At Shuttle Program’s Twilight, Tears and Cheers as Triumphs and Tragedies are Remembered

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CAPE CANAVERAL – With the shuttle program’s end less than three months away, NASA took time to honor the program that has been the focal point of the agency’s manned space flight efforts for the past thirty years. At 1 p.m., NASA’s Administrator, Charles Bolden, along with Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana, astronaut Janet Kavandi, shuttle Endeavour’s Vehicle Manager Mike Parrish and STS-1 Pilot Robert Crippen spoke to NASA employees and members of the media regarding the programs long history and its many achievements.

However, the most important announcement of the day was where the remaining shuttles will go when the program draws to a close. It was announced that the space shuttle Enterprise, a test article of the shuttle design, will move from its current home at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. The Udvar-Hazy Center will be home for Discovery, which finished its last mission in March. Endeavour, which is being readied for its final flight at the end of this month, will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Atlantis, which is currently scheduled to fly the last shuttle mission in June, will go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

From left-to-right: Former astronaut and KSC Director Robert Crippen, former astronaut and current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, astronaut Janet Kavandi, former astronaut and current KSC Director Bob Cabana and shuttle Endeavour's Vehicle Manager Mike Parrish. Behind them is shuttle Atlantis, which will remain at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

Although Bolden and Cabana are former astronauts, they were joined by one of the two men that flew the very first shuttle mission, STS-1 – Robert Crippen. This mission is viewed as one of the most risky test flights in history. If something had gone wrong during the first mission’s launch, Crippen and Commander John Young would have had to eject from Columbia – through the vehicle’s fiery plume. However, everything worked according to plan and Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California two days later.

The weight of the day’s events had an obvious impact on Bolden and Crippen, both of whom were visibly emotional during the presentation. Crippen’s comments detailed the feelings of many in that this is a bitter-sweet anniversary. Those in attendance supported the four-time shuttle veteran with loud applause when it was announced that Atlantis would remain at Kennedy Space Center.

Former NASA astronaut and current Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana gestures toward shuttle Atlantis which will remain in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

“Stay focused, “said Bolden during his comments, referring to the gap in manned space flight that is about to take place. “It’s been a rough day.”

There was also a guest appearance from the current members of the International Space Station who called in from on orbit. They apologized for not being able to attend – before they acknowledged it was thanks to the hard work of those present that they couldn’t be there. Astronauts Cady Coleman, Ron Garan were joined by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli as well as cosmonauts Dmitry Kondratyev, Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev. The station’s crew spoke about how the shuttle program made this international effort possible.

The crew of the International Space Station conduct a long-distance phone call to attendees at the 30th Anniversary event of the shuttle program. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

On April 12, 1981, the space shuttle Columbia roared into orbit on the first mission of the shuttle program. The first crew only had two astronauts on board, Apollo veteran John Young and rookie astronaut Robert Crippen. The first flight of the shuttle program took place 20 years to the day that the first human rode fire into orbit – Yuri Gagarin.

There are currently only two shuttle flights remaining, Endeavour is slated to conduct its 25th and final mission, STS-134, at the end of this month and Atlantis will launch the final mission on June 28. Once this mission is over, NASA will have to rely on Russia for access to the International Space Station until small, commercial firms; those supported under President Obama’s new plans for NASA can produce a launch system to fill the void.

“I would have been happy to get any of the orbiters here at KSC,” said Robert Crippen when interviewed. “Getting Atlantis makes this a very good day.”

The space shuttle Atlantis was on display, with commemorative banners from each of the orbiters. Atlantis will reside at Kennedy Space Center after her final flight this June. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

FBI Memo Does Not Prove Aliens Crash Landed in Roswell

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A 1950 FBI memo is creating some recent buzz by UFO supporters who say this provides “smoking gun” evidence that the US government recovered a crashed alien ship and bodies in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The memo, found on the FBI vault website and dated March 22, 1950 reports that an informant related information about three flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico along with three bodies of human shape, but only 3 feet tall, and dressed in metallic cloth.

So, does this “newly found” and “secret” memo confirm what UFO supporters have believed for years, that the government covered up a landing by aliens in Roswell?

Sorry, no.

While the memo is genuine – written up by FBI special agent Guy Hottel, (you can see it on the FBI Vault website) it is not new, is not secret and does not have anything to do a supposed crash by an alien ship in Roswell, New Mexico.

The memo is not classified, as was reported by some websites, and has actually been discussed by UFO supporters for years, having been released in 1976 by the FBI. Even Robert Hastings, the guy who believes UFOs are shutting down nuclear reactors posted a comment on a UFO website that he has been discussing this memo in his talks since 1981.

So, the memo is certainly not new.

Also, the memo is not a secret FBI report, but a third-hand account from agent Hottel reporting what an Air Force investigator was told by an “informant.”

Lastly, as Benjamin Radford points out in his post on Live Science, “ the description in the memo of three ‘flying saucers…circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter,’ does not match the 1947 Roswell crash at all. Roswell eyewitnesses described finding lightweight metallic debris scattered in a field—not three intact 50-foot saucers holding nine dead alien bodies.”

In fact, Radford goes on, this memo does not refer to Roswell, but instead to a reported UFO crash in another small New Mexico town called Aztec in March 1948. The supposed crash was made famous by journalist Frank Scully who wrote for Variety magazine and wrote specifically about the Aztec crash in 1949. However, in 1952, it was revealed by another reporter that Scully had been hoaxed by a con man named Silas Newton, who fabricated the entire story in hopes of making money from the deal. Newton was arrested and convicted of fraud.

So, nothing new has been “revealed” by this old memo which very likely describes Newton’s account of an event that has since been proven to be a complete fabrication.

Stirring Video Tributes to Yuri Gagarin

Today, April 12, is the 50th Anniversary of Earth’s first manned spaceflight by Hero Cosmonaut , Yuri Gagarin of what was then the Soviet Union. He was strapped aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft and blasted off to the High Froniter at 9:07 a.m. Moscow time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome

Roskosmos – the Russian Federal Space Agency – honors his memory with this stirring video tribute chronicling the Flight of Yuri Gagarin. The outstanding video is set to the song “Seed” with lyrics sung by the Russian Red Army Choir. Dramatic video clips show rare views of Gagarin in training, the actual launch day events and concludes with his grand reception.

Gagarin’s smile is infectious and the video brings him to life. Watch and enjoy – several times . And be prepared to journey back in time to the era of the Space Race and the Soviet Union.

Included below is another music video with more amazing videos clips from the Flight of Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961and a brief video summarizing his all too short life. Gagarin would have been celebrating his 75th birthday on March 9.

Today, people around the globe will celebrate the historic occasion at over 500 Yuri’s Night Events. You can still join in the fun and attend. Find out how at the Yuri Night Website. Or join Ken in Princeton Junction, New Jersey for a free talk about Yuri and another historic space milestone, the 30th Anniversary of the first shuttle flight: STS -1.

And be sure to watch the new film First Orbit, steaming online, which recreates the view that Gagarin would have seen.

Send Ken your “Yuri’s Night” event photos/report and any photos of Yuri Gagarin to publish at Universe Today. Email kremerken at yahoo dot com

Read more about Gagarin in my earlier stories:
Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1 Photo Album – 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight
Countdown to Yuri’s Night and the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight !

Roscosmos website
Yuri’s Night Website
Yuri’s Night Party list
Yuri’s Night Party with Ken in Princeton Junction, NJ, USA
First Orbit Website
STS-1 NASA Mission Website
Ken Kremer

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Movie Premiere: First Orbit

50 years ago Yuri Gagarin became the world’s first human to go into space. What did he see? He described it fairly well, but there are limited pictures and no video from his time in orbit. Now, through a unique collaboration between a filmmaker and ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli on board the International Space Station, high definition video of what Gagarin might have seen has been woven together with historic recordings of the flight (subtitled in English) to create a new, free film called “First Orbit” that has now been released. This movie is a real time recreation of Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering first orbit, shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station. The film combines this new footage with Gagarin’s original mission audio and a new musical score by composer Philip Sheppard. For more information about the movie see the First Orbit website.

Also, the @FirstOrbit twitter feed will tweet the original communications in “real” time (50 years later) on April 12, recreating the events as Gagarin flew on Vostok 1 flew from 6:07-7:55 UTC.

Celebrate Yuri’s Night with the Crew of the Space Station

The Expedition 27 crew aboard the International Space Station sends a special message to the world to wish everyone a happy Yuri’s Night — the wish comes complete with special t-shirts for the occasion (and floating hair!) Expedition 27 includes Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Andrey Borisenko, Cady Coleman, Alexander Samokutyaev, Paolo Nespoli and Ron Garan. Find more information on Yuri’s Night at the event website.

Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1 Photo Album – 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight

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50 Years ago on April 12,1961 the era of Human spaceflight opened with a roar to the heavens above with the thunderous blastoff of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard the Vostok 1 capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome Site No.1 at 9:07 a.m. Moscow time. Gagarin, at the age of 27, dared to brave the perils of the unknown and became the first human being to be strapped atop a rocket, ascend to outer space and view what no one else had ever seen, the entire Earth as a sphere. A bold and courageous test flight in every dimension. And the effects of weightlessness had only been tested on dogs – not people.

Herein is a picture album of significant launch day events, including three collages of rare photos of Yuri Gagarin climbing up the launch tower and boarding the Vostok 1 spacecraft for the historic liftoff of the first manned spaceflight on April 12, 1961.

Sergei Korolev, “Chief Designer” of the Soviet Space program radioed, “LIFT OFF! We wish you a good flight. Everything is all right.”

Yuri Gagarin in orbit
“Poyekhali!”, Gagarin replied “[Off we go!].”

“I see Earth! It is so beautiful!” Gagarin said from orbit. “I see rivers. Visibility is good.”

Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, put out a call for anyone interested in Yuri Gagarin and the birth of the human space exploration era to share their documents, photos and other information with the public – and the fabulous collages resulted from the response.

Do you have photos or memories of Gagarin ? Send them to Ken. Gagarin traveled widely as an ambassador of goodwill, bridging the dangerous ideological gulf between East and West during the height of the Cold War.

Gagarin’s flight lasted 108 minutes for a single orbit around the Earth. The mission was brought to a close with the de-orbit firing of the reentry rockets. Gagarin ejected from the capsule at 7 km altitude because the hard landing of the capsule was too dangerous for people. So he parachuted safely to the ground. April 12 has been celebrated as Cosmonautics Day in Russia every year since 1962. Vostok 1 was Gagarin’s only flight

Tragically, Gagarin’s life ended on March 27, 1968. He was flying a routine training mission in a MiG-15UTI fighter with flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin when the plane suddenly crashed near the town of Kirzhach. Gagarin was laid to rest in the wall of the Kremlin on Red Square.

In honor of this 50th anniversary of the dawn of Human spaceflight, a global network of over 444 Yuri’s Night parties are being staged worldwide on April 12, 2011 to celebrate one of the humankind’s greatest achievements – that’s double the number from 2010.

20 years after Gagarin’s flight, NASA’s first space shuttle blasted off on the STS-1 mission on April12, 1981.

You can join in the local Yuri’s Night festivities taking place in more than 70 countries from Afghanistan (visited by Gagarin in Dec. 1961) to Vietnam. Or join Ken in Princeton Junction, New Jersey for a free presentation about Gagarin’s flight and my behind the scenes look at the space shuttle and beyond.

Send Ken your “Yuri’s Night” event photos/report and any photos of Yuri Gagarin to publish at Universe Today. Email kremerken at yahoo dot com

Read Ken’s other stories about Yuri Gagarin and Yuri’s Night:
Countdown to Yuri’s Night and the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight !
Stirring Video Tributes to Yuri Gagarin

Roscosmos website
Yuri’s Night Website
Yuri’s Night Party list
Yuri’s Night Party with Ken in Princeton Junction, NJ, USA
First Orbit Website
STS-1 NASA Mission Website
Ken Kremer

Yuri Gagarin - First Spaceman
On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space, launched into orbit on the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft (Vostok 1). Credits: alldayru.com
Rollout and Erection of Vostok 1 Credits: alldayru.com
Yuri Gagarin suits up for launch
Yuri Gagarin seen dressing in a heating/cooling garment worn under his orange pressure suit. On 12 April 1961, Gagarin became the first human to travel into space, launched into orbit on the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft (Vostok 1). Credits: alldayru.com
Gagarin heads to the launch pad on April 12, 1961
Yuri Gagarin on the bus on the way to the launch pad with cosmonaut German Titov behind him. Titov was the back-up pilot who later became pilot of Vostok 2. Credit: NASA
Rare Photos of Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1 Launch on April, 12, 1961 – First Human Spaceflight.
Collage of rare photos of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin boarding Vostok 1 spacecraft and historic launch of first manned spaceflight on April 12, 1961 from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site No.1 at 9:07 a.m. Moscow time (607 UTC), Soviet Union. Gagarin is greeted by Oleg Ivanvosky who now works in the museum of Lavochkin R&D. Credits: Oleg Ivanvosky/ Evgeny A. Sivukhin/Lavochkin R&D/Roscosmos
Rare Photos of Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1 Launch on April, 12, 1961 – First Human Spaceflight.
Collage of rare photos of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin boarding Vostok 1 spacecraft and historic launch of first manned spaceflight on April 12, 1961 from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site No.1 at 9:07 a.m. Moscow time (607 UTC), Soviet Union. Gagarin is greeted by Oleg Ivanvosky who now works in the museum of Lavochkin R&D. Credits: Oleg Ivanvosky/ Evgeny A. Sivukhin/Lavochkin R&D/Roscosmos
Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin strapped inside Vostok 1 capsule on April 12, 1961
Launch of Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1 on 12 April 1961 opens Era of Human Spaceflight
Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into outer space by launching to orbit aboard Vostok 1.
Vostok 1 Landing
Here the reentry capsule of the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft (Vostok 1) is seen with charring and its parachute on the ground after landing south west of Engels, in the Saratov region of southern Russia. Gagarin ejected from the capsule at 7 km altitude and parachuted safely to the ground. Credits: alldayru.com
Stamps published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's mission. Credit: Roscosmos

Jethro Tull in Space

I’ve had this song in my head ever since Sunday when I first saw this video, so finally decided I had to post it. Astronaut (and flautist) Cady Coleman on board the International Space Station hooked up with Ian Anderson, founder of the rock band Jethro Tull, to collaborate for the first space-Earth duet. The song, “Bourree in E Minor,” was written by Johann Sebastian Bach, but Jethro Tull made the song famous (again) with their own arrangement of the tune back in 1969, the same year Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon. Coleman and Anderson played the song in recognition of 50 years of human spaceflight and the anniversary of the first launch of a human to space by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961.

Coleman played her part from 220 miles above Earth late last week. Anderson played his part while on tour in Perm, Russia, during the weekend. The two parts were then joined.

Just see if you can keep this song out of your head for the rest of the day!

Countdown to Yuri’s Night and the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight !

Celebrate Yuri’s Night on April 12, 2011 -- 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight
On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (left, on the way to the launch pad) became the first human in space, making a 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok 1 spacecraft.
Newspapers like The Huntsville Times (right) trumpeted Gagarin's accomplishment.
Credit: NASA
Send Ken your Yuri’s Night event reports and photos

Mark your calendars. April 12, 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight and Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s astonishing First Orbit of our precious planet Earth on April 12, 1961. Gagarin was the first human to enter outer space and see what no one else had ever witnessed – our commonly shared Earth as a planet and beautiful blue globe with no borders.

Space enthusiasts worldwide are celebrating this watershed moment in Human history at a network of over 400 “Yuri’s Night” parties taking place in more than 70 countries on 6 continents and 2 worlds, according to the official “Yuri’s Night” website.

Gagarin’s flight took place in the midst of the inflammatory Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States and shocked the world into new realities. The Space Race led to the first lunar landing by the United States and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moons surface in 1969. Eventually, the world’s superpowers beat swords into plowshares and united their efforts to build the International Space Station.

Yuri Gagarin - first human in space. Credit: Russian Archives
Yuri Gagarin was the first person to boldly leave the bonds of Earth’s gravity and thus became the first “Spaceman”. Gagarin blasted off inside the bell-shaped Vostok 1 spaceship from the launch pad at Baikonur at 9:07 a.m, Moscow time (607 UTC) to begin the era of human spaceflight.

Gagarin flew around the Earth in a single orbit at an altitude of 302 kilometers (187 miles). The flight lasted 108 minutes and safely ended when he descended back and parachuted to the ground, just north of the Caspian Sea. At the age of 27, Gagarin was instantly transformed into a worldwide hero. After the momentous flight he soon embarked on an international tour.

20 years later on April 12, 1981, NASA’s first space shuttle blasted off on the STS-1 mission on a daring test flight with astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen strapped inside Space Shuttle Columbia.

Russian postcard featuring Yuri Gagarin

The first “Yuri’s Night – World Space Party” was held on April 12, 2001 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Gagarin’s spaceflight. Over 10,000 people attended 64 events located worldwide. The goal was to inspire people, increase awareness and support for space exploration across the globe and foster the spread of new ideas to broaden our access to space.

“Yuri’s Night” has been growing in popularity every year. Events range in size from a few folks to numbers in the thousands. Attendees range from astronauts and cosmonauts, NASA and global space agency officials and reps, scientists and engineers, famous actors, playwrights, writers, artists, athletes and musicians to just everyday folks and kids of all ages and backgrounds. Everyone can get involved.

Yuri Gagarin in orbit
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, documentary film maker Christopher Riley conceived and created a film titled “First Orbit” to try and show the approximate view of Earth that Gagarin actually saw. There is only scant footage of Gagarin’s actual flight and he himself took no pictures of the Earth from orbit.

“First Orbit” recreates much of the view of the Earth’s surface that Gagarin would have seen fifty years ago. Mostly he flew over the world oceans as well as the Soviet Union and Africa.

Riley collaborated with the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, chiefly Paolo Nespoli of ESA, who took film footage from the new 7 windowed Cupola as the station matched the actual flight path of Gagarin and Vostok 1 as closely as possible. The free film celebrates 50 years of human spaceflight.

“First Orbit” premiers worldwide on YouTube in a special global streaming event for Yuri’s Night on April 12 . Watch the short trailer below, with original and stirring music by Philip Sheppard.

Orbital flight path of Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961
Gagarin’s call sign was Cedar or Kder - which means Siberian Pine in Russian. Map courtesy of Sven Grahn

It’s easy and free to register your local party at the Yuri’s Night event website. There is still time to register your Yuri’s Night party – Indeed the list has grown as I typed out this story !

Some events are already set to kick off this weekend. I’ll be presenting at an interactive and free Yuri’s Night evening event in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, about Gagarin’s flight and my experiences with the space shuttle and what‘s beyond.

Send Ken your “Yuri’s Night” event photos/short report to post in a round up story at Universe Today about the global festivities celebrating the historic achievement of Yuri Gagarin. Email kremerken at yahoo dot com

First Orbit Trailer II

Russian built Mini Research Module MRM-1 launched aboard US Space Shuttle Atlantis in May 2010.
Shuttle Atlantis delivered MRM-1 (known as Rassvet) to the International Space Station.
MRM-1 undergoes final prelaunch processing inside clean room at Astrotech Space Operations Facility in Florida. Docking port to ISS is protected by red colored covering. Equipment airlock for experiments at top. Russian Flag mounted at left.
Rassvet underscores the cooperation that exists today, in stark contrast to their rivalry during the Cold War. Russia, the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada have now united their space exploration efforts to build the International Space Station. The worlds space powers cooperate in other space exploration projects today as well that venture to the Moon, Mars and beyond to Deep Space. Credit: Ken Kremer

Read Ken’s other stories about Yuri Gagarin and Yuri’s Night:
Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1 Photo Album – 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight
Stirring Video Tributes to Yuri Gagarin

Yuri’s Night Website
Yuri’s Night Party list
Yuri’s Night Party with Ken in Princeton Junction, NJ, USA
First Orbit Website
STS-1 NASA Mission Website
Ken Kremer

Coalition for Space Exploration Tasks us to “Think Outside the Circle”

The aerospace industry is typically filled with engineers, scientists and pilots. Hardly the segment of the population that is subject to expounding on the virtues of their trade in prose or through some other format. That said, every once and a while, a campaign, image or video comes along that simply nails what the men and women of the industry have been trying to say. Continue reading “Coalition for Space Exploration Tasks us to “Think Outside the Circle””

What Did Gagarin See on His Historic Flight?

50 years ago, April 12th, Yuri Gagarin became the world’s first human to go into space. What did he see? He described it fairly well, but there are limited pictures and no video from his time in orbit. Now, through a unique collaboration between a filmmaker and ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli on board the International Space Station, high definition video of what Gagarin might have seen has been woven together with historic recordings of the flight (subtitled in English) to create a new, free film that will be released on the 50th anniversary titled First Orbit. Above is the trailer for the film. What a perfect way to celebrate this historic moment.

“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty — not destroy it!” — Yuri Gagarin.

Continue reading “What Did Gagarin See on His Historic Flight?”