July 15-24 marked the 35th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), the famous “Handshake in Space.” ASTP was the first American-Soviet space flight, docking the last American Apollo spacecraft with the then-Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. This joint effort between the two major world players was based on an agreement signed in 1972, and it set a precedent for future joint efforts, such as the Shuttle-Mir Program and the International Space Station.
In a previous blog post, I discussed the influence that Wernher von Braun had on the vision of the way that human space travel would progress, from brief flights into space to long duration missions to Mars. To continue that discussion: Wernher von Braun envisioned the space station to be something quite different from the International Space Station that is now in orbit: he imagined a wheel-shaped vessel that rotated to provide artificial gravity for its crew.
What do yogurt cups and juice bottles have to do with the International Space Station? If you dropped by the National Mall Building on Saturday, May 8, between 10am and 3pm, you would have seen this question being answered by hundreds of visitors, working together to build a space station out of recycled materials. Space Day is an annual family day program sponsored by Lockheed Martin. In addressing this year’s theme, “Looking at Earth from Space,” our astronaut guests explained the incredible feeling of seeing the circumference of the earth from the window of the shuttle. Curators from the National Air and Space Museum and presenters from research organizations used models and displays to show how satellites work and the cool things we can do with them. We want family days to engage audiences of all ages in fun, informal, educational activities.
The notation in the Museum’s artifact database is simple: “On loan.” But this artifact is a replica Nobel Prize. And its loan involves two government agencies, a crushed storage building, and a flight to the International Space Station. Let’s start at the beginning – literally. As in the Big Bang.
In the 1990s the United States collaborative space policy entered an extended period of transition from the earlier era of Cold War, one in which NASA has been compelled to deal with international partners on a much more even footing than ever before.
May 10 may ring a bell for fans of the 1970s television show The Six Million Dollar Man. On that day in 1967, a NASA research aircraft, the wingless M2-F2 lifting body, crashed in the California desert. A film clip of the crash opened the popular weekly show about the gravely injured fictional pilot, Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation the intrepid crew of the United Starship Enterprise repeatedly face the Borg, cyborgs intent on assimilating the biological creatures of the universe into their collective consciousness. Their meme, “resistance is futile,” serves as a convenient tagline for this ongoing plot device in the fictional series, but it also may foreshadow a more realistic future for humanity as we reach into space. When considering the far future and the potential for humans to colonize other bodies in the solar system and beyond, perhaps humanity will adapt to the space environment through modifications of the human body like those found on the Borg. This idea was first broached by scientists Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline in a 1960 NASA study.
On April 28th, we will be awarding the National Air and Space Museum’s Trophy Award for Current and Lifetime Achievement. The Trophy was initiated in 1985 and has been given every year but one since then. This year, the Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., for a lifetime of service to aerospace, especially for his role in defining the responsibilities of Mission Control for human spaceflight at NASA. Anyone who has seen the Hollywood film Apollo 13 knows how crucial the mission controllers were in saving that mission and its crew from disaster. While the filmmakers may have exaggerated a few things, in that regard they were correct. Mission controllers—at first located at Cape Canaveral, later on in Houston—were critical to the success of all the human missions into space, and it was Kraft who determined their roles and responsibilities.
Every year as the anniversary of the first human spaceflight approaches, I receive calls inquiring about the validity of Yuri Gagarin’s claim as the first human in space. The legitimate questions focus on the fact that Gagarin did not land inside his spacecraft.