From 3R’s to STEAM (Discovery Departure, Part 11) July 25, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Aviation, Space Exploration, Video Interviews.
Tags: Art & Science, Discovery Departure, Museums & Archives, Space Shuttle
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Although it seems ages ago at this point, a little over two months ago, we were in Washington, DC, watching two space shuttles, Discovery and Enterprise, move to their permanent homes. Discovery took up residence in the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, in a very deft and public move into the gallery that Enterprise formerly occupied. Enterprise headed for a new midtown address in the City that Never Sleeps, taking up residence at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
In our ten-hour day at Udvar-Hazy, we not only got to see Enterprise meet Discover;, the two shuttles had never been in the same place before. As members of the press, we had the opportunity to interview several of the speakers from that morning’s ceremony. We’ve already written about our interviews with astronaut and Senator John Glenn, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and the first woman to command a space shuttle, Eileen Collins. Two of our other conversations from that day were with people directly connected to Discovery’s new home: Dr. Wayne Clough, the twelfth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and General John R. Dailey, Director of the National Air and Space Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian system. Both men were enthusiastic about what has come to be known as STEAM.
We had heard of STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—before and make that the topic of one question we usually asked astronauts we meet. What, then, was STEAM? Dailey made it clear that art is now part of thinking when it comes to educating future generations and informing the public who wander their ways through the National Air & Space Museum’s two facilities. Art is crucial in the educational configuration of subjects because it embodies creativity, imagination, and innovation. The approach of the artist is necessary for big leaps in the STEM disciplines and important for cultural development more generally.
We had, in fact, viewed an art exhibit at the facility on The Mall the day before the Discovery installation and meeting these two men. The National Air and Space Museum has a 4500-object art collection, of which they have space to display very little. Dailey’s hope is for increased visibility of that collection in its current buildings and, importantly, a new art facility that will contain exhibits and long-term storage. Having seen images from the Hubble Telescope exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and, earlier, another exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, we can understand the importance and value of making such artwork available more widely. We can imagine the hundreds of paintings of aircraft that are currently in crates and out of view and how bringing those to light would generate a conversation about the relationships between form and function, aesthetics and technological innovation.
In addition to the physical objects, the National Air and Space Museum has committed to digitizing as much of its holdings as feasible, eventually making every artifact in its collection accessible online. Dailey stated that, when an artifact is added to the collection now, it is photographed in 144 views so that it can be rendered digitally in three dimensions. This commitment fits the museum’s mission and allows millions of teachers and students to study the museum’s collection.
Clough concurred, saying that he grew up in a small country town and was unaware that such things as these artifacts existed. “That’s a shame,” he stated, clearly wanting to ensure that future generations have more access to the artifacts of the century of flight and the objects of the Space Age than he did.
The National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts are on board with STEAM, each having new grant programs to encourage connections and collaborations between the arts and sciences. Though we hadn’t heard the term STEAM before talking with these two gentlemen, Lofty Ambitions has been engaged in this combination. We are, after all, a poet and a scientist. In addition, check out the following guest posts for some other great examples of STEAM in action:
You’re Wondering Now, What To Do July 21, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle, SpaceX
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Now you know this is the end—of shuttle. Today marks the first anniversary of the last-ever landing of a space shuttle, concluding that space program forever. Atlantis landed before dawn in Florida on July 21, 2011, and Anna stayed up very late in California to watch it on NASA-TV.
Click HERE for our slideshow at The Huffington Post.
If you remember that black-and-white image of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon’s surface, if you can recall images from the news coverage of the Challenger accident, if it ever crossed your mind that it might be fun to go to space, if you’ve realized that one of those bright dots moving in the night sky is the International Space Station or thought maybe there’s more to the universe for people to see, think of what this anniversary means: the end of U.S. manned spaceflight. As of today, the United States does not have, on its own, the capability to launch a human being into orbit or beyond.
A year ago, on July 8, 2011, space shuttle Atlantis lifted off right in front of our eyes at Kennedy Space Center. We saw the plumes, heard and felt the fundament-shaking roar of the engines and solid rocket boosters, and felt the heat waft over us. The orbiter rose into the cloud cover. The crew of four—Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus (a fellow Illinoisan), and Rex Walheim—completed the last shuttle mission to the International Space Station, spending more than twelve days circling two-hundred miles above our heads. A year ago, the crew woke to the song “God Bless America” and begin their descent. Upon landing, Commander Ferguson said, “After serving the world for over 30 years, the shuttle has earned its place in history, and it has come to a final stop.”
On the anniversary of that launch, we shared our slideshow with The Huffington Post. You can click HERE to scroll through those photos we took.
We also wrote a series of posts about our trip to the Space Coast for that launch, which included some amazing pre-launch, launch, and even post-launch activities, like a personal tour of Endeavour in de-processing, seeing SpaceX’s Dragon capsule (a possible corporate way to at least low-Earth orbit), and watching the last shuttle solid rocket booster hauled in from the Atlantic Ocean. You can read those posts HERE.
In case you haven’t watched our video of that launch, we’ve included it below, too. We’ll never again see anything quite like it in real life.
Tags: Discovery Departure, Mars, Museums & Archives, Radioactivity, Space Shuttle
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Earlier this year, we traveled to see the space shuttle Discovery transferred from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC. (We wrote about that trip in posts HERE.) During the day of installation activities at the museum, we wandered over to a tent set up for visitors to learn about the Orion space capsule and ideas for more ambitious human space travel in the future. Mike Hawes, Director of Human Spaceflight at Lockheed Martin Space Systems and formerly Chief Engineer for the International Space Station, wants to figure out how to go to Mars.
Hawes explained that, going forward, NASA—or any other entity planning space exploration—will spacecraft that can be differently configured for different missions. A mission to Mars would require a configuration like nothing we currently have, and the specific configuration of launcher and crew vehicle will depend on the plan for how to get there. If we decide to set up an outpost on the Moon and launch a crew from there in the direction of Mars, that plan would require certain design assumptions. Those assumptions would be different if, instead of using the Moon as a stopping point, we decide an asteroid is an intermediate goal.
Hawes asserts, “We need to do some form of Gemini again.” We didn’t race immediately into Apollo and the Moon in the 1960s, and Hawes thinks we need a program to learn more about deeper space, in this context, a mission beyond low-Earth orbit, before we can manage the trip to Mars. What Hawes most wants to happen next is to set up outposts at a Langrangian point or two. These points out in space are the spots between two big objects—like the Earth and the Moon—where the gravitational pull on a third object like a space station (something much smaller than the International Space Station, perhaps two Orion capsules joined together) would be balanced and hold that object in place, relative to the two bodies. (This relationship is referred to as the three-body problem.) Hawes’s choice of Langrangian points for such an outpost would be L2 which is situated farther from the Sun than Earth and farther from the Earth than the Moon. There, the gravitational forces of the Sun and Earth would hold a space station in place while we figured out how to manage the long mission to Mars.
Hawes isn’t the only one to pose this idea. Neil deGrasse Tyson has mentioned it as an option. In his book Space Chronicles, he says, “Unlike a launch from a planet’s surface, where most of your fuel goes to life you off the ground, a Lagrangian launch would be a low-energy affair and would resemble a ship leaving dry dock, cast into the sea with a minimal investment of fuel. [...W]e can think of Lagrangian points as gateways to the rest of the solar system. From the Sun-Earth Lagrangian points, you are halfway to Mars—not in distance or time but in the all-important category of fuel consumption.” He goes on to imagine a future upon which we come to depend on what Hawes proposes: “In one version of our spacefaring future, imagine filling stations at every Lagrangian point in the solar system, where travelers refill their rocket gas tanks en route to visit friends and relatives living on other planets or moons.”
Hawes built on this idea, suggesting that an outpost could cycle between the L2 and L3 Langrangian points in the Earth-Moon system. As he talked, we started imagining how this sort of mission could be an end in itself, whether or not we want to go to Mars. Hawes points out that one of the most important things such a program would investigate is the psychology of deep space travel. For a crew hanging out at a Langrangian point, according to Hawes, there could be re-supply ships sent roughly every twenty-eight days, but there would be no “anytime return.” The crew would be stuck in a way no human space traveler has been stranded before.
We brought up a concern that STS-133 crew member and physician Michael Barratt has brought to our attention on a couple of different occasions. (See one of Barratt’s earlier conversations with us HERE.) Barratt studies the effects of radiation on the human body, and he says deep space poses huge obstacles because the radiation to which a crew would be exposed on a trip to Mars, using current propulsion systems and the speed they can achieve, would likely kill them. Hawes responded, “Internally, we have more shielding [in the vehicle], more shielding to do that [protect the crew from radiation], but Mike’s right.” Hawes sees the problem as something engineers can solve and adds, “We need to start testing materials to those radiation levels.” In other words, we have some basic problems to solve before we can send astronauts very far at all.
“The doctors always seem behind where the crew is ready to go,” Hawes said. That echoed a conversation we had with Jim Tully, the mayor of Titusville, Florida, who said he’d go on a one-way mission to Mars if he had the chance. People are excited about the idea of going to Mars, regardless of practical issues and regardless of the fact that we’ve already sent rovers there. And active research into how a human might survive the trip is underway, with the Mars Science Lander hauling along on its voyage to Mars a radiation detector so that we can measure and better understand the deep space radiation environment.
In fact, Curiosity will join Spirit and Opportunity on that planet’s surface in August. But Hawes thinks rovers have limits. A rover moves a few feet, stops, and reports back, with a lag time in communication. Rovers are useful but tedious, according to Hawes. “If it’s just robots,” he said, “they’re [the general public] not really invested in the vision.”
Everyone seems to agree that, if we’re going to send human beings anywhere beyond Earth’s orbit, we need a vision. Without a vision, we’ll miss the chance to solve a lot of problems, including radiation effects on people, and the chance to understand the universe in new ways. “We’re really just on the verge of needing these things,” Hawes told us. But he sees a bright future, in the near and long term, if we form a vision: NASA-based long-distance space programs are “going to engender commercial opportunities.” Just this month, NASA revealed more of its deep-space vision with the unveiling of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
The Cold War: Trinity & Apollo July 16, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Science.
Tags: Apollo, Movies & TV, Nuclear Weapons, Physics, Serendipity, WWII
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On this date in 1945, the United States exploded the first nuclear weapon. A test to see whether the concept worked. It did.
Two years ago to commemorate this anniversary, only a couple of weeks after we started blogging together as Lofty Ambitions, we posted “A Day with Two Suns.” That’s a relatively brief post that we hope you’ll read along with this one. That post hinges on a statement in a physics textbook from 1942 that presages the eventual use of an atomic bomb and implies the inevitability of nuclear weapons, once radioactivity and isotopes of uranium and plutonium were discovered and studied by scientists.
“The Gadget” was perched at the top of a hundred-foot tower and exploded on July 16, 1945. It had a twenty-kiloton yield. A device of the same design was detonated over Nagasaki a few weeks later, killing 40,000 people instantly. The exact detonation site for the Trinity test in New Mexico is now marked with an obelisk and is open to visitors two days every year.
On this anniversary of the beginning of the nuclear age, we invite you to look at another link as well, not ours, but an artist’s rendering in video of the nuclear age through 1998. Click HERE for Isao Hasimoto’s powerful representation of the world’s nuclear detonations, beginning with the Trinity test. In the top banner, note the detonation count by country along with the months and years elapsing. Since 1998 and the timeframe Hashimoto represents, North Korea has tested two nuclear weapons. That brings the total to 2055 nuclear explosions.
Tomorrow, too, marks another anniversary, that of the last above-ground nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site (now called the Nevada National Security Site and worth the click for the security notice). In 1962, Little Feller I was a comparatively small weapon shot from a Davy Crockett launcher. All nuclear tests thereafter moved underground to prevent fallout sprinkling radioactive particles around the globe and to protect the atmosphere and those of us who would breathe it for decades to come. Plutonium occurs almost nowhere in the natural world, but in the nuclear era, we swim in a thin stream of the man-made element as a byproduct of atmospheric testing in addition to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Plutonium-239, the isotope used for nuclear weapons, has a half-life of more than 24,000 years. You may also want to take a few minutes to read “Fission & Half-Lives.”
With the nuclear age, of course, came the Cold War, our decades of standoff with the Soviet Union. Part of the story of the Cold War is the story of the space race. The Soviets won the race to space, putting the first man into space, then the first man into low-Earth orbit. The United States won the race to the Moon. That victory began on this date in 1969, when Apollo 11 launched from Kennedy Space Center, with throngs of viewers crowded in the J.C Penney parking lot across the Indian River. A few days later, on July 20, Neil Armstrong, then Buzz Aldrin, stepped onto the lunar surface while Michael Collins circled across the far side of the Moon. The three splashed down safely on July 24, 1969.
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of another space exploration milestone as well, a friendly gesture between Cold War enemies, the Apollo-Soyuz mission. In 1975, the Soviet Union launched a Soyuz capsule and the United States launched an Apollo capsule. The two capsules docked in orbit on this date, and Tom Stafford and Alexey Leonov gave rise to the first outer-space handshake between nations. (Watch the docking HERE.)
We are no longer surprised by this sort of serendipity, by the fact that important historical events in two different realms about which we write—nuclear history and space exploration—would occur on the same date, years apart in the twentieth century. We find that this sort of serendipity happens regularly, while other dates contain nothing of import for our work at Lofty Ambitions.
What continues to surprise us is a different type of serendipity, one in which we seem actively involved. As we draft this post and realize that tomorrow marks the anniversary of Apollo-Soyuz, we have just watched the film The Far Side of the Moon, about which we knew almost nothing when we added it to our Netflix queue. The title, for us, was enough. It turns out that Alexey Leonov, the Soviet hand in that interstellar, Cold War handshake, plays a prominent role in The Far Side of the Moon. We don’t want to give too much away—the film is not about Leonov but about a philosophy of science student and his weatherman brother, in the wake of their mother’s death. We would have enjoyed the film any time because it is quirky, tells a character-driven story, and tries interesting cinematic moves. But that we happened to watch this film when it would be especially meaningful to us because of this anniversary is one of the pleasures we keep finding in our work together here.
The Demise of Skylab July 11, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Science, Space Exploration.
Tags: Space Shuttle
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Several weeks ago, we wrote a post called “Happy Birthday, Skylab” to commemorate the anniversary of the orbiting laboratory’s launch in 1973. Today marks the anniversary of Skylab’s demise in 1979, also on a Wednesday. The six-year run paved the way for the International Space Station we currently have orbiting above our heads.
The last Skylab mission, SL-4, lasted 84 days, ending on February 8, 1974. The three astronauts—Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Edward Gibson—had never flown to space before and never would again. The shower was more trouble than Skylab crews thought it was worth, but the food was okay. This crew performed four spacewalks, did chores and science experiments, and took lots of photographs of Earth, a comet, and a solar flare. When they left, they closed but did not lock the hatch, hoping that another crew would someday visit.
That summer on 1979, Anna was thirteen years old, and Doug was twelve, and Skylab was on the evening news. We hoped Skylab’s demise would come on our side of the globe, so that we could watch its fiery decent. NASA, though, was working to make sure that the pieces to fell into the Pacific Ocean, so as to avoid hitting land and especially people. After all, the space object was the equivalent of a 77-ton, nine-story, little building. Far from the ocean, we didn’t see the show in person. NASA miscalculated the fall slightly, and Skylab didn’t burn up as fast as engineers expected, so there were some good-sized pieces that came through the atmosphere, and a few of them landed in Australia.
Time, in an article that hit news stands several days after Skylab fell, noted that people really shouldn’t worry about being hit by debris: “[O]n each of Skylab’s 90-minute orbits of the earth, nearly 67 minutes, or 75%, is spent over water. What all that means, contend NASA’s statisticians, is that the chance of any remnant striking a human being is only 1 in 152; the probability of any specific person being struck is 1 in 600 billion—far less than the chance of being hit by a bolt of lightning or winning a lottery.” On the other hand, according to the same article, the chance of debris—maybe that two-ton film vault—hitting inside a city with a population of more than 100,000 was estimated at one in seven. For comparison, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is estimated at one in eight, a lower risk.
Americans weren’t worried, though. An insurance representative, according to the Time article, assured folks that regular home owner’s policies covered any damage that might be caused by Skylab. At the time, we saw t-shirts and heard about parties to watch the event on television. Two San Francisco newspapers offered rewards to readers who could produce Skylab debris or evidence of being hit by debris. In an unusual move, NASA said that people who found debris could keep it. So when an Australian man did end up with a piece, he was flown to San Francisco to collect his money. A piece of Skylab, weighing more than a ton, was displayed during the Miss Universe pageant held in Australia on July 20. Skylab became part of the pop culture of our childhoods.
Had the space shuttle been ready to launch before 1979, it could have been used to push Skylab into higher orbit to extend the life of the science laboratory and keep it from falling back to Earth. Skylab had not been used after February 1974, after one unmanned and three manned missions, but it was still up there and operational enough to welcome another crew, so why not reactivate it? Once in higher orbit, the shuttle could have run missions to make necessary repairs and update the science equipment onboard. Folks even talked of expanding its size by adding modules. But the shuttle’s first launch didn’t occur until April 1981. Skylab had already met its end.
Roswell: 65 Years of Alien Invasion July 8, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Movies & TV, Museums & Archives, Nuclear Weapons
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Today is the sixty-fifth anniversary of the reported crash of an UFO at Roswell, New Mexico. As is often the case, your Lofty duo takes its inspiration from the events that surround us, from the larger world that our lives move with and through. Although we’ve largely ignored Roswell and UFOs—and the oft-related Area 51—when we heard about today’s anniversary (the purported crash didn’t take place today, it’s the anniversary of the Army’s press release acknowledging the event), we decided to acknowledge the event, if only for its influence on our lives through popular culture.
When talking about whether or not to write about Roswell and Area 51, we were forthright with each other about what this might mean for the blog. Over the years, we’ve received email offers to show us photos that “prove” the existence of aliens, we’ve spoken to aerospace industry veterans who worked at Area 51, and we’ve even visited Roswell. If all of that makes us seem like true believers, we’re not.
Roswell was the logical stopping place in our trek across the country for our move to California. All right, we’ll cop to that not being 100% accurate. We did go a bit out of our way to spend the night in Roswell, and we slowed our journey by a few hours to visit Roswell’s UFO Museum. So, why would we do that? Part of the answer lies in the undeniable effect that the Roswell crash has had on our popular culture. It’s been featured heavily in television, including having an entire show—the eponymous, teen angst drama Roswell—that relied on the event’s continuously unfolding lore. Countless Hollywood films, blockbusters and B-movies alike, have borrowed part of the Roswell crash narrative for their plots. And this summer, we have found ourselves watching the X-Files again, from soup to nuts.
We imagine that most bloggers who write about aviation and space get an email or two from former Area 51 workers who have seen something or know something. In the UFO community, Area 51 is linked to the Roswell incident as the ultimate destination of the crashed-then-recovered flying disk. Furthering the mythology, Area 51 is also home to a decades-long attempt to re-engineer the alien technology that allowed the craft and its occupants to travel the implausible (to humans) distances that separate the galaxies and planets that make up our universe.
Area 51 is not a mythological place; it’s real. Area 51 was founded in the mid-1950s as an airbase for the CIA to flight test the U-2 spyplane. The base is an enormous military and civilian installation that has required the services of thousands of aerospace workers in its fifty-year history. In alignment with other of our interests, Area 51 abuts the northeast corner of the Nevada Test Site (now the Nevada National Security Site), a square-shaped slice of desert real estate larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. The Nevada Test Site, which we’ve written about HERE, HERE, and HERE, was home to almost one thousand atomic and nuclear weapons tests during the Cold War.
We’ve visited and done research at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas more than once. In fact, part of our nerd-cred rests on the fact that we spent the first day of what unexpectedly became our honeymoon working in the archives of the National Atomic Testing Museum. Our most recent visit to the museum less than a month ago coincided with a special exhibit on—you guessed it—Area 51. The exhibit, Area 51: Myth or Reality, is heavy on reinforcing the Roswell and Area 51 legend. Each visitor is given a special pass to enter, and a video featuring a “Man in Black” warns you about security. A significant portion of the exhibit, however, focuses on Area 51’s role as a spyplane flight test center.
In this respect, the exhibit resembled a recent book that Doug read, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base by Los Angeles-based journalist Annie Jacobsen. While we’ll leave a review for another post, Jacobsen mentions that she too did research in the archives of the National Atomic Testing Museum, and some of her human sources for the book are affiliated with the museum. So even though we haven’t become true believers in the Roswell and Area 51 stories of aliens, as bloggers who write about space exploration and science, these stories lurk in the periphery.
That’s not to say that we have enough hubris to think that the only intelligent life exists here on Earth. Even the esteemed scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains, “At the moment, life on Earth is the only known life in the universe, but compelling arguments suggest we are not alone. Indeed, nearly all astrophysicists accept the high probability of life elsewhere.” After all, there’s an awfully big universe out there, so we can’t be sure we’re that special. Even here on Earth, there’s a lot of variety among living things. The way extraterrestrial visitors have been portrayed in popular culture and common lore doesn’t capture the possibilities that might exist out there.
Tags: Physics, Space Shuttle
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As you might expect, we stayed up late last night to listen live to the press conference from CERN announcing that physicists found that elusive Higgs boson. They’ve been looking for this subatomic particle ever since six scientists, including Peter Higgs, now 83 years old, suggested in the 1960s that it might exist and that it could answer some questions about the early state of the universe, in particular, why we have orderly, discrete objects as opposed to mass-less chaos. Yep, two research teams working at the Large Hadron Collider have discovered a new particle, and these physicists are pretty sure that it’s the Higgs boson. There remains a one in 3.5 million chance that it’s a fluke, but those are incredibly convincing odds that this particle is the real thing. And it behaves like the Higgs boson has been predicted to behave, with the expected mass and kind of decay.
Congratulations all around. It’s good to see science as the big news story today. And in one of those serendipitous collisions that make us happy to be at Chapman University, Francois Englert, one of the scientists who originally eveloped the theory that predicted the Higgs boson, will be on campus on August 16-18 for a conference that Doug is helping to organize. If you want to read a good basic article at Reuters, click HERE. And Scientific American has pieces posted HERE and HERE. And HERE is one just for fun.
July 4 also marks the anniversary of several space shuttle events, the most important of which is the landing of STS-4 in 1982. The first four shuttle missions were flown by the orbiter Columbia, this one with astronauts Ken Mattingly and Hank Hartsfield. (See our video interview with Hartsfield HERE.) After seven days in space and some top-secret tasks up there, the two astronauts landed at Edwards Air Force Base, the first time an orbiter landed on a concrete runway. Mattingly and Hartsfield struggled to get out of their seats—Mattingly cut his head in the effort—and move around naturally after a week in low-gravity. Emerging from the orbiter, the astronauts were greeted by President and Mrs. Reagan at the bottom of the stairs. The president declared the space shuttle “fully operational.” After a rousing rendition of God Bless America, with the orbiter Enterprise behind him, Reagan added, “Happy Fourth of July, and you know this has got to beat firecrackers.”
STS-121 launched on July 4 in 2006. Aboard this second “return to flight” mission after the Columbia accident were seven astronauts, including Mark Kelly, whom we saw launch on STS-134, and Steve Lindsey, whom we saw launch on STS-135. Originally, STS-121 was supposed to be accomplished by Atlantis, but when mechanical problems crept up, Discovery jumped ahead in the mission queue to deliver several items to the International Space Station. As a “return to flight” test mission, it incorporated responses to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, namely addressing problems of debris hitting the orbiter during liftoff, a problem that had occurred on the first “return to flight” mission a year earlier. STS-121 included testing procedures to look for damage to the thermal protection system, in the event that debris had hit the orbiter during launch. When the mission concluded successfully, the space shuttle was, once again, deemed fully operational for ongoing trips to the space station.
With STS-4, flown by Columbia, and STS-121, a “return to flight” mission after the Columbia accident, in mind, we commemorate two July astronaut birthdays. Kalpana Chalwa, a research scientist who flew on the doomed STS-107 mission, was born on July 1, 1961, in India and became a United States citizen in 1990. Rick Husband, who commanded that last and fatal Columbia mission, was born on July 12, 1957, in Amarillo, Texas. Each had flown one previous mission. For all those—astronauts and relatives—who were born in July and are no longer with us, we are grateful to have shared your company for a while.