Monday, April 11, 2016

Remembering The World's Greatest All-Electric Flying Machine: An Interview with "Into The Black" Author Rowland White

From NASA, March 1981 photo: "The space shuttle orbiter Columbia is showered with lights in this nocturnal scene at Launch Pad 39A, as preparations are underway for the first flight (STS-1) of NASA's new reusable spacecraft system. Astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen are in training for the flight." 
Today, we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. space shuttle mission, STS-1. While many associate this historic event with John W. Young and Bob Crippen, often major players in space shuttle development (both human and machine) are lost in the program's dense, decades-long history. 


Rowland White's book Into The Black launches on Tuesday, April 19th, days after the 35th anniversary of Columbia's iconic first flight. Photo Credit: Touchstone Books/Simon and Schuster
Enter author Rowland White, whose book, Into The Black, will be published in hardcover by Touchstone Books on Tuesday, April 19th. The book's foreword was written by astronaut Richard Truly, himself an STS-1 backup crew member. His book gives due credit to the figures who were, in many ways, just as responsible for the success of the first, very risky "test" flight. In addition, the book examines the complicated relationship between the "black" National Reconnaissance Office and how it contributed to one of NASA's finest missions (which, very possibly, could have turned into a tragedy). 

This Space Available was fortunate to interview White about Into The Black. Note: minor book spoilers included. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Greatest Mid-1970s Launch Photo Ever? Behold This Titan IIIE/Centaur Doin' Its Thang

From NASA: "On August 20, 1975, Viking 1 was launched by a Titan/Centaur rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:22 p.m. EDT to begin a half-billion mile, 11-month journey through space to explore Mars. The 4-ton spacecraft went into orbit around the red planet in mid-1976." Photo Credit: NASA
This itty-bitty version doesn't do it justice, but in my estimation, this is one of the most spectacular launch photos of all time (for a larger hi-resolution version, check out this link). The Titan IIIE/Centaur, THE magnificent launch vehicle of the mid-1970s, is seen here lofting one of the decade's iconic spacecraft on course for an unprecedented journey to Mars. In addition, the summer-y, late afternoon pastel colors and Florida palm trees are nice aesthetic touches.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Finding NEEMO: Revisiting Scott Carpenter and Sealab II, 1965

More than an astronaut, from May 22, 1962: "Astronaut M. Scott Carpenter, prime pilot for the Mercury-Atlas 7 (MA-7) flight, is seen in Hanger S crew quarters during a suiting exercise. He smiles at camera as suiting technician Al Rochford adjusts his suit." Photo Credit: NASA 
In my estimation, Mercury Seven astronaut Scott Carpenter has been the target of some rather unfair attacks from many people concerning his performance during his 1962 Aurora 7 orbital mission. That topic merits a whole separate blog post in itself, but to be blunt, Carpenter's own account is best told in his autobiography For Spacious Skies, co-written with editor and writer Kris Stoever (who is also the astronaut's daughter). Out of respect, I think I'll let the man – who left us in 2013 – tell that story himself. While that subject has been somewhat “controversial,” a couple of things cannot be disputed: Carpenter more than earned his place among the greats in spaceflight history, and deserves respect. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Guest Post by Francis French: Review of "Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight"

Cover of Leaving Orbit. Image Credit: Amazon.com
Occasionally, this blog features other contributors; on this occasion we are happy to host this review by space historian and author Francis French of Margaret Lazarus Dean's recently-published book, Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight. Read more after the jump...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Space Myths Busted: Gus Grissom Didn't Blow The Hatch on Liberty Bell 7

Astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom is inserted into his Liberty Bell 7 capsule on the morning of July 21, 1961. He would soon be embroiled in a controversy that lingers to this day. Photo Credit: NASA
In this installment of “Space Myths Busted,” I'll tackle a myth that somehow still persists to this day despite many attempts to debunk it: On July 21, 1961, shortly after splashdown, a panicked Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom blew the hatch on his Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule shortly after an otherwise successful suborbital spaceflight. A clearly freaked-out Grissom then commenced to flail around in the water prior to being picked up by rescue helicopters. Read more after the jump...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Space Myths Busted: No, There Wasn't A "Mutiny" On Skylab

From NASA: "An overhead view of the Skylab space station cluster in Earth orbit as photographed from the Skylab 4 Command and Service Modules (CSM) during the final fly-around by the CSM before returning home." Photo Credit: NASA
In the first of a series called "Space Myths Busted," I thought I'd take on the oft-reported myth that there was some kind of "strike" or "mutiny" in low-Earth orbit during the Skylab 4 mission, crewed by commander Gerald Carr, pilot William Pogue, and science pilot Ed Gibson. While the crew faced challenges due to being over-tasked early in the mission, nothing like a "mutiny" ever occurred, and with respect to the three crew members, it's time to set the record straight. Read more after the jump...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Do You Really Love MOL and the Space Shuttle? Then You Will Dig "Into The Black"

Into The Black is scheduled to be released on April 19, 2016, shortly after the 35th anniversary of STS-1. Image Credit: Amazon.com
It's late 2015, and I'm already getting a head start on looking at some of the spaceflight books that readers will devour in 2016. One of them is Into The Black by aviation author Rowland White, which is scheduled to be released on April 19, 2016, shortly after the 35th anniversary of the STS-1 launch. If you're like me and OBSESSED with the early space shuttle years... You will be foaming at the mouth over this book, to put it mildly. Read a no-spoilers capsule review after the jump.