The Bumpy Ride of Apollo 7

by Daniel Russ on December 19, 2014

apollo_10_cm

When John Kennedy set the end of the decade as the goal for a man on the moon, much of the technology to get them there did not exist. It was a difficult climb powered not just out of national pride, but a true race to space and dominance in the control of air and space. The big competitors were the Russians and they almost beat us to the punch.

The entire memory bandwidth of the Lunar Module was 72k. That was it. A simple mp3 player has 50,000 times that capacity. As hard as it was to believe the Lunar Module mid-wifed code writing. There were no real protocols in code writing at the time and so coders had to laboriously create them so the whole team could add instructions and coordinated with each other.

Rope memory was another piece of technology that had to be replaced. It was a wiring system were the weave of the wire around a ceramic ring meant a 1 or a 0. It was also called the LOL memory or little old lady memory. That was because women literally wove the programs in. A single action code could take 30 days to weave. It was this way until Bill Tindell, a new manager given purview of the NASA moon mission demanded a better solution. MIT then emerged with a simpler programmable hardware design.

Apollo 7 as the first time flight code was used in NASA and outside of Russian, maybe the world. It followed the Apollo fire that killed three astronauts, and it was there to test newly designed systems. It was an 11 day mission that featured three astronauts, the most señor was Wally Schirra. The purpose was to make adjustment to the Command and Service System and Service Propulsion System. It as also a way to test the Saturn rocket before finally sending men around the moon.

The flight codes worked perfectly and gave NASA the confidence to out men on the Moon before the end of the decade.

On December 21st, 1968 Apollo 8 send three astronauts to orbit the Moon. It was the Frank Lovell, Jim Lovell and William Anders were the first human beings to lave the Earth’s orbit and went to the Moon, where over 20 hours, it orbited 10 ten times and proved that the flight operating system could get the ship to the Moon and back home.

One thing about Apollo 7 that few talk about was a mutiny on board. Commaner Wally Schirra, Walt Cunningham and Donn Eiselle all had meltdowns due to discomfort, had colds, poorly operating plumbing and a desire to leave their helmets off as they re-entered Earth’s orbit. One disagreement came between Schirra and Deke Slayton, one of the ground mission commanders. Slayton wanted cameras turned on. Schirra said they would have to wait until they finished what they were working on.

 

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Rope Memory

SCHIRRA: You’ve added two burns to this flight schedule, and you’ve added a urine water dump; and we have a new vehicle up here, and I can tell you at this point TV will be delayed without any further discussion until after the rendezvous.
CAPCOM: Roger. Copy.
SCHIRRA: Roger.
CAPCOM 1 : Apollo 7, this is CAPCOM number 1.
SCHIRRA: Roger.
CAPCOM 1: All we’ve agreed to do on this is flip it.
SCHIRRA: … with two commanders, Apollo 7
CAPCOM 1: All we have agreed to on this particular pass is to flip the switch on. No other activity is associated with TV; I think we are still obligated to do that.
SCHIRRA: We do not have the equipment out; we have not had an opportunity to follow setting; we have not eaten at this point. At this point, I have a cold. I refuse to foul up our time lines this way.

None of these astronauts were ever invited to fly again.

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Vindolanda, The Green Zone Of Ancient Rome.

by Daniel Russ on December 16, 2014

Vindolanda-Roman-fortVindolanda

 

A castrum was a Roman auxiliary garrison. Vindolanda was such a fortification south of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England near the current day town of Bardon Mill. Since the 16th Century, Britains have been aware of the ruins of this place. However in the early 19th century an altar was discovered there and a Reverend Anthony Hedley saw the promise of more and supervised an excavation.  There were many named for this place but the Roman name for the garrison was Vindolanda.

 

Vindolanda housed many auxiliary troops, first Gallic troops around 40 AD. Then British auxiliaries around 100 AD, then Batavians and Nervians in the second century and third century AD, all in the service of Rome, and specifically the 4th cohort of Gauls. The garrison was first built before the construction of Hadrian’s Wall. There were many layers of fortifications as foundations steadily sank into the clammy anoxic soil. The first version had wood and turf construction. Then in the first century AD there was a wooden addition built on top of the first iteration. Finally a brick and stone version was built over the site in the third century AD. It was 15 feet high and 9 feet thick.

 

Various other domiciles were built around the fortification in the three centuries that Vindolanda exited.  A vicus, or self governing village was built west of Vindolanda that probably housed people who handled the affairs of the Roman government and the economic needs of the fortification- not unlike a municipality. There was also a butchery, and a storage facility.. After the third century AD, when a larger stone fortification went up the vicus was abandoned. Archeologists conjecture that it was probably too vulnerable to the British tribes fossicking around in the woods for Romans to ambush.

 

The Birleys.

Eric Birley was an archeologist who purchased the grounds in the late 19th century and has been uncovering the treasure trove of historical findings there with his family for a half century or more.

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.One of the great discoveries made were thinly shaved wooden slats that were written upon. These were the letters soldiers were writing home and the letters they received in return from families. These documents are still today found and pulled from the thick muddy environment and laboriously cleaned by hand and treated with methylated chemicals to preserve the writing.

 

VindolandaA Variety Of Roman Artifacts

These findings, and the artifacts like jewelry and over 3000 shoes and thousands of other artifacts paints a picture of the life of these soldiers.
They wrote home and asked family for money and supplies. “My dear mother, I have not received a letter from you in a few months and I wonder why. I am here alone and I miss my brother and my mother. I need money and tunics, not just for me but for three of my friends. I pray to the gods that I hear from you soon.” I remember the soldier who confronted Rumsfeld during a revealing interview when he asked “Why do we have to up armor our own vehicle?” Rumsfeld famously answered “we go to war with the army we have, not necessarily the army we want.”

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.The  baths at Vindolanda were often inundated with prostitutes and a way to blow off steam (excuse the pun, both of them). The soldiers caroused, bothered each other, and gambled. The Birleys have uncovered not only dice, they discovered loaded dice.

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.Imagine: loaded dice in the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago.

 

Claudia-Severa-inviting-her-friend-Sulpicia-Lepidina-to-her-birthday-party-Vindolanda-tablet-291Birthday Invitation. Claudia Severa Invites Sulpicia Lepidnia

 

.A vicus is a small self sufficient village. There was one near the fortification. It was not the only small village found near Vindolanda. When an army of paid men go somewhere, commerce follows. Often these garrisoned men had their families live nearby. And leatherworkers, woodworkers, metal smiths, horse handlers, and doctors and cooks and plumbers. All the things that today’s garrisoned soldier require were made available by merchants. The Centurions had their families inside the walls of the castle. One commander’s wife had a rather aureate room with her own bath, and a large collection of shoes, and silk scarves and fine perfumes from around the world.

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Life was hard enough that the soldiers needed something that took the edge off of the hard existence their were living. Not so surprisingly the Birleys discovered the remains of what looked like a brewery also built near the fort. Beer my friends, is a nectar always in need.

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As happens in battle, soldiers are hurt, thusly there was a hospital of sorts filled with tools for opening wounds, pulling arrow heads out and even amputation. The Birleys have found evidence that alcoholic beverages were not just used by the soldiers but by the surgeons. They spiked the brew with opium, so the medieval procedure was at least not totally barbaric. (Excuse the second pun).

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The fortress was always under attack from local tribesmen who wanted the invaders out of their lands. The wall built across the continent was a typical, if not extraordinarily typical, feat of Roman combat engineering. It is redolent of the Green Zone which housed the essential leadership of the US occupation of Iraq.

 

steve-campbell-vindolanda-roman-shoe-2One of 3000 Roman Shoes Found At Vindolanda

What is singular about this, is the similarity the lifestyle, the letters home, the medicine, the Fort Apache mentality these men suffered. The fortification was thorn in the side of Britains who took umbrage at the occupiers. Yet it survive sand thrived for about three hundred years. As the Roman Empire waned so did the fort and the fortunes of its occupiers.

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It remind us that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

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Oh my. Plus ça change plus ça la même chose.

 

Sources: Dawsons, BBC, Vondolanda Foundation, Discovery Channel

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Almost 250,000 Underage Soldiers Fought In World War I.

December 13, 2014

  German Teenager Infantry WWI   There is an interesting article by Amber Hildebrandt in CBC News Canada about a boy names Roy Clarence Armstrong, a 17 year old who lied about his age to fight in World War I. Apparently 20,000 Canadian youth lied about their age to enlist in the First World War. […]

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Are Combat Deaths Receding?

December 11, 2014

    Angolan Children Troops (Getty Images)   .I think about the fact that in a single evening, the Germans dropped 1000 tons of ordinance on Stalingrad and killed  an estimated 40,000 Russian men, women and children. In an 8 day and 8 night raid beginning on July 24th, 1943, 42,600 residents of Hamburg died […]

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Great World War II Photos

December 9, 2014

  Two US soldiers examine a Panzer Mark 7 King Tiger. Henschel Type. 1944, Battle of the Ardennes, when the Wehrmacht had to abandon tanks because they had no more gas. Related Posts:Stay Tunes For Similar Posts

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World War I described As A Bar Fight.

December 7, 2014

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Mechanics And Handicraft Magazine On New High Technology Tanks

December 5, 2014

    Related Posts:Bannockburn, June 24th, 1314Tank Boneyards

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African Americans Serving In World War II. Great Photos.

December 2, 2014

African American Women in Signal Corps, World War II   . African American Nurses Arrive In Britain, World War II   . Penny Wallace Meredith • 2 years ago Willa Beatrice Brown, a peioneering aviator, was born on January 22, 1906 in Glasgow, KY. She was the first woman commissioned as a lieutenant in the […]

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Help me identify this gun—-Ta daaa: Giant Iron Horse, Obice 305/17 Howitzer

November 30, 2014

Thank you Jason Zavoda on Google+ CMIG for identifying it. I think this is some kind of Italian self propelled artillery gun made in World War I. Can anyone help me identify this? . . Related Posts:Stay Tunes For Similar Posts

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The Nebelwerfer.

November 28, 2014

The Nebelwerfer was a multiple barreled rocket powered mortar that was first intended to put of a smoke screen on a battlefield in minutes. It was also used to carry regular explosive charges and other forms of ordinance, even poison gases. It had a characteristic Doppler sound that frightened troops.   Related Posts:Stay Tunes For […]

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