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Friday, 22 May 2020


Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. & @JoeCushnan

I have a portfolio of features, reviews, poetry and short fiction published in all sorts of places - Belfast Telegraph, Tribune, Ireland's Own, Dalhousie Review, Fairlight Books, Reader's Digest, Reality, Lapwing Poetry, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Spillwords, Dear Reader, Amethyst Review, to name a selection.  Oh, and the odd BBC radio contribution. 

This is a series of very, very short items that have nothing to do with the current news agenda.  Swift diversions for a moment or two.

Apropos of Nothing #35 – 22 May 1969

Before the more famous Apollo 11 moon landing adventure, an Apollo 10 team made an advance, rehearsal mission to photograph the Moon’s surface in the hope of finding suitable and safe landing areas.  On 22 May, 1969, Colonel Thomas Stafford and Commander Eugene Cernan began the journey back to their mother ship (Charlie Brown) in their lunar module (Snoopy), after taking multiple photographs.  The command module, positioned about 50 miles, 80 kilometres, above the Moon, was piloted by Commander John Young.

They had come within 8 nautical miles, 14 kilometres, of the Moon’s surface, the closest any human had ever been to a celestial body.

Snoopy had made two passes over the planned landing site for Apollo 11 before making a successful rendezvous with Charlie Brown.  After the first sweep at six times the speed of sound, Stafford said they had taken so many photographs he feared the camera had jammed while trying to change the film. 

If the mission had failed to bring back still shots of possible landing sites and approaches, it would have been a serious blow to the Apollo planners. They wanted to make sure astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would have a safe landing this July in Apollo 11. 

Stafford managed to get a good view of the surface which he described as "very smooth, like wet clay".

Commander Cernan reported to control at Houston: "We just saw the Earth appearing over the edge of the lunar horizon and it's got to be magnificent. It would be nice to be here more often."

Cernan, Stafford and Young

Sources: BBC and others

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