Tag Archives: space travel

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.


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.

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.

Another astronaut-hero leaves us

There once was a time when Americans knew the names of all the astronauts who dared to risk it all for the cause of space exploration.

John Young was one of those men. He died this weekend at age 87. I am saddened to hear this news.

Those of us of a certain age remember waiting with bated breath while space ships launched from Florida and flew into the heavens. Those were exciting times. The nation was engaged in a space race with the Soviet Union. We won the race … eventually.

Young wasn’t among the first seven men picked to fly into space. The Mercury Seven all are gone now. The last member of that original group to pass from the scene was the great John Glenn, the former Ohio U.S. senator who flew aboard the shuttle Discovery 36 years after he became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962.

John Young was among the Gemini astronauts who followed the Mercury heroes into space. Young flew twice aboard Gemini missions.

Then he got to fly to the moon twice; he orbited the moon aboard Apollo 10 and then walked on its surface as the commander of Apollo 16.

Oh, but Young wasn’t done.

NASA developed the space shuttle, a reusable ship. Young got to command the first shuttle, Columbia, on its maiden flight in 1981. He would command a second shuttle flight later before joining NASA’s administrative team before retiring in 2004.

A reporter asked Young after he flew the Columbia to a safe landing after its first flight whether he landed it manually — or whether he let the computer land it. No pilot worth a damn, Young said, would want to let a computer do something that a pilot could do by himself. That was his way of saying he had his hands “on the stick” when he guided the shuttle Columbia home.

John Young quite clearly was made of the right stuff.

We are not alone … are we?

I answered one of those online, totally unscientific “polls” that asks if we believe there is extraterrestrial life out there. I said “yes.”

Then I learned that 64 percent of respondents answered the same way. Good. I am not the only one.

Nor are we the only living beings inhabiting the universe. In my view, at least.

I heard the other day that scientists monitoring an orbiting telescope believe they believe they have found evidence of a star way out yonder that has planets orbiting it. I believe they counted possibly eight planets. What they have found, allegedly, is another solar system — similar to ours.

What does it mean?

I haven’t a clue, other than it might affirm what I’ve believed since I was boy, which is that it is a virtual statistical certainty that — given the infinite size of the universe — that there must be some form of life out there that might rival little ol’ Earth’s life forms.

This does not mean any of these beings have called on Earth. I don’t believe in the notion that the government found evidence of ETs landing at Roswell and have covered it up for however long ago it allegedly occurred.

Do I believe the universe contains life other than what was created here on Earth? Sure. Why disbelieve something only because we haven’t seen it for ourselves?

As for whether there is life as “intelligent” as what has evolved on this planet, I am not holding my breath that humankind ever will know with absolute certainty.

It’s a long, long, long way to infinity, folks. Just as it is impossible for us to get there, it’s equally impossible for “them” to get here.

But … they’re out there. I believe it. So should you.

If only Buzz Aldrin would tell us

Oh, how I wish I could read minds.

This video is making the Internet rounds. Donald Trump is talking about space travel. The fellow on the right is none other than Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, one of two men who walked on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

A lot of would-be mind readers are conjecturing about what Aldrin might be thinking. He looks alternately bemused, confused, aghast and flabbergasted at what he’s hearing from the president of the United States.

Oh well. I just wanted to share it here. You be the judge on what is going through Buzz Aldrin’s mind.

Might there be someone who can ask the space hero what he was thinking? Would he tell us the truth? Hey, it’s worth asking.

In other news, Challenger blew up 30 years ago today


Republican presidential candidates are debating at this very moment.

I’m a bit weary from listening to it all, so I’ll recall a tragic moment in U.S. history.

Thirty years ago today, the phone rang on my desk at the Beaumont Enterprise. I answered it. It was my wife, who worked down the street in downtown Beaumont, Texas.

“What’s going on? I just heard the shuttle blew up,” she said.

I turned to my computer, punched up the wire and saw the bulletin: “Challenger explodes.”

I blurted out a curse word and told her “I gotta go!”

I turned on the TV. The video was horrific.

Seventy-three seconds into a flight the shuttle Challenger blew up and seven astronauts were dead . . . in an instant.

We were stunned at our newspaper. We stood there, transfixed by what was transpiring. We heard over and over the radio communication to the Challenger, “Go at throttle up.” Then came the blast. It was followed by silence before the communicator told the world, “Obviously a major malfunction.”

I wouldn’t feel that kind of shock until, oh, the 9/11 attacks 15 years later.

But what happened next at our newspaper was that we would plan to do something the paper hadn’t done since the attack on Pearl Harbor. We decided to publish an “Extra.”

It contained¬†eight pages of text and photos from that ghastly event. It contained an editorial page, which I cobbled together rapidly. I wrote a “hot” editorial commenting on the grief the nation was feeling at that very moment.

We went to press about noon that day and we put the paper in the hands of hawkers our circulation department brought in to sell the paper on the street. It went into news racks all over the city.

Through it all the tragedy reminded us — as if we needed reminding — of how dangerous it is to fly a rocket into Earth orbit.

Of course, it would be determined that a faulty gasket malfunctioned in the cold that morning in Florida. The shuttle fleet would be grounded for a couple of years while NASA figured out a way to prevent such tragedy from happening in the future.

We would feel intense national pain, of course, in February 2003 when the shuttle Columbia would disintegrate upon re-entry over Texas, killing that crew as well — including the mission commander, Amarillo’s very own Air Force Col. Rick Husband.

They both brought intense pain to our nation.

Challenger’s sudden and shocking end, though, remains one of those events where we all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news.

And to think that some Americans actually thought those space flights were “routine.”