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Posts tagged ‘space exploration’

More New Metal Earth Models Part 2 (Spaaaaaaaceeee….)

So after showing the Metal Earth 1965 Ford Mustang, the Tiger Moth Biplane and the Stag Beetle on Thursday it is now time for the remaining new Metal Erth Models. The first up is the Metal Earth Drum Set



Sputnik Day!

On this day, in 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into orbit.  This was the first step on people in space and the landing on the Moon. It also was the first ‘shot’ in the Space Race between the USA and the USSR and a massive propaganda victory for the latter.

Sputnik did not do very much, simply sent a beeping radio signal on two bands that amateur radio operators could listen to. It also only remained in orbit for a few months before burning up in January of 1958.  But its effect was amazing. In the USA, which had been muddling through the 50’s, Sputnik jump-started an incredible amount of science education initiatives. Science Education in the US had taken a bit of a back seat to to other fields of study but soon many resources were poured into technology and science education. Sputnik also caused a minor panic in the USA as people now worried that the USSR could use satellites to drop nuclear warheads on top of them. This would become reality shortly (the fact that both the US and USSR could drop waheads, mind you, not that they did).

54 years later and the world is much different. Artificial satellites are common in our orbit, but plans for manned space programs are slow to move in the USA. Meanwhile, China has said it plans on a whole host of manned space missions.  Oh and the USSR collapsed, making its propaganda victory a bit hollow.

Fare thee well Shuttle Program

STS-135 Landing

And with the landing of STS-135 the NASA Space Shuttle program comes to and end.The Space Shuttles served as the US’s space transport for over 30 years.

Now the shuttles will become museum pieces in the  California Science Center in L.A., The Smithsonian, The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space  Museum in  New York City, and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Shuttle parts and trainers will also be sent to flight museums in Seattle, Ohio, Houston, Huntsville, and other locations.


STS-135, The Last Space Shuttle Flight on July 8th

There’s nothing more to say than to say it: The last Space Shuttle flight will take place on July 8th, 2011. After that it will be some time before American’s are in space via NASA rocketry. The Space Shuttle program first started in the aftermath of the end of the Apollo missions. Part of the concern was the fact that most of the Apollo missions went up on huge rockets and only tiny modules would return. Since the Moon was no longer an objective the Shuttle was designed as a workhorse rocket that would have reusable parts (boosters, the Shuttle itself). After some tests (such as the famous non-operational glider decoupling and landing of the Shuttle Enterprise) the Shuttle first flew in April 12 1981. It would continue for over 30 years.

There were bumps in the road, the Challenger Disaster in 1986 on take-off and the Columbia burn-up in reentry in 2003 were major setbacks that resulted in major delays. The biggest problem was that the shuttle was never the ‘Space Truck’ NASA hoped it would be. Initial plans hoped for dozens on flights each year, instead of an average of  just over flights per year.  But still, it got things done.The fleet is also a bit long in the tooth, and the (accurate) joke about the Shuttle’s computer is that the most powerful computers on board are the laptops the astronauts bring with them. The joke started in the early 90’s to put that in perspective.

Right now NASA is still trying to figure out what will replace the Shuttle program. The previous program was canceled after major delays and cost-overruns turned it into a boondoggle. Time will tell what comes next.

Voyager Space Probes at the edge of our Solar System

Launched in 1977, the Voyager Space Probes I and II are making their merry way out of our Solar System. They are presently hitting a ‘bubble’ of charged particles put out by our sun that most astronomers consider to be the borderline between our Solar System and deep space.

NASA artist rendering of VoyagerVoyager Space probes are expected to still have power until about 2025. After that they will simply be drifting further into interstellar space towards nearby stars, but even at 38,000 mph it will take tens of thousands of years to get there. What shape the probe (besides electronically dead) will be in by that time is anyone’s guess

Read more….


50th Anniversary of Man In Space

50 years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Until that time, only unmanned satellites and experimental animals had been sent up into space. It was a major coup in the Space Race for the USSR. Less than 1 month later, the USA sent up Alan Shepard , although his flight was suborbital.

There were other differences in the two flights as well: Shepard had some control over his flight, wheras Gagarin’s was completely automated. Shepard also splashed down in the Ocean wheras Gagarin bailed out of his Vostok 1. This detail was kept quiet by the USSR since the required standard for a successful spaceflight was that the craft would land on its own. Although this was a ‘violation’ of the Spaceflight standards of the time,  only a few people have since made much of an issue of it and Yuri is generally considered the first man in a successful spaceflight.

Unlike Shepard, Gagarin also never returned to space, and he died in a plane accident in 1968. In the years since the Soviet Union collapsed, rumors have surfaced that other Cosmonauts were sent into space before Gagarin but did not survive – their failure being hushed up by the tight-lipped Soviet Union. The facts are that such dead cosmonauts were either fictional, died on Earth, or were dismissed for misbehavior.

So here’s to 50th years of Manned (if automated) Spaceflight!