Planetary Radio Host and Producer, The Planetary Society
Host Mat Kaplan in a long and fascinating conversation with Nicholas de Monchaux, author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo. This great book is about much more than creation of the suits that allowed humans to walk and work on the Moon. Jason Davis shares pointers on looking for LightSail 2 overhead, while Bruce Betts provides a solar sail update in this week’s What’s Up. And you might win a Planetary Radio t-shirt!
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module Eagle during the Apollo 11 mission.
After the Soviet Luna 24 lander in 1976, what was the next soft lander on the Moon?
The answer will be revealed next week.
Question from the July 31 space trivia contest:
What is the most obvious strip of land in the first high resolution image downloaded from LightSail 2 AFTER sail deployment?
The most obvious strip of land in the first high resolution image downloaded from LightSail 2 after sail deployment is the Baja California peninsula.
NOTE: This automated transcript is currently being edited by a human. Check back soon.
[00:00:00] It lives and breathes with you the spacesuit this week on planetary radio.
Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of the Planetary Society with more of the Human Adventure across our solar system and beyond. I love being pleasantly surprised and the book will talk about this week is much more than Pleasant. We'll meet Nicholas de machaut the author of spacesuit fashioning Apollo a beautifully designed book.
That is about so much more. Bruce vets will provide another light sail to update when we begin this week's what's up segment and with the Planetary Society solar sail up above us right now. We'll hear from the society's digital editor Jason Davis about how to see it with your own eyes. Jason is we'd record.
It's not quite out yet. But hopefully by the time people are able to hear this you will have included at planetary dot-org some [00:01:00] useful directions on how to. Catch light sail to yeah, we've been getting this question a lot. And while we have the information on our mission page we decided it would be best to kind of list it all out in the blog posts about exactly what to do.
If you want to try to see light sail to in the night sky, what's the trick on our mission control page? This is the page. We have at planetary dot org slash Mission Control. We have vital signs of the spacecraft there from the Telemetry. We're downloading from it. And then we also have a map.
During the spacecraft's current position and beneath that map you'll see the next time the spacecraft is flying in range of your location. Now that's based on your browser's reported location and you can look on the map for a little red dot to see where the page thinks you are now just because lightsail is flying within range of you doesn't mean you'll necessarily be able to see it during that pass ideally.
You need to be in Shadow the sun needs to be below the Horizon for you, but it still needs to [00:02:00] be high enough to shine on the spacecraft. So that means a little bit before Dawn a little bit after dusk are the best times to see it. And then if you want to take the guesswork out of that and actually get predictions on how good the pass will be we've got a link right there.
That will take you to a page that provides the quality of each pass. So it says like marginal good or excellent and if you're getting up in the middle of the night, you don't want to get up for one. That's if you want to get up for one that is pretty guaranteed to show you something good Although our Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Vaughn was up at 4:30 in the morning.
And she did catch it. I can't lie. Apparently it was quite dim, but there was no question that it was light sail to passing overhead. Yeah for most of us here in the United States. The spacecraft only comes up to a certain elevation in the southern sky and that's because lightsail one had a much higher inclination and kind of covered more of the Earth but lightsail to got in this 24 degree inclination, which means that it sticks a lot closer to the Equator as its [00:03:00] flying around the Earth.
So that means if you're near the equator, you got a great chance of seeing it if you're up and say the northern United States or northern Europe your chances of seeing it or not good. In fact, most people in the top of and the northern part of the country in the United States here at least won't be able to see it.
Well, good luck everybody. I am hearing from listeners who are pitching for the opportunity to try for this and. You can get a lot of help rat planetary dot-org check out that control panel before we go there have been some other big successes and major progress of submissions across the sky. Let's start with Hayabusa 2, which.
You just wrote a piece about yeah Hayabusa 2. We hadn't we've been covering it quite a bit on the blog but because of lightsail taking up so much of our emphasis. We hadn't reported in on what the spacecraft have been up to for a while. So it did complete its second touchdown it touched down and grabbed a second sample.
And this was a high-risk touchdown a lot. Boulder's sneer where it [00:04:00] was going to go in and grab that sample. We have a spectacular video of it on the blog where you can actually watch the spacecraft coming down its sample horn presses into the ground and it fires this little bullet into the surface and it sprays a bunch of material up to collect it.
So yeah, so we kind of covered all of that and we also learn in in that blog post and through Jax's that's Japan's national space exploration agency that they were within 60 meters of where they 60 centimeters. Where they were aiming when they touch down so pretty incredible stuff this piece by the way, Jason posted it on August 12 Hayabusa 2 nailed it second touchdown on asteroid ryugu.
You can find it a planetary dot-org you'll see this video but it's a sped-up video and fortunately you have a link to the full video running at actual speed real time speed. I highly recommend people click that link because it is just spectacular to see all this Flotsam and Jetsam. Some it has been kicked up by [00:05:00] Hayabusas little bullet it it's just amazing amazing video very briefly couple of other missions tell us what's going on yet today Chandra and to that's India's lunar lander is entering lunar orbits.
So that'll be a big deal will have a post on the blog about how that goes. And then also osiris-rex NASA's sample return Mission. They have just narrowed down the selection sites for where they plan to potentially take a sample, and we'll have a blog post on that coming soon as well. Excellent Jason lots of stuff to see now and and much to look forward to thank you very much.
Thank you, Matt Jason Davis digital editor for the Planetary Society and are embedded reporter with light sail to next up that amazing conversation. The begins with a spacesuit each year the Santa
[00:06:00] Fe Institute in New Mexico produces the interplanetary festival in its hometown. Big crowds arrived last June to hear terrific live music and joy, the art galleries and demonstrations and to hear from Big thinkers about much more than planetary science and exploration. I was invited to spend three days talking with some of the festival's guest speakers later this year.
You'll hear my conversations with scientists and Engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory along with the authors who created the great science fiction series The expanse. Expected to begin its third season on Amazon Prime before too long Nicholas to my show is assistant professor of architecture at UC Berkeley's College of environmental design.
He was at the festival to talk about his book spacesuit fashioning Apollo this urban planner and architect has written one of the most interesting books. [00:07:00] I've read this or any other year. Here is our long and delightful conversation. You'll hear how the creation of the spacesuit that allowed humans to live and work on the moon is intricately woven into our understanding of what it means to be human Nicholas.
Thank you so much for joining me here at the interplanetary festival. We are on a powerless literally powerless podcast stage, but fortunately our technology can run on battery so glad we can have this conversation about this book. Which you have heard. Raving about thank you for doing this. It's a great pleasure.
The book is a spacesuit fashioning Apollo. You told me when we spoke a couple of days ago that it got its start its foundation. If you will a word that will come up again. Basically because of our sponsor our host here the Santa Fe Institute, that's right. Yes, in fact the current Santa Fe Institute director David krakauer who started the interplanetary festival last year invited me to give a [00:08:00] lecture here at the Santa Fe Institute in 2003.
When I was just out of grad school. He'd heard me talk about architecture and complexity when I was a resident at The Institute, but I was looking for a subject that would really help convey this to a wide audience and I'd done a little bit of work in graduate school on the history of the. They suit but given the prompting of the invitation by David.
I put the story together into a lecture and to make a very long story short the project came from there and it only took eight years from 2003 to come out as a book from the MIT, press in. As I have told you it shows I made the mistake of starting with the audible version the the Spoken Word version which was excellent, but I really missed out because after all you are a designer and I missed out on the beautiful layout of this book.
It's actually going far more slowly now that I'm reading it off of the [00:09:00] printed page because now of course I'm spending so much time ogling the the great illustrations. It's a. Story, I think what what I brought to the history of the space suit was determination to examine it not just as a technological artifact but is a social and cultural artifact as well.
Of course all technology and is in its own way a cultural artifact to but we tend to separate technology and see it as a kind of engineering the home to an engineering priesthood and something that doesn't have. A lot of ideas or culture embedded in it, but it's deeply embedded with ideas and culture as I tried to show in the in the book and in the structure structure of the book as well, which goes through a lot of different topics as well as the story of the policy that the center, you know, you've made me think of a quote that I already used in a previous interview here at the interplanetary festival and it is that great Marshall mcluhan quote that I love so much first.
[00:10:00] We shape our tools. Shape us. Absolutely, and and the spacesuit in particular not only is it a tool but it's a home and it's a visual icon and it's the subject of the most reproduced second most reproduced image in human history after the whole earth. And so it's also the MTV Video Music Awards mannequin and yeah million other things in our culture as well.
We'll come back to all of that your subtitle fashion in Apollo carefully. And obviously because you note in the book that fashion is both a verb and a noun right? Well fashion. I love the word fashion in this context. We tend to think of fashion as meaning something that's superficial or flighty or Superfluous.
But fashion is such an important part of our own identity the great philosopher RuPaul says, You know, we get out of bed naked every morning and everything else is drag, you know, we're always always presenting ourselves [00:11:00] through through what we wear and how we present ourselves in the world, but then fashioning in the context of design and Engineering has this other meaning which is making something out of something else, which is very much tied to the history of adaptation and evolution, which I talk about in the book and then the history of improvisation and invention in the context of the incredibly compressed white-hot heat of the of the Apollo.
M and the race to get to the moon which forced a whole set of adaptations and inventions including the sewing of the Apollo spacesuit by seamstresses who had been taken from the shop floor of the Playtex bra and girl come. Oh you're getting ahead because latex is one of the great Revelations of this book.
Yeah. I had heard of this company ilc right didn't realize that that was basically Playtex. Well, I mean if the so the company was the international latex Corporation Playtex was. It's consumer brand like Kimberly Clark is known as Kleenex, but the founder of the international latex [00:12:00] Corporation Abraham spinel made his money actually selling girdles during and after the second world war, but then because his business was so impacted by the second world war he.
Maintained a very small sort of government contracts Division and out of the the that division grew after they ended up getting this the contract for the Apollo suit from about 15 people to more than a hundred fifty that actually produced the final suits and a brilliant marketer. Yes, you use that great Playtex slogan lives and breathes with you.
Yes, which the curdles did did neither form everyone. I've never worn one. But in fact 11. I am very close family friends friend of my aunts and uncles was a flight attendant during this era and ironically flight attendants also iconic jet age individuals were required at that time to wear girdles and just sounds Dreadful.
It does. Yeah, but that slogan maybe was is much more appropriate to [00:13:00] the space suits that you talked about him in the book particularly the ones that were actually accepted for Apollo. We're going to get to that robbers you also. Hose to call the chapters of the book layers and you have 21 of these layers for a very good reason what amazed me about the story of this suit and it's astonishing history as an object was how complex and multi-layered the history was and I couldn't help being a somewhat literal person as well see a direct connection to the fact that the suit itself was an incredibly complex and multi-layered object.
So now. 21 different layers of fabric inserted into each other like a Russian doll sewn to 1/64 of an inch tolerance by the seamstresses with no pins because the pins could break the pressure layer and so in in part to honor them and their contribution, I constructed the book conceptually and intellectually as a set of set of layers as well that I tried to sew together with even a tenth of the Elegance that those layers of the actual [00:14:00] suit were made from I think you wrote it to vary and good tolerances and and did a great job.
I rarely do this, but I want to read a page from the book because I think it captures so well, what I believe is your central message and we should say I don't think I have yet there is so much more to this book than just learning about the Apollo spacesuit. I've here we are in your conclusion layer 21.
And it starts with that great image. That you include of Neil Armstrong. He is just made the first Excursion out onto the surface of the Moon clearly this space suit. It's 21 layers have worked perfectly. He is exhausted. But as you say visibly elated Armstrong is also clearly exhausted in a manner that would especially plague later Skylab astronauts the systems and schedules the transferred transported him to the Moon surface did so.
In spite [00:15:00] of and not in sympathy with the logic of his own body Armstrong has shown radically extended not in the cybernetic sense of augmentation, but in the literal sense of physical distance and physiological exhaustion set against the control switches and visual Astera T of the Eagles interior is the essential conflict between electronic order and robust intimate disorder that defines the special softness of space.
And Spaceman you go on from there to talk about some of the other space suits that you also describe the development of and these were hard suits it is this great strange Paradox that some of these other suits received so much more attention and in some cases still do then the suits that actually worked.
So we're talking about a set of prototype suits that were made both at the Ames Research Center. And then also by [00:16:00] Litton Industries one of the largest military industrial conglomerates of the the 1960s and as a great example of what you're talking about at the 1970 soccer World's Fair the American Pavilion designed by.
The Architects David Brody was this vast inflatable structure filled completely filled with artifacts of the Space Race and artifacts of the successful journeys of Apollo, but as you filed through the. The capsule the Columbia was there the ilc suits with the Hamilton standard backpacks, but at the very last image was a was a sort of halftone image of maybe the moon maybe the surface of Mars you're looking forward and standing in front of it as the very last iconic image of the World's Fair exhibit were.
To Litton prototype hearts and I think that they were had an outsized role both in the mentality of spacesuit designers, Joe Cosmo the great very talented engineer in [00:17:00] charge of the crew systems division. Gave the little suits the designation RX because ostensibly because they were rigid experimental but actually as he explained to me because he at the time thought that they would be the prescription like RX drug prescription for how man would travel into space as I chart even going further back into the origins of the word Cyborg and an in a much earlier 1958 Air Force study about how the human body would be modified by mechanical systems to to walk onto the surface of the Moon.
Both of the enormous promise and successes of systems engineering in the in the context of the Apollo program and the kind of masculine ideals of these heroic male astronauts all conspired to make a kind of hard armor-like suits. It seemed like the most natural thing and I use the word natural there.
Ironically, you know, NASA put out a press release in 1964 showing a little suit next to a suit of armor [00:18:00] with the caption. Nothing new Under year old son, you know, and so this idea that these were Valiant Knights going off to conquer and colonize outer space was very much barely sublimated under the surface, but.
For all kinds of reasons I'm partially to do with weight partially also to do with the fact that when hardsuits failed they failed catastrophically so all of these things together conspire to make this rather ungainly messy looking especially when you take off its white exterior. I'll see suit.
Actually be the most successful suit and as Neil Armstrong said in this great letter to ilc after the lunar Landing. He said it's it was beautiful the most beautiful object of the Space Race as far as he was concerned partially because he described it as cute and cuddly but mostly he says because it worked you also described at the very end of the book.
It's a very touching. Scene really talking about how the astronauts still [00:19:00] feel about these suits as if it had been a part of their own body. So it's this was the most astonishing thing man. I was very fortunate to spend a year as a Guggenheim research fellow at the. Air and space museum at the Smithsonian institution and I spend most of my time working with a very skilled conservator of the suits at the time Amanda young out at the kid you not Suitland storage facility in Missoula, Maryland, no, no coincidental title.
And while I was working out there. I had the great Fortune to meet several Apollo Astronauts not because they were of course particularly interested in talking to me amongst all the other millions of people trying to get part of their time, but. They wanted to come and see their suits and I remember talking to Tom Stafford who is the commander of Apollo 10 because this was incredibly poignant to me and I said, well, you know, dude, are you going to visit your capsule?
Are you going to visit the land of replica that's in the lobby and he said, oh no, that's just a truck. [00:20:00] But this this is part of me. So I think you know the larger argument of the book which you which you referenced in that quote. Is that the Apollo spacesuit represented a kind of. Tif device for the astronauts body not just against the.
Incredibly hostile lunar vacuum but also against this larger organizational logic of what we're essentially and very literally in the case of mercury and Gemini repurposed nuclear weapons you know with human beings inserted on the top that had a very different design ethos. Then the bodies that the suits were protecting and it's not to say that the suit didn't also have a lot to do with the successes and skills of systems engineering it just acted as a kind of intermediary both organizationally and physically in between the logic of the human body, which is very different allowing it to exist in all kinds of hostile environments.
This is your thesis in the book. It's not just hard suits which didn't work very well. [00:21:00] Yeah and what they represented and the soft suits that did work well, but you do such a good job of showing how this attempt to apply systems engineering system design work systems management. It may be good. If you're putting together, let's say a Saturn five rocket, but when you're trying to apply it to humans or human based systems You Better Think Twice?
Yes, the incredible achievement of the Apollo Hardware in particular was of. Making the most complex objects that Humanity had ever made and making them work. I mean we're sitting here in a temporary blackout because the generator just failed and one of the core truths of technologies that it almost always doesn't work.
Like it's supposed to we often fail to realize that and failed to build into our systems their resilience and robustness necessary. The that was done with the amazing Apollo [00:22:00] Hardware, especially after it was all Revisited in the light of the Apollo 1 disaster want you know, one of the most interesting things about the book for me and this mainly to you may have a question about this already but the as an architect and someone who spends most of his time working on Urban Design and design in in the city.
I expected this book to be a kind of parable about designing for. Because especially in this day and age, you know, once again, we have a lot of excitement about technology in the city and Google is building neighborhoods. And we hear the phrase Smart City all the time to describe what technology can do for us in our complex Urban environments, but what I discovered and what a fantastic historian at MIT named Jennifer light has actually done a really great job of writing about is that the the transfer between.
NASA and the systems engineering context and the context of Urban Design and development could not have been more direct there were Summer Schools summer studies in [00:23:00] 1964 1965 between HUD and NASA their the NASA's director of nuclear propulsion research Howard finger became in the 1960s became the first director of research and technology for HUD Simon Rama who invented systems engineering problem with the fame fame RW RW.
Invented systems engineering with Burner driver of the Air Force published a book called cure for chaos about the role of systems engineering and cities burning Shriver who invented systems engineering for the Air Force was by 1968 heading a company called Urban systems Associates and it goes on and on and a lot of these direct attempts to to.
Systems engineering in the context of 1960s and 70s cities were disastrous doesn't even cover it very well meaning but clearly and you have a chapter a layer in the book that goes into this and basically were acknowledged shortly after these attempts to be failures. Yes. Yeah, [00:24:00] and you're right that was someplace else I wanted to go and I'm glad that you mentioned.
Jennifer little because on that same page that I read from a little bit before let me read that. Yeah, there's a paragraph there then again, we often fail to see that which is most apparent in the case of the Apollo spacesuit both its Playtex Origins, and it's epidermal structure seemed to strike it a core of corporeal intimacy that we are embarrassed to address.
This intimate layered reality hides. And sometimes difficult truths. We ignore them at our Peril continuing first among these is the continuing failure of systems thinking however, complex to master the robust realities of human life at any scale presenting a study of Defense intellectuals introduction of systems management to mid-century American planning historian.
Jennifer light asks an incisive. How and why are resources allocated time and again [00:25:00] to? The adoption of Technical and technological tools whose benefits remain unproven and then back to your words. This is in essence the same question. We are asking here why has the complex layered reality of the Apollo spacesuit evaded any level of design inquiry?
Why instead are unproven if elegant prototypes? Exemplary of good design the answers to questions about both design for the city on earth and the body and space are intimately related.Lovely language. First of all, thank you. Thank you. Am I right. Does that kind of capture? What? Hope to us yesterday and you're right.
It has not it may be it has been ignored but your book certainly is a light in the darkness. So thank you. I mean, I think it's it is I can say it's a very complicated subject and it's a very [00:26:00] complicated the complicated messy nature of the story is you know, something that I struggled with until I hit upon.
Having the structure of the book so closely show follow the complexity of the object because one could not write a linear narrative about this and one could not present it as a simple. Oh and you know a went then B, then C then D, like most interesting things like our own bodies and histories and civilizations.
Everything is intimately connected to everything else. John Muir famously said when you start pulling on one thread you end up pulling up the whole universe and it's very much the case in the context of this book there. The great conflict that you document extremely well in the book The seeming contradiction of NASA's.
They were nearly disgusted with I'll see our play Texas ability to meet the agency's strict paperwork requirements because this was just a management at its core and yet at the same time. They were [00:27:00] thrilled with the product. They write thrilled with the space suit. It didn't sink in it seems for a long time that they were dealing with something that maybe their their precious systems management.
Approached didn't Encompass. Well, that's I would maybe play against type here by my being to kind of play talks. I would I would I would just speak up actually for systems management for a moment because systems management was a was a kind of miraculous an amazing thing when it happened and that it happened in the context of America's efforts to build the first intercontinental ballistic missiles and conveyor.
Who is the contractor charged with building. The first of those the Atlas missile had enormous difficulties. That was the most complex thing that humans had ever made more complex the than the atomic bomb at the time and they had all these issues. For example with the speed of a gyroscope in the guidance system being the same as the turbo fan delivering fuel to the rocket and canceling each other out or or basically rocket [00:28:00] after rocket exploded for unaccepted reasons.
And then this led to this incredible conceptual shift where by Shriver Ramon. Bridge invented this way of thinking about the world that was not to do with the objects objects had previously been all the military ever contracted for but rather a system of interlinked what they called black boxes because it didn't matter what was happening inside of each subsystem or each component it mattered much more their relationships to each other and in the contemporaneous proposal for America's first comprehensive nuclear air defense system against Soviet bombers.
So-called Valley report the word system was so unusual in the English language the historian Thomas Hughes points out when he writes about it that a page long definition had to be applied. So when you think of that shift in thinking and what it allowed us to do to understand how all these parts related to each other to have contractors like I'll see [00:29:00] or Hamilton standard or Grumman or North American Aviation.
Constantly articulate all these pieces of this complex system in terms of their relationships to all the other parts. It's the only thing that allowed us to get to the moon in organizational terms. The problem was when you started when this not with the ability of systems engineering to master complex technological problems and artifacts.
The problem was when it came up against the surface of the body. So one of the biggest most literal conflicts between ilc and NASA was usually in a series in a systems engineering process when you modify something like a pump or a transistor you have to re serialize it hand in a bunch of forms to say this component is changed its relationships to other components of change and that is the right thing to do in the context of a complex engineering.
That's the problem is when you're tailoring a suit and all the the space suits were custom tailored for each astronaut and the astronaut gets a little chubby or he loses weight or the car. He [00:30:00] just says this is Chaffee. No didn't use actually exactly and so when all those things happen, you have to be constantly modifying and you're not able to do so in the systems engineering context without filing a form every time you do and so this conflict was finally resolved in it went on over a year.
By the ioc just broadly designating each component of each suit for each astronaut small medium or large except for the urinary collection device. Oh great, which after I couldn't quit incident with the first astronaut fitted with size large extra large extra extra large true story. So so I would say that the the important lesson is not.
Systems engineering is not a great way to solve problems that relate to the complexities of technological artifacts and how they relate to each other. The problem is when when those technological systems start to relate to start to become deeply enmeshed with human systems and social systems, and we see this today and the way in which a technological system [00:31:00] like Facebook optimized for one purpose for the collection and distribution of information advertising reeks.
Havoc in a larger complex social system because it was not you know being optimized for that for all the technological Parts working together is not the same as being able to work robustly in a larger social and cultural context. What a wonderful example, and I certainly didn't mean to be knocking systems engineering for those tasks that it is appropriate, right?
Interesting that you point out in the book and then very oddly. Yeah that this use of the word system up until systems Engineering Systems management had largely only been confined to descriptions of the human organism, right the circulatory system the nervous system. So interesting that it then was adopted for.
These other more mechanical systems. Yes, the the story of systems engineering and it's at the scale of the body and the case of something like the cyborg proposal at the scale of the city [00:32:00] as in. Rand and Litton and others Urban proposals in the late 1960s is really the story of like not just if you've got a hammer everything looks like a nail but if you find yourself with a miraculous Hammer, you just want to find all the nails you can the especially the problem of the city which was seen along with space exploration along with Vietnam as the major problem of 1960s American society.
You can really understand in retrospect why these. Seemingly miraculous methods were leaned upon very hard to try to somehow sort out. What seemed like another complex systems of feedback and and inputs and outputs. It could not have been more well-meaning. Yeah, when we came in when the power was still working in our tent here at the unit Lana Terry Festival.
There was an image on the big flat screen behind us, which you also have in the book and it is one that is near and dear to Space. Geeks like me. And it came out of that great Gerard K O'Neill study [00:33:00] of cities and space at the L5 the LaGrange point it is this wonderful place where who wouldn't want to live there and it's all these modular structures in their parks and growing things everywhere and it makes you think yes, this is the ultimate expression of applying systems engineering to human society and it has now made me think.
Better take that with the several grains of salt several grains of space salt. No, that's it. It's a fascinating. That's a fascinating story. I have a student. In fact working on those images right now as part of her PhD dissertation because they are such an amazing example of. What NASA had to do in the 1970s after Apollo which was with no with the with the space shuttle program delayed and with nothing too spectacular to show a lot of these studies and more specular proposals were made to almost.
Hold out to us what could be achieved if we [00:34:00] continue to invest in space exploration in the way that cold war pressures had made us do in the 1960s, but there's a there's a really particular irony, which I the reason why the images in the book, which is that when when he was director of research and technology for.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development Howard finger who is a nuclear propulsion engineer had actually designed the the spaceship on which the 2001's discovery was base. Yes. He supervises program called operation breakthrough, which is an attempt to use all the expertise of these aerospace companies that were not getting new contracts because of the Vietnam war in the end of Apollo construction to build something that we also see technology companies like Google talking about today, which is mass-produced prefabricated.
Using to solve America's Urban problems at one Fell Swoop and many of these operation breakthrough projects were actually built in prototyped around the United States around 10 and they were enormously problematic and the general Accounting Office cited [00:35:00] the operation breakthrough as a failure in a 1970 1972 study of all those Investments.
That didn't stop operation breakthroughs Aerospace inflected prefabricated housing being selected by the aim studies summer study as the perfect material to build this city in space from so all of those amazing Suburban patios that you see arcing up in the conversation station are in fact not just coming home to roost because they have their own origins in the application of.
Systems engineering from Aerospace into into questions of Housing and Humanity still a beautiful image. You have to admit anything. Let's bring it back down to the scale of we individual humans again. You already mentioned this term cyborg. Yes, you have a layer fascinating the talks about essentially what may have been the invention of psychopharmacology and this.
[00:36:00] These two guys who I came to think of as sort of The Odd Couple. Who worked at of all places a mental hospital could yes yellow one of the one of the largest Mental Hospitals in the country the Rockland State psychiatric Institute in across the Hudson River from New York above New Jersey on the Palisades.
There was and still is an enormous state mental hospital where throughout the 1940s and 1950s. There were hundreds and thousands of patients with schizophrenia with clinical depression who could not be treated. The director of research at that hospital Nathan has Klein was worked with a young analog Computing researcher man for desk line on a 1958 study for the air for the Air Force and they were coming off of Klein's introduction.
He was not the the sole founder of modern psychopharmacology, but he was one of them he tested the first anti-psychotic and he's schizophrenic an anti-depressive drugs in the in the United States and was [00:37:00] instrumental irresponsible for. Vast deinstitutionalization of Mental Hospitals that happened at that time again, if you've got a miraculous Hammer everything looks like a nail and so the ability to suddenly I mean these on these intractable mental problems that had tortured Humanity for all of history suddenly being solved by a pill it seemed amazing.
Klein's and client and they often get confused with each other because their names are so similar were invited into a posts but immediate post-sputnik Symposium by the Air Force to think about how to put humans in space and with this amazing success of psychopharmacology behind them. They actually proposed that humankind be mechanically, but also primarily chemically altered.
To to allow to allow us to enter outer space and this generated a lot of publicity climbers. Also, very good at publicity and was picked up in 1961 by Life Magazine who published this amazing spread of a metallic skinned drug [00:38:00] pump filled Cyborg and they invented the word cyborg for the purpose of this Air Force study gallivanting on the on the surface of the Moon.
No space suit needed because space you had to come the space because you had become the space suit. And so it really was this very much the cybernetic and systems engineering lens apply directly to the human body and all our systems that were seen as too weak or too unprepared for the rigors of outer space would simply be upgraded just like you upgraded all the parts of a nuclear weapon in the context of the of the, you know, contemporaneous arms.
I wasn't going to bring it up. But there is this horrifyingly sexist cartoon that you include describe that. Oh, well interestingly in the in the context of the Air Force study not in the in a later publication. The Air Force were was particularly worried about sexual urges in space and when the article was published this was a kind of.
Weirdly accompanied by a [00:39:00] cartoon of a doctor with the syringe chasing a caveman ogling looking astronaut who's running after a young woman in a very tight space suit the caption is something like a fanciful vision of chemo therapeutic control of sexual urges in space but digging into a little bit.
Of course, there was no this was at exactly the same moment that NASA was adamant that the first astronauts would be male. And that all of the crews both of the civilian space program and the men of the military manned orbiting laboratory. That was also being planned at the same time would also all be males.
So it doesn't take much imagination to to see that what they were really worried about was men loving each other in space. So let's camp out or somehow the that, you know in the in the in the extreme conditions these very masculine men would somehow be transformed and so you know it. There's a really interesting picture of the of the social and very both [00:40:00] sexist and homophobic backgrounds of the that culture that time I want to shift direction again and come back to where we started with the concept of fashion in its use as a noun to Christian Dior has fashioned leadership in the mid-twentieth century in a sense in directly create the space for creation of what became the successful Apollo space.
Christian Dior was a kind of landmark in not only in fashion, but in the psyche of the post-war. American society because Christian Dior with his new look of 1947 which of course was not actually a new look it was a kind of revision of styles from pre 1930s sort of austerity Christian dior's New Look was so impactful because of all of the media mechanisms that had built up during their during and after the second world war and the the new look and the idea of it took the World by storm.
The Couture fashion was [00:41:00] previously a very small media event, but the new-look blew the doors off. Um and was a global phenomenon then the phrase new-look came to be applied to everything that all the incredible transformations of post-war life to do with technology to do with the reorganization society.
And so that in the book I talk about something that was called at the time the new look in defense planning and it was called the new look and defense planning planning when it was presented to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and not not your phrase. This is how it was described by these hunts official exactly.
So they were borrowing explicitly from Dior just. When which do yours New Look was seen to reinvent everything about the female body. The new looking defense planning was seen to reinvent the military in the context of the Korean war in the context of Eisenhower's fear that we would get mired in a bunch of proxy conflicts with the Soviet Union across the globe as we of course.
In the document that represented this new look the National Security Council document 162 / to Eisenhower chose to [00:42:00] reorient the US military from a large standing Force into a set of. Enormous investments in research and Technology. The first of which was the ICBM program. Of course that also led a genie out of the bottle that Eisenhower was the first to warn us of in his last speech in office the the military industrial complex or what I learned.
He actually wanted to call the military industrial academic content complex its but that was seen as too long by his speechwriter. So this enormous self-sustaining Rd apparatus that then did end up fighting a proxy war but not a proxy war in Southeast Asia, but a proxy war in the context of the Space Race because the ability to deliver an astronaut with Precision to orbit or did the surface of the Moon was a direct and not even analog it was literally utilizing the same technologies that would deliver a thermonuclear Warhead precisely to the footsteps of the Kremlin or [00:43:00] the.
The White House and so the proxy war of the Space Race resulted which of course it's was much better in many ways. Of course. Nobody died except for a few very heroic astronauts. And we got an enormous set of investments in R&D and technology that allow us to be talking to each other today over the internet and over a whole range of automated systems, but it was still a very.
In some ways a very brutal War when it came to the enormous expenditures and the decisions that were made to to invest not so much even in the space program, but in this enormous military-industrial burden of the mid-century high technology. Deadly force that is still hanging with us today. Yes largely still with us today and you bring a light to this which is this is a topic particularly as it applies to the Space Race that we have talked about many times on this program.
But you do bring an angle to this that has [00:44:00] had not occurred to me until reading the book. There is another side to what Christian Dior help to generate and that is that with the new look there was a a need for in a sense a new generation of. Foundational garments. Yes, and Playtex was right there right to your said without foundations.
There is no fashion and he didn't mean buildings. He meant girdles and bras to a lesser extent. And so the in fact it was replacing much heavier corsets and other female undergarments that the Playtex rubber girdle was seen as modern was seen as revolutionary was seen as the literal foundation of the new.
So the interesting part of the story is that it connects there as well through a very different circuit and help to put Playtex in the position just because of their success where spinel the founder was able to say. I want to be a part of helping this country reach. [00:45:00] Yes, and he was a he was a consummate Patriot a Russian Refugee who addressed his employees every Friday through a PA address from his home in New Jersey, which is now the governor's mansion to the deaths and Shop floors of all the Playtex facilities.
So he's quite a character in this history as well. You mentioned it earlier, but I would love for you to talk a little bit more about the Playtex Workforce because. These space suits their 21 layers of fabric are such wonderful examples of craftsmanship or perhaps I should say craftswoman ship.
Yes, because these were the best seamstresses. Playtex could find yes. And so one of my right up there with the Delight of entered of interviewing actual Apollo Astronauts was the Delight of interviewing the seamstresses from the Playtex shop floor many of whom especially at the time when I was doing interviews in 2006-2007 were still.
[00:46:00] Sewing space suits for ilc Dover ilc Dover split off from the larger or was made its own division within the larger conglomerate that owned that bought the international latex Corporation in the late 1960s split off from from Playtex all the seamstresses that worked for. Our for ilc Dover were had been acquired from the Playtex.
Shop floor before that institutional Division and they were not just manufacturing Personnel. They were really Partners in the design of the suit because while the engineers who worked for Playtex, including the incredible figure of lens Shepherd who while he had admittedly dropped out of MIT got his job at Playtex because he was Abram spinels television repairman.
Yes, didn't he also. Spend weeks learning how to sew from these seamstresses or yes, he would sit with them. He never sewed the suits himself, but he would sit with them. He. Try out the machines and try it [00:47:00] what it felt like and there was an enormous back and forth. So Roberta Pilkington one of the seamstresses.
I talked to described late nights and early mornings sitting with land Shepherd going back and forth about how a certain set of fabric assemblies could or couldn't go together or could be attached or couldn't be attached and so along with the the stories, you know. To the book hidden figures. My largest Delight in the book is surfacing and explaining the.
Contribution that these seamstresses none of whom went to college all of whom had, you know entered into a factory job that ended up being far more kind of astonishing and amazing than they ever imagined. I remember also talking to one seamstress who when a fault appeared with one of the Apollo 14 gloves and a fault also appeared with a backup glove kept on site in Cape Canaveral.
She had to fly in the back seat of a t-38 Navy trainer from Delaware down to Cape [00:48:00] Canaveral with a third glove that she'd put together in her lap. And this is someone who not only never been on a plane before but never left the state of Delaware and when you think about touching that history mean literally touching the surface of the Moon through through that glove and what it means.
It's a remarkable story and when I. Really really glad to be able to tell I hope these women are as justifiably proud as they should be they are they are you talk to them. They are not shy about what they consider their contribution to this history is and as I think I try and talk about in the whole book.
It was a particularly distinctive contribution because everyone else working on the space craft and its systems allowed vehicles to go into space. Many of them through their work on these vehicles allowed human beings to be sustained by by air and pressure and space but only the seamstresses of the international latex Corporation really allowed man to walk on the surface of the [00:49:00] Moon like those layers that these women were assembling within such painstaking detail the 21 layers.
You are the layers of your book all contribute to the whole very very well. One of the ones with that we won't take long to talk about this but was utterly fascinating to me was about JFK John Fitzgerald Kennedy who because I had not read a bio of him before. I had no idea. Yes. I knew he had back trouble and he had other problems but this was a very unhealthy man and yet he exuded confidence virility everything that maybe most Americans were looking for in a lie.
That brings us back to a point that I'm glad to return to because I didn't probably emphasize it enough earlier that the one of the essential stories of the of the Apollo program is the story of media and in the chapter on JFK I make the case that [00:50:00] the cause of his very damaged body and because of his own very successful efforts to hide his health problems from the world and to always present himself it meant he was quintessential.
Conscious of appearances he changed his shirt three times a day. So to always look completely crisp and fresh and prepared and he understood therefore intuitively the role and the changing role of media in political life. Not only within the United States through his very effective campaigning but globally and he understood when he committed it doesn't diminish his commitment to put an American on the so surface of the Moon by the end of the 1960's to say that he understood.
That this was a question of producing a single image a television image of an American on the surface of the Moon that would be broadcast to hundreds of millions of people around the globe and definitively establish. The United States is supremacy in the Space Race. There is another of these layers in which you talk [00:51:00] about how over time the limits of human physical.
Endurance were established and that this was very important. But that was already very well established by the time human started going into space. Yes, and this is an amazing story. This is the story of John Paul Stapp after after which the unit of. Deceleration on the human body the staff is indeed.
There's also a problem probably apocryphal story, but potentially true that step invented Murphy's Law as a way to talk about an observation that was already common that technology often didn't work. Like it was supposed to the same time as the Air Force who is steps employer was commissioning client's inclined to think about modifying the human body in space.
Stop thinking about Spain high-altitude flight and space missions understood on his own that the the fundamental issue would not be altering man for space but altering the Technologies of rockets and acceleration [00:52:00] so that they fit within the parameters of man and he discovered that the Air Force didn't know fundamentally those parameters they'd been summoned tests on endurance and acceleration in the context of the second world war, but they weren't comprehensive and scientific and so he really stole away.
A corner of Edwards Air Force Base and sort of disguised this effort under his own initiative to accelerate and decelerate first animals, and then his own body is an experimental subject to discover precisely the limits of. The acceleration of rotation of all the things that the human body could withstand and which then became literally part of the operational parameters of of American Rockets as they were modified from icbms to become Mercury and Gemini boosters.
And then of course of the of the great Saturn V and the Apollo Hardware as well even very generous with your time. I cannot let the conversation and though before mentioning someone that has come up on this program before a personal hero of mine. [00:53:00] And in many ways the inventor of the spacesuit and you know who I'm talking about Wiley Post Wiley Post is a remarkable figure and not enough understood in the context of this history.
Although I did have the distinct pleasure about a year ago helping someone. I'm delighted to call a friend Adam Savage produce a precise reproduction of Wiley Post pressers pressure shoot as it was designed and built by BF Goodrich has Russell collie for one of his comic on adventures. I see.
Welded the deepest cut of his space suit collection and why they posts was a remarkable figure. He lost his eye in an oil rig accident and used the settlement money to buy his first airplane. And then he became famous in the 1930s for a series of flights which set circled the globe in an attempt to prove that the airplane and not the Zeppelin competing Zeppelin.
The time was the future to long-distance air travel passenger air travel and he made his first flight with [00:54:00] a navigator then he had a mechanical Navigator. He was the first to discover jet lag as he flew around the world and note the reaction of his body to changing time zones. Quickly, he was a friend with Will Rogers the to of course tragically died together in a boating accident in Alaska.
But the before that time he had also discovered the jet stream flying high as a the jet stream the great west to east current of air that circles the Northern Hemisphere and then he discovered that if he went up to fly in the in the Jetstream, he could set much faster transcontinental and and flight records, but that the the jet stream starts at about.
38,000 feet which is above the 37,000 feet Armstrong line named after an Air Force doctor who discovered the the first named the altitude at which blood begins to boil at body temperature. And so what Wiley Post would do would be to fly up just skirting into the jet stream until the literally this is kind of gross but until the blood coming from his eyes and his nostrils would get too bothersome and then he would come [00:55:00] down and then go up again.
And so in order to be able to fly comfortably at these altitudes instead of pressurizing his aircraft, which is was at the time certainly out of his financial and logistical reads. That would have made it too heavy and planes were still being made out of things like canvas. Yes canvas and wood. He asked.
If Goodrich to make what he called a tire in the shape of a man because the main problem of a spacesuit many of your audience already know this but just to make it clear the main problem of this of a spacesuit is to not to protect the body from scrapes or abrasions like clothing. It's to provide a pressurized environment so that our blood doesn't boil so we can continue to operate and breathe.
As we do here on Earth, but the problem of a spacesuit is that much like a highly inflated basketball it wants to be both round and very hard and so collapsing. Basketball into the shape of a human body is enormously difficult especially in a way that allows us to continue to move within it posts first Tire like suit only had enough [00:56:00] Mobility for him to barely move the joystick.
You can see amazing photos of him sort of lumbering. It was sewn into a seated position and he would sort of lumber into the aircraft that when he met but then he used it to set several records and was aiming for around the world record when unfortunately he died in this tragic accident, but it was also the first space suit to.
Film in the 1935 movie are hawks where you have a poster from the film. Okay. Yeah, we're post played himself helping the main character protect against I think an evil death ray that was being projected from the ground. Elect lie about an electric death ray. Okay. Yes. I'm sure they all are yeah a wonderful wonderful character.
Every layer in this book spacesuit fashion, and Apollo is worthy of a book unto itself, but it is marvelously assembled. Into this hole which I think is even greater than those parts. I did not mention before it is still available from MIT [00:57:00] press right? Absolutely. And in fact, you're going to be selling and signing copies here at interplanetary Festival and I hope that we will have a copy to give away in our space trivia contest here on planetary.
Oh fantastic, that will be a great pleasure. I got one other question. Yes, if systems engineering is not the right answer for. Approaching tasks challenges that are intimately tied to human nature. What is the best approach? Well, I would marry I wouldn't even go so far to say that systems engineering is not the right answer but much.
I think what the Apollo space it provides a marvelous example of is of a kind of soft mediation between the logic of technology and the logic of humans. And so all around the world, you know in my other wearing my other hat for example, as an urban designer. I worked with Louis Betancourt of the Santa Fe Institute on a project with about data collection in slums around the world sponsored by The Gates Foundation and some dollars and [00:58:00] shackdwellers international where we were re-appropriating and reusing the techniques of military-industrial mapping for these communities to show.
The local governments where they were that they exist and the exact geometry of all their houses and the and this is a technology that comes directly from targeting and guidance systems from the 1950s and it's not that it's not a good technology. It's just that we have to be thoughtful and careful about how we use it and the purposes to which we.
So I would say that the the space suit is a Triumph of systems engineering but a Triumph of its mediation mediation between the logic of the larger systems of Apollo and the logic of the human body and it is neither one nor the other but something that exists between the two which the best human spaces and human cities actually are a complex robust and organic.
Yes, exactly Nicholas. This has been absolutely delightful. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me. Keep up the great work absolutely. [00:59:00] Look forward to it time for what's up on planetary radio? Bruce patches the chief scientist of the Planetary Society and the program manager for lightsail Bowl light shell program.
But right now the only one we care about is like sail to welcome back. I you you want to give us a little status report. Sure. We're still up there in orbit doing our thing continuing to raise the apogee the high point in the orbit by solar sailing we continue to try to improve our performance. By working on different ways to use the momentum wheel we use to turn it because we're having still having issues with the momentum wheel and saturating.
But anyway, it's still it's working and it's still doing what it's supposed to do and we're still we're trying to get to where we can download some more pictures, which I like and it's all good speaking of light sail and pictures from it will come back to that in the contest today it unless you have something prior to that plan for us.
[01:00:00] First tell us about the night sky the easy planets to see still Jupiter and Saturn in the South or Southwest and the early evening Jupiter brighter than any Star out there kind of near Antares the much dimmer, but still kind of bright star in Scorpius and then Saturn over to their left looking yellowish and kind of bright.
You still might be able to catch mercury in the pre-dawn. In the East all over it's going to be tough and you still might double though. It's going to be tough pick up some perseid meteor showers. The peak was on the 12th and 13th, but it's spread over a couple weeks before and after you get increased meteor activity.
So you can try that while you're out looking for light sail to on to this week in space history. 1977 Voyager 2 was launched. It's still working. Yeah, we're gonna have [01:01:00] to have a show about that. Once again. It's it's good to check in at least once every couple of years as they head out into Interstellar space.
I expect nothing less from light sell to all right, amazing it apogee. Yeah. Yeah. I don't think so either. Yeah, she'll come to a glorious and fiery end. All right remove onto Ron dellums Roseburg. I like it. Edwin Hubble, he proved evidence of that of the universe was expanding known as Hubble's Law, although although the law effectively had been proposed and demonstrated observation Ali two years earlier by and I apologize.
I can't pronounce French worth a darn Georgia is the mighty and so it's sometimes called the Hubble limited law. It talks about the expansion of the universe and I like that somebody else also came up with this because Hubble I have it almost directly. I [01:02:00] have it secondhand no more distant than that that he was a real jerk, but nevertheless he was a great astronomer.
So so there you go. Shall we move on to the trivia contest absolutely. Would that make you happy it? Would I asked you in my FIT of light Sail? Euphoria in the first high-resolution image down LinkedIn released after sale deployment from lightsail to what is the most obvious strip of land? How did we do man?
Not only did we get the right answer from just about everybody but almost everybody also had congratulations for the society for you for the light sail to team. It was just a delightful to read all of these. Of course. I can't read all of them as part of the radio show but here's one. It happens to be from our winner Gene Luen at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington.
I think we read up his response last week his was entertaining. [01:03:00] He said it's a box. California that lights Hill to was looking down on what it took that image that is indeed. Correct. Congratulations. Jean died. He adds. It is fantastic to be a small part of this endeavor, which tells me that he either you know is a donor to the lightsail program or maybe a member of the Planetary Society.
He says say Lon. We will keep sailing on and thanks to him and everyone else who made this Mission possible Gene. We're going to send you a Priceless Planetary Society kick asteroid rubber asteroid a 200-point i telescope dotnet astronomy account from that worldwide network of telescopes that you can operate remotely from any place and how appropriate voyagers Greatest Hits eight tracks for the Epic Trek to Interstellar Space by a.
Andres I or C. I still haven't checked the correct pronunciation of her name. Sorry, Alexandra terrific book will [01:04:00] send it out from headquarters and I got some other stuff. Of course course shot Sean Young in South Africa. He says I only found out about the Planetary Society and planetary radio about three months ago started listening to podcast from episode 1.
He's one of those. He said I just listen to the podcast from 2005 the coverage of Cosmos one that launched and he said just found out this week that light sail to was just launched how exciting yeah, we think so. We do and and this this is gone much better than the rocket failure of Cosmos. Haha.
No comparison. Well, there is a comparison but it's pretty Kevin It Go Forked River, New Jersey qapla, which I think means success in Klingon. It's either that or a version of by name in Klingon. Congratulations for a successful Mission. Well [01:05:00] done that photo is proudly presented as. Lock screen picture live long on photons light sail and we got a couple of other people who said they've made that image there wallpaper or whatever for their phone or device little twist on that Brian mangled in Arizona.
He says, I think my home is just visible in the gap between the sales beautiful stunning image congrats to all of you for making Sagan's at all dream come true. Finally Craig balog in New Jersey since like can behave simultaneously as a particle or a wave. Would it also be appropriate to say light sail to was light surfing over Baja, California?
Shaka brah did lightsail is a surfer not a hodad. Why there's a blast in the past we're ready to go on. Wow, that's a lot to take in. I'll say alright, so back [01:06:00] to Edwin Hubble jerk great astronomer man about town. Whatever he was. What was Edwin Hubble's middle name? That's the really important question.
And that's the one you'll need to answer it planetary dot org slash radio contest. You have this time until the 21st. That would be Wednesday, August 21st at 8 a.m. Pacific time to get us your answer speaking of blast from the past your something for you. How about a planetary radio t-shirt? Yeah.
It's been ages absolutely ages. Well throw on an asteroid as well are Planetary Society or rubber asteroid and 200-point. I telescope dotnet. Account not a bad package and not a bad segment. Thanks very much. We're done. All right, thank you. Everybody go out there. Look up the night sky think about something shiny that makes you happy.
Thank you and good night and check out on planetary dot-org to see how you can see that [01:07:00] shiny thing. If you're lucky pass right over your head. That's Bruce Betts. He should know. He's the program manager for Life Sale and chief scientist Planetary Society who joins us. Every week here for what's up?
Planetary radio is produced by the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by its fashionable members Mary Liz vendors our associate producer Josh Doyle can post our theme which was arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser.