One Giant Leap For Mankind

November 1st, 2018

Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong working at an equipment storage area on the lunar module.

Official crew photo of the Apollo 11 Prime Crew

July, 1969.

It’s a little over eight years since the flights of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.

It is only seven months since NASA’s made a bold decision to send Apollo 8 all the way to the moon on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket.

Now, on the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop another Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

OFF TO THE MOON
At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit. After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a “go” for what mission controllers call “Translunar Injection” — in other words, it’s time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia. Collins later writes that Eagle is “the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky,” but it will prove its worth.

ALARMS SOUND
When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle’s computer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, “unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems.”

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.” Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying “the unknowns were rampant,” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”

FIRST STEP
At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

HEADING HOME
Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In an interview years later, Armstrong praises the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the project. “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.’”

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong calls the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talks about future journeys to Mars.

Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts will follow in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission leaves the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”

U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame

November 1st, 2018

A statue of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Photo: NASA

As its inaugural class in 1990, the Hall of Fame, located at Kennedy Space Center, inducted the United States’ original group of astronauts: the Mercury Seven. In addition to being the first American astronauts, they set several firsts in American spaceflight, both auspicious and tragic.

Alan Shepard was the first American in space and later became one of the 12 people to walk on the Moon. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, and after his induction went on, in 1998, to become the oldest man to fly in space, aged 77. Gus Grissom was the first American to fly in space twice and was the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 1, which resulted in the first astronaut deaths directly related to spaceflight preparation.

Thirteen astronauts from the Gemini and Apollo programs were inducted in 1993. This class included the first and last humans to walk on the Moon – Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan; Ed White, the first American to walk in space (also killed in the Apollo 1 accident); Jim Lovell, commander of the famously near-tragic Apollo 13; and John Young, whose six flights included a moon walk and command of the first Space Shuttle mission.

More were to take their place in the Hall of Fame through the years with recently retired astronaut and former Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa joining Michael Foale in the Class of 2017.

May 11, 1990
Malcom Scott Carpenter
Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper Jr.
John Herschel Glenn Jr.
Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom
Walter Marty “Wally” Schirra Jr.
Alan Bartlett “Al” Shepard Jr.
Donald Keat “Deke” Slayton

March 19, 1993
Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.
Neil Alden “Buzz” Armstrong
Frank Frederick Borman II
Eugene Andrew “Gene” Cernan
Michael “Mike” Collins
Charles Peter “Pete” Conrad Jr.
Henry Charles Gordon
James Arthur “Jim “ Lovell Jr.
James Alton “Jim” McDivitt
David Randolph “Dave” Scott
Thomas Patten “Tom” Stafford
Edward Higgins “Ed” White II
John Watts Young

October 4, 1997
William Alison “ Bill” Anders
Alan LaVerne “Al” Bean
Vance DeVoe Brand
Gerald Paul “Gerry” Carr
Roger Bruce Chaffee
Ronnie Walter “Walt” Cunningham
Charles Moss “Charlie” Duke Jr.
Donn Fulton Eisele
Ronald Ellwin “Ron” Evans
Owen Kay Garriott
Edward George Gibson
Fred Wallace Haise Jr.
James Benson Irwin
Joseph Peter Kerwin
Jack Robert Lousma
Thomas Kenneth “Ken” Mattingly II
Edgar Dean Mitchell
William Reid “Bill” Pogue
Stuart Allen “Stu” Roosa
Harrison Hagan “Jack” Schmitt
Russell Luis “Rusty” Schweickart
John Leonard “Jack” Swigert Jr.
Paul Joseph Weitz
Alfred Merrill Worden

November 10, 2001
Robert Laurel “Bob” Crippen
Joseph Henry “Joe” Engle
Frederick Hamilton “Rich” Hauck
Richard Harrison “Dick” Truly

June 21, 2003
Daniel Charles “Dan” Brandenstein
Robert Lee “Hoot” Gibson
Franklin Story Musgrave
Sally Kristen Ride

April 30, 2004
Richard Oswalt “Dick” Covey
Frederick Drew “Fred” Gregory
Francis Richard Scobee
Kathryn Dwyer “Kathy” Sullivan
Norman Earl “Norm” Thagard

April 26, 2005
Joseph Percival Allen
Charles Gordon Fullerton
Bruce McCandless II

May 6, 2006
Charles Frank “Charlie” Bolden Jr.
Henry Warren “Hank” Hartsfield Jr.
Brewster Hopkinson Shaw Jr.

May 5, 2007
Michael Lloyd “Mike” Coats
Steven Alan Hawley
Jeffrey Alan “Jeff” Hoffman

May 2-3, 2008
John Elmer Blaha
Robert Donald “Bob” Cabana
Bryan Daniel O’Connor
Loren James Shriver

May 1, 2009
George Driver “Pinky” Nelson
William McMichael “Bill” Shepherd
James Donald “Jim” Wetherbee

June 4-5, 2010
Guion Steward “Guy” Bluford Jr.
Kenneth Duane “Ken” Bowersox
Frank Lee Culbertson Jr.
Kathryn Ryan “Kathy” Thornton

May 7, 2011
Karol Joseph “Bo” Bobko
Susan Jane Helms

May 5, 2012
Franklin Ramon Chang-Diaz
Kevin Patrick “Chili” Chilton
Charles Joseph Precourt

April 20, 2013
Curtis Lee “Curt” Brown Jr.
Eileen Marie Collins
Bonnie Jeanne Dunbar

May 3, 2014
Shannon Matilda Lucid
Jerry Lynn Ross

May 30, 2015
John Mace Grunsfeld
Steven Wayne Lindsey
Kent Vernon Rominger
Margaret Rhea Seddon

May 13-14, 2016
Brian J. Duffy
Scott Edward Parazynski

May 19-20, 2017
Colin Michael “Mike” Foale
Ellen Lauri Ochoa

APRIL 21, 2018
Scott D. Altman
Thomas D. Jones

NASA assigns first crews to fly commercial spacecraft

September 1st, 2018

Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana addresses the standing room only crowd at JSC’s Teague Auditorium as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer look on.

By Mary Alys Cherry

“We’re back,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told a rousing audience in the Johnson Space Center’s Teague Auditorium.

“This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know that we’re back – that we’re flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” he said as the crowd’s roar reached heights probably not heard around JSC in years.

Sweet words to everyone’s ears, especially the nine astronauts who were introduced as America’s first commercial crew astronauts – those who will help increase commercial companies’ involvement in low Earth orbit and possibly take over operation of the space station some day in the future and allow NASA to focus on deep space exploration.

A NEW ERA
“Today,” Bridenstine continued, “our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp. This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”

Joining him on stage for the presentation were Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Boeing Defense, Space and Security CEO Leanne Caret and SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell, who each spoke briefly of their hopes for the future before the new NASA chief introduced the astronauts – five who will fly on Boeing’s Starliner and four who will man SpaceX’s Dragon.

NASA introduced the first U.S. astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station – an endeavor that will return astronaut launches to U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. The nine astronauts introduced to crew Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are, from left, Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

NASA intern and University of Texas student Stephanie Zeller shares a light moment with Sen.Ted Cruz, one of a number of elected officials at the ceremony at JSC’s Teague Auditorium.

“All of us are here today because we stand for something new and profound, built upon an amazing legacy, and it is personal for all of us,” Boeing executive Leanne Caret said. “Today we start a new chapter, and we’re so thrilled to be on this journey.” Both companies bring unique approaches and ideas to the development and testing of their systems, which is why NASA selected both companies in September 2014.

“The 7,000 women and men of SpaceX understand what a sacred honor this was for us to be part of this program, and for us to fly [NASA astronauts],” said SpaceX executive Gwynne Shotwell. “So thank you very much, we take it seriously, we won’t let you down.”

SEVERAL APPEARANCES
The stage presentation was one of several appearances by Bridenstine during a three-day visit to JSC. On his first morning, the 43-year-old Michigan native got a up-close look at the Orion mockup that is being readied for its major safety test in April to verify that its launch abort system can steer the capsule and astronauts inside it to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during ascent for deep-space missions.

Next, he met with a select group of local reporters, answering a variety of questions about the future of the space station, the Gateway moon orbiting project that involves returning to the moon and is seen as a stepping stone to Mars, and the delays on the James Webb Telescope.

“NASA is doing things it has not done before, using government resources never done before,” he told reporters in a sit-down roundtable session, “and we want to be sure we do not have another gap.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, looks over the work being done in Building 9S at Johnson Space Center for the launch of the Orion mockup.

Bridenstine started his visit here at a reception at Space Center Houston where he addressed aerospace executives, local business people and elected officials, discussing a change in national space policy providing for an American-led integrated program with private sector partners for a return to the moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The new policy, he said, calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”

Bridenstine emphasized the importance of the word “sustainable” in the policy. He said, “When we talk about going to the moon, this time to stay, we want the entire architecture between Earth and the moon to be sustainable — in other words ‘reusable.’ We want tugs that are going back and forth from low Earth orbit to lunar orbit to be reusable. We want the lunar landers to be reusable so that they can go back to the surface of the moon over and over again.

“That entire architecture is going to be built on an American backbone. We will have critical infrastructure developed by NASA, by those in this room and at Johnson Space Center, that will give us a sustainable infrastructure on the moon… When we go to the moon this time, we’re going to stay.”

Pence has high praise for JSC

August 28th, 2018

“The Johnson Space Center is a national treasure, and all the men and women who work here are a national asset,” Vice President Mike Pence said as he addressed the standing room only crowd in JSC’s Teague Auditorium.

By Mary Alys Cherry

“America will lead mankind to the stars once again,” Vice President Mike Pence told a standing room only crowd in Johnson Space Center’s Teague Auditorium, “and,” he continued, “there are plans to send man back to the moon for the first time in nearly 50 years.

“We’re not content with leaving behind footprints or even to leave it all. This time has come, we believe, for the United States of America to take what we’ve learned over so many decades, put your ingenuity and creativity to work and establish a permanent presence around and on the moon.”

Welcome words for a group of hard-working engineers and space scientists, after a decade of nearly being ignored by government officials.

LAST STOP

“The vice president was at JSC after a stop in the hard-hit city of Rockport, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25, 2017 and where he and Gov. Greg Abbott made a helicopter tour to survey the recovery. Then it was on to Houston for several events before ending his Texas journey at the place he said “has been at the forefront of America’s journey to the stars,” bringing smiles to the faces of JSC Director Mark Geyer and Deputy Director Vanessa Wyche and the hundreds of other employees looking on.

It was his second visit to NASA’s lead space center. Earlier, he was here to introduce NASA’s newest astronauts. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who introduced Pence, also was back for his second visit in three weeks, much to the delight of the audience, most of whom couldn’t recall this much attention from Washington in years.

Pence, who serves as chairman of the National Space Council, admitted to being a space geek. In fact, he said he was like a kid in a candy store while touring JSC with Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt, one of the last two men to walk on the moon. Together, they visited NASA’s big swimming pool – also known as the Neutral Buoyancy Lab – and JSC’s eye-popping collection of moon rocks. Schmitt flew on the nation's last mission to the moon 46 years ago in 1972.

MANTLE OF GREATNESS

For more than 50 years, this storied center has been at the forefront of America's journey to the stars,” Pence continued. This is the ‘home of the Astronaut Corps.’ And, here, from the Mission Control Center, you have guided every American-crewed space expedition since 1965. The names and the voyages that you directed from this place adorn the mantle of American greatness. In Project Gemini, you steered some of our earliest astronauts high above what they called the “Blue Marble”, into low Earth orbit.

“In the Apollo Program, you navigated the first members of the human family to the moon and back.

“At this very hour, you walk with our astronauts through their duties as they walk 200 miles above us, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, on the International Space Station.

NATIONAL TREASURE

“The Johnson Space Center is a national treasure, and all the men and women who work here are a national asset,” he continued to great applause. “I have to tell you, I’m just speaking as a small-town guy from southern Indiana, but I know the American people admire — they admire the work done here — past, present — and they look for even greater things in the future here at Johnson Space Center. And let me to say to all of you, and all of those that might be looking on: The most important work and the best days for the Johnson Space Center are yet to come.  Count on it.”

He went on to talk about the work of the National Space Council and the proposed U.S Space Force and how it may be needed in the future, noting that “the need is real,” as the Pentagon has just released a report that China and Russia are weaponizing, “developing and testing new and dangerous weapons and technologies to counter America space capabilities.”

Then, looking to the future, he added, “Sadly, for more than seven years we’ve been forced to hitch a ride to space. Those days are over. Soon – and very soon – American astronauts will return to space on American rockets launched from American soil.”

Bay Area community meets pioneer women astronauts

August 1st, 2018

Space Center Houston welcomed famous pioneer astronauts Rhea Seddon, Shannon Lucid and Anna Fisher, from left, for its Thought Leader Series.

By Mary Alys Cherry

The Clear Lake community was in for a rare treat in late June when Space Center Houston hosted its Thought Leader Series for several hundred local residents with three of the first women astronauts – Dr. Anna Fisher, Dr. Shannon Lucid and Dr. Rhea Seddon.

All three were among the first six women NASA invited to be astronauts — members of the astronaut class of January 1978, which became known in space circles as “the 35 new guys.”

The other three women were the late Sally Ride, who became the first American woman to fly in space 35 years ago; Judith Resnik, who became the second American woman in space while losing her life on Challenger’s final flight in 1986; and NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, who in 1984 became the first American woman to walk in space, but was unable to attend the event.

Male notables in their class included retired Johnson Space Center Director Mike Coats; Brewster Shaw, who became head of Boeing’s Houston space operations; James Lovell, commander of Apollo 13; author and public speaker Mike Mullane; Dan Brandenstein, chief operating officer of United Space Alliance; and three other members of the fatal Challenger crew – Commander Dick Scobee, Ellison Onizuka and Ronald McNair.

TREATED EQUALLY
Prior to the program, the trio met with members of the press, who asked a variety of questions, including if they were treated equally with the male astronauts and about memorable moments in their careers.

While many women today can recall not receiving equal pay or equal treatment with their male counterparts in the workplace in earlier years, all three retired astronauts agreed they had no complaints about NASA. In fact, they thought the space agency bent over backwards to see they got excellent treatment.

“I think we all wondered at first if they would give us a chance,” Seddon said. They had never (sent women into space), and they wanted to take a chance, she explained.

Lucid went on to tell how all the women were a little nervous when Ride became the first woman to fly in space. “So much depended on how well she did.” All three thought she did quite well while also inspiring women all over the country to go into science and engineering fields.

Since then, it’s been amazing to see how many women have joined NASA, they all agreed. In the old days, almost all aerospace employees were men, Fisher said. Today it’s about 50-50 and from all different ethnic backgrounds.

HAPPY MEMORIES
All three also shared a memorable moment while in space.

Lucid remembered the enjoyment of “just floating around at the end of the day” when all their work was done, while many came to Fisher’s mind such as “looking out the window at the Himolayans” and at the end of a successful space journey.

Seddon recalled having a ham radio on board which allowed her to communicate with the school children in her young son’s class. As their talk came to an end and she thought all communication had been terminated, she heard a click and then a small voice that said, “I love you Mom. Have a safe trip home.” You could almost feel the lump in her throat as she shared that long ago special moment.

Their biggest surprise? Lucid was quick to answer. When she first flew in space only 12 men had walked on the moon. She said she thought the moon would be colonized by the time she was 75. Yet, today, three decades later, and she’s now 75, only 12 men have walked on the moon.

“It still boggles my mind that we went and quit.” she said.

She, like everyone in the space community, is hopeful President Trump will continue the push to return to the moon and get on to Mars.

Astronaut Alan Bean, 86, dies

May 29th, 2018

Photo: NASA

Apollo and Skylab astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth human to walk on the moon and an accomplished artist, has died.

Bean, 86, died on Saturday, May 26, at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. His death followed his suddenly falling ill while on travel in Fort Wayne, Ind., two weeks before.

“Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew. He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly,” said Leslie Bean, Alan Bean’s wife of 40 years. “A native Texan, Alan died peacefully in Houston surrounded by those who loved him.”

A test pilot in the U.S. Navy, Bean was one of 14 trainees selected by NASA for its third group of astronauts in October 1963. He flew twice into space, first as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second moon landing mission, in November 1969, and then as commander of the second crewed flight to the United States’ first space station, Skylab, in July 1973.

“Alan and I have been best friends for 55 years — ever since the day we became astronauts,” said Walt Cunningham, who flew on Apollo 7. “When I became head of the Skylab Branch of the Astronaut Office, we worked together and Alan eventually commanded the second Skylab mission.”

“We have never lived more than a couple of miles apart, even after we left NASA. And for years, Alan and I never missed a month where we did not have a cheeseburger together at Miller’s Café in Houston. We are accustomed to losing friends in our business but this is a tough one,” said Cunningham.

On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean, together with Apollo 12 commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, landed on the Ocean of Storms and became the fourth human to walk on the moon. During two moonwalks Bean helped deploy several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generator station on the moon to provide the power source. He and Conrad inspected a robotic Surveyor spacecraft and collected 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of rocks and lunar soil for study back on Earth.

“Alan and Pete were extremely engaged in the planning for their exploration of the Surveyor III landing site in the Ocean of Storms and, particularly, in the enhanced field training activity that came with the success of Apollo 11. This commitment paid off with Alan's and Pete's collection of a fantastic suite of lunar samples, a scientific gift that keeps on giving today and in the future,” said Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot and the only geologist to walk on the moon. “Their description of bright green concentrations of olivine (peridot) as ‘ginger ale bottle glass,’ however, gave geologists in Mission Control all a big laugh, as we knew exactly what they had discovered.”

“When Alan's third career as the artist of Apollo moved forward, he would call me to ask about some detail about lunar soil, color or equipment he wanted to have represented exactly in a painting. Other times, he wanted to discuss items in the description he was writing to go with a painting. His enthusiasm about space and art never waned. Alan Bean is one of the great renaissance men of his generation — engineer, fighter pilot, astronaut and artist,” said Schmitt.

Four years after Apollo 12, Bean commanded the second crew to live and work on board the Skylab orbital workshop. During the then-record-setting 59-day, 24.4 million-mile flight, Bean and his two crewmates generated 18 miles of computer tape during surveys of Earth’s resources and 76,000 photographs of the Sun to help scientists better understand its effects on the solar system.

In total, Bean logged 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space, including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the moon’s surface.

Bean retired from the Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981. In the four decades since, he devoted his time to creating an artistic record of humanity’s first exploration of another world. His Apollo-themed paintings featured canvases textured with lunar boot prints and were made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.

“Alan Bean was the most extraordinary person I ever met,” said astronaut Mike Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope. “He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter.”

“But what was truly extraordinary was his deep caring for others and his willingness to inspire and teach by sharing his personal journey so openly. Anyone who had the opportunity to know Alan was a better person for it, and we were better astronauts by following his example. I am so grateful he was my mentor and friend, and I will miss him terribly. He was a great man and this is a great loss,” Massimino said.

Born March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, Bean received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955. He attended the Navy Test Pilot School and accumulated more than 5,500 hours of flying time in 27 different types of aircraft.

He is survived by his wife Leslie, a sister Paula Stott, and two children from a prior marriage, a daughter Amy Sue and son Clay.

NASA mourns the passing of astronaut John Young

January 9th, 2018

Legendary astronaut John Young, who walked on the lunar surface during one of two trips to the Moon and commanded the first space shuttle mission, died Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, at the age of 87 from complications of pneumonia. Young began his impressive career at NASA in 1962, when he was selected from among hundreds of young pilots to join NASA’s second astronaut class, known as the “New Nine.”

“Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.

“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit.”

“It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight,” said Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, a former astronaut herself. “Beyond his well-known and groundbreaking six missions through three programs, he worked tirelessly for decades to understand and mitigate the risks that NASA astronauts face. He had our backs.”

After hearing President Kennedy’s bold proposal in 1961 to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth, Young said he knew what he had to do.

“I thought returning safely to Earth sounded like a good idea,” said Young, who stood on the Moon, drove 16 miles in a lunar rover and spent three nights on the lunar surface. He is the only person to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs and was the first to fly into space six times — or seven times, when counting his liftoff from the Moon during Apollo 16.

Young was born in San Francisco. His family moved to Georgia and then Florida, where he lived for most of his childhood, along with his younger brother.

As a boy, Young’s favorite pastimes were building model airplanes — the first hint of his passion for aeronautics — and reading.

“My grandpa taught me how to read,” said Young. “I read the encyclopedia when I was five.”

His father, a civil engineer, was Young’s role model. Young graduated from Orlando High School and then earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Georgia Tech, where he graduated with highest honors in 1952.

Following graduation, he joined the Navy and, after a year’s service aboard a destroyer, was sent to flight training.

He flew fighter planes for four years, then completed test pilot training and served three years at the Navy’s Air Test Center, where he heeded the president’s call to go to the Moon.

In March 1965, Young made his first flight as an astronaut, joining Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, the first manned flight of that program. As Young prepared, a sense of obligation overruled excitement or any other emotion.

“We were just thinking about doing the job right,” Young said.

Young commanded the Gemini 10 mission in July 1966. He and pilot Mike Collins rendezvoused with two Agena target vehicles, and Collins did a spacewalk to retrieve a micrometeorite detector from one of them.

 

In May 1969, he served as command module pilot on Apollo 10 and flew all the way to the Moon with crewmates Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan. The crew scouted landing sites from lunar orbit and rendezvoused the lunar module and command module in a full dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 landing two months later.

Young made a return trip to the Moon as commander of Apollo 16 in April 1972. With Ken Mattingly orbiting above in the command module, Young and lunar module pilot Charlie Duke landed in the Descartes highlands. “The moon is a very nice place,” Young said. “When we landed, we were 20 minutes behind. Because time on the Moon was so precious, what I remember most is trying to catch up.”

Young and Duke set up scientific equipment and explored lunar highlands in the rover. The mission returned more than 200 pounds of Moon rocks gathered from three geological outings.

Young’s career was full of firsts, none more notable than in April 1981, when he commanded Space Shuttle Columbia on its — and the Shuttle program’s — maiden flight, STS-1. It was the first time a piloted spacecraft was tested in space without previous unpiloted orbital flights. Young and pilot Robert Crippen accomplished more than 130 flight test objectives during their almost 55-hour mission.

In late 1983 Young commanded STS-9, the first Spacelab mission. During the 10-day flight, the six crewmembers worked around the clock in 12-hour shifts, involved in more than 70 experiments in a range of scientific disciplines. The mission returned more scientific and technical data than all the Apollo and Skylab missions combined.

In addition to his six spaceflights, Young was a member of five backup crews. He’s logged thousands of hours of training and flight time, including a total of 835 hours in space.

In early 1973, he became chief of the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office at Johnson Space Center. The following year, Young, who retired from the Navy as a captain in 1976 after 25 years of military service, was named chief of the Astronaut Office, a post he held until May 1987.

Throughout this time, Young remained an active astronaut, eligible to command space shuttle missions.

Young’s numerous awards and special honors included the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, three NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, three Navy Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Georgia Tech Distinguished Young Alumni Award, the Exceptional Engineering Achievement Award and the American Astronautical Society Space Flight Award.

Those are among more than 80 major honors and awards, including four honorary doctorate degrees, Young has received. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988.

“I’ve been very lucky, I think,” Young said at his retirement from NASA in 2004. As to which moment was most memorable, he says simply, “I liked them all.”

New Space Policy Directive calls for return to the moon

December 12th, 2017

President Donald Trump signs the Presidential Space Directive – 1, directing NASA to return to the moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

President Donald Trump is sending astronauts back to the Moon.

The president Monday signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” said President Trump. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”

The policy grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, after its first meeting Oct. 5. In addition to the direction to plan for human return to the Moon, the policy also ends NASA’s existing effort to send humans to an asteroid. The president revived the National Space Council in July to advise and help implement his space policy with exploration as a national priority.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts,” said Vice President Pence. “As the President has said, space is the ‘next great American frontier’ – and it is our duty – and our destiny – to settle that frontier with American leadership, courage, and values. The signing of this new directive is yet another promise kept by President Trump.”

Lunar Sample 70215 was retrieved from the Moon’s surface and returned by NASA’s Apollo 17 crew. The sample is a basaltic lava rock similar to lava found in Hawaii. It crystallized 3.84 billion years ago when lava flowed from the Camelot Crater. Sliced off a parent rock that originally weighed 8,110 grams, the sample weighs 14 grams, and is very fine grained, dense and tough. Credits: NASA

Among other dignitaries on hand for the signing, were NASA astronauts Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson and Christina Koch. Schmitt landed on the moon 45 years to the minute that the policy directive was signed as part of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission, and is the most recent living person to have set foot on our lunar neighbor.

Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Whitson spoke to the president from space in April aboard the International Space Station and while flying back home after breaking the record for most time in space by a U.S. astronaut in September. Koch is a member of NASA’s astronaut class of 2013.

Work toward the new directive will be reflected in NASA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request next year.

“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement.

“Our workforce is committed to this effort, and even now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space. The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path.”

A piece of Moon rock was brought to the White House as a reminder of the exploration history and American successes at the Moon on which the new policy will build. Lunar Sample 70215 was retrieved from the Moon’s surface and returned by Schmitt’s Apollo 17 crew. Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to land astronauts on the Moon and returned with the greatest amount of rock and soil samples for investigation.

The sample is a basaltic lava rock similar to lava found in Hawaii. It crystallized 3.84 billion years ago when lava flowed from the Camelot Crater. Sliced off a parent rock that originally weighed 8,110 grams, the sample weighs 14 grams, and is very fine grained, dense and tough.

During the six Apollo surface excursions from 1969 to 1972, astronauts collected 2,196 rock and soil samples weighting 842 pounds. Scientific studies help us learn about the geologic history of the Moon, as well as Earth. They help us understand the mineral and chemical resources available to support future lunar exploration.

For information about NASA’s missions, programs and activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov

NASA astronauts induction into Hall of Fame on NASA TV live May 19

May 18th, 2017

Two NASA astronauts, both with one-of-a-kind career credits, will be honored Friday, May 19, when they are inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. The ceremony will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website at 1 p.m. EDT.

Bob Cabana, 2008 hall of famer and current director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will speak at the induction ceremony about the distinguished careers of honorees Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go into space and current director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and former astronaut Michael Foale, the only U.S. astronaut to serve on both the International Space Station and Russian space station Mir.

The ceremony will be held at the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

Ochoa was selected as a NASA astronaut in January 1990. A veteran of four flights, she logged more than 978 hours in space, serving as mission specialist on space shuttle mission STS-56, payload commander on STS-66, and both flight engineer and mission specialist on STS-96 and STS-110. She has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, NASA’s highest award.

Foale was selected as an astronaut candidate in June 1987. A veteran of six missions, he logged more than 374 days in space and four spacewalks totaling almost 23 hours, including a spacewalk to perform repairs and upgrades to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. He also is the only American citizen to have served on both Mir and the International Space Station. Foale retired from NASA in 2013.

For NASA TV schedules and links to streaming video, visit: NASA Television | NASA

Astronaut Cady Coleman leaves NASA

December 11th, 2016

9465838253_be43d62a06_zAfter 24 years and three trips to space, astronaut Cady Coleman left NASA on Dec. 1. During her time at NASA, she flew on two space shuttle missions and spent six months aboard the International Space Station.

“Cady always brought a great deal of enthusiasm to her work here,” said Chris Cassidy, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We wish her the best in her future endeavors.”

Coleman, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force, was born in Charleston, S.C. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983 and a doctorate in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1991.

Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, she worked as a research chemist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base before being selected as an astronaut in 1992.

Coleman’s first journey to space came as a mission specialist in 1995, when space shuttle Columbia carried the U.S. Microgravity Laboratory into space for its second mission on STS-73, a precursor mission to the space station. She returned for STS-93 in 1999, also on Columbia, as the lead mission specialist for the deployment of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Chandra is still being used to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the universe, such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.

In December 2010, Coleman launched into space for a third time onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, for a six-month stay onboard the space station, serving as the lead science officer, lead robotics officer and flight engineer for Expedition 26/27. Coleman provided onboard supervision of more than 100 science and technology experiments aboard the station. In addition, she and the Expedition 26/27 crew hosted a record number of visiting vehicles, including two space shuttles, three Russian Progress supply ships, a European Automated Transfer Vehicle and a Japanese H2 Transfer Vehicle.

Coleman spent a total of 180 days space. During her time on the ground at NASA, she served in a variety of roles within the Astronaut Office, including chief of robotics, lead for tile repair efforts after the Columbia accident and lead astronaut for integration of supply ships from NASA’s commercial partners, Space X and Orbital ATK. Most recently, she led open-innovation and public-private partnership efforts for the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA Headquarters.

Find Coleman’s complete biography at: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/coleman.pdf