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The Search for Apollo 10's 'Snoopy'
Discovery ^ | Mon Sep 19, 2011 05:01 AM ET | By Mark Thompson

Posted on 09/19/2011 12:55:37 PM PDT by Red Badger

A team of astronomers are planning an epic quest to track down the 42-year-old lunar module that's adrift in the solar system.

It's not often I read about a new project that leaves me undecided whether it's totally crazy or a stroke of genius.

I was recently sent a press release of such a project and, having read it over a few times, I think I'm leaning toward the latter.

The idea is the brain child of British amateur astronomer Nick Howes who not only has a passion for hunting for asteroids, but also for the Space Race -- in particular, the Apollo era.

It's perhaps fitting then that Howes' new project combines his two passions and will challenge him and a host of other very prestigious organizations more than they have ever been challenged before.

The Apollo 11 mission that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon rather overshadowed the phenomenal achievement of the previous mission, Apollo 10. Without the bravery of Thomas Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan, the moon first landing would never have happened.

Not only did this historic mission do everything Apollo 11 did (except actually land on the moon), it also set records for the fastest human beings have ever flown and the furthest mankind has ever been from Earth.

As part of the mission, Apollo 10's lunar module ascent stage -- affectionately called 'Snoopy' -- was discarded and sent into an orbit around the sun. 42 years later and it's still believed to be out there.

In a celestial version of finding a needle in a haystack, Howes and his team are about to embark on the seemingly impossible: finding Snoopy!

After consulting members of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Faulkes Telescope team, who are working with the Space Exploration Engineering Corp and astronomers from the Remanzacco Observatory in Italy as well as schools across the UK, the team are under no illusion of how difficult the task will be as Paul Roche, Director of the Faulkes Telescope Project states: "To paraphrase President Kennedy, we are trying these things 'not because they are easy but because they are hard' -- this will be a real test for the hardware and the people involved."

The challenges facing the team are enormous, a fact that isn't lost on Howes. "The key problem which we are taking on is a lack of solid orbital data since 1969," he told Discovery News. "We've enlisted the help of the Space Exploration Engineering Corp who have calculated orbits for Apollo 13 and working closely with people who were on the Apollo mission team in the era will help us identify search coordinates."

PHOTOS: Myths of the Moon Missions

"We're expecting a search arc up to 135 million kilometers in size which is a huge amount of space to look at," Howes continues. "We're aware of the scale and magnitude of this challenge but to have the twin Faulkes scopes assist the hunt, along with schools, plus the fact that we'll doubtless turn up many new finds such as comets and asteroids makes this a great science project too."

If the team find a potential suspect, they will turn to detailed spectral analysis to see if the hidden messages in the reflected light can confirm if they have succeeded in finding Snoopy.

The chances of the team finding the lost lunar module are small, and the challenges daunting, but let's not forget that some of the greatest discoveries in scientific history have come from moments like this, when a team of enthusiastic and dedicated people come together to take on the seemingly impossible.

After all, surely that was the very essence and spirit of the Apollo missions over 40 years ago.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: apollo; moon; snoopy; space

The ascent stage of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module "Snoopy" is photographed from the Command Module prior to docking in lunar orbit. The module would later be cut loose and left in solar orbit.

1 posted on 09/19/2011 12:55:43 PM PDT by Red Badger
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To: Red Badger

Time capsule.


2 posted on 09/19/2011 12:59:19 PM PDT by cripplecreek (A vote for Amnesty is a vote for a permanent Democrat majority. ..Choose well.)
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To: Red Badger

Buzz Aldrin could figure out how to find it...probably with only a slide rule and a pencil.


3 posted on 09/19/2011 1:01:02 PM PDT by KingLudd
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To: Red Badger

Why would they have it orbit the sun? Wouldn’t there be a good chance that it would get too close and succumb to its gravity?


4 posted on 09/19/2011 1:01:15 PM PDT by wastedyears (Of course you realize, this means war.)
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To: wastedyears

Well, it’s essentially garbage.

Falling into the Sun is a good thing, in that regard (in comparison to, say, falling back to Earth like that giant satellite is about to do).


5 posted on 09/19/2011 1:04:32 PM PDT by TheThirdRuffian (Nothing to see here. Move along.)
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To: wastedyears
Why would they have it orbit the sun? Wouldn’t there be a good chance that it would get too close and succumb to its gravity?

Because it started out with approximately the same orbital speed as the Earth, so its orbit would be similar to Earth's. It takes a hell of a lot of fuel to slow an object down to get it to drop into a low orbit to get close to the sun.

I'm more surprised that it is in a solar orbit rather than being in Earth or lunar orbit. I wonder exactly when they released it from the command module.

6 posted on 09/19/2011 1:09:07 PM PDT by KarlInOhio (Compare "Delay is preferable to error" - Thomas Jefferson // "Pass this bill now!" - Barack Obama)
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To: Red Badger
The key problem which we are taking on is a lack of solid orbital data since 1969...

Talk about a massive understatement! LOL

7 posted on 09/19/2011 1:10:12 PM PDT by Constitution Day
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To: cripplecreek

It’ll come back in 400 years and call itself Snooger..........


8 posted on 09/19/2011 1:15:03 PM PDT by Red Badger ("Treason doth never prosper.... What's the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.")
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To: wastedyears
Wouldn’t there be a good chance that it would get too close and succumb to its gravity?

I think the Sun will be safe..........

9 posted on 09/19/2011 1:16:06 PM PDT by Red Badger ("Treason doth never prosper.... What's the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.")
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To: Red Badger

Like the dog chasing the car - what the heck are you going to do with it if you find it?


10 posted on 09/19/2011 1:21:12 PM PDT by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: Red Badger

What’s a Snooger?


11 posted on 09/19/2011 1:21:25 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

V-ger’s little brother.............


12 posted on 09/19/2011 1:27:07 PM PDT by Red Badger ("Treason doth never prosper.... What's the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.")
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To: Jack Hydrazine

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Snooger


13 posted on 09/19/2011 1:27:46 PM PDT by Red Badger ("Treason doth never prosper.... What's the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.")
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To: Jack Hydrazine
Just a guess, but it's probably something akin to a V'Ger
14 posted on 09/19/2011 1:28:09 PM PDT by Zeppo ("Happy Pony is on - and I'm NOT missing Happy Pony")
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Obscure, but hilarious reference to a certain Star Trek movie...


15 posted on 09/19/2011 1:30:46 PM PDT by LifePath
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To: Red Badger

It’ll come back in 400 years and call itself Snooger.....
___________________________

LOL!!! Thank you for my best laugh of the day!
I thought I was the only one who remembers that movie.


16 posted on 09/19/2011 1:32:08 PM PDT by ozark hilljilly
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To: Red Badger

Their time would be better spent looking for the ‘Great Pumpkin’.


17 posted on 09/19/2011 1:32:21 PM PDT by WKUHilltopper (And yet...we continue to tolerate this crap...)
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To: wastedyears

Don’t worry - we can just lock a tractor beam on it and bring it into the shuttlebay...


18 posted on 09/19/2011 1:32:53 PM PDT by FortWorthPatriot (Obama is no Hitler; Hitler got the Olympics)
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To: wastedyears

No chance at all. The sun is the most difficult place to get to in the solar system. It’s easier to escape the solar system than to drop something into the sun.


19 posted on 09/19/2011 1:34:32 PM PDT by NonZeroSum
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To: wastedyears

No chance at all. The sun is the most difficult place to get to in the solar system. It’s easier to escape the solar system than to drop something into the sun.


20 posted on 09/19/2011 1:34:51 PM PDT by NonZeroSum
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To: LifePath; Red Badger
Obscure, but hilarious reference to a certain Star Trek movie...

Actually, I consider it genius.

21 posted on 09/19/2011 1:37:14 PM PDT by Rinnwald
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To: KarlInOhio

Exactly. The same initial momentum and gravity from the Earth and Moon would tend to hold it in proximity to the Earth. Like all of the other junk in space.

Unless, they lit the engine and aimed it towards the sun so that it would overcome the gravity and momentum.


22 posted on 09/19/2011 1:39:03 PM PDT by dhs12345
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To: KarlInOhio

My guess is that once you’ve started the return to Earth from the Moon, anything is going to go into a wide solar orbit unless you use fuel to change course and insert into Earth orbit. That’s pretty much the problem the Apollo 13 guys had.

(In other words, they dumped Snoopy sometime after leaving lunar orbit and sometime before Earth orbit insertion.)


23 posted on 09/19/2011 1:53:50 PM PDT by hc87
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To: hc87

Without other knowledge, I would have assumed that they left it in lunar orbit (or crashed it back into the moon like the later ascent sections of the lunar modules) rather than taking 2 extra tons out of lunar orbit with them.


24 posted on 09/19/2011 1:59:15 PM PDT by KarlInOhio (Compare "Delay is preferable to error" - Thomas Jefferson // "Pass this bill now!" - Barack Obama)
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To: ozark hilljilly

The only one? I saw v ger in a theater and still watch today, I know, loser. Still love that flick.


25 posted on 09/19/2011 2:00:31 PM PDT by VaRepublican (I would propagate taglines but I don't know how. But bloggers do.)
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To: Red Badger

.

Well, someone had to post it.

26 posted on 09/19/2011 2:12:42 PM PDT by Hunton Peck (See my FR homepage for a list of businesses that support WI Gov. Scott Walker)
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To: Red Badger

The combination of the urban dictionary definition and the star trek reference is too much funny to bear!!!


27 posted on 09/19/2011 2:12:59 PM PDT by no-s (B.L.O.A.T. and every day...because some day soon they won't be making any more...for you.)
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To: Red Badger

28 posted on 09/19/2011 2:17:50 PM PDT by Allegra (Hey! Stop looking at my tagline like that.)
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To: KarlInOhio; hc87

My first thought exactly. They must have left the lunar lander attached to the command module for the Lunar to Earth burn, which doesn’t really make sense to me, but it’s the only explanation that I can think of.

OK, I did a little research here: http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_10i_Timeline.htm

It looks like after they separated from the LM ascent stage, they fired off its engine, and it must have gone off on its own.

Arg, I just saw this sitting in a browser window from quite a while ago... I forgot to hit send. Apologies if you guys have already hashed this one out. :)


29 posted on 09/19/2011 3:39:11 PM PDT by RingerSIX (My wife and I took an AIDS vaccine that they offer down at our Church.)
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To: LifePath

For some reason I thought it had something to do with Snooki.


30 posted on 09/19/2011 6:24:06 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: Red Badger
Apollo 10's lunar module ascent stage -- affectionately called 'Snoopy' -- was discarded and sent into an orbit around the sun

And over 40 years later and still relatively Earth-bound, we really haven't progressed much past the "Sopwith Camel"...

31 posted on 09/19/2011 7:08:32 PM PDT by mikrofon (Space BUMP)
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To: Red Badger
"Snoopy" is photographed from the Command Module

BTW, the Command Module was named "Charlie Brown."

-PJ

32 posted on 09/19/2011 7:19:31 PM PDT by Political Junkie Too (Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, and American on Election Day.)
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To: Red Badger

LOL, good one!

I like this idea, I’ve long thought it might be fun to hunt for it myself, but there are too many variables I don’t have good data for (expected spacecraft orientation, albedo for solar radiation pressure, etc).


33 posted on 10/03/2011 8:36:21 AM PDT by messierhunter
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To: messierhunter

It seems that it’s last known orbit would be a good start. Then use computer generated orbits to calculate the nearest possible match after 40 years. You should be able to narrow it down to a sector of sky that is the most likely, then begin scanning..............


34 posted on 10/03/2011 10:09:36 AM PDT by Red Badger (We cannot defeat an enemy that the president and hence his administration cannot name.......)
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