Recent, gogblog went to visit the life-size model of the Apollo Command Module in the rocket garden behind the Goddard Visitor Center. Amidst the hardware of the historic Aerobee and Delta launch systems dating to the dawn of the space age, Visitor Center program manager Bill Buckingham gave us an exclusive tour of command module model — a pretty good replica of the object that carried three humans to the moon back in the 60s.
The funnest part was squirming into the thing and getting a feel, literally, for the environment in which three full-grown men spent a week traveling to and from the Moon: working, eating, sleeping, and defecating in a space the size of a large closet. It gives you a new appreciation for the meaning of the word “hero.” I call that “Three men doing their business in a closet for a week.”
The command module model, among the most popular attractions at the Visitor Center, is feeling its age. Water seepage has taken its toll, and Bill is hoping to attract contributions from volunteers to restore the model to better shape. Here’s what Bill has to say about it.
It’s July 20, and on this day in 1969 the Apollo 11 astronauts put boots on the moon. This same day in 1976, the first of two Viking Landers thumped down on the Red Planet.
I’ve detected two distinct groups here at Goddard: the Apollo people and the Viking people. Some imaginations caught fire in the 60s with Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo and those daring young men with the right stuff. Others were awestruck in the 70s with the first images of the rusty plains of Mars.
Apollo 17's Moon
Apollo and Viking: these are the reasons why some of us are here, either making science or explaining it. Whether data logging or science blogging, we owe it to historic missions like Apollo and Viking that inspired the world with their demonstrations of the best that our clever little primate brains could create.
Apollo or Viking: It’s not a matter of taste, as in “Beatles or Rolling Stones?” It’s generational. It’s about how old you were when the respective spacecraft — the Eagle (on the moon) and Viking 1 (on Mars) — touched down.
Older than me? Probably an Apollo. About my age — a Viking. Perhaps some of the summer high school interns scurrying around the Goddard campus at the moment will someday blog about how they were members of the “space station generation.” Or the “shuttle kids.”
First color image
I was just reaching high school age when those magnificent panoramas of Chryse Planitia filled TV screens, scan line by scan line. It was a new world, and one spookily like our own. Sorry Apollo tribe, we’ve got you on that one!
On the other hand, the Apollos beat the Vikings for the simplicity, drama, and grateful beauty of these words, spoken in typical cowboy-astronaut understatement by Neil Armstrong: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
To be sure, the engineers who landed two half-ton contraptions on the surface of Mars were heroes. But not Neil Armstrong heroes. We didn’t believe in heroes anymore in the 70s, did we?
A windswept, arid landscape on another planet: Chryse Planitia. A flood plain at 23 degrees north latitude. There was something at once poetic, melancholy, and ineffable about that scene — something that was, and remains, difficult to compose into words.
It wasn’t the schoolboy and schoolgirl Mars dreamt of by anyone who read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars.
(If you are remotely interested in what this particular schoolboy was dreaming about Mars while reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, don’t miss the trailer for the 2009 B-movie A Princess of Mars.)
The real Mars didn’t have four-armed warriors, dinosaurlike beasts of burden, or sun-dappled canals. But Viking made me a marsaholic for life.
How about you? Apollo or Viking? Space Station or Shuttle? Where were YOU when the boots crunched the lunar dust, or when the pie-plate pads of Viking thumped the Red Planet?
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION?All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.