Apollo 11 – the Moon landing’s legacy

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Hand’s up who remembers 21st July 1969? Did your parents wake you up, in what felt like the middle of the night, to watch on a small black and white TV screen the moment that Neil Armstrong, leader of the Apollo 11 mission, stepped out of the Lunar Module (‘Eagle’) to became the first person to walk onto the lunar surface? There are a handful of childhood events, including this momentous step, that this viewer, as an eleven year old, remembers with absolute awe and clarity.

The enormity of men being shot into space ahead a giant fuel canister to orbit the Earth and then be pointed in a different trajectory to the Moon’s orbit and surface, there to land safely, open the sealed hatch and climb out. Simply breathtaking both in its spirit and execution. The First Walk on the Moon was simply awe inspiring.

Armstrong was followed onto the Moon’s surface by his co-venturers, Buzz Aldrin. They spent a couple of hours making auspicious speeches and collecting rocks. After nearly a day in the Sea of Tranquility they blasted back to the command module (‘Columbia’) piloted by Michael Collins. They were returned to terra firma having safely splashed down in the Pacific on 24th July 1969.

I was certainly old enough to realize that the Mission to the Moon was the most magical blend of evolutionary technology of semi-conductors and computers, the guile of America’s military aviators, the obviously immense resources of the NASA Space Program. It was also the culmination of the dream of a brilliant and driven leader, the late President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 launched his country’s aim to land a man safely on the Moon before the end of the decade.

Aside from the warm and fuzzy feeling of all things vintage and American, Coke fridges, leather sleeved varsity jackets, Levi’s and classic muscle cars what else can be seen as the legacy of man’s early musings with space travel?

The Apollo mission kick-started a series of major innovations the legacy of which continue to be seen, felt and enjoyed today. Some of the many spin-offs from the Space Race include the following:

The Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scanner now more regularly used to detect cancer and other abnormalities was used to identify any imperfections in space components that would only be magnified by the unique stresses and environmental issues associated with zero gravity and the g-force associated with space travel.

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The Computer Microchip, the integrated circuits and semi-conductors used in the Apollo mission’s guidance software spawned the modern microchip that appears in everything from you laptop, to you TV remote control and your oven’s regulatory systems.

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Cordless tools. Lacking the inability to plug in electrical tools on the Moon’s surface, power tools including cordless drills and vacuum cleaners were developed – initially by Black & Decker in 1961 – with integral battery packs enabling the collection of rock and dust samples.

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In-Ear Infrared thermometer. A detector of infrared energy that is felt as heat that was developed to monitor the birth of stars found an alternative use with In-Ear thermometers.

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Freeze-dried food. Since the Moon mission we have been fascinated by rehydrated food, Thai pot soups, noodle dishes and the like. Originally devised to minimize weight these packets of goodness fueled the men in space. This technology had first been developed in the Second World War for carrying blood long distances without refrigeration. Nasa was first to create freeze dried iced cream – but it doesn’t seem to have been that popular amongst the astronauts.

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Home Insulation materials. If you have ever unrolled in the your attic reflective insulated matting you may not know that the shiny material used was developed to deflect radiation away from spacecrafts.

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Invisible braces. Each of my three children has received the attention of the dentists and the application of braces that resulted in perfectly straight teeth. The process has been improved by the use of transparent ceramic brace brackets made from materials developed for spacecraft.

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Joysticks as used on computer gaming consoles were devised for Apollo Lunar Rover.

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Memory foam – for many, me excluded, they say that sleeping on a memory foam mattress or pillow results in a splendid night’s sleep. For me they are usually too firm but the underlying tech was created to improve the comfort of aircraft seats and helmets.

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You may not be surprised to hear that satellite television technology, primarily devised to repair relay signals from spacecrafts and to unscramble satellite sound and images sent from space now sits at the core of home satellite driven services.

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At the optician when ordering a new pair of glasses you will almost certainly have been asked if you would like a ‘scratch resistant coating’ to be added. Substantially improving the long term wear and tear on glasses these coatings were developed to make astronaut helmet visors scratch resistant.

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Whilst shoe insoles have been around for years, indeed the likes of trusty beach worn Birkenstocks are based on the eponymous insole a challenge for athletic shoe companies was to adapt an insole for the Space missions boot designs to maximize on ventilation and springy comfort.

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An absolute must around any home is a smoke detector with good batteries. It may surprise you to know that Nasa invented the first adjustable smoke detector that was programmed with a level of sensitivity that prevented false alarms. Just as essential in the small cabins on board spacecrafts.

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The design of a space rocket is perhaps a classic example of drag reduction. Interestingly Nasa deployed the same principles of drag reduction to help create for Speedo a world beating, but highly controversial, swimsuit the LZR Racer.

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Aside from bottled oxygen, filtered and clean water was one of vital elements needed in space. NASA developed a filtering technique that killed bacteria in water. This has subsequently been used to deliver filtered water in millions of homes.

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Velcro – whilst not strictly a product developed for the Space Race, the system of a hook-and-loop fastener was originally conceived in 1941 by a Swiss engineer George de Mestral. NASA made significant use of touch fasteners in myriad of ways including the closing of astronauts’ suits, anchoring equipment during maintained and for trays at mealtimes to avoid them floating away.

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Artificial limbs – Nasa is a world leader in the science of robotics devised primarily to remotely control space vehicles. The technology had been adopted to give artificial limbs greater functionality.

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If you have ever completed the London Marathon, for example, you may recall crossing the line to be shrouded in a silver foil blanket. These blankets were developed in 1964 they are excellent at  reflecting infrared radiation but they also enable the body to they retain heat and reduce the risks from hypothermia.

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The Bacon hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell celebrated British engineer, Tom Bacon, developed an existing and century old technology to create a patented fuel cell that provided electrical power for the Apollo mission. The science that combined hydrogen and oxygen to create a reaction that caused heat that could be converted to electricity also had a useful by-product, water: which the astronauts drank. Fuel cells have been used to create electric vehicles including the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity and Mercedes-Benz F-Cell, where the technology is seen as a having great green credentials.

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The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is part of a range of manually winded chronometers launched by the Swiss watch brand in 1957 and used as part of Omega’s role as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games. The “Moonwatch”, a combination of both timepiece and stopwatch, was water-resistant, shock-proof, and could withstand 12Gs of acceleration endured by the astronauts during their mission. It was first worn during NASA’s Gemini missions that included the first space walk. The Moonwatch was on the wrists of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, when the former two took their first steps on the Moon. It remains a firm favourite with those who love this Swiss watch brand which has created a series of Special Editions to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first Moon landing.

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Radio Flyer

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If you, like me, are a fan of US movies and TV series, then the iconic Radio Flyer will be more than familiar. Indeed, I know they must be sold in other parts of the world, but like so many everyday iconic items of US life – check out our earlier post on Iconic US Sweets/Candies –  Iconic American Candy – Part 1 – I don’t think I have seen one for sale in the UK. Certainly, when my kids would have loved such a product they weren’t available.

For generations, US kids have carted themselves, several siblings, pets, toys and other important treasures in these charming red trolley wagons. A wonderful item  of great simplicity that’s use is limited only by the depths of a child’s imagination. As American as “Milk Duds” but what’s their story?

2017 saw the celebration of the first hundred years of the Radio Flyer. Antonio Pasin, a Venetian born son of a cabinet maker who, aged 16, in 1913 arrived in New York City to start a new life. In 1917, in Chicago, he started building wooden toy wagons and selling them to local shops. He was a jobbing joiner who built the wooden wagons to carry his tools.

Demand for the wagons led to Pasin forming the Liberty Coaster Company in 1923, and ten years after he made his first wooden wagons he was making pressed steel versions and selling them for just under $3.00. He was very interested in the many production techniques used in the local car industry, earning himself the nickname “Little Ford”. In the 1930’s he produced several versions of his “Liberty Coaster” including The Streak-O-Lite” and The Zephyr that echoed the Chrysler Airflow.

Renaming the company in 1930 the Radio Steel and Manufacturing, the brand name “Radio Flyer” stemming from Pasin’s fascination with the pioneers of Radio (Marconi) and Flight (Lindbergh).

Production was interrupted during the latter stages of the Second World War and turned to oil drum manufacture but the company survived. In 1987 Radio Steel and Manufacturinf became “Radio Flyer Inc” which has been overseen by Pasin’s grandson, Robert as CEO, since 1997.

The company’s range of Radio Flyer and associated products grows annually and aside from being voted a great company to work for, its iconic products are rooted deep in the warmth of the American psyche.

Images used with grateful thanks – Radio Flyer Inc., ClassicCars.com and Vintage Vending Inc.

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Maglite D3 cell torch

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Designed by Tony Maglica in 1955.

This American icon was designed and first manufactured by Tony Maglica who set up Mag Instrument in 1955 – an finally incorporated in 1974. He was born in New York City in the Great Depression and was raised in his Mother’s native Croatia. In 1950 Mr Maglica escaped back to America and even though he spoke no English he was determined to make the most of his training as an experimental machinist. Finally he managed to save $125 to place a deposit on his first lathe.

He manufactured precision parts for industry, aerospace and the military, gaining a reputation for quality. As the company grew, Mr. Maglica wanted to develop and build a new and improved battery operated torch. The anodised aluminium Magnate was introduced in 1979 and soon became the firm favourite with the Police and Firefighters – and then mechanics, stage builders and DJ’s.

Over the next twenty years multiple versions of the Maglite were developed including miniature, LED and rechargeable versions. Since 1982 Maglite production was moved to company’s HQ in Ontario, California.

Excellence in design has been recognised by the Japan Institute of Design and by the Museum for Applied Art in Germany. As short-hand for quality the former CEO of Apple Computer, Gilbert F. Amelio, said he wanted Apple to be “essentially the Maglite of computers”.

My Maglite – I have several of these beautifully designed and manufactured torches. My first, the large D 3 cell version (first available in 1979), is a cross between a torch and truncheon! I have a couple of small sized belt-loop portable Maglites that when unscrewed and the cap place at the end of the battery compartment turns the simple torch into a romantic dinner table-centre candle – with the small naked bulb twinkling like a flame – go on try it.

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Images by Maglite

Victorinox SwissChamp

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Date Launched: 1891 – the SwissChamp was introduced in 1986

History: The Swiss Army knife is a multi-tool pocketknife manufactured by Victorinox AG in the Swiss town of Ibach.

The Swiss Army knife was first produced in 1891 by Karl Elsener, who had won the contract to produce Modell 1890 knife – following a strict specification set by the Swiss military – from the previous German manufacturer. In 1909, the company was renamed in memory of Elsener’s mother Victoria and in 1921 with the introduction “stainless-steel” or “inox” (in French), the final iteration of Victorinox AG was born.

A cultural icon, the design of the knives and their quality and versatility has gained a worldwide recognition.

The expression “Swiss Army Knife” is thought to have come from US servicemen during the Second World War who saw the knives used but couldn’t pronounce the German version name “Offiziersmesser”.

Swiss Army Knives that are made of the finest Swedish steel from Sandvik and Victorinox is now the sole supplier of multi-purpose knives to the Swiss Army and the biggest manufacturer of pocketknives in the World.

The Swiss Army knife generally has a main spear-point blade, as well as various tools, including a screwdriver, can opener, saw and many other useful implements. These attachments are stowed inside the handle of the knife through a pivot mechanism. The handle is usually red or black and features a cross logo – being the coat of arms of Switzerland.

My Victorinox SwissChamp: I have several SwissChamp knives. My first was bought on a skiing trip to Switzerland about thirty years ago – it has a black body and case. The main knife blade is stamped with the name of the Geneva shop where it was purchased. I have had to replace the saw blade after it snapped cutting wet logs in France – which was an easy thing to do as Victorinox are well set up for such replacements. I have lost and replaced endless tweezers, toothpicks and pins. It the the most amazing pocket tool you’ll ever really need – except the pincers are a little feeble.I don’t think a day goes by without me fixing, scraping or filing using my SwissChamp – simply brilliant.

My second a classic red SwissChamp – in a bespoke red leather case – was bought in the flagship store of Victorinox on Bond Street in the heart of London’s West End. Downstairs is a treasure trove or those who find Victorinox products fascinating.

My wife has an electric pink key-ring knife that is always in her hand-bag and Victorinox make beautiful sets – often accompanied by Maglite torches – our Maglite post is here – Maglite D 3 cell torch – which have become firm favourites for nephew’s birthdays.

Having bought my son a Victorinox knife for Christmas a couple of years ago I recently purchased and had engraved two of the very small key-ring knives for my two daughters. As we all do a lot of international traveling I was assured by the guys at Victorinox that the smallest is the only knife that UK Customs allow to travel on planes – none of us has yet been brave enough to test that!

Your Victorinox SwissChamp: Please share your experiences, we’d love to hear them. How? By completing the “Leave a Reply” section below your experiences would be most welcome. Please remember, as we are an international site you may post in any language.

 

Featured image by Victorinox