Last year I did a post about my memories of the first moon landing in 1969. In that I mentioned an excellent podcast called 13 minutes to the moon. This referred to the time it took for the ‘eagle’ the lunar excursion module, to reach the surface of the moon after leaving the command module in orbit. It was written and presented by Kevin Fong. He has degrees in astrophysics and aerospace engineering and as well as a being a consultant anaesthetist and flying with the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services team in the South of England.
It was a very well done series of podcasts with a lot of detail, great atmosphere helped by original music by the Bleeding Fingers Custom music. Kevin Fong is not only a good presenter but he is intelligent and doesn’t condescend. I was therefore, delighted that earlier this year they started a second series of podcasts, this time looking at the Apollo 13 story that was 50 years ago this year. Again this takes a very detailed and in depth look at the personalities and in this case the problems that the explosion in the fuel tank caused. They use a lot of the conversations between the astronauts and CapCom (Capsule communicator) and the whole team at mission control. I do remember it happening and the fact that experts had to try to work out ways for the astronauts to make repairs to the systems in their lunar excursion module (LEM). What I hadn’t realised was how very close these men were to not getting back. There were a whole series of problems for them to overcome not least of which was making adaptations to their CO2 elimination system otherwise they would have all died from their own breath. They used bits of space suit, bungee cord and duct tape to produce what we would now call a space hack.
The reason I am mentioning it now is that the series stopped in the middle of April. The reason for this was Kevin Fong’s ‘day job’. He is a consultant anaesthetist and from the middle of March onward has been working for the NHS in response to the covid-19 pandemic. The BBC team were unable to continue the production without him and so we’ve had to wait till now for the final podcast episode. It is of course the return to earth of the astronauts with an unheard of re-entry blackout of over 6 minutes. Even though you know the outcome, it is still a heart stopping and emotional 6 minutes to listen to. It was also over one minute longer than the Houston team had anticipated so you know that as the seconds tick by, mission control are desperately trying not to assume that the capsule has simply burned up.
It’s out today on BBC Sounds and I am saving it for an hour’s knitting this evening.
Welcome back Kevin and the team and a very heartfelt thank you to all NHS staff.