Friday, November 28, 2008

Appreciating the Space Junkie community

I'm visiting my son, Kenny, in Fayetteville, NC over the Thanksgiving holiday. In the week prior to leaving home, I purchased a Gene Cernan-autographed Apollo 17 Beta cloth patch from an online auction site. As luck would have it, the seller lives and works within 20 minutes of Kenny's home. I was able to meet him in town today and pick up the patch, saving him the hassle and me the expense of his mailing it. It was also a great opportunity to meet yet another member of the space collecting community and hear, even in just a few minutes, some stories about the treasures he has found over the years.

Yesterday, I received a "happy Thanksgiving" email from another collector in England. This is someone I have never met, but who has corresponded with me regarding the Apollo 8 lecture I saw earlier this month. What a nice gesture, especially from someone for whom this is not even a holiday!

I'm never sure quite what the collectors' attitudes are going to be toward each other, especially since we may end up competing for the same items. However, the "thrill of the hunt" and the shared love for the space program and our heroes bind us tighter together than competition can push us apart.

And I got a big item OUT of my collection this holiday. I finally was able to deliver to Kenny the model of the UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter that I started building for him 1-1/2 years ago!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Okay, this isn't exactly a lunar module or a space collectible, but it's where I was living during the Apollo program - 8803 Badger Drive, Alexandria, Virginia.

Like many kids my age...let me rephrase that - like many of the nerds my age at the time of the moon landings, I did my share of pretending to be an astronaut. In addition to my models of the Saturn V and the LM, I made good use of walkie-talkies and cardboard boxes. The porch and stairs down from the back of the house were just as good as a LM, except that I got an occasional splinter from the wooden stairs. I'm sure that splinters were never a problem for Neil and Buzz.

Once on the "surface," I used a flexible grabber (used for clearing drain clogs) as my lunar sampler. I also went through many boxes of Baggies to store the rock samples I collected in the yard.

In the summer, when we deployed our above-ground pool, I would occasionally tether myself to the pool ladder as I did underwater spacewalks to clean the inner wall of the pool.

Perhaps it was a good thing that I did this in the back yard, out of view of the rest of the neighborhood!

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's ... Different!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I was unusually fortunate (for the space collecting community) that my very first autograph was of the famous Apollo 8 Earth rise photo, signed in person for me in February 1969 by Bill Anders. I have had this picture in my possession for nearly 40 years, and I know it like the back of my hand.

Realizing that the crews are getting old - Frank Borman and Jim Lovell are both 80 now - I thought that I might be approaching the last opportunities to get the whole crew's signature on this photo. I got in touch with local DC-area collector Steve Smith, who was going to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation show at Kennedy Space Center this month, and he agreed to take the photo to get it signed by Lovell. Steve snapped this photo of Lovell with the picture as documentation of it being personally signed.

So now I have this picture with Lovell's signature added, and I am surprised that I feel conflicted on seeing it!! The feeling is very much like a friend who I have known for 40 years suddenly getting a tattoo on their face...a very nice tattoo, but their face is forever changed from the way I have always known it. Am I getting that old and resistant to change? Or am I that attached to a "thing" that I have trouble letting go of the way it was? Or am I just whining? I'm sure there are plenty of people who would gladly take this item off my hands to put me out of my misery!!

Anyway, I do hope to add Frank Borman's signature the next time he does a signing. And I promise not to whine about it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Apollo 12 mission analyzer

Something you'd probably never see for a space mission in the age of ubiquitous computers is this "Guidance and Navigation Mission Analyzer" from Raytheon. It consists of three concentric circular scales on the front and two on the back. It's basically a portable flight plan for the key events of the mission. These were used by engineers and support team members. Since each mission was different, there were separate analyzers provided for each Apollo mission.

To use it, you align the arrow on the blue ring for the first key event, Translunar Insertion, with the actual day and time that it occurred, as shown on the outer ring. Then, by rotating the inner ring so that its arrow points to a day and time of interest, you can read in the cutout window the events scheduled to transpire at that time.

The back of the analyzer deals with launch, lunar module activities, and Earth reentry activities. When I scanned in the image above, I set the window to show the activities during EVA 2 at the Surveyor 3 site.

I would have killed to have something like this back during the missions! Circular slide rules still have their uses today, primarily by pilots.