Archive for the ‘Space Missions’ Category

Striking SkyLab   Leave a comment



If you had the opportunity to rocket out to space and orbit the Earth, would you seriously consider going on strike during the experience?

That’s exactly what the crew of the last manned mission of SkyLab did.  Commander Gerald Carr, Pilot William Pogue and Scientist Edward Gibson, all space rookies, served on an 84 day mission that consisted of long days with many tasks to complete.  Eventually, the crew became exhausted and fell behind schedule.  Worse, Pogue succumbed to space sickness and attempted to hide it from mission controllers.  Skylab astronauts called it “space crud,” which consisted of headaches, dizziness, nausea and the inevitable vomiting.

Complaints were made and rebuffed by Mission Control, who believed the men were too lax in performing their duties.  An overwhelming schedule left little or no time for the occupants of SkyLab to enjoy the magnificent view afforded them out the window.  About halfway through their mission, the crew had had enough.  All were exhausted, requested a break and then helped themselves to time off.  Cape Canaveral’s crew became mystified.  This never happened before – a crew going on strike? Believing it to be depression or medically caused lethargy, the SkyLab astronauts disagreed.  All they wanted was a chance to gaze out the window and take in the beauty of all that Earth and space.  Clearly the profound experience of watching the home planet from such a vantage point affected all of them deeply, and although their work was of great importance, the ability to gaze downward at the Earth in all of its beauty instilled a sense of wonder difficult to express.  More time was needed to cherish what laid before them and to contemplate their emotions regarding it.


Scientist-Astronaut Edward G. Gibson, Skylab 4 science pilot, stands at the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) console in the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) of the Skylab space station cluster in Earth orbit.

From that point on, the mission workload eased.  As a result, production increased and the men had performed more work than previously planned.  Amazing displays of space grandeur awaited. Gibson monitored the sun’s surface and watched the development of a solar flare on January 21, 1974  and filmed its development, a first from space.  Many photographs were taken of the Earth, including Area 51, which went ignored for years.


Scientist-Astronaut Edward G. Gibson, science pilot for the Skylab 4 mission, demonstrates the effects of zero-gravity as he sails through airlock module hatch.

Also during their mission, Comet Kohoetek made its dramatic appearance  in mid-December 1973, and on December 30, during a spacewalk, the comet appeared from behind the sun to continue its return to its origins.

Skylab Mission 4 returned to Earth on February 8, 1974, having logged 1,214 Earth orbits,  four EVAs totalling 22 hours, 13 minutes, traveling 34.5 million miles in 84 days in space.

Posted March 11, 2014 by seleneymoon in Space Missions

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When America and the USSR Became Friends   Leave a comment


Apollo-Soyuz Crew, as shown on NASA web site, Apollo-Soyuz mission information page

Despite the fact that there always seems to be saber-rattling between the United States and Russia, our space programs get along famously.

Case in point: on July 17, 1975, Soviet and American spaceships linked together for the first time during the mission known as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.  Three American astronauts, Brig. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, Deke Slayton and Vance D. Brand and two cosmonauts, Lt. Col. Aleksei A. Leonov and Valery N. Kubasov,  changed the way our nations do business in space forever.  Slayton, by the way, was one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts

During this nine-day space mission, the American Apollo command/service module, or CSM, linked with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft.  The docking collar, which enabled the two spacecraft to connect, was developed cooperatively between NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences.  On July 15, 1975, the Soviet Soyuz-U and Delta IB launch vehicles (that’s rockets to you and me) lifted off within seven and one-half hours of each other and docked two days later.  After three hours of docking, the hatches opened.  Mission Commanders Stafford and Leonov reached towards one another and engaged in the first international handshake in space.


NASA, First international handshake in space: Stafford in foreground, Leonov in background

The joint crew spent 44 hours together conducting scientific experiments, exchanging gifts and flags, visited each other’s ships, ate together and shared a few laughs.  Stafford tended to speak Russian with a drawl, prompting Leonov to joke that he spoke “Oklahomski.”  President Gerald Ford made a phone call to congratulate the men on their mission, and a statement was read by Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev.

After the mission had ended and both crews returned to Earth, citizens of both nations delighted in shared accomplishment.  President Ford personally greeted the cosmonauts.  The Americans took their Soviet colleagues and friends on a tour of the United States, and the Soviets returned the gesture with a tour of their own.

In 1977, Soviet astronomer Nikolai S. Chernykh discovered a minor planet in the asteroid belt and named it 2228 Soyuz-Apollo, to commemorate this unique mission.

On February 19, 2014, Valery Kubasov died at the age of 79.  No cause was given, but certainly members of the space community of all nations felt the loss of this pioneer of cooperative international missions.  He served as the flight engineer and technical expert.

Today, this legacy continues on through the International Space Station and other missions, both off-world and on, through the dedicated scientists, space engineers and others, who recognize that the shared accomplishments and discoveries through cooperation far outweigh those of less peaceful purposes.  Perhaps one day scientists will become presidents, and the world will be ruled by logic instead of vice.

One can only hope.


Not-So-Silent Space   Leave a comment

It’s well known that in space, it’s quiet.  No noise, no nothing.  After all, it’s a vacuum, right?

Truth be told, there is sounds that can be heard, if you know how to listen.  Thanks to NASA, they’ve shared terrific examples on their website.  Here’s a brief sampling of what lie out there.  Let’s start out and work our way in.

But first, a bit of an explanation.  Some of these sounds were originally captured as radio waves and were converted into sound.  What’s the difference?  A sound wave is a longitudinal wave caused by particles passing on vibration. The radio wave is a transverse wave and is electromagnetic waves.  In other words, sounds result from causing something to vibrate, whereas radio waves rely on electromagnetic origins.

Returning to our sounds…

In September 2013, Voyager project scientists released to the public sound captured on its durable (or should I say, ‘endurable’?) 8-track tape player.  The high-pitched sounds provided evidence that Voyager had entered a region of cold, dense, interstellar plasma.  Our worlds-weary intrepid friend had finally left our solar system for good, to seek out whatever lie ahead and dutifully report back its findings.  Ready to give yourself the chills?  Play this link: Voyager Reports Back.

As Cassini wended its way around Jupiter in 2001, it picked up some interesting radio waves.  These are the results of scientists converting the radio to sound waves.

Galileo picked up these transmissions from Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede (the first 20 seconds are silent).

Here’s one from Earth.  It’s the whistle heard when ultra-cold liquid helium-3 changes volume relative to the North Pole and Earth’s rotation.

And right here on our home planet, directly from the forest, are translated sounds from tree rings.  No, it’s not space, but it’s kind of weird.





The Original Space Cowboy   Leave a comment


I’ve seen the film “Gravity” and it’s a tension filled, zoom-above-the-earth tale meant to demonstrate how dangerous life can be in space.  I also know that a portion of what was depicted in the film is not correct, but then again, how entertaining could a 100% scientifically accurate film be?

I agree.  Boreville, USA  Sometime, though, there really are stories that are 100% true of bravery despite obvious risks.

Take the case of Dale Gardner.

In 1984, Commander Garder and Dr. Joseph Allen used what amount to a jetpack (that’s a nitrogen gas-powered manned maneuvering unit, or MMU) to retrieve two stranded satellites, the Palapa B-2 and Westar 6, and load them into the shuttle Discovery.  Both had been deployed from a shuttle and slipped into useless orbits, due to the malfunctioning of their kick motors.  Gardner connected the Palapa B-2 to the shuttle’s mechanical arm but unable to load the satellite into the cargo bay.

For 90 minutes, 224 miles above the earth, both astronauts struggled to maneuver the satellite into place.  Easy enough to move it around in space, it was hard to stop and it nearly collided with the Discovery.  With the help Anna Fisher, another astronaut, the Palapa B-2 was eventually loaded into the cargo bay.


That left one more satellite to load, the Westar 6.  Garder and Allen had fewer troubles moving it into the cargo bay this time, fortunately.

These three astronauts proved that one needn’t throw away $35 million dollars because a satellite won’t function.  They were rescued and brought safely back to earth.

This was the last time MMUs were used in space.

It’s my sad duty to report that Dale Gardner died on February 19, 2014 at the age of 65.  You can read a little more about his life in the New York Times, at this link:

What a wild ride it’s been.  And now, he floats above us forever.


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