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NASA

  • Anders sadly perished a few days ago at the age of 90 in a terrible plane crash. Anders was a man of many talents. Running General Dynamics was probably not one of them. I’ll leave that story out of this post, but leave that to you look up. Instead, I want to share something else about William Anders. One of his greatest shining achievements, was probably this unscheduled photograph he took during the Apollo 8 mission.

    First, for the uninitiated, Apollo 8 was the first crewed mission to leave Earth’s orbit completely to reach the moon. The crew then orbited the moon some 10 times before returning back to Earth. It was a landmark historical mission.

    A transcript from NASA’s program Earthrise: The 45th Anniversary:

    On December 24, 1968, a few minutes after 10:30 am Houston time, Apollo 8 was coming around from the far side of the Moon for the fourth time. Mission Commander Frank Borman was in the left-hand seat, preparing to turn the spacecraft to a new orientation according to the flight plan. Navigator Jim Lovell was in the spacecraft’s lower equipment bay, about to make sightings on lunar landmarks with the onboard sextant, and Bill Anders was in the right-hand seat, observing the Moon through his side window, and taking pictures with a Hasselblad still camera, fitted with a 250-mm telephoto lens. Meanwhile, a second Hasselblad with an 80-mm lens was mounted in Borman’s front-facing window, the so-called rendezvous window, photographing the Moon on an automatic timer: a new picture every twenty seconds. These photographs, matched with LRO’s high-resolution terrain maps, show that Borman was still turning Apollo 8 when the Earth appeared. It was only because of the timing of this rotation that the Earthrise, which had happened on Apollo 8’s three previous orbits, but was unseen by the astronauts, now came into view in Bill Anders’s side window. Here’s what it looked like, as recreated from LRO data by Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio. You’ll hear the astronauts’ voices as captured by Apollo 8’s onboard tape recorder, beginning with Frank Borman announcing the start of the roll maneuver, and you’ll see the rising Earth move from one window to another as Apollo 8 turns.

    Borman: All right, we’re gonna roll. Ready… Set…

    Anders: The impact crater with uh – at uh – just prior to the subsolar point on the south side, in the floor of it, uh, [unintelligible], there is one dark hole. But I couldn’t get a quick enough look at it to see if it might be anything volcanic.

    Anders: Oh my God, look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth comin’ up. Wow, is that pretty!

    Borman: Hey don’t take that, it’s not scheduled.

    [shutter click]

    Anders: You got a color film, Jim? Hand me a roll of color, quick, would you?

    Lovell: Oh man, that’s great.

    Anders: Hurry.

    Lovell: Where is it?

    Anders: Quick

    Lovell: Down here?

    Anders: Just grab me a color. A color exterior. Hurry up. Got one?

    Lovell: Yeah, I’m looking’ for one. C 368.

    Anders: Anything. Quick.

    Lovell: Here.

    Anders: Well, I think we missed it.

    Lovell: Hey, I got it right here [in the hatch window].

    Anders: Let me get it out this one, it’s a lot clearer.

    Lovell: Bill, I got it framed, it’s very clear right here!

    [shutter click]

    Lovell: Got it?

    Anders: Yep.

    Lovell: Take several, take several of ’em! Here, give it to me!

    Anders: Wait a minute, just let me get the right setting here now, just calm down.

    Lovell: Take –

    Anders: Calm down, Lovell!

    Lovell: Well, I got it right – aw, that’s a beautiful shot…Two-fifty at f/11.

    [shutter click]

    Anders: Okay.

    […]

    Source: Transcripts of Earthrise: The 45th Anniversary

    I love this interaction. It highlights just how much a team effort it took to take these photographs, and just how astounding the visage of Earth rising up out of the darkness as they orbited out of the dark side of the moon. Truly captivating.

  • The original Star Wars logo from 1976, which was suddenly dropped before the official theatrical release.

    Here’s what 20th Century Fox went with instead in 1977:

    And here’s the Star Wars worm-like logo we know and love today:

    h/t 1000logos.net

  • From NASA’s beta website:

    Coming soon: our new ad-free, no cost, family-friendly streaming service unlocks our Emmy award-winning live coverage, embeds you into our missions through new original video series and puts the universe at your fingertips.

    Sign me up! 🚀

  • I found myself going down a rabbit hole of NASA photography today. Gemini XII was part of the Gemini Space Program that ran between 1961–1966. Gemini XII specifically was a crewed mission, commanded by James A. Lovell (who flew on Gemini VII previously). Buzz Aldrin was the co-pilot. Gemini XII was a special mission. It was the concluding mission of Gemini. Objectives included: docking, extra-vehicular activity (EVA), using propulsion systems to change orbit in order to demonstrate automatic reentry.

    If you think about it, all three of those objectives are tantamount to every orbital mission. But Gemini XII was only the 18th crewed American spaceflight ever. So, this was considered early days! We were still figuring out the kinks to manned spaceflight.

    Now, the Gemini XII was equipped with several cameras. One of which was the Hasselblad Super-Wide Camera 70mm. The other was a Maurer Space Camera 70 mm. Here’s some of the Super Wide photography Buzz and Lovell shot from within the Gemini spacecraft and several photos from outside the craft while conducting EVA.

    I’m particularly taken by the refracted sunbeams visible through Earth’s atmosphere. What a beautiful sight.

    View the rest of Gemini’s (and Mercury or Apollo’s for that matter) photography here.

  • I came across these via the r/space subreddit. In the comments, a Redditor revealed that these images were processed by Seán Doran and Gerald Eichstädt and after looking through the photostream, I was completely blown away.

    It’s nuts that we have a spacecraft out there in void. All alone. Snapping and transmitting these beautiful images of the Jovian giant to us. We are not worthy.

    Swirling violent masses of gases rage and dance on the surface of Jupiter

    Where do these photos come from? The Juno spacecraft of course! This spacecraft and mission has planned to orbit the gas giant Jupiter more than 35 times (these have been organized into perjoves), and has a planned termination date for 2021. A remarkable achievement.

    Here’s a clearer shot of one of Jupiter’s polar vortexes
  • Nearly 50 years ago, we landed on the moon. “We came in peace for all mankind,” the immortal plaque reads:

    NASA, CC.

    Indeed we did we come in peace. An incredible achievement. The Johnson Space Center played an important part in the Apollo missions. The JSC was historic backdrop where Gene Kranz was Flight Director for 33 missions. One of which landed the first men on the moon. And of course Apollo 13, the terrifying mission in which a catastrophic oxygen tank explosion nearly ended in tragedy, but thanks to NASA engineers and Kranz, were able to return safely. From NPR:

    The room where Kranz directed some of NASA’s most historic missions, heralding U.S. exploration of space, was decommissioned in 1992. Since then, it had become a stop on guided tours of the space center, but fallen into disrepair. Kranz has led a $5 million dollar, multi-year effort to restore Mission Control in time for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20.

    “I walked into that room last Monday for the first time when it was fully operational, and it was dynamite. I literally wept,” Kranz said in an interview with NPR. “The emotional surge at that moment was incredible. I walked down on the floor, and when we did the ribbon cutting the last two days, believe it or not, I could hear the people talking in that room from 50 years ago. I could hear the controllers talking.”

    Incredibly, the preservation went above and beyond — Sandra Tetley, the Johnson Space Center preservation officer worked meticulously to outfit the control room with ephemera such as paper cups, ash trays, coffee pots and other items from the 60s from eBay. They literally salvaged everything:

    The @NASA_Johnson Twitter account even put together a short reel about the restoration:

    Photo of Gene Kranz from NPR

    The last time I visited the JSC, Mission Control was a dusty, dimly lit reproduction set — only visible from afar. The CRTs, knobs and switches were disabled, with no visible telemetry charts or buzzing vacuum tubes. But, this modern restoration (photo above) looks so much fun, and just looks at Kranz smile! Simply, amazing to behold. If you ever get a chance, visit the Johnson Space Center and check it out. Apart from Mission Control, it’s an amazing place, where people from far and wide can come to learn or get inspired about the Apollo missions, rockets, the ISS, spacewalks, aeronautical engineering and science.

  • Take a good, hard look at the graph and caption below.

    This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Luthi, D., et al.. 2008; Etheridge, D.M., et al. 2010; Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Find out more about ice cores (external site).

    Sadly, as of today, the EPA, weaponized by the GOP, has rolled back coal regulations that could have saved lives. Drunk on removing regulation, no one in power is considering the implications of allowing coal power to return in droves. NASA, the last bastion of climate research, says it’s not looking good for anyone:

    Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

    If that doesn’t scare the living hell out of you, allow my hyperbolic language for a moment — we don’t have a lot of time left on the clock. Last time I checked, there’s only one Earth. Maybe, start giving a shit. At this rate, humankind will be in grave danger in less than 50 years times. This is not up for debate. Contact your member of Congress or the Senate. Ask him or her to support climate legislation immediately. Find a member of the House here and a member of the Senate here. Most importantly, go vote.

    Looking for more tips on reducing your carbon footprint or fighting climate change? Here’s some further reading:

  • Ellison Onizuka was a careered Air Force test pilot, flight engineer and American astronaut. He was born and raised in Kealakekua, Hawaii. He flew on Space Shuttle missions for the Discovery and Challenger.

    He, of course, was tragically killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster. El, as he was often referred to, was a warm and loving father. He was an assistant coach to The Lady Falcons, the Clear Lake High School girls soccer team. Tony Malinowski at ESPN writes:

    In January 1986, “Rocky IV” was in theaters, gas was 93 cents per gallon and Janelle Onizuka was sitting through her sophomore classes at Clear Lake, waiting to get to soccer practice. All week, the team had been passing around a ball to sign. It was just a practice ball, a little scuffed up and not the best brand. By all accounts it was unremarkable, except for one very remarkable fact: Janelle’s dad, Ellison, was going to take it into space.

    The mid-January evening that Ellison came to pick up the ball was one of those nights he was supposed to be in quarantine. Janelle hadn’t seen him for weeks; the astronauts were kept isolated before missions to avoid getting sick. But there he was, jogging across the practice field, and suddenly the whole evening buzzed with the electric feeling of being part of something special as a kid — literally, in this case, part of something far beyond your own small world.

    The players on the team presented Ellison with the ball, looking one last time at all their names and “Good Luck, Shuttle Crew!” written in careful strokes, knowing it was a way for each of them to be a part of the great human achievement of the time — a way to touch the heavens.

    Truly heartbreaking. But, brings joy to my heart that his daughter and her teammates got to see Ellison one last time before the disaster. Ultimately, the ball made it’s way to space after all. In 2016, on Expedition 49 the ball was whisked to the ISS. It spent 173 days aboard. A reminder of El’s determination and destiny, and personally a reminder of our frail mortality. A lovely gesture.

    It also turns out, Ellison gave a compelling and inspiring commencement to his high school alma mater in 1980 — his words have been honored and immortalized in millions of US passports.

    His expanded quotation reads:

    Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds … to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation. Your vision is not limited by what your eye can see, but what your mind can imagine. If you accept these past accomplishments as commonplace, then think of the new horizons that you can explore. … Make your life count, and the world will be a better place because you tried.

    Per aspera ad astra 💫