december / 27


27th December, 1968 : After a six-day flight that included ten orbits of the moon, the American Apollo 8 spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific today, only 5,000 yards from the recovery ship. The crew – Frank Bormann, James A Lowell and William Anders – “look great and are very happy” according to the Apollo flight surgeon Dr Charles Berry. The flight went according to plan. The launch of the giant Saturn V rocket was on time, putting Apollo into earth orbit. After a journey of a quarter of a million miles Apollo’s own engines were fired to slow it down, allowing it to enter the moon’s gravity. In a moment of high tension, communications were lost as Apollo disappeared behind the moon. Later, after the astronauts had read from the Bible on Christmas Eve, Apollo’s engines were fired again to put it on an earth trajectory. The flight was a “giant step,” said the Apollo programme director, General Sam Phillips.

[ From Luboš Motl: - “In total, 12 Americans have walked on the Moon – and no one else. The last folks walking on the Moon went there with the Apollo 17 mission that was launched on December 7th, 1972, i.e. fourty years ago. It’s a pretty long time ago, isn’t it? I wasn’t born yet. In twelve days, it landed back on Earth.

The Apollo 17 crew consisted of Commander Eugene Čerňan and pilots (of two different kinds) Ronald Evans and (global warming skeptic) Harrison Schmitt. Schmitt has been the last man who arrived to the Moon; Čerňan was the last man walking on the Moon in general.

As you may have noticed, I am writing Čerňan [translated as a “Blackie” of a sort] with the Czechoslovak diacritical signs. He brought the first Czechoslovak flag to the Moon. He didn’t forget to bring the flag back to Earth so it’s located in a Czech observatory these days. On the other hand, he did forget his camera on the Moon.

His father was originally Slovak and his mother was Czech. Interestingly enough, Vladimír Remek, the world’s first non-Soviet non-American astronaut, also had a Slovak father and a Czech mother.

In a hybrid jargon, both of them were “hinnies”. That’s somewhat peculiar because the stereotypical couples – especially in TV News – consisted of Czech males and Slovak females so they could give rise to “mules” rather than “hinnies”. But as you can see, “hinnies” are more genetically ready to become astronauts. ]

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