NASA Studies Whether to Add Crew to 1st SLS Megarocket Moon Launch in 2019

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – At the request of the new Trump Administration, NASA has initiated a month long study to determine the feasibility of converting the first integrated unmanned launch of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion capsule into a crewed mission that would propel two astronauts to the Moon and back by 2019 – 50 years after the first human lunar landing.

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‘Insufferable’ Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Recovering From ‘Record Setting’ Antarctic Expedition Emergency Evacuation

Buzz Aldrin – the second man to walk on the Moon – is recovering nicely today in a New Zealand hospital after an emergency medical evacuation cut short his record setting Antarctic expedition as the oldest man to reach the South Pole – which Team Buzz lightheartly noted would make him “insufferable” !

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America’s Pioneering Astronauts Honored with new ‘Heroes and Legends’ Attraction at Kennedy Space Center

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX, FL – America’s pioneering astronauts who braved the perils of the unknown and put their lives on the line at the dawn of the space age atop mighty rockets that propelled our hopes and dreams into the new frontier of outer space and culminated with NASA’s Apollo lunar landings, are being honored with the eye popping new ‘Heroes and Legends’ attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) in Florida.

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Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Talks to Universe Today about ‘Destination Mars’

Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin discusses the human ‘Journey to Mars with Universe Today at newly opened ‘Destination Mars’ holographic experience during media preview at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida on Sept. 18, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX, FL – Sending humans on a ‘Journey to Mars’ and developing strategies and hardware to accomplish the daunting task of getting ‘Humans to Mars’ is NASA’s agency wide goal and the goal of many space enthusiasts – including Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin.

NASA is going full speed ahead developing the SLS Heavy lift rocket and Orion crew module with a maiden uncrewed launch from the Kennedy Space Center set for late 2018 to the Moon. Crewed Mars missions would follow by the 2030s.

In the marketplace of ideas, there are other competing and corollary proposals as well from government, companies and private citizens on pathways to the Red Planet. For example SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants to establish a colony on Mars using an Interplanetary Transport System of SpaceX developed rockets and spaceships.

Last week I had the opportunity to ask Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin for his thoughts about ‘Humans to Mars’ and the role of commercial space – following the Grand Opening ceremony for the new “Destination Mars’ holographic exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida.

Moonwalker Aldrin strongly advocated for more commercial activity in space and that “exposure to microgravity” for “many commercial products” is good, he told Universe Today.

More commercial activities in space would aid space commerce and getting humans to Mars.

“We need to do that,” Aldrin told me.

Buzz Aldrin is the second man to set foot on the Moon. He stepped onto the lunar soil a few minutes after Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, on July 20, 1969 in the Sea of Tranquility.

Aldrin also strongly supports some type of American space station capability “beyond the ISS” to foster the Mars capability.

And we need to be thinking about that follow on “US capability” right now!

“I think we need to have a US capability beyond the ISS to prepare for future activities right from the beginning,” Aldrin elaborated.

Currently the ISS partnership of the US, Russia, ESA, Japan and Canada has approved extending the operations of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024. What comes after that is truly not known.

NASA is not planning for a follow-on space station in low Earth orbit at this time. The agency seems to prefer development of a commercial space station, perhaps with core modules from Bigelow Aerospace and/or other companies.

So that commercial space station will have to be designed, developed and launched by private companies. NASA and others would then lease space for research and other commercial activities and assorted endeavors on the commercial space station.

For example, Bigelow wants to dock their privately developed B330 habitable module at the ISS by 2020, following launch on a ULA Atlas V. And then spin it off as an independent space station when the ISS program ends – see my story.

Only China has firm plans for a national space station in the 2020’s. And the Chinese government has invited other nations to submit proposals. Russia’s ever changing space exploration plans may include a space station – but that remains to be actually funded and seen.

Regarding Mars, Aldrin has lectured widely and written books about his concept for “cycling pathways to occupy Mars,” he explained.

Watch this video of Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin speaking to Universe Today:

https://youtu.be/b-uczjRC-zs

Video Caption: Buzz Aldrin at ‘Destination Mars’ Grand Opening at KSCVC. Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin talks to Universe Today/Ken Kremer during Q&A at ‘Destination Mars’ Holographic Exhibit Grand Opening ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) in Florida on 9/18/16. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Here is a transcript:

Universe Today/Ken Kremer: Can you talk about the role of commercial space [in getting humans to Mars]. Elon Musk wants to try and send people to Mars, maybe even before NASA. What do you think?

Buzz Aldrin: “Well, being a transportation guy in space for humans – well commercial, what that brings to mind is tourism plus space travel.

And there are many many more things commercial that are done with products that can be fine tuned by exposure to microgravity. And we need to do that.”

“I think we need to have a US capability beyond the ISS to prepare for future activities right from the beginning.”

“And that’s why what has sort of fallen into place is the name for my plan for the future – which is ‘cycling pathways to occupy Mars.’”

“A cycler in low Earth orbit, one in lunar orbit, and one to take people to Mars.”

“And they are utilized in evolutionary fashion.”

Meanwhile, be sure to visit the absolutely spectacular “Destination Mars” holographic exhibit before it closes on New Year’s Day 2017 – because it is only showing at KSCVC.

You can get more information or book a visit to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, by clicking on the website link:

https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/things-to-do/destination-mars.aspx

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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Apollo 11 Landing 47 Years Ago; See it Through New Eyes

Buzz Aldrin Gazes at Tranquility Base during the Apollo 11 moonwalk in an image taken by Neil Armstrong.  Credit: NASA

Looking for a way to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission landing on the Moon? Here are a few different ways look back on this historic event and take advantage of advances in technology or new data.

Below is a video that uses data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and its amazing suite of cameras, offering a side-by-side view of Apollo 11’s descent, comparing footage originally shot from the Eagle lunar module’s window with views created from reconstructed LRO imagery. This is a fun way to re-live the landing — 1202 alarms and all — while seeing high definition views of the lunar surface.

The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC has a special way to mark the Apollo 11 anniversary. They have posted online high-resolution 3-D scans of the command module Columbia, the spacecraft that carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the Moon. This very detailed model allows you to explore the entire spacecraft’s interior, which, if you’ve ever visited the Air & Space museum and seen Columbia in person, you probably know is a tremendous ‘upgrade,’ since you can only see a portion of the interior through couple of small hatches and windows. The Smithsonian is also making the data files of the model available for download so it can be 3-D printed or viewed with virtual-reality goggles. Find all the details here.

Here’s a remastered version of the original mission video as aired in July 1969 depicting the Apollo 11 astronauts conducting several tasks during the moonwalk (EVA) operations on the surface of the moon, which lasted approximately 2.5 hours.

If you’re pressed for time, here’s a quick look at the entire Apollo 11 mission, all in just 100 seconds from Spacecraft Films:

Here’s a very cool detailed look at the Apollo 11 launch in ultra-slow motion, with narration:

Enjoy, and happy anniversary!

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6th Man on Moon Edgar Mitchell, Dies at 85 on Eve of 45th Lunar Landing Anniversary

Apollo 14 astronaut crew, including Moonwalkers Alan B. Shepard Jr., mission commander (first) and Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot (last), and Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot (middle) walk out to the astrovan bringing them to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.    Credit: Julian Leek

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the 6th man to walk on the Moon, passed away on Thursday, Feb. 4, on the eve of the 45th anniversary of his Apollo 14 mission lunar landing.

Mitchell passed away in West Palm Beach, Fla., just 1 day prior to the 45th anniversary of the Feb. 5, 1971 landing of Apollo 14’s Lunar Module “Antares.”

Mitchell was accompanied by Apollo 14 commander Alan Shephard, Jr., the first American in space, for the descent to the Moon’s surface inside “Antares.”

Meanwhile the third Apollo 14 crewmember command module pilot Stuart A. Roosa, flew solo in orbit around the moon while remaining inside the Command and Service Module “Kitty Hawk” during the lunar landing trek by his two crewmates.

Shephard and Mitchell safely touched down in the Fra Mauro highlands on Feb. 5, 1971 and spent a record 33 hours on the Moon.

“It’s the 45th Anniv of the #Apollo14 landing on the moon & yesterday we lost another Lunar Pioneer Edgar Mitchell,” tweeted Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon along with humanities first moon walker Neil Armstrong, during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Apollo 14 marked NASA’s third successful lunar landing mission, following the ill fated Apollo 13 mission, which abandoned its originally planned third moon landing flight after a sudden in flight emergency and explosion in the service module on the way to the Moon.

Apollo 14 launched on Jan. 31, 1971 from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.

Altogether only 12 humans, all American’s, have walked on the Moon during a total of six NASA lunar landing missions in the 1960s and 1970s. No human has visited the Moon since the Apollo 17 lunar landing in 1972.

“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my condolences to the family and friends of NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

“As a member of the Apollo 14 crew, Edgar is one of only 12 men to walk on the moon and he helped to change how we view our place in the universe.”

The lead photo was taken by long time space photographer Julian Leek, who was an eyewitness as the Apollo 14 crew departed the Operations and Checkout (O & C) Building at the Kennedy Space Center to board the astrovan transporting them to the launch pad 39. Leek’s historic photos are shared exclusively with Universe Today.

“Again we were off to the moon with Apollo 14 this was my 5th mission to take photographs on a freelance basis, Leek told Universe Today exclusively.

“The crowds at the O & C building for walk out for Apollo 14, had the same excitement as for Apollo 11 as NASA had just recovered from the near loss of Apollo 13.”

Another photo from Leek shows the Apollo 14 spacecraft and the Saturn V Moon rocket at the launch pad prior to lift off on Jan. 31, 1971.

“Every mission was different but on this mission had the first man in space as the commander Alan Shepard,” Leek told me.

“Those days we used film so it was always a race to see who could get it processed the fastest and out to the news services. I have covered Apollo , shuttle and unmanned launches from KSC and CCAFS since 1968.”

Shepard and Mitchell were assigned to traverse the lunar surface to deploy scientific instruments and perform a communications test on the surface, as well as photograph the lunar surface and any deep space phenomena, according to a NASA description.

“Mitchell and Shephard set mission records for the time of the longest distance traversed on the lunar surface; the largest payload returned from lunar surface; and the longest lunar stay time (33 hours). They were also the first to transmit color TV from the lunar surface.”

“Mitchell helped collect 94 pounds of lunar rock and soil samples that were distributed across 187 scientific teams in the United States and 14 other countries for analysis.”

Mitchell applied to be an astronaut after President Kennedy issued his famous 1961 call to send astronauts to the moon “before this decade is out.”

“After Kennedy announced the moon program, that’s what I wanted, because it was the bear going over the mountain to see what he could see, and what could you learn, and I’ve been devoted to that, to exploration, education, and discovery since my earliest years, and that’s what kept me going,” Mitchell said in 1997 interview for NASA’s oral history program.

“To me, that (spaceflight) was the culmination of my being, and what can I learn from this? What is it we are learning? That’s important, because I think what we’re trying to do is discover ourselves and our place in the cosmos, and we don’t know. We’re still looking for that.”

In his book “The Way of the Explorer”, Mitchell wrote, “There was a sense that our presence as space travelers, and the existence of the universe itself, was not accidental but that there was an intelligent process at work.”

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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Weekly Space Hangout – February 13, 2015 – Paul Gilster and his “Centauri Dreams”

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest: Paul Gilster (centauri-dreams.org / @centauri_dreams),author of “Centauri Dreams” Guests: Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg ) Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com) Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein) (…)Read the rest of Weekly Space Hangout – February 13, 2015 – Paul Gilster and his “Centauri Dreams” (296 words) © Fraser for Universe Today, 2015. […]