Apollo 11 May Have Ended in Disaster if not for a Weatherman; Invest 97L Still There


Invest 97L surviving despite crappy conditions

Invest 97L surviving despite crappy conditions

Liftoff from Moon (LM 17)

Liftoff from Moon (LM 17)

We’ve had the hoopla of the 40th annivesary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.  It was a tough trick and had never been done before.  But, no one had ever taken off from the moon either.  They did so at 1:54pm EDT on this date in 1969.  They left behind a plaque, naturally prominently signed by President Nixon, that read “we came in peace for all mankind.”   They spent 21 hours and 37 minutes on the lunar surface and as they prepared for their voyage home, one of their backpacks broke the switch that controlled their module’s ascent from the lunar surface.   Oops.  Yankee ingenuity came into play and the astronauts showed a zero-gravity pen into the broken switch.  Obviously, the make-shift repair worked because they were able to flip the switch and return safely.  Had it not been for their making use of what they had, they would have been marooned.  Previously, when they landed there was only 1 second of fuel left.  Had Armstrong not set down when he did, Michael Collins may have come home alone.

Plaque Left on Moon

Plaque Left on Moon

Edwin E (Buzz) Aldrin and Neil Armstrong left behind a piece of the Wright Flyer flown at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers, a disc with messages from 73 VIP’s on earth and a memorial honoring astronauts Grissom, Chaffey and White who had died when a fire swept through their Apollo I capsule.  As a nod toward detente, the memorial also recognized the deaths of two Soviet cosmonauts.  When they splashed down on July 24, 1969 more questions remained.  Since no one had ever been to the moon, there was concern that they may have picked up some bugs…which is odd since it is unlikely that anything could live in space.  But, all precautions were taken and Armstrong, Aldrin and Columbia pilot Michael Collins were whisked away from the deck of the USS Hornet wearing special protective masks. They were taken to this silver camper on one of the decks below in which they were to reside for a 21 day quarantine period.  There were no handshakes and no hugs.  A man followed behind them with a can of bug spray as they walked from the helicopter to the special quarantine location. 

Bad Weather Could Have Foiled Splashdown

Bad Weather Could Have Foiled Splashdown

All of this may not have come to pass though and there may have been another disaster.  See, there was bad weather but no one really knew about it…or weren’t supposed to know about it.  The Americans had a special cold-war era spy program called Corona which was part of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.  Satellites were placed all around the world in what was said to be a weather reconnasaince mission.   In reality, it was a spying program.  It was not declassified until 1995.  At that time, it was revealed that Capt. Hank Brandi had received a medal of commodation for saving the Apollo 11 astronauts.  He had seen the data from the spy satellites and noted that a storm would be in the landing area, the parachutes from the capsule would get ripped to shreds and the astronauts would plunge into the ocean to their deaths.  Brandi risked his career and the integrity of the Corona program by sharing the information with other officials who eventually altered the landing zone, which was not an easy thing to do, and the mission was saved.

Wednesday Morning

Wednesday Morning

Weather Bottom Line:  Today should be fine though will will see an increase in clouds late in the day as a storm system gathers itself together to our Southwest.  The storm center should be up to around Memphis by Wednesday morning with a cold front extending south to the Gulf Coast and a warm from to its east.  Rain chances will start to go up tonight and carry through much of Wednesday.  Severe chances seem limited though I would not be surprised if there were elevated thunderstorms, particularly to our south.  Then the low will move northeast almost over the top of us before exiting early Thursday to the northeast.  Aside from the rain, I think the most significant thing about this is that our relatively cool conditions will get another shot in the arm once the low passes and high pressure builds in again giving us a northerly component to the flow.

Invest 97L Spaghetti Model 12Z 07.21.09

Invest 97L Spaghetti Model 12Z 07.21.09

Invest 97L is still out there.  Nothing much new to report.  The satellite imagery from this morning indicates a blow up of convection but the upper level winds continue to be rather hostile to development.  The thing to watch for with this guy is its consistency.  The wind fields will at some point become more favorable.  When that happens, if it has remained as a viable feature, then the potential for development will be there.  That is a big IF.  Even if it does, my guess is that with the long wave trof expected to remain over the eastern US, it would probably pick up the system and take it north and then northeast, perhaps even avoiding the US mainland all together.  The latest model runs however still had a couple trying to sneak it under the ridge and into the Gulf.   If this guy survives and if this guy doesn’t move too much, then perhaps that will eventually happen.  So many IF’s..this is not a slam dunk situation for development by any means.

97L Spaghetti Intensity graph

97L Spaghetti Intensity graph

Eight models are showing up in the spaghetti run with two keeping it below tropical storm status and one making it a minimal hurricane.  The others are all making Invest 97L a tropical storm.  Many of the runs are coming in exactly like the scenario that I laid out, which is the eastern trof picking up the storm and taking it east of the US.  That makes sense.  Development looks to be problematic given the necessary interaction with land (Cuba) in that scenario.  The tracks into the Gulf seem to be the outlyers and seem using conventional wisdom to be a little tough to verify.  This guy really will have a tough time becoming a problem, but again, its the only show in town.

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