All posts by Tom

Copernicus Sees Apollo Launch Pad

It’s fun to see Copernicus take part in the Apollo 11 Anniversary with this image of the Apollo 11 launch pad as the area is now.

ESA has a larger version of this image, the file size is about 8.5 MB so if you have a slower connection it might take some time. Here’s the link. I do highly recommend looking at it though because it is excellent.

The image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Here’s ESA’s caption:

Celebrating 50 years since Apollo 11 blasted off with the first humans that would walk on the Moon, Copernicus Sentinel-2 captures the historic launch site at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, US.

On 16 July 1969, the Saturn V rocket carrying Apollo 11 began its momentous voyage to the Moon. It lifted off from launch pad 39A – which can be seen in this Copernicus Sentinel-2 image from 29 January 2019. Launch pad 39A is the second pad down from the top (the launch pad at the far top is 39B).

The crew – Neil Armstrong, mission commander, Michael Collins, command module pilot and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, lunar module pilot – were embarking on a milestone in human history.

Just four days later, the lunar module, the Eagle, touched down. Watched on television by millions around the world, Neil Armstrong was the first to set foot on the Moon, famously saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

A few minutes later he was joined by Buzz Aldrin. They took photographs, planted the US flag, spoke to President Richard Nixon via radio transmission and spent a couple of hours walking and collecting dust and rocks. The two men returned to lunar module, slept that night on the surface of the moon, and then the Eagle began its ascent back to re-join the command module, which had been orbiting the Moon with Michael Collins. Apollo splashed back down safely in the Pacific Ocean on 24 July.

The Moon has again captured the attention of space agencies. ESA and international partners are now looking forward to the next era of human exploration, and to better understand the resources available on the Moon to support human missions longer-term. While Apollo 11 touched down for the first time on the near side of the Moon 50 years ago, it is time to explore the far side, examine different types of lunar rocks there to probe deeper into the Moon’s geological history and to find resources like water-ice that are thought to be locked up in permanently shadowed craters near the Moon’s south pole.

Apollo 11 Launch with Walter

Walter is Walter Cronkite with CBS News at the time in America. Classic broadcaster, someone whose standards should be emulated today in the American press, but sadly are not.

Ah well.

Apollo 11 Launches

What a time this was! I am dating myself, but I do remember.

This NASA feed comes from Terminal Countdown Videos. There will be another video shortly if you don’t have time for this one. The upcoming will be from CBS News at the time.

MRO’s Curious Sight

Image: NASA JPL/CalTech

NASA: A dramatic Martian landscape can be seen in a new image taken from space, showing NASA’s Curiosity rover examining a location called “Woodland Bay.” It’s just one of many stops the rover has made in an area referred to as the “clay-bearing unit” on the side of Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain inside of Gale Crater.

The image was taken on May 31, 2019, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). In the image, Curiosity appears as a bluish speck. Vera Rubin Ridge cuts across the scene north of the rover, while a dark patch of sand lies to the northeast.

Look carefully at the inset image, and you can make out what it is likely Curiosity’s “head,” technically known as the remote sensing mast. A bright spot appears in the upper-left corner of the rover. At the time this image was acquired, the rover was facing 65 degrees counterclockwise from north, which would put the mast in about the right location to produce this bright spot. 

Mirror-like reflections off smooth surfaces show up as especially bright spots in HiRISE images. For the camera to see these reflections on the rover, the Sun and MRO need to be in just the right locations. This enhanced-color image of Curiosity shows three or four distinct bright spots that are likely such reflections.

The University of Arizona in Tucson operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Heat Shield for Artemis

Orion is getting closer to flight. The heat shield is ready for Avocoat,

Caption from NASA:

The state-of-the-art heat shield, measuring roughly 16 feet in diameter, which will protect astronauts upon re-entry on the second mission of Artemis, arrived this week at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for assembly and integration with the Orion crew module. Artemis 2, the first crewed mission in the series of missions to the Moon and on to Mars, will confirm all of the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed in the actual environment of deep space with astronauts aboard.

The large piece of flight hardware arrived from Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility near Denver aboard the NASA Super Guppy aircraft on July 9 and was transported to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout facility high bay where work will take place on July 10.  Currently, the heat shield is a base titanium truss structure or skeleton. Over the next several months, technicians will apply Avcoat, an ablative material that will provide the thermal protection.

Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Arianespace VV15 LOST

Arianespace has confirmed the loss of fight VV15 and the FalconEye1 satellite.

The loss occurred about 2 minutes into the flight. I think the other feed may still be active, but here is a replay.

The loss was evident in the control room even before the commentary had related any indication of something amiss.

The cause is yet to be determined but there the problems seemed to begin at the time of the time of separation of the first stage. I will of course update with more but not until later in the day as I will not be near a computer.

This just shows us that while these launches seem to be a routine event these days, it is very much not so.

Arianespace VV15 Launch

Fingers crossed for a successful launch with no weather delays this time!

Spaceport: French Guiana / Guiana Space Center

The Vega VV15 launch is number fifteenth Vega launch since 2012 and is Ariane’s sixth launch of the year.

Times from Arianespace:

  • 9:53:03 p.m., Washington D.C., USA time
  • 10:53:03 p.m., Kourou, French Guiana time
  • 1:53:03 Universal Time (UTC), on July 11
  • 3:53:03 a.m., Paris, France time, on July 11
  • 5:53:03 a.m., Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) time, on July 11.