Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Neil Armstrong at Centre Forward

The above illustration superimposes the walking routes of the Apollo 11 astronauts onto a standard-sized football pitch. Neil Armstrongs' walk to East Crater Pan (Pan 5) took him to just marginally inside the opposition penalty area, having commenced his "run" on the left of his own penalty box having initially dribbled to the right hand corner of the same box.

This is an official NASA map and even if they have similar ones for baseball (confirmed) and I assume American Football I think it will be a long time before they try to plot, or maybe even attempt, a similar walk on a GAA pitch. The hazards are clearly far greater - Armstrong and Aldrin may have been trained to cope with lack of oxygen and uneven terrain, but the could not have been coached in how to deal with the extra-terrestials they would encounter on the "Irish moon". Battered referees, marauding hurley-wielders (dealing with rushes of blood to the head) and men in hospital coats to name a few.

But back to the science lesson - the length of the walk (which was measured and planned) was, according to Neil Armstrong, down to a few key factors - notably concerns over the durability of their uniforms in the searing heat and the need to stay within the range of a fixed camera mounted on the space module.

Science academics who have studied this issue also point to the fact that the astronauts as former athletes, would have possessed an instinctive feel for the confines of football and baseball pitches. It would have been anticipated that distance may have been hard to calculate by sight on the moon, and so NASA took deliberate cognisance of the inbuilt “feel” athletes have for the distances covered on a sporting pitch. An interesting angle indeed - entirely trivial but interesting nevertheless.

Finally, it was disappointing that the first sport to be played in space was not football – although it is quite understandable - quite simply there wasn't room on the lunar module for the corner flags.