After Hours

Geek Trivia: How many countries have sued for damages under the Space Liability Convention?

The 1972 Space Liability Convention allows international lawsuits over spacecraft crash landings. But how many SLC lawsuits have actually ever been filed?

This week's quibble comes from the Sept. 16, 2011 edition of Geek Trivia, which asked what were the 'controversial' call signs for the Apollo 10 spacecraft?

Member Elezar takes issue with a large chunk of the column, suggesting that the phrase Tranquility Base was no surprise to Charlie Duke, the mission control capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for Apollo 11:

Whenever someone mentions that no one knew about Tranquility Base, they NEVER give a citation for it. Considering that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Duke have been quoted about just about every tiny detail about the mission, I can't imagine no one can list an actual quote from Duke saying it was a surprise, unless it's not true.In Andrew Chaikin's book "A Man on the Moon", he states that Armstrong and Aldin did tell Duke, specifically so he wouldn't be confused by something he might not understand:

'For the landing, Armstrong gave some thought to quotes; before the flight he and Aldrin decided that if they reached the lunar surface they would use the call sign "Tranquility Base"—"base" to connote exploration. They told only Charlie Duke, lest the first words from the moon take him by surprise—"Say again, Apollo 11?" And when it finally happened, Armstrong found himself adding quite spontaneously, "The Eagle has landed."'

—Andrew Chaikin, A Man on the Moon, Penguin (London 1998), p. 623 (Author's note to page 206).

Unfortunately, Chaikin didn't really cite where his information came from either, but he interviewed just about everyone involved with Apollo for that book, and it's widely considered THE definitive book about the Apollo missions. So, with the lack of citations either way, I tend to believe Chaikin...

I tend to take Chaikin at his word, as well, so maybe it was a three-man conspiracy, rather than just and Armstrong-Aldrin plot. (Well, maybe four-man, assuming Michael Collins was in on it.) Thanks for the clarification, and keep those quibbles coming.


Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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