Blog writing

Internet reading: Horizons

It is well known in the space industry that international co-operation forms the basis of numerous projects such as the ISS which unites Russia, the United States, Japan, Canada and Europe. This practice of co-operating is not only restricted to agencies and it is worth knowing that professional associations and learned societies from various countries often collaborate with one another. Hence, the Regional Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées Group of the 3AF “Association Aéronautique et Astronautique de France” (French Aeronautics and Astronautics Association) is in contact with the Houston section of the AIAA, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Horizons - AIAAAs a result of this connection, articles on the space industry written by members of the French national technical Space Exploration and Observation commission of the 3AF (housed by its Regional Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées Group) are regularly published in the Horizons journal by the Houston section of the AIAA. We would also point out that the 2010 Spring edition contains among others articles by Philippe Mairet and Marc Rieugnie respectively entitled “The Unfinished Dream of Space” and “A Sudden Stop or a Renewal?” which reflect on the consequences of the new American space policy in the short, medium and long term. “Horizons” can be downloaded free of charge from the Internet as a PDF file.

3AF, Association Aéronautique et Astronautique de France (French Aeronautics and Astronautics Association)

3AF - Commission Exploration et Observation Spatiale (French Space Observation and Exploration Commission)

The Houston section of the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics)

The Horizons newsletter

“Horizons” - Spring 2010 (direct link, 2.7 MB PDF file)

Published on 28 May 2010

STS-134 in Star Trek’s footsteps

STS-134 poster

Recent changes to the space shuttle flight schedule have had an unexpected effect: the crew poster for the last space shuttle mission is out before that for the last but one mission! We would reiterate that not so very long ago, STS-134 with Endeavour (tasked with delivering the AMS experiment to the ISS) was to take place before STS-133 with Discovery, the ultimate scheduled flight of the space shuttle programme (a logistics mission also to the ISS). But it was decided to modify the AMS, Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer, in order to extend its operational life. Attached to the outside of the Station, the AMS is notably to detect antimatter in orbit, an experiment much-awaited by numerous astrophysicists. The time required for the modification pushed STS-134 back to November 2010, after STS-133 which is still scheduled for September. Dates which are however likely to change... But because STS-134 was scheduled first for a time, certain steps have already been carried out such as that relating to the designing of its poster, a more informal and fun way of presenting the mission than the traditional crew photograph.

STS-134 poster - Star Trek
The poster for STS-134 mission and the 2009 film poster for Star Trek; the allusion is obvious!
Credit: NASA/Paramount (Star Trek poster reproduced for text illustration purposes only)
We note then the return of the Star Trek theme, reflecting what was done by Expedition 21. But this time, instead of paying homage to the original television series, the artwork has taken its inspiration from the 2009 film poster created by J. J. Abrams. In both cases, we have the impression of being propelled along with the astronauts towards the stars, there “where no man has gone before”.

Expedition 21 poster
Expedition 21 under the command of European astronaut Frank De Winne also paid tribute to Star Trek and more exactly to the original television series.
Credit: NASA

Other mission posters with this Enjoy Space portfolio.

Published on 20 May 2010

Lego: space shuttle nostalgia

Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour are now undergoing preparations for carrying out their last mission. And it is Atlantis that is to lead off this last flight period with a blast-off scheduled on 14 May 2010 for STS-132 mission. With the retiring of the space shuttles, nostalgia is increasing and the manufacturer Lego has obviously got the message: during the month of June 2010, the Danish company is to market a space shuttle which appears highly promising (it even has the robotic arm in the payload bay!). In the video below, Lego’s designer Simon Kent explains at the beginning that it was the decommissioning of NASA’s space planes that motivated the creation of the 1,204 part set which is to retail at €89.99.

Published on 10 May 2010

Guenter Wendt

Guenter Wendt
Guenter Wendt in 1999 in front of the Mercury Liberty Bell 7 capsule which had just been recovered from the bottom of the ocean. The spaceship sunk on 21 July 1961 following the return of Gus Grissom after a 15 minute suborbital flight.
Credit: NASA

Of German origin, Guenter Wendt was the legendary “pad leader” for the Apollo programme and as such ruled over the “White Room”, the room which gives access to the spaceship, with a professionalism unanimously acknowledged by the astronauts. He literally created this responsibility by working on the Mercury programme, the first American human space flight programme, and then continued with Gemini (2-man capsules). But the manufacturer of the Apollo capsule did not take him on in this position for the lunar missions. On 27 January 1967, it was with deep sadness that Guenter Wendt learned of the Apollo 1 tragedy: Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee perished when their spaceship caught fire during a ground rehearsal of countdown operations. The astronauts, with Walter Schirra in the lead (future Commander of Apollo 7), then demanded the return of the “Pad Fuhrer”. A nickname Guenter Wendt owed to his German accent (he obtained his American nationality in 1955) and his exacting professional stringency. In actual fact, he exerted his control over all the lunar programme blast-offs. Although meticulous, the man was nevertheless endowed with a great sense of humour and he started a tradition of giving symbolic presents to the crew before they left. Alan Shepard therefore, just as he was boarding for Apollo 14, was given a cane as part of his “Lunar Explorer Support Equipment”, an allusion to the fact that he was the oldest of the astronauts. Shepard, in return, presented him with a German helmet marked “Colonel Klink”, in reference to the character from the American TV comedy series, Hogan’s Heroes.

Guenter Wendt - Apollo 14
On 31 January 1971, in the Apollo “White Room”, Guenter Wendt is showing Alan Shepard his cane as a joke and is wearing the German helmet that the lunar mission Commander has just presented him with.
Credit: NASA

Guenter Wendt retired in 1989 but, a true enthusiast of astronautics, he continued to work on behalf of the space industry. He notably worked with actor Tom Hanks on the TV series “From the Earth to the Moon” which recounts the saga of the Apollo programme, and took part in the sea recovery operations for the Mercury Liberty Bell 7 capsule in 1999. Guenter Wendt died on 3 May 2010 at the age of 85 in his home on Florida’s Merritt Island, not far from the Kennedy Space Center. Thus he lived a little closer to the stars towards which he is now headed. He is also the author of the book entitled “The Unbroken Chain”, published by Apogee Books.

Press release from NASA

Tribute on CollectSpace

Publié le 4 mai 2010

Moonfire: the Moon Dream affordable at last

In August 2009, we mentioned on our blog that Taschen had published a genuine masterpiece, Moonfire. Based on excerpts of a historic text by Norman Mailer and accompanied by breathtaking illustrations, this work stood out as a major contribution documenting Man’s first steps on the Moon. It must be remembered that, for Taschen, the notion of a “coffee-table book” is more than just an idea and, consequently, the standards (whether for the quality of the printing or the editorial work) are such that the limited numbered edition of Moonfire sold for €750 - today it’s worth €1,000 because it’s so rare. But, as we had announced, a more affordable new edition has just come out and it offers three great surprises. First, the splendour of the photographs and their layout is in no way altered by the “smaller” format - and it must be specified that this is quite relative, since the format is very comfortable (27x32.6cm instead of 36.5x44cm), not to mention that it has several panoramic fold-out pages! Second, the quality of the printing and forwarding are faultless to the point that it’s hard to believe it sells for only €29.99 ($39.99), which is unquestionably the third good surprise!

In short, at that price, no one should hesitate to acquire it and we’d almost be tempted to urge you to rush out to buy this Moonfire at €29.99, before the publishers change their minds... In 345 pages (weighing 3kg!), this Moon dream in book form bears witness to the Apollo 11 adventure thanks to an inspired selection of archive photographs (some hardly known) and Norman Mailer's personal and very lively text (his studies in aeronautical engineering enabled him to understand this mission’s true meaning) intelligently completed by captions that form another, highly informative account of this fantastic epic. An absolute must at an amazing price!

Moonfire: The epic journey of Apollo 11
Norman Mailer, Taschen Books
345 pages - (also available in French)
ISBN: 978-3-8365-2077-5
Price: €29.99 ($39.99)

Published on 27 April 2010

4 women photographed in space

As we explained in this article, flight STS-131 made by Discovery is the third space shuttle mission to have 3 women aboard. What’s more, the International Space Station is currently home to a crew of 6 astronauts, including one woman. The sum is easy: 3+1 = 4, an absolute record for the number of women simultaneously in space.
When Discovery docked with the Station on 7 April 2010, a photograph immortalising the event was taken. But, due to the breakdown of the space shuttle’s high rate Ku Band radio link (see this article), all video and picture documents from the STS-131 mission have to be transmitted via the ISS’ communication system, which takes longer. The historic pictures are, however, now available.

4 femmes dans l'espace - 4 women in space
4 women in space! The photographic record was taken in the International Space Station’s Russian Zvezda module. From left to right: Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Naoko Yamazaki, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Stephanie Wilson. All are American with the exception of Naoko Yamazaki who is Japanese. Metcalf-Lindenburger, Yamazaki and Wilson are members of the space shuttle Discovery crew. Caldwell Dyson is part of Expedition 23 on the ISS.
Credit: NASA

4 femmes dans l'espace - 4 women in space
4 femmes dans l'espace - 4 women in space
2 other group photographs, also taken in the Zvezda module.
Credit: NASA

Another record has been broken with STS-131: for the first time, two Japanese astronauts are in orbit at the same time.
With its last but one flight, Discovery has passed a milestone, showing that the end of the space shuttle programme is near: this is to be the last time that one of NASA’s space planes blasts off with 7 astronauts on board. The three remaining missions (STS-132, 134 and 133) will only have crews of six members.

Soichi Noguchi - Naoko Yamazaki - Kibo
From left to right: Soichi Noguchi and Naoko Yamazaki symbolically pose inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory. This is the first time that two astronauts from the Land of the Rising Sun have been together in space.
Credit: NASA

Published on 13 April 2010

Thanks to Mike Gentry from the Media Resource Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

JWST: the preview trailer

With its 6 metre diameter mirror, it will greatly exceed that of Hubble which is a mere 2.4 metres. The JWST, James Webb Space Telescope, is often presented as the successor to the venerable space telescope which is currently featured in an IMAX 3D film to celebrate its twentieth birthday (see this article). However, the JWST is to work in the infrared light wavelength range which Hubble cannot see. Using this specialisation, astronomers are hoping to get a better understanding of the secrets surrounding the formation of the Cosmos. In the video below, the qualities of the JWST are highlighted just like in a motion picture preview trailer with a great deal of special effects.

Published on 7 April 2010

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