Apollo: The Alignment Optical Telescope

The Apollo program is a constant reminder that we just don’t need so much to get the job done. Sure it’s easier with today’s tools, but hard work can do it too. [Bill Hammack] elaborates on one such piece of engineering: The Alignment Optical Telescope.

The telescope was used to find the position of the Lunar Module in space so that its guidance computer could do the calculations needed to bring the module home. It does this using techniques that we’ve been using for centuries on land and still use today in space; although now it’s done with computer vision. It was used to align the craft to the stars. NASA used stars as the fixed reference points for the coordinate system used to locate objects in space. But how was this accomplished with great precision?

The alignment optical telescope did this by measuring two unknowns needed by the guidance computer. The astronaut would find the first value by pointing the telescope in the general area necessary to establish a reading, then rotate the first reticle (a horizontal line) on the telescope until it touched the correct star. A ring assembly was then adjusted, moving an Archimedes spiral etched onto the viewfinder. When the spiral touches the star you can read the second value, established by how far the ring has been rotated.

If you’ve ever seen the Lunar Module in person, your first impression might be to giggle a bit at how crude it is. The truth is that much of that crudeness was hard fought to achieve. They needed the simplest, lightest, and most reliable assembly the world had ever constructed. As [Bill Hammack] states at the end of the video, breaking the complicated tool usually used into two simple dials is an amazing engineering achievement.

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Didn’t See The Lunar Eclipse, Make One!

Lunar eclipse simulator

Last night was a lunar eclipse meaning that most people would have been out gazing up at the sky watching it. For some the eclipse evaded them using cloud cover, but instead of giving up, they got innovative. [Garrett] decided to build a moon simulator to keep track of the eclipse using a few spare parts and some quick code. The parts that were required for this project includes an Arduino UNO, a singular ShiftBrite Shield, a ShiftBar, ChronoDot and a Satellite Module 001. This is the perfect project for the Arduino to be used in because he had to toss it together very quickly and it is meant to be a temporary solution. If he were to make this permanent, we would guess that he would make a smaller and more cost effective version of the electronics.  He documents his experience on Macetech.com in more detail and the outcome is pretty amazing. Code is yet to be posted but hopefully it is forthcoming soon as well as a video of the simulator working.

Giant insect rover works for us

ATHLETE, or the All Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra Terrestrial Explorer, looks pretty cool. This Hexapod is actually a pair of 3 legged robots that have joined together to haul some cargo off the top of stationary module. While this time-lapse shows it going pretty slowly, you get a hint at the end that it isn’t required to be quite so lethargic. One of the really cool things about this robot is the fact that the legs are multi purpose. It has a “tool belt” from which it can pull different attachments for its feet. There are many more videos available on their site.

[via BotJunkie]