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Thursday, April 24, 2025
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Recently I’ve seen a lot of social media banter about if or not the Inspiration 4 crew should be called “astronauts.” Perhaps we need a new name for these sorts of people- such as… (fill in the moronic suggestions here)
Folks, stop. JUST STOP!
Astronaut; noun: One who flies in space, space venturer.
These four individuals climbed atop a rocket that was just nine feet shorter than an Apollo Saturn IB and launched with 1.71 million pounds of thrust, which was just over 100,000 pound greater than the Saturn IB, and flew to an orbital altitude higher than any humans had flown since Apollo 17- which took place just 14 months shy of a half century ago. And then the Inspiration 4 crew returned safely by splashing down in the Atlantic off Cape Canaveral. They were the first all-rookie crew to orbit the Earth since Skylab 4 launched on November 16th, 1973.
If that isn’t space venturing, I don’t know what is.
I’ve been watching spaceflight since Freedom 7 and this WAS a space mission accomplished by people who have earned the title of “Astronaut.”
For those who quip about billionaire and who paid for what, let’s take a look at this mission’s Pilot In Command; Jared Isaacman. Aside from being a highly successful businessman, he is also a highly skilled pilot. He flies right wing for the Black Diamonds jet flight demonstration team and broke the world record for circumnavigating the globe in an aircraft. Plus, he holds a degree from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Frankly, as a retired professional pilot, I’d be confident sitting next to him in any flying machine, any time- including a spacecraft.
All of these crewmembers trained for this mission and none of them just walked aboard because they simply had a ticket.
These people launched from sea level, orbited the Earth higher than anyone in a half century and returned to sea level. They all four are astronauts and to argue that point, is completely missing the point
Friday, September 17, 2021
There are times when I just have to say, “I warned you!” That especially applies to the zealots of “All Commercial, private spaceflight.”
Many years ago when Elon Musk first implanted the concept that private companies could do spaceflight better, and cheaper than NASA, the social media sites lit up. Between the “Down with NASA” crowd and the “NewSpace” mob there were endless usernames and newborn arm-chair experts who were delighted to take out their surfboards and ride this wave of all-private spaceflight. It’s here, it’s new, it’s really cool! Who needs NASA, Elon can do it all. “When the Falcon 9 Heavy comes out, it’ll replace all of the heavy boosters.” “NASA is finished.” Were some of the common quips.
Early on I stepped into this rapid current of all commercial spaceflight zeal and added a single note of critical thinking.
All-private spaceflight is exactly that… PRIVATE.
Upon reaching orbit, the mission- which had a five hour live TV buildup, was blacked out.
Be careful what you wish for… you just may get it.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
SpaceX’s latest mission “Inspiration 4” had an amazingly successful launch on Sept. 15th, 2021. Sending history’s first all non-governmental crew into orbit. It was the ultimate in corporate flying and was dedicated to benefit Saint Jude Hospital- a beyond worthy cause. As a former corporate pilot, this one warmed my heart. As a spaceflight historian I was keen to see some of the historic landmarks involved. The first pure non-government crew, the first crew to fly higher into space than any mission since Apollo 17, the youngest person, age 29, to fly in space who was also the first person in space with a medical prosthetic.
I watched the launch itself on SpaceflightNow and took in the more than four hours worth of coverage. I have to say that SpaceX has taken launch coverage of human spaceflight to a level that has not been seen in a half century. In fact, it took us space buffs into points of view that we never dreamed of in the olden days. Their HD cameras and remote drone views following the crew caravan around KSC are amazing. Plus, the videos of the personal stories of the crew members, two of whom are alumni of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University from which I proudly wear a class ring, were so well done they should be given an award.
About the only draw-back to the launch coverage was the constant noise and clatter in the background as the hosts were apparently seated, as always, just outside the company cafeteria in Hawthorne. Additionally, I guess SpaceX management likes the cheerleading crowd boisterously celebrating every milestone in the event. Yet that was tiresome and unprofessional nearly a decade ago. We get it… your employees are excited and happy, but at times their shouting on cue drowns out the engineering calls from launch control. This is spaceflight- not a college pep rally.
Also, the hosts really need to brush up on their spaceflight history. During the entire length of the crew insertion process, one of the hosts repeatedly stated that the crew would be making a final phone call from the phone at the level of the crew access arm, “…which has been a tradition since the Apollo days…” NO! The Apollo crews were unable to use a telephone through their bubble helmets. For crying out loud- just look at the photos from those missions. The crews were sealed into their suits and oxygenated long before arriving at the LUT. Taking off the helmets to make a phone call would have negated that entire process. It’s one thing to make a slip of history while doing a live broadcast, it’s another to keep repeating the bad history over and over. No astronaut that flew aboard an Apollo command module ever made a phone call from the LUT or anywhere else once their helmet was secured.
Of course, what do I know… I only wrote three books on the subject.
Monday, July 26, 2021
The following is an excerpt from Wes Oleszewski's book "Growing up with Spaceflight, Apollo Part Two" It is protected by copyright 2015 Wes Oleszewski, no part may be reused without the author's permission- publication here does not imply such permission.
On March 10th, 1971, just one month after the conclusion of the Apollo 14 mission, a chartered C-130 aircraft delivered a very special package to NASA. Contained in the dark gray convex hexagon-shaped box was the most unique vehicle to be flown in space since the Lunar Module itself; the first flight-ready Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). This was an event that went unnoticed by the news media and unknown to those of us outside of NASA. It had been mentioned in passing during the Apollo 14 mission, but otherwise went completely overlooked by the general public.
Conceived in 1964, before anyone had set foot on the lunar surface, the idea of a roving vehicle languished at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) until April 7th 1969 when a Lunar Roving Task Team was formed there. When the word went out that NASA was seriously looking for a lunar rover, a number of companies came forward seeking a contract. In the end General Motors and Boeing ended up with the contract to design and build the LRV. Although the roving vehicles that had been suggested in years past were usually huge and heavy, the one that would be practical for an operational Apollo mission had to be small and lightweight. Additionally, in order to ride on the lunar module it needed to fit into a space that measured five feet tall, five feet wide and five feet deep. The problem thus became how do you build a car that can operate in a vacuum on a soft powdery surface a quarter of a million miles from the nearest gas station, have it weigh less than 500 pounds and fit into a triangular space that measured five feet in all three directions. The person who, for the most part, solved the problem was a Hungarian engineer from General Motors by the name of Ferenc Pavlics. His concept was for a lightweight flat chassis vehicle that folded up upon itself. This allowed the LRV to fit into the unused space of the LEM descent module’s Quadrant 1. Shortly after the first LRV was delivered to NASA, it was shipped to KSC and loaded into the Apollo 15 LEM. Lunar exploration was about to take on a whole new and exciting look.
Some kids looked forward to Christmas, some kids looked forward to their birthday and some kids looked forward to the last day of school... I looked forward to every Apollo launch as if it were all of those rolled into one. So it was that on the morning of July 26th, 1971 I was in what had become my standard “Apollo-watchin’ position.” This may have been the standard position for tens of thousands of space-buffs around the country; sitting cross-legged about 18 inches away from the picture tube of our family TV, glued to Walter Cronkite. It was launch day for Apollo 15 and even though I had recently turned 14 years of age, I had slept the night before like a little kid waiting for the sounds of Santa hitting my rooftop. Up before dawn and busily dialing between the three networks I went looking for any snip-it of information on the mission.
While most of the kids in our subdivision of Sheridan Park were deep into their normal mid-Michigan summer activities, namely swimming, biking and just plain hanging out, I had been distracted from all of that lately by the upcoming Apollo 15 mission. In fact the afternoon before the launch I had gone with some of my pals to the theater to see “The Andromeda Strain” and while the movie was terrific my mind was on Apollo 15. I had a special plan of attack for getting as much as I could out of the flight. For Apollo 14, I had hijacked my little sister’s new cassette tape recorder and recorded portions of the mission coverage off the TV onto two 30 minute tapes. Having played those over and over every day since the mission ended, I found that a total of 60 minutes of Apollo was simply not enough. Thus, for Apollo 15 I had purchased, with my last dollar, a three pack of cheap-O 60 minute cassettes. I was now so broke that my Mom actually had to give me the money to go to the movie the day before the launch! Still, I sat through the movie quietly planning exactly what parts of the Apollo 15 mission coverage I would capture on each cassette. Indeed in my teenage mind I had it planned out just like NASA planned the mission... well, almost.
Late into the evening prior to launch-day I decided to do a flight readiness test of my recording equipment. Suddenly- A GLITCH! My, or rather- my sister’s, external microphone had failed! This was before they started putting built-in microphones on recorders- so I was really screwed. It was 9:45 at night- there wasn’t a store in the Saginaw Valley that was open- especially not one with a microphone. Worse yet, I had spent my last dime on the tapes! I scrambled for a solution. Wiggle the wires... no use. Tap on it- no good. Take it apart... now it’s REALLY busted! Sheridan Park- we have a problem!
Perhaps, I pondered, when the store opens at 9:00 in the morning, I could get there and, after negotiating some sort of a lawns-to-be-cut-later deal with my parents, I could buy a new microphone, and make it back home within the 26 minutes between the time the store opens and the launch takes place... okay... that was nuts. There was no way that was going to happen, just the negotiating the lawn-cutting part with my parents alone was on a par with negotiating with North Vietnam. I sat there looking at the disassembled microphone and I thought “What would Gene Kranz do?” Simple. He’d call a meeting of his engineers and controllers and he would tell them to go out and find a solution to the problem with what they had.”
With what they had... hummm...
It was then that the thought struck me that several months back I had accidentally stuck an earphone into the microphone jack and it fit; in those days both had 1/8 inch jacks. And an earphone had the same basic elements to it as the microphone that was now laying in pieces in front of me. I knew that because I had dissected plenty of earphones. In short order I was rooting through the family “junk drawers” and had scrounged up an earphone that I had not yet dissected.
I tested it in the microphone jack; IT WORKED!
Sure, the sound had a lot of tin in it and some 60 Hz hum, but it recorded! Using a four inch by six inch railroad “pounding card” that Dad had brought home from work, some electrician's tape and a hand full of tissues I had a microphone that the boys in the backroom at Houston would be proud of.
I added a small measuring stick to give me the optimum distance from the TV speaker and I was “Go for the launch of Apollo 15!”
Thursday, July 22, 2021
Saturday, June 12, 2021
For example, the black plastic bag that you see pinned to the wall contains a piece of a crashed SR-71 from 1967.
Central to this post, however, is the little vehicle seen on the farthest right, directly in front of the Gemini reentry module.
That piece dates back a half century to the summer of 1971.
Inside was the cockpit with its couches for the F-4B ant space suits (A) and it even had a mid-deck (B) which I then called the "Egress Deck."