Monday, September 30, 2019

To boldly go . . .

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In the interest of broadening the knowledge and education of the readers of Bytes, the last few days have seen articles about formulas for funny farts and the Ig Nobel Prizes for improbable research. In that same vein I present you an article about a little known and little discussed aspect of the 1969 Apollo 10 space mission. 

Apollo 10 was a May 1969 human spaceflight, the fourth crewed mission in the United States Apollo program, and the second (after Apollo 8) to orbit the Moon. It was a "dress rehearsal" for the first Moon landing, testing all of the components and procedures, just short of actually landing. 

The Apollo Lunar Module (LM) was flown to a descent orbit within 8.4 nautical miles (15.6 km) of the lunar surface, at the point where powered descent for landing would normally begin. After orbiting the Moon 31 times Apollo 10 returned safely to Earth, and its success enabled the first landing to be attempted on the Apollo 11 mission two months later. 

Left to right: Lunar Module pilot, Eugene A. Cernan, Commander, Thomas P. Stafford, and Command Module pilot John W. Young. 

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The following article is reprinted from The Daily Telegraph of April 10 2013 and relies upon then recently released NASA transcripts, the link being: 

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NASA's Apollo 10 astronauts encountered floating human waste 

HOW astronauts go to the toilet in zero gravity has always interested some. Now it can revealed unwanted difficulties - among them issues of ownership - can arise. Newly-released transcripts from NASA's Apollo 10 mission to the moon in May 1969 show that when it came to boldly going, all was not well. 

Astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan had, judging by the transcripts, profound difficulty managing the spacecraft's toilet, the Daily Mail reported. 

Apollo 10's Commander, Thomas Stafford, was first to realise there was a problem.

Floating waste, Apollo 10 transcript 

"Give me a napkin quick ... there’s a turd floating through the air," he said. 

John Young, the Command Module Pilot, quickly replied: "I didn’t do it. It ain’t one of mine." 

Eugene Cernan, the Lunar Module Pilot, quickly realising the blame was shifting towards him, shot back: "I don’t think it’s one of mine." 

Stafford then retorted: "Mine was a little more sticky than that. Throw that away." 

Young retorted: "God almighty" before laughter is heard. 


Cernan then discovers there's more than one piece of human waste floating in the cockpit. 

"Here’s another goddamn turd. What’s the matter with you guys? Here, give me a –" which is greeted with laughter from Stafford and Young. 


Stafford asks: "It was just floating around?" 

Cernan: "Yes." 

The issue was reviewed after the mission ended, with NASA experts concluding that correctly using the "facilities"in space - ie, a strategically-positioned plastic bag - required "a great deal of skill". 

"In general, the Apollo waste management system worked satisfactorily from an engineering standpoint," according to the biomedical review said. "From the point of view of crew acceptance, however, the system must be given poor marks." 

Apollo 10 was the fourth manned mission in the US Apollo space program. Its purpose was to be a "dry run" for the Apollo 11 mission, testing the procedures and components of a Moon landing without actually landing on the Moon itself. 




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