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Abort Guidance System? There's a manual for that!
April 3, 2013 1:58 PM   Subscribe

20 cool covers from NASA manuals and press books

For you fellow design geeks, some great pieces of 60's corporate/industrial graphic design from NASA. Culled from the catalog of an upcoming auction.
posted by Thorzdad (26 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
The goddamned coolest. Thanks.
posted by Chutzler at 2:03 PM on April 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the Grumman cover really struck me too. And reminded me of the bit in Apollo 13 where (IIRC) they're trying to get the Grumman guy to tell them if the LM's CO2 scrubber can do something it wasn't designed to do and they practically have to hit him with a pipe wrench before he'll stop reiterating that it wasn't designed to do that and help out. (Can't really blame him, they don't select that sort of engineer for an inclination to improvise by the seat of their pants.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:07 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was my favorite, too, Chutzler. Cool. Understated, in a "Yeah...we build this" way.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:10 PM on April 3, 2013


Now all mission documentation is probably on tablets, with no cover artwork.

Is that really progress?
posted by OHSnap at 2:20 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should print the Grumman Lunar Module one and tape it to the front of my 1996 Toyota Celica Owner's Manual, just so the next buyer does a doubletake when he looks in the glove compartment.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:29 PM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now all mission documentation is probably on tablets....

I really, really, really doubt it. These guys are smart and use the simplest, oldest thing that could possibly work.

Maybe the docs people don't, though.
posted by DU at 2:35 PM on April 3, 2013


I have this notion in my head that I could learn to fly a spacecraft through reading one of these NASA manuals. Naturally, I would then mosey down to my local Avis office and rent their Saturn V or Soyuz equivalent.

"Whaddya mean there's a mileage fee? BP sells oxidizers, right? What!?"

(It's the same price as renting a Ford Explorer, but that damn mileage fee! That's how they get ya!)
posted by Turkey Glue at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2013


The goddamned coolest.

I dunno, it's hard to beat the retro illustration in this MA-6 cover. I mean, look a those smeary brush strokes representing the Earth's surface and weather. It's printed in one color, an intense blue, which works for the sky and the Earth too. The faint white orbital arc is going up, and the Earth is up. Our earthbound perspective is inverted, we are shooting a spacecraft up into the sky to explore this alien planet called Earth. Genius.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:59 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chutzler: "The goddamned coolest."

I think I just stood up and saluted a book cover.
posted by boo_radley at 3:02 PM on April 3, 2013


Chutzler: "The goddamned coolest."

I just got actual goose-bumps when I saw that.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:29 PM on April 3, 2013


Apollo 11 gets my vote, although I'm getting a kick out of Apollo 12, which could be captioned "Look what I found!!!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:53 PM on April 3, 2013


Yeah, the Grumman cover really struck me too. And reminded me of the bit in Apollo 13 where (IIRC) they're trying to get the Grumman guy to tell them if the LM's CO2 scrubber can do something it wasn't designed to do and they practically have to hit him with a pipe wrench before he'll stop reiterating that it wasn't designed to do that and help out. (Can't really blame him, they don't select that sort of engineer for an inclination to improvise by the seat of their pants.)

Exactly the opposite. The movie was great, but it was a fictional retelling. Check out the official report for some really, really awesome reading. A lot of the scenes in the movie that were treated as spontaneous problem-solving were in fact results of very careful contingency planning done on previous missions or in very controlled "what-if" scenarios (like the power-up sequence; that was figured out way before the mission and filed in the "if this crazy shit happens" folder, whereas the movie made it seem like it was happening live). Even the truly spontaneous events were made workable because of a dedication to problem-solving from every angle, down to the way the rooms were physically designed to facilitate collaboration, and most definitely that planning involved selecting for problem-solving individuals.
posted by odinsdream at 3:55 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Awesome?

Yes.

Also not to be missed are the Apollo cuff checklists, which often contained amusing cartoons (a la Sergio Aragones) and, in the case of Apollo 12, photocopies of various "heavenly bodies."
posted by ShutterBun at 4:19 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder if they did the logos in house or if they sourced them out to a designer. This has made me want to work towards being a designer for/at CSA or something of the like.
posted by Lizard at 5:11 PM on April 3, 2013


I think most aerospace companies had in-house artists for things like concept art of new designs and promotional material.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:03 PM on April 3, 2013


Hmm, nothing on the V2
posted by mattoxic at 6:23 PM on April 3, 2013


JoeZydeco - you can buy a Lunar Rover Haynes manual.
posted by djb at 6:30 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, some of those look like they could be from Saul Bass opening titles.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:58 PM on April 3, 2013


Also not to be missed are the Apollo cuff checklists, which often contained amusing cartoons (a la Sergio Aragones) and, in the case of Apollo 12, photocopies of various "heavenly bodies."

That's something else. Reminds me of the old Tiger Tank service manual.
posted by ovvl at 7:08 PM on April 3, 2013


I mean, look a those smeary brush strokes representing the Earth's surface and weather. It's printed in one color, an intense blue, which works for the sky and the Earth too. The faint white orbital arc is going up, and the Earth is up.

And Earth's hand reaches out to claw at the capsule that has slipped its surly bonds.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:12 PM on April 3, 2013


Now all mission documentation is probably on tablets....

Well, there was a point where NASA had so much old documentation on Shuttle online that they did a massive purge. At least one reason, according to insiders via sci.space (a newsgroup), was that too many engineers were getting lazy and bookmarking things on the web instead of being sure to use the properly version-controlled internal stuff.
posted by dhartung at 12:48 AM on April 4, 2013


Exactly the opposite. The movie was great, but it was a fictional retelling. Check out the official report for some really, really awesome reading. A lot of the scenes in the movie that were treated as spontaneous problem-solving were in fact results of very careful contingency planning[...]

That is great reading, thanks for that. The report makes it clear that dramatic license was taken -- hardly a surprise -- and it's a pity that what is meant to be a respectful film in effect slanders NASA a bit in the service of drama by making them seem less methodical and prepared than they really were. This seems to be the money doc, and it's riveting. The power-up sequence was evidently worked out in detail during the emergency, but not apparently as depicted and as you say, heavily informed by existing plans and experience.

Speaking as an engineer in the private sector I'm just in awe of what can be done when there exists a solid commitment to the task; when things are resourced properly and planned to the last detail rather than minimally staffed, ludicrously underanalyzed with huge helpings of wishful thinking and capriciously dicked around with. It would be fantastic to work in a NASA-like culture.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:42 AM on April 4, 2013


Metafilter: things are resourced properly and planned to the last detail.

The rest of my life: minimally staffed, ludicrously underanalyzed with huge helpings of wishful thinking and capriciously dicked around with.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:14 AM on April 4, 2013


It would be fantastic to work in a NASA-like culture.

You can have it. The worst mistake I ever made at work ended up with a couple thousand CDs worth of code having to be junked. You only get a NASA-like culture when there are NASA-like stakes.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:19 PM on April 4, 2013


The worst mistake I ever made at work ended up with a couple thousand CDs worth of code having to be junked. You only get a NASA-like culture when there are NASA-like stakes.

I don't think a NASA-like culture implies "each individual must be infallible or astronauts die and pointy debris rains down on playgrounds full of adorable moppets". Of course you have to be very good. But you have a system in place that helps you to be very damn good, and to verify from multiple angles that you did in fact done good at each stage, and so forth.

In point of fact a process that relies upon a terrifying burden of individual perfection is by definition a very crappy process indeed. ...but I do go on.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:25 PM on April 4, 2013


I understand that they have an amazing system supporting them (Bug? Fix the bug, and then figure out what in their process allowed the bug to get through in the first place and fix that too. I'm awe struck.) It's just not for me, and I've taken occasional solace in the humbleness of my projects as I've worked on systems to create mobile phone bills.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:45 PM on April 4, 2013


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