Saturday, July 4, 2009

Apollo 7,8 : Rising From the Ashes

Apollo 7 had to be perfect in every way to keep the dream alive. This was a must win for NASA or funding could be yanked. NASA knew this and went with the most experienced commander available. His name was Wally Schirra. With rides on Mercury and Gemini already under his belt, Wally was destined to be the only Astronaut to catch rides on all three programs. This was only one of the firsts for Apollo7 the accolades include the first three man US crew in space, first live American TV broadcast and the first manned launch of the Saturn 1B Launch vehicle (Rocket). The Command module was extensively reworked and a lot of new gear was added or improved upon all wire was covered now with heavy insulation. Apollo 7 had one thing to prove and that was the space-worthiness of this design.

The launch on October 11th 1968 was uneventful which is always a good thing when it comes to space ships. Schirra was a tad upset that the escape procedure was not well worked out for the assent part of the mission but NASA pressed on and the launch took place anyway. High stakes gambling to be sure was going on in some respects of this mission. This shakedown mission lasted for 11 days. Were there problems well yes always but most were a crew thing. The crew hated the food Wally got a head cold which kind of made him edgy. The cramped quarters albeit in a "spacious" Apollo capsule made for friction between the crew and Capcom. This was the last ride for all of the crew and the friction and Static given Command control was the main reason. I can see the director getting out his eraser and the future crew list as the war of words continued between the two factions. The crew even felt a bit of motion sickness. Things were not Rosy for Apollo 7 but did their job very well and all systems on the craft performed so well that Apollo 8 was given the green light. Just as a side note Can you put a rating on the pucker factor for this mission? These three Men, Walter Schirra, Don Eisele, and Walter Cunningham were the next guys to enter into an Apollo space craft after the deaths of their fellow Astronauts and friends to boot. Schirra wanted to call sign Apollo7 Phoenix after the mythical bird that is reborn from its ashes It was a tribute to the Apollo 1 crew that had lost its life in 1967. the folks that make the decisions disagreed and so the Phoenix call sign never made it over the air but it was carried with every man as they climbed into the azure sky and into history.

All systems are go for Apollo 8 and go they did! This is arguably the most historic flight by man in all of history. Wow now there is a bold statement but with good reason. They were the first men to break free of the Earths gravity, set a speed record, fly to another celestrial body and orbit it then break that orbit only to fly back and land safely on earth! wow ! The Apollo 8 mission was to be a low orbit mission using the Lunar Module and working the connection etc. with the LM/CM but when the people of Grumman could not deliver a mission ready LM the mission was changed to a lunar orbiting mission. The crew of Apollo 8 were the first men to see the dark side of the Moon with their own eyes.There were a few glitches but for the most part things went well if you count erasing some data from the nav computer so it does not know where it is bad . Yes Jim Lovell did just that but recovered by getting the positions logged back into the computer. Whew!!! Frank Borman had his own issues as he tried to go to sleep by taking a secanol (sleeping pill). It did not work very well and Frank became sick at both ends so to speak. We now believe this was space adaptation syndrome. It happens to about 1/3 of all astronauts. it takes a bit of time for the body to adjust to space and the result was a mess in the cockpit as the crew tried to clean up both varieties of mess left by Borman. Astronauts are human too!!!This shot of earthrise was one of Life magazines 100 pictures that changed history I would say number one with a bullet and so did Life with 1968 being a down year for the world in general. Apollo saved the day.They made 20 orbits around the Moon and on the ninth which was on Christmas eve the crew quoted the first ten versus in Genesis . On Christmas the crew found themselves eating turkey and stuffing 70 miles above the Moon. What no Pumpkin Pie? This was a humdinger in the world of big stuff. The director of the Soviet Space Agency said this was an outstanding accomplishment for America and its space program. Now That is Huge! Next week gets us a little closer as Apollo 9 hits the stage!!!

Clear skies and great seeing too

Steve T

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