The Fires of Apollo

How the race to the moon played out in the pages of IEEE Spectrum

3 min read
The Fires of Apollo
Moon Shot: Buzz Aldrin, second man on the moon. There are few photographs of the first man, Neil Armstrong, because Armstrong held the camera for most of the Apollo 11 moonwalk.
Photo: NASA

Editor’s note: In this 50th-anniversary year of IEEE Spectrum, we are using each month’s Spectral Lines column to describe some pivotal moments of the magazine’s history. Here, Senior Editor Stephen Cass recounts our coverage of the Apollo program.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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