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RIP, NASA Moon Landing Engineer John C. Houbolt

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the why-when-he-was-a-boy dept.

Moon 33

The Houston Chronicle reports the death of John C. Houbolt, whose ideas helped guide the U.S. moon-landing programs. Houbolt died on Tuesday at the age of 95, in a nursing home in Maine. Says the Chronicle's obituary: "His efforts in the early 1960s are largely credited with convincing NASA to focus on the launch of a module carrying a crew from lunar orbit, rather than a rocket from earth or a space craft while orbiting the planet. Houbolt argued that a lunar orbit rendezvous, or lor, would not only be less mechanically and financially onerous than building a huge rocket to take man to the moon or launching a craft while orbiting the earth, but lor was the only option to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge before the end of the decade."

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33 comments

The CIA kiled him (0)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 3 months ago | (#46798371)

he knew too much. Comrade Houbolt, we of the Campaighn for a Free Internet salute you!

Makes me feel so old... (5, Interesting)

shanen (462549) | about 3 months ago | (#46798379)

I was a teenager when they reached the moon, but it makes me feel so old to think back to those days. I'm beginning to feel like we're getting dumber all the time, and I'm pressed to imagine how they conceived of such an approach.

Now all of this high-tech stuff has led to Facebook? Give me a break. Please. If we don't give Facebook to the Chinese, they'll be building the first lunar colony, the way things are going nowadays...

Re:Makes me feel so old... (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 3 months ago | (#46798397)

If we don't give Facebook to the Chinese, they'll be building the first lunar colony, the way things are going nowadays...

Everyone knows that Chinese fake lunar colonies are poor imitations of American fake lunar colonies.
They use substandard fake moon rocks. Ours are the good stuff. You know, made in Taiwain.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798401)

lol ok Ms, Negative Nancy.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798437)

And it was the Republicans that fought so hard against teaching science. They wanted to put teachers in prison for doing so. If Nixon had fought the election fraud against Kennedy, he would have won instead of Kennedy because of Chicago. That would have been horrible. The Republicans would have been able to destroy the space program four decades earlies and been able to put all of the astronauts in prison. That is their way.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798541)

And it was the Republicans that fought so hard against teaching science. They wanted to put teachers in prison for doing so. If Nixon had fought the election fraud against Kennedy, he would have won instead of Kennedy because of Chicago. That would have been horrible. The Republicans would have been able to destroy the space program four decades earlies and been able to put all of the astronauts in prison. That is their way.

So, uh, "yay, voting fraud!"?

It's been such a boon for mankind. The annexation of Crimea, reelection of dictators the world over, the plebiscite validation of the Anschluss...

The Republicans put astronauts in prison and ban teaching science. That is their way. And Democrats force women to have abortions and they outlaw Christianity. That is their way.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798577)

Aw, man, STFU, and knock it off with the partisanship.

You want to play that way? OK, fine.

How about your illustrious leader, installing a black guy in as NASA chief, and telling him that the "foremost" goal of NASA is NOT science, is NOT space flight, but is, literally, to make Muslims feel better.

"When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering,

http://www.space.com/8725-nasa... [space.com]

Seems to me your boy Obama is doing more damage today to NASA than any Republican.

So, in conclusion, STFU.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798639)

Cool story, bro.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798717)

Maybe one day the Kool Aid will wear off, and you'll wake up and join the rest of us, who do not go into hysterics and are overcome by the vapours whenever anyone points out that a man who was brought up by and surrounded by Marxists and Socialists, and who grew up going to Muslim schools, and only found the Zombie Jesus when he became a politician, might in fact be a crypto Marxist/Socialist/Muslim.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798925)

Oh get over yourself. All this "high tech stuff" as you put it came from WWII and your blessed rockets came from Germany. All you guys did with it is send test pilots in rubber suits on the Moon for a few days. So what? The Moon is a dead rock. The Chinese aren't going to do more than you did: an empty gesture, then they'll forget about it as quickly as you did.

Why don't you stop this senseless worship of an ancient military flag-planting project and look at what needs to be done today right here?

After all, the Russians beat you at almost every space age milestone, and what do Russians have to show for it today?

Nothing, because the space race was never about spinoffs or benefits for society: that was the propaganda and you gobbled it up because you were a naive teenager back then. Just like teenagers today. You weren't different, and DNA hasn't drifted dramatically in two or three generations since then.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (4, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 3 months ago | (#46799307)

WW2 era rockets? Hey Anonymous Coward, are you just trolling?

Whatever the political motivations, Apollo was freaking amazing. Launch the biggest rocket ever built. In space, couple up to the Lunar Module. Fly to the moon. Orbit moon. Decouple Lunar Module and fly it down to the surface with some spectacular piloting. Drive a car around down there. Blast descent stage from moon. Reconnect with Command Module and fly back to earth.

All with slide rules.

And no, I'm not American.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799849)

Hey idiot, are you unable to work out the link between WWII and the tech boom of the 1950s-1960s?

" Apollo was freaking amazing"

How about sterile surgery? Public sewers? Highways? Going to the bottom of the Mariana Trench? The SR-71? The F-15? Also slide rules. So what?

Re:Makes me feel so old... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799029)

"I was a teenager when they reached the moon, but it makes me feel so old to think back to those days. I'm beginning to feel like we're getting dumber all the time, and I'm pressed to imagine how they conceived of such an approach."

Indeed. Nowadays, there are now more available Nazis to do these jobs.

Re:Makes me feel so old... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46807933)

And the NAZIs we have left are all preoccupied with secret war-tech projects instead of peaceful public ones.

SLS seems to be on track (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46799797)

To the credit of NASA, the SLS seems to be on schedule and budget. Congress doesn't want to pay for much in the way of payloads though. I would argue that the james webb space telescope is a bigger engineering challenge than the saturn v.

The guy who made the moon trip really interesting (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46798459)

I mean, what fun is there in flying a spacecraft without dramatic approach and docking maneuvers? ;-)

RIP you steely-eyed missle man (3, Interesting)

Slagothor (1156549) | about 3 months ago | (#46798513)

Yuri Kondratyuk to Tom Dolan to John Houbolt. These guys were pioneers. We stand on the shoulders of giants. RIP Mr. Houbolt. You sir are one steely-eyed missle man.

Re:RIP you steely-eyed missle man (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#46798561)

The problem is that we're not standing on those shoulders. We've hooked up our hammocks up there so we can twitter comfortably.

Re:RIP you steely-eyed missle man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798585)

Just because a large group of people are not intelligent does not limit the leaders of our society (except when it comes to politics..which explains why thats such a mess). Reaching for the moon use to be a poetic idea, now we see it as something we can actually do as a group. We all owe a big thank you to John C. Houbolt for that.

As for the shoulders we stand on, i doubt anyone really reaching for the moon talks about there work, they just do it!..on that note back to work..

"I WARNED HIM!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798533)

- Jack

When things were done because they are hard... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798567)

...not because they are profitable.

SpaceX has ruined my boyhood joy of a mankind which reaches for the stars for the sake of knowledge, not to worship at the altar of the Invisible Hand. I salute gentlemen like Houbolt, and remember that because we did it once, maybe one day we'll do it again. If not, at least China will.

Re:When things were done because they are hard... (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 3 months ago | (#46798673)

Your boyhood joy was an illusion. We never went to the moon for the sake of knowledge, it was to prove our industrial might to the world- to prove that capitalism was better then the soviet communism. Knowledge was a product of that and we capitalized on it quite well too. This is the reason China, India and other countries are shooting for the stars too.

The space race was not about gaining knowledge which is why it stopped for a period of time.

Re:When things were done because they are hard... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798699)

Competing with the USSR was definitely part of our reason for going to space, but competing on the power of knowledge is not a problem (although I'd prefer cooperation). The technocracy of Vannevar Bush and von Braun lasted well into the early '70s, before government was taken over by neo-conservative luddites - and you may recall that the Challenger disaster which put the kibosh on R&D was very much the result of a changed ethic in NASA.

Re:When things were done because they are hard... (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 3 months ago | (#46799651)

"Competing with the USSR was definitely part of our reason for going to space,"

Our Nazis are better than your Nazis.

MY PRECIOUS! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798571)

I could drink Gollum's piss all the day long!

I wonder if it smells like fish?

What does Gollum's anus smell like?

R.I.P. Dr. Hobolt. (2)

Major Blud (789630) | about 3 months ago | (#46798947)

A nice dramatization of this is in the 1998 HBO special "From The Earth to The Moon 5: Spider". You can get it on Netflix.

Re:R.I.P. Dr. Hobolt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46798989)

There's a great clip on YouTube [youtube.com] starring Cameron from Ferris Bueller. Pardon the awful soundtrack.

Re:R.I.P. Dr. Hobolt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46803875)

Right. This episode is also great in the sense that it gives the credit of the LOR concept to the engineer who first carried the idea at NASA: Tom Dolan.

Soviets? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 months ago | (#46800765)

If I am not mistaken, one of the reasons the Soviet Union gave up the moon race is that the rendezvous-at-the-moon approach was considered too complicated for their electronics of the day, so they tried for the "big rocket" approach instead.

However, the shear size of the thing was too much to manage, creating a giant explosion in tests that killed key researchers.

Sorry, but no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46801477)

The "giant" Soviet N-1 moon rocket was about the size of a Saturn V moon rocket, and it used the same basic idea as Apollo (it had a lunar lander for one man instead of two). Their real problems were [1] political and [2] lack of a big engine. Unlike the Saturn V which used 5 huge F-1 engines in its first stage, the Soviet rocket used 30 smaller engines in its first stage. The large engine count was a nightmare to control with the primitive computers of the day (would be fairly straight-forward today) and it was not really a problem of the design of those NK-33 engines (which were mass-produced for that program and surplus units were sold to the American firm Orbital Sciences post-coldwar. Orbital now uses them in its Antares rocket to send supplies to the ISS). The control problems on the N-1 lead to every vehicle launched failing to reach Earth orbit. Had the N-1 gotten over the problems reaching Earth orbit, it's quite possible the Soviet Union could have put a man on the moon and it would have looked similar to the way the US did it.

 

complicated (1)

mcswell (1102107) | about 3 months ago | (#46801935)

Your answer seems to imply that one could resurrect the N-1 today, add computer controls to it, and have a decent heavy lift rocket. But I wonder (I'm not pretending to be a steely-eyed rocket scientist, i.e. I'm not trolling): With 30 engines, there must be a huge number of moving parts (turbines, valves, gimbals on at least some of the engines, sensors,...). Wouldn't it be better to have a smaller number of engines (like five), and therefore a smaller number of moving parts?

Re:complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46807911)

There's a balance to be achieved. You need multiple engines to hedge against individual engine failures during liftoff. But put too many on, and statistically your odds of at least one, and often multiple failures gets closer to 100%. Not just from failures of the individual engine units, but the fuel pumps and fittings that feed fuel to them.

I'm no rocket scientist either, but my understanding is that the failures on the N-1 were mostly in the support plumbing, not the engines themselves.

So sad (4, Insightful)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 3 months ago | (#46801071)

That when someone dies who was key to one of the greatest achievements of man to date, all we can muster is a bunch of snide comments and jokes. Oh, the Facebook generation...
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