Man on the Moon: Technology then and now

On the 40th anniversary of the first moon landings, we take a look at how space technology has developed and what it might mean for the UK.

In fact it was proven very much so to be a reliable system as this scenario occurred several times as the Apollo 11 lunar module descended to the moon, as the guidance system got overloaded from the data it was receiving from a radar subsystem. "It restarted and recommenced the calculations immediately," Norris said proudly.

In fact, it's well known the in the end Neil Armstrong turned off the guidance system and landed the lunar module manually after he realised that the lander was going to otherwise set down in a relatively inhospitable location, using up most of the spare fuel in the process. In fact, when he set down, there was barely a minute left of fuel left in the tank.

"I guess I didn't do my job as well as I should have done," admitted Norris, "but he ended up landing in quite a nice spot!" Returning to the Moon?

This was man's first visit to the moon, and as we can see, before he had even landed his presence had made a difference to the mission touch-down location. This brings us on to the issue of whether today's advances in processor technology have made the case for manned mission less critical.

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As Norris admits, adding humans to the payload increases the mass of a space vehicle by five to ten times, and the cost of the mission by around the same factor. Since Apollo 11, or indeed since the last moon mission Apollo 17 in 1972 the advances in computer technology and robotics have made it easier to fling probes around the solar system.

And says Norris, while around a third of these have failed, the lower cost compared to sending a man says it will just makes more economic sense just to send robots and probes.

Norris even suggested that for future moon missions, an alternative would be for humans to directly control probes, while sitting comfortably at home on Earth, as the signals made the round trip with only a few seconds delay.

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