The modern era of text shorthand – LOL, IMHO, TFW, WTF and WHY
(What Have You) – has nothing on the golden age of acronyms,
initialisms and abbreviations that was the Apollo era. Here are
10 common ones from the late ’60s.
JFK: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president
of the United States and the one that committed his country to
putting a man on the moon before the decade was out. After
Apollo 11, an anonymous citizen put a bouquet on his grave with
the note: “Mr. President, the Eagle has landed.”
NACA: The National Advisory Committee for
Aeronautics, it was dissolved in 1958 and became NASA, the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. But while NASA
is pronounced “nah-saw,” NACA is only ever pronounced
“En-Ay-Sea-Ay,” not “Nakka.”
LOR: “Ell-Oh-Arr” stands for lunar-orbit
rendezvous, by which a spacecraft would fly to the moon and
then separate into a lander and an orbiter. The competing plan,
never used, was Earth-orbit rendezvous, where you send
components of a lunar mission up from the Earth and they join
together before going to the moon.
S-IVB: The “Ess-Four-Bee” was the third and
topmost stage of the Saturn rocket that took astronauts to the
moon. Unlike the other stages, which fired once and then were
discarded, this one had to fire once to get the astronauts into
Earth orbit, and again for TLI.
TLI: Trans-lunar injection, the
rocket-propelled push away from Earth and towards the moon.
TFA: Thanks For Asking!
LM: The Lunar Module was once known as the
Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), but in May 1966 the middle name
was dropped because it sounded too jaunty. But the
pronunciation remained “Lem.”
LLRV: The “El-El-Arr-Vee” (not “”Lurve”) was a
lunar landing research vehicle that begat the LLTV or lunar
landing training vehicles. Also known as the belching spider,
the flying bedstead or the pipe rack, this unwieldy contraption
almost killed Neil Armstrong during a flight in 1967. He
ejected with less than a second to spare.
1202: OK, not an acronym, but the 1202 program
alarm almost caused the Apollo 11 crew to abort their landing,
until flight controller Steve Bales told them to go ahead. Thus
when Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were given the
Presidential Medal of Freedom by Richard Nixon, Bales got one
too, on behalf of the mission control team.
PPK: Anything unofficial that astronauts
wanted to bring to the moon – golf balls, family photos,
jewelry, stamps that would be worth a lot for having gone to
the moon – went in the “pee-pee-kay” or Personal Preference
Kit. It was the carryon luggage of the Apollo program.
LOS: “Ell-Oh-Ess” means loss of signal, when
ionization around a returning spacecraft cut communications
with the ground. In the 1980s, a network of communications
satellites solved the problem; before that, re-entry meant an
exciting, nail-biting period of silence.