Vague ramblings

Contact light?

Posted in Life, Reason, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 20 July, 2019

There is something that has puzzled – and amused – me for the fat end of 50 years. I have no clue how many times I have listened to the audio of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s descent to the Lunar surface, and every single time it has set my pulse racing.

Think about it in the context of what some of the words being used meant. “60 seconds” and “30 seconds” are calling the amount of fuel left. They had thirty seconds to land or they had to abort and Armstrong was having to fly around a bit to find a better landing spot than the boulder-strewn one intended.

And then there are the 1202 and1201 alarms as the LEM’s computer declared that it couldn’t cope. Armstrong and Aldrin could, as could Jack Garman, who had prepared a list of every possible computer error and its implications. “Go” Guidance Office Steve Bales and then Capcom Charlie Duke relayed, within a couple of seconds.

Forty feet, down two and one-half. Picking up some dust.

30 feet, 2 1/2 down. Faint shadow.

4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. Okay. Down a half.

30 Seconds.

Forward drift?

Yes

OKAY

And then, with out a trace of the tension must have inhabited every molecule of his being, Aldrin announced the moon landing with the casual air of an Australian asking if you want a beer:

“Contact light”

Go and listen to it. It’s that rising inflection, the antipodean interrogative, as it is known these days. He had just taken part in the greatest thing science and engineering has ever pulled off, and couldn’t have sounded more at ease if he’d been reading out the baseball scores. How staggeringly cool do you have to be to show such aplomb at a moment like that? 

I find it funny, incongruous and absolutely bloody marvellous.

And I am so glad Dad let us stay up and watch it, and then got us out of bed in the small hours to watch the next part – exactly 50 years to the day (near enough to the hour) before this photograph was taken:

 

Exactly 50 years later...

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4 Responses

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  1. purofilion said, on 21 July, 2019 at 12:33 am

    Also Mum might share it on facebook with the 12 people she knows, several of whom are serious science people but only if you agree first.

  2. Alan Cundell said, on 21 July, 2019 at 8:29 am

    A point of pedantry, but “Contact Light” didn’t mean they had landed, it meant the contact probes had touched the surface and they had six feet to go


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