Last Wednesday morning (11/16/2022) at 6:15 a.m. CST I performed a ritual that I haven’t done since December 7, 1972, at 11.33 a.m. CST.
My attention was glued to the launch of a mission to the moon!
Now granted that 8-year-old kid back in ’72 was watching in wide-eyed wonderment at the spectacle of space flight unfolding in front of a large 25-inch Zenith console TV about the size of an average refrigerator laid on its side.
I was that kid. And Wednesday I watched it all on NASA TV…we call it Live Streaming now. But dammit the thrill of it has lost none of its fervor to this 58-year-old man!
November 16, 2022, at 6:15 a.m. NASA finally and successfully launched its new SLS (Space Launch System) topped with the new Orion spacecraft.
To give you an idea about the new SLS, let’s look at a bit of historical data.
The Might Apollo Saturn-5 Booster
Between 1968 and 1972, NASA launched the behemoth Saturn 5 with 5 F-1 engines producing 7 million pounds of thrust at lift-off.
The new SLS uses ‘overgrown’ elements of the Space Shuttle era. Two massive solid rocket boosters strapped to an even bigger external fuel tank that produces a much bigger bang for the buck at 8.5 million pounds of thrust.
Go big or go home I always said.
The BIG Difference Between ’72 and ‘22
As impressive as the new SLS system is and particularly when you see that big m!@#$%-f!@#$r come to life the really BIG difference in watching a moon shot now as opposed to then is….and I cringe when I say it….Social Media and The NASA TV App.
(If you follow me at all you know how I feel about the gazillion and one SaaS providers, platforms, and apps that scorch the pages of the internet every day while the world goes straight to hell)
Well, I guess this tech has its place because it is providing me with education and entertainment as well as fodder for my columns, newsletters, blogs, and random articles that I have for sale across a few websites. (shameless plug)
In ’72 all I had was that big ole Zenith with a cabinet big enough to hide several bodies. In ’22 I can track Artemis (that will be the call-sign name for every Orion mission to the moon followed by the mission number…this is Artemis-1) on my friggin’ phone…in real-time with no delay!
It Gets Even Better!
But I have not used my phone for this….I have a very nice 24-inch LED monitor and a very-very fast desktop computer that is receiving 72mbps from the Artemis-1 real-time tracking website.
And that shit rocks!
On a double monitor system, I can work and watch at the same time…that’s something that back in ’72 was still science fiction!
The Orion spacecraft is also equipped with its own WIFI network and when it flies behind the moon once firmly in a lunar orbit…no LOS (Loss of Signal)!
The cameras (64) planted on, in, and around the spacecraft are phenomenal. I can only imagine what kind of tech we would have now if our current tech was the ‘norm’ in ‘72!
But All is NOT Bigger and Better
With all of that computing and camera power and ability, it’s damn near the closest thing you will ever get to actually sitting in the cockpit and flying the damn thing!
BUT…and there has to be a but….But the coverage on NASA TV although well written, educational, and very informative, is about as out of place and awkward as a fart during a prayer in church!
I suppose I have very high standards…particularly where spaceflight is concerned…in the60s and early 70s there were only three channels to three networks and all three had their top news anchormen on the job.
Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, and David Brinkley were the three news gods that I got all of my NASA information from. They were on point, passionate, and delivered those missions to the TV masses in the same wide-eyed wonderment that certain kid I know had.
For cryin’ out loud….Cronkite actually wept on the air when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon!
Those anchor men will never be duplicated. Of course, anybody now with a cellphone is a complete news agency.
The bright-eyed bubble-head blonde on NASA TV giving me Artemis telemetry and updates should stop immediately…she has about as much passion for spaceflight as I do for lube-free prostate exams.
The teleprompter tells her what to say. I suppose she should learn how to read first.
And the face of NASA? Whoa! She needs to focus on what she does best and I am certain that would be her self-published Tik-Tok videos.
In fact, it’s rather hard to find many faces older than 30 in and around mission control. This brings me to another issue that just chapped my ass about an hour ago.
The New Mission Control
Sleek lines and multi-monitor workstations are all over the room that used to be where all the blood and guts stuff of space travel dwelled.
Long rows of heavy consoles (Zenith TV remember?), 25 to 30-year-old guys all dressed the same…white shirt, black tie, and every one of them finding solutions to orbital mechanical issues armed only with a slide-rule, coffee, and a thick layer of cigarette smoke hanging motionless throughout the entire room. Those guys were spaceflight warriors!
You wanna know what I saw going on in mission control today?
Maybe 10 or 12 people all sitting behind at least 5 monitors each. Now I get that part. Our space tech has developed to where the slide-rule has slid out and multitasking is the order for the day…I get that part.
What tore my panties up was this morning around 9:30ish during a crucial burn of the service module engine to put the Orion spacecraft on a trajectory to the intended lunar orbit insertion angle, one of the mission control ladies (yep) thought that would be a good time to roll down to the end of her desk away from the monitors, grab a muffin out of her purse and eat it!
When we first began going to the moon, the original cast of mission control hardcore flight engineers blocked the whole mission duration from their schedules…no time to eat, sleep, and bathroom breaks were scheduled during blackout times. NOBODY HAD TIME TO STROLL DOWN TO THEIR LUNCH BOX FOR A DAMN MUFFIN. Much less eat it while the cameras were rolling…she swallowed that muffin in three bites! I kid you not! Then she has to take the time to go back to her purse, grab a mirror, check that there was no muffin residue between her teeth, fluff her hair, and all during that crucial moment of the flight she decided it was break time!
Real mission controllers were called ‘Steely-Eyed Missle Men’! Watch Apollo 13 and tell me I’m lying! That quote is from that movie. You can also see that reference in Chuck Yeager’s autobiography, and Dick Rutan and Jenna Yeager’s (Chuck’s daughter) written account of their nonstop flight around the world, ‘Voyager’.
I do suppose that I hold those early pioneers in high regard but a muffin break?
There’s a sign in mission control that says NO PHOTOS, it should read NO PHOTOS OR MUFFINS BEYOND THIS POINT!
Well, it’s time for an update on NASA TV…God, grant me the patience to watch this without any harm coming to anyone if I start throwing things!