Monday, 15 March 2010

Metal fasteners, tape, and staples

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It's surprising to think that two astronauts on the brink of leaving Earth would have either the time or inclination to respond to mail from enthusiasts, but that's exactly what happened in May of 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin replied to a young Belgian by the name of Jean Etienne. Jean's father - an amateur radio operator - was eager to pick up the crew's radio transmissions from the Moon and so Jean, clearly an optimist, seized the opportunity to ask them personally by post. Below is their response, complete with the frequencies required by Jean's father and some information about the spacecraft's heat shield that makes the operation sound - to the layman at least - worryingly lo-tech.

Of course the tape and staples held everything in place, and two months later Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to step foot on the Moon.

Transcript follows.



Transcript
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
MANNED SPACECRAFT CENTER
HOUSTON, TEXAS 77058

IN REPLY REFER TO: CB

MAY 22 1969

Jean Etienne
rue Joseph-Bovy, 17
Embourg (Liege)
Belgium

Dear Jean:

Thank you very much for your letter to Colonel Aldrin and myself.

The shield is made of a number of types of insulating materials such as aluminum foil — and a number of different types of thin plastic sheets of various colors. They are fastened to the spacecraft with metal fasteners, tape, and staples. The same kind of insulation will be used on the moon landing. There are a number of different transmitters, all of low power. Frequencies are as follows:

2101.8 M Hz
2287.5 M Hz
2272.5 M Hz
2106.4 M Hz
2282.5 M Hz
259.7 M Hz
296.8 M Hz

Again, thank you for your interest in writing to us.

Sincerely,

(Signed, 'Neil Armstrong')

Neil A. Armstrong
NASA Astronaut

(Signed, 'Edwin E. Aldrin Jr')

Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr.
Colonel, USAF
NASA Astronaut