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    It's Moon-landing Monday
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Jul 20, 04:35 -0700

    To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, I 
    propose a navigation brain game...
    
    You are on your way to the Moon in the year 2029, sixty years after the first 
    moon landing, to begin a six-month stay as part of a team of five at the tiny 
    "International Moon Base". You have been granted a twenty kilogram allowance 
    for personal effects, and navigation-fanatic that you are, you have chosen to 
    bring along a beautiful, well-adjusted, perfectly-aligned, traditional marine 
    sextant manufactured way back in 1999. You also carry a laptop computer in a 
    radiation and EMP-shielded case containing whatever databases of astronomical 
    information suit your fancy (you've got at least a terabyte to spare so have 
    no fear --if you can imagine it, you can load it on that laptop!). Then, just 
    six hours out of Earth orbit on-course for the Moon, in a terrible accident, 
    a solar flare, or an electrical fault, or just plain old gremlins wipe out 
    your spacecraft's electronics leaving you no navigational capabilities, no 
    automated spacecraft control, no communications with the Earth or GPS-like 
    satellites or any astronauts in Earth orbit, lunar orbit, or already on the 
    Moon. Life-support is functioning for a few days, and you can still fire your 
    rockets and thrusters manually, but everything else is dead. So what could 
    you do? You dig out your sextant from your luggage... You fire up your laptop 
    with its detailed databases of astronomical data... Can you get to the Moon? 
    If not to the Moon's surface, can you get yourself to within, let's say, 100 
    nautical miles of some spot in lunar orbit? In short, could you become "Buck 
    Bowditch in the 25th Century" and use traditional celestial navigation tools 
    and skills, plus a laptop full of data and software, to save you and your 
    comrades? Just to make things specific, your job is to fire your rockets at 
    their standard thrust along a vector pointed at 6 hours RA and 20 degrees 
    Declination (+/- 0.1 degrees in both coordinates) at an exact specified 
    distance of 900 miles (+/-10 miles) from the Moon's surface on your current 
    trajectory. If you do that, you will be able to rendezvous with an orbiting 
    rescue spacecraft and win the game. Ready to go?? :-)
    
    -FER
    PS: The spacecraft's windows are just windows. They are not optically flat.
    
    
    
    
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