History: July 2019 Archives

Keith's note: 20 July 2019, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's landing on the Moon, is also the 100th Birthday of Sir Edmund Hillary. Along with Tenzing Norgay, they became the first humans to stand atop the highest point on our planet, Mt. Everest. in 1953. Years later Hillary became friends with Neil Armstrong and the two of them travelled to the North Pole together in 1985.

In 2009 Astronaut Scott Parazynski became the first person to fly in space and to stand atop Everest. He had four small Apollo 11 Moon rocks with him that I brought with me to Nepal. Those Moon rocks and a piece of the summit of Everest are now aboard the ISS in the cupola. A plaque mentions Hillary by name. (larger image) Oddly, despite all of the Apollo 11 hoopla, NASA has not made any mention of this historic resonance of improbable feats of exploration.

In December 2017 Astronaut Randy Bresnik took lots of photos of Everest from the ISS cupola and posted them using the Twitter hashtag #4daysovereverest As he snapped these pictures, mere inches away from his knees in the ISS Cupola was the plaque with the Everest and Moon rocks. Bresnik never made any mention of this. Nor did NASA. NASA HEOMD and PAO have been reminded of this low hanging fruit in terms of a clear historic exploration relevance. They chose not to avail themselves of it.

The whole intent of doing the Moon rock/Everest thing by Scott and I was to offer NASA a chance to invoke a real, no kidding, historic resonance between terrestrial and space exploration. Instead of using this nexus of exploration, NASA simply ignores it. Right now the wave of Apollo nostalgia is giving Artemis a brief surge. All too soon that will evaporate. Artemis needs to avail itself of every shred of historic and cultural relevance that it can muster. If NASA cannot use historic memes that have been deliberately crafted for them then this is going to be an uphill battle for the agency as it explains why tens of billions of dollars should be spent on going back to the Moon.

Just sayin'

Keith's update: Oh yes, then there is this. This same collection of 4 small Apollo 11 moon rocks led to Scott Parazynski meeting his future wife Meenakshi Wadhwa. Mini was the scientist who had to approve the loan of the Moon rocks to Scott and I - a request made by Bob Jacobs at NASA PAO. As such Bob Jacobs and I are moon rock matchmakers.

Humanity now lives in space permanently. Our spacecraft have left the solar system. Our space telescopes look back to the beginning of time. We are spacefarers.

Space technology has its roots in weapons of war. America's early accomplishments in space were achieved with direct use of Nazi technology and personnel. Russia followed a similar path. Today North Korea, Iran, and other nations use rocket designs with a clear lineage originating with Hitler's V-2. All technology is iterative. Smart technology persists and finds peaceful uses despite its war making origins.

As we focus on the 50th anniversary of America's Apollo 11 mission, it would be informative to glance back at the legacy of using Nazi technology to accomplish this epochal feat of human ingenuity. For me this is incredibly personal.

Hitler's V-2 nearly killed my father. Yet I helped design things that flew into space on rockets inspired by V-2 technology - often with my friends on board. The technology that tried to kill my father gave me a career.

As best I can collate the facts, on 18 March 1945, a V-2 missile was launched from Statenkwartier in The Hague in occupied Netherlands at 9:25 am by Battery 485.  It was one of the last V-2 launches before Germany lost the ability to use these weapons. As the rocket sped away from the surface it reached an altitude of over 50 miles - perhaps more - the edge of space. After a flight time of 5 minutes or so it fell from space with a vengeance and slammed into London at nearly 2,000 miles per hour. It hit near the Marble Arch Underground station - specifically at Hyde Park (near Speakers Corner) in Westminster.  

The blast created by the impact formed a crater 60 feet across and sent a supersonic shockwave outward. An instant later and several blocks away the shockwave picked my father up out of bed in his room above a pub and threw him through a set of glass doors.  He had no warning that this was going to happen. No one ever did. While he was badly cut up, he was otherwise all right - physically.  

My father had been invited to go out for beers with his roommates - but he was broke - so he went to bed early instead. He never saw his roommates again.  My father was 22 at the time.

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This page is an archive of entries in the History category from July 2019.

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