The Big One

It’s here, it’s here!

My very own Saturn V rocket 🙂

We saw a Saturn V rocket model at the National Air & Space Museum

1:48 Scale Model of Saturn V Launch Vehicle, National Air & Space Museum

And then we saw the big rocket at the Kennedy Space Centre!

(Part of) Saturn V, Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V on display in the Apollo / Saturn V Centre, Kennedy Space Centre
Apollo/Saturn V Centre, Kennedy Space Centre

The Saturn V rocket model has been released as part of the LEGO Ideas line of fan-designed kits. It is made of 1,969 bricks, a nod to the year in which humans first set down and walked on the lunar surface. Another group of Lego fans took their rocket to Space Centre Houston to meet its much bigger sibling 🙂

collectSPACE.com
collectSPACE.com
collectSPACE.com

The Saturn V expendable rocket was a three-stage liquid-fuelled super heavy-lift launch vehicle developed to support the Apollo program for human exploration of the Moon. The Saturn V was launched 13 times from the Kennedy Space Centre with no loss of crew or payload. As of 2017, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful (highest total impulse) rocket ever brought to operational status, and holds records for the heaviest payload launched and largest payload capacity to low Earth orbit of 140,000 kg, which included the third stage and unburned propellant needed to send the Apollo Command/Service Module and Lunar Module to the Moon.

We saw the Command Module that was the living quarters for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins during their 8-day journey to the moon in July 1969!

Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, National Air & Space Museum

And we walked the very same launch pad gantry used by the astronauts of Apollo 11!

Walking in the footsteps of Apollo 11 astronauts, Kennedy Space Centre

Cool, more toys!

And a moon landing birthday cake for me!

Happy Birthday Puffles!

Mmmm, we got the chocolate side of the moon! 🙂

Time for cake…

And a favourite movie…

Hidden Figures

With a maths professor on set, the calculations that appear on screen in Hidden Figures really do add up – and that adherence to real-life accuracy permeates the entire film.

Hidden Figures

Rudy Horne, associate professor at Morehouse College, Georgia, helped the film-makers avoid mathematics mistakes by coaching the actors, as well as providing many of the equations seen in the film on blackboards or in workbooks. “I admit I was surprised that the folks for Hidden Figures had done their homework as far as getting a sense of what type of mathematics was being used at NASA during the time of John Glenn’s orbit,” he says. “I got this sense from my very first meeting with the production people.”

This attention to accuracy was also extended to the portrayal of the mathematicians themselves. Instead of perpetuating the usual movie stereotype of maths as an esoteric pursuit for troubled geniuses – think of Matt Damon’s Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting or Russell Crowe’s John Nash in A Beautiful MindHidden Figures portrays the subject as a part of normal life. Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan did their work and also had real lives, dealing with real problems.

Of all the contributions Rudy Horne made to Hidden Figures, the one that makes him particularly proud is introducing writer-director Theodore Melfi to Euler’s method, an 18th century procedure for solving differential equations. In the scene in question, Katherine Johnson hits on Euler’s method as a means of solving a problem that’s been perplexing all of NASA’s great minds. “That’s ancient!” says someone else in the room. “Yes,” replies Johnson, “but it works. It works numerically.”

It’s likely that only a tiny fraction of the audience for Hidden Figures will have heard of either Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler or his method, but the scene keeps its power regardless. And seeing inspiration strike a brilliant mind like Katherine Johnson’s, especially after she has been doubted for so long, is a pure cinematic thrill.

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