Apollo 11, 20-21 July 1969: the facts, the present and the future of space missions according to Defense Online readers

(To David Rossi)

There is a one-day difference, for Europeans, between the time of the moon landing of the Apollo 11 lunar module carrying the two astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong, the 20 July 1969 at 20: 17 of the Greenwich meridian, and that of the descent of the first man on the surface of our satellite, the 21 July at the 2: 56. For this reason, even though we often follow this in the Americans, who did not have this problem due to the time difference, we adapt and remember the 20 anniversary.

The mission actually, leaving aside the description of its technical-operational development, has its origin at the beginning of the presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose speech at the 25 Congress in May 1961 read:

I believe that this nation should strive to achieve the goal, before this decade is over, of landing a man on the moon and bringing him back to Earth safely. No single space project at this time will be more impressive for humanity, or more important for long-range space exploration; and none will be so difficult or expensive to implement. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar spacecraft. We propose to develop alternative solid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any other in development, until it becomes clear which one is the best. We propose additional funds for the development of other engines and for unmanned exploration - explorations that are particularly important for a purpose that this nation will never neglect: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be a single man to go to the moon - if we favorably support this choice - it will be an entire nation. Because all of us will have to work hard to bring it to us.

In the 1969 he had died a little over a year ago in an accident with a MiG-15 Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (photo), but the 11 of that 1961 April had made the first flight of a human being around the Earth. It was the second time since the launch of the Sputnik, that the Soviet Union gave proof of having achieved an impressive advantage in the field of space exploration thanks to the program Vostok (later, Voschod). Only by reaching the most prestigious result of the space race, that is the first landing, during the eleventh mission Apollo, the Americans demonstrated to the internal public opinion and to the world their enormous technological potential.

The history, after this, of the strategic but also industrial and social repercussions of the studies carried out for space missions, is still in progress. At the time, only a free market society like the United States was ready to accept these repercussions: on the contrary, the centralized Soviet socialist system prevented that country from obtaining the same advantages.

Before leaving, finally, the word to the readers, I allow myself to write a note on how many insistently deny that human missions on the Moon have ever taken place and have also written to the Online Geopolitical Defense Editor for this article ... To listen to the RAI commentator Tito Stagno thinks that Wernher von Braun told him that "One day, maybe to get publicity or to end up on television, someone will say that my work, that everything we've done, is a lie". Here, thinking that the Nazi scientist ended up with the Americans after the Second World War had not completely wrong and to follow up on what was announced, we decided to "censor" the conspiracy theorists. To which we would like to recall that we have even less evidence of Ramses II, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Frederick Barbarossa and Napoleon Bonaparte that they ever existed - and maybe they are not just fictional characters to sell history books or to make Egyptians proud, Greeks, Italians, Germans and French - which in the case of lunar missions from Apollo XI onwards. Of course if one went to say that the Battle of Waterloo never took place and the whole story - including the place of the clash - was created ... artfully by Antonio Canova, it would end up being teased even by elementary school children . On the other hand, millions are made in the conspiracy about the Apollo missions ...

Reader Elio Di Croce proposes a very interesting and realistic analysis, which we publish first.

About the strategic value of the American "conquest" of the Moon, there are two aspects to consider
1) the communicative propaganda aspect; in a harsh period for the United States (Vietnam, youth protest - in the USA and in the European allied countries) the "victory of the race to the Moon" gave prestige to the image of the country;
2) the improvement of missile technology, in which the United States was at a disadvantage since the Sputnik era and that of some important connected aerospace subsystems (materials, installations, space suits, guidance and detection systems, survival systems) and, finally, the experience on long flights far from the mother planet.

After the end of the lunar missions, the space activity was realized above all in the low orbits. The experience with the lunar missions has been largely lost, because there has not been a continuous and consolidated transfer of professionalism from the protagonists of those missions and subsequent generations, especially after the end of the Shuttle missions, which involved, at least , a significant commitment to controlling extra-atmospheric flight. Today we are still in orbit with jars like the Soyuz. The experience is largely to be reconstructed.
The future of man in space depends above all on the following factors:

- return to building man-driven vehicles for most of the mission; it is difficult to think that a human crew totally relies on a computer,

- the realization of comfortable and functional environments in a long period, possibly with artificial gravity systems,

- a clear advance in space medicine, science still in its infancy and consequent knowledge of the behavior of the human body in space.

No less interesting are the analyzes and, above all, the conclusions of the reader Andrea Bologna:

The strategic value of that extraordinary enterprise was twofold: firstly it allowed the USA to be able to "beat the flag" on our satellite in some way, proving to be the only ones able to do it, moreover in a short time: the enemy of that time, the USSR, could not help but take note. The real strategic value, however, was the acquisition of skills and technologies that allowed the USA to excel in almost all technological sectors (including military technologies), in a domain born then and that continues today. Skills and knowledge acquired through huge public investments (the company absorbed up to 4.5% of the GDP in the 1968 / 69): the ability to involve and convince taxpayers to finance this enterprise was an integral part of the program, carefully structured to guarantee a also media return.

Human activities in space are today a "routine" activity but still important above all in a future perspective; the space sector that involves human presence remains an important technological driving force, still capable of generating important repercussions. The growing interest of private operators is a clear sign of how interesting the sector can be - even economically -.

The future of astronautics will probably be more incremental than exponential. The experience accumulated in nearly sixty years of astronautics has made us understand that space exploration - in particular human exploration - is certainly possible but will continue gradually for decades or more probably centuries before those expensive planetary colonization scenarios can be realized to science fiction.

A little Savonarola, a little Steve Jobs ("stay hungry"), the ancient Morakx reader warns us with his particular style ...

Fifty years from the first landing? On the way we have done little. Perhaps because humanity has much more to do, perhaps because until recently the US and the USSR were the only "starship troopers". Certainly the opening to private individuals, the Chinese and the pseudo Europeans something should improve ... progress at the moment seems to me a bit sluggish. The real goal is apparently Mars and the Moon is just a step.

We come to us. This whole "spacewalk" (to call it a run would be a euphemism) is my world heritage, I mean; progress is like a company you have to make it grow, so that it brings well-being to all the production departments and to the hard-working workers at all levels. If at the top there are leaders who create stagnation and development delays, it is humanity that pays the consequences. Which? Too few words to spend on this article, think about it, if we were still inside the caves, how many deaths would there be for cold and drought?

Italian version. Dear Italians, the earth is not flat !!! And there is not only the kickable leather ball. I know that many of you do not believe it and will be shocked, but it is so, and I tell you more: Facebook Inc is a state, millions of citizens, businesses, religions and now even its own currency, other than the lunar race, the aliens are among us. Dear Italian citizens or allegedly so, you know that our "Leonardian" brains could be at the top of scientific research, and do you know that today if a "Pinco Palla" invents any virus or nanorobot, it has the world in its hands? Meditate people meditate, between the first and second half of a game of course.

Michele Carrera has the gift of synthesis and immediately recognizes the importance of technological repercussions and the advantage of "unmanned crafts".

Punto 1: if the tactical value was the conquest of the moon and the overcoming of the USSR the real strategic value was the technological leap of the United States. In fact, scientific and technological research was subsequently "recycled" in the civil sector and allowed scientific progress to be absolutely faster and unthinkable up until then, engaging a virtuous circle which we probably and still unknowingly still enjoy today.

Punto 2: needless to hide behind a finger, it will take centuries for the man to say he has explored space in the manner of Star Trek. But the important thing is to keep trying, one step after another.

Punto 3: the importance of human presence in exploration. The last few decades have made human presence more of a footprint than a real necessity, the tendency is to use remote controlled satellites but the human presence is, although notable as a bulk, necessary, not so much for the expected meeting with ET as for the innate need to explore and understand man, something a rover can never do.

Vincenzo Carrieri takes us with his feet on the ground and gives the lunar missions their proper size.

Perhaps to speak of "conquest", in my opinion, is not exactly correct. I make a comparison with the historical events that led the Spaniards thanks to Christopher Columbus to discover and later conquer the new world. It seems clear to me that in this case we can affirm an effective conquest and colonization of new territories here. The yearnings for wealth were the thrust that led the Spaniards to the colonization of those American territories discovered, while the race for space from the immediate post-war period was stimulated both by the Soviet and American sides to prove which of the two was the "ideological-political system" more strong or perhaps more just.

The NASA after many "second places" in the 69 succeeded only with considerable investments in the crowning of the "safe" landing of the first man on the Moon, returning there several times and therefore demonstrating how technically and not only the Americans were technically superior to the Soviets. This prompted the Soviets to obtain the same result as "second" but failed and certainly emptying the funds of the funds.

Considering the fact that the Nixon administration rejected further lunar missions in the seventies, directing NASA towards other objectives, in my opinion, to speak of strategic value makes little sense except for the fact of having the primacy of the first man on the moon. It would have been clearly different if colonization had followed, that is a stable lunar base with a human presence capable of increasing and acquiring all the technological capabilities that this "conquest" would have offered with an evident strategic mark of the USA. Despite the stop of the possible colonization of the moon and the race towards Mars then, the technological know-how for the survival of man in space has increased exponentially thanks to the successive American and Russian orbital missions with the MIR space station shuttle missions etc. including in this theater now also new actors on the space scene such as the Chinese, also eager to have their leadership in the cosmos.

It would have been interesting to see a more independent ESA commitment by autonomously bringing European cosmonauts into space but this has not happened. Beyond all this we have the technological maturity to expand the human presence both on our moon and then towards Mars, "wanting is power". I conclude, however, that the new fascinating race for the Moon-Mars colonization links it with the introductory statement of the Spaniards to the conquest of the new world ... new living space, new wealth, exploitation of space for economic purposes.

The reader Adelchi Massara hits the mark!

To the questions concerning the value of the landing and the future of human space exploration, I would answer that:

The landing of the LEM first gave an injection of confidence in the Americans and in Western countries in general after the initial blows of the space race. The Soviets had a similar lunar program in preparation, but continued rocket accidents nullified their initial advantage. These delays allowed the US to overtake them, gaining the prestige of "first nation on another celestial body", being able to present itself to the world as "the most advanced country". Materially, the technological discoveries were further studied and finally applied in the civil sphere in the following decades, not requiring part of the conversion required by the discoveries of military origin.

In our times, human space missions are limited by less public enthusiasm and immensely higher costs than in the 1960s, where the various oil crises and the high increase in component complexity have heavily affected expenses. Only the recent study and the partial introduction of cheaper carriers and a better public relations campaign by some companies are reviving the interest of governments and citizens.

Finally, I believe that future human missions should be both more ambitious and with closer objectives. The human exploration of Mars is pure fantasy without first a more or less stable presence on the Moon or at least some intermediate intermediate space between us and our satellite (the idea has already been proposed by various space agencies). To this must be added the need for a greater understanding of the effects on the human body and the precautions required by prolonged flights in open space, knowledge that is currently lacking. In the immediate future I don't see the possibility of revolutionary enterprises. At most, replicas or modest improvements of past ones.

Amara, on the other hand, is the analysis of the ancient Pession reader ...

A small step for a man ... remained such. When I feel that there is more technology in a smartphone than in the whole apparatus of instruments that led the first man to the moon, I observe the teenagers who take selfies with their mouths like “chicken ass” and I can't help less of feeling unkindly feelings.

Is it possible that at 10 luster from the landing, the situation in space has actually stopped? Possible that 50 years ago, without the color television, we watched the landing, while now, with every little boy interconnected to half the world, does the space seem so far?

US shuttles ... abandoned. Those slain by the Soviets ... abandoned in forgotten bases.

The USA (first on the moon), now, to get to the space station must ask for a passage to Russia (sanctioned) or to a private citizen. All the orbits of satellites, garbage, spies and repeaters were filled, all with their eyes focused on the ground to favor the speed of sending the aforementioned selfie and steal data for commercial purposes or worse, while the asteroids that touch the pumpkin are always signaled by private citizens who, so as not to see what surrounds them on earth, keep their eyes on the sky, perhaps dreaming.

Space is for those who dare and for those who dream, not for those who carry out market surveys, risk surveys and plan space operations with insurance companies and lawyers. I fear China will be the next to achieve goals not only because, as I write, it is already trying to cultivate on the Moon, but because it is not held back by fear of risk and is not a chimera of private individuals who step on each other's feet to gain advantages personal.

The AI ​​will be fundamental to compensate for human limits and once again China seems to be ahead at the moment. Except for the outbreak of some conflict first, the red planet will be yellow, if we do not give ourselves a wake up call.

Ultimately, the US enjoyed this advantage as a cicada, while the Chinese anthill accumulated resources for the winter. And as they said those ... "winter (is) coming".

In conclusion, the enthusiastic comment by the reader Luigi Artale, not at all aseptic:

I was born the 16 July of the 1969, during the departure of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon!

I am therefore not the most "suitable" or "detached" person, to deal with the subject in question, I am not a scientist, I'm just a fan of History, among the many professions also Officer on leave.

For me that date represents everything, it represents life!

"One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind"

Since then everything has changed and thanks to the "collaboration" between NASA and private agencies I'm sure that soon, the man will continue to walk and drive on the moon.

Photo: NASA / web / Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China