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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Tag: Sputnik I

Edited by Gerald Boerner



JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumbAmerica was challenged by its new, young President, John F. Kennedy, who at his inauguration called for the U.S. to put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the 1960s. This was a major escalation of the space race that began when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I in 1957. The scientific, engineering, and manufacturing resources of America was directed towards this goal. I remember the pride that I felt when that first man stepped onto the lunar surface.

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This quest to conquer space was not always successful. Launch vehicles failed, New technological solutions needed to be tweaked. scores of personnel needed to be trained. And a whole new science, telemetry, had to be developed. There were accidents happened; the worst of these occurred when three astronauts died in their command module of the Apollo 1 in 1967. The was a major, if temporary setback for the program.

But this problem was solved and man eventually did walk on the moon. We did achieve the goal presented to us by that President whose life was also lost to an assassin. You should check out my series on the Space Race; it is found under the “Emerging Technologies” menu tab. Many different developments needed to come together to accomplish this great goal.

When we look back at the contributions of the space program during the 1960s, we see amazing strides being made. I was in college at that time and saw these changes all around me. Living in Downey, California, put me near the nerve center of these advances, since North American Autonetics was just down the street. This was the company that designed and built the Apollo module. The computer brains behind the engineering and programming the onboard avionics for many of these missions. Much of the liquid Oxygen was generated in nearby Ontario and transported across the country by the trucking company I worked for during graduate school.


At the beginning of the decades of the 1960s, computers were the devices that engineers operated. By the end of the 1960s, these devices became both more powerful and easier for the non-engineer to operate. At the beginning of the decade, telecommunications meant the telephones connected to AT&T, but by the end of the decade the first IMP (Internet Message Processor) had been delivered to UCLA, SRI, and the UC Santa Barbara campuses to test out the primitive ARPAnet that became the Internet two decades later. At the beginning of the decade found medical monitoring done with a stethoscope by a doctor, but by the end of the decade we had remote monitoring capability that allowed Mission Control to monitor the vital signs for astronauts in space. And, at the beginning of the decade computer-controlled systems required direct, hand-on manipulation while at the end of the decade new instructions could be sent the space vehicles hundreds of miles away. This was real progress brought about by the space program under NASA’s oversight.

Yes, on that terrible day in January of 1967 we lost three well-trained, good men in that capsule fire aboard the Apollo I module. But our space program was fortunate that these were the only deaths that we experienced during a decade of monumental progress. We don’t know how many, if any, Soviet cosmonauts were lost during their space program development; the Soviet’s maintained a closed society where any such losses were probably hidden to outsiders. We paid a small price for our successful landing on the moon.

But now its time to start our exploration of the Apollo 1 Program... GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 2975 Words ]


Quotations Related to Apollo:

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“He who commands an Apollo flight will not command a second one.”
— Wally Schirra

“At this point in my career, Apollo 13 is a million light years away.”
— Kathleen Quinlan

“Kennedy had made a mess in Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. He had to do something to look good. The Apollo program of going to the Moon was quite a goal.”
— Wally Schirra

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Edited by Gerald Boerner



JerryPhotoToday we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. launch of a chimp, Ham, into a suborbital flight. The completion of this and follow-up flights paved the way for human astronaunts to follow in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Projects. Our quest of space was triggered by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I in 1957. President Eisenhower took the control of the military and placed it into the hands of a new civilian agency. This agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), was to end the contention among the different military services for the recognition for space success; NASA would provide a single, integrated approach to space.

When President Kennedy called for landing a man on the moon, the wisdom of Eisenhower’s creation of NASA became clear. The technology for accomplishing this task was NOT available in 1961. Our computers were relatively crude and slow; they lacked both the ease of use by non-engineers and the programming languages to pull off this task. We lacked any way of communicating efficiently with the space capsule for voice, data, and biomedical monitoring. We also needed to develop new materials and systems for the human environments within a space capsule. In short, we needed to accomplish, perhaps, a century’s worth of scientific advancement in less than a decade!

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Fortunately, the U.S. has already “pulled off” a similar feat during World War II in the Manhattan Project. The nation’s resources had been mobilized once in this century, so we knew that we could do it again. We mobilized our scientists, engineers, and manufacturers to attack these various problems. The resources of our universities were also brought to bear; this did not the extreme secrecy needs that the development of the atomic bomb had. When all was said and done, I stood proud when Neil Armstrong took that first steo on the moon in 1969. I was just as proud when the lifted themselves off the moon’s surface, docked with the command vehicle, an returned to earth.

Some of the drama of the space chimps was shown in the movie, “Space Cowboys”. But, let’s now explore the real story of this adventure…  GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 4236 Words ]


Quotations Related to NASA:


“NASA should start thinking about this planet.”
— Wally Schirra

“For quite some time, women at NASA only had scientific backgrounds.”
— Sally Ride

“At the end of our NASA careers, no one had a place for us in the military.”
— Wally Schirra

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