Tag Archives: NASA

Ready for launch?

Americans of a certain age — which is a sort of code for “old folks” like me — recall a time when we waited with bated breath for space ships to launch from Florida en route to outer space.

It’s going to happen again, I believe. NASA has revealed the names of the crew to fly aboard the Artemis space ship in 2024. Its destination? The moon!

The Artemis II team will be made up of three Americans — Victor Glover, Christina Hammock Koch and Reid Wiseman — and one Canadian, Jeremy Hansen.

OK, it’s going to be a fly-by. A practice run preparing the space agency to land astronauts later on the moon’s surface as part of its preparation for eventually sending men and women to Mars.

I intend to await the launch when it occurs. I likely will awaken early that morning and watch on TV as NASA counts down prior to the ship firing and sailing away on its mission to the moon. For me, it’s going to be like the old days during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Mom and I would wait endlessly for the launches. It was the highest drama possible.

The last Apollo mission flew in 1975. It was an Earth-orbit flight that hooked up with a Soviet space ship. The most recent moon landing occurred in 1972. Then NASA canceled the moon-landing program, citing lack of money and a reported lack of interest among Americans.

I do hope the interest returns to the public that needs an event such as this to cheer. I intend to be one of the cheerleaders.


Life imitates art?

Life is imitating art at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which could be a very good thing for Planet Earth if the need ever arises to do this again … for real.

I mean, they’ve made movies about this stuff!

NASA crashed a DART rocket into a 500-foot-diameter asteroid millions of miles from Earth last night. As NASA administrator Bill Nelson noted, for a small spacecraft to hit such a small target so far away, well, that’s “pretty good shootin’.”

NASA crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid – photos show the last moments of the successful DART mission (yahoo.com)

Indeed, NASA wanted to hit the rock to test its ability to fend off a potentially cataclysmic collision if they ever detect a large asteroid heading straight for Earth. The mission was successful. It might have been the first time in space agency history when folks cheered the instant they lost telemetry from a spacecraft.

The spacecraft hit the asteroid traveling at a speed of 14,000 mph.

Now comes the question: Will NASA be able to develop a large enough space vehicle to knock an asteroid off a collision course with Earth in time to avoid Doomsday? 

Get busy, NASA.


Feels like the first time

It’s kind of like the way we used to react to news about space launches and, frankly, it feels good to this old goat.

NASA today postponed the launch of the Artemis I rocket planned for a moon mission. We have to wait now until Friday around noon before the space agency can send the world’s largest rocket into space and toward the moon.

Yes, I am filled with anticipation that is beginning to feel as I did when my dear Mom and I waited for hours on end for the Mercury astronauts and then the Gemini astronauts to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The Artemis I mission signals NASA’s return to a new space race. NASA wants to return to the moon before China sets foot on the surface. NASA administrator Bill Nelson has said he fears China could claim the entire lunar surface as Chinese territory. No can do, China.

Artemis I is meant as a test run for future manned landings on the moon, using it as a base from which NASA plans to launch manned flights to Mars. All of that news makes this one-time spaceflight junkie more anxious than I have felt in a long while.

I have supreme confidence that NASA will get Artemis I off the launch pad in due course. If not Friday, then the space agency will have to resolve the myriad issues that caused the postponement.

Americans last departed the moon 50 years ago. Every one of those Apollo launches caused my gut to tighten when the rocket engines ignited and the Saturn V missile roared off the pad.

To be sure, I am filled with anticipation of watching astronauts launching once again toward deep space travel.

I also am filled with a bit if wistfulness over Mom’s absence from this latest thrilling space adventure.


End of Russian space flights on tap?

Holy crap! I hadn’t thought of this, but one of the casualties of the Russian invasion of Ukraine might be the Russian space program that ferries astronauts from other countries — including the United States — to the International Space Station.

You see, many nations are pulling far away from Russia as it seeks to conquer Ukraine in a senseless and seemingly pointless — but bloody — invasion. That means U.S. astronauts, who have no way to fly into space, given our nation’s ending of its manned space program, will have no way to rocket into orbit.

I am an avid follower of the space effort and I want to see Americans orbiting our good Earth. I also want the war in Ukraine to cease, ending the bloodshed and heartache.

Former astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year aboard the ISS after being flown there aboard a Russian rocket, predicts the Russian space program could collapse if the Russians have no one else to take into space. Hey, we pay ’em good money to fly our people into orbit; so do other nations.

Vladimir Putin has yet another reason to call a halt to this brain-dead invasion.


‘One American legend …’

I am going to divulge a little secret, which isn’t really a secret, even though I have heard no mention of this date in the media, which is not to say that it has been ignored completely. I just haven’t heard anything said about it

On this day 60 years ago, a young Marine Corps pilot took off aboard an Atlas rocket and became the first American to orbit Earth. John Glenn was a 40-year-old member of the first team of astronauts chosen by the space agency to lead this country into space. Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom flew the first two sub-orbital flights. This one was different. It fell to Glenn to become the first American to take three 90-minute spins around the globe and, thus, become part of American lore.

My mother and I were addicted to the space program in those days. I was not quite 13 years old. We had awakened several previous mornings waiting for Glenn to blast off aboard Friendship 7, the tiny Mercury space capsule into which he squeezed his body.

Mission Control gave him the go-ahead — finally! — on Feb. 20, 1962. Off he flew. Three orbits. That’s all, man. Then he came home and rode into instant fame and glory. The young pilot from Ohio, who flew combat missions during the Korean War, was hailed as a hero with ticker-tape parades and audiences with the president and royalty around a planet he had seen from a couple hundred miles in space.

Ah, but his public service didn’t end there. He resigned from NASA. Glenn entered politics and became a U.S. senator from Ohio. Glenn ran for president in1984, but unlike his Friendship 7 ship, his effort never left the ground.

Then came another thrill for Sen. Glenn and for those of us who followed the space program. NASA had gone through the Mercury, Gemini, Skylab and Apollo space programs. It had a fleet of space shuttles, those reusable ships that flew into orbit many times. One of them was named Discovery. In 1998, Sen. Glenn got the call to suit up once more. He trained along with his shuttle crewmates for a lengthy mission. NASA wanted to test the effects of zero gravity on old folks; Glenn qualified, as he was 77 years of age, making him the oldest individual to fly into space.

Ahh, but the Discovery launch a moment I never will forget. The controllers counted down the time, the booster rockets ignited, and the ship lifted off the Florida launch pad. The public address announcer told the world that Discovery had launched, carrying “six astronaut heroes and one American legend.”

And so … I recall the day 60 years ago that a young man — and please pardon the reference — with the right stuff flew into the sky and carved into stone his prominent place in our nation’s glorious history.


Are they astronauts? No!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have flown to the edge of space.

I have heard a bit of chatter in recent days over whether these two zillionaire business moguls are astronauts now that they have “slipped the surly bonds of Earth,” if only for a few minutes.

I’ll go with “no.” They are not astronauts. They are rich guys who hired space professionals to do the heavy lifting. They were merely passengers aboard their respective ships.

The others? I’ll give Wally Funk — the 82-year-old female test pilot — a pass on the astronaut claim. She flew on Bezos’s mission alongside Bezos and two others. She had trained to fly as an astronaut in the early 1960s; then NASA killed the woman in space program, denying Funk the chance to actually fly into space.

I once got into a snit (one of many) with a critic of this blog, the late Andrew Ryan, over my dismissal of U.S. Sens. Jake Garn and Bill Nelson, who flew aboard two shuttle missions. I declined to consider them astronauts, even though they trained alongside the space pros with whom they flew. I’ll concede that Andy Ryan was right and I was wrong about Garn, a Utah Republican and Nelson, a Florida Democrat.

Oh, and what about the third U.S. senator to fly on a shuttle mission? You’ve heard of this guy: John Glenn, an Ohio Democrat. He flew as a Mercury astronaut in February 1962, the first American to orbit Earth. Thirty-six years later, he took part in a Discovery shuttle mission.

Two very cool things about Glenn’s shuttle flight need mentioning. One is that NASA’s other astronauts did not need to translate the language they spoke while training with Glenn; the great man was fluent in astronaut-speak. The second aspect of the launch was when the shuttle’s engines ignited and the ship lifted off, the public address announcer declared the launch of Discovery carrying “six astronaut heroes and one American legend.”

Bezos and Branson may be legends in their own minds. Neither of them is an astronaut.

We just didn’t know about this

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Mary Wallace Funk is my newest hero.

She goes these days by the name of Wally Funk. She became a household name this morning when she rocketed for a few moments into space aboard Jeff Bezos’s rocket that took off from the Trans-Pecos region Texas.

Why is she my hero? Because as a boy I was keenly interested in the space program created during the Eisenhower administration, developed later during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. However, there appears to have been huge gap in my knowledge of the early years.

I did not know a thing about the women who took part in those early developmental years. Wally Funk was one of them. She trained right along with the Mercury Seven astronauts selected to be the space pioneers. Then the National Aeronautics and Space Administration canceled the women’s program. So help me I do not recall ever hearing about this program as I was being taught in public school way back then in Portland, Ore.

Wally Funk becomes oldest person to fly to space 60 years after she was denied the opportunity (nbcnews.com)

Wally Funk never got to fly into space.

Until this morning a little after 8. She and Bezos and his brother Mark and Oliver Daemen, a teenager from The Netherlands rocketed off the desert floor near Van Horn. They zoomed to the edge of space. They were weightless for a few moments. Then they returned.

She trained right along with the Bezos brothers and Daemen. Jeff Bezos joked that just as Wally Funk outperformed her male colleagues in the late 1950s and early 1960s, she did the same while training for the rocket ride aboard the Blue Origin ship named New Shepard.

What’s important to note here is that Funk now is the oldest person to fly to space. She broke a 23-year-old record held by a fellow who flew as part of the Mercury program in 1962 and then took part in 1998 as a crew member aboard the shuttle Discovery. You’ve heard of this guy: the late John Glenn. As an aside, I still get chills when I watch the shuttle blast off with Sen. Glenn aboard and the NASA communicator announces the launch of the ship carrying “six astronaut heroes and one American legend.”

Well, Wally Funk likely won’t ascend to legendary status.

However, as of this morning this intrepid pioneer is my newest hero.

Well done, Wally Funk.

This is no ‘space race’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This is what passes for a “space race” these days?

Two insanely rich business moguls — Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos — vying to see who between them can be the first to fly into the lower reaches of outer space?

Branson got there first. He did so today flying aboard his Virgin Galactic ship that he launched from an airborne vehicle that had taken off from a site near Truth or Consequences, N.M.

Branson and Bezos haven’t been calling it a “space race,” even though they both made a good bit out of the fact that Branson was going to get there first.

I damn near LOLed when I saw Branson chortling and chuckling about how the minutes-long suborbital flight was the greatest thrill of his life. It made me want to mutter: big fu***** deal!

I am still trying to fathom what tangible, meaningful use is going to come from the flight or the one that Bezos is going to take in just a few days. I hear things about development of a vehicle that could make space travel more, um, practical and affordable for the run-of-the-mill shmuck who wants to fly into space. As for the cost of flying aboard the Virgin Galactic vehicle or the Bezos rocket, if you have a spare quarter-million bucks laying around, then you can be among the first.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t always been this, um, cynical about shmucks in space. I applied to NASA to be the first “journalist in space.” That was in the 1980s. Then the Challenger exploded in January 1986 and all that went away as the nation grieved the loss of those seven astronauts — including the teacher picked to fly with them.

But this so-called “space race” bears no resemblance to the real space race that occurred after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957 and then sent Yuri Gagarin around the world in the first manned mission in 1961. The finish line for that race was the moon.

Spoiler alert: We got there first … in July 1969!

I suppose the next real space race will commence once we get serious about sending human beings to Mars. I want to be around to watch that one unfold.

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.