Thursday, July 23, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

The 10-year-old who helped Apollo 11

It sounds like something out of a movie, but that's what it came down to as Apollo 11 sped back towards Earth after landing on the moon in 1969.

It was around 10:00 at night on July 23, and 10-year-old Greg Force was at home with his mom and three brothers. His father, Charles Force, was at work. Charles Force was the director of the NASA tracking station in Guam, where the family was living.

The Guam tracking station was to play a critical role in the return of Apollo 11 to Earth. A powerful antenna there connected NASA communications with Apollo 11, and the antenna was the only way for NASA to make its last communications with the astronauts before splashdown. But at the last minute on that night, a bearing in the antenna failed, rendering it nearly useless.

To properly replace the bearing would have required dismantling the entire antenna, and there was simply no time. So Charles Force thought of a creative solution: If he could get more grease around the failed bearing, it would probably be fine. The only problem was, nobody at the station had an arm small enough to actually reach in through the two-and-a-half inch opening and pack grease around the bearing.

And that's when Greg was called in to save the day. Charles Force sent someone out to his home to pick up Greg. Once at the tracking station, Greg reached into the tiny hole and packed grease around the failed bearing. It worked, and the station was able to successfully complete its communications role in the mission. Apollo 11 splashed down safely the next day.

At the time, Greg didn't think what he was doing was a big deal, and 40 years later, he's still modest about his role in the mission.

"That's all I did, was put my hand in and put grease on it," he says. If he hadn't been there, NASA would not have been able to make its last communications with the mission before splashdown, but Greg says "it wasn't life or death, [from] my understanding."

Friday, July 17, 2009

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Police say the murder scenes are linked and they are searching for a man in this sketch.

In this rural South Carolina town, a few summer schools began Monday, businesses opened following the July Fourth weekend, and the 13,000 residents sought to go about their business as usual.
But the town -- and the rest of Cherokee County, total population about 50,000 -- is gripped with fear. Over the past nine days, a serial killer has left five people dead, police say.
The killer's latest victim was 15-year-old Abby Tyler, who was shot last week and died Saturday. Her father, Stephen Tyler, 48, was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting in their family-run furniture and appliance store.
As residents mourned the Tylers over the weekend, they also had words of warning for the man terrorizing the community.
"If he comes to me, face to face, I'm ready, I'm loaded, and I'm aimed for him," said Sarah Banister, neighbor of one of the killer's victims.
"I'm afraid for my life," said Robby Banister, her husband. "It's going to be kind of like a dog fight. I'm telling you: I'm going to win."