North American technicians work inside the Block I Command Module during processing. This craft caused great concern to Apollo 1 Commander Virgil “Gus” Grissom, who followed its progress with mounting distress and anger. Photo Credit: NASA
It is rare to find a space mission which was born, thrived, and ended within a matter of weeks; a mission whose crew never left Earth, lived to tell the tale, and went on to fly another mission which sowed the seeds for the grandest scientific endeavor ever undertaken in human history. Yet that is exactly what happened with the unflown voyage of Apollo 2, whose crew was announced to the world, 50 years ago, this fall. Theirs might have been the second test-flight of the Block I Command and Service Module (CSM) and they might have spent up to two weeks in orbit, putting the ship which would someday carry men to the Moon through its paces, close to the Earth. It is a pity that the very nature of Apollo 2—together with a mission commander who did not want to fly it—ultimately proved its downfall.
Continue reading The ‘No Sense’ Mission: 50 Years Since the Rise and Fall of Apollo 2 (Part 2)
The three men who eventually formed the prime crew of Apollo 7 were originally assigned to the short-lived Apollo 2 mission. Left to right, are Walt Cunningham, Donn Eisele, and Wally Schirra. Photo Credit: NASA
Fifty years ago, this month, a space mission which even its commander—veteran Mercury and Gemini astronaut Wally Schirra—described as having “no sense” was born, thrived and breathed its last, in the final weeks before the catastrophic Apollo 1 fire. Schirra was right: for had it taken place, the Apollo 2 mission, crewed by himself and “rookie” spacefarers Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham, would have offered little more than “a repeat performance” of Apollo 1. By a peculiar twist of circumstance, cruel luck and tragedy, Schirra’s mission was snatched away from him, but he and his crew eventually wound up flying the first manned Apollo voyage into low-Earth orbit in October 1968.
Continue reading The ‘No Sense’ Mission: 50 Years Since the Rise and Fall of Apollo 2 (Part 1)
Artist’s conception of Juno orbiting Jupiter. Image Credit: NASA
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been busy orbiting Jupiter and providing fantastic new views of this giant world, something not possible since the previous Galileo mission. While almost flawless so far, the mission has had a few hiccups recently. Juno entered safe mode just shortly before its next close flyby of Jupiter this week, apparently the result of a software performance monitor inducing a reboot of the spacecraft’s onboard computer. The spacecraft is otherwise healthy and Juno is conducting its own software diagnostics to determine the specific cause of the problem. Before this, Juno took its first observations deep into Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere.
Continue reading Juno Spacecraft Peers Deep Into Jupiter’s Atmosphere Before Entering Safe Mode
Commander Sergei Ryzhikov guides Soyuz MS-02 towards its docking location at the space-facing (or “zenith”) interface of the Poisk module on Friday, 21 October 2016. Photo Credit: NASA
After almost seven weeks with a reduced crew of three, the International Space Station (ISS) was restored to its full six-person capability earlier today (Friday), with the smooth docking of Soyuz MS-02. Commanded by first-time cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov, and flanked by veteran spacefarers Andrei Borisenko and Shane Kimbrough, the Soyuz—which had completed a longer-than-normal two-day rendezvous profile, lasting 34 orbits—docked successfully at the station’s space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module at 5:52 a.m. EDT. Following customary pressurization and leak checks, the hatches into the ISS were opened at 8:20 a.m. EDT and the new arrivals were greeted by the incumbent Expedition 49 crew of Anatoli Ivanishin, Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi.
Continue reading Soyuz Docking Restores Space Station to Full Crew Strength
Long exposure of Antares blasting off from Wallops Island carrying the OA-5 mission. Photo Credit: Cole Ippoliti / AmericaSpace
On Monday night, Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket blasted off from Wallops Island, Va., for the first time in nearly two years since the Orb-3 launch accident. It marked the inaugural launch of the company’s new upgraded version of the rocket as well as its first night launch. Tens of thousands flocked to the Virginia shore to get a glimpse of Antares lighting up the night sky. Antares is the largest launch vehicle based out of Wallops and under clear conditions is visible in the night sky for hundreds of miles up and down the U.S. east coast.
Continue reading Through the Lens: Antares Returns to Flight on OA-5 Mission for NASA
Soyuz MS-02 roars into the chilly Baikonur sky at 2:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. EDT) on Wednesday, 19 October 2016. Photo Credit: NASA
A new crew is heading for the International Space Station (ISS), with Soyuz MS-02 having launched from the infrequently-used Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, 19 October. Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, together with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, will follow a longer-than-standard rendezvous profile and are presently slated to dock at the space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module of the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday morning. Initially forming the second half of Expedition 49, led by Russian cosmonaut Anatoli Ivanishin, the crew will rotate into the core of Expedition 50, under Kimbrough’s command, from late October.
Continue reading 50th Long-Duration Crew Launches to Space Station
The Soyuz MS-02 crew (from left) consists of NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko. Photo Credit: NASA
Six weeks since the safe return of the Expedition 48 core crew, their backups—Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, together with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough—are destined to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, 19 October, bound for a four-month increment aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The trio are set to rise from the infrequently-used Site 31 at the Central Asian spaceport at 2:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. EDT) aboard the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft and will dock at the station’s space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module on Friday.
Like their predecessors, the Soyuz MS-01 crew of Russian cosmonaut Anatoli Ivanishin, NASA’s Kate Rubins, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Takuya Onishi, the new visitors will follow a two-day rendezvous profile, completing 34 orbits of Earth before reaching the ISS. This profile is somewhat longer than the standard six-hour and four-orbit “fast rendezvous,” utilized by most incoming Soyuz crews since March 2013, and is being performed on the first two Soyuz-MS missions in order to test upgraded systems and communications capabilities.
Continue reading Army Helicopter Pilot, Civilian Engineer, and Fighter Pilot to Fly Mid-Week Voyage to Space Station
Antares springs away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 7:45 p.m. EDT on Monday, 17 October. Photo Credit: Elliot Severn/AmericaSpace
Just a few days shy of two full years since one of the worst accidents to befall NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program, Orbital ATK picked up the baton in fine fashion last night, as it successfully launched its revitalized Antares 230 booster on a critical mission to bring science and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Bouncing back to operational service after months of launch pad modifications, new engines, and a longer-than-expected wait, due to the ravages of Mother Nature, the two-stages Antares sprang away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 7:45:46 p.m. EDT Monday, 17 October. The booster is laden with Orbital ATK’s OA-5 Cygnus cargo ship, which is carrying 5,346 pounds (2,425 kg) of equipment, supplies, and research materials to the space station.
Continue reading Antares Returns to Flight, Delivering OA-5 Cygnus to Space Station
Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io were key focuses for the Galileo mission. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Goddard Space Flight Center
Almost three decades ago, shuttle mission STS-34 and the crew of Atlantis rocketed into orbit to launch NASA’s Galileo spacecraft on a lengthy odyssey to Jupiter. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, the mission was extensively delayed, by political and technical issues—including the Challenger tragedy—and almost met with outright cancellation, when anti-nuclear protesters campaigned against the use of its plutonium-powered Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). However, after considerable rain, on the wet morning of 18 October 1989, the five astronauts departed their crew quarters at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), bound for Pad 39B and Atlantis.
Continue reading The Romance of Adventure: Remembering Galileo’s Ride on STS-34 (Part 2)
Hubble image of galaxies visible in the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), one of the sources of data used in the new study. Photo Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble
“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Universe is indeed big, so massive in scale that our brains can hardly grasp or understand it. And now new findings from the Hubble Space Telescope show that it is even more so than first thought. Previous surveys indicated that the universe contained around 200 billion or so galaxies, which is staggering as it is. But newly updated research now shows the number is actually about 10 times that, or 2 trillion galaxies.
Continue reading Hubble Space Telescope Reveals 10 Times More Galaxies Than Previously Thought