2211: Hours Before Departure
|Hours Before Departure|
Title text: They could afford to cut it close because they all had Global Entry.
This comic, as from the caption, depicts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, leaving in their spacesuits (Cueballs with helmets) to go in a NASA van at 6:27, to be shot into space on a Saturn V rocket to fly to the Moon on the Apollo 11 mission (1969). The launch happened at 9:32 on July 16, just a bit more than 3 hours after they left for the launch pad.
The joke is that Randall is amazed they manage this in just three hours, given that he himself tends to arrive too early at the airport, and since they typically ask you to be there two hours before an international flight, he probably leaves from home more than three hours before his departure.
Catching transportation from one place to another requires being there and being prepared before the vehicle leaves. Some transportation, such as public city buses and personal cars require very little in preparation, and one can leave as soon as the vehicle is there and ready. Others have more complications involved, whether it be in payment, security, slower boarding, etc.
To board a Greyhound bus, for example, one would normally need to be there 10-15 minutes before it is scheduled to leave, because it takes time to get everyone on board at the same time, stow luggage, and present a boarding pass or proof of payment.
Boarding an airline flight is even more complicated (security checkpoints, long terminal walks, more bags, etc.) making the delays longer, and so conventional advice is to arrive two hours early for a domestic (same country) flight and three hours for an international flight. Seasoned travelers can often cut these times shorter, but to be ready for unexpectedly long delays the less experienced traveler would want to leave themselves plenty of time.
Based on that, the exceedingly complicated business of traveling to space would instinctively require you to be ready much longer than the three hours they recommend for international flights, however, three hours is about how long it took for the astronauts traveling to the moon for the first time to prepare to take off.
The comic doesn't represent the preparations for the Apollo launch entirely accurately, however. Prior to their "departure" to the launch pad, the Apollo 11 astronauts had woken up at 4:15 AM, and after a 25-minute breakfast had spent at least an hour and a half getting into their spacesuits. For regular travel on an airplane or other modes usually no more than a few minutes preparation is needed, for instance, to load luggage in a car or wait for a cab. What's more, because all activity took place at Cape Canaveral, the "trip" to the launch site took only 8 minutes, and the crew began to take their seats in the Saturn V rocket only a few minutes later, at 6:45 AM. Thus they were locked in the capsule for about two-and-a-half hours prior to launch. For normal travel, people will only be in their seats for a few minutes before departure, or for large aircraft maybe a half an hour while it loads. Thus the total time from beginning to get ready to liftoff was about five hours, which in fact is longer than less complicated activities like air travel. However, this is still significantly shorter than you would think preparation for a journey over a distance of almost 10 times around the Earth, each way, and in significantly more dangerous conditions, would take.
The alt-text is a reference to Global Entry, a United States Customs and Border Protection program that allows US citizens to quickly proceed through customs checks when arriving from overseas, instead of waiting in a long line to present a passport. The Global Entry program also allows for access to the TSA PreCheck program, which allows for expedited security screenings, but here the word "Global" is literally true of an astronaut returning to earth, not a marketing phrase.
In the case of the Apollo astronauts, their return to the earth involved re-entry into the atmosphere (technically called Atmospheric entry), and of course global is another word for things relating to the earth. So the Apollo astronauts could be said to have undergone "global entry" on their return. The joke is that since they have "Global Entry" privileges, the astronauts did not need to arrive as early to the Saturn V launch site.
- [Three Cueball-like astronauts with space helmets are walking toward the back side of a van with the rear door open. There is a logo with text on the side of the van. The front of the van is off-panel. Above them is a time and below that a description.]
- 6:27 AM
- Crew departs for launch site
- Logo: NASA
- [A rocket launch pad with the rocket in the process of taking off, having lifted its exhaust to about a third of the height of the support tower. Smoke is billowing everywhere around the launch pad from the exhaust of the rocket. Above the rocket is a time and below that a description.]
- 9:32 AM
- [Caption beneath the panel:]
- I know I tend to arrive too early at the airport, but it still weirds me out that Neil Armstrong left for the launch site just three hours before departure.
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