KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX, FL – Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, and one of America’s most famous and renowned astronauts, was honored in a ceremony held at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida, on Jan. 18. [Story/photos expanded]
Cernan passed away earlier this week on Monday, January 16, 2017 at age 82, after a long illness, surrounded by his family.
Cernan, a naval aviator, flew on three groundbreaking missions for NASA during the Gemini and Apollo programs that paved the way for America’s and humanity’s first moon landing missions.
His trio of historic space flights ultimately culminated with Cernan stepping foot on the moon in Dec. 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission- NASA final moon landing of the Apollo era.
No human has set foot on the Moon since Apollo 17 – an enduring disappointment to Cernan and all space fans worldwide.
Cernan also flew on the Gemini 9 and Apollo 10 missions, prior to Apollo 17.
The Gemini 9 capsule is on display at the KSC Visitor Complex. Cernan was the second NASA astronaut to perform an EVA – during Gemini 9.
The Cernan remembrance ceremony was held at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame inside the newly opened ‘Heroes & Legends’ exhibit at the KSC Visitor Complex – two days after Cernan died. It included remarks from two of his fellow NASA astronauts from the Space Shuttle era, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, and space shuttle astronaut Jon McBride, as well as Therrin Protze, chief operating officer, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
A NASA portrait and floral wreath were on display for visitors during the ceremony inside and outside of the ‘Heroes and Legends’ exhibit.
“He was an advocate for the space program and hero that will be greatly missed,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana during the ceremony inside.
“I don’t believe that Gene is going to be the last man on the moon. And one of the things that he was extremely passionate about was our exploring beyond our own planet, and developing that capability that would allow us to go back to the moon and go beyond.
“I feel badly that he wasn’t able to stay alive long enough to actually see this come to fruition,” Cabana said.
NASA is now developing the SLS heavy lift rocket and Orion deep space capsule to send our astronauts to the Moon, Mars and Beyond. The maiden launch of SLS-1 on the uncrewed EM-1 mission to the Moon is slated for Fall 2018.
“We are saddened of the loss of our American hero, Astronaut Gene Cernan. As the last man to place footsteps on the surface of the moon, he was a truly inspiring icon who challenged the impossible,” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
“People throughout generations have been and will forever be inspired by his actions, and the underlying message that what we can achieve is limited only by our imaginations. He will forever be known as ‘The Last Man on the Moon,” and for the extraordinary impact he had on our country and the world.”
Cernan was one of only 12 astronauts to walk on the moon. Neil Armstong and Buzz Aldrin were the first during the Apollo 11 moon landing mission in 1969 that fulfilled President Kohn F. Kennedy’s promise to land on the Moon during the 1960’s.
Cernan retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy in 1976. He continued to advise NASA as a consultant and appeared frequently on TV news programs during NASA’s manned space missions as an popular guest explaining the details of space exploration and why we should explore.
He advocated for NASA, space exploration and science his entire adult life.
“As an astronaut, Cernan left an indelible impression on the moon when he scratched his daughter’s initials in the lunar surface alongside the footprints he left as the last human to walk on the moon. Guests of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex can learn more about Cernan’s legacy at the new Heroes & Legends exhibit, where his spacewalk outside the actual Gemini IX space capsule is brought to life through holographic imagery.”
From NASA’s profile page:
“Cernan was born in Chicago on March 14, 1934. He graduated from Proviso Township High School in Maywood, Ill., and received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University in 1956. He earned a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
Cernan is survived by his wife, Jan Nanna Cernan, his daughter and son-in-law, Tracy Cernan Woolie and Marion Woolie, step-daughters Kelly Nanna Taff and husband, Michael, and Danielle Nanna Ellis and nine grandchildren.”
The following is a statement released by NASA on the behalf of Gene Cernan’s family:
A funeral service for Capt. Eugene A. Cernan, who passed away Monday at the age of 82, will be conducted at 2:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road in Houston.
NASA Television will provide pool video coverage of the service.
The family will gather for a private interment at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin at a later date, where full military honors will be rendered.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX, FL – America’s pioneering astronauts who braved the perils of the unknown and put their lives on the line at the dawn of the space age atop mighty rockets that propelled our hopes and dreams into the new frontier of outer space and culminated with NASA’s Apollo lunar landings, are being honored with the eye popping new ‘Heroes and Legends’ attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) in Florida.
With fanfare and a fireworks display perfectly timed for Veterans Day, ‘Heroes and Legends’ opened its doors to the public on Friday, November 11, 2016, during a gala ceremony attended by more than 25 veteran and current NASA astronauts, including revered Gemini and Apollo space program astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Charlie Duke, Tom Stafford, Dave Scott, Walt Cunningham and Al Worden – and throngs of thrilled members of the general public who traveled here as eyewitnesses from all across the globe.
Aldrin, Scott, and Duke walked on the Moon during the Apollo 11, 15 and 16 missions.
Also on hand were the adult children of the late-astronauts Alan Shepard (first American in space) and Neil Armstrong (first man to walk on the Moon), as well as representatives from NASA, The Boeing Company (sponsor) and park operator Delaware North – for the engaging program hosted by Master of Ceremonies John Zarrella, CNN’s well known and now retired space correspondent.
The stunning new ‘Heroes and Legends’ attraction is perfectly positioned just inside the entrance to the KSC Visitor Complex to greet visitors upon their arrival with an awe inspiring sense of what it was like to embark on the very first human journey’s into space by the pioneers who made it all possible ! And when every step along the way unveiled heretofore unknown treasures into the origin of us and our place in the Universe.
Upon entering the park visitors will immediately and surely be mesmerized by a gigantic bas relief sculpture recreating an iconic photo of America’s first astronauts – the Mercury 7 astronauts; Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.
“With all the drama of an actual trip to space, guests of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida will be greeted with a dramatic sense of arrival with the new Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® presented by Boeing. Positioned just inside the entrance, the attraction sets the stage for a richer park experience by providing the emotional background and context for space exploration and the legendary men and women who pioneered our journey into space,” according to a description from Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, which operates the KSC visitor complex.
“Designed to be the first stop upon entering Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Heroes & Legends uses the early years of the space program to explore the concept of heroism, and the qualities that define the individuals who inspired their generation.”
“I hope that all of you, when you get to see Heroes and Legends, you’re inspired,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, a former space shuttle astronaut and member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame, during the ceremony.
“The children today can see that there is so much more they can reach for if they apply themselves and do well.”
“I think people a thousand years from now are going to be happy to see these artifacts and relics,” Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden told the crowd.
“We have so much on display here with a Saturn V, Space Shuttle Atlantis. People will think back and see the wonderful days we had here. And I guess in that same vein, that makes me a relic too.”
Furthermore, ‘Heroes and Legends’ is now very conveniently housed inside the new home of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (AHOF) – making for a unified space exploration experience for park visitors. AHOF previously was located at another off site park facility some seven miles outside and west of the Visitor Complex.
The bas relief measures 30 feet tall and 40 feet wide. It is made put of fiberglass and was digitally sculpted, carved by CNC machines and juts out from the side of the new into the new 37,000 square foot U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (AHOF) structure.
To date 93 astronauts have been inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame spanning the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.
“I don’t consider myself a hero like say, Charles Lindbergh,” said Jim Lovell, a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame and Apollo 13 commander, when asked by Zarrella what it feels like to be considered an American space hero. “I just did what was proper and exciting — something for my country and my family. I guess I’m just a lucky guy.”
The astronauts are also quick to say that they were supported by hundreds of thousands of dedicated people working in the space program to make Apollo happen.
“It important to remember all the dedication and hard work that it took from those of us involved in the astronaut program, but also the support we received from Kennedy and all the contractors involved in Apollo,” said Apollo 16 moonwalker Charlie Duke.
“400,000 people made it possible for 24 of us to go to the Moon.”
“So dream big, aim high!” exclaimed Duke.
“Hopefully this is an inspiration to you and your kids and grandkids.”
Construction of the facility by Falcon’s Treehouse, an Orlando-based design firm began in the fall of 2015.
“We’re focusing on a story to create what we consider a ‘launch pad’ for our visitors,” said Therrin Protze, the Delaware North chief operating officer of the Visitor Complex. “This is an opportunity to learn about the amazing attributes of our heroes behind the historical events that have shaped the way we look at space, the world and the future.
“We are grateful to NASA for allowing us to tell the NASA story to millions of guests from all over the world,” Protze said.
Visitors walk up a sweeping ramp to enter the Heroes and Legends experience.
After visitors walk through the doors, they will be immersed by two successive video presentations and finally the Hall of Fame exhibit hall.
Here’s a detailed description:
• In the stunning 360-degree discovery bay, What is a Hero?, guests will explore how society defines heroism through diverse perspectives. Each examination of heroism starts with the following questions: What is a hero; Who are the heroes of our time; and What does it take to be a hero? During the seven-minute presentation, the historic beginning of the space race is acknowledged as the impetus for America’s push to the stars in NASA’s early years and the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
• Through the Eyes of a Hero is a custom-built theater featuring a multi-sensory experience during which guests will vicariously join NASA’s heroes and legends on the most perilous stages of their adventures. Artistically choreographed lighting and 3D imagery will be enhanced by intense, deeply resonant sound effects to create the sensation of being “in the moment.” The seven and one-half minute show takes guests on an intimate journey with four space-age heroes to fully immerse them in the awe, excitement and dangers of the first crewed space program missions.
• The third experience, A Hero Is…, offers interactive exhibits that highlight the nine different attributes of our history making astronauts: inspired, curious, passionate, tenacious, disciplined, confident, courageous, principled and selfless. A collection of nine exhibit modules will explore each aforementioned attribute, through the actual experiences of NASA’s astronauts. Their stories are enhanced with memorabilia from the astronaut or the space program.
Priceless historic artifacts on display also include two flown capsules from Mercury and Gemini; the Sigma 7 Mercury spacecraft piloted by Wally Schirra during his six-orbit mission in October 1962 and the Gemini IX capsule flown by Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan for three days in June 1966.
The human rated Mercury Redstone-6 (MR-6) is also on display and dramatically mated to the Schirra’s Sigma 7 Mercury capsule.
Another room houses the original consoles of the Mercury Mission Control room with the world map that was used to follow the path of John Glenn’s Mercury capsule Friendship 7 between tracking stations when he became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962.
Further details about ‘Heroes and Legends, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and all other attractions are available at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex website: https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Learn more about Heroes and Legends at KSCVC, GOES-R weather satellite, OSIRIS-REx, InSight Mars lander, SpaceX missions, Juno at Jupiter, SpaceX CRS-9 rocket launch, ISS, ULA Atlas and Delta rockets, Orbital ATK Cygnus, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Nov 17-20: “GOES-R weather satellite launch, OSIRIS-REx launch, SpaceX missions/launches to ISS on CRS-9, Juno at Jupiter, ULA Delta 4 Heavy spy satellite, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings
First view of the Boeing CST-100 ‘Starliner’ crewed space taxi at the Sept. 4, 2015 Grand Opening ceremony held in the totally refurbished C3PF manufacturing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. These are the upper and lower segments of the first Starliner crew module known as the Structural Test Article (STA) being built at Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at KSC. Credit: Ken Kremer /kenkremer.com
Built by The Boeing Company, ‘Starliner’ was officially announced by Boeing and NASA as the new name of the company’s CST-100 commercial crew transportation spacecraft during the Grand Opening event for the craft’s manufacturing facility held at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, Sept 4. 2015 and attended by Universe Today.
‘Starliner’ counts as history’s first privately developed ‘Space Taxi’ to carry humans to space – along with the Crew Dragon being simultaneously developed by SpaceX.
“Please welcome the CST-100 Starliner,” announced Chris Ferguson, the former shuttle commander who now is deputy manager of operations for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, at the Grand Opening event hosting numerous dignitaries.
The CST-100 ‘Starliner’ is at the forefront of ushering in the new commercial era of space flight and will completely revolutionize how we access, explore and exploit space for the benefit of all mankind.
Starliner will be mostly automated for ease of operation and is capable of transporting astronaut crews of four or more to low Earth orbit and the ISS as soon as mid 2017 if all goes well and Congress approves the required funding.
“One hundred years ago we were on the dawn of the commercial aviation era and today, with the help of NASA, we’re on the dawn of a new commercial space era,” said Boeing’s John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Space Exploration.
“It’s been such a pleasure to work hand-in-hand with NASA on this commercial crew development, and when we look back 100 years from this point, I’m really excited about what we will have discovered.”
The CST-100 ‘Starliner’ will be produced in Boeing’s newly revamped manufacturing facility dubbed the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) on site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The CC3P building was previously known as Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-3) and utilized by NASA to process the agency’s space shuttle orbiters between crewed flights during the three decade long Space Shuttle program.
“When Boeing was looking for the prime location for its program headquarters, we knew Florida had a lot to offer from the infrastructure to the supplier base to the skilled work force,” said Chris Ferguson.
“Starliner will launch on an Atlas V from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It has the capability to dock at the ISS within 24 hours. It can stay docked at the station for 6 months.”
Over the past few years, the historic facility has been completely renovated, upgraded and transformed into a state of the art manufacturing site for Boeing’s commercial CST-100 Starliner.
It is also a key part of NASA’s overarching strategy to send Humans on a “Journey to Mars” in the 2030s.
“Commercial crew is an essential component of our journey to Mars, and in 35 states, 350 American companies are working to make it possible for the greatest country on Earth to once again launch our own astronauts into space,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “That’s some impressive investment.”
The commercial crew program is designed to return human spaceflight launches to the United States and end our sole source reliance on Russia and the Soyuz capsule for all manned flights to the ISS and crew rotation missions.
Since the forced retirement of NASA’s shuttle orbiters in 2011, US astronauts have been totally dependent on the Russians for trips to space and back.
SpaceX also received a NASA award worth $2.6 Billion to build the Crew Dragon spacecraft for launch atop the firms man-rated Falcon 9 rocket.
Final assembly of both half’s of Starliner will take place in the C3PF – namely the crew command module and the service module.
Boeing is already building the first version of Starliner known as the Structural Test Article (STA) . The STA will be used for extensive prelaunch testing and evaluation to ensure it will be ready and robust and capable of safely launches humans to orbit on a very cost effective basis.
The Starliner STA is rapidly taking shape. The first components have been built and were on display at the C3PF Grand Opening eventy of Sept. 4. They are comprised of the upper and lower halves of the crew command module, the crew access tunnel and adapter.
The shell of Starliner’s first service module was also on display.
“The STA will be completed in early 2016,” said John Mulholland Boeing Vice President, Commercial Programs, at the event.
“Then we start assembly of the Qualification Test Article.”
I asked Mulholland to describe the currently planned sequence of Starliner’s initial uncrewed and crewed flights.
“The first uncrewed flight is expected to occur in May 2017. Then comes the Pad Abort Test in August 2017. The first crewed flight is set for September 2017. The first contracted regular service flight (PCM-1) is set for December 2017,” Mulholland told me.
“It’s all very exciting.”
“Kennedy Space Center has transitioned more than 50 facilities for commercial use. We have made improvements and upgrades to well-known Kennedy workhorses such as the Vehicle Assembly Building, mobile launcher, crawler–transporter and Launch Pad 39B in support of Orion, the SLS and Advanced Exploration Systems,” said Robert Cabana, Kennedy’s center director.
“I am proud of our success in transforming Kennedy Space Center to a 21st century, multi-user spaceport that is now capable of supporting the launch of all sizes and classes of vehicles, including horizontal launches from the Shuttle Landing Facility, and spacecraft processing and landing.”
Read my earlier exclusive, in depth one-on-one interviews with Chris Ferguson – America’s last shuttle commander and who now leads Boeings CST-100 program; here and here.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
An iconic section of the fuselage recovered from space shuttle Challenger with the American flag (left) and the flight deck windows recovered from space shuttle Columbia (right) are part of a new, permanent memorial, “Forever Remembered,” that opened on June 27, 2015 in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida – featuring shuttle hardware and personal crew items never before on display for viewing by the public. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
The “Forever Remembered” memorial tribute was officially opened by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, both veteran shuttle astronauts, at a very special and moving small private NASA ceremony attended by families of the 14 fallen crew members and invited members of the media including Universe Today on June 27, 2015.
“I believe that it’s important to share this story with everyone, and not just push it aside, or try to hide it,” Cabana said at the ceremony, as tears welled up in everyone present.
The shuttle tribute is located on the ground floor of the Space Shuttle Atlantis pavilion at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and features shuttle orbiter hardware recovered from both the Challenger STS-51L and Columbia STS-107 accidents, as well as personal crew items from all 14 courageous astronauts who lost their lives – items never before on display for viewing by the public.
The 2000 square foot exhibit features an iconic section of the fuselage recovered from space shuttle Challenger emblazoned with the American flag and the flight deck windows recovered from space shuttle Columbia, that are part of the permanent “Forever Remembered” memorial that opened on June 27, 2015 – see photo above.
It also holds the largest collection of personal items of both flight crews in individual displays about the 14 crew members in a hallway that leads to a plaque with a quote from U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave,” said President Ronald Reagan in remarks to the nation in mourning shortly after the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.
The “Forever Remembered” display was conceived in private by a very small circle spearheaded by Cabana and unknown by outsiders until the day it was formally opened. It completes the display inside the Atlantis pavilion, which commemorates NASA’s three decade long Space Shuttle Program that flew 135 missions from 1981 to 2011 with the reusable delta-winged vehicles that “captivated a generation.”
It is intended to be an emotional experience and “designed to honor the crews, pay tribute to the spacecraft and emphasize the importance of learning from the past” and the tragic consequences. This will enable safer flights in the future and fortify the spirit of never giving up on the exploration of space.
“The tragedies galvanized the agency to learn from these painful events, not only to safely return the shuttle fleet to flight, but to help assure the safety of future explorers,” NASA said in a statement.
Several dozen family members attended the tearful, heartfelt opening ceremony of “Forever Remembered” with very emotional remarks from Cabana and Bolden.
“These crews and these vehicles are part of who we are as an agency, and a nation. They tell the story of our never ending quest to explore, and our undying spirit to never give up,” Cabana stated at the ceremony.
Columbia and Challenger were the nation’s first two orbiters to be built. Columbia launched on the maiden space shuttle flight on April 12, 1981 on what is revered by many as the “boldest test flight in history” with NASA astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen.
“When I look into those windows, I see John Young and Bob Crippen preparing to launch on the boldest test flight in history, the first flight of America’s space shuttle, Columbia,” Cabana added.
“I see a much younger Bob Cabana launching to space on his first command, and I see Rick and Willie and the rest of the 107 crew smiling and experiencing the wonders of space on the final flight of Columbia.”
The idea to create a permanent memorial originated with a team led by Bob Cabana, and approved by Charlie Bolden only after every one of the astronauts families were in complete and unqualified agreement that this tribute display was the right thing to do in memory of their loved ones, tragically lost during the in flight accidents in 1986 and 2003.
“The crews of Challenger and Columbia are forever a part of a story that is ongoing,” Bolden said at the ceremony.
“It is the story of humankind’s evolving journey into space, the unknown, and the outer-reaches of knowledge, discovery and possibility. It is a story of hope.”
The wives of the two shuttle commanders, shared their thoughts on the new exhibit:
“It’s a beautiful remembrance of all the shuttles, with the marvelous display of Atlantis. Nothing compares to it in the world,” said June Scobee Rodgers, whose husband, Dick Scobee, commanded Challenger on STS-51L, in a statement.
“But Challenger and Columbia are not forgotten, and they’re well represented.”
“I knew it would be very emotional to see, but honestly, I didn’t expect to be so impacted by it. I just can’t stop thinking about it. As you walk in, you know you’re in a special place,” Evelyn Husband Thompson said of the memorial. Her husband, Rick, commanded Columbia on STS-107.
Here is a NASA description of both the Columbia and Challenger accidents and crews:
“Temperatures at Kennedy Space Center were just a few degrees above freezing on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, as Challenger lifted off on its 10th mission, STS-51L. One minute and 13 seconds into the flight, a booster failure caused an explosion that destroyed the vehicle, resulting in the loss of the crew of seven astronauts: Commander Francis Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka and Ronald McNair, and Payload Specialists Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire schoolteacher.”
“Seventeen years later, on Jan. 16, 2003, NASA’s flagship orbiter Columbia thundered into orbit on STS-107, a 16-day science mission. On board were Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown and Laurel Clark, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut. On Feb. 1, 2003, the orbiter broke apart in the skies above east Texas as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on the way to a planned landing at Kennedy. Seven more lives were lost.”
Today the fallen astronauts legacy of human spaceflight lives on at NASA with the International Space Station, the development of Commercial Crew manned capsules for low Earth orbit, and the development of the Orion deep space crew exploration vehicle and SLS rocket for NASA’s ambitious plans to send ‘Human to Mars’ in the 2030s.
Read more about both fallen shuttle crews and the Apollo 1 crew who perished in a launch pad accident in January 1967 in my tribute story posted here during NASA’s solemn week of remembrance in January.
I urge everyone to visit this hallowed “Forever Remembered” memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to benefit all of us in the quest for new knowledge of the boundless expanse of space leading to new discoveries we cannot fathom today.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
The march towards first launch of NASA’s next generation Orion crew vehicle is accelerating rapidly.
The world’s most powerful rocket – the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy – was moved to its Cape Canaveral launch pad overnight and raised at the pad today, Oct. 1, thereby setting in motion the final steps to prepare for blastoff of NASA’s new Orion capsule on its first test flight in just over two months.
All the pieces are ready and now it’s just a matter of attaching all those components together for the inaugural uncrewed liftoff of the state-of-the-art Orion spacecraft on its maiden mission dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) in December.
“We’ve been working toward this launch for months, and we’re in the final stretch,” said Kennedy Director Bob Cabana, in a NASA statement.
“Orion is almost complete and the rocket that will send it into space is on the launch pad. We’re 64 days away from taking the next step in deep space exploration.”
The triple barreled Delta IV Heavy topped by the Orion EFT-1 capsule is slated to blastoff on December 4, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
After a nearly two day delay due to drenching rain storms, the Delta IV Heavy integrated first and second stages were transported horizontally overnight Wednesday starting around 10 p.m. from the processing hanger inside ULA’s Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) to the nearby launch complex and servicing gantry at Pad 37.
Early this morning, the rocket was hoisted up into its launch configuration. Several of my space photo-journalist colleagues were on hand. See their photos herein.
From now until launch technicians will conduct the final processing, testing and checkout of the Delta IV Heavy booster. They will also carry out “a high fidelity rehearsal to include fully powering up the booster and loading the tanks with fuel and oxidizer,” according to ULA.
“This is a tremendous milestone and gets us one step closer to our launch later this year,” said Tony Taliancich, ULA’s director of East Coast Launch Operations, in a ULA statement.
“The team has worked extremely hard to ensure this vehicle is processed with the utmost attention to detail and focus on mission success.”
“The Delta IV Heavy is the world’s most powerful launch vehicle flying today, and we are excited to be supporting our customer for this critical flight test to collect data and reduce overall mission risks and costs for the program,” said Taliancich.
NASA’s Orion Program manager Mark Geyer told me in a recent interview that the Orion spacecraft, built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin, will be transported to the pad around November 10 or 11. Then the Orion will be hoisted and attached to the top of the Delta IV Heavy rocket at the base of its service module.
The Delta IV Heavy first stage is comprised of a trio of three Common Booster Cores (CBCs).
Each CBC measures 134 feet in length and 17 feet in diameter. They are equipped with an RS-68 engine powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants producing 656,000 pounds of thrust. Together they generate 1.96 million pounds of thrust.
The Delta IV Heavy became the world’s most powerful rocket upon the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle program and is the only vehicle that is sufficiently powerful to launch the Orion EFT-1 spacecraft.
The first CBC booster was attached to the center booster in June. The second one was attached in early August.
I recently visited the HIF during a media tour after the three CBCs had been joined together as well as earlier this year after the first two CBCs arrived by barge from their ULA assembly plant in Decatur, Alabama, located about 20 miles west of Huntsville. See my photos herein.
I was also on hand at KSC when the Orion crew module/service module (CM/SM) stack was rolled out on Sept. 11, 2014, on a 36 wheeled transporter from its high bay assembly facility in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.
It was moved about 1 mile to the KSC fueling facility named the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHFS). Read my Orion move story – here.
Fueling of Orion was completed over the weekend and it has now been moved to the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) for the installation of its last component – the Launch Abort System (LAS).
Orion’s next stop is SLC-37.
The two-orbit, four and a half hour EFT-1 flight will lift the Orion spacecraft and its attached second stage to an orbital altitude of 3,600 miles, about 15 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS) – and farther than any human spacecraft has journeyed in 40 years.
NASA is simultaneously developing a monster heavy lift rocket known as the Space Launch System or SLS, that will eventually launch Orion on its deep space missions.
The maiden SLS/Orion launch on the Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) unmanned test flight is now scheduled for no later than November 2018 – read my story here.
SLS will be the world’s most powerful rocket ever built and the assembly of its core stage has begun at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Read my story – here.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Orion, SLS, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX, commercial space, Curiosity, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX, FL- When 6-year-old Connor Johnson from Denver, Colo. heard that his youthful dreams of going to Mars and ‘Reaching for the Stars’ were in danger due to funding cuts to NASA’s budget, he decided to do something about it.
So, with the encouragement of his parents, Connor started an online petition drive on the White House website in December 2013 to help save NASA’s budget and fulfill his dreams.
Connor’s petition drive efforts were noticed by a Denver TV station that broadcast a report on the young lads work that spurred his efforts.
Over 22,000 folks have already signed Connor’s petition.
The KSC Visitor Complex invited Connor and to visit as a guest of honor with his family and to participate in the first ever ‘Robot Rocket Rally’ held this past weekend from March 14 to 16.
At a special ‘guest of honor’ ceremony held on Saturday, NASA recognized Connor’s unique contributions to space exploration with a public meeting at the Visitor Complex with Kennedy Space Center Director and space shuttle commander Bob Cabana.
Cabana, who flew four shuttle missions, gave Connor several mementos, including a mission patch and an actual bolt from the International Space Station, as a token of appreciation from the agency.
“I think it’s great for Connor to be so interested in the future of NASA,” Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana said.
“It shows great initiative on his part to do what he’s done.”
“Ultimately, the budget supports what we want to do with continuing International Space Station research and technology which will feed into SLS and Orion, leading to the asteroid initiative and on to Mars.”
“And it will dictate how we work with commercialpartners to launch our astronauts from U.S. soil,” Cabana explained.
Millions of kids of all ages worldwide have been inspired by NASA for generations to pursue their dreams of science research and exploring space.
After the ceremony with Bob Cabana, the media including myself met with Connor.
I asked Connor when he became interested in space and where did he want to journey.
“I’ve been interested in NASA and space since I was three years old.”
“I want to be an astronaut and go to Mars!” Connor told Universe Today.
Since NASA currently plans to send the first manned mission to Mars in the 2030s, Connor is just about the right age.
Connor Johnson clearly exhibits the ‘Right Stuff.’
So much so that Apollo 17 Astronaut and Moon walker Eugene Cernan also spoke with Connor upon hearing of his work to save NASA’s funding.
What did Cernan say to Connor?
“Dream the unimaginable,” Moon walker Eugene Cernan said to 6-year old future Mars walker Connor Johnson.
During his visit to the Visitor Complex, Connor also visited with the Earth bound brother of NASA’s Robonaut 2 at the ‘Robot Rocket Rally’ and saw a demonstration of the robots new legs heading soon to the ISS on the SpaceX CRS-3 mission later this month. He and his younger brother also operated other robots at the festival.
Connor and his family spent the rest of the weekend touring the new Space Shuttle Atlantis pavillion, enjoyed Lunch With An Astronaut, featuring space shuttle astronaut Sam Durrance, and participated in the Astronaut Training Experience with space shuttle astronaut Mike McCulley.
What a thrilling way to begin a space career.
Way to go Connor!
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Orion, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more planetary and human spaceflight news.
Learn more at Ken’s upcoming presentations at the NEAF astro/space convention, NY on April 12/13 and at Washington Crossing State Park, NJ on April 6. Also evenings at the Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL, March 24/25 and March 29/30.
And watch for Ken’s SpaceX launch coverage at Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center press site.
There wasn’t a lot of elbow room when six people from the Endeavour shuttle floated into the baby International Space Station on Dec. 10, 1998, but the cramped quarters resonated with possibility in STS-88 commander Bob Cabana’s mind.
“It’s hard to believe 15 years ago we put those first modules together, and we have this facility today that’s the size of a football field,” said Cabana in an interview today (Nov. 20) with Universe Today.
Cabana, who is now the director of the Kennedy Space Center, oversaw a complex mission that included joining the Russian Zarya and U.S. Unity modules, three spacewalks to get the modules powered and ready for humans to enter, and the pressure of public relations activities surrounding the opening of the station itself.
“That was a very special day, when we went into Unity and Zarya for the first time. There was a lot of excitement and anticipation,” Cabana said. He and Russian Sergei Krikalev — who would go on to become the person who spent the most time in space, at 803 days — entered the tiny hatches side by side to emphasize the international participation.
As is typical of spaceflight, the astronauts spent most of their day at work, busily waking up the station and testing its systems. NASA astronauts Jerry Ross and James Newman put together a communications system. Other crew members tested the videoconference equipment — important for press conferences as well as talking to scientists on the ground. Equipment and supplies in Zarya had to be unstowed and organized.
There also was the first repair on station, when Krikalev and NASA astronaut Nancy Currie replaced a faulty unit in Zarya “which controlled the discharging of stored energy from one of the module’s six batteries,” NASA wrote in an update at the time.
Cabana wanted his crew to get eight hours of sleep, but the excitement of that first day kept everybody up until 2:30 in the morning despite the wakeup call coming at 7 a.m.
“We were talking about what the ISS means, what will be accomplished with this cornerstone,” Cabana recalled, and said he is pleased with what has come to pass in the next 15 years. “It had come true. Everything we thought that could be has come together. That was a very special night, thinking about the future and how important the International Space Station was.”
The heaviest construction finished in 2011, and larger crews of six were allowed on board rather than the beginning crews of just three. NASA is now trying to position the station as a venue for microgravity science to justify the expense of running it. The astronauts, however, must balance their time doing science with the normal chores and maintenance the station requires. (The recent Expedition 35/36 missions were extremely productive in terms of science return, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy told Universe Today in a past interview.)
All buildings on Earth require upgrades from time to time to stay safe and up to date, and the ISS is no different. Cabana said analysis will be done to “extend the life on some of the modules, but we don’t see that as a large issue.” The reason? The crews do “an outstanding job” keeping the station humming along with routine maintenance, he said.
Today (Nov. 20) marks the 15th anniversary of Zarya’s launch into orbit. The station partners are currently committed until 2020, meaning negotiations are forthcoming to see what to do with the station in the years afterwards. It’s unclear what will happen next — the recession is still reverberating in the United States and overseas — but today, the agencies focused on the successes.
Each partner agency tweeted facts and science concerning the ISS under the hashtag #ISS15, and invited people using all forms of social media to share their thoughts on the station. What are some notable things about the station, and what is a good use of it in the future, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments.