The First Beagle on the Moon!


  1. The first beagle on the Moon!
  2. LOP-G's first step? Maxar Technologies

This week in space history

Everyone remembers Apollo 11, but what about Apollo 10? From May 18-26, 1969, Apollo 10 carried Thomas Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan on the final dress rehearsal before Neil Armstrong's legendary moon landing. The Lunar Module (LM) separated from the Command/Service Module (CSM) and descended to just 15 kilometers over the lunar surface before redocking with the CSM and returning home. 

My favorite thing about Apollo 10 is the names of the CSM and LM: Charlie Brown and Snoopy!

Commander Stafford patting Snoopy on the nose on the way to the launchpad

NASA approached Charles Schultz (the author of Peanuts) to request using Snoopy as their mascot. Schultz considered it a great honor that NASA named the Apollo 10 spacecraft after his characters, and he drew some adorable moon landing Peanuts comic strips

We beat the Soviets; Snoopy beat that stupid cat who lives next door. All credit to Charles Schultz and Peanuts

I always assumed the mission went flawlessly, until I read this article and learned it almost crashed! After closest approach to the lunar surface, the LM needed to fire its ascent engine to rejoin the CSM. When they did, the spaceship immediately started spinning out of control! Stafford had flipped on a certain guidance switch without realizing Cernan had already done so, essentially negating the command and leaving the guidance computer with no idea where to go.

The Apollo 10 LM in lunar orbit - isn't she beautiful :)

Thankfully the startled astronauts manually regained control of the LM (albeit with many expletives broadcast to the world) - flight recordings later showed they were just seconds away from not being able to recover and crashing on the lunar surface. Apollo 10's ultimate success allowed Apollo 11 to be the first mission to land on the moon

Current events

But what good are the moon landings if we never go back? Thankfully NASA's 2024 return to the moon (the Artemis Program) is taking its first steps! On Thursday, NASA awarded Maxar Technologies a $375mm contract to build the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), the first piece of the new lunar space station NASA is constructing to enable sustained human presence on the moon. 

Artist's rendition of Maxar's PPE in lunar orbit

The contract is fixed-price; my understanding is that means Maxar must absorb any cost overruns, which will hopefully keep NASA within budget. I'm a finance guy, and Maxar is publicly traded, so naturally I eagerly looked up the company's stock price. Maxar's market capitalization is only \$450mm, so obviously winning a \$375mm contract is a huge deal and the stock spiked 25% on Thursday. But then the day after, it fell back down 14%!

So is the stock a buy? Don't ask me, I cover the healthcare sector at my day job! And trust me, the last thing I need is an angry call from the SEC :P

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