of the week
06:20:15 - 08:01:15
06:20:15 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: In 1959, Alan Bartlett "Al" Shepard, Jr. was one of 110 military test pilots selected by their commanding officers as candidates for the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Project Mercury, the first U.S. manned space flight program. Following a grueling series of physical and psychological tests, NASA selected Shepard to be one of the original group of seven Mercury astronauts. In January 1961, Shepard was chosen for the first American manned mission into space. Although the flight was originally scheduled for October 1960, delays by unplanned preparatory work meant that this was postponed several times, initially to March 6, 1961, and finally to May 5. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first person in space and to orbit the Earth. On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission (each of the Mercury program flights had nicknames for their capsules and missions) and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space. He was launched by a Redstone rocket, and unlike Gagarin's 108-minute orbital flight, Shepard stayed on a ballistic trajectory -- a 15-minute sub-orbital flight which carried him to an altitude of 116 statute miles and to a splashdown point 302 statute miles down the Atlantic Missile Range. Unlike Gagarin, whose flight was strictly automatic, Shepard had some control of Freedom 7, spacecraft attitude in particular. The launch was seen live on television by millions. It was while waiting for launch after long delays as he sat cramped in the Freedom 7 capsule that Shepard got off his now-famous angry demand, "Why don't you fix your little problem and light this candle?" In 1971 Shepard became the only one of the original "Mercury 7" astronauts to walk on the moon.
06:27:15 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1962, proposed Ames M2-F1, M1-L half-cone, and Langley lenticular bodies. The wingless, lifting body aircraft design was initially conceived as a means of landing an aircraft horizontally after atmospheric reentry. The absence of wings would make the extreme heat of re-entry less damaging to the vehicle. Aerospace engineer Dale Reed, who inaugurated the lifting-body flight research at NASA's Flight Research Center (later, Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA), originally proposed that three wooden outer shells be built. Aeronautical research scientist Milt Thompson, who supported Reed's advocacy for a lifting-body research project, recommended that only the M2-F1 shell be built, believing that the M1-L shape was "too radical," while the lenticular one was "too exotic." Although the lenticular shape was often likened to that of a flying saucer, Reed's wife Donna called it the "powder puff." Several variants of the M1-L were built and flown, influencing the eventual design of the space shuttles.
07:04:15 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From 1955, Disneyland's TWA Rocket to the Moon attraction. Inside, guests had view-screens in the floor as well as above them, simulating a liftoff and trip to the moon and back. In 1967, the rocket was painted different colors, and renamed the Douglas Flight to the Moon.
07:11:15 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1962, a Soviet space propaganda poster with the wording "Be Proud, Soviets, You Opened a Path from the Earth to the Stars!". The artist was Mikhail Soloviev, one of Russia's leading politcal propaganda posterists.
07:18:15-07:25:15 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1975, artist's conception of the docking of an Apollo Command module and a Soviet Soyuz capsule. On July 17, 1975 -- forty years ago, this week -- an Apollo spacecraft carrying three United States astronauts and a Soyuz spacecraft containing two Soviet cosmonauts linked 138 miles above the Earth in a tentative first step towards international cooperation in space, signaling an end to the "space race" which had dominated U.S.-Soviet relations for two decades. More info at NASA.
08:01:15 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From the 1953 classic sci-fi film War of the Worlds -- very loosely based on H.G. Wells' classic novel -- Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) stares up into the spaceship of a dying Martian. Filmed in Technicolor, the movie would go on to receive the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
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