Alone, But Not Lonely: Remembering Astronaut Michael Collins

With many of the achievements of the Space Race now more than half a century behind us, it’s no wonder that we’re steadily losing the men who rode the rockets of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs into space. They were all very much in their primes at the time, but no matter what you’ve accomplished in life, even if it includes a trip to the Moon, time eventually catches up to you.

Still, it was quite a shock to learn today that astronaut Michael Collins passed away today at the age of 90. Collins made his trip to the Moon aboard Apollo 11, the mission which would see his crewmates Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin descend to the surface in the Lunar Module Eagle and take the historic first steps on its surface in July of 1969.

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LEGO Lunar Lander Animatronic Movie Released

Retired scientist [Mark Howe] spent the last couple months making an animatronic movie featuring his LEGO lunar lander in a video recreation of the Apollo 11 moon landing (also embedded below). [Mark] is not only the producer, but serves as the technical director, set designer, and cameraman as well. He designed and 3D-printed a custom special effects stage for the scene. It gives motion to the LEM using stepper motors, timing belts, pulleys, and a linear guide rod, all hidden inside a discrete upstage tower. He simulates the Lunar regolith using grout, spray adhesive, and a smattering of small rocks.

[Mark] implements the special effects sequencer in an Arduino Nano, and provides sound effects using an Adafruit audio sound board which he loaded up with sound files from the real Apollo 11 landing. Floor strip lighting is provided by an array of Neopixels, and a back-lit Earth is lowered from the fly space for one cut. He made a custom PCB motherboard to hold the Arduino, sound card and motor drivers.

The resulting production is quite impressive. This isn’t [Mark]’s first attempt to relieve the double boredom of both retirement and coronavirus isolation — back in December he produced a similar animatronic movie recreating a Saturn V launch. Thanks to [jhookie55] for the tip.

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Apollo Missions Get Upgraded Video

July 20th marked the anniversary of the first human setting foot on the moon. If you were alive back then, you probably remember being glued to the TV watching the high-tech images of Armstrong taking that first step. But if you go back and watch the video today, it doesn’t look the way you remember it. We’ve been spoiled by high-density video with incredible frame rates. [Dutchsteammachine] has taken a great deal of old NASA footage and used their tools to update them to higher frame rates that look a lot better, as you can see below.

The original film from the moon landing ran between 12 frames per second and as low as 1 frame per second. The new video is interpolated to 24 frames per second. Some of the later Apollo mission film is jacked up to 60 frames per second. The results are great.

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Apollo 11 Trig Was Brief

In this day and age where a megabyte of memory isn’t a big deal, it is hard to recall when you had to conserve every byte of memory. If you are a student of such things, you might enjoy an annotated view of the Apollo 11 DSKY sine and cosine routines. Want to guess how many lines of code that takes? Try 35 for both.

Figuring out how it works takes a little knowledge of how the DSKY works and the number formats involved. Luckily, the site has a feature where you can click on the instructions and see comments and questions from other reviewers.

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Ask Hackaday: What Are Your Apollo Memories?

This month will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that brought to a successful conclusion the challenge laid down by President Kennedy only eight years earlier. Three men went to the Moon, two walked on it, and they all came back safely, in a dramatic eight-day display of engineering and scientific prowess that was televised live to the world.

If you’ve made more than 50 trips around the sun, chances are good that you have some kind of memories of the first Moon landing. An anniversary like this is a good time to take stock of those memories, especially for something like Apollo, which very likely struck a chord in many of those that witnessed it and launched them on careers in science and engineering. We suspect that a fair number of Hackaday readers are in that group, and so we want to ask you: What are your memories of Apollo?

A Real American Hero

My memory of the Moon landing is admittedly vague. I had just turned five the month before, hadn’t even started kindergarten yet, but I had already caught the space bug in a big way. I lived and breathed the space program, and I knew everything about the Mercury missions that were over by the time I was born, and the Gemini missions that had just wrapped up. Apollo was incredibly exciting to me, and I was pumped to witness the landing in the way that only a five-year-old can be.
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Books You Should Read: Sunburst And Luminary, An Apollo Memoir

The most computationally intense part of an Apollo mission was the moon landing itself, requiring both real-time control and navigation of the Lunar Module (LM) through a sequence of programs known as the P60’s. Data from radar, inertial navigation, and optical data sighted-off by the LM commander himself were fed into the computer in what we’d call today ‘data fusion.’

The guy who wrote that code is Don Eyles and the next best thing to actually hanging out with Don is to read his book. Don’s book reads as if you are at a bar sitting across the table listening to his incredible life story. Its personal, hilarious, stressful, fascinating, and more importantly for those of us who are fans of Hackaday, it’s relatable.

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Katherine Johnson: Computer To The Stars

In 1962, John Glenn sat in his capsule waiting for his rocket engines to light-up and lift him to space. But first, he insisted that Katherine Johnson double-check the electronic computer’s trajectory calculations. While that’s the dramatic version of events given in the recent movie, Hidden Figures, the reality isn’t very far off. Glenn wasn’t sitting on the launchpad at the time, but during the weeks prior to launch, he did insist that Johnson double-check the computer’s calculations.

So who is this woman who played an important but largely unknown part of such a well-known historical event? During her long life, she was a wife, a mother, an African-American, a teacher, and a human computer, a term rarely used these days. Her calculations played a part in much of early spaceflight and in 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. She also has a building named after her at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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