire engines, whose mission will last 2 years, although there could be many more.

The Curiosity reached Mars 8 months after being launched from Earth and commemorated 15 years of NASA's robotic presence on that planet.

On September 6, he completed one month of transmissions after traveling 109 meters and sending hundreds of images taken with the AHLI one of the 17 cameras installed, which can focus distances of 2.1 centimeters, to infinity.

It is loaded with 10 instruments to assess whether a carefully selected study area within the Gale crater has ever offered favorable environmental conditions for microbial life, i.e., to determine if there is or was life on that planet.

Neil, Armstrong, the man who sailed the Infinite and conquered the Moon

As a child, Neil Armstrong used to contemplate the starry and clear nights of his small town of Wapakoneta in Ohio, each one of the lights that shone in the sky and perhaps he wondered if he would ever be in one of those stars, living some adventure like in El Principito, by Antoine de Saint Exupery.

Like this brilliant French writer, he was also passionate about aviation, something perhaps far removed from his immediate reality, because he was born and grew up on a farm in a rural area of Ohio, United States.

In spite of his impetuous character, which perhaps added to an overflowing imagination, Armstrong perhaps never thought that he would ever step on the Moon's ground. Perhaps even his parents or siblings saw him chasing sheep or milking cows or perhaps managing the farm, but always in a bucolic environment.

However, thanks to his passion and stubborn vehemence to travel beyond his environment, at the age of 6 he flew aboard a small propeller plane and obtained his pilot's license at the age of 16, before even passing his driving test.

Many may remember him as the first man to reach the Moon, but few know that in 1966, three years before he set foot on moon soil, he had already traveled into space in front of the Gemini 8 mission, which was about to end in tragedy, which would have made another man and not him the first man to set foot on the Earth's only natural satellite.

However, the astronaut managed to arm himself with serenity and act with sufficient skill to land safely, after a rocket failed and spun his spacecraft out of control. Three years later, in July 1969, Armstrong must have remembered that moment and the experience served him to fulfill his mission impeccably.

With his companions, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin made history, when walking with this last one on the Moon after a trip of more than 400 thousand kilometers that lasted 4 long days.

Before descending from the Eagle, the lunar module that detached from Apollo 11, Armstrong's first words were:

"Here Base of Tranquility, the Eagle has landed. Six and a half hours later, at 22:56 U.S. Eastern Time on July 20, 1969, Armstrong, 38, placed his foot on the surface of the Moon and pronounced the liaise intended to be engraved in the collective memory:

"This is a small step for man, but a giant leap for humanity."

He remained on the surface of the Moon exactly 2 hours and 32 minutes, and his companion Buzz Aldrin accompanied him, but he was 15 minutes less than Armstrong.

Before returning to the cabin of the Eagle loaded with a large bag of moon rocks, he placed some U.S. flags, which are still there, according to NASA based on photographs.

On their return to Earth, the three astronauts were treated like heroes.

Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, the highest award was given by the U.S. government to a civilian.

His flights in adolescence

Neil Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. His disproportionate interest in flying led him to study aeronautical engineering at the universities of Purdue and Southern California.

Like every good patriot, he enlisted in the Navy and flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War. In 1955, upon his return to the United States, he began working on the National Aeronautics Advisory Committee, which would later become the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in which he would work as an engineer, test pilot, astronaut, and administrator.

It is estimated that he tested at least 200 different aircraft models, including jets, rockets, helicopters, and gliders.

After his great achievement on the Moon, it seems that no position was big enough for him.

He would later serve as associate deputy administrator of Administration and Aeronautics, professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati and manager of Aviation Computer Technologies, based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

He also received honorary doctorates from various universities and was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the Royal Aeronautical Society, an honorary member of the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics of the United States and the International Federation of Astronauts.

He also co-chaired the Presidential Commission that investigated the Challenger ferry accident in 1986 and was head of the Presidential Peace Corps Advisory Committee.

The list of medals and decorations received is endless, and he was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor, among others.

When he passed away on August 25, due to cardiovascular complications, at 82 years of age, perhaps he was able to say like the poet: "life I owe you nothing, life we are in peace".

Enemy of fame

One of the things that stand out most about his personality is his incredible modesty and his enmity with fame. While most of the public figures try to appear on the news and give something to talk about, albeit badly, in the tabloids, Armstrong didn't even want to enjoy his 15 minutes of fame.

Most of the time he used to seclude himself in the peace of his home and the tranquility of his family life, and he avoided paparazzi at all costs.

He also used to reflect with great humility on the feat he accomplished.

"Looking back, we were really privileged to live that little footprint left for history, in which we changed the way a man looks at himself, what he could become and where he could go," he once said.

But the taciturn did not take away his passion. On one occasion he agreed to appear in a television advertisement for the automotive giant Chrysler, who was facing serious economic hardship, in an effort to help this benchmark in U.S. industry.

Apart from that, at all costs, he tried to avoid giving autographs, in order to prevent them from taking advantage of them. In 2005, he learned that his hairdresser had sold part of his hair to a collector for $3,000, which deeply irritated him.

He was not a man who used to gather with his old friends to gloat in the past. However, on one of the few occasions he was able to meet up with his former Apollo crewmates, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, in 2009 at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, he did not want to predict whether it would be likely that a new mission to the Moon would be organized.

When Armstrong passed away on August 25, 2012, in Cincinnati, Ohio, his family communiqué said it all about the character of this true space pioneer:

"For those who wonder what they can do to honor Neil. We have a simple request: Honor his example of service attitude, achievement, and modesty. And the next time you walk down the street on a clear night and see the moon smiling at you, think of Neil Armstrong and wink at him.

In his honor, a Moon crater, located just 50 kilometers from where the Eagle module landed, bears his name.

Questioned about his experience stepping on the Moon. Armstrong once told CBS:

"It's a very interesting place to be, I recommend it."

That was the philosophy of the man who took a giant step on behalf of humanity.

Source: Quadratin Agency

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