The Apollo Playbook

Want to get to the moon? Do you want a quick guide that shows you how to get to the Moon and back, and finish the whole achievement in less than 9 years?

OK, then take a look at this: What made Apollo a success? - NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)
Everything you really need to know about developing new technology that will get astronauts to the Moon and back again safely.

Oh, and if you want more detail, well here it is: Lunar module - LM10 through LM14 - NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)
and: Apollo Lunar Landing GN&C Lessons Learned - NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)

So really there isn’t much left to be invented, is there?

Oh… now what the *#%@ if that?


Wait… How will that enormous thing get all the way to the Moon??


What? Have I missed something? That seems extremely complicated and dangerous. Who would agree to go up on a mission like that?

Tourists! Aha, it all makes sense now…
The world has enough billionaires, after all.
Plenty to spare for sending off on probably fatal missions in space.


So as you can see, I’ve been following along with these developments for years, and it keeps getting stranger all the time.

NASA doesn’t seem to be doing much better.
This plan to land people on the moon has a lot more steps than the Apollo program did, but brings only 1 more person than did the first time. The mission date hasn’t been provided yet, but it’s got to be years away. I haven’t seen any realistic lander proposals yet.

Supposedly this is Artemis mission “3” but mission 1 didn’t have crew, and mission 2 won’t have a lander to dock with, and it won’t even orbit the Moon. Those are all complicated exercises involving humans and safety issues that need real-world practice to iron out. The Apollo program used 4 crewed missions before the landing mission to get all this stuff right (arguably 5 crewed missions if you count Apollo 1). I’m really worried that NASA isn’t preparing their flight and ground crews for contingencies when things fail. Things failed during the Apollo missions but they didn’t lose a single astronaut in space. It would be irresponsible and arrogant to believe that failures won’t happen to the Artemis spacecraft in flight!

I have not figured out the NRHO weird orbit, either. What is that for? Line of sight? You know you solve line-of-sight issues with repeater satellites, right? Apollo could have had a couple of those but they simplified the program enough not to even need them, so they didn’t even care in the '60’s.

Putting the crew module in a 1-week orbit means that the landing craft can only depart from the moon in a one day long window of time for it to make the rendezvous with the crew module. If they have an emergency on any other day they are SOL for several days at least.

So there’s a lot of things I don’t understand, or believe are flawed. On BOTH teams.

And I haven’t really gotten to the “Gateway” yet.


All very interesting . . . not sure what the overall objective is other than to spend a lot of $ for what objective/purpose. I somewhat think that if there were objectives or useful purposes for mankind to travel to/from the moon, then i suppose it would have been done years ago.

What those NASA and subcontractors did for the Apollo missions was certainly extraordinary. Not so sure about it these days.

Thanks for the links!

I think that the only drive is the race for territory. “Control the high ground” as the tacticians teach.

The big scare of the '60’s was that the Russians would dominate space, and thus “drop nukes when they pleased”. It doesn’t really work that way, but I don’t think the practical difficulties were clear, then. Like today, the practicalities are not a deterrent to stop the fixation on the tactical concern for “control”.

I just watched this, which is relevant.

You see right through me! I watched that vid soon after it came out a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been ruminating about it ever since. You can tell, can’t you?

I’ve been an ardent fan of the Apollo missions (and Gemini was really cool, too) even though I was born long after it was over. I read and collect material about them, and I’m repeatedly amazed at how, to put it bluntly, NASA invented the 2nd half of the 20th century. Just about everything I thought was new or took completely for granted as a kid was a product of the Apollo program.

I also recognize the important role the Apollo programs served in directing the efforts of Americans toward a peaceful goal. This isn’t talked about as much today, but by reading the biographies of many NASA leaders and astronauts of that time, I have developed a better understanding of their view. The Cold War, Vietnam, rebellion and race riots were threatening the honor and dignity of the United States on the world stage (sound familiar?). The opportunity of the Space Race was not just the technical achievement, it was also a goal that would give people meaningful lives and careers (not just the ones who did work for NASA).

Is the USA losing perspective on those goals?

Journalists and commentators (and even NASA themselves sometimes) frame the current mission as a “race” to the moon, but steer clear of the reason why it needs to be framed as a competition at all. Somehow they even try to pass off the race as a 3-way race between the US, China and Russia, but frankly I don’t believe “the bears” are going to send a team to this tournament.


Just something that has been noticed, is When Dem’s are in the Whitehouse NASA seems to suffer. And when Rep’s are in the Whitehouse Amtrak seems to suffer. This may just be an interesting note, but it seems true.
Another truism is that Amtrak is not the only railroad that that the US Government owns, but the only one that always seems to need money.
That’s the connection is the money need, and the interests of the Whitehouse.

Yeah, that video got nods from me too. NASA has had some big failures (Challenger and Columbia come to mind) that stemmed at least in part from a failure of the political bosses to listen to truth spoken by the engineers.

NASA is seeing the light.

Some of the issues they cite are the same flaws that Destin the Youtuber pointed out.

Well, at least they are taking a more critical view, and being more transparent with the decision making.

Former NASA administrator Michael Griffin testified to the US Congress about the Artemis mission the other day.
Written testimony:

This testimony touches on many of the same concerns that were voiced by our friend on Youtube and elsewhere. Now it’s been put directly to Congress for consideration. The major issues include

  1. the effectiveness of Gateway in a 7-day orbit to serve as “refuge” if the lunar crew must abandon from the surface
  2. Each refueling operation incurs a risk of failure. That risk cannot be reduced to zero, and it has never been done before. Proposing to do it multiple times multiplies the odds of failure. If each refueling operation has a 99% chance of success, then ten (10) of these operations cumulatively have only 90% chance - meaning 10% chance of failure. It’s doubtful that each operation would be so reliable, and as a “never done before” task, its risks cannot be assessed. By definition.

In Ars Technica, Eric Berger uses Griffin’s testimony as an opportunity to write a scathing analysis of… Griffin’s testimony.

Former NASA administrator hates Artemis, wants to party like it’s 2008 | Ars Technica

The rest of Griffin’s testimony is pro-america rah-rah, and dusting off the old moon-mission plan that He put forward two decades ago. Even less realistic is that he wants to cut loose Spacex. No, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

No matter how crazy Starship looks right now, I think it still stands a chance of success and just needs proper time to be proven. Launching Starship every 3 months will shake out an awful lot more latent flaws than 3 launches in 10 years of Artemis!

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“No matter how crazy Starship looks right now, I think it still stands a chance of success and just needs proper time to be proven. Launching Starship every 3 months will shake out an awful lot more latent flaws than 3 launches in 10 years of Artemis!”

I’m a bit more sanguine about Starship…but I had doubts about the Raptor booster re-use as well, and SpaceX made it work. Having a lot more Starship demo flights, and demonstrations of refuelling, and tests of landing and takeoff from the moon, and maybe a couple of ready-to-go spares in lunar and earth orbits during missions, or other means of rescue in case of failures…

Spares for rescue, or usable space junk?