Archive for the ‘Soviet-American space missions’ Tag

Wanted: A Planet to Call Home   2 comments

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Credit: NASA

Clearly, we’ve grown bored with the Earth.  It’s that lover one always strives to please, yet somehow no matter what one does, it’s never right.  In the end, one gives up and goes elsewhere to find love and acceptance.  Its inhabitants have, in equal parts, loved and abused it, ignored its warnings and acted surprised when it fought back.  In the end, we all know it’ll get its way and beat us, but no one who borrows time trodding on its grassy plains and thick muddy fields ever thinks about that prospect.

Instead, our eyes shift upward, looking elsewhere for a better situation and a second chance.

Ever since the discovery of exoplanets, or those outside of our own solar system, space explorers have been determining which of those planets will host life and, optimistically, life that we can identify, and, how we’re going to to meet up one day.  Average citizens, whose off-world opportunities are rather limited, have to rely on imagination and conjecture to supply possibilities.  After all, those alien spaceships have to come from somewhere, right?  They can’t all be bad.  Those Antarians from the movie “Cocoon” did benefit the forgotten population of greying Floridians, even supplying a ride back to Antarea to seniors deserving of a new life.

Closer to home, it’s simpler to take advantage of our backyard planets and subsequent moons.  Once humans figured out what planets actually were, they’ve also contemplated living upon them.

Take, for instance, the moon.  Relatively ancient technology got us there and back for a short visit way back when.  Nowadays, it’s entirely feasible to build a craft to ship us there en masse to create a colony there, given its relative nearness.  We already know there’s a supply of water and rare earth elements just hankering to be mined.  Nearly every genre of science is hankering to conduct experiments there, driven by desire, curiosity and the uniqueness of the lunar environment.  Americans, Russians, as well as private interests all have plans in the works to get up there by the 2020s and make a homestead claim.

Humans attach great meaning to the color red.  Anger, temptation, danger and naughtiness are all meanings associated with it – just about everything we’re not supposed to have and desperately crave.  I’m assuming that’s the subliminal reason why Mars is so magnetic.  After all, this red planet practically begs someone to come hither.  Probes coyly hint at the richness of Mars’ treasures.  Water’s there, too, although not behaving the way we’d like it to be, adding more to its mystique.  And like a forbidden love, the more determined we are to have it, the more money it costs to secure it.  I’ve no doubt there’ll be a batch of humans trying to tame the Wild Red Planet’s surface, but it’ll come at a price, no one will be happy, but we’ll be never be satisfied until we at least have a first date.  Then we’ll see.

Until then, I’m going to bide my time and see what openings Virgin Galactic has in the near future.  I might want to book a ride.

When America and the USSR Became Friends   Leave a comment

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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.

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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.

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