Category Archives: History

ESO Kilonovae

What? Wow, this is GREAT! Not just the initial discovery, but what actually happened, two neutron stars colliding and by the way that was “only” 130 million light-years away. Close enough.

Congratulations ESO!!!

ESO — For the first time ever, astronomers have observed both gravitational waves and light (electromagnetic radiation) from the same event, thanks to a global collaborative effort and the quick reactions of both ESO’s facilities and others around the world.

ESO’s fleet of telescopes in Chile have detected the first visible counterpart to a gravitational wave source. These historic observations suggest that this unique object is the result of the merger of two neutron stars. The cataclysmic aftermaths of this kind of merger — long-predicted events called kilonovae — disperse heavy elements such as gold and platinum throughout the Universe. This discovery, published in several papers in the journal Nature and elsewhere, also provides the strongest evidence yet that short-duration gamma-ray bursts are caused by mergers of neutron stars.

Read the whole story – except what they were actually doing at the time – be fun to hear about the first few moments of realization of what was going on.

Happy 40th Voyager 1

Wow!  Launched on 05 September 1977 Voyager 1 is still flying after 40 years!  Congratulations to the Voyager program and NASA!

The image above is the  Voyager 40th Anniversary disco poster. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and you can get your own by clicking here.

If by chance you are near Washington DC and can get to the Smithsonian  National Air and Space Museum you can attend the live public event commemorating the event.  Most of us will of course not make the journey but no matter we can watch the event live on NASA TV.

Here’s the details from NASA including a link to the live feed:

NASA and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will celebrate 40 years of the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft — humanity’s farthest and longest-lived mission — with a public event at 12:30 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, Sept. 5.

The observance will take place at the National Air and Space Museum located at Independence Avenue at 6th street SW in Washington. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website.

Activities will include panel discussions about the Voyagers’ creation and mission history, their unprecedented science findings and imagery, impact on Earth’s culture and how the spacecraft inspired countless scientists, engineers and the next generation of explorers. The event also will include a galactic message transmitted toward the Voyager 1 spacecraft by a celebrity guest.

The Voyagers’ original mission was to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Although the twin spacecraft are now far beyond the planets in the solar system, NASA continues to communicate with them daily as they explore the frontier where interstellar space begins.

Participants in the Sept. 5 event are:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington
  • Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist, Caltech, Pasadena, California
  • Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena
  • Gary Flandro, Voyager Mission Grand Tour creator, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Alan Cummings, Voyager researcher, Caltech
  • Ann Druyan, writer/producer, Golden Record Visionary
  • Morgan Cable, researcher, JPL
  • Eric Zirnstein, researcher, Princeton University, New Jersey
  • Matthew Shindell, curator, National Air and Space Museum

Voyager 2 Sees Neptune

On Aug. 25, 1989, NASA’s Voyager 2 made its historic flyby of Neptune and that planet’s largest moon Triton. The Cassini mission is publishing this image to celebrate the anniversary of that event.

I remember this well, I was downloading the images on Slow Scan Television (SSTV) along with many-many other ham radio operators. Good times!

This is cropped and magnified version of the original provided in monochrome with Triton visible as a point of light above and to the left of Neptune.

NASA – In imaging Neptune, Cassini’s solar system family portrait-taking is complete. The mission’s planetary photojournal includes all of the major planets except Mercury, which is too close to the Sun to be imaged, as well as dwarf planet Pluto.

This view was acquired by the Cassini narrow-angle camera on Aug. 10, 2017, at a distance of approximately 2.72 billion miles (4.38 billion kilometers) from Neptune. Red, blue and green filter images were combined to create the natural color image.

Credit: NASA
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Blue Streak Rocket

The Blue Streak developed by Britain started out as a military weapon in 1955. The military aspect of the programme was ended in 1960 and was reassigned to the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) to launch satellites into orbit.

Britain pulled out of the ELDO in 1971, the last (British) Blue Streak programme launch was on 12 Jaunuary 1970 and the last ELDO Blue Streak launch being from French Guyana in 1971.

The entire ELDO project was canceled in 1973 and was replaced the the European Space Agency (ESA) we know today.

SpaceX CRS-11 Launch – SCRUBBED

Today’s launch was scrubbed due to weather so now we go to the back up date:

Launch Date/Time: 03 June at 21:07 UTC / 17:07 ET.

Alternate dates:
Historical note: This will be the 100th launch from Kennedy’s LC-39A.

Dragon will separate from the Falcon 9 rocket after 10 minutes of flight. The Falcon 9 will then attempt a landing at the SpaceX Landing Zone (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral.

If all goes according to plan the Dragon cargo ship will dock with the International Space Station on 04 June.

The Gallaudet Eleven

Here’s a very nice piece written by Hannah Hotovy, NASA History Division Intern, Spring 2017 (Andres Almeida Editor). Had Hannah not written this the efforts of the the Gallaudet Eleven might not have been known by the public. These people were pioneers and made fantastic efforts to advance human spaceflight. Thanks Hannah!

The image above depicts study participants chat in the zero-g aircraft that flew out of Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. Credits: U.S. Navy/Gallaudet University collection

Here’s her article:
Before NASA could send humans to space, the agency needed to better understand the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body. So, in the late 1950s, NASA and the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine established a joint research program to study these effects and recruited 11 deaf men aged 25-48 from Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University). Today, these men are known to history as the “Gallaudet Eleven,” and their names are listed below:
Harold Domich
Robert Greenmun
Barron Gulak
Raymond Harper
Jerald Jordan
Harry Larson
David Myers
Donald Peterson
Raymond Piper
Alvin Steele
John Zakutney

All but one had become deaf early in their lives due to spinal meningitis, which damaged the vestibular systems of their inner ear in a way that made them “immune” to motion sickness. Throughout a decade of various experiments, researchers measured the volunteers’ non-reaction to motion sickness on both a physiological and psychological level, relying on the 11 men to report in detail their sensations and changes in perception. These experiments help to improve understanding of how the body’s sensory systems work when the usual gravitational cues from the inner ear aren’t available (as is the case of these young men and in spaceflight). “We were different in a way they needed,” said Harry Larson, one of the volunteer test subjects.

The experiments tested the subjects’ balance and physiological adaptations in a diverse range of environments. One test saw four subjects spend 12 straight days inside a 20-foot slow rotation room, which remained in a constant motion of ten revolutions per minutes. In another scenario, subjects participated in a series of zero-g flights in the notorious “Vomit Comet” aircraft to understand connections between body orientation and gravitational cues. Another experiment, conducted in a ferry off the coast of Nova Scotia, tested the subjects’ reactions to the choppy seas. While the test subjects played cards and enjoyed one another’s company, the researchers themselves were so overcome with sea sickness that the experiment had to be canceled. The Gallaudet student test subjects reported no adverse physical effects and, in fact, enjoyed the experience. Test participant Barron Gulak later remarked about such experiments: “In retrospect, yes, it was scary…but at the same time we were young and adventurous.”

Based on their findings from a decade’s worth of experimentation, researchers gained insight into the body’s sensory systems and their responses to foreign gravitational environments. Through their endurance and dedication, the work of the Gallaudet Eleven made substantial contributions to the understanding of motion sickness and adaptation to spaceflight.

Deaf Difference + Space Survival is currently on display at Gallaudet University’s Jordan Student Academic Center, open Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. For more information, visit: https://www.gallaudet.edu/museum/exhibits/deaf-difference–space-survival-exhibit.

Soyuz 1

The first crewed Soyuz launch occurred 50 years ago today. The cosmonaut was Colonel Vladimir Komarov.

The mission ended in tragedy when the parachutes did not deploy correctly and Vladimir Komarov was killed, becoming the first person to perish on a space mission.