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Jim Gilchrist

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  • 4 months later...

Wall writings on Apollo 11 command module revealed

 11 February 2016 

By Jane O'Brien BBC News, Washington

The crew of Apollo 11
The crew of Apollo 11    Image copyright Getty Images



Marking time has been a human obsession ever since the beginning of time itself.

From the first rudimentary cave markings to wall planners, desk diaries and computerized charts -

calendars have always been with us.


Now scientists at the Smithsonian Institution have rediscovered what may be the first calendar created in space.


An ambitious project is underway to map a 3D model of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia -

the only surviving part of the first manned mission to land on the Moon.

Few people have seen inside the capsule -

since NASA transferred it to the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, in 1970.


But following extensive digital scans and high resolution photography, a number of markings have come to light -

including a calendar drawn onto the walls.


"It's a bit of a puzzle," says curator Allan Needell.


The calendar consists of a rectangle divided into boxes identified by the first letters of the days of the week.

It begins on 16 July - the launch date of the 1969 mission - and ends on 24 July  -

when the crew returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean.


It could only have been drawn by one of the three astronauts - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin or Michael Collins.


All the boxes, except for 24 July, are crossed out, says Needell, as if somebody was literally counting the days.


"When you think about it, they didn't have a sunset or sunlight.

They had a clock which showed what's called Mission Elapsed Time.

But once it gets past the first 24 hours it doesn't translate very well."



Wall calendar A calendar discovered during the 3-d scan of the Apollo 11 module

He believes the calendar was probably created by Michael Collins -

who stayed in the Command Module while the other two landed on the Moon.


"He would have been the loneliest man in the universe -

because whenever he passed behind the Moon he couldn't talk to anyone else."

"There was no radio contact or anything."

"One of the things he may have done in that time was written the calendar on the wall."

"It's protected with plastic sheeting and taped over with duct tape."

"My imagination tells me that when Mission Elapsed Time showed another day had gone by -

he pulled up the corner of the duct tape, crossed off another day and pulled it back down."


Neil Armstrong died in 2012, but Needell contacted Aldrin and Collins to ask them about the calendar.

He says neither had any firm recollection of it, but Aldrin said it was most likely drawn by Collins.


Other wall markings include a warning, "smelly waste," written under a closed locker -

and there are various sets of numbers.


panel that says  

Locker B2 was initially reserved for personal items -

but this message indicates that the contents changed during the flight

Image copyright Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

"As they were going around the Moon they would have to have specific instructions  -

for when to fire the rockets, for how long and what thrust."

"All those instructions were being transmitted to them and it was essential they got them right."

"They wrote some of those numbers on the walls and the control panels."


The astronauts' movements would have been restricted by cumbersome suits and weightlessness -

and although they had notepads, Needell says it was probably easier to simply scribble instructions on the walls.


He is now examining voice recordings and NASA logs -

to piece together the exact time the markings would have been made.


The Columbia Command Module was the astronauts' living quarters but never actually landed on the moon.

The Service Module contained the propulsion system and the Lunar Module, nicknamed Eagle -

was the craft used by Armstrong and Aldrin to reach the moon's surface.



The inscription reads: Spacecraft 107, alias Apollo 11, alias  
Following splashdown, astronaut Michael Collins crawled back into the command module to write this short note

         Image copyright Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum


"These markings bring to life this static object that in some ways is just symbolic of going to the moon.

It reveals physical details that enrich the written details, video and audio recordings we have.

It adds another layer to the story," says Needell.


He hopes that the new images and digital information will spark public interest -

and generate additional information about Apollo 11 -

One of the most important milestones in space exploration.




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  • 3 weeks later...


While looking, online, for the PBS show: "A Year in Space" (the 'Scott Kelly' story) - this came up:

(And, though obviously dated - I had a good chuckle ...)


The Astronaut's Guide To Life In Space

Uploaded on Jul 12, 2011

NPR requested from NASA this 1980s-era video with commentary by astronauts of various missions. The footage, which we edited, arrived on VHS. We don't know much about it, except that it's playful in tone, so we decided to have some fun with it, too. Here's an "instructional video" on survival in space, in case we ever decide to resurrect the program.

Credit: Emily Bogle & Mito Habe-Evans/NPR




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  • 3 weeks later...

A Year in Space | Full Episode

55:37 minutes

Expires: 04/01/16

Follow astronaut Scott Kelly’s record-breaking 12-month mission on the International Space Station -

from launch to landing, as NASA charts the effects of long-duration spaceflight -

by comparing him to his identical twin on Earth, astronaut Mark Kelly.

A Year in Space is available for online streaming through April 2.    http://www.pbs.org/video/2365680754/



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  • 2 months later...

Astronauts’ instructions for how to land on moon sell for $175,000 in Dallas

From The Associated Press:

DALLAS — Three pages with the step-by-step computer procedures that U.S. astronauts followed to land the Apollo 11 lunar module on the moon’s surface in 1969 have been sold for $175,000.

Heritage Auctions says the pages sold Friday in a Dallas auction to an American collector who wished to remain anonymous.

Heritage says the pages were originally from the personal collection of Buzz Aldrin, the pilot of the lunar module.

Michael Riley of Heritage calls the pages “incredible artifacts from humankind’s first landing on the moon.” Riley added that they “guided our first real steps away from the earth.”

The pages come from the manual and checklist for the operation.


"It's been almost 48 years since I took a ride in this thing."



One could say, that - Those 3 pages, might be considered to be among the ultimate  " R. T.  F.  M. " ?   

 As in:  "Failure is not an option"


Here is more on the history of that statement:


Gene Kranz is a retired NASA Flight Director and manager.

Kranz served as a Flight Director, the successor to NASA founding Flight Director Chris Kraft- 

during the Gemini and Apollo programs -

And is best known for his role in directing the successful Mission Control team efforts  -

to save the crew of Apollo 13 -

which later became the subject story of a major motion picture of the same name -

in which he was portrayed by actor Ed Harris.


Gene Kranz has become associated with the phrase "failure is not an option".

It was uttered by actor Ed Harris, playing Kranz, in the 1995 film Apollo 13.


Kranz then used it as the title of his 2000 autobiography.


Later it became the title of a 2004 television documentary about NASA, as well as of that documentary's sequel, Beyond the Moon: Failure Is Not an Option 2.

Since then, it has entered general parlance as a motivational phrase.


Kranz travels all over the world giving a motivational lecture titled "Failure Is Not an Option", including the historic Apollo 13 flight control room.


"Failure is not an option" was in fact coined by Bill Broyles, one of the screenwriters of Apollo 13, based on a similar statement made not by Kranz, but another member of the Apollo 13 mission control crew, FDO Flight Controller Jerry Bostick.


According to Bostick:

As far as the expression 'Failure is not an option', you are correct that Kranz never used that term.

In preparation for the movie, the script writers, Al Reinart and Bill Broyles, came down to Clear Lake to interview me on "What are the people in Mission Control really like?"

One of their questions was "Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?"

My answer was "No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them.

We never panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution."

I immediately sensed that Bill Broyles wanted to leave and assumed that he was bored with the interview.

Only months later did I learn that when they got in their car to leave, he started screaming, "That's it! That's the tag line for the whole movie, Failure is not an option. Now we just have to figure out who to have say it."

Of course, they gave it to the Kranz character, and the rest is history.

Kranz chose it as the title of his 2000 autobiography because he liked the way the line reflected the attitude of mission control.

In the book, he states, "a creed that we [NASA's Mission Control Center] all lived by: 'Failure is not an option'", though the book does not indicate that the phrase is apocryphal.

from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Kranz#.22Failure_is_not_an_option.22

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  • 2 weeks later...
Published on Jun 1, 2016

Over the weekend, astronauts aboard the orbiting International Space Station added a module like none other. Think an RV that expands out the back with extra space for sleeping quarters. In the case of the ISS, it was an inflatable Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). It’s made of a material stronger than kevlar and could be a game-changer. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports.


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  • 3 years later...



The Rescue of Apollo 11

Captain Hank Brandli knew a terrible secret in the summer of 1969:


The U.S. Air Force meteorologist had classified information indicating danger to the Apollo 11 crew returning to Earth from their historic mission.



By Noel McCormack  National Reconnaissance Office  Chantilly, Va., July 16, 2019




The Apollo 11 command module after splashing down July 24, 1969.  NASA






They had done it—the Eagle had landed.


Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had walked on the moon, raised the American flag, collected samples, and then blasted off for a perfectly executed lunar orbit rendezvous with Michael Collins in the command module Columbia.


Now they were headed home on the final leg of the trip for a July 24th splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.


However, from his highly classified weather forecasting work, Captain Brandli realized that instead of a heroes’ welcome, the astronauts could face a watery grave.


Brandli worked at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii as weather tracking and prediction specialist, with an NRO satellite known as 417, a program later re-designated as the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP)1.


This weather satellite supported the top secret Corona reconnaissance satellite program—one of the Cold Wars’ most closely guarded secrets.


The Corona satellites photographed “denied” areas, such as the Soviet Union, China, and other areas of interest, from Earth orbit.


Program planners knew from Rand Corporation studies and early mission results that imaging success depended on accurate and timely meteorological forecasts of the Eurasian landmass.


Indeed, initial Corona missions flown during 1960–61 delivered some very expensive photographs of clouds.


Corona’s weather eye-in-the-sky had its beginnings in 1961, when Under Secretary of the Air Force Joseph V. Charyk, who was dual-hatted as the first director of the NRO (DNRO), arranged the organization, construction, and funding for a weather satellite program that would become known as DMSP.


Before long, designers, technicians, and engineers developed a series of very successful defense meteorological “birds” and ground stations, like the one at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam, where Brandli first worked with the DMSP Block 4 satellite in 1966.


Brandli was not cleared for Corona while he served in Vietnam, so he was told a cover story.


“I was always under the impression that we launched those weather satellites and systems for the war… People would ask, ‘why is it so classified?’

They said [it was] because we signed an agreement with the Russians that we would share meteorological information,” he explained.


1(Before its designation as DMSP, the weather satellite program had a succession of numeric and alphabetic names, including Program II, P-35, 698BH, 417, and Defense Systems Applications Program. In order to avoid confusion, this article uses the current designation DMSP throughout)  


It wasn’t until after the weather expert left Vietnam to assume new duties in support of the Corona program that he learned of DMSP’s primary mission: “When I went to Hawaii in ‘67, it all came together,” Brandli recalled.  


“I say, Holy Smokes, that’s what this weather satellite is for—to support Corona! We wanted the best weather information so we could turn the cameras on over the Soviet Union and China and Cuba.”


At Hickam, Brandli’s weather reports and forecasts ensured that film return capsules deorbited from CORONA satellites returned to clear skies over the Pacific Ocean.


The film return capsules, known as “buckets,” descended by parachute and were captured in mid-air by specially outfitted cargo aircraft. Few people were aware of what the Air Force meteorologist really did. “It was so top secret that I wasn’t allowed to show anybody… In the 6594th Test Group that ran the C-130s that caught the film canister, there was only one guy who knew… The Vice Commander wasn’t even briefed. It was wicked hush-hush,” Brandli recalled.




An Air Force cargo plane recovers a film canister ejected by a spy satellite. (U.S. Army)



During the Apollo missions of the late 1960s, Brandli discovered that he could use high resolution DMSP satellite data to forecast weather anywhere within the area stretching from the equator up to 25 degrees of latitude, five days in advance, which was unheard of in those days.


“We noticed violent thunderstorm weather patterns: high-level vortexes that were bird-like, almost an eagle shape.


We dubbed them Screaming Eagles,” he remembered. In mid-July 1969, in the course of his forecasting duties, Brandli saw clearly that the Apollo 11 astronauts were scheduled to splash down directly into the path of violent thunderstorms characterized by these destructive high-altitude winds.


“It was a crazy situation,” Brandli said in a Dec. 13, 2004, Aviation Week and Space Technology article.  https://aviationweek.com/awin/usaf-navy-weathermen-saved-apollo-11-astronauts-disaster


“With just 72 hours to go, I had all these classified photos of a deadly ‘Screaming Eagle’ thunderstorm, with tops at 50,000 feet, forming over exactly where I knew the Apollo 11 astronauts were going to come down.


The [storm] would have ripped their parachutes to shreds.


Without parachutes, they’d have crashed into the ocean with a force that would have killed them instantly.


I was the only person who knew this and, because the [DMSP] program and its technology were strictly classified, I couldn’t warn NASA.”


Brandli took action to bring his secret knowledge to the attention of the right people, putting into motion risky actions to try to save the astronauts’ lives.


He found out that the U.S. Navy was in charge of forecasting weather for the Apollo 11 mission.


Brandli contacted the DoD chief weather officer, Navy Captain Willard (Sam) Houston, Jr., at the Fleet Weather Center in Pearl Harbor, knowing that he had to convince CAPT Houston of the danger.


 “Thank God it was him, because Houston was briefed on 417 (DMSP),” said Brandli, adding that, “Ironically, he was the guy that briefed President Johnson on a cloud seeding program that I worked on in Vietnam.


We had a lot in common, even though I had never met him.” Brandli told Houston, “There’s going to be a real problem. I want you to meet me in the parking lot of the 6594th Test Group hangar at Hickam Air Force Base.”


Houston had just arrived in Hawaii, and wasn’t briefed on CORONA, but he did have DMSP clearances, so Brandli took him to his secure office in the 6594th’s Headquarters Building.


According to the Aviation Week story, Houston recalled, “When I got to the vault, Captain Hank Brandli literally yanked me though the door. The DMSP classified images showed all the signs of a major tropical storm forming over the splashdown site, but due to security and the chain of command, [Brandli] was locked in and couldn’t tell anyone. I’d arrived just in time.”


Having shown the DMSP imagery to Houston, Brandli convinced him he had proof that the landing site needed to be changed.


Although he had irrefutable proof, “CAPT Houston had to convince [Rear] Admiral [Donald C.] Davis without the photos, which were from a satellite that wasn’t supposed to exist,” stressed Brandli.


Houston did manage to convince Davis, who responded that now he (Houston) would have to convince Washington, saying, “I don’t think they’ll have any choice… You’d better be right, young man!”

Davis had to reroute the entire USS Hornet carrier task force, which was to support the returning Apollo 11 crew, to the new splashdown area before he received official orders to do so.


If Houston was mistaken about the storm, or if the orders didn’t come, “it was a career-ender for both of us, and we knew it,” Houston said.


“With Rear Admiral Davis moving already, redirecting the carrier task force to a new location, I called the satellite program office to ensure that NASA’s chief meteorologist declared a national emergency,” Houston added.


After all, President Richard M. Nixon was scheduled to greet the returning heroes on the Hornet.


With some difficulty, NASA and the U.S. Navy made last-minute changes to Apollo 11’s reentry and splashdown profile, saving the astronauts and their mission.



On July 24, 1969, the astronauts finally returned to Earth, where they were met with sunny skies and placid seas.


Navy swimmers practice recovering a dummy command module on July 11, 1969. (Milt Putnam/U.S. Navy)


Thirty years later, in 1995, when President Clinton declassified the Corona project, Houston and Brandli could at last reveal their secret.


Houston was finally able to talk about the Navy Commendation medal he received from then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., for saving Apollo 11.


Reminiscing about what could have gone wrong, Brandli observed, “It was a huge undertaking to move the carrier recovery fleet and convince the ‘powers that be’ to change the landing site. CAPT Houston did a hell of a job. I often wonder: if it had been anyone else, would it have happened the same way?”


“When you look back,” Houston agreed, “so many things had to happen to make it come out right.”


Brandli noted that after the declassification effort, Houston told him, “They sent reconnaissance aircraft out to check [the weather], and we were right on the money,” said Brandli, adding, “and I never knew that for thirty years.”


The Corona satellite reconnaissance program exceeded all expectations by giving much to the science of astronautics and in the areas of strategic reconnaissance, arms control, treaty verification, as well as the study of the environment, global change, and archaeology.


Corona, through its weather support system partner, DMSP, performed in ways never imagined by its supporters.


Indeed, in December 1969, soon after the Apollo 11 mission, two high-level NRO visitors came to Hawaii to learn first hand of the weather satellite’s contributions, said Brandli, who believes that if there hadn’t been a Corona program, there would not have been a DSMP.


“[Dr.] John McLucas and Dr. Robert Naka visited us in Hawaii to see what we were doing,” Brandli said, unaware at the time that both men supervised the National Reconnaissance Program, as DNRO and DDNRO, respectively, in addition to performing their public Air Force-titled duties.


“I showed them the Screaming Eagle [thunderstorm] images… They were very impressed by our work, particularly Dr. Naka, who was an optics expert and fascinated by DMSP imagery, including the ringed halos we spotted over the Mt. Kilauea volcano, which he identified as high-altitude light refractions.”


It is no wonder that McLucas and Naka were impressed with the Corona and DMSP programs and all the people who made them a reality.


This summer [2019], we can all take a minute to appreciate the important role these people played in support of the Apollo 11 crew and mission, described as the greatest technological achievement of all time.




Noel A. Mccormack is a senior research historian in the History Section of the NRO Center for the Study of National Reconnaissance (CSNR). 


(The author based this article on his June 14, 2005 interview with retired USAF LtCol Hank Brandli and a Dec.13, 2004 Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine “Contrails” article, “Saving Apollo 11,” by retired USAF LtCol Hank Brandli and Barbara Honegger. Quotations and paragraphs describing the role of U.S. Navy CAPT Willard (Sam) Houston, Jr., also were taken from the referenced article: https://aviationweek.com/awin/usaf-navy-weathermen-saved-apollo-11-astronauts-disaster )


Official records from the time note that poor weather forced NASA to change the splashdown site, but they make no mention of Brandli, Houston or the satellite.  https://www.history.navy.mil/content/dam/nhhc/research/archives/apollo-11/tf-130-apollo-11.pdf


What is publicly known of their heroics largely comes from interviews they gave before they died, many of which Brandli collected on his personal website: http://libertyyes.homestead.com/hankbrandli.html


Brandli died in 2007.





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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 8 months later...





Apollo 13 Has Its 50th Anniversary And Divulges Hidden Warning Signs Applicable To Today’s AI Systems Including Self-Driving Cars


Few of the public know how a series of events led up to the innocuous “ticking time bomb” that the offending tank portended for the mission.




As a recap of the key lessons:

a)      Don’t make initial errors

b)     Once an initial error is made, don’t half-bake a fix

c)      Complexities sometimes make it hard to figure out a fix or know that a fix worked

d)     The end-user of a system is generally at the mercy of those that made the system


There are other lessons embedded in the saga ...


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