Stars for Apollo

A catalogue of 37 bright stars distributed across the sky was programmed into the rope memory of the onboard computer. There were some quite faint stars in the list, but this was only because the brightest stars are unevenly distributed across the sky. Planners had wanted to ensure that irrespective of the direction in which the optics' fixed line of sight was pointed, the crew would find a star bright enough within the range of the movable line of sight to view through the sextant. Each star had a numerical code in base eight (octal) so that the crewman could tell the computer the star he wanted to use, or the computer would indicate the star it had chosen for a specific operation.

Some of the objects in the Apollo star list were not stars at all. Three numbers were set aside so that the Sun, Moon and Earth could be referenced by the crewman for other tasks, and there was also a code that allowed a planet to be defined if needed.

Three of the fainter stars in this list have unconventional names that were added as a practical joke by the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 1 during their training. Star 03,

00

Planet

16

Procyon

34

Atria

01

Alpheratz

17

Regor

35

Rasalhague

02

Diphda

20

Dnoces

36

Vega

03

Navi

21

Alphard

37

Nunki

04

Achernar

22

Regulus

40

Altair

05

Polaris

23

Denebo I a

41

Dabih

06

Acamar

24

Gienah

42

Peacock

07

Menkar

25

Acrux

43

Deneb

10

Mirfak

26

Spica

44

Enif

11

Aldebaran

27

Alkaid

45

Fomalhaut

12

Rigel

30

Menkent

46

Sun

13

Capella

31

Arcturus

47

Earth

14

Canopus

32

Alphecca

50

Moon

15

Sirius

33

Antares

The Apollo star code list.

The Apollo star code list.

Navi, is the middle name of Gus Grissom (Ivan) spelled backwards. Likewise, his two crewmates added oblique references to themselves among the Apollo star list: Star 17, Regor, is the first name of Roger Chaffee spelled backwards; and Edward White II gave his generational suffix to the prank as Star 20, Dnoces, is 'second' spelled backwards. The people of Apollo kept these names in their literature as a mark of respect to a fallen crew and they have been known to appear in a few star atlases and books in succeeding years.

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