Category Archives: Space News

Honorable Mayor William D. Tate and City of Grapevine to Honor Wally Funk with Parade, Community Celebration

WHO: The City of Grapevine will honor resident and hometown hero, Wally Funk, for her history-making experience aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin ‘New Shepard’ suborbital space tourism
rocket.

WHAT: Parade and Community Celebration
Parade along Historic Main Street immediately followed by a presentation by aviation leaders, peers, Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate and Grapevine City Council.

WHEN: Saturday, August 7, 2021, Parade Starts at noon

WHERE: Parade will head south on Main Street from Wall Street toward Dallas Road.
Parade will culminate on Peace Plaza at Grapevine Main Station, 815 S. Main St., with
remarks by dignitaries and Wally Funk.

Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk emerges from the ‘New Sheperd’ capsule (Photo: Blue Origin)

Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate’s Expresses Support for Grapevine Resident Wally Funk’s Trip into Space

Wally Funk – Now and Then

In support of Grapevine resident Wally Funk‘s inaugural commercial space flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ rocket, Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate shared words of appreciation and support:

“It is a great day for Grapevine when one of our most treasured citizens participates in such a historic event. Wally Funk is a true trailblazer, and I and all of the residents of Grapevine are so proud of her as she propels not only herself but the entire world into the realm of commercial space travel.  

In her 82 years her passion for air travel led her to experience many firsts. She was among the first wave of Americans, and the first group of women, who trained for space travel during the first space race. She is now the oldest and among the first to chart an unprecedented course for commercial space travel. Wally, as you fly into space, your Grapevine community flies with you, and we hope you have the ride of your life!,” said the Mayor.

ABOUT WALLY FUNK AND BLUE ORIGIN:

82 year-old Wally Funk is one of a dozen women who have come to be known as the “Mercury 13,” which were women who were passed over from going into space. Until now.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame, created private spaceflight company, Blue Origin, which is targeting today, July 20, 2021 for its first crewed “New Shepard” mission — a suborbital jaunt that will loft Bezos, his brother Mark, pioneering aviator Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daeman, who took the place of a still-mysterious person who paid $28 million for his or her seat in an online auction but pulled out of the July 20 flight due to scheduling conflicts, according to Blue Origin. 

Blue Origin’s New Sheperd

Watch the entire process here on Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos picks Grapevine woman, an aerospace pioneer, to rocket into space with him

Blue Origin announced Wally Funk, from Grapevine, Texas, will soar atop Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, inside a capsule, as an “honored guest.”

In this 2019 photo made available by NASA, Mercury 13 astronaut trainee Wally Funk visits the Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (NASA via AP)

Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos has chosen an early female aerospace pioneer — an 82-year-old pilot denied astronaut wings decades ago because of her gender — to rocket into space with him in just three weeks.

The company announced Thursday that Wally Funk will be aboard the July 20 launch from West Texas, flying in the capsule for the 10-minute hop as an “honored guest.” She’ll join Bezos, his brother and the winner of a charity auction, as the first people to ride a New Shepard rocket, named for Mercury 7 astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

Funk is among the so-called Mercury 13 women who went through astronaut training in the 1960s, but never made it to space — or even NASA’s astronaut corps — because they were female. Back then, all of the NASA astronauts were military test pilots and male.

In an Instagram video posted by Bezos, Funk said she feels “fabulous” about being asked to launch.

“Nothing has ever gotten in my way,” she noted. “They said, ‘Well, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ’Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are. You can still do it if you want to do it and I like to do things that nobody has ever done.”

Read more from WFAA…

To the Moon and Back With Michael Collins, 1930-2021

By Buzz Aldrin

Finding words is hard. The death at age 90 of Michael Collins, command-module pilot for Apollo 11, is the loss of a friend, an unswerving patriot and an intrepid explorer. Neil Armstrong and I were blessed to have had Mike as our crew mate on America’s first manned mission to the moon’s surface, in July 1969. No one is more responsible for our success—taking us out and bringing us home safely—than Mike.

What Mike gave our nation is hard to express. He was a fearless test pilot, inveterate scholar, cheerful crewmate; he was calm under pressure, self-disciplined, knew every detail of the Columbia command module. He was also a lifelong friend, focused on others and often hardest on himself.

Mike’s book, “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys” (1974), is detailed and aptly named. A gifted writer, Mike put into words the extraordinariness of our shared experience—his, Neil’s, mine and our nation’s. He focused on the mission, team, nation and journey, less on himself.

Mike was the one who orbited the moon 30 times alone, focused on us, making sure we stayed close. He was the one who, on Gemini 10 in 1966, walked in space and proved orbital rendezvous with another spacecraft, a vital step in America’s eventual moon missions. And Mike was first among friends—gracious, self-deprecating and always quick with a smile.

Read more from the WSJ….

Astronauts Identified Air Leak in International Space Station Using Tea Leaves

Anyone who saw Apollo 13 can appreciate that sometimes all the advanced science and engineering utilized to get our brave men and women into space pales in comparison to the ingenuity often required to keep them there safely. Recently, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was alerted to a small air leak in the Zverzda module of the ISS. This area includes sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

A specialist from the Russian Mission Control Center told a cosmonaut to use tea leaves in the microgravity environment to pinpoint the leaks. As the tea leaves were suspended in the environment, they were slowly drawn towards what was revealed to be a small crack in the hull of the module. The crack, which was measured at 0.2 mm in diameter, was found on an ISS wall. Once the crack was located, the crew used adhesive tape made of a temperature-resistant material to cover it, serving as a short-term fix.

Down the road, more durable equipment will be delivered to the ISS to help patch the crack and perform checks to ensure there are no additional leaks.

The NASA equivalent to duct tape is considered a temporary, but safe replacement. The current leak of 0.4 mm of mercury per day is significantly lower than the 0.5 mm/minute that would be needed to register as an emergency.

Read more and watch the video from Thomas Insights…

NASA Celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Inaugural Space Shuttle (STS-1)

The Space Shuttle Columbia began a new era of human spaceflight when STS-1 lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 12, 1981, for the inaugural flight of the nation’s Space Shuttle Program. To mark the occasion, NASA is providing historical b-roll footage of the launch and landing as well as recently recorded soundbites from retired astronaut Bob Crippen.

Aboard the spacecraft were commander John W. Young and pilot Crippen. The flight was a test mission and the first time a shuttle was flown to space. Columbia lifted off at 7 a.m. from Launch Pad 39A and was NASA’s first crewed mission since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. The launch occurred 20 years to the day after the first human launch when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the Vostok 1 capsule on April 12, 1961. Columbia concluded STS-1 on April 14, 1981, with a touchdown at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a 54-hour mission.

The mission objective was to demonstrate the safe launch into orbit and safe return of the orbiter and crew. The mission also verified the combined performance of the entire shuttle vehicle, orbiter, solid rocket boosters, and external tank. Payloads included the Developmental Flight Instrumentation (DFI) and the Aerodynamic Coefficient Identifications Package (ACIP) pallet containing equipment for recording temperatures, pressures, and acceleration levels at various points on the spacecraft.

Between the first launch in 1981 and the final landing on July 21, 2011, NASA’s space shuttle fleet – Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour – flew 135 missions, helped construct the International Space Station, and inspired generations.

As humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle pushed the bounds of discovery ever farther, requiring not only advanced technologies but the tremendous effort of a vast workforce.

Crippen spoke via computer for a recent episode of NASA’s Rocket Ranch podcast. During the interview, Crippen discusses his experience as STS-1 pilot, the spacecraft’s historic launch and landing, the discovery of missing heat tiles during the mission, and the shuttle program legacy. Soundbites from that interview, along with historical photos and b-roll footage, can be found on NASA image site using the links below.  

For videos, click HERE and HERE. All photos and videos are courtesy of NASA.

The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings. These discoveries changed how people understood the far reaches of our solar system.

Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”  

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

The closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days. On the 21st, they will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both planets in the sky. The planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.

From our vantage point on Earth the huge gas giants will appear very close together, but they will remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. And while the conjunction is happening on the same day as the winter solstice, the timing is merely a coincidence, based on the orbits of the planets and the tilt of the Earth.

“Conjunctions like this could happen on any day of the year, depending on where the planets are in their orbits,” said Throop. “The date of the conjunction is determined by the positions of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Earth in their paths around the Sun, while the date of the solstice is determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis. The solstice is the longest night of the year, so this rare coincidence will give people a great chance to go outside and see the solar system.”

Want to learn when and where to look up? Join Throop as he talks about the “Great Conjunction” on #NASAScience Live Thursday, Dec. 17. Submit your questions by using #askNASA. The NASA Science Live episode will air live at 3 p.m. EST Thursday on NASA Television and the agency’s website, along with the NASA FacebookYouTube, and Periscope channels.

For those who would like to see this phenomenon for themselves, here’s what to do: 

  • Find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or park. Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen even from most cities.
  • An hour after sunset, look to the southwestern sky. Jupiter will look like a bright star and be easily visible. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will overtake it and they will reverse positions in the sky.
  • The planets can be seen with the unaided eye, but if you have binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting the giant planet.

Each night, the two planets will appear closer low in the southwest in the hour after sunset as illustrated in the below graphic:

For more information and tips for getting a good photo of this phenomenon, click HERE.

NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, Crew Mates Arrive Safely at Space Station

Photo Credit: (NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin)

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and two Russian cosmonauts arrived aboard the International Space Station on Oct. 14, returning a medical researcher to the orbiting laboratory ahead of the 20th anniversary of uninterrupted human presence in space.

Docking of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft to the station’s Rassvet module occurred at 4:48 a.m. EDT, after a two-orbit, three-hour flight, bringing Rubins, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov to the orbiting laboratory. The Soyuz spacecraft launched Wednesday at 1:45 a.m. (10:45 a.m. Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov join Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who have been aboard the complex since April. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the hatch opening beginning at 6 a.m.

Ryzhikov will become the commander when Expedition 64 begins Wednesday, Oct. 21, with the departure of Cassidy, Vagner, and Ivanishin following their six-month stay. The change of command ceremony with all crew members is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 4:15 p.m. and will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

This is the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov, who will live and work aboard the outpost for six months. The trio will conduct research in technology development, Earth science, biology, human research and more.

During Rubins’ first spaceflight in 2016, she became the first person to sequence DNA in space. Rubins earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from the University of California, San Diego, and a doctorate in cancer biology from Stanford University’s Medical School Biochemistry Department and Microbiology and Immunology Department, Palo Alto, California.

Research conducted in microgravity helps NASA prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars and contributes to improvements for life on Earth.

During Expedition 64, the crew will grow by four more members with the arrival of Crew-1 aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon on the first operational commercial mission to the space station, returning the capability to regularly launch humans from America for the first time since retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011. Crew-1 is currently targeted for launch in November.

As the International Space Station approaches the 20th anniversary of continuous human presence, astronauts continue to test technologies, perform science and develop the skills needed to explore farther from Earth aboard the orbiting laboratory. As a global endeavor, 241 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity destination that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

Follow Rubins during her space mission on Facebook and Instagram

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts and the space station blog.

Editor’s Corner: NASA veteran shares stories about his 40+ years at the agency

By Stacey Doud

HerbShuttle

Baker

On September 17, 2019, retired NASA employee Herb Baker gave a talk at University of Texas at Arlington about his 42-year career at the space agency. Most of his work was performed at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, but he also helped out at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, as well as NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Baker holds a business degree, not one in engineering. “I can assure you that you don’t need an engineering degree to work for NASA. They’re always looking for good people from a variety of fields,” he said.

Baker basically followed in the footsteps of his mother, who also had a long career at NASA. “My first involvement with NASA was as a high school student working for the TV networks covering the early Apollo mission doing mostly ‘grunt work,’” he said. “During those missions, my main job was to take reels of film and drive them up to Houston’s Intercontinental Airport from the Johnson Space Center campus twice every day, which is about an hour’s drive each way. Of course, this was a time before the Internet, so this was the only way to get things done. From the Houston airport, the film was sent to New York City so it could be used for the evening news,” Baker explained.

Basically, Baker was a “Jack of All Trades” during his 42 years at NASA. He worked as support on almost every flight from the first Space Shuttle flight to the International Space Station (ISS) to the Orion project, which is NASA’s hope to get men to Mars by 2030, to the attempts to develop commercial space flight.

He had some funny and interesting stories to tell.

He explained several superstitions that the astronauts and cosmonauts have developed over time. “Believe it or not, yes, those cosmonauts are urinating on the bus tires,” Baker said as he showed a PowerPoint slide. “They do this because Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin did this before his first flight, which was successful, and so they consider it good luck. This is the bus that will take them to the launch pad.”

Another popular ritual is for the astronauts to eat steak and scrambled eggs for breakfast on the morning of their scheduled flight.

While it may seem silly to some, NASA respects crew superstitions so much that when STS-13 (Space Transportation System, the way NASA used to identify shuttle flights) was the next number to use, they changed the name to STS-41C. However, the crew decided that they didn’t want superstition to rule their thinking, so they made their own patch that read STS-13 on a black cat, with a space shuttle flying under the cat, which was completely different from the “official” flight patch.

Baker also recalled that employees on the JSC campus were invited to come taste test astronaut food if they had a spare hour. He was given some “space guacamole” and was asked to rate it from one to five on a variety of aspects, such as taste and texture.

“I never pass up guacamole at restaurants,” Baker said. “But this guacamole tasted terrible.”

He went back a couple of weeks later and saw that a new version of guacamole was being tested. Again, he found it less than satisfactory. After one more go around, he said, “If you served it to me now, I’d say it’s okay. It’s tolerable. But when I came back a week later, it had been taken off the menu altogether. Do you know how hard it is to keep guacamole fresh? It kept turning brown quickly, as avocados generally do.”

Baker brought a mock-up of a space suit, and watched as students tried it on.

“I can’t believe how thick these gloves are,” said one student. “The rest of the suit is not so heavy, but I know it’s not technically a real suit.”

Suiit

A student tries on the mock-up space suit

Baker was at UT-Arlington by invitation of the North Texas branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., which works with students as well as professionals in those fields.

Recently retired, Baker spends his time giving talks around the country, giving tours of Space Center Houston and performing with the Clear Creek Community Theater in Nassau Bay, Texas.

Chris Kraft, NASA’s first flight director, dies at 95

By Amanda Jackson, CNN

190722194148-chris-kraft-2011-exlarge-169

NASA Mission Control founder Chris Kraft in the old Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in 2011.

Chris Kraft, NASA’s first flight director, died Monday, two days after the agency celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, according to NASA. He was 95.

“America has truly lost a national treasure today with the passing of one of NASA’s earliest pioneers — flight director Chris Kraft,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to the Kraft family. Chris was one of the core team members that helped our nation put humans in space and on the Moon, and his legacy is immeasurable.”

Read more from CNN…