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by Gideon Marcus

They say things get tedious in repetition. Well, I can assure you that at no point during Scott Carpenter's three-orbit flight, planned to be a duplicate of predecessor John Glenn's, was I in the least bit bored. In fact, of the six manned space shots, this was the most moving for me. Since the launch this morning from the East coast of Florida, a couple of hours after dawn, I've been hooked to the television and radio, engaged to a greater degree than ever before.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

The radio plays Classical music on the FM band now.

The difference is palpable. Bach and Mozart on the AM band were tinny and remote. It was almost as though the centuries separating me and the composers had been attenuating the signal. This new radio band (well, not so new, but newly utilized) allows transmissions as clear as any Hi-Fi record set could deliver.

Don't get me wrong; I still listen to the latest pop hits by The Shirelles and The Ventures, but I find myself increasingly tuned into the local classics station. The sound, and the selections, are just too good to ignore. The last movement of Robert Schumann's Symphony #1, with its stirring accelerando is playing right now, and it is a fitting accompaniment for the article I am currently composing.

Time was I would write an article on a space mission about once a month. This wouldn't be a wrap-up, but an article devoted to a single satellite. But the pace of space launches has increased – there were two successful orbital flights in 1957, nine in 1958, 13 in 1959, 20 in 1960, 38 in 1961. There were six flights just last week. Either I'm going to have to start abbreviating my coverage, or I'll need to start a satellite (no pun intended) column.

But that's a decision for next year. Right now, with a bit of musical texturing, let me tell you all about the exciting things that happened in spaceflight, April 1962:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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[The Journey's "Fashion Columnist" returns with a timely piece on the latest advancement in sartorial science...]


by Gwyn Conaway

Last month, on February 20th, 1962, John Glenn became the second American to leave behind our earthly constraints for the majesty of space.

Less than one year after Alan Shepard’s historic suborbital flight on a Redstone rocket, John Glenn ascended to low Earth orbit in his spacecraft, Friendship 7. He circled the Earth three times at speeds upwards of 17,000 miles per hour, and persevered through the crushing force of nearly eight times the force of Earth's gravity Gs at reentry into our atmosphere.



What a time to be alive! We are witness to human history! This is a milestone in a long journey toward chasing the unknown. Never have I been more certain that we are explorers, creatures of adventure. And what better bedfellow to our curiosity than innovation? For to accomplish his mission, Colonel Glenn required two spacecraft: the bell-shaped Mercury, as well as his formfitting personal capsule – the Mark IV spacesuit.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

And the Free World exhales. At long last, an American has orbited the Earth. This morning, Astronaut John Glenn ascended to the heavens on the back of an Atlas nuclear missile. He circled the globe three times before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is impossible to understate what this means for us. The Soviets have been ahead of us in the Space Race since it started in 1957: First satellite, first lunar probe, first space traveler. Last year, the best we could muster was a pair of 15 minute cannonball shots into the edges of space. For two months, Glenn has gone again and again into his little capsule and lain on his back only to emerge some time later, disappointed by technical failure or bad weather. Each time, the clock ticked; would the Soviets trump us with yet another spectacular display of technological prowess?

But this morning, everything was fine – the weather, the booster, the spacecraft, and the astronaut. As I went to sleep last night, Glenn woke up. He had the traditional low residue breakfast of orange juice, toast, eggs over-easy, fillet mignon, and Postum, before suiting up and entering the capsule. That was at 5 AM his time (2 AM mine). For five hours, the patient Colonel waited as his Atlas rocket, only recently tamed sufficiently for human use, was prepared and tested for flight.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

January has been a frustrating month in the Space Race. We are no closer to matching the Soviets in the manned competition, much less beating them, and our unmanned shots have been a disappointment, too. That said, it's not all bad news in January's round-up: stick to it through the end, and you'll see cause for cheer!

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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November 1961 been an exciting month for space buffs with several sequels to exciting missions as well as one brand new satellite.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It's is a red-letter day for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and for America as a whole. For today, we finally got a Mercury space capsule into orbit! The flight, dubbed "Mercury-Atlas 4," began this morning in a blast of fire on a Florida launchpad and lasted one hour and fifty minutes. At its conclusion, the Mercury capsule deorbited and parachuted safely into the Atlantic ocean. By all standards, it was a picture-perfect mission.



Except that there wasn't anyone in the capsule...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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For a few bright weeks, it looked as if the United States might be gaining in the Space Race. Now, the Reds have pulled forward again with a most astonishing announcement: their second cosmonaut, a Major Gherman Titov, orbited the Earth in his "Vostok 2" for an entire day before coming safely back to Earth this morning.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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By Larry Klaes

After three failed attempts just this week, yesterday (July 21, 1961), astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom finally became this nation’s second (and the world's third) man to reach outer space. Grissom achieved another sort of milestone when his spacecraft unexpectedly sank after splashdown – and almost took the astronaut with it to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean!



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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June was a busy month for space travel buffs, especially those who live in the Free World. Here's an omnibus edition covering all of the missions I caught wind of in the papers or the magazines:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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For many of us, the motivation for reading science fiction is the opportunity to explore worlds beyond our own. Only in fantasy can we fly to faraway planets and see the unusual sights they afford us. But, as I try to convey in this column, science can also reveal places every bit as interesting as the those that are the fruits of imagination.

For instance, there are eight planets besides the Earth whirling around the sun, each of them a wildly different orb from ours and each other. Moreover, while we are still on the eve of a new era of observation, utilizing space probes like the recently failed Venera and the ambiguously targeted Pioneer 5, yet the progress of technology has revolutionized even ground-based observation. Our conception of the planets has evolved significantly in the last half-century (to say nothing of a full century ago). It boggles the mind to imagine what we might know in another fifty years.

Let me show you these worlds, as we know them today, and as we used to know them. I've written about Venus, and I've written about Pluto. Today is Mercury's turn.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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I've been asked why it is that, as a reviewer of science fiction, I devote so much ink to the Space Race and other scientific non-fiction. I find it interesting that fans of the first would not necessarily be interested in the second, and vice versa.

There are three reasons non-fiction figures so prominently in this column:

4) I like non-fiction;
5) All the science fiction mags have a non-fiction column;
6) Science fiction without science fact is without context.

Let me expand on Point 3. Science is different from all other philosophies because of its underpinning of reality. My wife and I had this debate in graduate school many years ago with our fellow students. They felt that, so long as their systems were logical, their views on how the universe worked were just as valid as any others – certainly more valid that lousy ol' science, with its dirty experiments and boring empiricism.

They're wrong, of course. Religion and philosophy have discerned little about the natural universe except by accident or where the practitioners have utilized some version of the scientific method. The fact is, there is a real universe out there, and it pushes back at our inquiries. That "friction" is what allows us to experiment as to its nature. It's why we have wonders like airplanes, nuclear power, the polio vaccine, the contraceptive pill.

Similarly, science fiction is nowheresville without an underpinning of science. Science fiction is not make believe – it is extrapolation of scientific trends. Even fantasy makes use of science; ask Tolkien about his rigorous application of linguistics in his construction of Elvish. It is important that my readers keep abreast of the latest science fact so they can better understand and appreciate the latest science fiction.

And it goes both ways – the science of today is directly influenced and inspired by the dreams of yesterday. Without science fiction, science is a lusterless endeavor. Jules Verne showed us space travel long before Nikita Khruschev.



Thus ends the awfully long preface to today's article, which as anyone might guess, covers America's first manned space mission. Yesterday morning, May 5, 1961, Commander Alan B. Shepard rocketed to a height of nearly 190 kilometers in the Mercury spacecraft he christened "Freedom 7." His flight duplicated that of chimpanzee Ham's February trip: a sub-orbital jaunt that plopped him in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He flew for just 15 minutes.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Before we move on to the latest Space Race update, why don't you mosey on down to your local record store and pick up a copy of Wheels, by the String-a-lomgs? It's a swinging tune, and it's been on the radio a lot lately. It'll keep a smile on your face even when the news threatens to be a drag.



There are good weeks and there are bad weeks. For the Space Race, this wasn't the best week.

(see more at Galactic Journey!)
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With all of the talk about Mercury capsules on Redstone rockets, it's easy to forget that the main mission to get a person into orbit--and you just can't do that without a bigger booster.

It appears that bigger booster, in the form of the Atlas ICBM, is ready to roll.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It's hardly kosher, but it's certainly good news: a Redstone rocket launched the first piloted Mercury capsule on a 15-minute flight into space. No, we didn't put a man in orbit--we sent a three-year old chimpanzee named Ham on a vertical jaunt over the West Atlantic.

(see more at Galactic Journey!)
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There are days when everything goes right.

Here we are at the end of a difficult year for space travel. The Air Force had nearly a dozen failures in a row with its Discoverer proto spy satellite. The Pioneer Atlas Ables moon shots were all a bust. Even the successful probes rarely made it into space on the first try, viz. the communications satellites, Echo and Courier. The American manned space program was dealt a number of setbacks, limping along at a pace that will likely get it to the orbital finish line quite a bit behind the Soviets.

But Discoverer now has enjoyed a several-mission success streak. The latest Explorer probe is sending back excellent data on the ionosphere, and it's elder sibling is still plugging away in orbit, returning information on the heat budget of the atmosphere. TIROS 2 provides up-to-date weather photos from overhead.



And this morning, just a few hours ago...

(find out what happened at Galactic Journey!)
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Today, NASA made a record; just not one it wanted to.

For the first time, a space program has been a complete failure. Sure, we've had explosions and flopniks and rockets that veered too high or too low. We've had capsules that popped their tops and capsules that got lost in the snow. But never has there been a clean streak of bad missions.



(see what happened at Galactic Journey!)
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The American manned space program is on a tight schedule if it wants to place an astronaut in orbit before the Soviets. The Communists already have a striking lead. They had it three years ago when they launched the first Sputnik, and they've maintained it with the recent Sputnik 5, which featured two Muttniks, who were returned safely to Earth after an orbital flight.

It may well be that, as I write this, the Soviets will already have put a man in space.

NASA is moving at as brisk a pace as they can manage while doing their best to guarantee the safety of our spacemen. I can only imagine the frustration and impatience of the seven Mercury Astronauts, who were picked a year and a half ago as they cool their heels watching the test program play out.

So far, we've seen several low altitude launches of the Mercury spacecraft (Little Joe). There has been a test of the Atlas orbital booster )Big Joe). But there had yet to be an all-up suborbital test of the Mercury-Redstone, mimicing the first few missions that will be flown.

Until the day-before-yesterday.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The bird finally has wings!

By bird, I mean that lawn-dart of a rocket plane, NASA's X-15. Until yesterday, that sleek black vehicle, designed to probe the edges of space from underneath, had been a work in progress. The X-15 had already flown 25 times, zooming at faster than Mach 3 and climbing to a height of 40 kilometers. But its engines, a pair of Reaction Motors XLR11s, were an old set of training wheels: virtually the same rockets that pushed Chuck Yeager's X-1 past the sound barrier in 1947.

Together, these engines gave the plane a thrust of 32,000 lbf (pounds of force--or the force of Earth's gravity on one pound of matter). That's nothing to sneeze at, but it was always an interim solution. Yesterday, veteran test-pilot Scott Crossfield took the X-15 for a spin with the engine it was always meant to have: the Reaction Motors XLR99.

(find out how the flight went at Galactic Journey!)
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I admit it. I splurged last night.

I'm not the poorest of people, but I am thrifty. Last night, however, I took a detour on the way home. I ended up at my favorite cafe off Grand Avenue in downtown Escondido. They sell pizza, which I've noticed is becoming as commonplace as burgers these days. I ordered a slice pepperoni, a salad, and I washed it down with a beer. Then I sauntered down to a local coffee shop and enjoyed a day-old brownie and a cuppa joe. For dessert, I had a new 35 cent Ace Double (novel, that is).

The night set me back 16 bits, but all of the week's stress washed away. It beats a head shrinker, right?

Now, you might expect that this is a lead-in to a review of the Double, but I haven't finished it yet, so you'll just have to wait. In the meantime, here's an exciting Double Dose of Space News.



Remember Little Joe? It's that cluster of rockets with a Mercury capsule on top designed to test out the abort systems on the spaceship. That little tower on top has rockets that will propel a Mercury and its pilot to safety if something goes wrong during booster launch. The first flight was a total bust.

Since then, there have been two missions, the first of which was not entirely successful. Little Joe 1-A, launched November 4, seemed to go off okay, but the escape rocket went off too late, and the pressure on the capsule was far too low to make a good test of the system.

December 4 saw the next flight, Little Joe 2. NASA decided to go for broke with this one and fully equip the capsule with a host of biological specimens. One minute into the flight, the escape rocket blasted the Mercury and its contents, including seeds, bugs, cell samples, and a rhesus monkey named "Sam," at Mach 6 to an altitude of 53 miles. Sam experienced a good three minutes of weightlessness during the flight. All occupants were recovered several hours later, safe and sound.



The flight was a complete success, but it was not as strenuous a test as it might have been. The next mission will feature an abort rescue at "max q," or the craft's strongest acceleration. If the escape system works then, it will be probably be rated safe for actual use. Exciting stuff!

Next up: 1959's Galactic Stars awards!

Note: I love comments (you can do so anonymously), and I always try to reply.

P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!







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