IRA WASSERMAN: Well, good afternoon. I'd like to welcome everybody to this 40th anniversary celebration of Apollo 11. I'm not on the program. So I get to introduce myself.
I'm Ira Wasserman, and I am the Chairman of the Department of Astronomy. And I won't say too much, because I know we want to get to our panel. But I would like to at least start out by recognizing the people who made this day possible, principally Nancy Schaff, who I think is by the doorway, and is calling people in, who is our Education and Public Outreach Coordinator.
And any of the charming younger people that you've seen outside, who are ready and waiting to meet with all sorts of adventurous ideas in science, are graduate students in the Department of Astronomy, many of whom are I think sitting in the last couple of rows. And I won't name them all, but let's thank them as well.
Now, I thought I would make just a few introductory remarks, since this is a 40th anniversary celebration. Chances are at least half of the people in the room were not alive in 1969, or perhaps too young to be really aware of the things that were going on with respect to the Moon and other important events in 1969. Personally, I was 15 years old in the summer of 1969.
And I can tell you unequivocally that my greatest passion that summer was the 1969 New York Mets. So for those of you either who want to remember 1969, as I wish I did, and for the others who were not alive, or were too young really to remember the late '60s, and 1969 specifically, the late '60s were really a very tumultuous time, simultaneously frightening and exhilarating. And we're here to celebrate one of the most exhilarating aspects of the late 1960s.
So to sort of bring that home to you, and also to make some connection mainly to events related to space in the summer of 1969, I looked up some things that happened within the three months of that summer. The first noteworthy event for this celebration happened on June 12, when July 16 was confirmed as the launch date for Apollo 11. Things happened fast back then.
Skipping forward to July 10, many of you will remember-- and those of you who were not around then will know-- that we were immersed in the war in Vietnam in 1969. And there was some hope that with the new President Nixon, our role would wind down. On June 10, the US command in Saigon announced that only 153 Americans had died during the previous week in Vietnam, and that was the lowest number in six months.
July 11, the next day, is a day dear to my heart. It was the date of Tom Seaver's imperfect game. It made the Mets-- really changed them over from being the laughingstock of baseball, which they had been since 1962, into one of the premier teams in the league.
July 13-- and I didn't remember this at all-- the Soviet Union-- so it's three days before the Apollo 11 launch-- launched the unmanned Luna 15 toward the Moon. July 16, right on schedule, Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Kennedy, as it was called then. It's now been renamed once more, Cape Canaveral.
July 18, politics intervened as the Apollo 11 was on its way to the Moon. And Senator Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island, thereby probably altering United States presidential politics for the next 30 years or so. July 19, Apollo 11 went into orbit around the Moon.
On July 20, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the Moon. And he is now reputed to have said, "One small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind." And I'm hoping the panel clears this up, because the ancient TV that I watched this on, I am telling you, he said, "One small step for man." But forensic scientists have now told us that's not the case. And also apparently, people who are experts in grammar say it doesn't make any sense otherwise.
July 21, Luna 15 crashes into the Moon's Sea of Crises, about 500 miles from the Apollo 11 landing site, presumably a great victory for Soviet science. July 22, famed prognosticator and politician, President Richard Nixon, predicted that by 2000, mankind will find life on other planets. July 24, Apollo 11 splashdown.
July 29, Mariner 6 transmitted the first Mars images to Earth from within 2,000 miles of Mars. August 3, a committee of 23 distinguished scientists, chaired by James Van Allen and Gordon MacDonald, and with one of the distinguished members, Cornell's own Tommy Gold, recommended a program of unmanned space exploration of the Solar System, including missions beyond Pluto.
August 6, NASA administrator Thomas O. Paine said that manned flight to Mars was likely during the 1980s. The idea, which I believe was due to Wernher von Braun-- who was at one point America's top rocket man-- was to construct a three-stage, nuclear-powered rocket with the three stages side by side, in Earth's orbit. I believe two of the stages were going to be used to get us to Mars, and one to get us back.
August 13 was a national day of celebration for the Apollo 11 astronauts. There were parades in New York and Chicago, and dinner involving the astronauts with President Nixon in Los Angeles. August 15-- and this will make some of us, at least, feel young again-- was the start of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, not very far from where we are here today.
And finally, on September 17, Vice President Spiro Agnew reported on deliberations with his committee that announced a program to land a man on Mars no later than 1986, at a cost of $24 billion or more. So as you can see, 1969 was an extremely eventful year, both within and outside the realm of space.
Now today, we have a distinguished panel that is going to share with you different perspectives on Apollo 11. The panel moderator, of course, is Steve Squyres. And all of those references to Mars were not a subtle tweak to Steve in finding life in the Solar System before now. But as you all know, he has been the head, and continues to be the head, of the Mars Rover project, one of the goals of which has been to find evidence of conditions that would have supported life on Mars.
Steve is a professor of astronomy here at Cornell. He's also a Cornell graduate, probably received his PhD right around the time we were supposed to land on Mars. And without further ado, I'm going to turn the program over to him. Steve.
STEVE SQUYRES: Thanks very much. Well, as Ira said, I will be the moderator for today's discussion. I thought I would start off by just placing the presentations you're about to hear in context simply by talking a little bit about the Apollo 11 mission itself. Apollo 11 was the culmination of a years-long effort to prepare us for placing humans on the lunar surface.
That program that led to Apollo included Mercury, and Gemini, and a number of Apollo flights. The Mercury program were flights involving a single astronaut orbiting the Earth, testing for the very first time what happens when you send a person into space. This was Spaceflight 101, just learning the basics. There was a series of six of these Mercury flights.
This was followed by Gemini. Gemini was some of the real-- tested out some of the real bread and butter of what it was going to take to get humans to the Moon. The plan that was formulated for sending humans to the Moon, as I'll describe in a moment, involved things like rendezvousing two spacecraft in orbit around a body, docking them, fastening them together, moving people back and forth between them, going outside of a spacecraft that was out in space. And so the Gemini program involved tests of most of these activities-- long duration flight, longer than a trip to the Moon and back, rendezvous with two spacecraft together in orbit, docking them, and so forth.
All of that was tested out with Gemini. Then came Apollo. Now it began, of course, with the tragic Apollo 1 fire. Three astronauts were killed on the pad in a fire during a test. That spacecraft had many design flaws.
The design flaws were fixed. And the Apollo program flights began. First was Apollo 7. This was just the first test in orbit of the Apollo Command Service Module. I'll talk about that a little bit more, but it was the vehicle that the astronauts used to go to the Moon, go into orbit, and then back to Earth again.
Next came Apollo 8. Some of you will probably remember that one fondly. That was just a great mission.
This was the first flight to the Moon. At that point in time, the Lunar Lander was not ready to go. But the Command Service Model was ready. The Saturn V rocket was ready.
And so on Apollo 8, three astronauts went to the Moon, orbited the Moon, sent back pictures of the Earth from the Moon while reading from the book of Genesis, Christmas Eve. It was just a wonderful moment. Apollo 9, Earth orbit again-- this was just to test out the Lunar Module, make sure that it worked as it was supposed to while it was still kind of close to Earth, and could come home if anything went wrong.
And then there was Apollo 10. Apollo 10 was a dress rehearsal. In Apollo 10, they went to the Moon, did everything, separated the Lunar Module, went down to within eight miles of the lunar surface, and then came up again. You got to figure they really wanted to just keep going.
So then came Apollo 11. Apollo 11 launched, as Ira said, on the Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. The Saturn V was a monster.
If you ever get a chance, you can go to Kennedy Space Center, Marshall Space Center, Johnson Space Center. There are three Saturn Vs remaining. You can see those things.
They are absolutely spectacular vehicles-- more than seven and a half million pounds of thrust when they lifted off. To put it differently, the total amount of power that a Saturn V put out over its flight, which was very brief, was enough power to light the city of New York for more than an hour, the whole city. So this was a very powerful vehicle.
Got into Earth orbit, fired the third stage, and put the spacecraft with the three astronauts on board on a trajectory towards the Moon. Now, the process of landing on the Moon, as it was designed, required two separate vehicles to do it. And so there was this intricate maneuver that had to be done shortly after they began the coast to the Moon, to hook those vehicles together in the proper configuration.
When they launched, the Command Module, which was that sort of cone-shaped thing that the astronaut sat in, that was on top. It was at the very top of the Saturn V stack. And the reason it was at the top was that if anything went wrong, there was an escape tower on top of that. And it would fire solid rocket motors, and carry the astronauts away. And you didn't want to have hardware above you when that took place. But then they had to reconfigure it.
So once they were on the way to the Moon, the Command Service Module would pull away from the vehicle, do a 180-degree pirouette, then come back in, and dock with the Lunar Module, which had originally been below it, insert its nose into an adapter, pull it away from the third stage of the Saturn V rocket. And now, you had the Lunar Module and the Command Service Module docked together. It flew in that configuration for about three days to get to the Moon, fired a rocket motor when it to the Moon to go into lunar orbit. And then they spent about 30 orbits around the Moon before they began the actual descent to the surface.
Now, the descent to the surface had been rehearsed before, in part, on Apollo 10. But Apollo 11 involved the first time going all the way down to the surface. And that was when the real drama began.
Now, if you get a chance, I encourage you to try to go online, or there'll be lots of news reports over the coming days, and listen to the communications between the ground and the capsule-- excuse me, between the ground and Lunar Module, as the descent was taking place. Because there was a moment of great drama that took place.
And many people were unaware of it. If you listen carefully, as they're descending, you will hear one of the astronauts on board the spacecraft, say, "1202 alarm." 1202 alarm-- that almost ended the mission right there.
Here's what happened. To understand the significance of this, you have to go back to the training process that the astronauts went through. A rigorous part of astronaut training is simulations of all the things that can go wrong during the flight.
Astronauts get killed in simulators all the time. And what that does, it prevents them from getting killed when it's for real. All sorts of things, bad things, are simulated in simulators so they can learn how to deal with life-threatening situations.
In the course of training the Apollo 11 crew, they went through many, many simulations of all sorts of things that could cause Neil and Buzz to abort the landing and come back up. Just as they're getting to the end of their training program, they're going through the final simulation. Now, it had almost become a tradition in the manned spacecraft program, was the final simulation, you really want it to go well.
So the simulation supervisors, the sim-sups, their job was to throw these really nasty tasks at the astronauts and the ground crew, and give them tough things to figure out. But they tended to make the last one pretty easy, so it would end on a high note. So the very last simulation, the final simulation before they went to the Cape for the launch, as they were doing the powered descent towards the surface, the simulators simulated something that these guys had never seen before-- a 1202 alarm.
Now, what's a 1202 alarm? A 1202 alarm was something that the Apollo computer did when it was overloaded, when it was simply given too many tasks to do. And when a 1202 alarm happened, what the computer would do would be to reboot, send out an alarm message, an error message, saying 1202.
And they had to reinterpret that number, and know what it meant. And then when it rebooted, it would start up only the most important computer tasks. And it would keep flying.
So the thing you're supposed to do when a 1202 alarm happens is keep flying. Get the computer rebooted. Everything's OK. If you get a bunch of them in a row, yeah, you've got a problem. But one or two, it's OK.
1202 alarm gets called during the simulation. The Guidance Officer, called the GUIDO, a young engineer named Steve Bales, saw this, thought it was a problem, called an abort. During the simulation, they aborted the landing, turned around, came back up.
Debriefed after the simulation, everybody got chewed out. They made the wrong call. They aborted a lunar landing because they misinterpreted the signal from the computer.
OK, now we get to the real flight. They're descending towards the surface. The Lunar Module pilot is Buzz Aldrin. And Buzz was the guy who designed a lot of the rendezvous operations for these missions.
And he called himself "Dr. Rendezvous." He really wanted rendezvous to go well. If they had to abort, they were going to have to come back up and rendezvous with the Command Service Module.
And so he wanted to have his rendezvous radar on. He wanted it flipped on and ready, so that he wouldn't have to worry about it if he had to fly an abort. Rendezvous radar is on, and it starts sending data to the computer, and the computer gets overloaded, because it's got the landing radar and the rendezvous radar, both happening at the same time. 1202 alarm comes up.
They call 1202 alarm. And the best moment is you can hear Charlie Duke, who is called the CAPCOM. He was the guy on the ground talking to the spacecraft, saying, 1202. It's the same one we had.
He recognized It. They had it. So they called 1202 alarm. Steve Bales, on the hot seat again, this time made the right call. We're going.
They transferred that information up to the spacecraft. And they proceeded with the landing. Had they not put that 1202 alarm fortuitously into the final simulation, Bales probably would have called an abort, and they would have turned around and gone back. So Steve Bales accepted an award from President Nixon at the White House after that flight, on behalf of the whole guidance team.
They landed. And believe it or not, after the landing, the original flight plan called for them to sleep for four hours. There's a four-hour rest period right after they land. They shut everything down, and then they're supposed to take a nap.
Well, Armstrong said no to that one. And they went straight outdoors. They went, opened the hatch. Armstrong went down on the surface, said his famous line. What he said was, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
There have been many explanations offered. But the truth is, I believe he just blew his line. You know, stuff happens. Got down on the surface. Aldrin came down behind him.
They were only at a lunar surface for about two and a half hours. This mission was not about science. Yes, they collected some rocks. They got about 50 pounds of lunar rocks.
Their geologic training was basically not much more than get some dirt, get some rocks, and get them home. That was the training. They collected samples. They brought them back.
A big part of their job on the surface was actually not science. It was engineering. The Lunar Module had flown a couple times before, but this was the first time that it ever landed.
And so one of their biggest jobs, and it took up a lot of their time, was just doing a thorough inspection of the Lunar Module to see if anything bad happened to it, look at the ways in which it interacted with the lunar soil, lunar rocks, and so forth. Two and a half hours on surface, came back on board. Then they did sleep.
They slept for about seven hours or so, came back up. And then came the rendezvous part. Lift it off of the surface, rendezvous in orbit with the Command Service Module, where Mike Collins, the third astronaut, had been waiting patiently for them. Transferred themselves, plus, of course, all the rocks, to the Command Service Module, separated from the Eagle, the Lunar Lander, which later crashed into the lunar surface, and ignited the big engine one last time to send them on a trajectory back to Earth.
Reentry went flawlessly. They came down in the Pacific Ocean, were picked up by the aircraft carrier Hornet, and taken to a quarantine facility in Hawaii. It was a big, converted Airstream trailer that had been created to quarantine the astronauts, in case they had a contracted some kind of lethal moon disease over there.
And they had to actually hide in that thing for quite a few weeks before they actually let them out. The parades and so forth were well after the splashdown. It was because they had to keep these guys quarantined for a while.
Many other missions have followed since then. There were five more lunar landings after that one. There have been landings of robotic spacecraft on other planets, Rovers driving around, this, that, and the other thing.
You look at the later Apollo missions. Apollos 15, 16, and 17, they had like this golf cart, this Lunar Rover that they could drive around. They accomplished far more scientifically than what was accomplished on Apollo 11.
But you only get to it first once. And Apollo 11 was the first. And it will forever stand, I believe, as one of humanity's greatest accomplishments.
So with that, I would like to now turn to my other panelists. And I'm pleased to start off by introducing Dr. Pete Thomas. Pete is a Senior Research Associate at the Astronomy Department at Cornell, has been very active in particularly robotic planetary exploration for many years, going back, I guess, to Viking. He's currently, among other things, one of the members of the imaging team for the Cassini mission to Saturn.
Pete is also a repository of more arcane space knowledge than just about anybody I know. You want facts and figures about what mission launched when, landed when, how far some Rover drove, Pete's your guy. So anyway, Pete is going to talk to us, I think, about some of the history of the Apollo program. Pete.
PETER THOMAS: So Steve, I guess my first required arcane knowledge is, let's see, you were married on the 14th anniversary of the launch, right?
STEVE SQUYRES: [INAUDIBLE] my wife and I are going out to celebrate our anniversary tonight.
PETER THOMAS: OK, I'm going to rip through some slides to try and give a few glimpses of some of the context of the Apollo program, how it came about, and what was going on during this time. And let's see.
STEVE SQUYRES: [INAUDIBLE]
PETER THOMAS: I don't need this. Maybe not. So the context, for me, always includes sort of when things happened.
And as has been mentioned already, things happened very quickly in this era. From the end of World War II to the successful landing on the Moon was 24 years, a lot less time than has elapsed since then. The world, and technology, and science, and all of our lives changed exceedingly rapidly during that time. And part of the result of that ability to change things quickly led to actually, a successful lunar landing.
OK, so how did we get into this situation here? Some of the history involved, of course, war time. World War II, the development for the first time of real rockets, not terribly accurate, but nonetheless containing the elements of rockets that fly today, of the engines, the guidance, and the basic style of the airframes that went on. After the hot war came the Cold War.
Joseph Stalin was very assiduous in trying to get the Soviet Union up to the level of the West in many ways, very quickly with atom bombs, very quickly with rockets. It wasn't wise under Stalin to talk about going to the Moon, but nonetheless, there were some thoughts rolling around that. Stalin died in '53, so he was not around to see the results of some of the early efforts to push the Soviet Union forward, and thereby, really enhancing international competition in the technological and space fields.
The usual story about Apollo is that John Kennedy declared that we should go to the Moon, and we did. That is, in one sense, very true. But a lot had gone on before Kennedy's decision to prod us to prioritize Apollo, and make it a national goal with a deadline.
He was elected in 1960, came into office in January of 1961. At that time, his concerns were chiefly things such as non-existent missile gaps, Cuba, and a variety of other Cold War and domestic crises, not NASA. In the fall of 1960 after the election, there was certainly no expectation that NASA would, in fact, get good priority in the new administration.
There were lots of ideas that had been going on at NASA for two years. In fact, under the Eisenhower administration, many of the engines that flew Apollo to the Moon had, in fact, been contracted for already, even then there was no real Moon Program. So when Kennedy came, in there was a lot of uncertainty at NASA as to what would happen.
And it was not at all clear what the new, vigorous president, and first one born in the 20th century, would in fact have in store for NASA and all the ideas floating round then about following on the preliminary manned space flight, and we were actually doing things that people had dreamed about for decades. And that was going to the Moon.
So some of the other characters that actually influenced some of this, on the left for you is Nikita Khrushchev, who achieved his hold on power in the Soviet Union just before Sputnik, and was very vigorous in pushing for space spectaculars as a national tool of prestige and power for the Soviet Union, which resulted in some truly amazing feats, such as less than one month after the launch of Sputnik I, getting these engineers to on the spot jigger up a whole new spacecraft, put a dog in on the launch. And then four weeks from the first launch, something had not been planned four weeks earlier. Things happened fast.
In the middle here is Dwight Eisenhower, who a few years before the Apollo, had, in fact, managed one of the largest military operations ever, was an overlord in other parts of World War II, became president, and actually, was fairly amenable to what the post-World War II world would, in fact, be able to do with science and technology. As I said, some of the pieces of the Apollo vehicles were, in fact, contracted well before the 1960 election. The man sitting beside Eisenhower, Dick Nixon, whose name-- he was president during all six lunar landings, and hence his name is on the plaques-- not John Kennedy's, not Lyndon Johnson's, but Richard Nixon.
So a lot of the famous things, of course, is how this actually became a true national priority. In the Spring of 1961, just two and a half months into John Kennedy's administration, which was rolling right along, really smoothly, everybody happy with the young, new, vigorous White House occupants. Of course, the first thing that happened then, which was no actual surprise, in the know, was, of course, the Soviet Union put Yuri Gagarin into orbit.
And so it rewrote, continued to rewrite the rules on what a space spectacular was. The US had been struggling to get its Mercury program off for months on a small, suborbital flight, which, in fact happened less than a month later, with Alan Shepard aboard. And then just a few days after the Gagarin shock was, of course, the fiasco, the Bay of Pigs, which, combined with the falling behind for a president who had campaigned to exert our power compared to the Soviet Union, this was quite a double blow in terms of America's prestige.
And that allowed, with finally the successful launch of an American astronaut, although it was compared to Yuri Gagarin's flight, allowed him to take the advice which had already been worked on quite a bit of what could the United States do in space that would really stand a chance of doing it first before the Soviet Union did. And the decision was, land a man on the Moon. And it was discussed in many ways before.
And leading up to May 25, when he made his speech to the Congress, they called it right. So how do you get this done? Well, in that time period, actually, when Kennedy was just beginning his term, people were looking for a new NASA administrator.
Nobody wanted the job, because, again, there was no hint before it May that NASA would have a privileged position. So at least one accounting gives that whoever was number 17 on the list, or 17 had declined beforehand. And of course, if there had been any hint that NASA would be one of the darlings of the administration, you know that someone higher on the list would have accepted the job. But with a lot of strong-arming by one Lyndon Johnson, James Webb, who had been a Budget Director under Harry Truman, among other things, and had been in government, at the center of government, knew the politics, was not an engineer, was not a scientist, but knew the government, took over as NASA administrator.
I can't remember how long the hearings were. But it was probably exceedingly short compared to hearings these days. Again, because at that point, it was a very minor post. Still, it was fairly minor compared to some.
So in terms of getting to the Moon and more context, two other characters that played big roles here, von Braun on your left and Lyndon Johnson on the right. Lyndon Johnson is just one of the most interesting characters in the mid 20th century. There are all sorts of reasons.
He infuriates. He gives great pride through many things that he accomplished, a very complicated person. But lots of the things that he was involved with, he pushed very energetically, maybe not for all the reasons we would find high-minded. But he pushed them energetically, nonetheless.
And space was one of them. Von Braun, of course, was the manager and engineer for the German rocket development of World War II, brought to the United States, continued on with his team, helped launch the first US satellite. And he was instrumental in all the Apollo engines and rocket design-- a manager, a politician, actually, a fairly good engineer, too. As with Lyndon Johnson, of course, a very controversial figure. But nonetheless, these two characters certainly contributed greatly toward the fact that they actually could carry off a difficult program such as this.
Of course, while they were doing it, all sorts of things were going on. It's been mentioned before, we had a great civil rights struggle during the 1960s, which certainly went to the root of all sorts of things in this country. And it was a very high priority for people's attentions and at all levels we had a war in Vietnam as has been mentioned
But we had a variety of international crises. On the left here is one of the air photos over Cuba in the fall of 1962. It was, of course, three months after John Kennedy launched the official priority for the Apollo program, the Berlin Wall went up. So the Cold War was, of course, far, far, far more reaching than space races. And all this was going on at the same time. So it was an exciting time.
It was also a different time. I didn't know we were going to show this. This was from the '60s. But there were many things that went differently then, and many things went very quickly.
In science, I have a geology background. The difference in geology between 1961 and 1968 is total, in terms of our ability to actually explain global processes. The advent in the middle '60s of definitive proof that continents moved around, that the oceans moved around with them, really help terrestrial geology. And I certainly think it helped the perspective of the planetary scientists just about to really go out and see the rest of the Solar System, to really work from a global perspective on the worlds that they ran into.
Just a few other things for context of how it was different then. Going to look through a few of these-- things from income tax rates to carbon dioxide. I guess the one I would mention is the NASA budget as a percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
I think this is a peak of NASA's funding of the mid '60s, like '66, I think, well before the landings. All these programs, you spend most of your money before things actually fly. It was a little bit less than 1% of the GDP. And now it's 1/7% of the GDP-- different world.
One little, quick question-- we might want to discuss this later-- why did Apollo succeed? And to me, it had a well-defined goal. It actually had real support. It really merged the sort of national concern about competing with the Soviets, the Cold War, the threat of the Russians with at least two generations, we just sort of expected to go to the Moon.
And time is progressing. There is the Moon. Of course we're going to get to the Moon. It's difficult, but of course, we could. And we certainly had two generations of Americans that just sort of expected that. Not everybody really wanted to pay for it or agreed with the program. But it was very much something that none only youngsters dreamed about.
And it had a deadline. The deadline was the end of the decade, conveniently close to what would have been the end of the Kennedy's second term. And certainly one of the controversial aspects of this later was, well, why the deadline? And I think in view of some other things later, the deadline was one reason that, in fact, it continued, and went through. We might also get into questions of did the combined tragedies of Kennedy's assassination and the Apollo 1 fire actually also allow this to succeed?
Can anything like this happen again? Well, I would just point out this particular goal that Kennedy stated, "achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth," well defined. We actually did double what. We did two people.
In 2004, early 2004, with confounding problems of what do we do with space shuttles, and what do we do next, and George Bush's impending re-election run, there was wishes to make new visions for manned space exploration. And out of the President's Commission on Implementing Policy, one has the title of this, of "A Journey to Inspire, Innovate and Discover." I would bet a poll of this audience says that the first one is much more likely to achieve any results than the second one down here at the bottom.
And actually, this journey to inspire is really just sort of a summation. And the actual thing in this policy is this big laundry list of things to do, the first one of which was to return [INAUDIBLE] flight, the third one of which was to send people back to the Moon. So you've got three steps before you do anything new. So we have a very different way of operating, with giving priorities. You may want to think about comparisons there.
Apollo certainly gave us a lot of technical and political lessons. Of course, technical lessons were immediately ignored by selecting the Shuttle, a deliberately inefficient way of doing things, since Apollo demonstrated in all of its things from the choice of lunar orbit rendezvous to virtually everything else they did was that if you worry about technical efficiency, you have more likelihood of actually doing something, instead of getting lost in side issues. And as has been mentioned already, it certainly gave us perspective on many things.
This is the iconic Apollo 17 shot of the Earth, one of several that has come from the Space Age that look at the Earth as a planet, and make us realize a little bit where we are. And with that, I better cease and desist. I'll move on here.
STEVE SQUYRES: Thanks very much, Pete. Our next speaker is Elizabeth Bilson. Now, I know Elizabeth primarily from the extraordinary role that she played for many years as the lead financial person at the Space Sciences Building at Cornell. For that decade or so that I spent writing one unsuccessful proposal to another to NASA, to try to convince them to do a Rover mission on Mars, Elizabeth was the person who at least made sure that I got the finances right.
But before that, she also had a distinguished scientific career working with one of Cornell's best-known astronomers, Dr. Tommy Gold. Now, Tommy was quite a character who was interested in everything. Among his distinctions are not only being the first person to correctly interpret what a pulsar is, but also being one of the pioneers in thinking about what's now referred to as the "deep hot biosphere," the idea that there is a life that can actually live kilometers down inside the Earth's crust.
But among the many other things that Tommy did, he was one of the principal investigators, one of the scientific principle investigators on the Apollo program. And as such, he brought Apollo to Cornell. And Elizabeth is going to share some stories from the early days of Apollo at Cornell.
ELIZABETH BILSON: So we have heard quite a bit about the national scene in the 1960s, which led to the Apollo landing. I would like to come back and talk about Cornell at that time. Cornell certainly was a very different place at that time, very different physically. Many, many buildings which you know, amongst them this one, didn't exist at that time. The whole part of the Cornell, the eastern upper part of the campus was very [INAUDIBLE], with very few things.
And the other thing about Cornell was at that time, Cornell also went through-- especially the previous year, 1969, was a very tumultuous year in Cornell's existence. It was, of course, the Vietnam War era, and there was a lot of other students were much more politically involved. of course, they were in danger of drafting, being drafted into the Army. But also, there was-- unfortunately, it was a time of racial unrest, which culminated in April of 1969, in the takeover of Willard Straight Hall, the student union, by armed students.
Now, this was during Parent's Weekend, and the event was widely publicized. I may be wrong, but I think it took the front page of The New York Times. And there was great danger that there was going to be potentially bloodshed by taking back the Union, and there would be serious disruption of the function of the university.
But thankfully, the crisis was solved peacefully. And only President Perkins then was President of Cornell actually resigned. And the person who was a provost at that time, and had a great share of dissolving this crisis peacefully took over.
Now, the faculty, of course, was extremely different. So many of them since died and retired. And what was interesting, most of the faculty at that time was from the pre-Second World War era. They were born and raised before the Second World War, and maybe had a different world view.
But also, an important number of them came from Europe, fleeing the Nazis. And in the sciences, especially, those scientists were very, very important. Immediately, Hans Bethe comes to mind, who had already won the Nobel Prize in '67, and his disciple, Edwin Saltpeter, who also was an enormously important scientist, also came from Austria, and by Australia and England.
And Steve mentioned Tommy Gold, who was at that time enormously important. He was invited to Cornell to form a modern-day Astronomy Department in 1959. And he was Austrian born, and got his college education during the war in England. He was a toddler at that time, and joined Cornell in '59.
He was interested in-- he developed, in 10 years, an extremely outstanding Astronomy Department, and also got money from NASA to build a space sciences building. He created a research center. And he, of course, was very much involved in the also that not too long before completed Arecibo Radio Radar Observatory, which was really a terrific result in pulsar research at that time.
'69 was a very exciting time in science altogether at Cornell. But what was interesting, that Tommy's attention was much focused on lunar research. And he was a principal investigator not only to examine lunar material that was brought back by astronauts.
But he designed a stereo camera, which was brought up with Edwin Land of the private corporation. And this camera, which-- this is Tommy Gold. This picture should come later, but if you could show the stereo camera on the Moon, if you could advance a little bit. Yeah. Is the camera there? OK, good, good.
This camera was brought up to the Moon, I don't know, at least twice. But it was certainly there to this Apollo mission. And I will talk about the pictures and their significance later.
Now, I was hired by Tommy Gold to be his assistant before the Apollo mission, just a few weeks before. But I was to start working only in September. So I watched the lunar landing on television with my family as a private citizen.
I really didn't know. I was a PhD in Chemistry, didn't know anything much about astronomy, didn't really know more than any other private citizen about the space program. But I had fun. Of course, and I think most of you are old enough in the audience, who were around at that time, would share that it was a tremendously exciting moment.
And for me, not only the fact that this huge technological triumph, this showing off of fantastic cooperation between scientists, and engineers, and any number of people who made this possible, but the sheer fact that we could watch it on television-- to watch a human being land on an outer celestial body, that was something which sort of blew our minds. And it was a very proud and happy moment to be in mankind.
Now, soon after the Apollo landing, I started in September. I started working for Tommy Gold. And not too long after, the first lunar samples arrived. I learned that Tommy was selected as one of the investigators. About 150 laboratories in America were selected to examine the samples, and do analysis from all kinds of different points of views.
And I learned that Tommy was one of them. But also, there was an analytical chemist at Cornell, George Morrison, who was to receive samples. He was to determine the elemental abundances, how many different elements were present in the samples. And I also learned, of course, about the stereo camera project.
So what happened after the Apollo 11 mission, and the samples were, of course, first quarantined, and sorted out, and handled by NASA at the Johnson Space Center. But it was decided that to these 150 laboratories, only some 10% or 20% of the samples would be distributed. The rest would be guarded for later investigation in pristine conditions.
And how were the samples sent to the different laboratories? You had to pick them up. NASA didn't trust the mail. And so you had to go.
And who picked up the first samples was Carvel, Tommy's assistant who later became his wife. So Carvel, who is here with us in the back of the hall. She flew to Houston, picked up the samples. And she arrived to the Space Science Center.
And of course, there was tremendous excitement. Tommy's closest associates-- I was new, but I was allowed to go to the basement to the lunar laboratories. The package was opened, and there's the samples, little, tiny pebbles, and a little bit of dust, which was brought back.
I didn't know how-- I didn't know about geologic samples much. But just the sheer fact that not too long ago, this material was on the Moon, and now we had it in front of us in the laboratory, that was exciting enough.
Now, there were several little incidents. One important requirement by NASA was that the samples had to be really kept in total security. First of all, they had to be in a safe. And few people, as few as possible, should know the combination of the safe.
And the safe had to be placed in a room which was equipped with an alarm system. And the alarm system was connected to the Cornell Police. And if anything should happen, the police would come immediately.
Well, we had a way to disarm. The scientists had a way to disarm this alarm system. But I hate to say, in a couple of times, they forgot. And what happened, the police came within instants with drawn guns.
Now, you can imagine, in a peaceful, scientific building, what it is when we see police with drawn guns, rushing on. After two of these incidents, Tommy got his team around him, and read the Riot Act. And said, "This is not going to happen again." And it didn't.
The other thing which happened that he forgot the combination of the safe. And then [INAUDIBLE] so we couldn't open it a number of time. But even that, we got over. And that was that.
Now, the other commotion was caused in the building by much more peaceful things. We were not used to the press coming in with sophisticated cameras, and lights, and equipment, and going through with a lot of noise through the building, going to the conference room, set up, and wanting to talk, mostly to Tommy Gold. Even George Morrison, from the Chemistry, came over. And they were interviewed in our building.
And I still remember. I mean, I knew so little about what was going on. But I can still see Tommy Gold in front of me loving this limelight. Because he was a very outspoken, opinionated man who knew a lot.
And he was very proud of the fact that he predicted that on the lunar surface, astronauts would find a very fine dust layer covering the Moon. And now we could show, perhaps yeah, [INAUDIBLE]. And indeed, as the boot marks of dust are shown, there was a cohesion of fine dust covering the landing site.
Now, the truth is that Tommy had predicted that, and warned NASA that the astronaut might sink really deep into the dust, and it might be a dangerous thing. But they didn't sink in to the neck in the dust. But I see that even though he was ridiculed, nobody else predicted the dust cover. And he did. And he was rightly proud of that.
He was also-- he amused himself by preparing, before the landing, fake moon dust. And this fake moon dust, he decided how it would look like mostly based on the optical properties of Moon as observed by telescopic measurements from Earth. And so he mixed up a dark gray powder, and he kept it in a vial.
And when we got the first samples, he put the actual moon dust in a vial, and showed them to the journalist, these two vials, and said, can you distinguish them? Aren't they just the same? And they, of course, all said it was impossible to distinguish.
It was really hard. It was really very similar. So those press conferences were much fun.
Now after the first excitement died down, we really had to get to work. And we got samples which were just a few grams each, and tiny rock chips. And we had to-- we were to determine the optical reflectivity of these samples, the practical size distribution of the dust, how fine the dust was, and what size particles were prominent, and some of the electrical properties, which were very helpful for the determination of the [INAUDIBLE] observations from the Earth.
And we had to hurry, because early January 1970, there was already the first lunar science conference, where all the scientists got together who were principal investigators. As I said, about 140 teams, meaning maybe 1,000 scientists all together. Those were big conferences. And so we had to ready.
Morrison's group determined some 67 elements in the dust and rock samples. And they came to the conclusion that the samples which they received were very similar to basaltic rocks on Earth, with some for scientists, significant differences in the volatile elements and in the Earth elements.
Tommy, of course, was much faster than anybody else. And within a few weeks of the return of the Apollo team, and getting 17 stereo pictures, could you show [INAUDIBLE]? Yes. This is a stereo pair.
There is a display in the front of the hall, of these stereo pairs by [INAUDIBLE] one set of glasses you can see. But they really are beautiful, three-dimensional pictures of tiny, 3-by-3, I think, inches segments of the lunar surface. The astronauts walked with the camera on the Moon like a walking stick.
And just when they saw something interesting, all they had to do is just press on the stick and took a picture. And this was one of the pairs took there. You can see them outside of the hall.
So Gold studied these pictures. And his attention was turned to those shiny surfaces, on little dust clumps, delicate dust clumps. And he was very puzzled about what those [INAUDIBLE] might have been due.
He eliminated most other obvious causes, and he decided that they were formed, perhaps, by some instantaneous, intense source of radiation heat. And in this very daring article in Science, he speculated about some maybe a sort of flare in geological recent times.
Now, I don't know. I don't remember what the echo of this article was, and what disputes emerged out of it. I'm sorry to say, I don't remember mentioned this too much. Later, I said that everybody always loved these pictures. I don't know what the final scientific significance [INAUDIBLE].
Now, after Apollo 11, we had many other [INAUDIBLE], as Steve mentioned, five other Apollo missions. The samples became more and more interesting. In Apollo 17, they were chosen by a geologist, the first geologist astronaut. And so there were far greater variety, and many interesting things to look at.
My work was to examine the chemical composition of the outermost few atomic layers on minor dust grains, to explain why, especially in the mare area, why the dust was so dark. And we worked on this for a few years, and determined that the dust was [? averaged ?] by heavy metals such as iron and titanium, and that by solar wind sputtering. And maybe that was an explanation why the lunar mare-- or seas are so dark in appearance.
It was a fascinating period in my life. And I loved doing all that research. And it was [INAUDIBLE] later we had some-- I don't remember exactly-- but 50 or 60 samples in the safe by then.
And after-- at the towards end of the '70s, NASA funding for us, at least, stopped. And we had to return some more. But it was great fun while it lasted.
I just want to show this. By the way, this display outside was put together set by Rick Kline, to whom I am very grateful. And George Gull, one of my colleagues and scientist in Space Sciences, reminded me, said the famous orange soil collected by the Apollo 17 mission-- I and the colleague took electron microscope pictures of the glass beads sediment out of the sample.
And if you could go further, this is a picture from microscope. Those larger beads are just a few tenths of a micron in diameter. And now you can see, maybe, the picture of the-- and this is the soil on the Moon.
But for me, to have soil photographed at the Moon, and then some months later, have it in the laboratory, and looking at an electron microscope is still some kind of a miracle. And so this place, I'm finished.
STEVE SQUYRES: Thank you very much, Elizabeth. Our final speaker is Professor Jim Bell. Jim is a Professor in the Astronomy Department. He is a man of many talents. Jim has had a distinguished scientific career. He has been involved in a number of NASA's missions of planetary exploration.
But to me, Jim is more than that. To me, Jim is the Ansel Adams of the Space Age. Jim has been responsible, since its inception, for the design, the testing, integration, the flight, and the operations of the Pancam cameras on the Mars exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Jim has led the team that has operated those cameras, has taken all those spectacular images of the surface of Mars that you have seen.
Jim has also recently become the President of the Planetary Society. I daresay there are probably one or two Planetary Society members here today. Jim is very actively involved in planning the future of space exploration. He's going to talk to us today about the future of exploration of the Moon. Jim.
JIM BELL: Now we do a little technology switch here. I wonder if it's appropriately ironic that we're switching from PC to Mac to talk about the future.
[LAUGHTER AND GROANS]
Couldn't resist. It's great to be here today, and great to see so many friends of the Astronomy Department at Cornell, and friends of space exploration. Yes, good, got it to work.
I guess maybe another irony of the Apollo program is, as soon as they sent the first scientists, they canceled the program. Apollo has a lot of complexity that went into it. We heard about some of the politics, and geopolitics, and all that.
And the reality is that the last mission, last person to come back from the Moon I think Gene Cernan was last man to step on the Moon came back in late 1972. For the rest of the '70s, there was a little bit of robotic exploration. The Russians had some just absolutely spectacular Rover missions, the Lunokhod missions. They still hold the robotic Rover land record that we're trying to beat with Spirit and Opportunity.
But after those missions waned, through the '80s, there really was no lunar exploration. That's sort of when I grew up in science. I started graduate school in the mid '80s.
And I was involved with a group of researchers doing cutting-edge lunar science. And we were using telescopes. And it seemed kind of strange. We'd been walking on the moon, and driving cars on the moon, collecting all these great samples. And yet, the cutting-edge of new lunar science was back to ground-based telescopes.
Well, that tide sort of began to turn in the '90s, when robotic missions started to rediscover the Moon. Galileo mission flew by the Moon several times, and took our first sort of modern technology era data of the Moon. And then there were other small robotic missions that went on in the '90s.
And that crescendo has sort of been building again. And I want to just outline some of the latest happenings in lunar exploration, and to give you a preview of some directions that it might go. So when we look at recent missions, for example, there have been four different nations exploring the Moon within the past few years.
Now, two of these missions, the Japanese Kaguya, a robotic mission which took some spectacular data, including that HD movie you were watching at the beginning there, of the Earth setting against the Lunar LM, that mission just completed its investigation. And the Chinese got their first planetary probe, Chang'e-1, from the Chinese National Space Agency. And that mission just completed its data collection.
Both of those missions, even though they're done, scientists are just starting to get into the results. There are great sets from imaging, topography, geochemistry, et cetera. And this was a big step, getting some more international players into planetary science, and lunar exploration game.
There's two more missions that are currently going on among those four countries I talked about. The Indian Space Research Organization got India's first planetary mission going, called Chandrayaan-1. And this is another very successful mission of photography, and spectroscopy, and other data sets still collecting up there right now.
And of course, NASA has gotten into the game with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the LCROSS mission. LCROSS stands for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. And it's basically a giant projectile that NASA is going to crash into the Moon in October.
It was launched as part of the LRO mission back in June, when the spacecraft got into lunar orbit recently, and started collecting its data. The top of that rocket is actually a separate spacecraft with a separate power system, and cameras, and all that-- two separate spacecraft that will separate soon, and loop around the Earth and the Moon several times.
In October, the first one will slam into the Moon creating a big crater near the South Pole, and trying to test the hypothesis that there might be ice at the South Pole of the Moon. The hope is that this crater will dig up a bunch of ice that might be buried in these permanently shadowed regions. And there's kind of a companion spacecraft flying behind it, watching the explosions and the fireworks show. And all the astronomers all over the world will be watching from telescopes, as well.
And then that companion craft will burrow into the surface in a second impact, hopefully digging even deeper in the same location. So there's a lot of activity going on in the world of robotic lunar exploration. And LRO, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, is actually not part of the NASA Science Program. It's part of the NASA Human Exploration Program. I'll come back to that in a minute.
I want to show just a couple of brand-new LRO images. These were just released, actually, yesterday, taken just a few days ago. One of the first things that this spacecraft is doing is taking pictures of all the places where the astronauts landed.
So Apollo 11, here's Eagle up there. This is where Neil and Buzz walked around 40 years ago. We've got this incredible sort of spy satellite orbit around the Moon now, taking pictures at half a meter per pixel resolution scale.
You can see the lander, its shadow. You can see the boulders those guys were kicking around. Here's some of the other sites.
One of my favorite ones released was the Apollo 14 site. You can actually see the lander here Antares. You can see its shadow here. You can actually see their tracks. They had a little equipment cart that they were carrying around. I don't think these are actually footprints. I think it's the cart tracks. And they set up the Apollo Lunar Surface Exploration package over here.
So this right here, we're looking at from above, taking a picture of last week if you were down on the surface. That's Antares' picture from the Apollo 14 astronauts. And remember, like Steve was describing, they came home in this part, or they used this part to get back up into orbit. They left this part, shiny gold down here, behind, and that's what we're still seeing on the surface.
So for the 6% of you who still don't believe we went to the Moon, we were there. Of course, now you believe we're fabricating those, too. It doesn't really matter.
This is a very, very exciting mission, LRO. Peter and I are both involved in the camera team on this investigation. We're basically going to be mapping the entire surface of the Moon at the meter scale. And this is a totally new data set.
When we did that for Mars a decade ago, and we took the lead from 100s to 10s of meters to 1 meter scale, it became an entirely new planet. And as geologists, we're expecting the same exact thing to happen on the Moon. We're going to make incredible discoveries.
And that's on the science side. On the engineering and technology side, as I mentioned, this isn't really a science mission, at least not yet. I think the main goal of this mission right now is to search for places for people to go, search for potential outpost, potential landing places that represent the best combination of safety and interesting science-- same kind of process that Steve and the rest of the Rover team went through when we were trying to figure out where to land on Mars.
The scientists want to go to the exciting places, the volcanoes and the canyons. And the engineers want to go to the flat, working places to land. And you've got to convolve those two. You've got to make those two work.
And so LRO is starting to get the first data sets to do that kind of thing on the Moon. And so far, that's been very successful. And look forward this fall to seeing in the news, stories about the LCROSS mission, as it starts to get close to crashing in.
We'll see if we can actually discover real evidence for ice on the Moon. It's a controversial hypothesis, whether there's ice there or not. There's no real good data either way.
There's compelling arguments on both sides of story. But we'll see. Hopefully, LCROSS will settle that argument. We'll see.
There are some upcoming missions, as well. Some are more robotic missions. NASA's going to launch a series of spacecraft called GRAIL to map the gravity of the Moon. There'll be a spacecraft called LADEE, Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, to fly around the Moon and measure the Moon's atmosphere.
The Moon has a very, very thin, tenuous atmosphere-- sodium, potassium, other elements. And it interacts with the solar wind in interesting ways. It might be responsible for some of the glazing on the rocks. That solar wind interaction might be responsible for some of that glazing that Elizabeth showed.
The Chinese are planning to launch more missions. They got the lunar bug with their first one. And they really got a very successful mission.
They're planning a second orbiter to get even higher resolution data. And they're planning a possible lunar lander. It's a little unfortunate that we don't know so much about their program. I wish that they had more openness with the international community. And that's something that groups like the Planetary Society are working on.
There's other plans for potential robotic missions by NASA, the Japanese, Europeans. Most of them are sort of fairly nebulous right now. But there is at least plans to continue to expand the robotic program, get more and more detailed information about the lunar environment.
And then, of course the giant, enormous gorilla in the room is the Constellation program. Now, this is NASA's new program to get people back to the Moon, and hopefully beyond. Steve mentioned this briefly. Let me just show you a couple of slides on what is this program.
Here's kind of Constellation in one shot. And a really important part of this program, fundamental to it, is the retirement of the space shuttle. So all of us who have grown up since Apollo and the space program think about the Shuttle as our space program, as our human space program.
And it's actually kind of phenomenal to realize that after next year, we won't be flying the Shuttle anymore. The last parts have rolled off the assembly lines. They're starting to close the assembly lines down for many of those components. Now we won't be able to build shuttles anymore.
And so we're getting to the point, the last five, six or so flights of this vehicle that we've been relying on since 1980. But despite the incredibleness of the Shuttle, and the amazing people who fly it, and the things that it does, the Shuttle cannot get above low Earth orbit. It cannot go beyond the International Space Station, several hundred of kilometers above the surface of the Earth. The Shuttle can't go to the Moon, can't go to the asteroids, can't go to Mars.
So taking that and retiring it opens up, in theory, this wedge of funding within the NASA budget to do something else. And that something else is the Constellation program. So the idea right now, at least, this moment, is to have sort of a three-part system-- a rocket system to launch the crew called Ares, with a crew vehicle called Orion up here, and I'll show another picture of this in a moment. This is very much based on the solid rockets that the Space Shuttle uses.
And a heavy lift vehicle that at least initially, is not configured to launch crew, but is configured to launch cargo and other components, called Ares V-- heavy lift capability. The Ares V carries an earth departure stage. The Orion vehicle can dock with it, go to the Moon. And another lander system is also being devised right now that's called Altair.
For scale, here's what some of those systems look like. So here's the Saturn V, wonderful rocket we've been talking about here. Here's the Ares V. I think the current design has it just above 111, just to say slightly bigger than the Saturn V, but comparable in size, a large vehicle.
And if I had a way to black out the top part of the screen, and block that out, boy, this looks a lot like the Space Shuttle, doesn't it? You can tell. The idea in the current design is for it to be an evolutionary design. Use as much of the Shuttle technology experience and infrastructure as possible in this new design to get the heavier lift capability. And the Ares here is sort of based on one of these solid rockets, with the Orion upper stage here. Here's the Shuttle for scale.
So what would this do for us? Well, this would basically reinstate for us the capability we had in the early 1970s, but abandoned-- to lift an enormous amount of mass into Earth orbit, and get an out of Earth orbit. And that capability is needed if we're even going to think about going back to the Moon, or going on to Mars and beyond.
Of course, that's where this is all leading. Steve and others mentioned and I guess Peter mentioned this vision for space exploration that was announced by President Bush in 2004, perhaps not coincidentally, shortly after we landed Rovers on Mars successfully. I wonder if that speech would have happened if we--
SPEAKER 1: We were told it would not, unless we made a successful [INAUDIBLE]
JIM BELL: No pressure, no pressure. So the president announced a plan to retire the Space Shuttle, build these new rocket systems, design and build these new rocket systems, and get people back to the moon by 2020. And then importantly, language that was in there, too many people forget, was, "and then on to Mars, and beyond."
And that sort of synopsis has driven the program since 2004. But a lot of rhetoric, and potential presidential leadership, and administration leadership came out. But what didn't come out was extra funding.
So until you create that wedge by getting rid of the Shuttle, you can't really do Constellation, at least if your assumption is that the NASA budget will remain flat or decrease. And that has, of course, been a reality. So the new administration, the Obama administration comes in, and sees this plan with all these words, and this "inspire," and "motivate," and all that, but nothing really specific.
And so what they've done is said to NASA, OK, you know what? Hang on a second. Next year's budget proposal will be XYZ, with some modest increases for space science and other capabilities, but a sort of a flat line for human exploration.
And instead of giving an actual budget and a plan, we're going to convene a commission led by Norm Augustine, a well-respected former president of Lockheed, very well respected aerospace leader, with a number of scientists, engineers, astronauts. And we're going to ask this commission to make an assessment of what is valuable about the vision as NASA is following it. What's not valuable? What might we want to change and reassess?
And that commission is off doing its work right now. And talk about pressure. They will have to come up with a set of recommendations by the end of August.
Former Cornellian Chris Chyba is on that commission. He was a graduate student here with Carl Sagan. A number of other very well-respected people, and they're in the data gathering phase, including data from the public. The Planetary Society has given testimony to the commission. If you want to tell the commission what you think, you can go to their website, and tell them what you think that the future of the space program, human space program, should be.
And the expectation is that whatever they say, whatever they recommend, will be taken up by the Obama administration, and fairly quickly turned into a revision of the human space exploration policy. So will they recommend let's continue doing the same? Let's go for trying to get humans back to the Moon by 2020.
Will they say, well, it doesn't seem to be worthwhile. Let's concentrate more on robotics. Will they say something entirely different? No one really knows.
And how much will that commission be listened to? Well, no one really knows. So it is a time of great potential and great potential peril in the human space exploration program. It will be very, very interesting to see how this unfolds over the coming weeks to months, to years.
My personal opinion-- and I've certainly shared this with the committee-- is that I think NASA is right now over-constrained. I think by telling NASA to build the new rocket system, build the Ares capability, the Orion module, the heavy lift Ares V and the Altair Lander all at the same time with a flat budget, and force it to get people to the Moon by 2020 is incredibly risky. And so there's sort of one free variable in that plan.
If you believe that they're not going to get any extra funding, which is hard to believe in these current times, and that free variable is the schedule. It probably makes sense-- personal opinion-- to push that schedule out. It may even make sense to reassess whether the Moon should be the first goal in that program.
There is some, and you see this when you saw the special issue, a section in The New York Times on Tuesday all about Apollo. There's some sense in the country that there's a been there done that aspect to going back to the Moon. We have to go back to the Moon scientifically.
We have to go back to the Moon as a space-faring nation. It's an obvious logical choice. We will go back at some point.
But should it be the first place we go back to? Should America lead a space program, an international space program, by going back to the Moon first? Many of us are advocating that there can be different kinds of milestones, different kinds of firsts along the way, that keep the public and Congress interested.
Use these big, heavy-lift rockets to go visit in the Earth's asteroids. Some of them are easier to get to than the Moon. Some of them come close enough to the Earth that it's easier to get there than the Moon, if you time it just right.
Use that capability to go out to the Lagrange points where some space telescopes are sitting, or service a satellite out there, or just go to a different place. Of course, use these big satellites and launch capability to go somewhere totally new and exciting, like Mars. I mean, there are plenty of other destinations out there, not to say that we shouldn't go to the Moon.
But maybe the moon shouldn't be first. Maybe we should go somewhere else first. And these are the kinds of questions and conundrums that the Augustine commission and the administration will have to tackle soon.
So the future of lunar exploration is certainly exciting, either politically, or scientifically, or managerially, or technologically-- any way you want to look at it. And I'll leave this up here for a bit. It's my last slide, just showing some websites, if you want to go see some of these LRO images, if you want to understand more details about the science that can be done at the Moon. There was a wonderful National Research Council report, the second link, "A Chronology of Lunar Exploration," and some more details on the Constellation program.
It's going to be an exciting, exciting time for science and human exploration at the Moon. And I encourage you all not only to follow along, but to try to actively get involved. Because ultimately, it's your space program as well. Thanks.
STEVE SQUYRES: Any questions?
AUDIENCE: How can you get that Rover to the Moon? That car looked pretty big, that you put on the Moon to drive around.
STEVE SQUYRES: Right. Yeah, how did they get that Rover to the Moon? Pete?
PETER THOMAS: Careful folding things up, and also the fact that, remember the pictures we just saw were actually more like a meter and a half, or two meters with those things. They're a couple pixels across. The Lunar Modules that went down were not all that tiny.
And the lunar gravity being 1/6 of what it is on the Earth, a Rover that can drive around it doesn't have to carry so much weight. So it can be pretty spindly. The tires, and as it were, these metal things. And basically, it's a very spidery-like thing that folded up really well. And the entire space program, as Steve will attest, one of the things is knowing how to fold things up really well.
STEVE SQUYRES: Yeah, a lot of spacecraft, we'll end up doing origami in reverse after they land. Right here, blue shirt.
STEVE SQUYRES: Those scary moments for the engineers. Pete, that's probably one for you, too.
PETER THOMAS: Well scary moments for engineers and astronauts-- scariest moment, run-up to that was when I was training Neil Armstrong-- was that the flying bedstead or whatever? To do the things that you haven't done before, some, that is sitting in a capsule throwing switches, such as the simulations that Steve was mentioning with Steve Bales is one thing. Actually dealing with the hardware--
One of the things they did was make this thing that would attempt to simulate the lunar landing conditions so that the astronaut get used to the descent, the descent rate, of the responses [INAUDIBLE]. And at least one bail-out by Neil Armstrong as the plane was about to crash. The Russians are trying to do the same thing with flying helicopters in very weird ways, which terrified their astronauts quite a bit. And they've never had a chance to get quite that far in the testing.
But this sort of leads me maybe a bit astray in terms of testing. You're testing rocket engines. You're testing flights of some hardware and some conditions.
One of the reasons we got to the Moon was we decided to compress lots of these tests, do it all at once. But we did pretty thoroughly. And one of the reasons the Russians may not have gotten as well is they decided they weren't even going to test their moon rocket first stage as a stage separately.
Separate engines were tested, but not the whole stage. And that wound up causing them immense grief. So test, test, test. And that way, you can think the flying best indicates the limitations of just sort of how the physical tests can be limited, but also effective in making sure the astronauts have the right nerves.
STEVE SQUYRES: Jim, did you want to add anything?
JIM BELL: Just there was, shortly after your 1202 alarm story, there was another extremely dramatic moment. And that was when Neil and Buzz were getting close to the surface. And Neil looks out the window, and sees all these boulders all over the place, comparable in size to the foot pads of the Eagle.
And so there is a great example of why it's good, sometimes, to have a piloted vehicle coming down, and seeing this boulder field at the primary landing site. And he actually drove the-- they drove the Eagle sideways some number of kilometers downrange, down to 15 seconds of fuel left, or something like that, trying to find a safe place to land. And that was a-- you wouldn't know it from listening to the chatter between those guys-- total professionals. But on the ground, they were just holding their breath, sweating bullets, turning blue.
STEVE SQUYRES: The scary moments in any spaceflight tend to be the violent events-- the launches, the landings. I think it's worth pointing out, however, that the single event in the entire Apollo program that came closest to killing astronauts was an utterly mundane activity of stirring a propellant tank on Apollo 13. It precipitated a fire, an explosion in that spacecraft, a spark and explosion, due to a design flaw. So you never know what's coming at you. Questions? Way over here.
AUDIENCE: Has there been any thought or progress in getting some different kind of a launch vehicle. I heard talk about horizontal electrical launch.
STEVE SQUYRES: Jim. [INAUDIBLE] technology.
JIM BELL: Well, the model I showed you for Constellation based on the Space Shuttle is one of three or four fairly widely publicly discussed methods of sort of recreating Saturn V technology. I'm not sure any of the ramjet or those kinds of technologies are at a level, high enough technology readiness level, they call them, for prime time. NASA is studying those kinds of things. But they're not ready to invoke.
So for the most part, in fact, I think all of the major potential options are sort of standard chemical rocket kind of propulsion. Although there are many different possibilities being considered.
One of the things the Augustine Commission may recommend is not to do it this way, but to do it one of the alternate ways. And those groups have presented their options to the commission, as well.
STEVE SQUYRES: It is a little ironic, though, that the only realistic technique that we have to get in the space today is the same one that was used, pioneered by Goddard, and then used by von Braun's team at Peenemunde with the V2. It's still chemical rockets. And it's probably going to be for some time. Other questions, right here.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] Why not just [INAUDIBLE]?
STEVE SQUYRES: OK, yeah, it's a good question. Anybody on the panel, why aren't we just going to go and build that magnificent rocket that we used so well back in the '70s?
JIM BELL: Well, let me first give the idealistic young man a realistic answer. You'd be shocked, shocked to hear that there's politics involved in the space program.
And you'd be shocked to learn that--
STEVE SQUYRES: I knew this was coming, by the way.
JIM BELL: You'll be shocked to learn that there are space-related aerospace jobs in every state, including important states like Florida, Texas, and California. And you'll be shocked to learn how much pull, leverage, aerospace companies have with the government. And so maybe it's not surprising, if you want to put your pessimistic hat on, that our next evolutionary system is based on the existing system.
Because many of the companies will keep the workforce involved, and get big, juicy contracts. So steering away from that, and going to something completely different faces enormous political barriers in our current system. And so sort of the greatest combination right now of technology, readiness, and political inertia is to do something like this. That's the pessimistic answer. Maybe somebody can give a rosier answer.
STEVE SQUYRES: Anybody want to add anything to that?
PETER THOMAS: Well now, the rosier answer is actually that sort of looks like the slightly rejiggered Saturn V anyway.
JIM BELL: I know.
PETER THOMAS: It's a big, liquid core that is stacked essentially vertically, instead some ridiculous Shuttle arrangement, with the additional benefit that if you really went back and made another Saturn V, the first thing you'd do to it would be to strap on solids. And that's sort of the way it looks. But as you correctly point out, there's human beings involved in this. And that's why it looks the way it does.
STEVE SQUYRES: I think it's also worth pointing out that the second stage of the Ares I, as currently designed, uses a motor called the J-2X And the J-2X is an upgraded, modified, modernized version of the J-2 cryogenic motor that powered both the second and third stages of the Saturn V. So we actually are reusing some portions of the Saturn V in the Ares design as it currently exists now. Right here.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, question goes back to the history, the early history. When Kennedy gave the speech in 1961 that set the deadline-- I think they're running this on the History Channel as a commercial right now-- he said, we choose to do this and the other thing, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. What was the other thing?
PETER THOMAS: Someone should remind me of the other things. That actually was a quote from a speech at Rice.
STEVE SQUYRES: Rice University.
PETER THOMAS: It was not the congressional speech. And I don't remember all the other ones.
STEVE SQUYRES: The wording was actually "the other things."
STEVE SQUYRES: [INAUDIBLE]
PETER THOMAS: And it was--
STEVE SQUYRES: "We take on, as a nation, great challenges." And that's what I think he was referring to. It wasn't any specific programs. It was we, as a nation, have a history of tackling great challenges.
I think he-- I think he actually, when speaking at Rice, I think he actually used the analogy of why does Rice play the University of Texas in football? We do these things because they're hard.
Other questions. Right here.
AUDIENCE: Any thoughts about private space flight. There's this talk about Virgin Atlantic, [INAUDIBLE] rides and so forth. And what would your thoughts or view of that be?
STEVE SQUYRES: Jim.
JIM BELL: So I mean, there's obviously a big, lucrative potential market in space tourism. We've already seen a number of individuals willing to pay tens of millions of dollars for a ride in the Russian Space Station. That number is small, so it's not economically important yet.
But people like Branson, Elon Musk, others, recognize the potential there. That industry is nascent. It is receiving some support from NASA, actually. NASA is interested in getting out of the business of launching cargo and supplies to the space station, contracting that out.
And so they're starting to initiate programs where companies like that can propose to be that supply contractor. And I think that's a good thing. I think it's a natural progression for NASA to just get out of the more mundane side of it, and stay involved in the exploration side, and maybe the more risky side that business isn't willing to invest in.
And the tourism side hasn't really taken off yet. But I think over the next decade, you're going to see that start to build up more and more. I think you can already go to a number of places, like the Virgin site, and buy a ticket, and try to get yourself in line for many tens of thousands of dollars.
And I hope those things work out. I think they're not going to be without risk. But if you're interested in some of the ultimate adventure travel, by golly, that'd be in.
STEVE SQUYRES: You, know I think these things are ultimately going to be driven by market opportunities. And there is actually a market niche that is opening now for the kinds of launch vehicles, at least, that Jim discussed. The magnificent Delta II rockets that launched Spirit and Opportunity off to Mars, and so many other successful missions-- you can't buy them anymore.
They've been discontinued. The military has decided to stop underwriting those. They don't need rockets in that size range.
And NASA doesn't need enough of them. And so there's a hole there. There's a market niche that needs to be filled.
The Falcon 9 being developed by SpaceX, the Taurus II that's being developed by Orbital, those are both new, privately developed launch vehicles that will fill that niche. And you've got market forces that are going to drive the need for these vehicles. And once they exist, they can be used for all sorts of things, including launching initially rich, and hopefully progressively less rich people, into space. Other questions. Right here.
AUDIENCE: I've been told that on the-- well, I read that on the original [INAUDIBLE] there was some annoyance that the UN flag wasn't on [INAUDIBLE] flag. I wonder now, with these new probes, how much international cooperation is being expected [INAUDIBLE]?
STEVE SQUYRES: Pete, you want to talk about international opportunities?
PETER THOMAS: Well, at the moment, there is international cooperation on many of the unmanned operations. There's American instruments on the Indian spacecraft, and such as that. And that works pretty well.
Aspects of sending astronauts back to the Moon still is mentioned in terms of how do we, say, get the Europeans to help us out, with Space Station and things like that. That's, I think, a little dicey. We still have somewhat the nationalistic approach to this, which worked 40 years ago, but may not work as well now.
But we don't quite know how to actually do this within the manned context, and beyond some of the simple cooperations, which are really sort of fairly easy, in one sense, on the Space Station. You get somebody-- like the Japanese are going to build a module and put it on there. "Easy" was the wrong word, but compared to something that is much more integrated, such as something that lands people on Mars, you may have a Japanese contractor for the landing struts.
But you're probably not going to have half a vehicle that's funded by Japanese, and the other, left-hand side of it funded by another country. And whose astronauts do you send? It's certainly, in terms of resources, a desirable thing to do.
Whose flag winds up on Mars when the three or four astronauts show up from three or four, one country? But certainly, there was some complaints at the time of the Apollo 11 landing. But that was very much an American enterprise. So they didn't have any problem with that.
STEVE SQUYRES: I think it's worth pointing out that while the flag was American, because Americans paid the entire bill, the plaque said, "We come in peace for all mankind." Jim.
JIM BELL: I'll just turn the tables. I'll play optimist to Peter's pessimist here. The most complex, phenomenally complex international collaborative project ever conducted by human beings is the Space Station. And they're almost done with it. And it seems to work.
That represents an enormous number of nations contributing to that effort. And it represents a real change in philosophy for NASA. It'll be interesting to see if it transitions into Constellation.
And that is, for the first time, NASA was able to allow another country to play a critical role, to be on what they call "the critical path" for the development of the station and for the operation of the station. As Peter said, typically, it's been, OK, you can build the handle for the microwave, whatever. But other nations-- Japanese, the Canadians, the Russians, the Europeans are intimately involved in the Space Station.
Without them, it would not have been finished and completed, will not be completed. It will not be successful. And so that model, many of us who want to see more international cooperation are hoping that that model transitions into programs like Constellation
STEVE SQUYRES: Towards the back, right there.
AUDIENCE: With the Shuttle program shut down, how are they going to get to the Space Station? Or what's the future of the Space Station itself?
JIM BELL: A gap, 13 years of paying the Russians. Until 2015 or 2016 or so, we ride in Russian rockets. They are a partner in the Space Station.
It has been signed off at the presidential level, that we rely on the Russians to get us to the Space Station during this period of time between when the Shuttle is retired, and when we can get back there with Constellation rockets. Now, that may be four years, five years, six, who knows. Nobody knows how long that gap will be. But it's a political hot-button topic right now, keeping that gap as close as possible.
Now, there's been some discussion lately about once the Station's complete next year, canceling its mission in 2015 or 2016, mostly by members of Congress who don't support the space program very much. It's hard to believe that that would happen. That may be one of these so-called Statue of Liberty plays or Washington Monument plays. Statue of Liberty is football. Washington Monument plays, where they're trying to wrangle up some attention to this issue.
But it's hard to believe that we spend 20 years building it, $100 and x billion building it, and then shut it down after five years of operation. So hopefully, it'll have a long life beyond it. But it is an important question is, what will it do? What's it for? And I think if NASA doesn't figure out a use for the Space Station as part of this Constellation program, then it might face the possibly of being irrelevant, getting shut down.
STEVE SQUYRES: We've got time for about two more here. Right here.
AUDIENCE: The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment package evolved dramatically over the course of 15 different LEM vehicles. But the last three were canceled. What did we lose by not doing that from the science standpoint? And what was the last lunar surface experiment package design?
STEVE SQUYRES: What did we lose by not flying Apollos 18, 19, and 20? Elizabeth, you want to take a shot at that?
ELIZABETH BILSON: Frankly, what we might have lost is that we would have landed at a greater variety of sites. And that also always has value, because we collect very different samples, which we cannot collect at other sites. And we learn more.
Perhaps we would have landed closer to a more highland region. I am not sure. I'm not sure. But the fact is that even with the number of missions we had flown, we really-- we still have so much to learn about the samples we brought back.
So unless we could have figured out how to land on a very important site, a type of site we haven't landed, I don't know. I cannot answer that question for sure.
AUDIENCE: Don't forget, the lunar surface drill was supposed to measure the [INAUDIBLE] from the center of the Moon outward. Was that completed?
ELIZABETH BILSON: I'm not sure.
AUDIENCE: Should we know if the Moon is [INAUDIBLE]?
STEVE SQUYRES: There weren't info measurements that were made on some of the previous missions. I think Elizabeth's answer is right on. I think you could go back with an identical set of hardware. And if you go to different sites, you get dramatically new science.
It's really not the instrument package details that are so important as sampling the true diversity that the lunar surface has to offer. And I think she's right. I think that's exactly what the greatest loss probably was.
We've got time--
PETER THOMAS: I have one--
STEVE SQUYRES: Go ahead.
PETER THOMAS: I have one little comment on the end of this, is you kill the three missions with a possible greater spread. Of course, one thing that happened a few years later is the working lunar seismometers were turned off. One of their chief benefits was just sitting there for a long time. And they weren't allowed to do that.
AUDIENCE: Why not?
PETER THOMAS: Senator Proxmire.
STEVE SQUYRES: OK, we have time for one more question. We're going to go right here.
AUDIENCE: So my question is about NASA. So NASA in the '60s and '70s, during the Apollo missions, I think probably looked very different than NASA today. What I would like to know is, how does that manifest itself? And how does it impact the future?
STEVE SQUYRES: Yeah, I think that's a good question. Pete, you want to take a shot at that?
PETER THOMAS: Well, I'll start a little bit. But you guys have dealt at headquarters a lot more than I have. I mean, I think actually, currently NASA headquarters is actually less than half the number of people they had in the '60s. There are all the changes in how large government organizations work, which is common to a lot.
NASA is a more mature bureaucracy [INAUDIBLE]. Certainly, the politicians had the same basic instincts then, but NASA wasn't around long enough to be captured by senators from all 50 states for all the different things. There's been a time to ossify relationships between NASA, and contractors, and state politicians, as well. That's my generalization. But somebody who actually deals with headquarters more should--
JIM BELL: I'll take a stab at two different ways. You can have the last word. I think two things, and one is what Peter already said in his presentation.
At the time, there was a clear goal. There was a motivated nation. And there was a deadline. It was a very different time.
It was maybe a time when there were more idealists in this nation than there are now. A critical aspect of that was that the country was behind it. I don't think the country's behind NASA today like it was before.
I think NASA could be the glorious agency it was in the past, if it was a national imperative-- space exploration, visiting other planets. Certainly, there is a committed core. You're all in this room.
But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about something that would really be the national inspiration. That's one aspect of it.
The second thing is that I think NASA's tolerance for risk has changed dramatically over the history of that agency. We talked about how things happened so quickly back then. I mean, it was only two years after the fire.
I mean, can you imagine? Today, the shuttle blows up. Tragedies happen. And everything is shut down for years and years and years.
And hand wringing, and how can we build a system that is 99% reliable, or 99.9% reliable? And that kind of need to be so responsive to risk may not be consistent with exploring new places and doing dangerous things. And NASA was willing to take risks. And
There are plenty of incredibly brave people stepping up to take those risks in the interests of exploration, nationalism, science. I think there's still-- those people are around today. But the agency, the government, is not the same in terms of its tolerance of risk.
STEVE SQUYRES: Those are both very good descriptors of the difference between NASA of long ago and NASA today. Let me add one more, and that's the demographics of the agency. Watch the videos in the control room of the Apollo landings.
Those people were young. The average age of a NASA engineer, NASA employees today, is more than a decade older than the average was back in those days. These were young, vigorous people who didn't know what you can't do.
And the agency has aged. And I got to tell you, to wrap this up, I'm so pleased to see so many young people-- not the people who remember Apollo 11 in this audience today, but the young people who weren't even born when it happened. Because I am one of the optimists.
And I believe that our nation's space program's best moments lie in the future. And those moments are going to be brought about not today, not by people who are my age or the age of the people on this panel. It's the age of the young people in this room who are going to make those great missions of the future happen. Thank you all, very much.
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This panel discussion, "Apollo 11 Lunar Landing: 40 Years After," covers Apollo-era history, Cornell's past and present involvement in lunar science, and plans for future exploration of the moon.
Panelists include Jim Bell, Cornell professor of astronomy; Peter Thomas, senior research associate; and Elizabeth Bilson, Cornell administrative director during the Apollo years. Steve Squyres, Cornell professor of astronomy and principal investigator for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission moderates.
Sponsored by the Cornell Department of Astronomy, the Cornell Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, the Cornell/NASA Spacecraft Imaging Facility, and the NASA/New York Space Grant Consortium.