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Neil Armstrong 1930-2012 — Why Now?
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Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

The BBC reports that the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, has died of complications following heart surgery earlier this month. They also provide a decent obituary.

For those of us who lived through the turmoil of 1968-1969, the Apollo 11 landing was the first bright spot following a long period of darkness, violence, and hate.

Neil Armstrong was not interested in the glory, only in the science and technology that made it possible. He was a good man, and will be missed.


1 Kryten42 { 08.25.12 at 10:13 pm }

Awwwww… well… heck!! *SIGH*

He truly was a great man, in many ways. And so… one more decent bright light is extinguished.

I had heard his health wasn’t good, but had hoped he would pull through.

Truly, Rest In Peace Neil Armstrong! You did more for humanity than I believe anyone truly realizes. You have earned your rest and peace.

2 Steve Bates { 08.25.12 at 10:49 pm }

Sad indeed. “One small step,” then a few more, and now, probably, no more for a very long time. We owe a lot to Armstrong and his crewmates. R.I.P., Neil Armstrong; you will be missed.

3 Bryan { 08.25.12 at 11:05 pm }

He believed that man could achieve great things and make the world a better place by learning and experimenting.

The only people who receive any attention these days are worthless do-nothings with a lot of money.

It is a painful reminder that the US doesn’t dream of great things any more. Everything is judged by its ‘price tag’.

4 Badtux { 08.25.12 at 11:32 pm }

It is a painful reminder that the US doesn’t dream of great things any more. Everything is judged by its ‘price tag’.

Painful, indeed. Enough to make a late-middle-aged penguin who watched that moment on a flickering black-and-white television despair for our nation.

5 jamsodonnell { 08.26.12 at 5:21 am }

Part of my childhood died yesterday. RIP Neil.

INext time I see the moon I will be giving it a wink in remembrance

6 Bryan { 08.26.12 at 10:33 am }

It was a ‘blue moon’ when he died.

People just don’t understand how much of what we currently enjoy, especially with regards to electronics, was developed for the space program. They just can’t make the connection between basic research and real break-thoroughs.

7 Badtux { 08.26.12 at 12:58 pm }

Actually, TI invented the flat-pack packaging for the electronics used in Apollo in 1960 and originally had no intentions of using them for civilian space purposes — they were aimed at military use, especially for military missiles and satellites, they eventually became the primary supplier for the DTL chips used in the Minuteman 1 missile’s guidance computer. Fairchild, the eventual supplier of RTL chips for the Apollo guidance computer, was not using flat-pack packaging at the time, they used transistor-style TO cases, they did not move to flat-pack packaging until several years later after their patent lawsuits with TI were settled and everything cross-licensed. TI introduced their soon-to-be-ubiquitous TTL line in 1964, to compete with Sylvania, who had introduced *their* TTL line in 1963, and TTL soon became “the” standard for logic chips. Still, IBM used their own “flip chip” technology for the IBM 360 rather than any of the commercial technology.

By the time Apollo 1 caught on fire and killed its crew in February 1967, RTL was so obsolete that only Fairchild still knew how to make it, thus why Fairchild was the supplier of RTL NAND flat-packs for the AGC. TI’s 74xx series logic chips in familiar “bug” DIP packaging was pretty much ubiquitous by that point, and the first CMOS low power family was soon to be introduced by RCA in 1968 for imbedded applications where TTL’s power consumption was too high (CMOS is, of course, what all our modern-day microprocessors are rendered in).

In short, the civilian space program had negligible impact on the development of solid state electronics. The Minuteman contract alone required TI to introduce a family of eight different DTL logic chips, every single one of which was more advanced than the 1960-vintage RTL NAND chips that flew in Apollo. If you were talking about the *military* space program you might have a point since TI’s introduction of the 54xx TTL series in 1964 that eventually became the 74xx civilian TTL series was intended both for military space and for other military uses such as mobile SAM’s and missile guidance systems that needed complex high speed logic in a compact package… but the notion that the Apollo program had any direct impact on the development of advanced electronics is pretty laughable given that they were flying with 1960 vintage electronics technology all the way to the end of the program.

The real reason to have a civilian space exploration program is the same reason that the Ming Dynasty started a series of maritime expeditions in 1405 — to see what’s out there. It was the abandonment of these expeditions in 1435 and a turning inward, ignoring anything that happened outside Ming civilization, that allowed the Europeans to eventually dominate the Far East and, eventually, to turn China into virtually a Western vassal during the 19th century. That is, it is the mindset of Apollo that was most important, not the technology. Not everything can be measured in dollars and cents, and the mindset of a civilization — whether it is outward-looking versus inward-looking — is one of those things.