Jul 24, 2011

Sepia Saturday 23rd. July

Alan Burnett at Sepia Saturday challenges "themers" with a 1964 photograph.  

Nothing New Under the Moon
"We chose to go to the Moon in this decade, and do other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard."   Also sprach President John F. Kennedy on 12th. September 1962 at Rice University in Houston, Texas, addressing the nation on America's decision to go to the Moon.(*)

To remind bloggers who maybe don't get out much -

The MOON, O.K?
Much preparatory work was required, most importantly - to make moon-resistant space suits, drip-dry, non-iron etc.  NASA calculated there would be few if any public toilets on the Moon and so whatever final design of space suit evolved, it would need to double up as a live-in, walking Portaloo -  this is why most people don't want to go to the moon, I guess . . .
Here is a 1964 model undergoing tests, (photo courtesy of "Sepia Saturday").  NASA clearly had some way to go. The moonboots look a bit like Doc Martens. The helmet doesn't seal to the suit collar very effectively.  But the flexijoints look not half bad.
It seems that NASA overlooked research into space suit design carried out in Europe in the Middle Ages, possibly because the U.S.A. didn't have any Middle Ages. At all events they seemed not to know that in 1562, 400 years before President Kennedy's inspirational speech,  Queen Elizabeth 1 of England had similarly exhorted the nations of Europe to visit the Moon.  The canny Brits developed the experimental space suit below.
Note the highly polished surfaces designed to reflect sunlight, which is intense on the Moon. Without this protection the medieval astronauts would have roasted.  The suit's designers knew too that the suit would be pretty heavy to haul around. Remember, Isaac Newton and gravity were still 100 years in the future so no one realized that a 100 lb. space suit would feel like only about 17 lb. on the moon. Rising to the challenge, Elizabethan engineers abandoned their work on thumbscrews and the rack and developed a walking pavement with which they could measure the astronaut's oxygen uptake, heart rate etc.  (The vassal turning the crank to drive the apparatus has been photoshopped out of the picture). 
The suit's mechanical endurance was tested by having other guys similarly attired hack at it with battle-axes, cudgels and broadswords. If bits fell off, either of suit or occupant, it was back to the drawing board. In the ultimate "crash" test, two volunteers mounted on horses charged at each other with lances, the winning design being the suit that leaked the least blood.  The Elizabethan's were not much concerned with the "portaloo" aspect of visiting the Moon, since they had no public toilets anyway. The whole enterprise was abandoned in August 1588 when the Mission Commander, a certain Francis Drake, was ordered to Plymouth to see off a fleet of alien ships which the authorities said had come from Spain. This story was put out to avoid a general panic. History know recognises that the ships came from Planet Zarg in the constellation of Taurus (the Bull, geddit, geddit?)

(*) Mission accomplished THIS DAY, July 24th. 1969, a remarkable technological and organizational achievement.


  1. Oh the black Knight is going to love cutting this one down to size.

    "That? That's just a scratch."

  2. Brilliant...US history books on the Middle Ages are all wrong.

  3. you can rewrite history anytime, as far as i'm concerned!!

  4. If I'd had history books written like this at school, I might have enjoyed the subject a whole lot more... :) Classic,Doc!

  5. Bits falling off suit or occupant puts me in mind of Monty Python’s Holy Grail....”tis but a flesh wound!” as his arm was lopped off!

  6. It was really just a flesh wound! Excellent piece. I think your moon expedition is much more entertaining than the real one.

  7. Excellent history lesson Doctor FTSE. It is a well known fact to great historians - such as my good self - that the origin of the alien fleet was indeed Planet Zarg and this is not bull sir, not at all.

    Anna :o]


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