Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small hands, big deal

Thanks to Willy J's most recent blog entry, I was prompted to look for some good news myself on the interwebs. Isn't there anything else making the headlines besides updates on swine flu deaths, bombings in the South (or other parts of the planet) and other such news? So I headed on to the website I knew that contained all good and found this.

What fascinated me even more was the news about the problem Apollo 11 encountered 40 years ago--which was solved by a 10-year-old boy. He didn't do anything heroic, but the role he played was instrumental in enabling last-minute communication with the astronauts before they "flew" back to Earth from the moon.

I think of this lunar landing with much fascination because my mother gave birth to me a few days before the fateful moon-walking of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. It looks like the hospital rooms of St. Luke's back then weren't equipped with TV sets (or maybe only the suites were, if there were suites already at the time); hence, my mom checked out of the hospital earlier than planned since she and my dad really wanted to see the first men on the moon in action. It was the TV at home that urged them to get me out of the nursery pronto, hehe.

The 10-year-old who helped Apollo 11, 40 years later
By Rachel Rodriguez

(CNN) -- On July 23, 1969, as Apollo 11 hurtled back towards Earth, there was a problem -- a problem only a kid could solve.

At age 10, Greg Force reaches his arm into a tiny hole to fix an antenna crucial to Apollo 11.

At age 10, Greg Force reaches his arm into a tiny hole to fix an antenna crucial to Apollo 11.

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It sounds like something out of a movie, but that's what it came down to as Apollo 11 sped back towards Earth after landing on the moon in 1969.

It was around 10:00 at night on July 23, and 10-year-old Greg Force was at home with his mom and three brothers. His father, Charles Force, was at work. Charles Force was the director of the NASA tracking station in Guam, where the family was living.

The Guam tracking station was to play a critical role in the return of Apollo 11 to Earth. A powerful antenna there connected NASA communications with Apollo 11, and the antenna was the only way for NASA to make its last communications with the astronauts before splashdown. But at the last minute on that night, a bearing in the antenna failed, rendering it nearly useless.

To properly replace the bearing would have required dismantling the entire antenna, and there was simply no time. So Charles Force thought of a creative solution: If he could get more grease around the failed bearing, it would probably be fine. The only problem was, nobody at the station had an arm small enough to actually reach in through the two-and-a-half inch opening and pack grease around the bearing.

Read the whole thing here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did the greeting "May the Force be with you?" originate from Greg?

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