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Space History

Maps for Space Road Trips!

Hey, fellow Space Tweeps! Is everyone having fun getting ready for the upcoming Tweetups in FL, ALand CA? I’ll be so happy to meet more of you all at the Jet Propulsion Lab in June, and at the final launch… whenever that turns out to be.

In the meantime, I wanted to share my space maps with any road-trippers out there. If you’re anything like me, the first hint of sunshine means I go seeking space agency branches, space museums, Apollo moon trees, space novelties and themed restaurants… well, pretty much anything I can find!

Map of all world space agencies

Click here to see this map of all world space agencies, along with a listing of all 220+ branches across all the continents! Except that one overrun by penguins ;)

My space maps have been developing over the past year as I added more sites to each; in addition to all the official government programs, I have also documented checklists of space crafts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle Programs – including the intended homes of Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery.

Map of space museums, crafts and novelties

Another set of markers that might be helpful to travelers this summer is the map of Space Museums all over the world! Some have observatories or planetariums connected to them, so I hope to map all the additional planetariums next.  This set of lists also includes Inns, Restaurants and other space novelties… plus a few Star Trek and Firely easter eggs for good measure.

Don’t be shy about contacting me in the comments section here, or on my Pillow Astronaut blog if you know of other sites I should add!

Looking for Historical Space Shuttle Mission Schedules (Excel Format)

Hey fellow Space Tweeps,

I am looking for Space Shuttle mission schedules that NASA published in Microsoft Office Excel format for the missions prior to 2008.

I have the Space Shuttle missions from 2008 through today, with their revisions from rev 0 to the revision that includes “wheel stop.” I will share the Excel files that I saved from NASA.

I wrote a program that transfers the mission events from Excel to the calendar in Microsoft Office Outlook. It is free. The program is available at http://nasaststvschedule.codeplex.com/.

When I read about the Microsoft blog entry on their Microsoft Software Developers Network (MSDN) announcement that programmers could develop applications using the “Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO),” I heard a voice inside my head shouting “Write this program!”

I am essentially a lazy person. If a computer can do the job, so be it. I would manually enter significant events, such as launches and landings, and EVA’si into my calendar. But even manually updating that information could be a chore. But with this program I wrote, adding and updating Space Shuttle missions to my calendar in Outlook is a piece of cake.

So, if any Space Tweeps have a full set of Space Shuttle mission schedules that NASA published in Excel format, I am interested.

I will publish the mission schedules and their revisions at the project site.

Thank you,


Hail, Columbia: A Kickstarter Project

Hail, Columbia: A Kickstarter Project

I recently launched a kickstarter project and I could really use your support.

Hail Columbia: Behind the Scenes with the Space Shuttle

I am writing a book about the Space Shuttle Columbia from the perspective of the people who worked with her on a day-to-day basis.

My intention is to interview people who work/ed in the OPF, VAB, on the launch Pads, in MCC and a few astronauts as well.

As a teaser, I have to tell you about a preliminary interview I conducted a few weeks ago with one of the Closeout Crewmembers (the folks in the White Room who strap the astronauts into the orbiter). This gentlemen told me a story that he had never told anyone in his 35 years at Kennedy Space Center. The story brought tears to my eyes.

His story is definitely going to be in the book.


Apollo 14 at Forty: Shepard, crew return America to the moon

Apollo 14 at Forty: Shepard, crew return America to the moon

America’s first man in space, Alan B. Shepard, stood on the dusty soil of the moon. His white space suit made it hard to move freely as he hopped across the plains at Fra Mauro, the landing site for Shepard and fellow moon walker Edgar Mitchell.

As the lunar journey neared its end, Shepard took his handle from a rock collection tool and fastened a six iron wedge at the end of it, dropped a small white ball onto the dry soil and made the first golf shot on another celestial surface.

The ball shot into a nearby crater, and he thought to himself, “A hole in one.”

Shepard then perfected his back swing for the second and last golf ball. “There it goes… miles and miles and miles!” he exclaimed as the second ball soared and arced out into the solid black sky.

It had been a long journey for America’s fifth human to reach the moon. As NASA worked to return America back to space following the Apollo One fire, the space agency’s senior astronaut was loosing his hearing in his left ear and his balance. His equilibrium was gone by autumn of 1968.

A secret ear operation suggested by fellow astronaut Tom Stafford was then performed by a Los Angeles doctor which allowed the astronaut to return to flight status a year later.

He was ready to now aim for a moon flight, particularly Apollo 13 and the Fra Mauro region.

However, crew rotation by chief astronaut Deke Slayton put Shepard on board Apollo 14, and when the preceding flight aborted it’s lunar landing due to a blown oxygen tank, Fourteen set it’s mission sights on Fra Mauro.

Apollo 14 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on January 31, 1971, at 4:03:02 pm EST, forty minutes late due to rain over launch pad 39-A, to begin a nine day voyage upon the ocean of space.

Once the crew reached space and left earth orbit for the moon, they ran into a problem with the docking latches which connect the lunar module Antares with their command module Kitty Hawk.

For one hour, Kitty Hawk’s pilot Stuart Roosa brought the command module in slowly to dock it perfectly on four tries, however the capture latches would not latch. Kitty Hawk’s fuel was running lower than had been planned at this point in the flight as well.

If the latches could not dock the two craft together, the mission would have to be aborted.

As the crafts moved past a distance of 20,000 miles away from earth, the idea was discussed to go in at a faster rate to awake those latches and dock the module. It worked and the crew sped on toward lunar orbit.

The three day journey to lunar orbit was quiet.

Antares trip down to the lunar surface was not.

Software issues with the lunar module’s landing computer, and later with the landing radar caused big concerns for both the crew and in mission control.

Once the control center sent up new commands to the computer, they were given a go for landing.

Antares single engine fired to bring the craft down and land. It was human kinds third landing upon the moon.

Landing at Fra Mauro on the eastern edge of the Ocean of Storms occurred on February 5 at 4:18:11 a.m., just 130 feet shy from the target site.

“Okay, we made a good landing,” the 47-year-old Shepard said upon landing Antares.

Hours later, he became the fifth human to set foot upon the moon and radioed to mission control on what it took for him to reach this point, “Al is on the surface. It’s been a long way, but we’re here.”

To which Slayton replied, “Not bad for an old man.” Shepard would be the only Mercury astronaut to reach the moon.

Shepard and Mitchell collected nearly ninety-three pounds of lunar rocks during their nearly five hour set of two moon walks.

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of Shepard and his crew’s flight aboard Apollo 14, the mission which returned America to the moon following the odyssey of the Apollo 13 flight the following spring.

In October 1995, I enjoyed a candid conversation with Alan Shepard on his thoughts about the space program of the time. And, although it has been fifteen years, his words echo true in 2011 as it did then.

Charles Atkeison: How does the space program today differ from what you experienced during the 1960′s and into the early 1970′s? Do we still have a focus for what we want to do at NASA?

Alan Shepard: I think as far as NASA’s concerned, yes. The difference as far as the general public’s concerned is that the pure excitement of the early days is gone because, “so we’ve done that. What do we do tomorrow?”, kind of routine. The fact that the public in general is excited about exploration made the lunar mission a very well recognized, well appreciated phase.

The folks that are flying today are just as dedicated as we were even knowing ahead of time that they are not going to receive the same kind of appreciation and recognition that those of us did in the early days.

Charles: Do you consider yourself the Christopher Columbus of the modern age?

Alan: I really don’t. I consider myself very fortunate to have been allowed to make a couple of space flights for the United States. I recognize a few of us get a lot of attention, but literally hundreds of our close associates are the ones that did all the work. I remember saying in May of 1961 at the White House, when I received a medal from President Kennedy acknowledging that these hundreds, yes thousands of dedicated individuals on the ground are the ones to whom the accolades of the day should go. And I still feel that very strongly.

Charles: I remember the scene, Kennedy drops your medal during the presentation. What went through your head right then?

Alan: Well, we almost banged heads ’cause both of us (Shepard laughs) … it was kind of cute. ‘Cause Jack said, “Here,” and Jackie (Kennedy) said, “No. No, Jack, pin it on.” So then he recovered and pinned it on. So we had a lot of fun with that.

Charles: Thank you.

During a visit to the Kennedy Space Center’s Saturn V center, guests can walk up to and study the moon craft, Kitty Hawk.

Commander Shepard passed away while at his home in California following a two year bout with leukemia in July 1998. Crew mate Roosa passed away three years earlier due to an inflammation of the pancreas. Ed Mitchell is now eighty and lives near West Palm Beach, Florida.

In May, America will once again recall the Christopher Columbus of the space age in Shepard, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of America’s first trip into space, Freedom 7.

Story by
Charles Atkeison

Putting Challenger Back in Orbit Using Starry Night

Putting Challenger Back in Orbit Using Starry Night

For any who use the desktop planetarium program Starry Night, I’ve collected an image and two-line orbital element set needed for putting Challenger back in orbit, using an approximation of the planned orbit-1 for 51-L. This is something I’ve been doing for years — my own personal remembrance of Challenger and her crew. At the time of liftoff each Jan. 28, 11:38:00 AM, EST (16:38:00 UT), I set up Starry Night to hover near Challenger and hit the time-forward button and let it play for the next 90 minutes or so.

You’ll find the information and files you need here

For those who don’t have Starry Night, there’s a YouTube video at the bottom of the page showing what it looks like (although, on my Mac, it’s full screen).

Jim Cook

Sputnik – The Launch of Space

Sputnik 1 was launched 53 years ago, on October 4th, 1957. In many ways, it can be seen as the launch of the space age. Being the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth, it started the space race which led to Buzz and Neil landing on the moon in 1969 and contributed to the demise of Communism.

Most of the people writing nowadays about space weren’t alive yet in 1957, myself included. As such, we cannot fully grasp the feelings that swept through the United States of America knowing a USSR made object was flying invisible and uninterrupted above its skies. However, from the events which proceeded it is obvious, to put it mildly, that it was a very big deal.

In the full blog post I drew parallels with the first Wright brothers flight in 1903, discussed satellites in our daily lives and CubeSats. I also supplied some useful links regarding this historic day.

Read the full blog post here: http://www.spacepirations.com/2010/10/sputnik-launch-of-space.html

P.S. You can still add entries to my Poll regarding the Discovery launch at http://www.spacepirations.com/2010/09/next-space-shuttle-launch-informal-poll.html. Thanks!

Space Birthdays – Real and Science Fiction

Thanks to twitter and @thinkgeek I noticed that today is the birth date of Gene Roddenberry, the father of Star Trek. A short search leading to the Brainy History web site revealed somewhat of a statistical aberration – three Star Trek people and three astronauts were born on this date.
Apart from Gene Roddenberry, both Jonathan Frakes(Commander William T. Riker) and Diana Muldaur(Dr. Katherine Pulaski), both from Star Trek: The Next Generation, were born on this date.

On the NASA front, astronauts Franklin Story Musgrave (only astronaut to fly on board of all five Space Shuttles), Michael J. Massimino (shuttle astronaut, a.k.a. @astro_mike, perhaps the most active astronaut on social media, the first astronaut to tweet from space) andCharles F. Bolden Jr. (shuttle astronaut, NASA administrator since 2009) were all born on this date.
On the Russian side, Vladimir Borisovich Alekseyev was also born on that date (a Soyuz VI cosmonaut), meaning that out of the 547 astronauts (at least according to Wikipedia), four were born on August 19, about 0.73%, or about 2.7 times more than the statistical 1/365 chance of being born on a certain date (leap year excluded).

For those of you still in this world, Happy Birthday! Don’t forget to look up!


(copied from my blog, www.spacepirations.com).

Teaser of Moonscape, a free Apollo 11 documentary

Swiss journalist Paolo Attivissimo is working on Moonscape, an upcoming free Apollo 11 documentary funded and produced by space enthusiasts, with a focus on accuracy and original material It will use the highest quality footage, audio and images, and feature synchronized views. Here is the first English teaser.

Paolo is a great Apollo expert and enthusiast. He also built an Apollo US flag replica that was saluted by a guy named Buzz.

Idea Observatory: Communism

The movie Moon and the history of ideas in art and life.

More than once I’ve had the misfortune of speaking my mind in a most unfortunate way.  On the subject of communism, it was at lunch with a high court justice from a newly former Communist country in 1990 who wanted to learn what American young people think about his part of the world and their ideas.  By that time I had formed my opinion of Marx, which remains, and which is that he did interesting work in the history of economic thought but it was tragically incomplete for practical application.  My ability to express myself, at that time however, was (even) less (well) formed.  I insulted a billion lives and my lunch
partner by saying, ever so politely, that Marx was an idiot.  No idiot, but no great economist either.  A compelling utopian.  A great economist would have considered more than economics in his study of economic thought.  But there I go again, reaching beyond myself.  I suppose, on reflection, that my lunch partner certainly did get the answer he was looking for.  In spades.  Gasp.

But that’s what we do, isn’t it?  In life?  We reach.  And today, writing this, I’m soaked in another beautiful Союз launch last night, TMA-18, to the International Space Station: that hallmark in the sky of Russian and American, European and Japanese — ne, Human — excellence.

We have, so the movie explores, our own communism.  Updated, inverted and reinvented as the mega corporation.  The manifesto of American corporate communism is that the ends, the corporation, justifies the means.  The argument is forwarded as an expression of jobs, designed as an expression of shareholder profit, and implemented for the security of professional management.  (See “shareholder rights” for more info).

Is this pop culture?  “American Corporate Communism”?  Yes and no.  Yes, in that the term communism is a first class red button code word affecting those we would like most to invite into the observation of the idea.  And no, in that the problem is real.  But then yes, in that this isn’t the most basic and fundamental expression of the problem.  This is a pop expression.  The basic problem lies in principles and ethics and education.  In a certain poverty of character, courage and ideas that plagues our great nation when the ends justify the least of means.

The movie makes no such error.  It presents a thought experiment in the exploration and discovery of these ideas.  And for this it is most excellent.

Can We Reach The Moon By The Year 2000?

Has everyone heard about the POPSCI archives by now ?  Popular Science put ALL their publications from the past 137 years online, free of charge!  I’ve read hundreds of wonderful articles, all the way back to 1872, and blogged about I thought were historically interesting…

Popular Science 1958

So far, my favorite was printed in May of 1958, just as the space race was really heating up!  Dr. Israel Monroe Levitt (1908-2004) wrote a fascinating account of how America might plan and execute the monumental lunar landing… by the year 2000.  Wow, we beat that by 31 years! It’s a real eye-opener to see what the bright minds of the mid-20th century thought of potential space exploration.

“Manned flight cannot be initiated in the immediate future.  A tremendous volume of preliminary work must be completed first.  Before we can think of landing on the moon, it will be necessary to establish a manned space station circling the Earth as a base of operations.”

Yeah, not so much.

Read more at the Popular Science archives or at Pillow Astronaut, where I’ve highlighted numerous space articles throughout various eras.

Shuttle Stories- Potty Mouth

In my work area at Kennedy Space Center, there is only one other female technician. Nancy has worked at KSC for a total of about 38 years in a couple of different jobs. She is stubborn and sometimes ornery- that’s what I like best about her. She puts up with me, so we end up working together quite a bit. During these times, she often entertains me with stories from working during the Apollo years or from the early days of the Shuttle Program.

Nancy has told me a lot of crazy stories, but I was really floored one day when she casually mentioned being pissed on by Crippen & Young, the crew of the first shuttle mission. My response was something like, “WHAT?!” and she proceeded to explain what she meant.

It was shortly after STS-1, and Nancy was working in the OPF, or Orbiter Processing Facility. It was OPF Bay 1, the only one in existence at the time. Bays 2 and 3 were built later. All of the shuttle processing tasks that we have perfected now, nearly 30 years later, were just being pioneered. The task of the day was to service the “potty.” The job was being conducted by engineers in the firing room, who were providing instructions to the SCO, or Space Craft Operator inside the crew module, over the headsets they were wearing. They would tell him which switches to flip or buttons to push. Nancy and her co-worker also received instructions from the engineers over their headsets. They were told to hook up a length of flexible tubing to a port on the orbiter, and place the other end of the tubing into a bucket partially filled with water. 

Apparently the engineers were having trouble with the procedure, or there was some confusion. After about an hour they told the technicans to disconnect the tubing, even though no liquid had been drained. It was not clear why the procedure hadn’t seemed to work, so they would have to investigate. Nancy disconnected the tubing and leaned down to pick up the bucket. You can probably guess what happened next. Apparently engineering had relayed one more switch throw to the Space Craft Operator in the ship, and it caused a spray of, well you-know-what to be released, all over Nancy.

As soon as she realized what had happened, she began spewing forth a healthy stream of obscenities, as almost anyone would in that situation. She says she remembers that her co-worker stealthily snatched the headset off her head, not to protect it from the liquid, but to keep her from getting in trouble or even fired for cursing like a sailor over the comm system. At the time, there was no “white room” leading into the crew module of the orbiter, it was all open around the hatch. Nancy said she looked up and the SCO had poked his head out of the hatch and was convulsing in fits of laughter. 

So, that’s basically it. Nancy got cleaned up as best she could and got a new shirt and went back to work that day in 1981, perhaps smelling a bit foul. Ever since, her claim to fame has been that she was peed on by the crew of STS-1. I’m pretty sure no one else in the world can truthfully say that has happened to them. 

Remembering Artist Robert T. McCall

Born in 1919, Robert T. McCall would grow up to be one of the greatest  artists to capture the hope and vision of the future. Often Mr. McCall’s brightly lit and somewhat impressionistic style of painting would capture my imagination again and again. I found out today that he passed away.

Who is Robert McCall? What did he paint? If you’re asking these questions then I’ll ask you to Google his name and look at just at a single page of his work. I bet you this, you’ll recognize more than one piece. Why am I so certain? It wasn’t that he was simply prolific.  His art and concept paintings influenced so so many people and projects:  2001: A Space Odessy, Star Wars, the US Space Program, the US Air force and Disney. His art graced the pages of magazines where I can first remember seeing his art. Then there was his work for Star Wars. A year or so later, as a child I would see murals of his at EPCOT Center in Orlando. When I started collecting stamps with a space theme, there was his work again. His paintings of the Apollo program, then the Space Shuttle captured the brightness and hopefulness of the future. He continued painting images of America’s changing space program painting Space Station Freedom, eventually what became the ISS.  His style of bright colors made space look like a calidascope (which in reality, through Hubble, we would all learn how right he was).

Always within his paitings of space there were always the people.  He would capture all the technical details of a spacecraft but it’s the people and their emotion I remember the most. Like Norman Rockwell he captured a moment in his subjects eyes and facial expression of hope and purpose.  The one case that stands is contrast, as there is no face, just a face mask, is his incredible mural in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  The image of Apollo astronatus standing on the moon converys raw emotion all through body language and lighting.  A few years ago I was able to take my father and son there to see DC and this painting. That moment is captured and hangs on my den wall.

I’m not sure what the best compliment to pay an artist is. Certaily I would love to own his work but that’s not an economic reality. All I can say is that his art work inspired me and affected me when I was a child and still does all these years later. I’ve always wanted to live in his paintings, his visions. Maybe that’s  the best thing I could say of his work. Godspeed Robert McCall.

Other remembrances: