Saturday, July 13, 2019

Buzz Aldrin: "Beautiful view. Magnificent desolation."



"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."
 ___ President John F. Kennedy


By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

As the world  gears up to celebrate the Lunar landing 50 years ago, it is interesting to note the local connections.

Colorado produces a bunch of space cadets and astronauts

 U.S. News and World Report noted a few years ago (July 20, 2016), that of the top 12 colleges producing astronauts, two of them were in Colorado. Second, behind the Naval Academy with 52, was the U.S. Air Force Academy producing 36, and CU Boulder down the line a bit with 14.
That included two NASA’s fallen astronauts, including University of Colorado Boulder alumni Ellison Onizuka and Kalpana Chawla, who died in space shuttle accidents 17 years apart.
Onizuka, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the aerospace engineering sciences department at CU-Boulder in 1969, died when the Challenger exploded shortly after launch on Jan. 28, 1986. On Feb. 1, 2003, Chawla, who received her doctorate from CU-Boulder in aerospace engineering in 1988, was killed when Columbia was destroyed while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Moon Rocks here in the Centennial State

Four "Moon rocks," which weigh about 0.05 grams total and are encased in a clear plastic button the size of a coin which is mounted to a wooden board approximately one foot square on a small pedestal display.  The display at Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, also has mounted on it a small Colorado state flag that had taken been to the Moon and back, which lies directly below the "goodwill Moon rocks."

It was given to the people of the state of Colorado as a gift by President Richard Nixon, as were similar lunar sample displays distributed to all the other states of the United States, and all the countries, at the time, of the world.

The four rice-sized particles that were collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969 and a small Colorado state flag that was taken to the Moon and back on Apollo 11.
The four "Moon rocks," collected in Taurus Littrow Valley of the Moon, weigh only about 0.05 grams total and are encased in a clear plastic button the size of a coin. The Colorado Apollo 11 lunar samples plaque was first displayed in a low-security location with easy public access on the first floor of the Colorado State Capitol building beginning around 1992.

In November 1969, then-U.S. President Richard Nixon requested that NASA create approximately 250 displays containing lunar surface material and the flags of 135 nations, U.S. possessions and states.
Each presentation included 0.05 grams of Apollo 11 moon dust, in the form of four small pieces encased in an acrylic button, as well as the flag of the recipient nation or state, also flown on the first manned lunar landing mission.

The displays that were presented to foreign heads of state included the inscription: Presented to the People of ____________ by Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America.
"This Flag of Your Nation was Carried to the Moon and Back by Apollo 11 and This Fragment of the Moon's Surface was Brought to Earth by the Crew of That First Manned Lunar Landing.

Distribution of the lunar sample displays 

Once gifted, each of the lunar sample displays became the property of the entity and therefore was no longer subject to being tracked by NASA. All other lunar samples' locations are well documented by the U.S. space agency to this day (with exception to similarly gifted Apollo 17 goodwill moon rocks).

As property of the nation or state, the Apollo 11 lunar samples are now subject to the laws for public gifts as set by that country. In most cases, as in the United States, public gifts cannot be legally transferred to individual ownership without the passage of additional legislation.

The Colorado Apollo 17 lunar sample display, which is now also on display at Colorado School of Mines has a similar commemorative style plaque (10 by 14 inches) consists of one "Moon rock" particle specimen that was cut from lunar basalt 70017 and a Colorado state flag. The basalt 70017 was collected by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt on the Moon in 1972. Once lunar basalt 70017 was brought back to Earth from the Moon, the basalt Moon rock was cut up into small fragments of approximately 1 gram. The specimen was encased in a plastic ball and mounted on the wooden plaque along with the Colorado state flag which had been taken to the Moon and back by the crew of Apollo 17. The plaque was then distributed in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to the state of Colorado as he did that year to the other 49 states (the same as for the Apollo 11 plaque gifts). This was done as a goodwill gesture to promote peace and harmony.
The Colorado Apollo 11 lunar samples plaque was first displayed in a low-security location with easy public access on the first floor of the Colorado State Capitol building beginning around 1992. By 2010 the Colorado Apollo 11 "goodwill Moon rocks" had been moved to a locked third-floor display case at the Capitol. However, in that year, the Capitol Building Advisory Committee decided to move it to an unknown location until it could come up with plans for a permanent secure location. This action was prompted by news reports that Apollo 11 "goodwill Moon rocks" from the first manned Moon landing may be worth as much as $5 million.
The $5 million price tag reported for either set of Apollo "Moon rocks" is a black market valuation that the state government does not put much trust on. But whatever "high valuation" it may have is a tempting target for thieves.

The Colorado Apollo 17 lunar sample display was accepted by then-Colorado Governor John Vanderhoof from NASA astronaut Jack Lousma on January 9, 1974. After that, it was considered lost until it was located in June 2010 in Vanderhoof's Grand Junction home.Vanderhoof, who left office in 1975, said "he didn't know what to do with the display once he left office so he simply decided to take it with him." The plaque display with the Apollo 17 "Moon rock" has since been moved to the Colorado School of Mines, where it is currently on display in the Geology Museum.

Lunar Sample 15555.844, On long-term loan from NASA, Johnson Space Center

On display at the CU Heritage Center is lunar sample 15555.844, on long-term loan from NASA. The moon rock was collected by Apollo 15 astronauts (none of whom are affiliated with CU) on July 30, 1971 when the lunar module Falcon landed in the Hadley-Apennine region of the moon. It was cut from the largest of the rocks collected on the Apollo 15 mission.

The Heritage Center moon rock is composed of medium-grained olivine basalt, one of the most common types of rocks found on Earth. Scientists use this information to better understand the origin and history of the Earth as well as the solar system as a whole.

By analyzing moon rocks like ours, scientists have discovered that the youngest moon rocks are as old as the oldest Earth rocks, or just over 3 billion years old. We know that the surface of planet Earth is active and that the movements of the tectonic plates uplift and volcanoes work to remix and alter its composition. The surface of the moon, on the other hand, has remained basically unchanged for the last 3 billion years. Geologic evidence of the earliest events that probably affected both the Earth and the moon can now be found only on the moon.

The first lunar samples were studied in vacuum to protect them from contamination by Earth’s atmosphere. Today they are housed in nitrogen to keep them from deteriorating. The CU moon rock is encased in a special, NASA-prepared airtight case that is filled with nitrogen.

"Houston, we've had a problem here."

Two days after launch, with Apollo 13 nearly 205,000 miles from Earth, the astronauts heard a "loud bang." Lights and other fluctuations in electrical power and failure of the automatic firing of the attitude control thrusters followed.

"Houston, we've had a problem," Lovell relayed Jack Swigert's message. "We've had a main B bus undervolt."

John Leonard Swigert Jr. was born on August 30, 1931 in Denver, Colorado to parents John Leonard Sr. and Virginia Swigert. Swigert's father was an ophthalmologist. At the age of 14, he became fascinated by aviation. While he would have been content just watching planes take off from nearby Combs Field, young Jack became determined to do more than be a spectator. He took on a newspaper route to earn money for flying lessons, and by age 16 he was a licensed private pilot. He attended Blessed Sacrament School, Regis Jesuit High School, and East High School, from which he graduated in 1949.

Swigert received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado in 1953, where he also played football for the Buffaloes. He later earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Hartford campus) in 1965, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Hartford in 1967; and was presented an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree from American International College in 1970, and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Western State University in 1970, and an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Western Michigan University in 1970.

Swigert was one of three astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 Moon mission launched April 11, 1970. Originally part of the backup crew for the mission, he was assigned to the mission three days before launch, replacing astronaut Ken Mattingly. The prime crew had been exposed to German Measles (the rubella virus) from Charles Duke and, because Mattingly had no immunity to the disease, NASA did not want to risk his falling ill during critical phases of the flight.


The mission was the third lunar-landing attempt, but was aborted after the rupture of an oxygen tank in the spacecraft's service module. Swigert was the astronaut who made the dramatic announcement, "Houston, we've had a problem here." The statement was then repeated by Commander of the flight Jim Lovell.


In 1982, during his political campaign, Swigert developed a malignant tumor in his right nasal passage. He underwent surgery, but the cancer spread to his bone marrow and lungs. On Dec. 19, seven weeks after the election, he was airlifted from his home in Littleton to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and died of respiratory failure at its Lombardi Cancer Center on Dec. 27, seven days before the beginning of his congressional term. He was 51. He is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

 
 

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