The Passing of an Apollo Hero

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Thursday night, news came through that Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell passed away at the age of 85. Edgar was the sixth man to walk on the moon spending nine hours working on the lunar surface where he and Alan Shepard gathered over 100 pounds of lunar samples to take back to earth.

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Mitchell started his astronaut career in 1966 and retired in 1972. He was originally a backup pilot for Apollo 10 and finally took flight on the Apollo 14 space shuttle where, on February 5th, he walked on the moon. Sadly, Mitchell did not make it to see the 45th anniversary of his moon walk.

 

 

His legacy will live on….

 

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Rachelle Williams

@AstroAnarchy

 

 

 

 

Space Week in Review

This weeks space week review brought us two rocket launches, a curious selfie, an Orion update and the solemn rememberence of three separate tragedies.

 

Ariane 5

January 27th, 2016 saw the Ariane 5 rocket successfully launch with an Intelsat 29E satellite from the Guiana Space Centre. This was the 56th Intelsat satellite to be launched into space by Arianespace. It was a beautiful liftoff as the Vulcan 2 engine lit up the launch pad with 300,000 pounds of thrust propelling the Ariane 5 rocket into space.

Proton-M Eutelsat 9B

January 29th, 2016 gave us another successful launch this time on the Proton-M rocket with the Eutelsat 9B satellite from the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The liftoff was carried out by six RD-276 engines and it happened so fast I barely had time to realize it had launched!

Both satellites were launched for better communications here on earth. That’s right, if it wasn’t for the space industry we would be tweeting by pen, paper and snail mail.

Orion EM-1

Next up is Orion and what an exciting bit of news it was! All systems are on track for an unmanned test flight around the moon targeted for 2018. The EM-1 test mission will pave the way for the manned EM-2 mission that is targeted for 2021-2023. The EM-1 was carefully loaded up and transported from New Orleans to the Kennedy Space Center where it will call home until it’s launch in 2018. While it is at KSC it will undergo tests for its structural integrity and then integrated with its launch vehicle, the SLS (Space Launch Vehicle)

 

Curiosity Selfie

A curious little Mars rover named Curiosity gave us the cutest selfie ever! Look ma, sand!

 

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I will end this week’s wrap with remembering seventeen brave heroes who gave their lives for space exploration.

Apollo 1

Challenger

Columbia

 

Rachelle Williams

@astroanarchy

 

Challenger and Columbia: What Have We Learned?

The following was written by Talking Space founder and commentator Gene Mikulka who is also a guest editor for AstroAnarchy.

 

Challenger and Columbia: What Have We Learned?

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On January 28th, 2016 we observed the thirtieth anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. On the cold, clear morning of January 28th, 1986 Challenger and her crew of seven shook the ice off of Launch Complex 39 B and attempted to reach for the stars.

They would never make it.

At .678 seconds after ignition, the aft field joint which connected the vehicle’s solid rocket booster, failed. The failure allowed a bright flame to burn though the booster casing acting like a blowtorch against the skin of the Challenger’s large external fuel tank. After seventy three seconds of flight, the orbiter, according to the Rogers Commission investigating the accident now ”under severe dynamic loads, broke apart into several large sections“after being engulfed by a fireball when its large external fuel tank, filled with volatiles was breached as a result of the booster malfunction. All seven of Challenger’s crew perished.

Did we really learn anything from that tragic event in 1986?

Sure we learned that we should not launch outside known parameters. The low air temperatures on that day played a factor and reveled a significant design flaw that had been know about since the second flight of the Space Shuttle program. It showed that we made a significant mistake putting all of our launch services all in one basket. At the time, America was depending solely on the Shuttle to launch all of its satellites both civilian and military. We saw the error there, and started to get back into the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle business and saving the Orbiter fleet for missions where humans needed to be in the loop, and the orbiter could provide its services for those unique missions.

There were other contributions to the accident, including self-imposed launch schedule pressures and in the case of the aft field joint rubber O-rings, not listening to what the machine had been trying to tell us, or worse listening but engaging in a game of “Russian Roulette” as Dr. Richard Feynman, a member of the Rogers Commission investigating the accident, described it.

However did things really change?

 

Fast forward to the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia, the morning of January 16th, 2003. Eighty two seconds into the flight, a piece of foam, no bigger than a suitcase and weighing a mere two pounds ripped off the left bipod atop the orbiter’s fuel tank. The foam would impact the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing. At the time of the impact the orbiter was traveling at a speed of about 1870 MPH. The impact created a large hole in the left wing.
The mission would end tragically when on the morning of February 1st, 2003 during re-entry, the insult suffered by Columbia on launch day sealed the fate of America’s first space worthy orbiter and her crew of seven astronauts, among them the first Israeli citizen to fly in space.

As the orbiter headed home through the atmosphere, the breech in Columbia’s hull allowed gasses which were in the neighborhood of 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, to enter the left wing of the spacecraft. The gasses acted like a blowtorch, destroying the structure of the wing. The automatic systems on board Columbia valiantly tried to keep the Orbiter on a straight path but in the end flight, controls deteriorated and with Columbia traveling at a speed of 10,000 MPH dynamic forces playing on the orbiter tore into the spacecraft. Survivability for the crew was impossible.wp-1454358988479.jpg

Once again, as the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) discovered the foam loss was a known problem demonstrated in several flights. Once again there were self-imposed launch schedule pressures, in this instance the desire to complete assembly of the International Space Station by a certain date. And once again we didn’t listen to what our machines were telling us.

The sad part with both accidents was that they could have been prevented had we listened to what our machines were telling us and taken action.

Will we learn our lesson so there isn’t a “next time?” My hope is that the design teams at Boeing assembling the CST100 Starliner, at Space Exploration Technologies putting the Crew Dragon together and NASA’s Orion spacecraft team have the crew pictures of Challenger and Columbia at their desks along with the crew of the first scheduled Apollo mission as a reminder to, as the late Gus Grissom, commander of the Apollo -1 had said
“Do Good Work”

Challenger – 31 Years Later

Thirty one years ago today a nine year old little girl got ready for school just like any other day while seven heroes were getting ready to take their last flight. A day that would change many lives because that morning we would be watching those seven heroes last moments. I can’t remember anything about that day other than sitting in the classroom excited to watch Challenger take off and the explosion. I don’t remember the take off, I don’t recall the aftermath, sadly all I remember is being excited and then the explosion.

 

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Fast forward, thirty one years later to that little girl still trying to process what she saw that day. I wrote this article a year ago and it’s still hard for me to comprehend what I saw. I still can’t speak openly about that painful moment in space history, it has been that difficult, for thirty one years, to process seeing Challenger explode. I still won’t look at a picture of that space ship after the explosion, it makes me sick to my stomach that they lost their lives that day. That it could have been avoided at all. 

NASA was warned not to launch by the company that made the O-Rings but they were on a tight schedule so they decided to launch.

Had they just listened….

 

So today I remember the seven heroes that lost their lives that day, who gave their lives for space exploration. Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist. So let’s remember them that day as happy, smiling and ready to explore.

 

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Stardust

You were many things to many people….

To some you were Stardust, to others you were Major Tom, to many you were a singer who encouraged oddity and the Goblin King who stole our hearts.

But we all knew you as David Bowie and the world is mourning you today.

Your music will live forever in our hearts as you dance among the stars and finally find out if there is life on Mars. Rest in peace Mr. Bowie you are no longer in pain.

With your final transmission you sign off…..

“Ground control to Major Tom….”

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BRIIIIITS IN SPAAAAAACE!

Today, Astronaut Tim Peake made history by being the first Brit to board the International Space Station. Not only is he the first on the ISS but he is the first British astronaut in the last 20 years to go into space.

This is a huge day not only for the UK but also for space travel in general. After a six and a half hour flight in the Soyuz rocket and not without an intense moment when they had to do an unusual manual approach, Peake finally boarded the ISS with his fellow astronauts. He was warmly greeted by Scott Kelly who is currently half way through his year long stay on the International Space Station.

Peake will spend the next six months months aboard the ISS with Kelly and four other astronauts. Tim Kopra, Yuri Malenchenko, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov.

We live in a time where a rocket carries a human into space to board a satellite that has been orbiting this pale, blue dot since 1998. What a time to be alive!

 

~AstroAnarchy~