of the week
01:07:12 - 02:25:12
01:07:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1977, astronaut and spotters in NASA's neutral buoyancy simulator at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, being used in this instance for training for construction techniques in space. Built in 1955 to simulate weightlessness in space, the water tank is 75-feet in diameter and 40-feet deep. The simulator became a National Historic Landmark in 1985.
01:14:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: Above: from August 20, 1959. Chief of NACA's Pilotless Aircraft Research Division(PARD) Joseph A. Shortal next to a full-size Mercury capsule at the Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) for first flight test of Little Joe rocket. Below: The assembled Little Joe rocket and Mercury capsule on launcher the next day. WFF was established at Wallops Island off the coast of Virginia in 1945 as a rocket test center by NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The Little Joe was the first U.S. rocket designed soley for manned space flight. Shortal would later write: "The basic design of the capsule was made by M.A. Faget and his coworkers at PARD during the winter of 1957-1958. It was natural, then, that extensive use was made of the facilities at Wallops during the development of the spacecraft. The tests at Wallops consisted of 26 full-size capsules, either launched from the ground by rocket power or dropped from airplanes at high altitude and 28 scaled models, either rocket boosted or released from balloons. Emphasis in the Wallops program was on dynamic stability and aerodynamic heating of the capsule, and effectiveness of the pilot-escape and parachute-recovery systems. The biggest part of the Wallops program was the series of full-size capsules, rocket launched with the Little Joe booster, developed especially for Mercury."
01:21:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1965, the S-131, which was to be successfully launched August 10, 1965. The S-131 was part of NASA's ECHO Project, which launched these giant 100-foot balloons as passive reflector communication satellites -- NASA's first communication satellites, and the first to enable live two-way communication. Constructed of mylar of less than a hair's width, and launched by rocket, the balloons would inflate after ejection some 1,000 miles above the Earth, and could be seen from the ground as they passed overhead.
01:28:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: Astronauts Roger Bruce Chaffee, Edward Higgins White II and Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom at the March 21, 1963 press conference introducing the prime crew for Apollo 1. Scheduled to be the first manned mission of the Apollo program, tragedy struck 45 years ago this week when during a command module test a flash fire inside the capsule killed the three men. Gus Grisson, the Apollo 1 command pilot, had distinguished himself as one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and the second American in space, later becoming the command pilot for the first flight of the Gemini program. Edward White, the Apollo 1 senior pilot, gained lasting fame as a member of the Gemini program, becoming the first American to walk in space. So exhilarated was White by the experience that after 23 minutes he had to be ordered to return to the space capsule. Roger Chaffee, a Navy jet pilot, was one of the extremely exclusive group of 14 men picked to become the third set of American astronauts in 1963, following in the footsteps of the previous sixteen Mercury and Gemini astronauts. The rigorous training program for this new group called for "fifty hours a week for two to five years training for a single flight." The training included real-life wilderness survival situations, including being paired and dropped by helicopter into the Panamanian jungle to fend for themselves, where Chaffee subsisted on snakes, lizards, plants and snails. Roger Chaffee's intensive training lasted for nearly two and a half years before being named to the Apollo 1 prime crew. Gus Grisson was 40 years old when he died, leaving behind his wife Betty and teenage sons Mark and Scott. Edward White was 36 when he died, leaving behind his wife Patricia, his thirteen-year old son Edward Higgins White III, and ten-year old daughter Bonnie Lynn. Roger Chaffee was 31 when he died, having never made it into space and leaving behind his wife Martha, nine-year old daughter Sheryl Lyn, and five-year old son Stephen. Gus Grisson and Roger Chaffee were buried in Arlington Cemetery, while Edward White was laid to rest with full military honors at West Point Cemetery. The tragedy happened on January 27, 1967, just 26 days shy of the target launch of February 21. Although a great show of public pronouncements of regret were made by NASA and the Johnson administration, 35 years later Betty Grissom revealed she had never personally received a condolence call, nor offers of counseling, nor any financial support -- which only came with a settlement offer following a lawsuit against NASA.
02:04:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: A 1969 station concept. The station was to rotate on its central axis to produce artificial gravity. The majority of early space station concepts created artificial gravity one way or another in order to simulate a more natural or familiar environment for the health of the astronauts. After returning from a micro-gravity environment, astronauts find their muscles weak because they have not been using them. Long-term exposure to micro-gravity can generate long-term health problems for astronauts who do not utilize their muscles. This is why there were exercise machines on space shuttles and on the International Space Station. This space station concept called for assembly in orbit from spent Apollo program stages.
02:11:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: The third X-1 (46-064), known as "Queenie," is mated to the EB-50A (46-006) at Edwards AFB, California. Following a captive flight on 9 November 1951, both aircraft were destroyed by fire during defueling before it could attempt a powered solo flight. The first of the American rocket-powered research aircraft, the mission of the X-1 was to investigate the transonic speed range (from just below to just above the speed of sound) and, if possible, to break the "sound barrier". The first of the three X-1's was glide-tested at Pinecastle Army Airfield, FL, in early 1946. The first powered flight of the X-1 was made on Dec. 9, 1946, at Edwards Air Force Base with Chalmers Goodlin, a Bell test pilot, at the controls. Finally, on Oct. 14, 1947, with USAF Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager as pilot, the aircraft flew faster than the speed of sound, the first aircarft to ever do so. Captain Yeager was also the pilot when the X-1 reached its maximum speed, 957 miles per hour. Another USAF pilot. Lt. Col. Frank Everest, Jr., was credited with taking the X-1 to its maximum altitude of 71,902 feet. Eighteen pilots in all flew the X-1s. The X-1 was 30 feet, 11 inches long; 10 feet, 10 inches high; and had a wingspan of 29 feet. It weighed 6,784 pounds and carried 6,250 pounds of fuel. It had a flush cockpit with a side entrance and no ejection seat.
02:18:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: Project Mercury astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr. in a state of weightlessness traveling at 17,500 mph in orbit around the Earth 50 years ago this week, February 20, 1962. The Atlas #109-D launch vehicle arrived at Cape Canaveral the evening of November 30, 1961. NASA had wanted to launch the flight -- dubbed "Friendship 7" by Glenn -- in 1961, but by early December the mission hardware was still not ready for launch. The launch date was first announced as January 16, 1962, then postponed to January 23 because of problems with the Atlas rocket fuel tanks. The launch then slipped day by day to January 27 due to bad weather. On January 27, 1962, John Glenn was onboard and ready to launch, when, at T-minus 20 minutes, the flight director called off the launch because of heavy overcast. The launch was postponed until February 1, 1962. During fueling on January 30 it was discovered a fuel leak had soaked an internal insulation blanket between the fuel and oxidizer tanks of the rocket. This caused a two week delay while necessary repairs were made. On February 15, the launch was again postponed due to weather. Finally on February 19, the weather started to break and on February 20, 1962 -- three hours and 44 minutes after Glenn entered the Mercurcy capsule atop his Atlas launcher -- Glenn rocketed upward to become the first American to orbit the Earth. His flight lasted 4 hours 55 minutes and 23 seconds and reached a maximum altitude of approximately 162 statute miles, achieving three full orbits around the planet. At the end of the flight, sensors indicated problems with the heat shield, which if loose or otherwise damaged could cause the Mercury capsule to superheat, killing Glenn. Emergency measures were taken, and the sensor was later found to be faulty. Related links: John Glenn biography at NASA, Original 1962 NASA Press Kit 22-page PDF at Scribd, Story of Friendship 7 at Wikipedia, Final NASA Mission Report 202-page PDF at NASA with transcript of communications for the flight starting at page 148.
02:25:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From 1947, presentations, exhibits and charts for an inspection by Army and Navy officials at the NACA Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory (AERL). Founded in 1915, NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) was the predecessor agency and was transformed into NASA in 1958. The AERL was founded in 1941, and was renamed the Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory in 1947, the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in 1948 (after George W. Lewis, head of NACA from 1919 to 1947), the NASA Lewis Research Center in 1958 and finally the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in 1999. Among its many accomplishments would be the liquid hydrogen rocket engine, which Wernher von Braun credited as being the critical technology leading to the Apollo moon landing.
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