Category Archives: Systems integration

50th Anniversary of the First Manned Moon Landing and a Very Long Time Since the Last Manned Moon Landing

On July 16th, 1969, 13:32:00 UTC, the Saturn V launch vehicle, SA-506, lifted off from Launch Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida on the Apollo 11 mission with astronauts Neil Armstrong (Mission commander), Michael Collins (Command Module pilot) and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin (Lunar Module pilot).

L to R:  Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins & Buzz Aldrin.  
Source: NASA
Apollo 11 insignia: Eagle with wings outstretched holding 
an olive branch above the Moon with Earth in the background. Source: NASA via Wikipedia

The Apollo spacecraft consisted of three modules: 

  • The three-person Command Module (CM), named Columbia, was the living quarters for the three-person crew during most of the lunar landing mission.
  • The Service Module (SM) contained the propulsion system, electrical fuel cells, consumables storage tanks (oxygen, hydrogen) and various service / support systems. 
  • The two-person, two-stage Lunar Module (LM), named Eagle, would make the Moon landing with two astronauts and return them to the CM.  

The LM’s descent stage (bottom part of the LM with the landing legs) remained on the lunar surface and served as the launch pad for the ascent stage (upper part of the LM with the crew compartment).  Only the 4.9 ton CM was designed to withstand Earth reentry conditions and return the astronauts safely to Earth.

General configuration of the Apollo spacecraft.  The “CSM” is the combined Command Module and Service Module.  Source:  NASA

From its initial low Earth parking orbit, Apollo 11 flew a direct trans-lunar trajectory to the Moon, inserting into lunar orbit about 76 hours after liftoff.  The Apollo 11 mission profile to and from the Moon is shown in the following diagram, and is described in detail here: https://www.mpoweruk.com/Apollo_Moon_Shot.htm

Source:  NASA

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Eagle LM in the Sea of Tranquility on 20 July 1969, at 20:17 UTC (about 103 hours elapsed time since launch), while Michael Collins remained in a near-circular lunar orbit aboard the CSM.  Neil Armstrong characterized the lunar surface at the Tranquility Base landing site with the observation, “it has a stark beauty all its own.”

In the two and a half hours they spent on the lunar surface, Armstrong and Aldrin collected 21.55 kg (47.51 lb) of rock samples, took photographs and set up the Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP) and the Laser Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR), which would be left behind on the Moon. The PSEP provided the first lunar seismic data, returning data for three weeks after the astronauts left, and the LRRR allows precise distance measurements to be collected to this day.  Neil Armstrong made an unscheduled jaunt to Little West crater, about 50 m (164 feet) east of the LM, and provided the first view into a lunar crater.

Apollo 11 PSEP in the foreground with astronaut Buzz Aldrin and the LRRR behind it, then the Eagle LM, the American flag, and the TV camera on the left horizon
beyond the American flag.  Source: NASA
Neil Armstrong’s photo showing the Eagle LM from Little West crater
(33 meters in diameter). Source: NASA
Apollo 11 landing site captured from 24 km (15 miles) above the surface
by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
Source: adapted from NASA Goddard/Arizona State University
Apollo 11 “traverse” map.  
Source: NASA via Smithsonian https://airandspace.si.edu/

Armstrong and Aldrin departed the Moon on 21 July 1969 at 17:54 UTC in the ascent stage of the Eagle LM and then rendezvoused and docked with Collins in the CSM about 3-1/2 hours later. 

LM Eagle ascent stage with Armstrong and Aldrin approaching the CSM Columbia piloted by Collins.  Source: NASA

After discarding the ascent stage, the CSM main engine was fired and Apollo 11 left lunar orbit on 22 July 1969 at 04:55:42 UTC and began its trans-Earth trajectory.  As the Apollo spacecraft approached Earth, the SM was jettisoned. 

The CM reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and landed in the North Pacific on 24 July 1969 at 16:50:35 UTC.  The astronauts and the Apollo 11 spacecraft were recovered by the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.  President Nixon personally visited and congratulated the astronauts while they were still in quarantine aboard the USS Hornet.  You can watch a video of this meeting here:

Mankind’s first lunar landing mission was a great success.

Postscript to the first Moon landing

A month after returning to Earth, the Apollo 11 astronauts were given a ticker tape parade in New York City, then termed as the largest such parade in the city’s history.

New York City ticker tape parade for the Apollo 11 astronauts.  
Source: NASA / Bill Taub

There were a total of six Apollo lunar landings (Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17), with the last mission, Apollo 17, returning to Earth on 19 December 1972.  Their landing sites are shown in the following graphic.

The Apollo landing sites.  Source: NASA

In the past 46+ years since Apollo 17, there have been no manned missions to the Moon by the U.S. or any other nation.

You’ll find extensive Apollo historical resources on the NASA website starting from the following link to the Apollo program webpage: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/index.html

Along with astronaut John Glenn, the first American to fly in Earth orbit, the three Apollo 11 astronauts were awarded the New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal in the Capitol Rotunda on 16 November 2011. This is the Congress’ highest civilian award and expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.

Neil Armstrong died on 25 August 2012 at the age of 82.

The Apollo 11 command module Columbia was physically transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1971 and has been on display for decades at the National Air and Space Museum on the mall in Washington D.C.  For the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, Columbia will be on display at The Museum of Flight in Seattle, as the star of the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition, “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission.”  You can get a look at this exhibit at the following link:  http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-041319a-destination-moon-seattle-apollo.html

The Apollo 11 command module Columbia at 
The Museum of Flight in Seattle. Source: collectSPACE

After years of changing priorities under the Bush and Obama administrations, NASA’s current vision for the next U.S. manned lunar landing mission is named Artemis, after the Greek goddess of hunting and twin sister of Apollo.  NASA currently is developing the following spaceflight systems for the Artemis mission:

  • The Space Launch System (SLS) heavy launch vehicle.
  • A manned “Gateway” station that will be placed in lunar orbit, where it will serve as a transportation node for lunar landing vehicles and manned spacecraft for deep space missions.
  • The Orion multi-purpose manned spacecraft, which will deliver astronauts from Earth to the Gateway, and also can be configured for deep space missions.
  • Lunar landing vehicles, which will shuttle between the Gateway and destinations on the lunar surface.
The Orion spacecraft is functionally comparable to the Apollo command and
service modules.  Source:  NASA

While NASA has a tentative goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2024, the development schedules for the necessary Artemis systems may not be able to meet this ambitious schedule.  The landing site for the Artemis mission will be in the Moon’s south polar region. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has stated that Artemis will deliver the first woman to the Moon.

NASA reported the Artemis moon program status in May 2019 at the following link: https://www.nasa.gov/artemis-moon-program-advances

Additional reading on Project Apollo and the first Moon landing mission:

  • Roger D. Launis, “Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings,” Smithsonian Books, 14 May 2019, ISBN-13: 978-1588346490
  • Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins & Edwin Aldrin, “First on the Moon,” William Konecky Assoc., 15 October 2002, ISBN-13: 978-1568523989
  • Michael Collins, “Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story,” Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 3 edition, 28 May 2019, ISBN-13: 978-0374312022
  • Michael Collins, “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys: 50th Anniversary Edition Anniversary Edition,” Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 16 April 2019, ISBN-13: 978-0374537760
  • Edwin Aldrin, “Return to Earth,” Random House; 1st edition, 1973, ISBN-13: 978-0394488325

BLOODHOUND SSC Making Progress Toward a World Land Speed Record Attempt in 2017

The BLOODHOUND Project bills itself as an international education initiative focused around a 1,000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt.

“The primary objective of the Project is to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology and math – by demonstrating how they can be harnessed to achieve the impossible, such as a jet and rocket powered car capable of setting a new World Land Speed Record.”

Since my first post in the BLOODHOUND Project on 2 March 2015, the project team has made great progress in designing, developing, constructing and testing the BLOODHOUND SSC (supersonic car) and its many components and systems.  This will be a very interesting year as the BLOODHOUND Project works up to a world land speed record attempt currently planned for November 2017 on Hakskeen Pan in South Africa.

You’ll find the BLOODHOUND website, with its many resources, at the following link:

http://www.bloodhoundssc.com

You can subscribe to the BLOODHOUND newsletter here:

http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/newsletter-signup

The project team has established an extensive video record of their work on YouTube. Starting at their YouTube home page at the following link, you can navigate through a very interesting video library.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsBrBl7xmnNBkosxCeHGqPA

On 9 January 2017, the BLOODHOUND Project announced that they had launched a new series of short video programs that will take viewers through the inner workings of the land speed record car. The first video in the Anatomy of the Car series is at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bfL2XC0Fa0

BLOODHOUND SSCBLOODHOUND SSC X-raySource, both images: The BLOODHOUND Project

You can subscribe to the BLOODHOUND videos directly on their YouTube home page.

I hope you will share my enthusiasm for this inspirational international project and take time to understand the remarkable systems integration work being done by the BLOODHOUND Project.

VBB-3, the World’s Most Powerful Electric Car, will Challenge the Land Speed Record in 2016

Venturi Buckeye Bullet-3 (VBB-3) is an all-electric, four wheel drive, land speed record (LSR) car that has been designed to exceed 400 mph (643.7 km/h). The organizations involved in this project are:

  • Venturi Automobiles:

This Monaco-based company is a leader in the field of high performance electric vehicles. Read more at the Venturi website at the following link:

http://en.venturi.fr/challenges/world-speed-records

  • Ohio State University (OSU) Center for Automotive Research (CAR):

OSU’s CAR has been engaged in all-electric LSR development and testing since 2000. On 3 October 2004 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the original nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery-powered Buckeye Bullet reached a top speed of 321.834 mph (517.942 km/h).

In an on-going program known as Mission 01, started in 2009, OSU partnered with Venturi to develop, test, and conduct the land speed record runs of the hydrogen fuel cell-powered VBB-2, the battery-powered VBB-2.5, and the more powerful battery-powered VBB-3.  Read more at the OSU / CAR website at following link:

https://car.osu.edu/search/node/VBB-3

 The Venturi – OSU team’s accomplishments to date are:

  • 2009:  The team’s first world land speed record was achieved on the Bonneville Salt Flats with hydrogen fuel cell-powered VBB-2 at 303 mph (487 km/h).
  •  2010:  The team returned to the salt flats with the 700 hp lithium-ion battery powered VBB-2.5 which set another world record at 307 mph (495 km/h); with a top speed at 320 mph (515 km/h).
  •  2013:  The 3,000 hp lithium iron phosphate battery-powered VBB-3 was unveiled. Due to the flooding of the Bonneville Salt Flats, the FIA and the organizers of the world speed records program cancelled the 2013 competition.
  •  2014Poor track conditions at Bonneville persisted after flooding from a summer storm. Abbreviated test runs by VBB-3 yielded a world record in its category (electric vehicle over 3.5 metric tons) with an average speed of 212 mph (341 km/h) and a top speed of 270 mph (435 km/h).
  •  2015:  Poor track conditions at Bonneville persisted after flooding from a summer storm. Abbreviated test runs by VBB-3 yielded a world record in its category (electric vehicle over 3.5 metric tons) with an average speed of 212 mph (341 km/h) and a top speed of 270 mph (435 km/h).

You will find a comparison of the VBB-2, VBB-2.5 and VBB-3 vehicles at the following link:

http://en.vbb3.venturi.fr/about/the-car

VBB-3 has a 37.2 ft. (11.35 meter) long, slender, space frame chassis that houses eight battery packs with a total of 2,000 cells, two 1,500 hp AC induction motors developed by Venturi for driving the front and rear wheels, a coolant system for the power electronics, disc brakes and a braking parachute, and a small cockpit for the driver. The basic internal arrangement of these components in the VBB-3 chassis is shown in the following diagram.

VBB-3 internalSource: Venturi

You can see a short video of a test drive of VBB-3 without its external skin at the following link:

http://en.vbb3.venturi.fr

The exterior aerodynamic carbon fiber shell was designed with the aid of the OSU Supercomputer Center to minimize vehicle drag and lift.

VBB-3 skinSource: Venturi

The completed VBB-3 with members of the project team is shown below.

VBB-3 completeSource: Venturi

A good video showing the 2010 VBB-2.5 record run and a 2014 test run of VBB-3 is at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLn07Y-t1Xc&ebc=ANyPxKqkVxPKQWnYXzUemRbE5WWlRIJUbaXA-UN6XPNoiDZG1O4NsFq8RE08QlrfdbfkxKmE32MEf5g2Qw0_WQbFXBvKYz9qwg

VBB-3 currently is being prepared in the OSU / CAR workshop in Columbus, Ohio, for another attempt at the land speed record in summer 2016. A team of about 25 engineers and students are planning to be at the Bonneville Salt Flats in summer 2016 with the goal of surpassing 372 mph (600 km/h).

You can subscribe to Venturi new releases on VBB-3 at the following link:

http://en.venturi.fr/news/the-vbb-3-gets-ready

VBB-3 at BonnevilleSource: Venturi

Update 2 January 2017: VBB-3 sets new EV land speed record

On 19 September 2016, VBB-3 set an electric vehicle (Category A Group VIII Class 8) land-speed record of 341.4 mph (549 kph), during a two-way run within one hour on the Bonneville salt flats in Utah. You can read the OSU announcement at the following link:

https://news.osu.edu/news/2016/09/21/ohio-states-all-electric-venturi-buckeye-bullet-3-sets-new-landspeed-record/

You also can watch a short video of VBB-3’s record run at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIqT4qLtGcY

Certification of this EV speed record by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) is still pending.

The Venturi-OSU team believes VBB-3 has the capability to achieve 435 mph (700 kph) in the right conditions, so we can expect more record attempts in the future.