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Celebrating Littlefield, the Moon Landing and the Battery Man

Some of the topics we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

Fifty years ago, much of the world watched as humans kicked up dust on the moon for the first time. Closer to home, the folks in Littlefield kick up their heels during their annual town festival. And the man who discovered lithium-ion battery in 1979 is determined—at the age of 97—to come up with an even better battery.

Houston, Fact Checker Here

Fifty years ago this month, humans landed on the moon for the first time. It’s widely believed that the first word spoken from the moon was “Houston”—as in, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

That is not true.

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin gently set the lunar module Eagle down on the moon July 20, 1969, according to a NASA transcript, they began a procedural checklist:

Aldrin: Contact light.
Armstrong: Shutdown.
Aldrin: OK. Engine stop.
Aldrin: ACA out of detent.
Armstrong: Out of detent. Auto.
Aldrin: Mode control, both auto. Descent engine command override, off. Engine arm, off. 413 is in.
Charles Duke at Mission Control in Houston: We copy you down, Eagle.
Armstrong: Engine arm is off. Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.
Then, 6 ½ hours later, came another of the most memorable quotes in human history when Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface at 9:56 p.m. Central Daylight Time:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Celebrate Littlefield

Littlefield’s annual festival was developed by its chamber of commerce as a way to celebrate the community’s centennial in 2013. The town began as a settlement in 1913, when it had a station on the railroad that became the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway.

Today, Littlefield, home to Lamb County Electric Cooperative, is in the heart of the largest cotton-producing region in the world, the South Plains of Texas. Celebrate Littlefield, July 19–20, features live music, a sanctioned barbecue cook-off, parade, and food and merchandise vendors. For more information, call (806) 385-5331.

Army Strikes Out

Jackie Robinson made big news April 15, 1947, when he became major league baseball’s first black player as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. But few are aware of the news he made a years earlier—when he was court-martialed by the Army.

Robinson, a lieutenant stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, was taken into custody by military police 75 years ago this month, July 6, 1944, when he refused to move to the back of a bus on the base. He was charged with, among other things, insubordination, disturbing the peace and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Robinson was found not guilty at his hearing a month later.

Did You Know?

After Robinson was honorably discharged from the Army in November 1944, he coached basketball for one season at Samuel Huston College—now Huston-Tillotson College—in Austin. Unfortunately, no records exist to show how the Dragons fared that season.

The Amazing Battery Man

Two years ago, the University of Texas wrote this about John Goodenough, an inventor and engineering professor:

“In 1979, his discovery of the lithium-ion battery dramatically shaped the world of consumer electronics. These rechargeable batteries are now used by millions of people every day to power consumer electronics as diverse as cellphones, tablets, cameras and tools. You are probably holding one right now.”

Today, Goodenough still shows up every day to work a full shift in his lab, trying his darnedest to make the next great improvement in batteries, one that will wean society from fossil fuels. His quest might not seem remarkable until you realize he turns 97 this month, July 25.

Goodenough, who only recently acquired a cellphone, and his fellow researchers last year presented research on a solid-state lithium-ion battery that they say can last for more than 23,000 charge/discharge cycles.