. . . “affirmative Dave, I can hear you . . . “


Beginners Guide to the HAL 9000 Computer

I have had a number of people ask me what significance the HAL 9000 image has with last post that I published, in which I described the problems I had in retrieving my repeat prescription.

The iconic sequence of the Pan Am space clipper approaching the giant rotating space station.
The iconic sequence of the Pan Am space clipper approaching the giant rotating space station. It is during this part of the film that we are transported to the present and the we become almost fellow travellers on the Pan Am space clipper which is taking Dr Heywood Floyd to the orbiting space station.  It is during this sequence, that viewers senses become immersed by the visual, ballet like sequence of the clipper and space station docking; accompanied by the inspired choice of ‘The Blue Danube’ as the soundtrack. Up until this point of the film, there has been no dialogue to accompany the visual spectacle which has so far been viewed. Other than the sight and sounds of the primeval grunts and shrieks of our human ancestors and the various other creatures of the pre-history scenes, the first conversation takes place as Dr Floyd is welcomed aboard the orbiting space station after the successful docking between it and the space clipper. So successful has been this docking scene – along with ‘The Blue Danube’ soundtrack that accompanies it – many people find themselves becoming automatically transported to this iconic sequence upon hearing it. After his brief visit to the orbiting space station, Dr Floyd will embark for his onward journey via the Moon shuttle to the American ‘Clavius Base’, whereupon he will then brief everyone there about the implications of the discovery of the ‘Monolith’ which has been recently uncovered during a geographical excavation nearby. For those of you who may not either be interested, or are too young to remember, HAL was one of the more unusual star characters to come out of the 1968 seminal film “2001 A Space Odyssey”, which was a collaborations between the visionary film Director – Stanley Kubrick – and the great Science Fiction author and pioneer of the theory of geostationary orbits – Arthur C. Clarke.

For those who know me and now hopefully – those that know me for my written posts – it must be pretty obvious by now, that I am something of an aging ‘Space Cadet’.  This being the case, the film 2001has had a lot to do with my lifelong interest in all things Spaceflight related.

After many years of collusion and researching what the future may hold for mankind in and around the year 2000, this joint venture of a film was finally released around Christmas time of the year 1968. They say fortune rewards the brave and this films release could not have been more fortuitous, in that it was finally able to be viewed by the general public at the time Apollo 8 had become the first manned spaceflight ever to leave low Earth orbit and then orbit The Moon. Continue reading . . . “affirmative Dave, I can hear you . . . “

Prescription for Madness . . .


. . . . . so my doctors General Practice has decided to update the way you make your appointments and order your repeat prescriptions, by subscribing to this new online National Health Service IT system. Great I thought, now I don’t have to sit – Prayer-Mantis style – crouched over the phone waiting for the second-hand on the clock to sweep past 8:30am and then phone the surgery; constantly hitting the re-dial button to get past the engaged tone, every time I want an appointment. Why is it that I feel like a Formula One driver sitting in my car on the starting grid? Twenty others and I, revving the engines and waiting to lift our foot off the brakes immediately the lights turn red . . .

Continue reading Prescription for Madness . . .

From Mercury to the Moon – Alan Shepard – Part 2


View in Lunar orbit from Lunar Orbit from Lunar Module 'Antares'.
View in Lunar orbit from Lunar Orbit from Lunar Module ‘Antares’. In the distance you can just make out the Earth rising. Image courtesy of NASA.

Part One of this article can be found by clicking here.

Apollo 14 had also had its share of ‘glitches’ on its transit from Earth to The Moon.

A major milestone of the mission was to accelerate the Apollo 14 spacecraft from the 17,500mph orbital velocity to 24,500mph. To achieve this velocity would mean re-igniting the still attached S-IVB third stage engine for 6 minutes. Once the ‘TLI burn’ had successfully occurred, the Apollo Command and Service Module’s would have to detach themselves from the now redundant S-IVB. However at the top end of the now expended third stage was the Lunar Module ‘Antares’, safely encased in the Lunar Module Adapter section. The Command Module Pilot – Stuart Roosa – would now perform a third vital maneuver of the mission; the ‘Transposition and Docking’ maneuver. This required separating the Command and Service Modules from third stage and then revolving the spacecraft so that the front of it was facing the now following S-IVB stage. A command would then be issued to open Lunar Module Adapter panels that encased the Lunar Module. With the panels successfully opened, the Command Module Pilot would apply forward thrust to Command Module and using a docking probe attached to the front of the Command Module, insert this into what was referred to as the drogue at the top of the Lunar Module.

Continue reading From Mercury to the Moon – Alan Shepard – Part 2

. . . . sunny and warm in this beautiful old city . . .


 . . . . . thank-you Global Warming – just once in a while, it’s nice to see that even you sometimes need an afternoon off. The old Cathedral is awash with Spring sunshine and it is displaying its best face for all the visitors and pilgrims, who have made the effort to come and see her. As for me, I am sitting in Costa-Cofee, watching the world drift past the windows with an americano . . . . .

Canterbury Cathedral - bathed in sunshine on a Spring afternoon.
Canterbury Cathedral – bathed in sunshine on a Spring afternoon.

From Mercury to The Moon – Alan Shephard


It had been a long journey for Alan Shepard, both in time and the sacrifices he had to make in his life to be at the place he was now. The defining moment of all of these things; long hours of training, the frustration of looking from the outside in, had now taken him to this pivotal moment in time and space – literally.

Continue reading From Mercury to The Moon – Alan Shephard

For All Mankind: Vintage NASA Photographs 1964 – 1983


There are five things that I own that I covet above all else – other than my wife and family of course.

These possessions are as follows and the order that I commit them to this post, does not in any way place one above the other in my affections.

Continue reading For All Mankind: Vintage NASA Photographs 1964 – 1983

. . . . sobering thoughts when you are boldly going . . .


Alan Shepard arriving at Launch Complex 5.
Commander Alan Shepard walks to the launch pad on the morning of America’s first manned space mission at Launch Complex 5, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, May 5th 1961. Image courtesy of NASA. Retrieved from NASA 29/01/2014.

‘It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.’

Alan Shepard . . . first American astronaut to enter space and walked on The Moon as Commander of the Apollo 14 Mission

NASA Day Of Remembrance


Today – January 31st 2014 – NASA officially remembers those astronauts who lost there lives whilst engaged in the pursuit of human space exploration.

NASA Centers throughout the United States will be marking this occasion and there will be a wreath laying memorial attended by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC.

Continue reading NASA Day Of Remembrance

For those who paid the highest price of all . . .


January is a notable and poignant month in the history of NASA Manned Spaceflight. The exploration of space – like all human exploration that has preceded it – has had its share of triumphs and tragedies.

Invariably, to undertake such challenges as the human exploration of space, requires pushing the envelope not only of science and technology, but also the courage of those who volunteer to man the vehicles that enable them to leave the surface of our planet and enter the realm of space.

Continue reading For those who paid the highest price of all . . .

Dryden Research Center to be renamed in honour of Neil Armstrong


Neil Armstrong and X-15 rocket plane.
Neil Armstrong standing in front of an X-15 developmental rocket plane of which he was one of a group of experimental test pilots. The NASA Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Center is going to be re-named as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, in honour of his lifetime achievements as an aviator, astronaut and the first human being to walk on the surface of the moon. Picture credit: NASA.

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