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

Buenos Aire's physicist, Javier Rodríguez, about the challenges of the trip to the Moon in 1969 and those that will come.

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

With computers less powerful than a cell phones, 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. 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 concerning 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? 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 very low stars, 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 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 does not weigh 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 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 pleasantly. This is how theories such as the Terraplanista or the theory that man did not reach the Moon and is 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 us to continue preparing for 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, on the Moon, many objects and remains of rockets and Rovers 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, 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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