NASA’s Tribute to Sally Ride

Sally Ride

NASA officials, fellow astronauts and the family of Sally Ride gathered in Houston at the Johnson Space Center on Sept. 18, 2012. They remembered Ride’s life and the legend she leaves behind. An oak tree — one of most enduring types of trees — was planted and dedicated in Ride’s honor. It sits among 62 other trees dedicated to astronauts and space pioneers in a grove located JSC.

Ride passed away on July 23, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. “She lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless,” wrote the team at Sally Ride Science — the science education company Ride founded — on the day of her death.

Neil Armstrong Remembered in Memorial Service

Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the Moon, was honored in a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral on September 13, 2012. He was remembered as a quiet but strong hero who led mankind into space. Armstrong died last month at 82 following complications after heart surgery. He will be buried at sea in the Naval tradition today (Friday, September 14, 2012) at an undisclosed site.

“He embodied all that is good and all that is great about America. Neil, wherever you are, you again have shown us a way to the stars,” said Gene Cernan during the memorial. Cernan was commander of the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 and the last person to walk on the Moon.

If you missed watching it live, here is a video of the entire service. The National Cathedral was a fitting place to remember Armstrong, as it has one stained glass window, known as the Space Window, which has a piece of Moon rock presented by Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in 1974.

The recessional at the conclusion of a memorial service celebrating the life of Neil Armstrong at the Washington National Cathedral, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Photo Credit:(NASA/Paul E. Alers) Click here to see a gallery of images from the service.

The Cathedral was filled with NASA officials, astronauts, and the general public who wanted to pay their respects to the man who displayed courage and grace under pressure that had made him exceptional, said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden.

Cernan provided an example of Armstrong’s “cool under pressure” personality in recounting Armstrong’s response years ago when asked how he felt when he was landing on the Moon with only seconds of fuel remaining.

Cernan recalled Armstrong saying, “Well, when the gauge says empty we all know there is a gallon or two left over,” which drew laughter from the crowd.

At the end of the service, Bolden presented Armstrong’s wife, Carol, with the flag that had flown at half-staff over the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston on August 25, the day Armstrong passed away.

Walk on the Moon with Neil Armstrong in a Beautiful Interactive Panorama

Danish photographer Hans Nyberg has created several interactive panoramas, including a new one featuring the Curiosity rover. But today, we’d like to focus on one he created for Apollo 11, allowing you walk along with Neil Armstrong’s steps on the Moon. “Armstrong only appears in a few images on the Moon, as he was the one who took almost all images, Nyberg writes on his website. “But his shadow is there and in the helmet reflection in the famous image of Buzz Aldrin you see him.”

It works best to view the panorama in full screen; click the thumbnail images at the top to see the various still images.
Continue reading “Walk on the Moon with Neil Armstrong in a Beautiful Interactive Panorama”

Historic Images: Two Space Shuttles Together

This is a sight that will probably never be seen again: two space shuttles nose-to-nose in the same location. NASA’s space shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis switched locations today at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and met each other for the last time in front of Orbiter Processing Facility 3.

Endeavour was moved from OPF 2 to the Vehicle Assembly Building where it will be housed temporarily until its targeted departure from Kennedy atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft in mid-September. After a stop at the Los Angeles International Airport, Endeavour will move in mid-October to the California Science Center for permanent public display.

Atlantis will undergo preparations for its move to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in November, with a grand opening planned for July 2013.

Here’s a look at some other instances when two space shuttles were in close enough proximity to have their pictures taken together:

Space Shuttles Enterprise, left, and Discovery meet nose-to-nose at the beginning of a transfer ceremony at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Thursday, April 19, 2012. Credit: NASA//Paul E. Alers.

This event took place today at the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in April, 2012 as space shuttle Discovery, the first orbiter retired from NASA’s shuttle fleet, met up with its prototype sister, Enterprise as they switch spots. Discovery is now at the Air & Space Museum, while Enterprise headed to New York City’s Intrepid Museum.

This view shows two space shuttles on adjacent Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 pads with the Rotating Service Structures retracted I 1990. STS-35’s Columbia is on Pad A (foreground), while its sister spaceship, Discovery, is beginning preparations for STS-41. Credit: NASA

The first time two space shuttles were ever on the launchpads at the same time was in 1985. Then it was Columbia for STS-61-C and Challenger for the ill-fated STS-51-L. In the 30-year duration of the space shuttle program, having two shuttles on the launchpads at once happened just 17 times.

Space shuttle Atlantis on Launch Pad 39A (left) is accompanied by space shuttle Endeavour on Pad 39B in 2009. This was the final time two shuttles were on launch pads at the same time. Endeavour will stood by in case a rescue mission was necessary during Atlantis' mission to upgrade NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA
Space Shuttles Discovery and Endeavour meet for a nose-to-nose encounter of gaping holes at the Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 11, 2011. The two NASA shuttles shorn of spaceflight maneuvering capability swapped locations to continue the transition to retirement and public display at museum in Virginia and California respectively. Credit: Mike Deep for Universe Today.
Another view of the same meetup, Discovery (right) and Endeavour paused for a unique nose-to-nose photo opportunity before going their separate ways outside Orbiter Processing Facility-3 at the Kennedy Space Center on August 11, 2011. Credit: NASA
This event never really happened, thankfully. This is a slide from a NASA presentation showing how a shuttle rescue mission would work. Credit: NASA

The Journeys of Apollo

On this 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, here’s a documentary that NASA produced to mark the 40th anniversary, and is just now available on YouTube. It covers the full scope of the Apollo program and features interviews with many of the Apollo astronauts. If the narrator sounds eerily familiar, it is Peter Cullen from the Transformers movie. Want more information about Apollo? Visit http://www.nasa.gov/apollo

This Day in History: Launch of Apollo 11

43 years ago today, July 16th, 1969, Apollo 11 left Earth for the first human mission to land on the Moon. Launching on at Saturn V rocket from Cape Kennedy, the mission sent Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit, and then two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for a second burn to place Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. An estimated 530 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.

The View From Freedom 7


51 years ago today, on May 5, 1961, NASA launched the Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket carrying Alan B. Shepard, Jr. aboard the Freedom 7 capsule. Shepard successfully became America’s first man in space, making a brief but historic suborbital test flight that propelled American astronauts into the space race of the 1960s.

The video above is made from photographs taken by a film camera mounted to the Freedom 7 spacecraft and scanned by archivists at Johnson Space Center. It shows the view from Freedom 7 as the Redstone rocket launched it into space, getting an amazing view of Earth’s limb and the blackness beyond before falling back to splash down in the Atlantic.
The video is made from the entire film reel, so at the end there’s also some shots of a light experiment inside the spacecraft. (View the individual scans at ASU’s March to the Moon website here.)

What’s amazing to realize is that, at this point in time, the space surrounding our planet was a very empty place. This was a time before communication and weather satellites, before GPS, before Space Station and space shuttles — and space junk —  and student-made weather balloon videos. Just 51 years ago low-Earth orbit was a new frontier, and guys like Shepard (and Gagarin and Glenn, etc.) were blazing the path for everyone that followed.

Even though images of Earth from space are still amazing to look at today, seeing these photos reminds us of a time when it was all just so very new.

Read more about Shepard and the MR-3 launch here.

Images and video: NASA/JSC/Arizona State University

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Viewing Alert: New Interview Series with Neil Armstrong

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There’s a new four-part interview series with Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, and part 1 is now available for viewing. The first man to walk on the Moon gives a personal commentary on Apollo 11’s historic lunar landing, his thoughts on leadership and taking risks to innovate for the future. With the future of NASA’s program currently under scrutiny, throughout the series Armstrong will talk about his position on the policy direction of the space agency, speaks candidly on his early life, and even tackles conspiracy theorist claims that the Moon landing never happened – using images from Google Moon to demonstrate their path. The series also includes previously unseen footage of the lunar descent. Armstrong doesn’t give many interviews, and the show’s producers say this is the first on-camera interview Armstrong has done since 2005. The episodes are from evoTV’s series, The Bottom Line.

The different parts will be released over the next few weeks:

Part 1 – Space Race: now available

Part 2 – Blast Off available 8 May

Part 3 – Giant Leap available 15 May

Part 4 – Presidential Pride available 22 May

Blast from the Past: First Launch Ever from Cape Canaveral

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When was the first launch ever from Cape Canaveral in Florida? It was on July 24, 1950 with the launch of a Bumper rocket, specifically Bumper #8. It blasted off from Launchpad 3 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It’s amazing to see how close the photographers were allowed to stand to the scene of the action! The little blockhouse for the firing crew and support personnel was located about 152 meters (500 feet) away from launch pad.

These rockets were built by the General Electric Company, and were used mostly for testing rocket systems and for research on the upper atmosphere. The Bumper series of rockets carried small payloads that allowed them to measure attributes including air temperature and cosmic ray impacts. The Bumper rockets were two-stage rockets that used a modified German V-2 missile base and with a WAC Corporal rocket for the upper stage. The upper stage was able to reach then-record altitudes of almost 400 kilometers, which is higher than the International Space Station’s orbit.

Read some interesting history about the Bumper rockets and the early days at Cape Canaveral at the SpaceLine website.

Sources: NASA, SpaceLine

Apollo 11’s Rocket Engines Found on the Bottom of the Ocean

Apollo 11 Launch

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Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has located the Apollo 11 F-1 rocket engines and plans to recover them. “I’m excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we’re making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor,” Bezos wrote on the Bezos Expeditions website. “We don’t know yet what condition these engines might be in – they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see.”

Bezos said that about a year ago he was thinking of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission and wondered if the F-1 engines that started the seminal mission to the Moon could be located.

The Saturn V used five F-1 engines in the first stage. The F-1 is still the most powerful single-chamber liquid-fueled rocket engine ever developed, producing one and a half million pounds of thrust, burning 6,000 pounds of rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second. On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 was launched and the five F-1s burned for just a few minutes, and then plunged back to Earth into the Atlantic Ocean.

Even though the engines remain the property of NASA, Bezos hopes that the space agency would allow the recovered engines to be displayed at the Smithsonian or another museum.

“If we’re able to raise more than one engine, I’ve asked NASA if they would consider making it available to the excellent Museum of Flight here in Seattle,” he said. “NASA is one of the few institutions I know that can inspire five-year-olds. It sure inspired me, and with this endeavor, maybe we can inspire a few more youth to invent and explore.”

Bezos pointed out that no public funding will be used to attempt to raise and recover the engines, as it’s being undertaken by him privately.

Bezos said he’ll keep everyone posted on the progress of the recovery of these engines.