In the Shadow of the Moon – Field notes

After my rather foolish admission that I hadn’t necessarily paid much attention to those that went to the moon after the main three, Steven Roy recommended I watch this documentary film on 4OD – In the Shadow of the Moon.

I watched, and I learned, and I made notes. I’ve posted the distilled version for Film Watch, but these are the full notes I made along the way – 90 minutes of brilliant space travel stuff, I highly recommend it.

  • Oh, Ron Howard, eh? He likes his space stuff.
  • The astronaut man thinks of two moons, the one in the sky and the one he visited, but can’t reconcile the two. “That’s science fiction.”
  • “Between 1968 and 1972, nine American spacecraft visited the moon.” I knew that. Honest.
  • The actual Jim Lovell!
  • He’s running on the sand. a) that’s hard and b) I want a go!
  • You have to be some kind of brave to want to go into space after watching all those other rockets blow up.
  • It’s the getting them back safely that is the tricky bit.
  • John F Kennedy said the nation had to go there, but did he expand on why? Is just getting there enough, or should there be more of a reason?
  • These astronauts have all started as pilots. Is that true today?
  • I do so love archive videos from the 50s and 60s, particularly the prim and proper voiceovers!
  • “The higher and faster you flew, the more dangerous and exciting it became.”
  • They actually asked Buzz Aldrin’s mother how she’d feel if he landed on the moon? Spooky!
  • Lots and lots of models being built out of wood. MDF spacecraft!
  • Their plans include metal alloys that have not yet been invented. This sounds all kinds of safe.
  • It’s sad that JFK didn’t get to see the moon landings.
  • 100% oxygen doesn’t seem like a good idea to me and I know nothing about science.
  • He didn’t want to speak out about dodgy wiring in case they fired him? Jeez louise, I’d rather speak out!
  • Ooh, a special news bulletin. We don’t get them so much these days with the 24 Hour News channels.
  • Yet more bravery to keep on going.
  • He feels guilty about not fighting in Vietnam, despite risking his life for the space programme.
  • The big crawler things haven’t changed much, even if what they’re carrying has.
  • Wowsers, goosebumps knowing they were the first launch of the deep space kind.
  • Jim Lovell, just 60 miles away. Breaks my heart.
  • They were in space on Christmas Eve! I love it. That’s one way of getting away from it all.
  • An atheist lady sued them for reading out the Bible in space? Like there aren’t more important battles to fight!
  • Mike Collins doesn’t sound at all bitter about being the one left in the command module. That’s good.
  • Neil Armstrong had to emergency exit a weird flying thing, and was majorly calm about it just a few hours later. No wonder they picked him to go up.
  • They all look absolutely terrified. Bit of an understatement saying they didn’t get much rest the night before Apollo 11’s launch. And I think I have sleep troubles!
  • Collins appears to be more worried about doing something wrong in front of 3 million people, rather than what might happen if he did do something wrong.
  • So much debris coming off the rocket as it goes up!
  • I like the guy saying he wasn’t nervous, what’s to be nervous about unless something goes wrong.
  • “It shakes and vibrates so much more than I ever imagined.”
  • All the people watching and taking pictures with their old cameras. I wonder what kind of pictures they got out. Did they have the development disappointment that I always used to with film cameras?
  • “Before you set sail for the moon.” Set sail!

  • I don’t really know what we’re looking at. Some kind of TLI ignition thing. The radio is great though. Sounds like the NASA people were just the same then as now.
  • Imagine seeing the Earth in its circular form. And so tiny.
  • Three days to get from the Earth to the moon. Would it still take that long now?
  • That guy has kept papers from his kids that they inserted into the flight plan as a surprise. Those papers have been to the moon and back and still survive to this day!
  • I would be a fearful astronaut too. “If that window blows out, I’m going to be dead in a second. There’s death about an inch away.”
  • Going into darkness after being in daylight that whole time sounds scary. The titular Shadow of the Moon.
  • “I did not sense any great invitation on the part of the moon, for us to come into its domain.”
  • They’d practised a lot but did not always make a successful landing, so they were really just going down and hoping for the best.
  • Ooh, footage of the guy talking on the radio, with the radio soundtrack. Way cool.
  • That lunar module looks so spindly.
  • Uh oh, some kind of computer alarm before they get to the surface of the moon. Computer overloaded.
  • They’re going so fast towards the moon!
  • “He wasn’t coming home and saying, I got low on fuel so I didn’t land it.”
  • Tranquility does seem to be quite a big word to say over the radio to the moon.
  • Mike Collins talking about him being the loneliest man in the world at that point, except he says he wasn’t, because Mission Control were “yakking in my ear half the time”. He quite enjoyed the feeling of solitude.
  • First live pictures from the moon. Wowsers.
  • The surface of the moon is fine grains, almost like a powder. Powdered cheese?
  • The flag thing is so weird. How does it stay up in such powdery ground? It stays wide out like a perfect flag. No gravity is fun!
  • Woah, that’s actual Apollo 13 footage.
  • I love their view. Don’t panic, because even if you spend ten minutes bouncing off the walls, you’re still going to be stuck up in space in the same predicament.
  • And I love the other astronauts all working together to sort out a solution.
  • Forgive me, but I must say, the casting for Apollo 13 the movie is excellent.
  • This is the bit I don’t really know about. All the other peoples that landed on the moon.
  • Just two people on the whole of the surface on the moon.
  • I wonder if it is fun to travel such giant non-gravity steps, or if it is quite tiring.
  • So, when that guy just said the moon was untouched… he wasn’t really telling the truth. They’re stealing things from the moon!
  • Re-entry: “Like being inside a giant lightbulb.”
  • Landing in the sea seems like an undignified way to end such great missions.
  • That’s the Queen!
  • I think Collins is my favourite.
  • “We have yet to return to the moon.”
  • Hiding the entire earth behind your thumb sounds like a good idea.
  • “Since that time, I have not complained about the weather one single time. I’m glad there’s weather.”
  • All three of them inaugural moon chaps were born in the same year? That’s odd!
  • “Somebody had to go and they happened to pick me.”
  • Great credits montage sharing their feelings about the moon landing conspiracies – “Why did we fake it nine times, if we faked it?”
  • “Nobody can ever take those footsteps I made on the surface of the moon away from me.”

10 thoughts on “In the Shadow of the Moon – Field notes

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed it. I thought the fact that it was more about the people than some kind of educational stream of facts would make it more appealing to you.

    I will try and answer some of your questions but I am surprised there is no comment on the lunar rover. I expected cars on the moon to be a big surprise for you.

    Kennedy wanted to beat the Soviet Union to the moon because they had launched a satellite -Sputnik- first and they put Yuri Gagarin the first man in space. He was determined America would not be beaten again. Unfortunately that led to what are called flags and footsteps missions. Had the target not been so tight they would probably have done some of the other things they planned like a permanent lunar base. In the end they went to the moon too early for the good of space exploration.

    Most astronauts still start as pilots and NASA trains all those who don’t to fly everything up to the T38 fighters that the astronauts use to fly from Houston to Florida etc.

    I thought it was Neil Armstrong’s parents who were on the game show and his mother was asked how she would feel if he was the first man on the moon. But I wasn’t making notes so I assume you are correct.

    The big crawlers have not changed at all. The Apollo crawlers were used for the shuttles too and will presumably be used for the next generation.

    There was always a lot of ice falling from an Apollo at launch. All the fuel was at such low temperature that moisture in the air froze in contact with the metal. All the vibration at launch shook it loose. The same didn’t happen with the shuttle because it had to be able to fly so it could not just have a metal skin wrapped round the fuel tanks.

    TLI is trans-lunar injection. They are in Earth orbit and they have to ignite the engine to break free of Earth’s gravity and head to the moon.

    It would probably still take the same time to get to the moon. There is nothing to be gained by getting there any faster other than burning a lot more fuel which means a much bigger space craft.

    The lunar module was very fragile. It was not strong enough to even test it in the Earth’s atmosphere so the first test was when Apollo 9 tried it in Earth orbit. The closest thing they had on Earth was the thing Neil Armstrong ejected out of. I always find it interesting that people always say how great he was for being calm enough to eject. No-one ever says he lost control and trashed an expensive piece of equipment.

    The reason Armstrong stumbled over Tranquility base on the radio is because he had never said it before. In all the training all anyone had ever said was Eagle which was the name of the lunar module. For some reason on the moon he decided to say Tranquility base. Of course he had just landed a space ship that could have run out of fuel and crashed into the moon killing him and Aldrin at any second so a little stumble is allowed.

    There is gravity on the moon. It’s just that we have 6 times as much as there is there. So if you drop something on your toe you have 6 times as long to react. Otherwise the moon would not exist nor could they orbit it and the first step they took would launch them into space. The flag stays the way it does because it has a coat hanger type frame holding it that way. It stands on the powder because they hammered it down a fair distance.

    Landing in the sea may seem undignified but the option was to copy the Soyuz and parachute on to the land and that is a lot more risky. As it was parachuting into the sea made great TV coverage because you saw the capsule parachuting down, then splashing down into the sea, then the astronauts being picked up by helicopter and finally walking out on to the deck of a ship to be interviewed. That only applied for the missions that didn’t land on the moon. If they landed on the moon they went straight into quarantine and had to stare out of little windows in a small room which was undignified.

    Hiding the planet behind your thumb is a great image. If everyone could experience that for a second people would take a lot better care of the planet and the people on it.

    Jim Lovell was that close to the moon twice. He was on Apollo 8 which was the first mission to orbit the moon and return to prove the flight plan worked. So twice he got to see it out of a window and never got to stand on it. And the casting for Apollo 13 was great.

  2. Amazing comment, thanks Steven!

    I was surprised by the lunar rover. He holds the moon speed record and everything! I was a bit concerned because if they hit a bump, would they lose what little gravity they had and go and fly out in space and never come back?

  3. Moon speed record is 11.2mph for Gene Cernan. The rover was only supposed to do 8mph but he was going downhill so the gravity obviously works.

    It would be greedy to be the first person to orbit the moon in three different vehicles in the same mission if he hit a bump and launched the rover. Fortunately escape velocity is a bit more than 11mph

  4. Hmmm, I think someone needs to see, or better still read “The Right Stuff”. The movie takes you from Yeager’s Sound Barrier flight to Gordon Cooper’s Orbital flight and the Tom Wolfe novel covers everything space related from the Century series jet fighters to end of the Mercury project for NASA. The only sad thing about the book is that you do not find out if Deke Slayton gets reinstated, on the plus side it does not tell you what happens to Gus (?) Grissom on Apollo 1.

  5. 100% oxygen doesn’t seem like a good idea to me and I know nothing about science.

    The answer is that depends on where you are.. 100% Oxygen can be very useful to you at the end of your X km disntace runs, if you have built up more than usually amount of carbon dioxide at teh bottom of your lungs. (shortness of breath, seems like you can not get air days, well, ordinary air is only 21% oxygen, sd if you are short on breath, breathing 100% oxygen will make sure you get all the oxygen you need and flush out the excess of carbon dioxide, which causes you to pant. You occasionally see NFL football players having a gulp of 100% oxygen between plays when on the bench.

    Anywhere below the surface Oxygen is iffy. Pure Oxygen is toxic around 33 feet deep, and is considered toxic at lower depths.

    Anywhere above 10.000 feet above sea level, gulp it down like there’s no tomorrow….

    Of course, for the flip side of 100% oxygen, read about Apollo 1.

  6. Collins appears to be more worried about doing something wrong in front of 3 million people, rather than what might happen if he did do something wrong <

    Yeah,well, by the time Collins reached NASA, he was a test pilot of some kind for how long? So he came to terms with what could happen, but of course his real fear is making a mistake as he is sure that his brethen astronauts will point out that mistake to teh Duty Roster Officer in the hopes of bumping Collins of the next mission and getting his spot. It was a Dog-eat-Dog-Eat-Dog world being a test pilot trying to get into NASA.

    Look what happen to Deke Slayton. Poor Guy.

  7. ….his real fear is making a mistake as he is sure that his brethen astronauts will point out that mistake to teh Duty Roster Officer in the hopes of bumping Collins of the next mission and getting his spot.

    And the man who assigned all Gemini and Apollo crews including deciding who the first man on the moon should be was …… Deke Slayton.

    Although to be fair Pete Conrad should have been the first man on the moon had the lunar module been delivered on time. The standard procedure was that a crew would be assembled as the back up crew for one mission and would be the prime crew for the mission 3 after that. Conrad’s crew were the back up for Apollo 8 which was scheduled to be the first to fly the lunar module in Earth orbit with Armstrong’s crew the back up for Apollo 9. The lunar module was late being delivered so in order to make use of the time the missions were swapped so Apollo 9 became Apollo 8 and went to the moon and back without landing. So as a result Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon and Conrad became Pete Who?.

  8. The moon has its own atmosphere…albeit very tiny. In total it weighs on average 10 tonnes and takes around 3 months to replenish. The exhaust gases from the Apollo Lunar landers took weeks and in some cases months to disperse. This is of a real concern in the future if we’re expecting to mine various minerals from the surface. The idea was put forward to use small nuclear devices (approx 1 Kiloton) to gouge out chunks of the surface but after the Apollo missions that’s been considered an extremely risky proposal.

    Touching upon Steven’s mention of Lunar gravity. As stated the moons gravitational field is roughly 1/6th of earths but it has strange oddities, mainly in that the field isn’t even. In the northern hemisphere facing us (the eyes) there are larger concentrations of gravity called ‘Mascons’ especially around the ancient lava fields. We’re a little unsure why these anomalies exist and there are various theories banded around. One of the more popular ones is that an asteroid crashed into the moon and it’s heavier elements are buried under these vast dusty plains. This year a mission is being launched called GRAIL (Gravity Recovery & interior Laboratory) to unravel these anomalies. A rocket will launch towards the moon (Sep 2011) and utilise a low energy trans-earth cruise, taking roughly 3-4 months to arrive at the moon before dropping into orbit. Two small satellites will then skim 50 km above the lunar surface and map the gravitational field amongst other things, hopefully revealing what’s going on. After they’ve finished their mission (approx 90 days) the two will drop out of orbit and impact on the surface.

    The scientific instruments (ALSEP) left on the moon from the Apollo astronauts will detect the reverberations caused from the two satellite impacts. This information is used to further our understanding of the Moon’s interior. Even though moon is just over a quarter of our size (27%) it’s density mass is much lower in comparison and we still don’t fully understand why. When the Apollo 13 booster slammed into the moon (the discarded stage used for the TLI) the moon reverberated for a full 55 mins which astonished scientists and led them to conclude the interior is less dense then was predicted.

    For information on upcoming scientific missions to moon and other places I recommend reading this report from NASA ‘Visions & Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013 – 2022’

    Looks like we’re going to Europa 😉

  9. Oh just a few things (inaccuracies) to add about the fantastic Apollo 13 movie:

    • Astronauts didn’t meet their wives the night prior to launch as it’s depicted in the movie (across a road). That started in the Shuttle programme.
    • Marilyn Lovell did drop her ring in the shower but it didn’t get washed down the plughole, it was saved by the metal grate
    • The line ‘Houston we have a problem’ was never spoken, it was ‘Houston we’ve HAD a problem’ (movie makers thought the past tense would confuse viewers)
    • The depicted argument onboard 13 never actually happened, it was added into the movie as the makers thought the viewers wouldn’t believe the astronauts wouldn’t crack up at some point
    • Ken Mattingly watched the launch from Mission Control, not stood by his car in a field at KSC
    • Ken Mattingly’s character portrayed working out re-entry procedures was an amalgamation of various engineers as well as Ken.

    I love this film and recommend reading the Lost Moon by Jim Lovell (currently £1.42 used on Amazon, worth every penny)

  10. Great comments by RCC and some stuff I had no idea about.

    I think it is safe to assume any large body in space has some kind of atmosphere as a result of its gravity although in many cases like the moon these atmospheres are effectively imperceptible.

    I didn’t know about the variations in the moon’s gravity. Not sure how I missed that. I did see the mission pre-launch mentioned recently but I have not read up on it.

    The upcoming scientific mission document is something I have never heard of before. I see it has 228 mentions of Europa so I hope we have at least one mission going there. Given the choice I would cancel the Uranus mission and do the full Jupiter-Europa mission It is beyond me why something has not been sent there sooner as Europa has to be about the most interesting body in the solar system after Earth. Had I been running the space program I would have sent missions to Europa and Titan years ago. The brief glimpse of Titan that Huygens allowed us was incredible so the follow up longer term mission there is a must.

    I remember Apollo 13 and until about a year ago I always remembered the line as ‘Houston we have a problem’. The line has been repeated like that on many, many occasions. I have seen it used as a joke like that too. I was amazed about a year ago when I was watching a clip from the mission and heard ‘Houston we have had a problem’. I replayed the section a couple of times just to be sure. Besides it’s not like the problem had gone away. They still had a problem. I am sure I can remember news bulletins at the time saying we have just heard a message from Apollo 13 saying ‘Houston we have a problem’.

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