Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Speedmaster anomaly?

Ever since I first began my interest for the Speedmaster Moon watch, I asked myself: surely, given the importance of timing, NASA would have built timing modules into the space suits...a couple of stopwatches, mission timer etc...probably in a specially designed nylon housing with ultra large dials and indices, hands and pushers, backlight etc. It seems a little illogical that NASA would say: oh, we need a timer for EVAs, lets just buy a watch off the shelf...

After using the Speedmaster in space twice (Gemini 12; Apollo 11) Buzz Aldrin gives us a first-hand insight as to the effectivenes of the Speedmaster as a space watch:

"I had a watch on but I don't think I looked at it. Which would probably say that I should have had it set at something so that it was just not a normal time going around, but going from some specific...It was a lousy watch to have on the surface. It just didn't give good numbers as far as a stopwatch type thing. To have gone to all that expense and then to have crews out on the surface with just an ordinary watch, in retrospect, is a mistaken priority somewhere." Source:

And upon completing the EVA on the lunar surface (closeout):

111:34:43 Aldrin: I think my watch stopped, Neil.
111:34:46 Armstrong: Did it? (Pause)
111:35:01 Aldrin: No it didn't, either. (Garbled) second hand. (Pause)

Thinking about it logically, a regular watch worn outside the space suit must have been difficult to read, to say the least. Buzz Aldrin appeared to have problems reading his. In shadow - impossible. Pressing the pushers must have been a problem too, but I am not that sure they were used while "moon-walking". Muliple timing tasks - forget about it.

But, (amazingly to me) - NASA has stuck to off-the-shelf Omegas since. That's great for us who "dig" the whole moon-watch story, but has anybody else ever wondered at the "anomaly" of NASA using a regular sized, common-or-garden wristwatch (with a tachymeter scale ) as one of their most important pieces of EVA equipment, with essentally no development or change after 40 years?



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