Human Shooting Star P

''Well, men, we're getting close,'' said Frank Borman as Apollo 8 neared the planet.

''There's no turning back now,'' added Bill Anders.

Jim Lovell continued their obsession of stating the obvious. ''Old mother Earth has us,'' he said.

As they waited for the first stage of the re-entry, the computer moved onto P63. This program was purely to initialise the upcoming sequence and begin calculating the re-entry parameters. It maintained their attitude and waited for the accelerometers to sense 0.05 g. Meanwhile, the crew had little to do but look out of their windows backwards along their flight path, which afforded them a view of the Moon setting behind Earth's bulk at a precisely known time. On Apollo 12, Pete Conrad became almost lyrical about the scene as Yankee Clipper coasted over the western Pacific.

''Hey, there's the horizon. Hot damn. Hello, world! Hey, you're going to get moonset right on the schnocker!''

''It's coming pretty fast,'' enthused Conrad. ''We is flat smoking the biscuit. God damn! We're going! Whooee!''

''We're going 35,000 feet per second,'' said Gordon, keeping an eye on the DSKY as they edged towards 11 kilometres per second.

"We're hauling ass is right,'' said Bean. "Got some high clouds and some low clouds down there. Got a lot of ocean.''

"You're going to have moonset pretty quick,'' said Conrad. Right on time, the Moon seemed to descend into the murk of Earth's atmosphere.

"Hey, that's something else. Look at that. I wish I had a picture of that.''

"Right out the centre hatch,'' said Conrad. As he was occupying the centre couch, the hatch window gave him his view outside.

"Hey, Al, turn your camera on,'' called Gordon, knowing that Bean had the movie camera set up in the window. "Maybe you can get a picture of it for a couple of seconds.''

"The camera's going this way, and that's up that way,'' replied Bean.

After the flight, Conrad spoke of the impression the view left on him. "Moonset really was spectacular. It's too bad we didn't have a camera to photograph that. It was a full Moon; and it was exactly aligned in the yaw plane behind us. Just watching that thing settle behind a beautiful, lit daylight horizon, with clouds above the Pacific, was phenomenal.''

The Apollo 15 crew had become too impressed with the view of the blue planet speeding by when the time for moonset came.

"Oh, man, are we moving, too!'' said Al Worden. "Son of a gun! Sheeoo!''

"Yes, indeedy,'' said David Scott, who had made an Apollo re-entry before, albeit from a slower speed in Earth orbit. "You ought to be able to see it out the hatch window.''

"Oh my, I sure can,'' said Worden. "Sure a lot of mountains down there. How about that!''

"Shit. I think that's Alaska out there. That would be right, wouldn't it?'' said Irwin.

"Yes," said Worden. "Keep an eye out for the Moon.''

"Yes, keep an eye out for the Moon,'' agreed Scott.

"We've done it. Oh, we've missed it.'' said Worden. "We were too busy watching the Earth.''

"I'm not sure there's much you could do about it to correct it anyway,'' said Scott. Indeed there was nothing since the CM possessed no propulsion.

Being an arbitrary construct, entry interface passed with little more than a mention from the public affairs announcer. Of greater importance to the crew was when P63 sensed 0.05 g, about 30 seconds later, at which point it triggered the EMS to begin monitoring their entry. Its scroll began moving to the left as their velocity decreased, and its range/velocity display showed either how far across the ground they had still to fly or how much velocity they still had to lose. Simultaneously, P63 was terminated and the computer started running P64 to fly the initial part of the reentry flight path. There was no fixed altitude at which 0.05 g occurred as it depended completely on their velocity, now 11 kilometres per second, the shape of the spacecraft and the local atmospheric conditions.

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