An excellent miniseries on HBO, produced by Tom Hanks about the Apollo Space Program. What makes is great is that it examines the whole project, and not just the famous moments.

My favorite episodes were the ones about Missions that are glossed over in most historical accounts, like Apollo 12, which had the most colorful crew, and Apollo 14, where Alan Shepard returns to space after an ear infection grounded him for years after his first flight.

The series could be called a docudrama I think.

From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne is one of the most important works of science fiction of all time. As most of Verne's works, it was almost preternaturally prescient in its predictions of future events and technologies, though Verne of course could only extrapolate from what he knew. As expected the book is mostly rigorous in its scientific detail and many of the key elements, like the calculations for the escape velocity to allow a rocket to leave the bounds of Earth's gravity were spot on, others include:

  • The number of astronauts in the circumlunar vehicle - Three.
  • Weightlessness - Verne predicted it only occurring at the Lagrangian point.
  • The United States would be the first to the moon, though Verne has a Frenchman be the first to volunteer to go.
  • Florida and Texas would fight to be the launch site. In Verne's fiction as well as in real life, access to the sea and political considerations would color the site selection. In real life, the Congress compromised and created Cape Canaveral now the Kennedy Space Center and the Mission Control Center now the Johnson Space center in Houston.
  • Retro-rockets would be used to insert into and leave orbit.
  • The capsule would return and splash down in the Pacific Ocean.
  • A telescope of high resolution would be able to chart the progress of the spaceship. When Apollo 13 exploded a telescope at the Johnson Space Center witnessed the event.
  • The cost of the program would be $5,446,675 US dollars in 1865 (equivalent to $ 12.112 billion US dollars in 1969; Apollo cost $ 14.405 billion dollars up to the Apollo 8 circumnavigation mission).
  • The circumlunar spacecraft would be built predominately of aluminium and have a mass of 19,250 pounds (empty mass of the predominately aluminum Apollo 8 circumlunar spacecraft was 26,275 pounds).
  • The cannon used to launch the spacecraft was called a Columbiad. The Apollo 11 command module was named Columbia.

The book was first published in French in two volumes: volume 1 De la terre à la lune from 1865 and volume 2, Autour de la lune from 1870. It is mostly lighthearted in tone, almost modern in its fast pacing and very funny at times. I used the edition that resides at Project Gutenberg as a source. If any of you have information on what translation was used, please /msg me.

From the Earth to the Moon

Round the Moon

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