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Reasons to Celebrate This Weekend June 8, 2016

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Science, Space Exploration.
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Here’s Lofty Ambitions giving you an excuse to party on Friday!

Apollo9

June 10, 1929: Gemini 4 and Apollo 9 astronaut Jim McDivitt was born in Chicago. He commanded his first spaceflight, something only a handful of astronauts have done. (As an aside, The Cure are playing in Chicago on Friday–just saying.)

June 10, 1929: Biologist and author E.O. Wilson was also born on this date. He has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize twice, for On Human Nature and The Ants.

June 10, 2003: The Mars rover Spirit launched from Kennedy Space Center. It landed on January 4, 2004, performed admirably even after it got stuck in soil in 2009, and sent its last signal back to Earth on March 22, 2010.

June 11, 2008: The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was launched into low-Earth orbit to perform astronomical observation. In September, it observed the most energetic gamma-ray burst that humans have recorded, and that’s just one of its numerous discoveries. It may have recorded the same black hole collision that LIGO observed last year and which was announced this February.

June 12, 1967: Venera 4 was launched toward Venus by the Soviet Union. It became the first probe to send data back to Earth from another planet’s atmosphere, and it confirmed that Venus was indeed very hot and surprised scientists by reporting a denser atmosphere than expected.

On This Date: 5 Things May 25, 2016

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May 25, 1931: Georgy Grechko was born in Leningrad. He grew up to become a cosmonaut who flew on several Soviet missions to space and spent almost a month aboard the Salyut 4 space station in 1975, almost three months aboard Salyut 6 in 1977, and eight days on Salyut 7.

May 25, 1961: President John F. Kennedy told a joint session of Congress that the United States should send human beings to the Moon by the end of the decade.

May 25, 1977: The film Star Wars: A New Hope was released. We were youngsters then who came of age knowing of a galaxy far, far away where one might use The Force for good or evil. It quickly became the highest-grossing film of all time and held that record until E.T.

May 25, 2008: The Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars, NASA’s first successful landing on the Red Planet in a polar region. It confirmed the existence of water ice and researched the possible history of water there. Notably, the mission cost $386 million, including the launch itself; this relatively reasonable cost for a space mission (the last shuttle missions cost more each) was achieved by incorporating unused hardware from earlier programs.

May 25, 2012: SpaceX’s Dragon (supposedly named after the song from our childhood, “Puff, the Magic Dragon”) docked with the International Space Station, the first time a commercial spacecraft had done such a thing. SpaceX is developing Dragon so that it can fly crew as well as supplies to ISS.

BONUS: On May 26, 1951, astronaut and physicist Sally Ride was born. Ride became part of the first astronaut class to include women and became the first American woman to travel to space, when she flew aboard Challenger in 1983. She later served on the Rogers Commission that investigated the Challenger accident and, even later, revealed that she’d passed along the crucial information about the booster o-rings. Ride died in 2012, the too-common result of pancreatic cancer. This Thursday, celebrate the life of Sally Ride!

DOUBLE-BONUS: On May 28, 1912the first female radio astronomer was born in Australia. Ruby Payne-Smith, while working at a cancer research center, determined that the Earth’s magnetism doesn’t have much affect on bodily functioning of humans. She discovered Type I and Type II radio bursts, helped with the first radio interferometer observation to determine a solar burst in 1946, and she did top secret work on radar during World War II. She died on this date–May 25, 1981.

On This Date: Apollo 10 May 18, 2016

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Apollo10Moon

Apollo 10 launched on May 18, 1969, from Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center. That was the only Saturn V rocket to launch from LC-39B.

CernanAnna

Anna & Gene Cernan!

The crew–Tom Stafford, John Young, and Gene Cernan–had all flown to space before and would all travel to space again in subsequent missions. Stafford flew on the Apollo-Soyuz project in 1975, Young commanded Apollo 16 and the first space shuttle mission, and Cernan goes down in history as the last person to have his boots on the Moon as part of Apollo 17.

Apollo 10 was the first spacecraft to broadcast live video in color.

The Command Module and Lunar Module were named for for Peanuts characters, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, respectively. Snoopy, with Stafford and Young aboard, tested the Lunar Module by descending to toward the Moon’s surface without getting close enough to land. Cernan himself later wrote that the lander was too heavy to land and guarantee ascent back to the Command Module, and the lore is that NASA left it short of fuel so that the astronauts wouldn’t be tempted to land. Snoopy was left adrift after Stafford and Young were back in the Command Module, and the Lunar Module eventually crashed into the Moon.

While it has never been secret, recently, Apollo 10 hit the news when a documentary supposedly revealed what the astronauts called “whistling” and “outer-space-type music.” It sounds to us like a high-pitched vacuum cleaner running in the background or the sort of radio interference one might encounter on Earth if one is listening to AM radio. Read more and watch the video at Space.com HERE. What we appreciate more about this audio and that of Apollo 16 is that John Young calls his crewmates “babe.”

On This Date: 5 Anniversaries for April 20 April 20, 2016

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Science, Space Exploration, Video Interviews.
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Looking for something to ponder or celebration today, April 20? Here you go!

1862: Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard prove that spontaneous generation doesn’t happen. If you’re still hoping that something can come from nothing, you’re more than 150 years behind the times.

MarieCurieAmHist1902: Pierre and Marie Curie radium chloride, the first compound of radium to be isolated in a pure state. In 2013, the FDA approved radium chloride as a treatment for prostate cancer. We’ve written about the Curies before; check out more info about Pasteur and Curie HERE.

CubsBoard1916: One hundred years ago on this date, the Chicago Cubs played their first game in what has become Wrigley Field on this date. While this anniversary is beside the usual topics of Lofty Ambitions, we’re lifelong Cubs fans, and we like an excuse for a celebration.

1937: George Takei was born in Los Angeles. He later played Sulu in the television show Star Trek and subsequent films. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter and not following George Takei, you’re missing out.

Lofty&CharlieDuke1972: John Young and Charlie Duke land on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission. See our interviews with the wonderful Charlie Duke HERE and HERE.

Bonus: In April 2012, we had followed the orbiter Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the National Air and Space Museum‘s Udvar-Hazy facility. April 20th was that oribter’s first full day as a museum artifact.

DiscoveryMoving2

Apollo Guidance Computer (#StateOfNASA | #NASASocial April 13, 2016

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In February, Doug spent a day at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) attending a #NASASocial event dubbed #StateOfNASA.

One of the day’s highlights occurred when Dr. Chrisitian Gelzer (Armstrong’s Historian) brought a tiny, shiny box with black keys on its front face into the room. Doug immediately recognized the device as an object from an earlier age: an Apollo Guidance Computer. Here’s what we learned about this computer in particular and the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) generally.

#1. Apollo 15

DOUG-DSKYWhen he first saw the computer, Doug assumed that it was a model, and then Gelzer said, “This is the Apollo 15 Command module guidance computer.” At that point, Doug said, “Can you repeat that?” And Gelzer did. Channeling his inner twelve-year-old, Doug then said, “May I touch it?” And he did. After regaining his senses, Doug realized that what Gelzer had brought out that day was actually the DSKY, the user interface that astronauts used to control the AGC. The actual AGC was a much larger object than the DSKY (roughly three times longer and two times wider and weighing seventy pounds), but it was still quite small for computers of that day-gone-by.

The story that Gelzer told of how the computer that guided astronauts Dave Scott, Al Worden, and James Irwin to the moon and back is charming and serendipitous.

Basically, an AGC was requested by a Dryden (now Armstrong) lead test engineer to use in a new flight-test program. One of the 48 back-up computers for Apollo was sent from Houston, and it was summarily destroyed (Oh, no, blue smoke…) when it was installed into the test plane (see #4 below). A second AGC was requested and received. It was only after it arrived at Armstrong (then Dryden) did anyone there realize that it was the Apollo 15 AGC—the actual, used-in-space Apollo 15 AGC. Of course, NASA HQ wanted it back. Dryden said, No take backs. NASA HQ said, Well, OK. But try not to destroy this one.

#2. Alarm!

Duke-1201

Charlie Duke in Houston: not alarmed? (NASA)

Each Apollo mission—save Apollo 8—required two AGCs: one for the Command Module and one for the Lunar Module. One moment of highest tension during the Apollo 11 moon landing occurred when the AGC issued alarms. As the lunar module descended, the AGC issued two types of alarms (1201 and 1202) that resulted from the real-time computer system being overloaded by information it was receiving from the rendezvous radar. After quickly checking the books, Houston decided these alarms were not too alarming and gave Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the go ahead to land on the Moon.

LEM-Landing

lunar module landing (NASA)

 

 

#3. Rope Core Memory

rope core memory (not from the AGC). (Johann H. Addicks - Eigenes Werk)

rope core memory (not from the AGC). (Johann H. Addicks – Eigenes Werk)

The AGC has several interesting design features, including the first extensive use of Integrated Circuits (ICs) in a general-purpose computer. Another feature was use of rope core technology for the AGC’s Read Only Memory (ROM). ROM is often referred to as nonvolatile memory, meaning that contents of the memory cannot be changed. In rope core memory, this means that the programs were actually woven into the memory.

 

#4. Fly-by-Wire

F-8 Crusader that flew the Apollo 15 AGC and DSKY (Doug)

F-8 Crusader that flew the Apollo 15 AGC and DSKY (Doug)

The AGC was brought to the California desert (see #1 above) to be a part of a flight test program for digital fly-by-wire aircraft. The program was highly successful and influence most fly-by-wire systems that came after it.

 

 

#5. Avalon

In addition, a variant of the AGC was used as the navigation computer on the Navy’s Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle. That’s a pretty cool example of reuse.

Avalon,_Morro_Bay_2015_1

One Big Thing: Generation Space! March 28, 2016

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Space Exploration, Writing.
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!_GenSpace_web

We’re thrilled to announce that Stillhouse Press will publish Generation Space: A Love Story in February 2017.

We’ll have postcards and bookmarks available at the AWP Bookfair this week, both at the Stillhouse Press booth (#708) and the Chapman University & Tabula Poetica booth (#701).

Though we didn’t realize it at the time, this book began in the fall of 2010, when we started actively following the end of the space shuttle program and writing Lofty Ambitions blog. Really, though, Generation Space began when we were toddlers in Illinois watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing on television. In 1986, we were each in college when Challenger broke apart, a definitive moment for young adults and children across the nation. In 2008, we moved to Southern California to reorient their lives together and, as a serendipitous result, set out on the adventure that Lofty Ambitions blog has chronicled.

Generation Space is our love story, in part, and also a love story about the Space Age and the long generation that grew up in the shadow of Shuttle. Our book grapples with and celebrates who we are, how far we’ve gone, and what the future might hold.

For a short essay about Anna’s love story with Shuttle, check out “The Composed Soul” in Barrelhouse’s Weird Love feature.

Note: The mosaic’d image of us was made with Loft Ambitions and NASA photos run through AndreaMosaic software; in this way, we are composed of the Space Age we represent. The background photo of the STS-135 launch is from NASA, furthering the intersection. The postcard design was completed by the Ideation Lab at Chapman University.

5 Views of Skylab B at NASM March 9, 2016

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Two Skylab modules were built. The first launched in 1973, was occupied as a science laboratory for 171 of its 2,249 days in orbit, and re-entered Earth’s atmosphere in 1979. Read more about Skylab HERE and HERE.

The second, Skylab B, is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, where visitors can walk through its living and working quarters. Here’s the view (times 5):

Skylab1

 

Skylab2

 

Skylab3

 

Skylab4

Imagine a shower in zero gravity!

Imagine a shower in zero gravity!

5 Artifacts of Apollo at NASM March 2, 2016

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Anna was recently in Washington, DC, for a conference related to her role as the Director of the Office Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity at Chapman University. Once that work was finished, she headed directly to the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) on the National Mall. We can’t go there too many times!

5 Artifacts of Apollo at NASM:

 

Lunar Module 2 was built for testing in low-Earth orbit but never flew and, instead, was used to measure potential impact of a Moon landing. LM-2 is now at the center of NASM's renovation of the spacious entry hall.

Lunar Module 2 was built for testing in low-Earth orbit but never flew and, instead, was used to measure potential impact of a Moon landing. LM-2 is now at the center of NASM’s renovation of the spacious entry hall.

 

Columbia, Command Module for Apollo 11

Columbia, Command Module for Apollo 11

 

Apollo 11 Sunglasses, donated by Astronaut Michael Collins

 

Who doesn't touch a Moon rock when she gets the chance?

Who doesn’t touch a Moon rock when she gets the chance?

 

"The Apollo command and service modules on display are test vehicles. The docking module that joins the two spacecraft is back-up flight hardware, and the Soyuz spacecraft is a full-scale model built by Energia Design Bureau, the organization that originally built the Soyuz." (NASM)

“The Apollo command and service modules on display are test vehicles. The docking module that joins the two spacecraft is back-up flight hardware, and the Soyuz spacecraft is a full-scale model built by Energia Design Bureau, the organization that originally built the Soyuz.” (NASM)

Five Aviation and Space Anniversaries February 17, 2016

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Last week, Doug spent a day at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) attending a #NASASocial event dubbed #StateOfNASA. Read last week’s post HERE.

#1. NACA’s 100th (last year)

NASA’s predecessor organization was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). NACA was founded on March 3rd, 1915, a little more than eleven years after the Wright brothers first took to the skies.

naca_embem_over_tpt_door_2_0

#2. NASA Langley’s 100th (next year)

Langley Research Center (LaRC) was established in 1917 by NACA. The facility is named for the Wright brothers’ competitor, aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley. LaRC is famous for the contributions to aerospace engineering made by its more than forty wind tunnels.

Mercury-FST-LaRC

The Mercury capsule is one of the most famous vehicles tested in the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel. Here, a technician checks the Mercury full-scale capsule model prior to testing in the Full-Scale Tunnel in 1959. Much of the research and development of the Mercury program was actually conducted at NASA.

#3. NASA Glenn’s 75th (this year)

Founded as the Aircraft Engine Research Center in Cleveland in 1941, NASA’s Glenn Research Center will celebrate its Diamond Anniversary in 2016. Until 1999, the facility was known as Lewis Research Center when it was renamed for NASA astronaut and US senator John Glenn. Its full name is NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, which simply flows off the lips.

In this image, engineers test the RL-10 engine in NASA Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center's Propulsion Systems Laboratory. Developed by Pratt & Whitney, the engine was designed to power the Centaur second-stage rocket. Centaur was responsible for sending the Surveyor spacecraft on its mission to land on the Moon and to explore the surface in the early stages of the Apollo program.

In this image, engineers test the RL-10 engine in NASA Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center’s Propulsion Systems Laboratory. Developed by Pratt & Whitney, the engine was designed to power the Centaur second-stage rocket. Centaur was responsible for sending the Surveyor spacecraft on its mission to land on the Moon and to explore the surface in the early stages of the Apollo program.

#4. 5th Anniversary of President Obama’s National Space Plan (this year)

It’s been a little more than five years since America shifted its next destination in space from a plan for returning to the Moon to a Mars voyage. In a speech at Kennedy Space Center delivered on April 15, 2010, President Obama articulated a program that would have NASA astronauts visit an asteroid in 2025 and see humans venture to Mars in the mid-2030s.

journey_to_mars

#5. 35th Anniversary of STS-1 (this year)

Unfortunately, Administrator Bolden only mentioned four specific anniversaries in his presentation. Recently, our own campus celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident by adding the papers of Morton-Thiokol engineer Allan McDonald to the collections of the Leatherby Libraries where Doug works.

Just a few weeks from now is the 35th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight, STS-1. On April 12, 1981, astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen were onboard as the first Shuttle mission headed into low-Earth orbit. This date also coincides, of course, with anniversary of the first human mission into space. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s Vostok-1 roared into space 55 years ago in 1961.

 

5 Photos of Apollo 8 December 23, 2015

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Apollo 8 launched on December 21, 1968. By Christmas Eve, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders were circling the Moon. Having been the first humans to leave Earth’s orbit, they returned to Earth on December 27. We’ve written about Apollo 8 HERE and HERE. This week, we celebrate the anniversary of Apollo 8 with 5 images provided to the world by NASA.

 

Apollo 8 crew leaving for launchpad, with Lovell waving

Apollo 8 crew leaving for launchpad, with Lovell waving

 

Apollo8launch

 

Jim Lovell and a cramped capsule view

Jim Lovell and a cramped capsule view

Photo of the Moon, with the large crater Goclenius in foreground

Photo of the Moon, with the large crater Goclenius in foreground

 

Earthrise

 

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