Taking Liberties with History

The community theatre stage play, The Mouse on the Moon, is historical fiction. The original book and movie were done in 1962/63. This predates the Apollo events, except for the speech by JFK about the US putting a man on the moon before the end of the century. Due to the early timing, the book and movie are 50’s scifi like.

As such, the technical details of the works are not accurate. As an example, the book has the US flying to the moon at 80,000 mph and the Soviets at 100,000 mph. The most Apollo achieved was 25,000 mph, and only during escape and return. Most of the trip was much slower because of the effects of earth’s gravity.

My thought was, what if the Grand Fenwick rocket went to the moon at the same time as Apollo 11? One of the nice aspects of this approach is that the aspects of Apollo 11 are documented in amazing detail from NASA and various manufacturers.

Here are some of the places where liberties were taken with history.

Little Joe II Rocket

Little Joe II at the New Mexico Museum of Space History

The Apollo 11 rocket was 363 feet tall and weighed 3,100 tons, of which 85% was liquid fuel. Atop the Apollo capsule was a Launch Escape System (LES). It was designed to pull the capsule away from the rocket in the event of a rocket failure.

To develop and test the LES, a small rocket called Little Joe II was developed. It had an Apollo capsule on top with a lunar module section. Then at the bottom was a solid fuel booster. The rocket only needed to reach a certain speed and height to test the LES.

A Little Joe II without the LES was only 55 feet tall (88 feet with a LES), weighed about 50 tons. The units were referred to as boilerplate. They were designed to be bolted together and could be taken apart and reconfigured if need be.

Eight Little Joe II rockets were made and five were launched, with three not used. Airframe 12-50-3 or 12-50-4 (no one knows which) is on display at the Johnson Spaceflight Center near Houston, Texas. Airframe 12-51-4 is on display at the International Space Hall of Fame Museum in Alamogordo, New Mexico. No one knows where the third airframe went.

Historical Deviation

For The Mouse on the Moon, Dr. Kokintz requests a Little Joe II rocket with dummy capsule, no LES, engines or instruments. The capsule and lunar module can be refitted as their Lunar module. The engine area can be fitted with the Fenwick atomic motor.

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Scene – Lunar Eavesdropping

The basic story of Larry Baysinger and Glenn Rutherford is true. Glenn was a reporter and Larry a HAM radio operator who was fascinated with radio astronomy. Larry did use a home radio astronomy setup to receive the astronauts talking to each other using their VHF radios.

Historical Deviation

For The Mouse on the Moon, the start of the scene is accurate. They did hear the Nixon call via Armstrong’s headphones and mic. They recorded about 35 minutes of raw audio and lost the link as the moon went over the horizon. Line-of-sight was necessary.

In the play, Larry retunes to get the signal and picks up the Fenwick communications. Also, Glenn ran out of tape. They didn’t understand what they were hearing, and they never recorded it.

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Apollo 11 Timeline

I wanted to stay accurate to the Apollo 11 timeline with details such as when the Apollo 11 countdown started (6 days before the launch).

This worked out nicely, as the actual flight to the moon was 4 days, and the Fenwick flight was 10. So, if Fenwick launched when the Apollo 11 countdown started, they would land on the moon at the same time.

The discussion on Apollo 11 time to fly to the moon and speeds are accurate.

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Apollo Stats

Navigating to the Moon

Apollo 11 used a computer and program designed by MIT. There was no way Grand Fenwick could get a computer for their trip so how could they navigate to the moon with a marine sextant and a good slide rule.

The first challenge is to measure the distance from ship to the moon, earth and sun. Using a sextant, measure the angular diameter of the body to measure distance.

 MILES Diameter Radius
 Moon diameter 2,159 1,080
 Sun Diameter 865,370 432,685
 Earth diameter 7,918 3,959


      • Capture Degrees, Minutes, Seconds angle to top and bottom of the celestial body
      • Arc Minutes = Degrees*60 + Minutes + Seconds/60
      • Arc Radians = Arc Minutes/60
      • Radians = Arc Radians * (PI/180)
      • Distance = Body Diameter / (SIN(Radians))
      • Distance to surface = Distance – Body Radius

Try the calculation

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Apollo 11 Round-the-World Tour

The astronauts did do a Round-the-World tour, stopping at major capitals. As the Duchy of Grand Fenwick is between France and Switzerland, I picked stop 07: Paris, France Oct 08, 1969 in the evening as when Armstrong could meet Dr. Kokintz and Vincent Mountjoy.

The detail that the flag was knocked over by the exhaust was told to Armstrong by Aldrin. Also, Armstrong did leave the gold olive branch on the moon as a sign of peace.

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Apollo Lunar Module Landing Gear

The landing gear on the LEM was made by Héroux-Devtek of Canada. No serial number was present on the gear and no Made in Canada label. That was added for humour.


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Wright Brothers

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AG7 Fisher Space Pen

The Fisher AG7 is the pen used on all manned space flights since Apollo 7. I validated with Fisher that the pen was available to the public in Paris on May 1969.

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