Reliving Apollo 11

| May 1, 2013

As I wrote here years ago, I was a child of the space age and later ended up working (as a contractor) at NASA/Johnson Space Center on the Space Shuttle flight simulators, then next door at the Lunar and Planetary Institute. And so with interest, I found over at What’s Up With That this link to a truly amazing web-based real-time recreation of the Apollo 11 descent to the Moon.   As Anthony Watts says, “Trust me, this will be the best 18 minutes you ever spend online.” Having just done so, I agree.

You see actual footage from the Apollo 11 landing module, while hearing (and reading) synchronized, real-time discussions going on at Mission Control, in the command module, and in the landing module. Furthermore, when you see underlined text in the discussions, you can mouse over to get pop-up boxes explaining the significance of certain items.

What struck me while watching this, in a visceral way that never has before, is what an astounding, near-miraculous, and incredibly gutsy accomplishment this was. We’re talking about technology that is nearly half a century removed from our present day, in an unforgiving and inaccessibly remote environment, with little opportunity to take “baby steps’ towards the actual landing. So much could have gone wrong (as per Apollo 13), and yet we did not lose a single astronaut on these missions. Indeed, we can’t even replicate these missions nowadays.

This is not a lead-in to a plea that NASA be given lots of money and a mandate to return to the moon. Quite the contrary: I believe NASA was the major roadblock to human expansion into space for much of the time since Apollo. Private enterprise and endeavors are the future of human space exploration, and they are finally pushing forward, albeit decades later than they should have.

Here’s the good news: both aerospace and information technology have advanced in the past 45 years. Given what the US accomplished with Apollo in the 1960s, I believe that private endeavors can return to the moon — and perhaps even more — in what remains of my lifetime. Lives will almost certainly be lost in the process, but that has always been the cost of exploration and expansion.

It is a glorious time to be alive.  Now, go land on the moon.  ..bruce..


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Category: Main, Space

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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