Chris Kraft (1924-2019)

Photo Credit: NASA

Today, Christopher Columbus Kraft passed-away. Chris Kraft served his country and the world with honor and distinction. His passing is a great loss for all of those who have traveled through space. His wisdom and knowledge will be missed so very much by those today planning future journeys beyond.

According to his NASA bio, “Chris Kraft joined the NASA Space Task Group in November 1958 as NASA’s first flight director, with responsibilities that immersed him in mission procedures and challenging operational issues. He personally invented the mission planning and control processes required for crewed space missions, in areas as diverse as go/no-go decisions, space-to-ground communications, space tracking, real-time problem solving and crew recovery.

“During the Apollo program, Kraft became the Director of Flight Operations at MSC, responsible for overall human spaceflight mission planning, training and execution. His leadership in this critical area continued through the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, at which time he became deputy director of the Center. He served as the center director from January 1972 until his retirement in August 1982, playing a vital role in the success of the final Apollo missions, the Skylab crewed space station, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the first flights of the Space Shuttle.”

The rest of the NASA bio includes surprises, such as how Chris Kraft first ran into Marine Major John Glenn–initially not warmly. But Kraft was one of those people who had the data to back-up any call he made. Like when he turned Major Glenn from a doubter to a believer in Kraft’s determination that the F8U was faulty because Kraft had the data.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement in which he said, “America has truly lost a national treasure today with the passing of one of NASA’s earliest pioneers – flight director Chris Kraft. We send our deepest condolences to the Kraft family”.

Chris Kraft was made of the sort of material that made possible the successful journey of America’s space program from nascent to one that fulfilled Kennedy’s goal of, “…landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to earth before this decade is out”. And beyond.

'The Eagle Has Landed': Celebrating Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Month (Part 3)

Fifty years ago, this weekend, 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 could begin.



Continue reading ‘The Eagle Has Landed’: Celebrating Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Month (Part 3)

50 Years After Moon Landing, Soyuz MS-13 Crew Launches to Space Station

Three spacefarers from a trio of nations will launch aboard Soyuz MS-13 on Saturday, 20 July, bound for a multi-month tour of the International Space Station (ISS). First-time NASA flyer Drew Morgan, seasoned Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov and Italy’s only spacewalker, Luca Parmitano, will rise from Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:28 p.m. local time (12:28 p.m. EDT), exactly 50 years to the day since Apollo 11 crewmen Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin alighted on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. The moment that Lunar Module (LM) Eagle touched down on alien soil falls at 4:18 p.m. EDT, as the three spacefarers are midway through a six-hour transit to their off-planet home.



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Leaky Valve Blew Up Crew Dragon During Abort System Test, Says SpaceX

A SpaceX Crew Dragon stands ready to launch on the uncrewed Demo-1 orbital flight test to and from the International Space Station for NASA. The vehicle later blew up during test firing of its abort engines, the cause of which was revealed by SpaceX on July 15, 2019. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

In a press release and media call yesterday (July 15, 2019), SpaceX revealed the findings thus far of their investigation into why a Crew Dragon test article exploded during test firing of its abort engines at Landing Zone-1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida back on April 20.



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'Distinctly Forbidding': Celebrating Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Month (Part 2)

When Apollo 11 and its three-man crew—Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and Buzz Aldrin—rose into space 50 years ago, this month, they embarked on the grandest adventure ever undertaken in human history: the first piloted voyage to the surface of the Moon. Yet, strangely, even after surviving a tumultuous launch atop the mammoth Saturn V rocket, performing the translunar injection burn, and entering the mysterious region between Earth and the Moon, known as “cislunar space”, the main part of the mission had yet to begin. Their mission would really start after Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) on 19 July, and the series of increasingly bold and epochal events thereafter.



Continue reading ‘Except That It Is Moving’: Celebrating Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Month (Part 2)

To Keep Boldly Going: NASA's New Plan for the Voyager Mission

Artist’s concept of one of NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, including the location of the cosmic ray subsystem (CRS) instrument. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With all of the current and recent planetary missions throughout the Solar System, it may be easy to forget sometimes that there are still some older spacecraft that have been traveling for decades now. Two of these – Voyagers 1 and 2 – have even left the Solar System entirely, and now engineers need to figure out how to keep them active and functioning with much lower power levels and degrading thrusters.



Continue reading To Keep Boldly Going: NASA’s New Plan for the Voyager Mission

'Launch Commit': Celebrating Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Month (Part 1)

Early in July 1969, Jan Armstrong called her friend, Lurton Scott, for help. Only a few days remained before her husband, Neil, blasted off in command of the most pivotal space mission in history—Apollo 11, the voyage which would attempt the first piloted landing on the Moon—and in doing so fulfil a national pledge by the late President John F. Kennedy. Lurton, wife of astronaut Dave Scott, and Jan had remained good friends ever since their husbands flew together aboard Gemini VIII in March 1966. Jan had already been invited to watch the Apollo 11 launch from a motor cruiser, owned by North American Aviation and moored in the Banana River, and with Scott’s help she was able to fly from Houston, Texas, to Cape Kennedy in a corporate jet.



Continue reading ‘Launch Commit’: Celebrating Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Month (Part 1)

NASA Launches Orion Crew Capsule on Milestone In-Flight Abort Test

An Orion test article launching atop a refurbished Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile solid rocket motor on the Ascent Abort-2 flight test, 2 July 2019 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com

The sun wasn’t the only spectacular sight seen rising over Florida’s ‘Space Coast’ this morning, as NASA just cleared a major milestone and hurdle on the road to returning humans to the moon with a successful in-flight abort test of their Orion crew capsule.



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NASA Set to Launch In-Flight Abort Test of Orion Crew Capsule Tuesday Morning

The Ascent Abort-2 test booster and launch abort system on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo: NASA

NASA is set to conduct an extremely important in-flight abort test Tuesday morning of their Orion Crew Capsule, to prove the spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS) can pull astronauts away from a failing rocket during the violent ascent to space atop 8.8 million pounds of thrust from the agency’s huge Space Launch System (SLS).



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A Decade of Chumps: NASA's 2009 Astronaut Class Chalks Up Ten Years of Space Experience

Ten years ago, this week, nine American men and women from the military and civilian spheres, and with backgrounds which ran the gamut from science and technology to engineering and medicine, were announced as NASA’s 20th class of astronaut candidates. Selected from more than 3,500 applicants, a third of their number were female—the largest women-to-men ratio yet picked by the U.S. space agency, a record later surpassed with the 2013 class—and all but one of them have since flown into space, with another on the brink of a second mission.

On 29 June, as a full decade passes since the class now known as the “Chumps” was first introduced to the world, their ranks have accrued over 3.4 years in space and more than 94 hours of spacewalking in 15 sessions of Extravehicular Activity (EVA).



Continue reading A Decade of Chumps: NASA’s 2009 Astronaut Class Chalks Up Ten Years of Space Experience