The STS-93 crew poses with a model of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. This shuttle mission also entered into the history books for having the first female commander (Eileen Collins, here joined by Steven Hawley, Jerry Ashby, Michel Tognini, and Cady Coleman). Photo Credit: NASA
The 2009 book Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, written by Tanya Lee Stone, details the struggles encountered by the “Mercury 13,” a group of women pilots subjected to many of the same tests undergone by the Mercury astronauts – but who were denied the right to fly into space based upon their gender. One of the final chapters in the book is entitled, “We Want to See a Woman Driving the Bus, Not Sitting in the Back.”
On July 23, 1999, decades after this intrepid group of women dared to even dream of space, a woman was finally “driving the bus”: an Air Force flyer, Eileen Collins, became the first woman to command a space shuttle on STS-93 (Columbia). Today marks 15 years since that pioneering milestone in spaceflight history.
Continue reading “A Woman in the Driver’s Seat”: Remembering STS-93, First Flight Helmed by a Female Shuttle Commander
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser engineering test vehicle is towed across the ramp at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in preparation for tow tests on a Dryden taxiway. The tow tests were part of ground tests in preparation for captive-carry and free-flight tests last year at NASA Dryden. Photo Credit: NASA / Ken Ulbrich
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser “Dream Team” just keeps on growing, as this week the company announced the expansion of its Dream Chaser Space System’s global partnership to include Asia through a new signed memorandum of “cooperative understanding” with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (also known as JAXA), who now joins the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Space Agency (DLR) in SNC’s ever growing international team.
Continue reading SNC Teams Up with Japan’s Space Agency to Further Dream Chaser’s Development and Potential
Experimental landing legs on the SpaceX Falcon-9 v1.1 rocket. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace
It was only last week that Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launched the first wave of a next-generation telecommunications satellite fleet to orbit for customer ORBCOMM on the OG-2 mission, but the flight also gave the Hawthorne, Calif.-based aerospace company another opportunity to test out the experimental landing legs they hope will make their Falcon rockets truly reusable, and in doing so SpaceX expects to drive down the cost of launch dramatically by eliminating the need to build a new rocket for every flight.
Continue reading VIDEO: SpaceX Falcon-9 OG2 First Stage Landing Test Provides Crucial Data to Support Next Test on NASA CRS-4 Flight
Pictured during an undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2014, the Progress family of cargo spacecraft has resupplied four discrete space stations, including Salyut 6, Salyut 7 and Mir, since the mid-1970s. Photo Credit: NASA
After three months docked at the International Space Station (ISS), Russia’s Progress M-23M cargo craft—otherwise known as “Progress 55P” in ISS Program-speak—successfully separated from the orbital outpost at 5:44 p.m. EDT yesterday (Monday), bound for several days of “Radar Progress” experiments and ultimately a fiery destruction in Earth’s upper atmosphere on 1 August. In the meantime, its successor, Progress M-24M (or “Progress 56P”), encapsulated within the payload shroud of a mammoth Soyuz-U booster, was rolled out to Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early Tuesday, preparatory to its own launch at 3:44 a.m. local time Thursday (5:44 p.m. EDT Wednesday). Following a well-trodden “fast rendezvous” path, first trialed in August 2012, it is anticipated that Progress M-24M will dock automatically at the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the station’s Pirs module at 9:30 a.m. Baikonur time Thursday (11:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday), a little less than six hours after liftoff.
Continue reading ‘Super-Fast’ Progress M-24M Ready for Wednesday Launch to Space Station
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser. Photo Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich
This week, Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems (SNC), one of three private companies currently developing spacecraft with NASA funds to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station, successfully completed Milestone-9 in the development of their Dream Chaser under the company’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability agreement (known as CCiCap) with the space agency.
Continue reading SNC’s Dream Chaser Completes CCiCap Milestone 9, Advances One Step Closer to Critical Design Review
Like a bright ladder reaching the heavens, the Apollo 11 Saturn V is bathed in spotlight on launchpad 39A. Forty-five years ago this week, the first humans climbed it to the Moon. Image Credit: NASA
When the history of our galaxy is written,
and for all any of us know it may already have been,
if Earth gets mentioned at all it won’t be because its inhabitants visited their own Moon.
That first step, like a newborn’s cry, would be automatically assumed.
What would be worth recording is what kind of civilization we earthlings created
and whether or not we ventured out to other parts of the galaxy.
— Michael Collins, “Liftoff: The Story of America’s Adventure in Space” (1989)
Between 60,000 and 100,000 years ago, the first members of anatomically modern humans took their first steps out of the East African savannas, which had been the cradle of human evolution for more than 2.5 million years, to populate the rest of the land of what was an essentially unknown planet. Forty-five years ago this week, humans took their next steps up the evolutionary ladder by walking on the Moon, at a place called Sea of Tranquility, during the Apollo 11 mission in 20 July 1969—the first time that any human beings had ever walked anywhere outside of their own planet. These decisive first steps on another world were equally met with exhilaration, hope, and wonder as well as skepticism, fear, and condemnation. The reasons for these widely varied reactions to humanity’s single greatest achievement ever have been multifaceted and intertwined. The second part of this article examined the American public’s opposition to the Apollo missions to the Moon and toward the space program in general, based on financial arguments pertaining to the former’s supposedly unacceptably high costs. This article will focus on some of the deeper, unconscious emotional, ideological, and cultural reasons behind this opposition. Although the reasons explored here are by no means the only ones that affect space policy decisions, they nevertheless provide a valuable glimpse at the public’s deeper fears regarding space exploration, which in turn influence its attitude toward it.
Continue reading Commentary: Forty-Five Years After Apollo 11—An Inspiration For the Future, or Just Another Anniversary (Part 3)
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden presents Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Director Bob Cabana with a flown Apollo 11 patch. Someday, this patch will be flown on the first manned Mars mission, to be helmed by NASA’s Orion spacecraft. This presentation took place during today’s renaming of KSC’s Operations and Checkout Building. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace
Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins wrote of his friend and colleague Neil A. Armstrong in his 1974 book Carrying the Fire, “[Armstrong] makes decisions slowly and well … [He] savors them – rolling them around on his tongue like a fine wine and swallowing at the very last moment. (He had twenty seconds of fuel remaining when he landed on the moon.)”
Today, Collins and fellow Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin remembered this decisive thinker, astronaut, and first-rate test pilot, along with luminaries including Armstrong’s two sons Rick and Mark, former Gemini and Apollo astronaut James A. Lovell, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Director Bob Cabana. In a ceremony held this morning, KSC’s Operations and Checkout (O&C) building was renamed after Armstrong. In addition, guests viewed NASA’s next “giant leap,” the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, being prepared for a scheduled launch in December.
Continue reading Kennedy Space Center’s Operations and Checkout Building Renamed after ‘First Man’ Neil Armstrong
From the European Space Agency (ESA): “[The IXV] will be launched by ESA in 2014 on Vega, Europe’s new small launcher, into a suborbital path, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. After being launched into space, IXV will return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, testing brand-new European atmospheric reentry technologies during its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases.” Image Credit: ESA–J. Huart
There is a famous quote that states, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” It appears that several organizations still have their “eyes turned skyward.” The space shuttle era may have come to a close a little over three years ago, but the spaceplane era is still very much underway.
The European Space Agency (ESA) announced this week that its Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) is in its final testing phase in anticipation of its rocket-powered November flight. The flight is meant to investigate the conditions the vehicle will encounter during atmospheric reentry, and to test critical systems needed to return Europe’s future automated reentry vehicles. In addition, several U.S. spaceplanes—including Dream Chaser and the X-37B—have passed milestones in development and in flight.
Continue reading ESA’s IXV Spaceplane Readied for November Flight, While US Spaceplanes Pass Milestones
One of the relatively few images of Neil Armstrong at work on the lunar surface, close to Eagle. Photo Credit: NASA
On Sunday, 20 July 1969, the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC)—later to become the Johnson Space Center (JSC)—in Houston, Texas, was filled with tension and expectant quiet. Gene Kranz, the flight director of the “White Team,” one of four shifts supervising Apollo 11’s voyage to plant the first human bootprints on the Moon, had already order Security to “lock the doors” in anticipation of the momentous events to follow. No one would be permitted to disturb the intense concentration of himself or his control team as they steeled themselves for the most audacious engineering challenge in history. Already, Apollo 11 and its crew of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had launched atop the most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and had traveled across 240,000 miles (370,000 km) of “cislunar space” to reach their mysterious destination. Now, four days after liftoff, their real mission to land on the Moon had begun. The next phase was to take humanity’s first faltering footsteps onto its dusty surface.
Continue reading ‘For One Priceless Moment’: 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 4)