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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Houston! We have a solution.

Thirty years ago, the Apollo 13 crew on their way to the moon spoke those fateful words, "Hey, Houston, we've had a problem" Or as Tom Hanks recalled it, "Houston, we have a problem."
(No Tom Hanks was not a crew member.)

The Apollo 13 mission suffered an explosion of an oxygen tank, which created a serious problem which might has left the astronauts stranded in space where they would perish. Mission control scrambled to find solutions to problems which would allow Apollo 13 to return to Earth. From the movie, which Tom Hanks was we all probably know something of this real life drama. perhaps, more than any other mission.

I am sure in the United States. as well as Canada, today there is some remembrance of this incident in the space program 30 years ago. If that was all I would not feel it interesting to blog on this but, for my American friends I doubt they heard the some Canadian engineers were instrumental in recovering the Apollo 13 capsule and crew.

Today, in Canada, these engineers were honoured. They were academics at the Univesity of Toronto. They were contacted by NASA to do some critical calculations which would allow the safe separation of the Capsule and the Lunar Lander. There were under pressure to work out the calculations in a short period of time. They came to a conclusion they thought would work. If the calculations were wrong, either too high or two low, the Apollo 13 capsule and crew would be doomed. As it turned out they were correct.

It is worth remembering that 30 years ago there were no personal computers. The computers available to NASA were probably less powerful that a good personal personal computer today.

The Canadian scientists did not use a computer to help them make the calculations. They had a slide rule to assist them. I doubt there are many engineers today even own, let along know how to use a slide rule. Without a computer the task before the Canadian engineers would be more difficult than if they were doing today.

I wonder if Americans know of Canada's contribution to the space program. American news seldom refers to any other countries contribution. I am sure they have at least know of Canada Astronauts who have been part of the building of the space station and experiments conducted there. A few might know that Canada's expertise in robotics created the Canadarm the crane on the Space Shuttle and the Canadarm II on the Space Station. Officially is is known as the Suttle Remote Manipulator System. Without these the space station would not be able to be built. Well now some of you know that some Canadians, modestly but reliably, made it possible for the Apollo 13 astronauts to come home to mother Earth.


At 10:19 a.m., OpenID goodnightgram said...

Philip: This was an interesting post to read. Thank you for calling our attention to Canada's important contribution to the Apollo rocovery. I know what a slide rule is! My dad was an expert with his, and I learned how to use one in high school, too. BUt thanks again for an interesting message.

At 5:27 p.m., Blogger edifice rex said...

I'm not sure which 'American' news you listen to but I often hear about various other countries' contributions to the space program as well as other programs and research. We are quite aware that we are not the only ones around. In fact, I saw a TV special not too long ago that was about Canadians specifically that had made an impact on American culture and discovery.

At 11:16 a.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

Thanks for the info, Phillip. You are so right that America seldom gives credit when it's other than to themselves. Now I can appreciate the contribution that Canada has made. Thanks.'
PS: I notice that the photo of you in your profile looks a lot like a dog!! Where's the beard?

At 6:56 a.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Philip--just now reading this since I was not reading blogs while on our trip.
I remember this event so well from years ago--and I remember how tense it was as we waited to see if the astronauts could return home to earth. A big thanks to Canada for helping make it happen.
And, as for slide rules, they mystified me then, and still do!

At 4:27 p.m., Blogger possum said...

I well remember the computer rooms at NASA from 30 years ago. And it is true, probably a "cell phone" of today (with internet capabilities and an app for this and an app for that) has more memory and capabilities than that roomful back then. We were working on Commodore 64s, Trash 80s had just come out, and Apple had its first 16 colors!
We figured out how to interface a Speak and Spell with an early Apple to help a blind kid do his homework.

One cool thing, my grandson is having to learn drafting WITH A PENCIL AND T SQUARE and how to use a slide rule in his aprenticeship classes.

I don't watch much TV, mostly PBS, and then mostly BBC comedy shows, but Canada is not ignored. PBS doesn't pretend America is the only game on the planet. However, I know we can always depend on you to set us straight if need be!

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