News

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

6th May 2019

On May 6, 1968, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong almost met his fate while simulating a lunar landing. This was a little over a year before he would become the first person to walk on the moon. 

Armstrong was flying in a machine called the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston when some leaking propellant caused a total failure of the flight controls. After tumbling around in the air for a few seconds, it started to fall out of the sky. 

Armstrong had to eject himself from the simulator when it was just 30 feet above the ground, and he safely parachuted down while his aircraft crashed and burned. If he had waited even just one second longer to hit the eject button, he would have been killed by the fiery explosion. 

But Armstrong kept his cool the whole time, and he went right back to work in his office after the accident.

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

29th April

On April 29, 1985, the European Space Agency’s Spacelab launched on the space shuttle Challenger on mission STS-51B. This was the second time the Spacelab went to space and the first time it flew in a fully operational configuration. 

Spacelab pallets had flown to space on three previous shuttle missions, but this was the first time that the entire laboratory was used to conduct research in microgravity. Spacelab provided a platform for five fields of research: astronomy, atmospheric physics, materials science, life science and fluid dynamics. 

The lab was shaped like a cylinder and measured about 23 feet long, or about the length of a short school bus. The pressurized module was housed in the shuttle’s cargo bay. Seven astronauts, two monkeys and 24 rodents launched with Spacelab during STS-51B. After spending a week doing research in space, they landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base.

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

April 15th 2019

On April 15, 2005, NASA launched a spacecraft on a mission to rendezvous with a small communications satellite. The launch went according to plan, but the mission ended abruptly when the spacecraft collided with the satellite. 

The mission was known as DART, which is short for Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology. Its objective was to demonstrate that a fully automated and uncrewed spacecraft could rendezvous with another spacecraft in orbit. But the two spacecraft were not supposed to make contact. 

When DART approached its target, it ran out of fuel and inadvertently bumped into it. Investigators determined that DART’s thrusters had been firing excessively because of a problem with its navigation system. It was a soft collision, and neither of the spacecraft were noticeably damaged.  

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

April 12th 2019

Yuri’s Night is an international celebration held every April 12 to commemorate milestones in space exploration. Yuri’s Night is named for the first human to launch into space, Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spaceship on April 12, 1961. The launch of STS-1, the first Space Shuttle mission, is also honored, as it was launched 20 years to the day of Vostok 1 on April 12, 1981. In 2011, Yuri’s Night was celebrated at over 567 events in 75 countries on 7 continents.

Yuri’s Night is often called the “World Space Party”.

The goal of Yuri’s Night is to increase public interest in space exploration and to inspire a new generation of explorers. Driven by space-inspired artistic expression and culminating in a worldwide network of annual celebrations and educational events, Yuri’s Night creates a global community of young people committed to shaping the future of space exploration while developing responsible leaders and innovators with a global perspective. These global events are a showcase for elements of culture that embrace space including music, dance, fashion, and art.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri%27s_Night

April 1st 2019

NASA’s Curiosity rover mission recently determined that background levels of methane in Mars’ atmosphere cycle seasonally, peaking in the northern summer. These finds have intrigued astrobiologists, because methane is a possible biosignature. The vast majority of methane in Earth’s air is pumped out by microbes and other living creatures.

Some answers may soon be on the horizon, because that June 2013 detection has just been firmed up. Europe’s Mars Express orbiter noted the spike as well from that spacecraft’s perch high above the Red Planet, a new study reports.

Source: https://www.space.com/mars-methane-plume-confirmed-location.html


25th March 2019

Construction began on Columbia in 1975 at Rockwell International’s (formerly North American Aviation/North American Rockwell) principal assembly facility in Palmdale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Columbia was named after the American sloopColumbia Rediviva which, from 1787 to 1793, under the command of Captain Robert Gray, explored the US Pacific Northwest and became the first American vessel to circumnavigate the globe. It is also named after the Command Module of Apollo 11, the first manned landing on another celestial body.Columbia was also the female symbol of the United States. After construction, the orbiter arrived at Kennedy Space Center on March 25, 1979, to prepare for its first launch. Columbia was originally scheduled to lift off in late 1979, however the launch date was delayed by problems with both the Space Shuttle main engine (SSME), as well as the thermal protection system (TPS).[ On March 19, 1981, during preparations for a ground test, workers were asphyxiated while working in Columbia’s nitrogen-purged aft engine compartment, resulting in (variously reported) two or three fatalities.[

The first flight of Columbia (STS-1) was commanded by John Young, a veteran from the Gemini and Apollo programs who was the ninth person to walk on the Moon in 1972, and piloted by Robert Crippen, a rookie astronaut originally selected to fly on the military’s Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) spacecraft, but transferred to NASA after its cancellation, and served as a support crew member for the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz missions.

Columbia spent 610 days in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF), another 35 days in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and 105 days on Pad 39A before finally lifting off.[ Columbia was successfully launched on April 12, 1981, the 20th anniversary of the first human spaceflight (Vostok 1), and returned on April 14, 1981, after orbiting the Earth 36 times, landing on the dry lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Columbia then undertook three further research missions to test its technical characteristics and performance. Its first operational mission, with a four-man crew, was STS-5, which launched on November 11, 1982. At this point Columbia was joined by Challenger, which flew the next three shuttle missions, while Columbia underwent modifications for the first Spacelab mission.

In 1983, Columbia, under the command of John Young on what was his sixth spaceflight, undertook its second operational mission (STS-9), in which the Spacelab science laboratory and a six-person crew was carried, including the first non-American astronaut on a space shuttle, Ulf Merbold. After the flight, Columbia spent 18 months at the Rockwell Palmdale facility beginning in January 1984, undergoing modifications that removed the Orbiter Flight Test hardware and bringing it up to similar specifications as those of its sister orbiters. At that time the shuttle fleet was expanded to include Discovery and Atlantis.

Columbia returned to space on January 12, 1986, with the launch of STS-61-C. The mission’s crew included Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz, as well as the first sitting member of the House of Representatives to venture into space, Bill Nelson.

The next shuttle mission, STS-51-L, was undertaken by Challenger. It was launched on January 28, 1986, ten days after STS-61-C had landed, and ended in disaster 73 seconds after launch. In the aftermath NASA’s shuttle timetable was disrupted, and Columbia was not flown again until 1989 (on STS-28), after which it resumed normal service as part of the shuttle fleet.

STS-93, launched on July 23, 1999, was the first U.S. space mission with a female commander, Lt. Col. Eileen Collins. This mission deployed the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Columbia’s final successful mission was STS-109, the fourth servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. Its next mission, STS-107, culminated in the orbiter’s loss when it disintegrated during reentry, killing all seven of its crew.

Consequently, President George W. Bush decided to retire the Shuttle orbiter fleet by 2010 in favor of the Constellation program and its manned Orion spacecraft. The Constellation program was later cancelled with the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 signed by President Barack Obama on October 11.

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

March 18th 2019

On March 18, 1980, a Soviet rocket exploded on the launchpad and killed 48 people. 

The Vostok-2M rocket was about to launch a new spy satellite called Tselina-D. Military technicians were working to fuel the rocket on the launchpad at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a top-secret spaceport a few hundred miles north of Moscow. 

It wasn’t until three years after the explosion happened that the Soviets admitted that this secret spaceport existed. They continued to keep the deadly explosion a secret until 1989. State officials blamed the explosion on human error. But a later investigation determined the cause to be a design flaw with the rocket.

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