A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2021 Jan 19, 19:18 -0800
Jim Rives, you wrote:
"I think we are over the east coast of the US with a portion of the coast of Chile showing at the top... We're looking south."
Yes. You got it! The curve of the Andes Mountains shows up nicely in the cloud patterns up there at the top.
I'm adding a "key" attached below showing the lay of the land under those clouds (flipped so north is up)... Most of South America is in-frame though half of Brazil is already in darkness. All of central America, and nearly all of the continental US and most of Canada are there, too. Hard to see any of it with all those clouds!!
"Looks like it's winter in the north. And that's a switch on an Apollo Command Module. So, around Christmas 1968 ... "
The date is 14 November 1969. The image of that apollo switch (the full image included the labels, masked in the thumbnail version so it wouldn't be too easy) was intended to call to mind these 'heroic' words:
"Try SCE to AUX".
They are among the most important words ever spoken in the early Space Age. But they're wrapped in the arcane jargon of the tech world, diluting their impact to little more than techno trivia. A Hollywood screenwriter could have jazzed them up for an action movie: "Emergency thrusters NOW!!" or maybe "Shields to maximum, Captain!!". It was a suggestion to flip a single switch, and it saved Apollo 12. You can read about those words, spoken by John Aaron in Mission Control and acknowledged by astronaut Al Bean, in any history of the Apollo 12 mission. If you're looking for something to watch, I recommend the Apollo 12 episode of the Tom Hanks-produced docu-drama "From the Earth to the Moon" (1998).
The cloudy earth photo was taken less than six hours after those words saved the flight of Apollo 12. And the weather system that created the lightning that struck the spacecraft and required that unique emergency switch-flip is probably visible in this photo. Even if you didn't know that date, you can tell it's approaching winter because the Earth's north pole is in darkness while the south is in sunlight. The terminator (shadow line) is cutting across the globe at an angle of about 70° relative to the equator indicating the Sun's Dec is about 20° South. So it's either a month or so before the solstice or a month or so after it. In other words, the photo by itself tells us that the date is either Nov 21 +/-10 days or Jan 21 +/-10 days.