Originally posted by mlprior
I was thinking that NASA did NOT have the technology in 1969 to land on the moon.
Coming from a purely engineering standpoint, I don't believe the technology was there at the time. Granted, NASA probably had more technology than the average person, but I'm still not sure it was there.
I also don't think strange looking rocks prove anything.
I'm research on what was available in 1969, just doing a quick search, it looks pretty limited.
OK, well first they DID land on the moon, so they obviously had the tech to do it but lets break it down and see what you need bare minimum to do it.
In no particular order you need:
1) space suits, capable of keeping the astronaut in a liveable temp range and in breathable oxygen in a vacuum.
In the 1950's U2 pilots were already wearing the precursor to the Apollo era space suit.
At 50K+ feet the air is as close to vacuum as makes no diff (as far as the human body is concerned). So check 1.
2) a space capsule also capable of keeping the 3 astronauts in breathable air, but also of withstanding re-entry, and landing in the ocean.
the trips to the moon were short, so life support mostly comprised taking a weeks supply of food/water/air with them so that's easy.
Scrubbing CO2 out of the air is 19th century chemistry.
Fuel-cells and batteries both existed in the 60's so that's your power source.
The capsule itself had to hold a 1 atmosphere pressure differential, again easily possible in the 60's.
And had to have a aerodynamically stable shape for launch and re-entry, the cone shape is a very simple shape that is reliably stable in both orientations (with the right weight balance) and doesn't need advanced computer aided design, simple wind tunnel testing and back of envelope maths let you test stability so that's 60's compatible.
As for the re-entry itself, it has to withstand a few thousand deg K, while experiencing several G's for several minutes.
This is not in itself hard the trick is making it do it while still being light enough to launch.
Tricky but not impossible, and you did see the size of the thing they used to launch it ;-). So again check 2.
3) a communication system capable of operating through a vacuum to the moon.
We had radios, and radio telescopes, they work in space.... check 3
4) a guidance system that works in space.
Gyroscopes, radios, computers, clocks, windows + math. check 4.
5) computers capable of fitting inside the capsule (another major advantage the Americans had over Russia)
just, barely. had less memory than the typical chip and pin credit card of today and less power than my calculator but it did one thing, just well enough. solve Newtonian physics equations in real-time.
The computer on the eagle crashed several times on approach so Neil Armstrong landed on manual. so yes, just about, check 5.
6) a launch system capable of accelerating the capsule to almost escape velocity (they were going to the moon rather than leaving the earth completely so they essentially only had to get halfway there then the moon's own gravity did the rest, and ditto for the return journey)
you need rockets, preferably liquid rockets, which were seriously developed by the Nazis during the 40's. Then improved upon in the intervening years, mostly by people trying to make better nuclear missiles. and if you want to know if they were good enough to put stuff into space then yes, of course they were, we had the first satellites, and manned space missions years before Apollo. check 6.
7) a vehicle capable of landing on the moon and taking off again.
again tricky but possible, mainly due to the moons low gravity. similar demands as the main capsule but without the re-entry/aerodynamics side. Lack of computing dealt with by good piloting skills. check 7
Radiation is an issue but they were not in space for all that long, so exposure was limited.
There 'may be' a couple of things I have missed (and it was a huge engineering challenge don't get me wrong, when I say easy here I mean easily possible not necessarily easy to actually do) but really the basics behind the Saturn V / Apollo space craft are really simple.
It was a giant firework with a tiny life support capsule on the top.
The details of how that giant rocket worked were complex, but that's basically just plumbing, all the pipes and wires.
Nothing inherently sophisticated about it other than the overall complexity (which was huge).
It was the quick and dirty way of going to the moon, which was totally possible in the 60's.
And as I said earlier, Faking the moon landings among other things REQUIRES sending a transmitter at the very least to radio signals back from the moon.
If you're sending a rocket to the moon anyway, making it carry people is mostly just a matter of scaling it up (yes I know scaling up is hard but the question is possible not easy, as the man said they weren't trying to go because it was easy.).
You also have to fake microgravity for the flight there and back (yes they did it for the Apollo 13 film in the vomit-comet.... in 2 minute segments and good cutting).
And the reduced gravity of the lunar surface, which is MUCH harder (I hold this still can't be done convincingly today, even the best CGI can be detected and doing it practically has the same issues you would have had in the 60's), and can't be done with wires, or in a plane (sets would be too big).
They left reflectors on the moon which are used near daily to measure the earth moon distance with lasers.
And the rocks they brought back don't match the chemistry of ANY rocks naturally found on earth.
Lastly, there is no group of people in the world as big as NASA was then (and you better believe Russia among others had spies in their ranks) that can keep something that big a secret this long.
WE LANDED ON THE MOON.
It's not rationally disputable.
Pose any question you like about how it was done and we can find the answer (or you can find them yourself), but it WAS DONE.
BTW anyone who thinks I missed a major element you have to have to go to the moon feel free to add it.
EDIT: also http://latenightastronomy.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/lunar-landers-pictured-by-moon-orbiter.jpg