6

Astronaut Ed White’s Space Walk on Gemini IV, 6/03/1965

During NASA’s Gemini IV mission, Astronaut Edward White II performed the first spacewalk, or Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), by an American fifty years ago on June 3, 1965. 

Gemini IV Mission Image - EVA, off coast of California (photo #5 above):

Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 space flight,floats in zero gravity of space off the coast of California. The extravehicular activity was performed during the third revolution of the Gemini 4 spacecraft. White is attached to the spacecraft by a 25-ft. umbilical line and a 23-ft. tether line,both wrapped in gold tape to form one cord. In his right hand White carries a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit (HHSMU). The visor of his helmet is gold plated to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. Photo was taken on June 3,1965. G.E.T. time was 4:37 / GMT time was 19:49. Original magazine number was GEM04-16-30427, taken with a Hasselblad camera and a 70mm lens. Film type was Kodak Ektachrome MS (S.O. -217).
National Archives Identifier: 5804872

File unit:  Gemini IV. Series:  Photographs of the Mercury and Gemini Space Programs, 12/1960 - 2/1997. Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

From the National Archives Catalog:

NGC 3293: A Bright Young Star Cluster : Hot blue stars shine brightly in this beautiful, recently formed galactic or open star cluster. Open cluster NGC 3293 is located in the constellation Carina, lies at a distance of about 8000 light years, and has a particularly high abundance of these young bright stars. A study of NGC 3293 implies that the blue stars are only about 6 million years old, whereas the clusters dimmer, redder stars appear to be about 20 million years old. If true, star formation in this open cluster took at least 15 million years. Even this amount of time is short, however, when compared with the billions of years stars like our Sun live, and the over-ten billion year lifetimes of many galaxies and our universe. Pictured, NGC 3293 appears just in front of a dense dust lane and red glowing hydrogen gas emanating from the Carina Nebula. via NASA

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Ed White Performs the First American EVA 50 Years Ago Today (3 June 1965) — Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot of the Gemini IV four-day Earth-orbital mission, floats in the zero gravity of space outside the Gemini IV spacecraft. White wears a specially designed spacesuit; and the visor of the helmet is gold plated to protect him against the unfiltered rays of the sun. He wears an emergency oxygen pack, also. He is secured to the spacecraft by a 25-feet umbilical line and a 23-feet tether line, both wrapped in gold tape to form one cord. In his right hand is a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit (HHSMU) with which he controls his movements in space. Astronaut James A. McDivitt, command pilot of the mission, remained inside the spacecraft. EDITOR’S NOTE: Astronaut White died in the Apollo/Saturn 204 fire at Cape Kennedy on Jan. 27, 1967.

Hubble Peers into the Most Crowded Place in the Milky Way by NASA Goddard Photo and Video on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image presents the Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way. It is located about 25,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), close to the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It is, like its neighbor the Quintuplet Cluster, a fairly young astronomical object at between two and four million years old.

The Arches cluster is so dense that in a region with a radius equal to the distance between the sun and its nearest star there would be over 100,000 stars! At least 150 stars within the cluster are among the brightest ever discovered in the Milky Way. These stars are so bright and massive that they will burn their fuel within a short time (on a cosmological scale that means just a few million years). Then they will die in spectacular supernova explosions. Due to the short lifetime of the stars in the cluster the gas between the stars contains an unusually high amount of heavier elements, which were produced by earlier generations of stars.

Despite its brightness the Arches Cluster cannot be seen with the naked eye. The visible light from the cluster is completely obscured by gigantic clouds of dust in this region. To make the cluster visible astronomers have to use detectors which can collect light from the X-ray, infrared, and radio bands, as these wavelengths can pass through the dust clouds. This observation shows the Arches Cluster in the infrared and demonstrates the leap in Hubble’s performance since its 1999 image of same object.
Credit: NASA/ESA


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6

How We’ll Get to Mars (For Dummies?)

It must seem archaic to most of the public how we could get to Mars and what money needs to be spent where in order to do so. 

Recently the Explore Mars nonprofit hosted a massive and comprehensive review of 

1) What we need to get humans to Mars

2) Where we stand with that technology now

and

3) What we need to do going forward

I want to elaborate a little on exactly what was discovered and then give you my opinion on the results.

1) In order to get to Mars we generally need to consider six major technology requirements: A spacecraft, a rocket to launch on, propulsion to move in space, a habitation module for astronauts to live in on the long journey to Mars, an entry descent lander to make sure astronauts safely get from space down to the Martian surface and finally an ascent vehicle to bring astronauts from Mars back to space after their time there is over.

2) NASA is well on its way to completing both the Orion spacecraft (which has already flown successfully last December) and the Space Launch System, a mega-powerful rocket capable of carrying crew into space and on the path to Mars. Essentially these two projects are well-funded and have the proper support to march into completion. No one need worry about these two things.

For propulsion in space it’s important to note that chemical rockets are actually supremely inefficient. A new technology colloquially referred to as ion thrust propulsion but formally known as Solar Electric Propulsion is expected to be the method of propulsion between Earth and Mars. In ion propulsion, electricity ionizes particles which are then sent out opposite the direction of motion. The great thing is this requires a small amount of fuel and so an entire spaceship could be based on this architecture cutting the cost of the mission and greatly simplifying the engineering by a grand scale.

This technology exists already and is being demonstrated by NASA’s Dawn mission around Vesta and Ceres. This small mission is so efficient that it’s the only spacecraft to have ever journeyed to two alien worlds. It’s truly a technology of the future.

3) Work on ion propulsion is active and will be ready for NASA’s asteroid redirect mission by 2019. It will then demonstrate the ability to negotiate 10 MT through space.

2) As for the habitation modules: there’s not much in the way of formal design and testing at NASA (yet). There are several scenarios from several different contractors being considered. So long as testing occurs by the mid 2020′s, this shouldn’t be problematic as this will be a little easier to engineer. I would personally (just my opinion here) expect Bigelow Aerospace to make strides in this direction with their inflatable habitation modules.

2) For the Entry Descent Lander, this one’s very crucial to get perfect. Right now we can only land about 1 MT (about a large rover) on Mars. That’s a super complicated feat too, requiring a supersonic parachute, retro-propulsion and a skycrane hovering on rockets.

NASA is testing a promising technology known as the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator. It’s updating much of our parachute technology and looks like a flying saucer with a rocket in the middle (picture included above, bottom left). 

3) This will embark on a televised test flight in Hawaii June 3rd, 2015 if weather permits (so basically later today).

Another option would be to use entirely retro-rockets to slow down and land that way. I’m not sure this is necessarily the best way if the LDSD is successful but we need this technology developed for other missions anyways. SpaceX has been providing NASA with data from their attempts to land their Falcon 9′s propulsively.

2) The Mars Ascent Vehicle would be something NASA has to start working on soon. They don’t really have anything for this officially lined up yet (only small, not-entirely-serious projects). This vehicle is basically a combination of a rocket launcher and a space capsule. The big problem with it is its huge mass. In order to launch off Mars into space again it would need a lot of rocket fuel, so much that it significantly complicates the entire mission.

Thankfully NASA has predicted this issue and has already set out to solve it, thereby simplifying the entire engineering of the MAV. This solution is called in-situ resource utilization. Basically, take things that are already on Mars and turn it into your rocket fuel. This, it may turn out, is easy.

Mars has a lot of water stored in the soil in the form of permafrost. If NASA can take this and separate the hydrogen and oxygen molecules (H2O) then you’ve got hydrogen (basically a highly combustible chemical) and oxygen (something that allows you to burn things). Together you’ve got rocket fuel.

3) NASA decided to send the instruments on their next Mars rover (launching in 2020) that will enable it to test the technology to create oxygen from local Mars resources.

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Now, that’s that for the major technology needed to get to Mars. Unfortunately the whole thing is more complicated than that though:

Since this is going to be a government endeavor, we need to consider domestic policy.

In the last few years, Congress has been surprisingly bipartisan in their support of Mars exploration. It’s still not enough though. Going to Mars is very expensive and we can’t afford to have one space mission for one senator and another space mission for the president and oh how about a rocket fund set up by Senator soandso… etc. etc.

The only way to sort them out is if YOU (for all you U.S. citizens) contact your representative. It’s simple. There’s no other way. To sum up the Explore Mars’ findings in this regard:

“…space advocates need to spend more time speaking to members of Congress (1) who are not reliably supportive of space exploration, (2) who are not from states that are traditionally regarded as “space states”, and/or (3) members whose opinions are not yet known.  Over the last few years efforts to reach these members have been expanded, and unexpected space exploration supporters have been found on Capitol Hill, but thus far the follow-through with these non-traditional supporters has been insufficient.”


There’s more to it than just domestic policy though. It’s common, since space is so hard and expensive, for international partnerships to be formed to make space more affordable. After all, this will be a representation of not simply American astronauts… this mission should be a mission from Earth.

Like we partner with JAXA, ESA, Russia and others to maintain the International Space Station, we could approach partners on a mission to Mars. Indeed, the international consensus is largely that our next big step is to get to Mars.

As it’s so in the halls of Congress, however, internationally, it’s not always easy to get a single plan agreed upon. Some think we should establish a base on the Moon before journeying on out to Mars. Some want to go straight to Mars.

Again, the most important thing to do is to inform your representative on the importance of this subject. Things like the benefit of having an influx of STEM fields entering the national economy, the historical importance of such a mission and the legal precedent that is for nations to work together in space.

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Finally the last major element on a mission to Mars is the human element.

There’s more of this going on now than there’s ever been.

It’s passion. It’s love. It’s that hot surge you get when you look at the stars. It’s both a longing to explore and a longing to return home… we are after all stardust.

People like Elon Musk, Buzz Aldrin and Richard Branson are significantly contributing to this human element.

New commercial/private space ventures have opened up in very recent years. It’s unknown to what degree their ambitions will truly line up with NASA’s on a mission to Mars.

One to keep an eye on is SpaceX

With remarkable new rocket technology, this company (helmed by Elon Musk) is generating both large amounts of public goodwill towards space exploration, but is also significantly contributing towards technical capabilities. If their trajectory continues, they’ll likely drive prices way down for space access and potentially open unforeseeable new avenues of technical feasibility.

It’s also becoming clear in popular culture that a journey to Mars quickens our pulse. 

With box office successes like Gravity and Interstellar, the popularity of the novel The Martian, it’s upcoming film and the popularity of Cosmos: space exploration means something to us.

Three particular things that seem to resonate loudly are:

1) Will we survive the journey? Ventures like Mars One largely seek to generate the money for their mission by sensationalizing the adventure on television. The general public’s response validates that this resonates with people.

2) Can we live there? The Martian by Andy Weir and SpaceX’s Elon Musk have both gotten significant public excitement for the idea of actually colonizing or living on Mars. People are generally excited by this prospect.

3) Extraterrestrial Life: The idea that there could be some sort of evidence for past or present Martian life has captured our imaginations for longer than I could say. It’s something we all want to know when we look up… are we alone?

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The Cost:

This is the biggest issue. Historically it’s always been too big and too expensive a mission.

It’s time we stopped thinking that. Thanks to a few workshops recently held (one by the Planetary Society: JOIN US!) we now know that a manned mission to Mars is finally financially feasible. Specifically we found that NASA will likely be able to put humans in Martian orbit by the early 2030′s, especially if we move ISS funding into funding for Mars.

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What’s my personal take? I’m optimistic. If you tell a kid they can’t do something, what’s the first thing they do?

I don’t think I need to tell you the answer to that do I?

This is a human thing. For ages we’ve been told we can’t do it. 

We can do it.

(Image credit: NASA, Orbital ATK, NASA/JPL-Caltech, NASA, NASA/JPL-Caltech and NASA respectively)

Judith Resnik first flew as a mission specialist on STS 41-D which launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on August 30, 1984, the maiden flight of the orbiter Discovery. With the completion of this flight she logged 144 hours and 57 minutes in space.

Dr. Resnik was a mission specialist on STS 51-L which was launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 11:38:00 EST on January 28, 1986. The crew on board the Orbiter Challenger included the spacecraft commander, Mr. F.R. Scobee, the pilot, Commander M.J. Smith (USN), fellow mission specialists, Dr. R.E. McNair, and Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Onizuka (USAF), as well as two civilian payload specialists, Mr. G.B. Jarvis and Mrs. S. C. McAuliffe. The STS 51-L crew died on January 28, 1986 when Challenger exploded after launch.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 June 3

Flyby Image of Saturn’s Sponge Moon Hyperion 

Why does this moon look like a sponge? To better investigate, NASA and ESA sent the Saturn-orbiting robotic spacecraft Cassini zooming past Saturn’s moon Hyperion, once again, earlier this week. One of the images beamed back to Earth is featured above, raw and unprocessed. Visible, as expected, are many unusually shaped craters with an unusual dark material at the bottom. 

Although Hyperion spans about 250 kilometers, its small gravitational tug on Cassini indicates that it is mostly empty space and so has very low surface gravity. Therefore, the odd shapes of many of Hyperion’s craters are thought to result from impacts that primarily compress and eject surface material – instead of the more typical round craters that appear after a circular shock wave that explosively redistributes surface material. Cassini is on track for another flyby of Saturn’s Dione in about two weeks.

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Bored?

Here’s a free 30-minute NASA documentary on the history of spacewalks. 

(That’s what they call it when an astronaut leaves their ship to float out into space in their spacesuit)

Happy Birthday Apollo 12 Astronaut Pete Conrad!

A product of NASA’s second group of astronauts known as the ‘New Nine’, Charles ‘Peter’ Conrad, Jr. first got his start as an astronaut in September of 1962. Well regarded for his skills as a pilot, it was not long before Conrad was assigned a Gemini mission as pilot of Gemini 5, alongside Commander Gordon Cooper. Interestingly enough, the support crew included two familiar names - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. As part of the Gemini 5 team, Conrad and Cooper set an eight-day space endurance record surpassing the then-current Russian record of five days.

In the four years following this spaceflight, Conrad would see himself selected as not only Commander of Gemini 11, but also Commander of Apollo 12 alongside Command Module Pilot, Dick Gordon, and Lunar Module Pilot, Alan Bean. As many have noted, the launch was arguably the most distressing of the Apollo program as both power and guidance in the command module were temporarily knocked out following a series of lightning strikes shortly after liftoff.

There have been many memorable sound bites from astronauts stepping down onto the lunar surface for the very first time, however few top that of Commander Pete Conrad when he became the 3rd person to walk on the Moon. In a $500 bet made with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci to prove that NASA did not script astronaut comments, Conrad spoke the words included on this post’s accompanying image.

Conrad’s last mission was as commander of Skylab 2 in 1973, the first crew to board the Skylab space station. Sadly, shortly after his 69th birthday and 26 years after his retirement from NASA, he would pass away from injuries sustained in a motorcycling accident.

Today, we celebrate what would have been Pete Conrad’s 85th birthday.

Read more about Pete Conrad:
http://goo.gl/2qQwTE
http://goo.gl/SQZ1Vm
http://goo.gl/zxeUzK

With hopes of moving forward, NASA needs your help. Write to Congress to let them know you support doubling funding for NASA: http://www.penny4nasa.org/take-action/

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Our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of former NASA administrator (and legend) Dale D. Myers on his recent passing. Dale Dehaven Myers served a pivotal role, as he helped save the Apollo 13 crew amidst their near-fatal mission to the moon, and helped resurrect the STS program after the Challenger disaster in 1986.

We interviewed Dale for an ‘Interview Spotlight’ series we were hoping to put together, but this was the only one (for now) we ironically ended up publishing. ‪#‎LLAP‬ sir. You did ‪#‎FightforSpace‬, and we’re truly privileged and humbled to have had your assistance with the film.