Monday, July 20, 2009

Man on the Moon

We can pretend I was live-blogging this one (40 years ago), but I am sure the posting time for this picture is about 5 or 10 minutes too early.

Armstrong stepped off the Lem around 11 PM EDT on 20 July 1969 (Wiki says he stepped on the moon at 10:56 pm EDT), and we were watching it live on TV, on CBS. I'm pretty sure it was our old Motorola Quasar b/w television (right Bro?). Aldrin followed about 15 minutes later, after Armstrong had picked up a quick rock sample, and then the TV camera was moved to a tripod where it would view the landing area.

At some point I set up my dad's old Ricoh SLR on a tripod and, guessing at the exposure, took one picture on color slide film to record this moment of history - with both astronauts on the moon with the LM. This is that image:

Special thanks to my brother for borrowing the slide from my parents and scanning it for me so I could include it here today. (He says the picture itself is much better than this indicates, and suspects his scanner's bulb is fading. Apparently you can also see the TV tuner, etc in the original slide.) Maybe I'll get a chance to try it on my own scanner one of these months.

You can click on the image for a slightly larger version but, as I say, it is really not of archival quality. I've smoothed and resized the original scan to get rid of various scanning artifacts, which also hides somewhat the rasters of the TV image itself that are in the original.

That was a really memorable day, with the landing on the moon in the afternoon and then a long wait into the evening to see the moon walk. I don't remember staying up past midnight to see the entire 2+ hour effort, but that first hour was simply amazing ... particularly the way they moved in the reduced gravity of the moon.

But perhaps the most amazing thing was that we had live television from the moon, even if it had to be a special "slow scan" system to fit in the available bandwidth. I had grown up with the Space Race, watching launches live on TV in elementary school, so it was easy to take a lot of this for granted. However, my grandfather had grown up before radio, and lived to see live TV from the moon. Never underestimate what the future can hold.


The Thomas said...

The Quasar was the color Zenith set the folks bought in 1970(?).

The Motorola as just another tan (wood grained) box with aged bronze trim on the picture tube.

The vintage (March 1953) Spartan (built in Jackson MI) mahogany box, black and white television we got from our grandparents is still in my basement, but not plugged in or connected to our cable.

The Thomas said...

By the way, the moon television signals were an advanced form of SSTV which used half of the interlaced RS-170 mono video signal.

We saw true slow-scan video when they picked up the first couple of Gemini capsules. Those pictures took several seconds to form each frame.

The improvements in video transmission between 1966 and 1969 were amazing. We saw advances from 8-12 seconds per frame ... to 10 frames/second in the early Apollos ... to near natural 60 frames/second by Apollo 11. Albeit with video quality only a little bit better than CGA video at 320x320 pixels, or about what you can expect in video captured by a simple cell phone.

The Thomas said...

For more information than you want to know, check out the EE Times special edition on the Apollo landing at United Business Media.

The downloadable PDF (but not as flashy) version can be found here.

This edition includes nice pictures of the early DTL computer chips and the core rope ROM.

Doctor Pion said...

I can see you going to the store to get a digital converter for a 1953 TV set....

The part showing the "flip chip" is fascinating. Each "chip" was essentially a single circuit element, but without the packaging of a standard diode or transistor of the day.