July 22nd

India is on its way to the moon again — this time, to the lunar surface.

The nation’s robotic Chandrayaan-2 mission launched today (July 22) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, rising off the pad atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) rocket at 5:13 a.m. EDT (0913 GMT; 2:43 p.m. local Indian time). The launch came after just over a weeklong delay due to a rocket glitch, and just days after NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. 

“My dear friends, today is a historical day for space and science technology in India,” said K. Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), adding that the GSLV Mk III rocket placed Chandrayaan-2 in a better orbit than expected. “It is the beginning of a historical journey of India towards the moon and to land at the place near the south pole, to carry out scientific experiments, to explore the unexplored.”

The liftoff kicks off a long and looping deep-space trip. If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will reach lunar orbit on Sept. 6 and then put a lander-rover duo down near the moon’s south pole shortly thereafter. 

Source: https://www.space.com/india-chandrayaan-2-moon-mission-launch-success.html

July 15th

July 1969. It’s a little over eight years since the flights of Gagarin and Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.

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Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong working at an equipment storage area on the lunar module. This is one of the few photos that show Armstrong during the moonwalk. Click image to enlarge. Credits: NASA

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Smoke and flames signal the opening of a historic journey as the Saturn V clears the launch pad. Click image to enlarge. Credits: NASA

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Buzz Aldrin climbs down the Eagle’s ladder to the surface. Click image to enlarge. Credits: NASA

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Crater 308 stands out in sharp relief in this photo from lunar orbit. Click image to enlarge. Credits: NASA

It is only seven months since NASA’s made a bold decision to send Apollo 8 all the way to the moon on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket.

Now, on the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop another Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit.

After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a “go” for what mission controllers call “Translunar Injection” – in other words, it’s time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia.

Collins later writes that Eagle is “the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky,” but it will prove its worth.

When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle’s computer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, “unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems.”

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying “the unknowns were rampant,” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In an interview years later, Armstrong praises the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the project. “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.'”

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong calls the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talks about future journeys to Mars.

Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts will follow in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission leaves the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”

Source: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html

July 9th

Atlantis was the last of NASA’s space shuttles to fly into space. It went on 33 missions since 1985, ferrying astronauts to and from space stations, and even doing some top-secret missions for the U.S. military. Mission STS-135 and its 4-member crew brought much-needed supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

Atlantis landed for a final time on July 21, 2011. By the end of this final mission, Atlantis had traveled nearly 126,000,000 miles and orbited Earth 4,848 times.

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html

July 1st

On July 1, 1962, NASA established the Launch Operations Center — which was later renamed the Kennedy Space Center — on the east coast of Florida.

After President John F. Kennedy famously said that American astronauts would land on the moon by 1970, NASA had to build a launch facility for their gigantic new Saturn V rocket.

The facilities at Cape Canaveral couldn’t support such an enormous vehicle, so NASA started building their new launch center just a few miles away on Merritt Island.

Since the 1960s, this spaceport has supported all crewed spaceflight missions from the U.S., including all of the Apollo moon missions and 135 space shuttle flights.

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html

24th June

On June 25, 1997, a Russian Progress M-34 spacecraft collided with the Russian Mir space station.

The uncrewed cargo spacecraft was doing an experimental test of the docking system when it crashed into the space station’s Spektr module. The collision ended up puncturing Spektr’s hull, causing a slow leak and damaging one of its solar panels. The crew had time to prevent depressurization of the Mir station by installing a hatch cover.

The Mir space station was an icon of human spaceflight. Its first module launched in 1986 and assembly continued through 1996. At the end of its mission life, Mir was intentionally deorbited over the Pacific Ocean in 2001.

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html

June 17

A small space rock crashed into the Red Planet’s surface recently, producing a crater that researchers estimate is 49 feet to 53 feet (15 to 16 meters) wide.

The crater is visible in a newly released image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), a craft that has been imaging the Red Planet up close for more than 13 years. Because MRO can’t look everywhere at once, it’s not clear when the crater formed, the best estimate is somewhere between September 2016 and February 2019.

HiRISE team member and University of Arizona staff scientist Veronica Bay said the colour of this particular crater fascinates her, because she can see the impact wave clearly – a dark zone where dust was shifted off the surface. Beneath is likely basaltic rock, based on what we know of Mars geology and the colours showing in the image. There are also zones that may or may not be exposed ice.

Source: https://www.space.com/mars-fresh-crater-nasa-mro-photo-2019.html

June 3rd

NASA Astronaut Ed White made history on June 3, 1965, when he floated out of the hatch of his Gemini 4 capsule into the void of space. The first American “spacewalk” – or Extravehicular Activity (EVA) – lasted 23 minutes, not nearly long enough for White. He later said the spacewalk was the most comfortable part of the mission, and said the order to end it was the “saddest moment” of his life.

White was attached to the capsule by a 25 foot umbilical cord. He initially used a gas powered gun held in his hand to maneuver. After the first three minutes the fuel ran out and White moved around by twisting his body and pulling on the cord.

Source: https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_182.html

May 28th

Miss Baker (1957 – November 29, 1984) was a squirrel monkey who in 1959 became, along with rhesus macaque Miss Able, one of the first two animals launched into space by the United States and safely returned.

Previous animal flights

Previous United States efforts at launching monkeys to space had met with the animals’ demise from suffocation or parachute failure, and Soviet Union efforts had fared little better, to the chagrin of animal rights activists. The Soviet Union had recovered two dogs, the first mammals to be recovered from suborbital space flight, from an altitude of 101 kilometers (331,000 ft) on July 22, 1951 and subsequently recovered more dogs. The United States had flown monkeys and mice by Aerobee rocket to heights below the edge of space beginning in 1951.

Pre-flight

The squirrel monkey who was to become known as Miss Baker was purchased along with 25 other squirrel monkeys at a pet shop in Miami, Florida, and brought to the Naval Aviation Medical School in Pensacola. Fourteen of the candidates tolerated confinement for periods up to 24 hours, electrodes all over their bodies, and monitoring at all hours. Miss Baker “stood out from the rest because of her intelligence and loving, docile manner”, relayed Colin Burgess and Chris Dubbs in their 2007 book ‘Animals In Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle.’ For this, and her apparent pleasure at being handled with tender loving care, she earned the nickname TLC.

With experiments imminent, the Army named their monkey “Alpha,” and the Navy followed with “Bravo,” names taken directly from the phonetic alphabet. Before flight, though, the names changed to the first letters of the antiquated Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet.

The flight

Jupiter AM-18 stands ready for its 2:39am launch at Cape Canaveral launch complex 26B.

Miss Baker wore a helmet lined with rubber and chamois leather plus a jacket for launch, in addition to a respiration meter affixed to her nose with model cement, and she was fitted into a snug capsule of shoebox size, 9¾ × 12½ × 6¾ inches (24.8 × 31.8 × 17.1cm) insulated with rubber and fiberglass. Life support was an oxygen bottle with a pressure valve, and lithium hydroxide to absorb exhaled carbon dioxide and moisture.

On May 28, 1959, at 2:39am, a Jupiter rocket lifted Miss Baker and Miss Able to an altitude of 300 miles (480km) through an acceleration of 38 gs for a 16-minute flight which also included 9 minutes of weightlessness. The flight traveled 1,500 miles (2,400km) downrange from the pad at Cape Canaveral launch complex 26B to the Atlantic Ocean near Puerto Rico where the capsule was recovered by USS Kiowa.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Baker

May 20th

Paul William Richards (born May 20, 1964 in Scranton, Pennsylvania) is an American engineer and a former NASA Astronaut. He flew aboard one Space Shuttle mission in 2001.

NASA career

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Richards reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. Having completed two years of training and evaluation, he was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. Richards was initially assigned to the Computer Branch working on software for the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. He next served in the Astronaut Office Shuttle Operations Branch assigned to support Payload and General Support Computers (PGSCs) and the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL). Richards flew on STS-102 and has logged over 307 hours in space, including 6.4 EVA hours. He was assigned as a back-up crew member for ISS Expedition-7. Richards retired from NASA in February 2002 to pursue private interests.

In 2004 Richards returned to NASA GSFC as the Observatory Manager for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R Series). The GOES-R series is the next-generation of advanced weather satellites being developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with NASA.

Spaceflights

STS-102Discovery (March 8–21, 2001) was the eighth Shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station. Mission accomplishments included the delivery of the Expedition-2 crew and the contents of the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, the return to earth of the Expedition-1 crew, as well as the return of Leonardo, the reusable cargo carrier built by the Italian Space Agency. Richards performed an EVA totaling 6 hours and 21 minutes. Mission duration was 307 hours and 49 minutes.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_W._Richards

May 13th

Apollo 10

Mission Objective
The Apollo 10 mission encompassed all aspects of an actual crewed lunar landing, except the landing. It was the first flight of a complete, crewed Apollo spacecraft to operate around the Moon. Objectives included a scheduled eight-hour lunar orbit of the separated lunar module, or LM, and descent to about nine miles off the moon’s surface before ascending for rendezvous and docking with the command and service module, or CSM, in about a 70-mile circular lunar orbit. Pertinent data to be gathered in this landing rehearsal dealt with the lunar potential, or gravitational effect, to refine the Earth-based crewed spaceflight network tracking techniques, and to check out LM programmed trajectories and radar, and lunar flight control systems. Twelve television transmissions to Earth were planned. All mission objectives were achieved.

Mission Highlights
Apollo 10 launched from Cape Kennedy on May 18, 1969, into a nominal 115-mile circular Earth-parking orbit at an inclination of 32.5 degrees. One-and-a-half orbits later, translunar injection occurred. The S-IVB fired to increase velocity from 25,593 to 36,651 feet per second on a free-return trajectory. Twenty-five minutes later, the CSM separated for transposition and docking with the LM, similar to the maneuver performed on Apollo 9. The orbital vehicle was comprised of the S-IVB stage, and its payload of the CSM, the LM and spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, shroud. The Apollo 10 crew members were Commander Thomas Stafford, Command Module Pilot John Young and Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan.

The first live color TV transmissions to Earth began three hours after launch when Apollo 10 was 3,570 miles from Earth and concluded when the spacecraft was 9,428 miles away. The transmission showed the docking process and the interior of the CSM. About four hours after launch, Apollo 10 separated from the S-IVB sage, which was followed by another telecast from 14,625 miles out. A third TV transmission of pictures of Earth was made from 24,183 miles out, and a fourth telecast of the Earth was made from 140,000 miles.

The launch trajectory had been so satisfactory that only one of four midcourse corrections was needed. This was accomplished 26.5 hours into the flight. About 76 hours into the mission, lunar-orbit insertion occurred with the firing of the service propulsion system, or SPS. A second firing of the engine 4.5 hours later circularized the lunar orbit of Apollo 10 at approximately 69 miles, which was followed by the first color TV pictures to Earth of the moon’s surface.

Stafford and Cernan entered the LM and prepared for the undocking maneuver that occurred on the 12th revolution, a little more than 98 hours into the flight. At about 100 hours, on May 22, the vehicles separated and briefly flew a station-keeping lunar orbit of 66.7 by 71.5 miles. To achieve a simulation of the future Apollo 11 landing, the LM descent engine fired for 27.4 seconds, with 10 percent thrust for the first 15 seconds and 40 percent thrust for the rest. This brought the LM to a new orbit of 9.7 by 70.5 miles.

The LM flew over Landing Site 2 in the Sea of Tranquility. During this run, the LM landing radar was tested for altitude functioning, providing both “high gate” and “low gate” data. Following a 7.5-second firing of the LM reaction control system, or RCS, thrusters, the descent engine fired in two bursts for 40.1 seconds – at 10 percent and at full throttle – placing the LM into an orbit of 13.7 by 219 miles. On the 14th revolution, it reached a pericynthion of 12.7 miles and was “staged.” The descent stage jettisoned on a second attempt and an uncontrollable gyration of the ascent stage occurred. It was later attributed to an error in a flight-plan checklist, causing an incorrect switch position.

The ascent engine fired for 15 seconds, lowering the LM apocythion to 53.8 miles, 230 miles behind and below the CSM. The RCS thrusters fired for 27.3 seconds when the LM was 16.9 miles below the CSM and 170.4 miles behind, yielding an orbit of 54.5 by 48.1 miles. To prepare for the terminal phase of rendezvous, the RCS fired again, resulting in an orbit of 17.2 by 81.7 miles.

Stafford sighted the CSM’s running lights at about 48 miles. The 15-second terminal phase initiation firing reduced velocity as the LM entered an intercept trajectory and the two vehicles achieved station-keeping of the 16th lunar revolution. With Young in the CSM taking on an active rendezvous role, the vehicles were re-docked on May 23, slightly more than 106 hours into the mission. The LM ascent stage jettisoned and its engine fired to depletion.

The rest of the time in lunar orbit was spent on landmark tracking and photography. On the 31st orbit, the SPS restarted. Apollo 10 was on the back side of the moon when it was injected into a trans-Earth trajectory.

After a midcourse correction, and command and service module separation, Apollo 10 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere May 26. The module splashed down 165 degrees west, and 5 degrees, 8 minutes south in the Pacific Ocean. It’s landing was within television range of its primary recovery ship, the USS Princeton. Apollo 10 completed a flight of 192 hours, three minutes, 23 seconds – one minute, 24 seconds longer than planned. The Apollo 10 S-IVB third stage and LM ascent stage went into solar orbits. The LM descent stage went into a selenocentric orbit.

Crew
Thomas Stafford, Commander
Eugene Cernan, Lunar Module Pilot
John Young, Command Module Pilot

Backup Crew
L. Gordon Cooper Jr., Commander
Edgar D. Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot
Donn F. Eisele, Command Module Pilot

Payload
Charlie Brown (SM-106)
Snoopy (LM-4)

Prelaunch Milestones
12/10/68 – S-II stage ondock at Kennedy
11/27/68 – S-IC stage ondock at Kennedy
12/3/68 – S-IVB ondock at Kennedy
12/15/68 – S-IU ondock at Kennedy

Launch
May 18, 1969; 12:49 p.m. EDT
Launch Pad 39B
Saturn-V AS-505
High Bay 2
Mobile Launcher Platform-3
Firing Room 3

Orbit
Altitude: 118.83 miles
Inclination: 32.546 degrees
Orbits: 31 revolutions
Duration: eight days, 23 minutes, 23 seconds
Distance: 829,437.5 miles

Landing
May 26, 1969; 12:52:23 p.m. EDT
Pacific Ocean
Recovery Ship: USS Princeton

Source: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo10.html