apollo capsule

jeremy2191  asked:

Does all capsules drops in Kazakhstan on return after every mission?

Since the US Space Shuttle retired in 2011, we launch to and return from the Space Station with the Russian Space Agency.  So yes, these capsules (the Soyuz) land in Kazakhstan (or surrounding regions).  However, different spacecrafts have different reentry trajectories, depending on where they aim to land.  As you might recall, the Apollo mission capsules landed in the ocean.  Since Space-X and Boeing are currently building new vehicles so that we will also launch from the US again to get to the International Space Station, these spacecraft will return to the US. For example, you may have seen footage of Space-X cargo vehicles splashing down into the Pacific over the last few years. The Boeing Starliner plans to land on land instead of water. NASA is also currently building the Orion spacecraft, which will take us to destinations beyond low earth orbit (where the Space Station is), whether that be the Moon or Mars or another target.  Orion will also splash down in the ocean.  


NASA just launched its Orion spacecraft! (You can watch the whole thing here)

It looks a bit like the Apollo 11 capsule, but it has a whole new mission: first, meeting an asteroid towed to earth’s orbit by a robot sometime in the 2020s, and maybe, eventually, traveling to Mars.

There weren’t any astronauts on board today’s test flight - just instruments and some mementos from the monsters on Sesame Street. The goal is to measure radiation levels as the craft passes through the Van Allen radiation belts. Read more here.

Launch picture: Bill Ingalls / NASA, Orion video: NASA, Apollo II capsule image: Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Orion Capsule image: Bernt Rostad


     This Command Module was flown into space by Walter Schirra, Don Eisele and Walter Cunningham on Apollo 7, the first manned flight of the Apollo Program. On October 11, 1968, they became the only crew to fly from Launch complex 34 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, a launch complex which I have covered in a previous post (click here to view). The crew orbited the earth for 11 days, the length of a future Apollo Moon mission, testing the various Command Module systems.

     On this blog, one of the things I typically try to cover is test flight aircraft. This capsule qualifies, sort of. Apollo 7 was the first test flight of the command module system. Also, this spacecraft maneuvered through the air during re-entry, so we could, without too much of a stretch, call it an aircraft. There you have it. Test flight aircraft. Sounds good, right?

     This capsule is on display at the incredible Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas. I was very impressed with this museum. They have a pristine, non typical collection, beautiful facility, and very friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Skylab Artist Concept

This illustration Skylab shows the Apollo capsule, which was launched on a Saturn 1B rocket to ferry crews to space, docked to the multiple docking adapter, which was designed and built at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Image credit: NASA


Made with Flickr

I’m really psyched about the successful test flight of Orion and all, but… but… I dunno…  There’s just something a little disappointing about being back in cone shaped capsules that we used nearly 50 years ago.

When I was a kid during the Apollo moon landings, I assumed by the time I was this age, we’d have 2001-style ring hotels in orbit with daily visits by space plane. Yes, I know Orion is much bigger, better and multifunctional than the old Apollo capsules (and reusable!), but… *sigh*

I know…  I know…  Budget constraints.  More important things to do… drones and bombs to build…  people to kill….

Space has been out there for like 4 billion years, so I guess it can wait a few more decades.  

Too bad that I can’t…


A rare peek at Apollo 4 - the robotic Apollo that paved the way to the Moon  - and for Orion, 47 years later.

While the inaugural flight of Orion last December was indeed historic, it wasn’t the first time a spacecraft intended for humans was launched uncrewed into a high earth orbit to test its systems. 

The flight of Apollo 4 in 1967 is the technological Apollo-program equivalent of Exploration Flight Test 1. Launched at 7:00 am EDT on November 9, AS-501 marked the first flight of a Saturn V rocket, the first Apollo spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, and the first orbital shakedown for a crew-carrying Apollo variant.

Previous Apollo flights were boilerplate capsules intended to only simulate mass and aerodynamics. Additionally, previous Saturn rockets flown were wither the Saturn I or IB versions. 

The capsule for AS-501 was serial number 017, a block I variant of the Apollo spacecraft. However, numerous modifications were made to give the spacecraft similarities to the Block II capsules that crews would fly to the Moon in.

Lasting 8 hours, 37 minutes, Apollo 4 tested out Command/Service module flight parameters as well as heat shield performance from lunar velocities. Reentry into Earth’s atmosphere was at over 24,900 miles per hour. Apollo 4 reached a maximum altitude, or Apogee, of 9,297 miles. By comparison, EFT-1 Orion reached a maximum altitude of 3,604 miles, with reentry speeds of over 20,000 miles per hour during a four hour and 24 minute mission.

The capsule is located at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in their former visitor center, StenniSphere. StenniSphere has been closed to the public since 2012, when Infinity Science Center opened on publicly-accessible property just outside Stennis’ main gate. While some of StenniSphere’s exhibits were moved to Infinity, larger items such as the Apollo 4 capsule, are far more difficult to transport.

During last week’s RS-25 Engine test, we were offered a rare glimpse at Apollo 4 during our pre-test activities. The StenniSphere building acted as our base of operations the day we were out there, and Apollo 4 was the highlight of the old museum facility. Most notable were the replacement of the crew couches with computer systems and instruments. Visible in the last picture above, it’s different than how most people have seen the interior of Apollo.

Learn more about the mission of Apollo 4 in the video below, produced by NASA following the flight.

September 16, 1996  -  Valley, Alabama, USA.


a local radio station and newspaper received six different photos from an anonymous source that show a capsule-shape UFO hovering over a farm pasture. In a letter accompanying the photos, the source claims to have taken the remarkable UFO photographs on the 16th of September, 1996, in Valley, Alabama, USA.

According to the phototaker, he was repairing a fence on his property when his dog started barking loudly. Going over to where his dog was he looked up to see a low-flying capsule-shape UFO hovering and moving slowly over one of his cow pastures. The UFO captured in each of the photos resembles the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space capsules that the United States launched in the early years of its space program. Black to dark green, the cone-shaped capsule, when blown-up, shows a black teflon-like covered bottom and a flange or rim that goes around near the top of the unknown object. In each photo the UFO is shown at a slightly different position and elevation, making it more difficult to hoax, according to researchers who have examined the photographs.

The photos and a copy of the letter were aired publicly for the first time on TV-33 in Lagrange, Georgia on 26 September 1996. On the “Heston & Steve” show, the two hosts, Heston Yates and Steve Smoots, along with John C. Thompson and Jimmy Smith, field investigators for the International Society for Ufo Research (ISUR), speculated about whether the UFO photos are real. All of them agreed that if the photos were part of a hoax, it was a most strange and clever one. Mr. Thompson said on the program that he was “most favorably impressed by the photos.” He also has stated since then that he has two witnesses who saw similar shaped UFOs in May and July in the LaGrange area which is only 20 miles from Valley. Another witness that he has located, says he and others saw the exact craft, incredibly, 25 years earlier in Atlanta. Mr. Smith, a long-time investigator and actual sightee of UFOs, said the photos appeared genuine. He also said that he himself, in 1971, had seen a UFO with a likeness of what the photos depict. He then went on to relate that the 1971 UFO had cut off power to his pickup while he observed it.


The Orion Parachute Test Vehicle following yesterday’s test. Simulating the failure of one drogue and one main parachute, the capsule still landed within acceptable speeds for a safe landing.

Although it’s hard to believe from the images above, the capsule landed safely. The exterior of the PTV is covered in 24 foam panels which protect the capsule from impact with land. They’re designed to be damaged and fall off so that engineers can replace them for subsequent tests.

A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III carried the PTV to an altitude of 35,000 feet - roughly the same height where the capsule’s parachutes would begin their deployment sequence. According to engineers following the drop test, Orion’s parachutes likely reinflated, dragging the capsule across the ground and on its side. 

This drop test was part of a series of tests NASA is conducting called the Minimum Systems Test. Every spacecraft is built with multiple redundancies in the event primary systems fail so that a single failure won’t lead to the overall mission failing. The Minimum System Tests give engineers a better understanding of what the spacecraft’s system limits are.

Orion, like the Apollo capsules before them, were designed to fall to Earth under two parachutes; a third was added as a redundancy. All spacefaring Orions returning with crew will land in the ocean, which will further dissipate landing forces.

This test was the sixteenth and penultimate test in a series of developmental engineering tests; early 2016 will see the start of “human-related qualification tests.”

The capsule was loaded on the C-17 Monday. Below, a diagram of Orion’s Forawrd Bay, which hosts the spacecraft’s Capsule Parachute Assembly System.

Photocredits: NASA and Jason Davis.


Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, located in Hutchinson, Kansas. Being so far away from Florida, I never really expected to visit the museum anytime relatively soon. However, when I realized I was spending ten days in Kansas City (only three and a quarter hours away), I thought I might finally be able to visit this remarkable center.

The Cosmosphere is the only Smithsonian Affiliate museum in Kansas, and is the only facility approved by the government to restore and preserve flown spacecraft. Their preservation department is currently restoring the five Apollo 11 F-1 engines that Jeff Bezos recovered in 2012. It houses the largest collection of Soviet spacecraft outside Russia, and the second-largest collection of American space artifacts outside the Smithsonian Institution.

Entering the museum, you’re nose-to-nose with the SR-71 blackbird. Serial number 17961, the aircraft flew until 1977 when it was then used for spare parts. A full-scale model of the side of the space shuttle runs along the length of the building, and the ticket counter is located under the wing. 

The museum portion of the facility is located underground for both climate control and protection. The galleries are chronological starting from World War II and the V2 production facilities. The Cold War gallery featured a Redstone IRBM warhead and backup Sputnik I and II vehicles. 

The centerpiece of the museum was the Early Spaceflight gallery. It featured the only Vostok Capsule on display in the West, which was part of a biological satellite in the 1980’s. Nearby, a Voskhod II engineering model towered over visitors. 

Voskhod II was the spacecraft that the first spacewalk was performed on. The backup Volga airlock Cosmonaut Alexi Leonov used was attached to the display spacecraft. Of everything I saw in the museum, this was perhaps the most fascinating to me. While I am quite familiar with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules, and have seen many versions of each in various locations, I had never seen any Soviet spacecraft in person before. I think I spent more time studying the form and design of the Voskhod than in any other part of the Cosmosphere.

The American half of the gallery featured Gemini 10 and an Agena docking target. Normally, Liberty Bell 7 would be located here, however, about a month prior to my visit, the spacecraft was removed for transport to Bonn, Germany, where it will be on display until April 2015. While slightly disappointed I did not see it, I recall it being on tour in the early 2000’s at Kennedy Space Center as part of its restoration tour. Even when Liberty Bell is not at the Cosmosphere, the facility has the distinction of being only one of three museums worldwide that houses flown spacecraft from all three manned American space programs during the 1960’s. Remnants of the unmanned Mercury Atlas-1 capsule, which experienced its booster exploding during launch, are housed in the museum as well. Although it didn’t fly in space, it is still considered a flown artifact.

The other cornerstone of the museum was located in the Apollo gallery - the Odyssey. The Apollo 13 command module was one of the most neglected command modules of the program after its return to Earth. An extensive multi-year renovation in the mid 1990’s saw over 22,000 pieces of the spacecraft recovered from around the world to restore it to its former glory. Of particular interest to me was the reattachment of the docking tunnel. On other Apollo command modules, the hardware was jettisoned before its reentry through the atmosphere. Odyssey’s hardware met the same fate, but the display capsule featured a backup. Various components of the Saturn V were also on display, but I will write about that in a later post.

Nearby, a full-scale Lunar Module that was used in NBC’s lunar landing broadcast was set up to simulate the Apollo 15 mission, complete with Lunar Rover model. Across the hall is one of the few moonrocks retried from the Apollo 11 mission on display. Most lunar samples on public view are from later missions.

The entire facility was absolutely stunning. Their collection was spectacular, comprehensive, and displayed in a way to inspire even those avid of space buffs. Roughly 7% of the entire Cosmosphere's collection is on view, so items are frequently on global tour or loaned elsewhere. Even in my description of the exhibits I left out a majority of displays and images, though I’ll write more posts and images later. In my opinion, it was on par with that of the Smithsonian.