Sept. 12, 1992: Dr. Mae Jemison Becomes First African American Woman in Space

On this day in 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African American woman to travel through space. She served as Mission Specialist aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-47.

WTCI’s Alison Lebovitz discusses the legacy of the first woman of color to travel beyond the stratosphere on “The A List with Alison Lebovitz.” Watch the interview here.

Photos: NASA

The Last Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour

Space Shuttle Endeavour has retired from service, and for the moment NASA is reliant on Russian rockets to keep the International Space Station stocked up and operating. NASA is developing a replacement for the Shuttle – the Orion CEV – but for the moment, lets take a look at the Shuttle and remember the many years of sterling service it has given us.

Image credit: Dan Winters

July 20, 1969: First Man Walks on the Moon

On this day in 1969, the spaceflight Apollo 11 landed the first humans, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on the moon.  People watched worldwide as Armstrong took that momentous first step onto the moon, declaring, “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

One does not simply land on the moon wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  See how these Historic Space Suits evolved to allow a successful landing on the moon!

Photo:  NASA

Space a Shuttle Atlantis during launch. Atlantis is currently on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I have seen the display and it is first rate. A fitting display for a beautiful space craft. Definitely worth a trip to see it, as well as the Saturn V there.

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January 28, 1986: Space Shuttle Challenger Breaks Apart After Launch

Barely 70 seconds into its flight, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart on this day in 1986, killing all seven astronauts aboard. The disaster was caused by a faulty seal in one of the rockets on the shuttle. The tragedy led to a 32-month hiatus of the shuttle program.

Read President Ronald Reagan’s speech to the nation following the Challenger disaster.

Photo: The STS-51L crew, who were lost aboard the Challenger (NASA). Front row: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair. Back row: Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik.


     Here, we have the Saturn V rocket, housed inside the Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center near Titusville, Florida, just a few miles from Launch complex 39, where these beasts once roared into the sky.

     When we look at the enormous first stage of the Saturn V rocket, called an S-IC, we think “spaceship”. Truthfully, the Saturn V first stage never actually made it into space. The stage only burned for the first 150 seconds of flight, then dropped away from the rest of the rocket, all while remaining totally inside Earth’s atmosphere. The S-IC stage is merely an aircraft.

     Even more truthfully, the S-IC stage displayed here at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, never flew at all. It is a static test article, fired while firmly attached to the ground, to make sure the rocket would actually hold together in flight. Obviously, these tests were successful, (e.g. she didn’t blow up), and she sits on our Apollo museum today. I wrote more about this particular stage in a previous post, (click here to view.)

     The rest of the rocket, the second and third stages, called the S-II and S-IVB stages, did fly into space. The S-II put the manned payload into orbit, and the S-IVB was responsible for initially propelling that payload from earth orbit to the moon, an act called “trans-lunar injection” (TLI).

     The particular rocket in this display, except for the first stage, is called SA-514. 514 was going to launch the cancelled Apollo 18 and 19 moon missions.

     The command/service module (CSM) in the photos is called CSM-119. This particular capsule is unique to the Apollo program, because it has five seats. All the others had three. 119 could launch with a crew of three, and land with five, because it was designed it for a possible Skylab rescue mission. It was later used it as a backup capsule for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

June 18, 1983: Sally Ride Becomes the First American Woman in Space

On this day in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She was a mission specialist aboard the Challenger. She rode the space shuttle Challenger into orbit in 1983, but she was also a NASA adviser, a lifelong educator, and a founder of Sally Ride Science, a venture dedicated to inspiring and teaching young people, especially girls, about science and space.

Watch an NOVA’s uncut interview with the late astronaut, conducted at NASA in 1984.

Photo: NASA