'A Dumb Decision': Remembering the Final Mission to Skylab, 45 Years Ago

Boosted aloft atop a Saturn IB rocket, and utilizing a special “milk stool” to raise its umbilical connections to the proper levels on the Pad 39B gantry, the third and final Skylab crew takes flight on 16 November 1973. Photo Credit: NASA

Forty-five years ago, in May 1973, America launched its first space station—Skylab—into orbit. Its mission appeared jinxed from the outset, with aerodynamic forces during ascent ripping away a protective micrometeoroid shield and one power-producing solar array and leaving the second array clogged with debris. Eleven days later, after an enormous amount of replanning on the ground, Skylab’s first crew triumphantly brought the station back to life. Their record-breaking 28-day mission was followed by another record-breaking 59-day mission, leaving only the third crew of Commander Gerry Carr, Science Pilot Ed Gibson and Pilot Bill Pogue to stage a marathon 84-day expedition, beginning on 16 November 1973. As NASA and its international partners celebrate 20 years of the International Space Station (ISS) era this month, we are also reminded of the spectacular success of the final voyage to Skylab; a mission forever remembered—somewhat unfairly—in the public mind for two things: the concealment of a sick bag and the first “mutiny” in space.

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NASA's InSight Spacecraft on Course for November 26 Landing

Artist’s conception of InSight descending through the Martian atmosphere. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On November 26, NASA’s InSight spacecraft will touch down in Elysium Planitia on Mars, where it will “peer” deep into the subsurface to study the planet’s interior geology. As of right now, InSight is on course for what hopefully will be a very successful landing.

Live Video of Landing on Mars
credit: NASA

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NASA & SpaceX Target Jan 7 For Uncrewed Test Flight of Crew Dragon to Space Station

Illustration of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft launching atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credits: SpaceX

Years in the making, NASA and SpaceX today announced January 7, 2019 as the target date to launch the highly-anticipated orbital flight test of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft (called Demo-1), which will roar towards low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS) atop a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Jezero Crater Announced as Landing Site for NASA's Mars 2020 Rover

Enhanced color image of a portion of Jezero Crater, the landing site chosen for the Mars 2020 mission. The mineral-rich river delta is in the center of the image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/MSSS/Brown University

And the winner is… Jezero Crater! NASA has chosen this location as the landing site on Mars for its next big rover mission – Mars 2020. The announcement is the result of a fiver-year-long search, during which more than 60 potential locations were considered for the mission, which will search for evidence of past life.

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'A Vote For Our Future': 20 Years Since Zarya Launched the International Space Station (Part 2)

The Russian-built Zarya module (lower) and U.S.-built Unity node (upper), pictured during assembly operations on STS-88 in December 1998. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, on 20 November 1998, Russia’s Zarya (“Dawn”) module—the first component of the International Space Station (ISS)—was launched from Site 81 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, atop a mighty Proton-K booster. Less than nine minutes later, the 41-foot-long (12.5-meter) cylindrical module had separated from the final stage of its launch vehicle and settled perfectly into low-Earth orbit. Its function in those early days of the ISS program would to be to provide power, storage, propulsion and guidance for an infant space station which, in time, would grow to become the largest artificial satellite ever launched from Earth and the grandest and most complex engineering accomplishment in human history.

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'Eighth Launch' for John Young, Northrop Launches Cygnus NG-10 With Fresh Haul for ISS

Liftoff-off of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station with about 7,400 pounds of cargo after launching at 4:01 a.m. EST Saturday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Photo: Cole Ippoliti / AmericaSpace

Susy Young was always convinced that her husband, legendary astronaut John Young, actually logged seven launches into space in his career. It was a sentiment echoed by veteran shuttle flyer Jerry Ross, who in April 2002 became “the first” human to record seven space missions. In his memoir, Spacewalker, Ross noted that Young had already launched into space six times from Earth and—via his Apollo 16 mission in April 1972—also once from the surface of the Moon. “Most people forget John launched from the surface of the Moon to return home,” Ross wrote, adding “I’d never argue with Susy!”

At 4:01 a.m. EST today (Saturday, 17 November), an unpiloted Cygnus cargo freighter, laden with 7,500 pounds (3,400 kg) of experiments, equipment, supplies and spare parts for the incumbent Expedition 57 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), rocketed to orbit, bearing Young’s name. As the “Spaceship (SS) John Young”, it represents the ninth time that a Cygnus has been named in honor of a deceased former astronaut, coming only months after Young’s death, aged 87, in January. And it also gives Young—in spirit, at least—an eighth space launch to add to his tally of six launches from Earth and his single launch from the Moon.

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SpaceX Ties Personal Best, Launches 18th Mission of 2018 With Qatari ComSat

Liftoff of the Es’hail 2 satellite from KSC pad 39A in Florida. Photo Credit: John Kraus / AmericaSpace.com

Less than four months since it successfully lofted the Telstar 19V communications satellite to orbit, a Block 5 Upgraded Falcon 9 first stage roared skyward from historic Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Aboard the booster—designated “B1047”, which is the third Block 5 to be reused in less than six months—was Qatar’s Es’hail-2 communications satellite, which includes the first amateur radio payload to voyage to geostationary orbit.

Liftoff occurred at 3:46 p.m. EST Thursday, right on the opening of a 103-minute “window”, and its success enabled SpaceX to tie its own “personal best” of 18 launches in a single calendar year. With today’s launch success, attention turns to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., where another Block 5 is being readied to fly on a never-before-attempted third mission on 19 November.

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'Follow Our Dreams': 20 Years Since Zarya Launched the International Space Station Era (Part 1)

Twenty years ago, this month, the grandest engineering endeavor in human history got underway with the dawn of the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, this month, a new era began. On 20 November 1998, a Russian Proton-K rocket—descendent of a family of heavylift boosters which had already launched a half-dozen Soviet space stations and numerous scientific and technological research modules into low-Earth orbit—blasted off from Site 81 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, laden with the first component of the International Space Station (ISS). Measuring 41 feet (12.5 meters) in length and 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) wide, the Zarya (“Dawn”) module would provide power, storage, propulsion and guidance for an infant station which, in time, would grow to become the largest artificial satellite ever launched into space and the grandest and most complex engineering accomplishment in human history.

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NASA's Lucy Mission to the Trojans Is a GO!

Artist’s concept of the Lucy mission at the Trojans near Jupiter. Image Credit: NASA/SwRI

NASA’s proposed mission to a group of primitive and still-unexplored asteroids has been given approval for further development – the Lucy mission will travel to the Trojans, a group of asteroids that share the same orbit as Jupiter. This region has never been visited before, so the mission will give scientists a chance to see some very ancient rocky bodies left over from the formation of the Solar System.

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Pegasus-XL Booster Primed to Launch ICON Ionospheric Research Mission, NET Wednesday

The Pegasus-XL booster sits beneath the fuselage of the L-1011 Stargazer on the Skid Strip, ahead of the ICON mission. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Five months later than intended, a Pegasus-XL winged booster—flying, for the first time, under the auspices of Northrop Grumman Corp., following the latter’s recent acquisition of Orbital ATK—will deliver NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) into low-Earth orbit on Wednesday, 7 November. From a vantage point of 360 miles (575 km), ICON will spend two years examining the complex interactions between Earth’s ionosphere and the onslaught of the solar wind. Launch of the mission was originally scheduled to occur from Kwajalein Atoll, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, in early June, but was repeatedly delayed due to technical difficulties. This also prompted a realignment of the launch site and ICON will now depart from the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

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