"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)
Monday, 26 April 2010
We Is Down Among ’Em Charlie
Yesterday I fulfilled a long held ambition to see with my own eyes an actual Apollo spacecraft. Obviously a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre is my ultimate goal, but till that glorious day I am more than happy with my visit this weekend to the Science Museum in London where I was able to see the Apollo 10 Command Module Capsule. So here I am with Charlie Brown.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, it was important for Mission Control to be able to communicate clearly between the two different spacecraft so giving space ships names wasn't just affectation. Pilots naming their aircraft was something of a tradition in aviation circles, so the Apollo astronauts were allowed to name their spacecraft with the Apollo 10 crew deciding on the call sign Charlie Brown for the CSM and Snoopy for the Lunar Module. Why Charlie Brown and Snoopy? Well, it was the ‘60’s, there was a lot of crazy stuff going on but the mission for Apollo 10, a dry run as it were for the first moon landing by Apollo 11, called for the LM to get close to but not land on the surface of the moon. At its lowest the LM got to just under 9 miles from the lunar surface. While there, they were to “snoop” around the proposed Sea of Tranquillity landing sight. Obviously, one thing lead to another and posterity is left with Charlie Brown and Snoopy associated with one of mankind’s greatest achievements. If it had been Britain not the USA that had first put men on the moon, then we may well have ended up with spacecraft called “Major Clanger” and “Tiny Clanger”, so we really can’t complain.
It would take a couple of days exploring round the Science Museum to see all the wonderful things they have on display but I was there specifically for the CM and the museums other space stuff. With limited time and a limited budget you have to make the most of it which is definitely what I did. However, I did take the time to see some of the other exhibits including a Cray supercomputer...
The Apollo 10 Command Module is the real thing that actually went to the moon and back. However, the museum also has a full scale replica of a Lunar Module.
It was much bigger than I expected and I’m so glad to have seen it, it really helps put some of what I know about the moon landings into some kind of perspective. There was a rather sad looking dummy astronaut standing by the LM.
I always think dummies look a little sad and slightly pathetic, however good the rest of the display. Even this one has a somewhat pitiable air about him. However, I also really like that in a display. That’s why I love small town museums that are past their prime, with displays that are falling apart, moth eaten stuffed animals, that kind of thing.
Another world beating and successful British achievement that had the plug pulled on it by short sighted politicians. They can swindle money out of us for duck islands and mortgages that don’t exist but when it comes to investing money into something really worthwhile for the nation, forget it. Another display that caught my attention was the replica of the Huygens probe that went to Saturn's moon Titan as part of the Cassini-Huygens mission.
I couldn’t help but notice that some of the chandeliers in the cafe at the VA looked a lot like it. Or is it just me?
At this point I need to say two big THANK YOUs. First to my lovely partner Mrs Kitsch...
Also thanks to our friend Pete who pulled strings and used contacts to get us to London by train on the cheap and generally acted as our guide round the city. Even though he kept calling me a geek (OK, he may have a point) we bought him doughnuts, a fitting reward.