Archive for the ‘NASA/ men in space’ Category

from the video

Preparing for Launch, and Launch
Video of Rollover from Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF = hangar), Lift-to-Mate in the Vehicle Assembly Building, Rollout to Launch Pad 39-A, and Launch

Click the link. I mean it. Do it now. There is no sound until the launch in the final seconds. (this link courtesy of Dale Duckworth)

from the video

Viewing Earth from the Shuttle Atlantis

After launch, go on board the Shuttle Atlantis and look down at the world

(this link courtesy of Francie Marrs)

View both of these videos in Full Screen if you can.

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(<<< CLICK to ENLARGE — the thumbnail at left is a former blog header) Discovery, bathed in lights, is seen near center in long view against clear, black Florida night as she headed toward Launch Pad 39A at 9:10pm Monday, January 31, 2011. The Crawler, on which the shuttle rides, moves about a mile an hour on its best days. And the Crawler's mileage? If you have to ask, you can't afford one.

STS-133 Roll-Out to Launch Pad & Launch Update
Roll-Out from the Vehicle Assembly Building to 39A was completed overnight, January 31/February 1
Launch: No earlier than, Thursday, February 24, 2011.

Orbiter Discovery is shown exiting the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center on Monday night, January 31, 2011. Discovery, photographed from the 5th floor of the VAB, sits atop a massive Crawler. Barring a return to the VAB, as has already happened once in this second-to-last Shuttle mission, this was Discovery's final exit from the building. Discovery's mission is designated STS-133; the mission is scheduled for launch no earlier than February 24. == photo by petecrow

UPDATE / January 27, 2011 Thursday
Orbiter Discovery Roll-Out from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the Launch Pad overnight January 31-February 1 began about 8 pm and in the early hours of February 1. Generally Roll-Out takes about 6 hours.

Discovery has been to the pad for this launch before, but when cracks in the fuel tanks caused concerns, she was returned to the VAB.

The STS-133, Orbiter Discovery, launch was further re-scheduled on January 7, 2011, to no earlier than February 24 2011. No launch time has been designated for that date.

This is a further delay in this much delayed mission, and now moves this mission to 2011.

This is the second to last of the scheduled Shuttle launches. The original launch date for STS-133 was last summer; the most recent was February 3, 2011. The final mission, STS-134 has been scheduled for launch in March 2011. However, there may be one additional mission following STS-134 to provision the International Space Station — sometimes it is on; sometimes it is off.

Latest NASA launch schedules can be found HERE.

photo, peter michael crow for seine/harbour® productions, studio city, california, and for the grove sun daily, grove, oklahoma // © 2011 seine/harbour® productions and peter m crow

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In the years following the truncated end of the Apollo program in December 1972, NASA found itself with excess hardware intended for later Apollo missions, and not much money to go fly again. Worse, the landing on the Moon had been an all-encompassing goal, as political as scientific, and once accomplished, interest in NASA waned and forever after NASA would lack a clear goal and mission – a situation that continues to today.

NASA did have things in its pipeline. The Shuttle which was to go into Earth orbit was on the way, but in 1972 it was years away, and would be delayed even longer than anyone expected.

So NASA made do. Theory used some of that old Apollo hardware to build and launch Skylab – a huge laboratory that pre-dated today’s International Space Station by decades. Skylab did several launches, including the highly political joint mission with the Russians in 1975, but soon enough rockets and extra hardware was used up and Skylab was parked in an orbit where it would have to await the arrival of the Shuttle to bring new scientists into space.

It was not a perfect plan, but it was a plan. But like plans that go awry, this went badly awry. The Shuttle development was delayed and would fly several years after it was expected to.

And then the Sun erupted and the resulting sunspots changed the orbits of Skylab. In the end, she burned up in the atmosphere, and as would happen again for NASA later, NASA was building a vehicle – the Space Shuttle – that would have nowhere to go except to joyride in orbit around the Earth and to do limited scientific experiments in cramped spaces.

As always politicizing and the political appoints who ran NASA then, and now, put a happy face on it, especially when in 1981, the Shuttle finally came into service.

In the years following the end of the Apollo program I followed NASA only leisurely and from afar. I was accredited to cover at least one Skylab mission, but skipped it. If anything really significant had been going on, I guess I would have covered it. In those days, and well into the Shuttle program that I would cover a lot, NASA as an organization remained energized and innovative – and proud.

It’s not hard to see why that would all change as one replacement after another for the Shuttle was announced, and scrubbed for 30 years and as designs and re-designs of a replacement for Skylab went on and on, as the Shuttle fleet flew and aged.

In the end, during the 1970s, I largely watched this from afar.

But in 1981, I decided to cover NASA again. I flew out to Edwards Air Force base and stood in a stone cold desert before dawn. I watched the shuttle Columbia come out of the mist, home from space, More than 2,000 journalists from around the world were with me that morning. We were watching the re-birth of America’s space program and we thought, largely incorrectly, the beginning of a new age of scientific experimentation.

Blog Photograph, © joint copyright 2010, The Grove Sun Daily and Seine/Harbour® Productions: On November 1, 2010, Space Shuttle Discovery is seeen from the 39A Media Site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Discovery was Florida awaiting its final launch into space which was t have taken place about 4 p.m. on Monday, November 1. The STS-133 mission was widely expected to be the second to last Shuttle mission ever, although there was recurring talk of an additional mission after the March 2011 STS-134 mission to supply the International Space Station (“ISS”).

Header photograph, left, used for this post, and now replaced, © joint 2010 copyright, The Grove Sun Daily and Seine/Harbour® Productions: Bleachers for the STS-133 Tweetup at the 39A Media Site with the Vehicle Assembly Building on right. NASA kept the Tweeters separate from the legacy media and provided Tweeters with more interesting speakers including, at an earlier launch, the Deputy Chief of NASA who ran into a buzzsaw when she tried to softsoap some Tweeters in the Tweet Tent. After giving a rambling 22 minute answer, she fled trying to out-sprint legacy newspaper and TV reporters who she had refused to meet with.

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(This is a series of remembrances that will lead up to the final launch of the shuttle now secheduled for September 2010 – I’ve started with Apollo, but will work my way through Skylab and the Shuttle programs)

The Scene
The television networks were in separate buildings northerly from a grandstand where print press was comfortable at desks and surrounded by electrical outlets. Then and now “blow-dry-media”, TV and now Cable, kept their distance from the “scribblers”, the print press. Both felt superior to the other although reporters almost always had worked in both disciplines in their careers. The radio guys, who usually felt vaguely inferior for some reason, had drifted into the grandstand as dusk came.

A huge clock was down by the water directly in front of the grandstand ticking off the hours and minutes to liftoff. In the distance, not far, was the rocket itself, ablaze in lights. As evening fell, the area became mystical. This would be the first and only night launch of the Apollo program. It augered to be spectacular.

The ticking clock is still there today and is a popular place to film when launches are being covered. It is also a favorite place to be photographed. Then and now most people troop down there and stand in front of it. There you are — You, the Clock and in the distance the rocket. TV reporters have been known jockey and elbow one another for the best spot.

The grandstand where the print press once worked was severely damaged in the 2004 by the hurricanes and now is gone. Only a plaque remains marking the spot of the grandstand, plus a rectangular rocky area outlining the size of the grandstand itself. Those rocks probably were always under the grandstand all along, but who ever saw them? A smart state of the art press center complete with WI-FI, air conditioning, banks of TV monitors, a library and exhibits stands adjacent to where the grandstand once stood. With creature comforts like this, no right-thinking print reporter would be sitting in the grandstand and working anyway.

And during launches everybody in later days always went down to the water and got as close to the launch as they could. They didn’t do that as much when the Saturn V rocket was the engine used to launch the vehicles since experiencing a Saturn V launch was akin to a Biblical experience.

Today the press site even has a studio which is used to link Houston and other locations for press conferences. It was built just behind the grandstand and survived the hurricanes.

There are put even large bathrooms for women these days. What has the world come to?

The Launch
The launch of Apollo 17 was delayed and then delayed again.

Then as now it’s not always clear that, even when the count hovers near zero, that the launch will go forward. It is very unpredictable – I have seen launches scrubbed with less than nine seconds to go. And I have seen launches go straight through, no stops, and upupandaway.

December 6 gave way to December 7, but then, not long after midnight, the count was started again and this time it reached zero, and Apollo 17 lifted off.

I had decided early that night that I would take no pictures. Instead, I planned to watch and feel the launch.

My brother in law was also covering the launch that night and stood beside me with his camera ready. A radio reporter was behind us, solemnly recording. He was using an electrical plug strung between the legs of other reporters to power his tape recorder.

Nothing prepared me for what I was about to happen.

At launch, the sky exploded. Night turned into day. The Earth shook and the grandstand creeeeaaaked. The sound was deafning. I shouted at my brother-in-law and he shouted at me. Neither one of us could hear the other.

It was the apocalypse.

Everyone was on their feet and screaming. I grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures feverishly. My brother-in-law’s camera was frozen to his side as he stared like a deer caught in headlights. He never got off a single shot.

And the radio guy? In the scramble, someone kicked his plug out of the wall. He was crawling between our legs along the desks overturning chairs desparately trying to get the plug back in the socket so her could record the launch. I doubt he saw a thing.

And then — that quick! — it was over.

The cloud of the launch drifted. The sky darkened and night returned.

The flame from the giant rocket faded as Apollo 17 arced out over the Atlantic toward Africa and Space.

In minutes, reporters began to drift away, pouring out onto the packed highways with the hundreds of thousands who had gathered that night along the beaches. It would be dawn before I struggled back into my room in Orlando, a mere 40 miles away.

A few days later the Apollo program was over.

Man has not returned to the Moon again. And if the United States decided to go again, the new program would have to start from scratch. The men and women who put the Apollo astronauts on the Moon are retired or dead.

Two things were said to me that night which have always stayed with me.

One reporter mused as we had waited that night, “one day more people will live off the Earth than on it.” I believed that then, and I believe that now.

The other thing I remember was just a passing comment as we walked to toward cars. Someone walking beside me pointed up at the sky and said, “there is life in space — and that life is us.”

The day following the launch I was jazzed. Sleep was out of the question.

That night I flew on to Houston and Mission Control. The following afternoon I began to grow weary. It was then I remembered that I had been awake more than 2.5 days.

Photographs Inside and outside of the Grandstand, December 1972, © 1972,1997 The PeterMCrow Collection

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(This is a series of remembrances that will lead up to the final launch of the shuttle now secheduled for September 2010 – I’ve started with Apollo, but will work my way through Skylab and the Shuttle programs)

December 6, 1972 / Kennedy Space Center, Florida …

After picking up my credentials, I had to keep moving that morning.

Around noon the Cape would be sealed, no one on or off. I drove up Merritt Island past throngs of people already waiting along the road to see the launch that night.

The press site was then where it is now –across the street from the Vehicle Assembly Building. adjacent to the basin where the refillable rockets were unloaded from barges after being recovered in the Atlantic Ocean. Off to the northeast these days is the landing strip for the shuttles which may have been there in those days; I just never got there. Today, between the airstrip and the VAB are four hangars, one for each of the shuttles. As the shuttle program ends only three of the five shuttles survive, but we’ll get to that later.

Today, further to the south from the media site, on another road, is the building housing the clean room where payloads for the shuttle have been prepared. In this area there are also a dormitory for the astronauts and other NASA offices and facilities. And further south still is the old launch pad and control room where the Mercury capsules were launched, and where America’s manned space program began.

And, finally, a few hundred yards north of the press site is a road which heads east into a secured area, paralleled by two tracks of rocks. On these rocks atop the crawler, the shuttles have been ferried from the VAB to one of two the launch sites.

“Go fly.”
At the press site on the afternoon before the Apollo 17 launch, the mood was block party with a rich collection of people, like author Allen Drury and others from around the world. NASA had cast a wide net when accrediting the media. NASA was proud of the program and wanted to share their amazement with the world. The joy was infectous.

Other non-media types such as the VIPS had been banished to inferior seats elsewhere. A Life Magazine photographer discovered to his horror that he was being packed off to the cheap setats. His job that night was to snap a single picture – a certain celebratiy (I forget who) with their mouth gaping at the moment of the launch. That meant this guy would have his back to the launch and see nothing at all, unless he caught it later on TV.

The television networks were there in separate buildings …

Photograph Northerly view, December 6, 1972, from the Press Grandstand of buildings from which ABC, CBS and NBC covered the launches. Photograph © 1972, 1997, The PeterMCrow Trust

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Sometime in 2011, if all goes as planned, the United States will launch the final mission of the Space Shuttle and, thereafter, this country will no longer have a vehicle to carry men and women into space. The last four missions of the Space Shuttle, the next of which, STS-131, are scheduled to launch on or after April 5. These final missions should complete construction of the International Space Station but, ironically, when completed, the United States will have no way to get there on its own.

What happened? How can the nation that put twelve men on the Moon in six different missions find itself without a reliable way into space less than forty years later?

I first went to Cape Kennedy on December 6, 1972, to cover the launch of Apollo 17, the final American mission to the Moon. The Apollo 17 launch was the culmination of whirlwind programs that had begun only 11 years earlier, in May 1961, when President John Kennedy declared America would land on the Moon before the end of the 1960s and safely return the crew to Earth.

Kennedy would not live to see it, but on July 20, 1969, NASA put not one, but two men on the Moon (a third remained in orbit above the Moon). It was a stunning technological and scientific achievement. The United States likely would have walked on the Moon at least a year earlier; a fire in the Apollo 1 capsule killed three astronauts and delayed the program.

At Cape Canaveral, December 6-7, 1972
The mood at the Cape the morning I picked up my press credentials was festive. The Apollo program may have been ending, but NASA had aggressive plans for the exploration of space. Everyone I visited with that day was certain that this was the dawn of the age of space.

Funding from the federal government had been limitless, and the goal simple: Put a man on the Moon as fast and possible and get him back alive. Cost was not the issue – speed and safety and beating the Russians to the Moon were. Support for the program was huge – over 4,000 journalists from around the world joined me at the press site just three miles from the launch site.

After picking up my credentials, I had to keep moving that morning…

Photograph Apollo News Center, December 1972, by petecrow
Content of this Site includes copyrighted excerpts from a forthcoming book; entire site, contents and photographs are © 2010 by either Peter M Crow, by Seine/Harbour Productions®, Studio City, California, or by both.

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The NASA tales are about NASA, Apollo 17, Skylab and the Space Shuttle.

The story begins at 12:33 am on December 7, 1972, when Man set sail for the Moon for the final time in the 20th century.

It happens that I was there.

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