Man Must Explore: Remembering Apollo 15, Five Decades On

Commander Dave Scott, here pictured at work on the slopes of Mount Hadley Delta, is the only remaining member of the Apollo 15 crew still with us. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty summers ago, astronauts Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden flew Apollo 15, the fourth manned landing mission to the Moon. Launched on 26 July 1971 atop a Saturn V rocket, they were the first humans to visit the rugged lunar mountains, which were thought to be home to some of the oldest rocks and soils, dating back to shortly after the Moon’s formation. Apollo 15 was a spectacular 12-day mission, involving three Moonwalks, a comprehensive survey from lunar orbit, the first “deep-space” Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and the first use of the battery-powered Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). But it took its toll on the men. One lost his marriage, another ultimately lost his life and the reputations of all three were left severely tarnished.



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Falcon Heavy to Launch NASA Mission to Explore Jupiter's Moon Europa in 2024

NASA has selected SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the first-ever mission to conduct detailed investigations of Jupiter’s moon Europa on the Europa Clipper mission, slated to launch in October 2024 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Photo left: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com. Image right credit NASA

NASA has awarded SpaceX a $178 million contract to launch Earth’s first-ever dedicated mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa, which has been a high-profile target for planetary scientists for many years now. Slated to launch in October 2024 from historic pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Europa Clipper will be the first spacecraft to study Europa up close since Galileo in the early 2000s, and will focus on determining the habitability of the moon’s global subsurface ocean, which is twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined & thought to be quite similar, but completely covered by a thick shell of ice.



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NASA's Mars Helicopter Delivers 'Bird's Eye' Views from 9th Flight, Perseverance Prepares for First Sampling

This view from Ingenuity shows the location called “Raised Ridges,” which is thought to be part of an ancient fracture system where water may have flowed underground. You can see one “foot” of the helicopter on the left side as well as the helicopter’s shadow on the ground at the bottom of the image. The newest photos were taken on July 5, 2021 from an altitude of about 33 feet (10 meters). Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To say that NASA’s Mars Helicopter, known as Ingenuity, has been successful would be an understatement. The drone-like quadcopter, specifically designed for Mars’ thin atmosphere, just completed its ninth flight on July 5. It travelled further than ever before, and the new “bird’s eye” images it took will help the Perseverance rover to locate the best rock formations to investigate as well as avoid possible obstacles. The rover itself is also now preparing to take its first samples of Martian rock for analysis, as announced this morning during a NASA press briefing.



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A Head Filled With Seawater: Remembering Liberty Bell 7, Six Decades On

One of the U.S. Marine Corps helicopters fruitlessly attempts to raise Liberty Bell 7 from the Atlantic Ocean. Unbeknownst to their crew, Virgil “Gus” Grissom was close to drowning. Photo Credit: NASA

Sixty years ago today, America sent its second astronaut beyond the limit of Earth’s “sensible” atmosphere and into the airless ether of space. Virgil “Gus” Grissom—who went on to become the first man to log two spaceflights, before dying in the Apollo 1 tragedy—launched atop a converted Redstone ballistic missile from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 7:20 a.m. EST on 21 July 1961, rose in his Liberty Bell 7 capsule to an apogee of 118 miles (190 km), then splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean only 15 minutes later. It was America’s second suborbital mission, following Alan Shepard’s pioneering Freedom 7 flight the previous May, but even at this early juncture Liberty Bell 7 revealed the true dangers of human space exploration and Grissom narrowly escaped with his life.



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New Shepard Lifts Siblings, Youngest, Oldest Space Travelers Above Kármán Line

Oliver Daemen (left) and Wally Funk (top) became the youngest and oldest astronauts, whilst Mark Bezos (center) and brother Jeff represent the first pair of siblings ever to fly into space together. Photo Credit: Blue Origin

More than two decades ago, not long after he made history by flying into space aged 77, “Original Seven” Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn bumped into an elderly couple at an airport. They told him that Glenn had changed their lives for the better. For years, they had desired to summit Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, but work, children and encroaching old age conspired against them. Glenn’s flight on shuttle Discovery inspired them to do it, with age no longer a barrier to the pursuit of a dream.

Early Tuesday, Glenn’s near-quarter-century record for the oldest human ever to enter space was soundly smashed, by none other than “Mercury 13” aviator Wally Funk. Her flight to the edge of space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard booster/capsule combo saw her joined by the youngest ever spacefarer and the first pair of siblings ever to fly together on a space mission.



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Starliner Stacked Atop Rocket for Launch of Boeing's 2nd Orbital Flight Test July 30

Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule is mated atop the ULA Atlas V rocket which will launch the spacecraft on an un-crewed second orbital flight test to & from the International Space Station for NASA as soon as July 30, pending a Flight Readiness Review set for July 22. Photos: ULA

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is ready to launch again, following a busy weekend where crews transported it from a the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at neighboring Kennedy Space Center to Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), where the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket tasked with launching the capsule on its second Orbital Flight Test has been waiting.



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Youngest, Oldest Space Travelers Join Bezos, Brother on 20 July New Shepard Launch

Mannequin Skywalker beholds the view from the edge of space, earlier this year. Photo Credit: Blue Origin

As Blue Origin readies for its inaugural crewed New Shepard launch on 20 July—the 52nd anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon—the four people heading to the edge of space are lined up to establish a few records of their own. Reportedly worth in excess of $200 billion, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos will surpass Sir Richard Branson as the wealthiest human ever to reach space, whilst the presence of his brother Mark aboard New Shepard makes this the first space mission to feature a pair of siblings. And rounding out the crew are 82-year-old “Mercury 13” aviator Wally Funk and 18-year-old student Oliver Daemen, who are set to become the oldest and youngest humans ever launched into space.



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Next Cygnus Cargo Ship Named for Challenger Hero Ellison Onizuka

During STS-51C in January 1985, Ellison Onizuka became the first Asian-American to voyage into space. Photo Credit: NASA

Northrop Grumman Corp. has revealed that its next Cygnus cargo ship to visit the International Space Station (ISS) will be named for STS-51L hero Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian-American person to enter space. Onizuka becomes the first member of the ill-fated “Challenger Seven” to be so honored with a Cygnus, after two previous missions were named for Columbia veterans Rick Husband and Kalpana “K.C.” Chawla.

“He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space program,” Northrop Grumman said of Onizuka, “and his legacy lives on in his fellow astronauts and all who he has inspired and taught to fly.” The NG-16 mission will be lifted to orbit by an Antares 230+ booster from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., with launch expected no sooner than 5:55 p.m. EDT on 10 August.



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Atlas Rocket Stacked, Awaits Starliner's Arrival for 2nd Orbital Flight Test July 30

The uniquely configured ULA AtlasV rocket is assembled following initial stacking operations for the launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for the OFT-2 mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew program to the International Space Station. Launch is targeted for no sooner than July 30. Photos: ULA

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is full steam ahead at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, where the company recently completed stacking the uniquely configured Atlas V rocket which will launch Boeing’s second un-crewed Orbital Flight Test of their Starliner crew capsule under contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to the International Space Station (ISS).



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Virgin Galactic Completes First Fully-Crewed Flight to Edge of Space

Sir Richard Branson and his crewmates tumble around VSS Unity’s passenger cabin, during their few fleeting minutes of weightlessness. Photo Credit: Sir Richard Branson/Twitter

Six humans roared perfectly skyward from Spaceport America, north of Las Cruces, N.M., early Sunday morning, including the wealthiest person ever to reach the edge of space. Virgin Galactic billionaire Sir Richard Branson was joined aboard Virgin Space Ship (VSS) “Unity”—an air-launched SpaceShipTwo-class spaceplane—by three other mission specialists and two veteran pilots for the 15-minute flight.

Lifted to an altitude of more than 46,000 feet (12,000 meters) under the fuselage of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft—known as Virgin Mother Ship (VMS) “Eve”—the spaceplane burned its hybrid RocketMotorTwo engine for 60 seconds to reach a peak apogee of about 53.5 miles (86.1 km) and a few precious minutes of weightlessness for her crew.



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