Saturday, April 25, 2009

Staking my claim to lunar real estate

On April 27, 1972, when I was in high school, I purchased from Lunar Services Corporation of Alexandria, Virginia, a deed to a small portion of lunar real estate near the crater Agrippa, for the grand total of $5.00. The purchase was documented with the quitclaim deed shown in this post, as well as several lunar maps.

I would have been surprised in 1972 to hear that it may be 50 years before anyone goes back to the Moon. I guess my chances of putting my own feet on "my property" are pretty slim. I'm especially upset that Lunar Services Corporation is apparently no longer around to help me assert my claim!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Project Highwater

On April 25, 1962, the United States launched the second Saturn rocket into space. The suborbital flight was both a test of the booster as well as an interesting scientific experiment.

The Saturn-Apollo 2 vehicle had a standard S-IB first stage. The upper two stages were dummies ("battleships," in rocket parlance) filled with 95 tons of water. When the first stage cut off at about 65 miles altitude, the upper stages were detonated, and the water was released into the upper atmosphere. Rapidly-expanding ice clouds formed, and lightning-like static discharges were observed from the ground. The cloud continued moving upward to a height of about 100 miles.

Investigators were interested in examining the effects of a sudden discharge of liquid into the upper atmosphere (such as would happen if a rocket exploded at high altitude). They also tested the effects on radio transmissions from such a disturbance in the ionosphere.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On the Moon with Apollo 16

Apollo 16 landed in the Descartes Highlands of the Moon on April 21, 1972. John Young and Charlie Duke spent three days exploring the craters and mountains around their landing site.

This was another landing that almost didn't happen. After the Lunar Module Orion separated from the Command Module Casper, Ken Mattingly had difficulty with the backup system for steering the Service Module's main engine. This could have affected the crew's ability to return to Earth. The landing was delayed, and Orion and Casper flew in formation for 6 hours, until Mission Control assured the crew that everything was ok.

One of the most uncomfortable situations for the crew resulted from potassium supplements which had been added to their food and orange juice. Flight surgeons believed that the heart problems experienced by Apollo 15 moonwalkers Dave Scott and Jim Irwin were attributable to loss of potassium, so they added large doses of the mineral and citrus fruit to the Apollo 16 crew's diet. The potassium acted as a laxative, and the crew nearly depleted their supply of fecal bags. John Young was infamously and unknowlingly captured on his open mic talking to Charlie Duke about his reaction to the potassium: "I got the farts again, Charlie...I mean, I haven't eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years! And I'll tell you one thing, in another 12 f*cking days, I ain't never eating any more."