Tag Archives: NASA

Earth is even more fragile

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Astronaut Bill Anders pointed his camera out the window of Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968 and captured this never before seen image.

The astronauts aboard the first manned lunar mission then read from the Book of Genesis and wished us good tidings on “the Good Earth.”

This picture is worth looking at once again as the world celebrates Earth Day. Anders, along with crewmates Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, all told us upon their return from deep space that our planet looked so “fragile” to their eyes as it rose from the lunar horizon.

In the more than 52 years since this iconic photo was created, Earth has become even more fragile. Humankind has damaged our “Good Earth” through a number of environmental vices: too much carbon emission and deforestation has destroyed natural habitat and caused the gradual year over year warming of our planet. The effect of that warming, of course, has damaged our polar ice caps and put more of our wildlife in peril.

Bill Anders captured a wondrous moment to share with his fellow human beings. Only these men and those who followed them to the moon can understand fully just how fragile our planet was then and has become.

Our “Good Earth” needs to be strengthened.

Fan of private space missions

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I never thought I ever would say what I am about to say.

Which is that I have become a fan of privately financed space travel.

You see, I am a huge fan of NASA, the government’s space agency. NASA has been front and center of the nation’s space program. It led the nation in its race with the Soviet Union to see which of the two superpowers would be the first to put human beings on the moon.

We won that race, thanks to NASA.

The United States isn’t sending astronauts into space these days aboard U.S.-government-financed rockets. We are relying on the Russians to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

We also are flying astronauts into orbit aboard Space X rockets, developed and financed by a fellow named Elon Musk, the guy whose company makes Tesla automobiles.

I am thrilled to the max watching the Space X rockets blast off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Space X this week sent another crew to the ISS. The launch was perfect. The docking of the ship with the ISS also was done to perfection.

Make no mistake that I still hope for a return of U.S. government-sponsored space missions. I am awaiting development of a ship that will take Americans to Mars. I hope to live long enough to watch that mission unfold.

Until then, I will continue to cheer the feats of the crews launched into space by Elon Musk’s rockets.

Man, space travel continues to amaze me, even in this age of private sponsorship of rockets that send American astronauts into space.

Happy birthday, Mom

My mother once told me that she thinks of her late father “every single day.”

I don’t remember precisely when Mom said that; I think I was a teenager, which means that like most pearls of wisdom I got from Mom or Dad, it went in ear and out the other.

She lost her father in January 1950. He was in early 60s. Mom was not quite 27 when my grandfather died. Mom was 61 when she died in 1984 and I was not quite 34 years of age when I lost her. So there’s a certain symmetry, I suppose, between those two events.

But now that I am a whole lot older and perhaps a bit wiser (although that’s surely a debatable point) I understand more fully Mom’s notion that she thought of her father daily even all those years after his passing.

It’s been nearly 36 years since Mom died. Today she would have turned 97 years of age.

I think of her every single day. It’s usually a fleeting thought. I might conjure up a quip she would offer. For example, our older son was visiting us recently. We were chatting about the space program. I told my son that his grandmother hated the name “Cape Canaveral,” the place where NASA launches rocket ships, because it sounded like “Cape Cadaver.” We had a nice laugh over that gem from my son’s grandmother. She had a million of ’em.

I have thought often about how Mom would have grown old. I believe in my heart she would have done so with grace and good humor had she not been robbed of her essence by the killer disease known as Alzheimer’s. I no longer dwell on it. Time has soothed much of the pain of losing her. But not all of it.

I think of her daily. Today I want to wish her a happy birthday and to tell her: Mom, I now understand why the memory of those you love never leaves you.

There he goes again … taking undue credit

There he was yet again, Donald John “Braggart in Chief” Trump taking credit he doesn’t deserve for the return of the U.S. manned space program.

Trump slathered himself with praise over the successful launch Saturday of the SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., saying that only on his watch could this effort have become a reality.

Actually, it was the result of an effort began a decade ago during the Barack H. Obama administration, which in fact was a continuation of an effort started during the George W. Bush administration.

According to National Public Radio: “Today is the culmination of three and a half years of renewed leadership in space,” said Vice President Pence, who called the launch “a tribute to the vision and leadership of a president who, from the very first days of this administration, was determined to revive NASA and American leadership in human space exploration.”

C’mon, man! Get real!

Yes, I have lamented the end of the space shuttle program, even with its two disastrous missions — Challenger’s explosion in 1986 and Columbia’s disintegration in 2003. However, the SpaceX program initiated by Elon Musk now holds a huge new promise of manned space flight for the United States, as it was demonstrated Saturday with the launch and the successful docking today with the International Space Station.

It has been many years in the making, long before Donald Trump soiled the presidency with his presence in the Oval Office.

But that wouldn’t dissuade Trump and Pence from taking undue credit. Hey, it’s an election year … so I’ll presume that everything now becomes fair campaign game.


Finally, something to cheer!

Amid all the gloom and grief, and all the mayhem and misery associated with a global pandemic and the death of a man at the hands of brutal cops in Minneapolis, Minn., I found time today to cheer an event for which I have been waiting.

At around 2:30 p.m., Central Daylight Time, a rocket launched from Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It carried two American astronauts into orbit. It was the first launch of Americans from a U.S. launching pad in nearly a decade.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are orbiting Earth and will dock sometime tomorrow with the International Space Station.

I could not believe the flutter in my heart this afternoon as they counted down the final seconds before the launch. Then the Space X rocket lit up and burst off the pad toward Earth orbit.

NASA and Space X have teamed up for a historic event and this one was worth cheering … loudly, in fact. I was thrilled in a way I hadn’t been thrilled since I was a whole lot younger watching the early launches of the American space program with my mother.

Indeed, I thought of Mom today as I watched Space X roar into space, wondering how she would have reacted to the sight of Americans zooming into the heavens aboard an American-made rocket, from a U.S. launch pad. Mom would be proud, too.

Space X is the product of a company owned by Elon Musk, the zillionaire owner of Tesla. His company has designed a fantastic space vehicle. I noticed how they first-stage rocket was able to soft-land on a drone ship at sea in good enough shape to be used again on a subsequent space flight.

This is really cool stuff, man. It’s cool for those of us old enough to remember the excitement and romance that used to be associated with space travel.

I am no Pollyanna. I know this is expensive, even with a privately ownership taking the lead on this kind of exploration. However, I have long believed — and always will believe — that humanity was put on this good Earth to venture as far as possible to explore.

I am just glad to see American technology being brought back into the picture once again to take that next “giant leap for mankind.”

Given the troubling context of the times, it was a welcome sight to this old man’s eyes.

Waiting anxiously for space launch

I cannot remember the last time I had this feeling.

NASA has postponed the launch of the Space-X rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The rocket is now set to launch Saturday afternoon, but it’s looking dicey yet again.

The rocket will carry two astronauts — Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — to the International Space Station, where they will fly on a long-term mission along with the folks who already are aboard.

It’s been nearly 10 years since astronauts took off from a U.S. launch pad. We’ve been relying on Russians to take our men and women into space.

I have longed for a good while for a return to this kind of excitement. Granted, it’s not quite as thrilling as it was in the early 1960s, then into the late 1960s. We used to launch astronauts during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs.

Indeed, and this is the coolest ever, the Space-X rocket — owned by Elon Musk — will blast off eventually from the same launch pad that used to hurl the massive Saturn V rocket to the moon.

Mother Nature keeps getting in the way of this launch. Rain forced a postponement earlier this week. It might do so again Saturday. Next launch date will be Tuesday. That’s OK. I am patient. Indeed, many of us space junkies have waited a long time for a return to this kind of adventure.

We can wait a few more days.

Looking forward to this launch

It has been a good while since I’ve felt this kind of excitement preceding the launch of a rocket ship … but here it is.

They’re going to fire a rocket into space on Wednesday with two astronauts aboard. The launch will occur at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The rocket will be a Space-X ship and it will take place under the auspices of NASA, the U.S. space agency. The rocket will ferry the astronauts to the International Space Station.

It’s been more than a decade that U.S. astronauts have launched from an American launch pad. We have been flying Americans into space aboard ships launched from Russia.

The Space-X launch is a big deal in that it signals a potential return of manned space flight in the nation was able to put men on the moon, was able to set many space-flight records.

I plan to watch the launch when it occurs Wednesday.

My excitement over this launch is beginning to remind me of how excited I used to get when I was a boy. I would awaken every morning during the Mercury space program of the 1960s. I would watch and wait — and then wait some more during the delays — with my mother. We would cheer the Redstone rockets as they lifted off the pad. They graduated to the Atlas rockets for the orbital flights. Eventually we would cheer the monstrous Saturn rockets as they hurled astronauts toward the moon.

I certainly got excited during the launch of the initial space shuttle launches, beginning in April 1981 when the Columbia took off with John Young and Robert Crippen aboard.

The shuttle program ended. Since then we have relied on the Russians to take our men and women into space.

Now we’re getting back into the space game with the Space-X ship set to take off.

I’ll be in front of the TV … cheering the launch just like the old days.

‘Humans have to explore’

Binge-watching TV while we’re holed up during a worldwide health pandemic has delivered a curious dividend. A Netflix series, “A Year in Space,” has given me some grist for a blog I intend to share.

I now am filled with a newly heightened desire to see Americans restart its manned space program. We rely on Russian technicians to haul American astronauts into space, which I am sure would send Presidents Kennedy and Johnson — pardon the intentional pun — into orbit.

“A Year in Space” tells the story of astronaut Scott Kelly’s year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. It talks of his preparation, the launch, the trials and travails of living in the most controlled environment imaginable, of the return to Earth and his reacquainting himself with the sights, sounds and smells of the Earthly environment.

He spoke occasionally throughout the 12-part series about “when” we send human beings to Mars. I want to be among the living and breathing when that event occurs.

I grew up worshiping the seven men selected to be the first Americans to fly into space. I still know their names. I can tell you the sequence of when six of them flew aboard the Mercury space capsules; the seventh, Deke Slayton, was grounded initially because of a heart murmur, but he would fly in 1975 aboard an Apollo-Soyuz mission with his American astronaut comrades and the Soviet team they would meet in Earth orbit.

My heart seemed to stop when Apollo 13 suffered the near catastrophe in 1970 and cheered when the crew landed safely.

My heart broke when the shuttle Challenger blew up after its launch in 1986 and when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry in 2003.

Then the U.S. manned program ended when the remaining shuttle fleet was grounded.

Jeffrey Kluger, a senior writer at Time magazine and author of a book on the Apollo 13 mission, said it well at the end of the “A Year in Space” series. “Humans have to explore,” he said. “Only the target changes.” He said we had the oceans, the highest peaks, unsettled wilderness.

What’s left for us? It sits way past the moon.

With that, I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to Netflix for filling my heart with hope that we’ll embark on the next great exploratory mission.

Mars is waiting.

Hoping for a return of a can-do spirit and drive

Americans are looking back with some sort of fondness at an event that occurred 50 years ago.

Yes, we won that race to the moon. Two American astronauts landed on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong stepped off the lander’s ladder and declared that he was taking “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

For years I had thought that Armstrong’s transmission got garbled somehow, that he really did say it was one “small step for a man.” Alas, that was mistaken … apparently. Armstrong flubbed the line, or so I learned.

President Kennedy had laid down the marker in 1961. He declared that we should get to the moon by the end of the 1960s. The president rallied the nation to his dream. He ventured to Houston and said that “we don’t do these things because they are easy. We do them because they are hard.”

And so the race was on.

Hey, we had a geopolitical adversary that had rubbed our noses in it. The Soviet Union launched the first satellite. The USSR put the first man into space.

Meanwhile, as the nation’s prepared to launch humans into space, we couldn’t get a rocket off the pad. They were exploding. Our national psyche suffered.

But we got into space. We put two men into sub-orbital flight. We finally put a man into orbit with John Glenn’s historic three-orbit flight in February 1962.

President Kennedy, of course, didn’t live to see his dream come true. Still, the mission proceeded at full throttle.

The Apollo 11 mission was the culmination of a national task. The world held its breath. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left indelible prints on the dusty lunar surface. Those boot prints remain there to this day. There would be others, too.

Over the span of time our manned missions dissipated and all but disappeared. The Soviet Union vanished from Earth in 1991. Russian rockets are taking Americans into space these days. I wonder what President Kennedy would think of that development.

I suppose you could say that the Apollo 11 mission was the beginning of our exploration of another celestial body. It actually was the beginning of the end of our grand adventure.

However, I do hope we get back into space. Human beings need to explore. We are built and wired to do great things.

A half-century ago we cheered the heroism of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the third astronaut who orbited the moon while waiting for his shipmates to return. These men exemplified a can-do spirit that I am missing today.

I hope we can find it … and soon.

Remembering a thrilling era of adventure

My sappiness came through once again this evening.

I just watched a PBS broadcast, the third part of a series called “Chasing the Moon.” It told the story of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the lunar surface, an event that occurred 50 years ago this month.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped off a space ship onto the moon’s surface and took what Armstrong called “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

My eyes got wet. I swallowed hard. I found myself smiling at the TV as I relived the images we had seen a half-century ago.

I remembered how I felt at the time in the summer of 1969. I felt proud. I was thrilled that we had kept President Kennedy’s pledge to “land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. The president didn’t live to see it happen, but the program proceeded even after the young president’s shocking death.

I do wish we could regain that spirit of adventure. I fear we have lost it forever. Indeed, as the PBS program noted, interest in the moon missions began to dissipate almost immediately after Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins finished their final parade in the final foreign capital. They were treated as the heroes they were.

Then the money dried up. Sure, we conducted a few more missions, including that harrowing Apollo 13 mission that came too close to tragedy.

Maybe that thrill will come back to us if and when we prepare to launch humans to Mars.

Watching the PBS broadcast tonight, though, reminded me of how I used to swell with pride at our technological know-how and the courage of the individuals we would hurtle into outer space.

I am hoping to feel it again.