Sunday, 21 July 2013

Eagle first - the rest nowhere

On this day 44 years ago, Neil Armstrong famously fluffed his lines when he bobbed down from the Eagle landing-module and became the first man on the Moon.  "The Eagle has landed" the day before on 20 July 1969. Men (there are no women) who have walked on the Moon are a rather exclusive club: only a dozen were made of The Right Stuff.  So it may be a teensy bit galling for the rest of them that nobody can remember their names.  Heck, Senator John Glenn has been a contender for POTUS and he was strictly round-the-Earth-bound.  Admittedly he was the first American to orbit the earth and the oldest to do so, when he took a ride on the Shuttle STS-95 at the age of 77.  He shot down 3 MIGs in the Korean War as well so is a poster-boy US hero.  In 1962, he testified that women were not suitable for any space program and people listened.

So here's your Moon-walking trivia training.  We'll get you winning prizes at pub quizzes even though you possibly weren't born when the last Apollo mission wrapped up humankind's expansionist dreams in 1972.
  1. Who was the last man on the Moon?
  2. Who was the last man off the Moon?
  3. Who blew up the colour TV camera by pointing it at the Sun? Ooops
  4. Who made the most precise landing (and retrieved parts from a previous unmanned probe)
  5. Who was the youngest Moon-walker?
  6. Who used a 6-iron?
  7. Who died first and youngest?
  8. Who believes in faith-healing and UFOs?
  9. Who was the first person to drive on the Moon?
  10. Who brought back the largest lump of Moon-rock?
  11. Who took communion and brought the chalice back ?
Then a bit of light guesstimation to discourage you from peeking at the answers without playing.
The Apollo Program had a number of scientific and sciencey "deliverables", but if the tax-payer dismisses these with a tetchy "but what have we got to show for it?", then NASA is probably going to have to point at the 382kg of Moon-rocks that were brought down from Up There.  The final bill for the Program submitted to Congress in 1973 came to $25.6 billion, maybe $175 billion in today's money.  Let's assign half the costs to the more nebulous deliverables and half to the show-me Moon-rocks, which are accordingly worth about $30,000/g.  That's a lot more than Gold ($40/g) but less than Californium-252 ($60,000/g); about the same as radioactive tritium.
In exchange, Apollo left about 80 tons of space junk on the Moon's surface, including 4 Lunar Rovers (500kg, max speed 18km/h, sun-roof).  The Russians, (and the Japanese, Chinese, Indians and Europeans - ESA) have also contributed to a total of 180 tons of crap, including three golf balls

  1. Jack Schmitt (Apollo 17; the only professional scientist (geology) and the only civilian Moon-walker)
  2. Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17; as mission captain he was first on, last off)
  3. Al Bean (Apollo 12; he was a painter)
  4. Pete Conrad (Apollo 12; check him out, more interesting than some of the others)
  5. Charles Duke (Apollo 16; he was 36 his mission commander was called Young)
  6. Alan Shepard (Apollo 14; Shepard whacked a tuthree golf balls into the middle distance. He was also the oldest Moon-walker (47 at the time), having been 38 when he became the first American in space - he went up and down in a parabola, John Glenn went into orbit.  )
  7. James Irwin (Apollo 15; he was 61 when he had a heart-attack in 1991 becoming the first of the Moon-walkers to die.  At this writing there are 8 left)
  8. Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14; he was cured of renal cancer by remote and knows that aliens are talking to (some of) us)
  9. Dave Scott (Apollo 15; he could also drive a hard bargain: he hatched a cunning plan to take 398 commemorative stamped envelopes to the Moon and back to sell for profit.  Current price for such a Sieger Cover is $15,000.  They say that Alan Shepard did a similar deal with medals from the Franklin Mint on the Apollo 14 mission).
  10. John Young (Apollo 16; I can't find anything more interesting to say about this man)
  11. Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11; the chalice is used by Aldrin's pastor back home on the Sunday nearest 20 July - today for example)

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