Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jack Swigert of the Week: Disappointment on the USS Iwo Jima


"Shit, you're telling me that they don't allow women on aircraft carriers yet? I'm gonna have to wait over twenty years for this to happen? Shit, guys. So not cool. Do fighter planes have cocktail waitresses?" From left, Freddo Haise, Jim "The Captain" Lovell, and Jack "The Bachelor" Swigert

Apollo 13 returned to Earth on April 17, 1970. The guys look really happy save for ol' Jack. Being an Air Force veteran, he probably had no idea that aircraft carriers consisted of "all dudes, all the time" in the 1970s. Women were not allowed on combatant ships until the mid-1990s. So yeah, Jack was probably a bit disappointed for the lack of hot chicks in Navy blue and gold. I bet he picked up that satellite phone in the officer's area first thing and called up some sexy stews.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Lolstronauts: Alan B. Shepard, Rear Admiral, United States Navy



"Lieutenant, your incompetence has nothing to do with me." The Ice Commander tells it like it is.

Alan Shepard was a self-admitted sonofabitch who was Navy all the way, which is why he was a total badass. He had a slight reputation as being moody and steely-eyed - a bit authoritarian (not shocking, as this guy was one hell of a carrier fighter pilot). In his office at NASA he had a sign on the door with a smiley face on one side, and a frowny face on the other side. If you walked in when the sign was all frowny you were in for some massive shit. That being said, the "Ice Commander" could do whatever the hell he wanted. He was the first American in space and he walked on the freakin' moon. Enough said.

Missions completed:
  • MR-3 (Mercury Freedom 7 mission) - May 5, 1961 (completed approximately 15 minutes in space during a sub-orbital flight)
  • Apollo 14 - January 31 to February 5, 1971 (walked and even golfed on the freakin' MOON)

Jack Swigert of the Week: A Tense Debriefing Moment


"Guys, these girls just aren't Playboy Playmate material. Get me some new pictures. Better yet, get Donn Eisele down here to look at these chicks. Next!" From left, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise, April/May 1970

This picture dates from around April/May 1970, after Apollo 13 came back to Earth and the long process of figuring out what the hell made the service module EXPLODE was just beginning. I'm certain this was a fairly tedious, frustrating process, and the boyz of Apollo 13 hopefully had some fun diversions to at least chat about in the midst of having to look at millions of pieces of data and schematics. Eventually the near-disaster would be traced to a faulty fuel tank.

I am hoping Jack was wondering who would be the Playmate of the Year 1970, or perhaps all three men were thinking: "Man, one day they'll make a movie about this, and Opie Taylor from the Andy Griffith Show WILL DIRECT IT."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Caption Tha Photo: Apollo 13's Pre-Launch Breakfast


"Says here for dessert we're having STRIPPERS!" From left: LEM pilot Fred Haise, mission commander Jim Lovell, and CM pilot Jack Swigert, April, 1970.

Well, the contest is closed, and we'd like to thank all of the participants. The winner of the contest was a rogue third-party commenter named Bonnie, who brought strippers into the mix (you know Swigert would have been on board with that idea...). She gets a NASA book from the vaults at This Space Available and some other prizes. Stay tuned for future captioning contests!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Astro-Bodied Tunes: "Kelly Watch the Stars," Air, 1998



This video has more to do with ping-pong and video games than space, but we'll allow it.

Keep That Feedback and Those Comments Coming In Folks


"Keep those cards and letters coming in folks." Apollo 7 TV transmission, October 1968

It's been a week since this blog has debuted and we're off to a pretty good start. We at This Space Available's HQ on Florida's Space Coast would like to thank the dozens of readers who have viewed this blog so far. Keep it comin'!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NASA Picture of the Day: Three Veterans with the New Guy


"Hahaha, guys, that was so funny...you duct-taped Buzz to the flight simulator upside down, good job." Deke Slayton, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, and Wally Schirra

This picture probably dates around 1963. Three Mercury 7 vets - Slayton, Shepard, and Schirra - look like they're sharing a joke with then-rookie Jim Lovell. My (hopeful) guess is that they were actively hazing the new class of astronauts coming in.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Buzz Aldrin aka "Doc Rendezvous" Spits Hot Fire with Snoop Dogg



Buzz Aldrin has done everything: he's been an Air Force hotshot pilot, he has a doctorate on orbital rendezvous from MIT, he has walked in space and on the moon, and he spent several days in the floating latrine called the Gemini space capsule with Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 fame. What is left for a Renaissance man to do? He figured it out - he decided to make a rap record with Snoop Dogg. From 2009, we present to you a joint called "Rocket Experience." Make of it what you will.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Quote of the Day: The Right Stuff


Perhaps the greatest space-themed film of all time was 1983's The Right Stuff. This film is based on Tom Wolfe's 1979 literary opus of the same name (which is highly recommended reading from This Space Available's HQ ensconced somewhere near Cape Canaveral, FL).

The very best quote from this film is from a scene where John Glenn (played by Ed Harris, who freakishly resembles the younger version of Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the Earth) confronts the rest of the Mercury Seven astronauts about partying with space groupies. The Alan Shepard character, true to "Ice Commander" form, tells Glenn to basically shut the hell up and mind his business. Then the following hilarious transaction takes place:

Scott Carpenter: John's right! Now, whether we like it or not, we're public figures. Whether we deserve it or not, people are going to look up to us. We have got a tremendous responsibility here.
Alan Shepard: You cannot tell a pilot what he's doing when he's not flying!
[Argument continues]
Gus Grissom: Wait a minute, wait a minute!
[turns Glenn toward him]
Gus Grissom: You've got it all wrong, the issue here ain't pussy. The issue here is monkey.
John Glenn: W
hat?

Turns out the boys are just freaking out over the very real fact that NASA is more hell-bent on sending monkeys into space versus human beings. Eventually in 1961, NASA got the hint and sent their first real pilot up for a 15 minute sub-orbital jump. They picked the Ice Commander himself, Alan Shepard, for this particular first in American space history.

Holy S**t!: Early Rocket Failures



This film is pretty grainy but these tests date from the late 1950s to the 1960s, in the early days of manned/unmanned launch vehicles. At the time, these repeated explosions were viewed as being alternately embarrassing, hilarious, and spellbinding...I mean, these failures even looked spectacular.

I am sure the Soviet Union at the time had copious failures of their own (except we never heard about them, and the scores of dead people they probably had in orbit...but more on that at a later time). At least these were tests and not the real thing.

Le Chat Stuff: French Cats in Space


"To boldly go where no noms have gone before"

In 1963, France - for some unknown reason - decided it would be a cool idea to send a cat into space. French rocket propulsion engineers interviewed thousands of prospective space chats (or les chatstronauts) for this historic mission.

Unfortunately, this took quite a while, since most French cats can be found eating cheese, drinking wine, and smoking tons of cigarettes at coffeehouses. However, one heroic cat - Felix - was found at the gym doing push-ups, running on a tiny treadmill, and lifting weights. He was the clearly the perfect specimen for spaceflight, and on October 18, 1963, he became the first ever space kitty. Felix was recovered very much alive and meowing.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jack Swigert of the Week: "HEY LAYDEEZ I AM GOING INTO SPACE! WATCH OUT"

"Are you guys saying I can't bring her into space? Dammit guys. What a letdown." From left, Deke Slayton, Jim Lovell, Ken Mattingly, and John L. "Jack" Swigert, 1970

Jack Swigert was like the Don Draper of the astronaut corps in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Of course, he was on Apollo 13, and managed to somehow steer a crippled spacecraft safely back to Earth. Before that, he was known as NASA's Most Eligible Bachelor With A Ridiculous Amount of Laydeez. Legend has it that Swigert had a black book crammed with tons of phone numbers from his conquests. He was so freakishly organized that he categorized the ladies' names by "single," "widowed," and "divorced." His success with women was so infamous that it clogged news stories for ages during and after Apollo 13. More on that later though.

This photo was taken before Apollo 13 launched in April 1970. Swigert had just replaced Ken Mattingly (who had been unwittingly exposed to the measles) in the crew lineup. The astronauts are probably discussing some obscure technical minutiae but I'd like to imagine that ol' Jack is upset about not being able to smuggle some of his "bunny girls" into space.

DID YOU KNOW?: Jack Swigert owned a fur-covered reclining chair. I am not kidding.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Failure Is Not An Option: Gemini 8 Film



"1966: Gemini 8 (NASA)"

This footage from Gemini 8 is murky at best, but remember this mission went into space 44 years ago. Here's some footage from a near disastrous mission in which the Gemini 8 spacecraft went into a disorientating spin following docking with an Agena Target Vehicle (docking was sort of a dress rehearsal for the eventual Apollo missions). Astronauts Dave Scott and Neil "One Giant Leap" Armstrong somehow managed to pull themselves out of the spin and reentered the Earth's atmosphere without casualty. These two guys were truly badass pilots.

Awkward Crew Portraits: Gemini 3, 1965


"SHUT THE HELL UP with the tin man jokes, assholes." From left, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom and John Young, Gemini 3 crew.

I have a minor obsession with mission portraits from the Gemini and Apollo missions.

Some of the pictures really show the congeniality and teamwork within the crews, while some of the pictures just highlight awkwardness and general craziness-in-space-to-come. This picture of 1965's Gemini 3 crew - Gus Grissom (of Mercury 7 fame, and eventually of the ill-fated Apollo 1) and then-rookie John Young - is one of the latter types of mission portraits.

Look at these two legendary mofos. Gus Grissom, unsurprisingly, looks like a fighter pilot jock that I wouldn't ever mess with. He's the kind of guy who probably would have really put you in your place quickly if you screwed up and talked shit about how badass you were. Somehow he raises a (fake) smile in this picture, even though he'd rather be smoking Parliaments and chilling with Deke Slayton and some hot 1960s babes rather than wearing tin foil standing in front of some damn rookie.

John Young clearly provides the comedic touch in this lovingly depicted photo. He's not even vaguely gazing at the camera, and he looks like he's utterly constipated and confused. I have no idea if he even knows where the camera is. He was a Naval officer which kind of explains why he was probably an odd guy.

John looks like he'd find playing with a slide rule and an engineering calculus textbook absolutely thrilling. Gus doesn't look too thrilled about having him in the picture..."Why the hell did you put me with a damn rookie???? He's not even an astronaut, he's never been into space!!! Goddammit bubba!!! Get me Deke!!!!" I can imagine it now.
Gus and Deke probably invited John out for cocktails once to "break the ice," and John was all like, "Guys...what's a cocktail? I want my teddy bear" etc.

My guess is that they patched things up by the time Gemini 3 was launched into orbit. They even entered the history books by bringing an unauthorized corned beef sandwich into space. This is a very true and hilarious story, but I'll save that for another time.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Space Age Bachelor Pad Fashions - 1960s


"Swigert, you can't take these girls with you, CUT IT OUT" - Andre Courreges "Moon Girls" Collection, mid-1960s.

The blog "A Glimpse of Glamour" did a blog post last year during the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing which showcases the "space age" styles which were coming into vogue during the 1960s. In addition, more current space-influenced styles (think Rodarte remixing "The Little Prince," one of the world's most famous lunar-themed books) are also on display. I dig anything which combines space and expensive textiles...

"I See The Moon, The Moon Sees Me"

1968: Apollo 7 (NASA)



Some footage of Apollo 7's mission in 1968. These old NASA videos are pretty amazing.

ESCANDALO in Space, Part II: Apollo 7 Acts Like A Bunch of Spoiled Bitches In Space


"We are all BFFs! Really!!!!!" From left, Apollo 7's Walter Cunningham, Donn Eisele, and Wally Schirra

In October 1968, Apollo 7 was launched into space to perform some routine orbits and to test the operational capabilities of the Apollo command module. The crew consisted of astronauts Donn Eisele, Walter Cunningham, and "Mercury 7" veteran Wally Schirra. As the flight unfolded, however, the mission became less about "The Right Stuff" and more about "The Bitch Stuff" as all three astronauts developed massive head colds, hated the food (what a bunch of damn divas), and began to snipe at the ground crew (and each other) on a regular basis.

One of the best exchanges between Mission Control and Schirra, who by then was in his forties and was pretty much "the crotchety old man" of spaceflight, was over some improvised changes to the Apollo 7's flight plan. Schirra, sleep-deprived and stuffed with snot, lost his damn mind with ground controllers: "I wish you would find out the idiot's name who thought up this test...I want to talk to him personally when I get back down. We have a feeling that some of these experimenters are holier than God down there. We are a heck lot closer to Him right now."

Rookie Donn Eisele chimed in and added, "[These experiments] are rather ill prepared and hastily conceived." Pretty soon the crew themselves were also snapping at each other as the command module became thick with tension, obstinance, and boogers. Standard communication between the crew and ground control became peppered with lovely, cooperative nuggets such as "I've had it up to here today...from now on, I'm going to be onboard flight director for these flight updates" and "We're gonna be kind of hard-nosed here from now on" (all from Schirra, who apparently really did not want a raise in 1968).

Despite all of the bitchcraft, nasal secretions, and nebulous goings-on between the crew and the ground, Apollo 7 overall proved to be a successful mission. However, success did not save the careers of all three astronauts. They all never flew again with NASA. In comparison, Gemini astronaut (and Navy Captain) Jim Lovell, who kept his nose clean (and, from what I have heard through the grapevine, is a very cool, nice guy), flew multiple times in the Apollo program.

Adding insult to injury, Donn Eisele, who apparently had womanizing habits which made confirmed bachelor Jack Swigert look like a complete virgin in retrospect, had been screwing around with some mistress in Florida and was smacked with divorce papers when he returned to Earth. His martial indiscretions, along with his behavior on Apollo 7, signaled the end of his astronautical career.

For more about Apollo 7's "Cuntiness in Space Scandal of 1968", visit these vintage news clips from the Google News Archive:

The Palm Beach Post, October 21, 1968 - "Irritated Schirra Raps Flight Plan Tinkerers"

St. Petersburg Times, October 16, 1968 - "Apollo 7: A TV Encore"


BONUS! The Apollo 7 Voice Transcripts from NASA (Note: It's over 1,100 pages, so it will keep you busy for a while)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All Drawn Out - Women Astronauts/Cosmonauts, Illustrated

Philip J. Bond, an illustrator, did a series from 2009 illustrating various women astronauts and cosmonauts in the history of the space age. These illustrations span from the USSR's first woman in space on Vostok 6, Valentina Tereshkova (pictured IRL in 1963, above) to NASA's first female African-American astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison, and beyond. The drawings not only illuminate the female presence in the space race and astronautical engineering in general, but are also pretty darn cute.

Check out his photostream on his Flickr Web site:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/planetbond/sets/72157612379863486/

The Voyager Golden Record: Remixed by Aliens???

If you're a space enthusiast like me, you have most likely heard of the Voyager Golden Record placed on both Voyager space probes in 1977. An elusive group calling themselves "SETI-X" claims that they have rediscovered remixes of the record by apparent extraterrestrials. Here is a review of the resulting product from the acclaimed online publication Popshifter.

To hear the original golden record (and see the 116 images they managed to fit on the damn thing - pretty amazing for 1977) visit: http://goldenrecord.org/

Let's hope if the extraterrestrials really got their hands (or paws...or tentacles, or whatever they have) on this record, they didn't take the images from 1977 too literally, or else they're coming to invade us taking fashion cues from this guy:

ESCANDALO in Space: The Apollo 15 Stamp Incident of 1971

  
The crew of Apollo 15, from left: Dave Scott, Al Worden, and Jim Irwin. 1971 NASA photo.
  
After the successful, seminal moon missions in 1969/1970, “authentic” space memorabilia became more desirable and popular than ever. Imagine it's 1971, and you're snorting cocaine off of some random girl's ass and drinking Old English malt liquor; you know you want to cut up that line with a lunar mission postcard to prevent that Colombian nose powder from getting on your handlebar mustache. And even better, this postcard is imbued with lunar dust from actually being on the moon's surface, so you get to toot some ages-old moon dust in with that fine booger sugar. You see, its postage stamp has been to the moon itself, baby. Well, some very enterprising NASA astronauts had the same idea, sort of. 

In 1970, the Apollo 15 astronauts - Jim Irwin, David Scott, and Al Worden - were contacted by a memorabilia dealer named Walter Eierman, who was in turn connected to a German stamp dealer named Hermann Sieger. In exchange for the rather paltry sum of $7,000 individually in Swiss bank accounts, the Apollo 15 astronauts agreed – in secret – to carry a large number of the Sieger stamp covers into space. These covers ended up being sneakily hidden in the astronauts' spacesuit pockets, as NASA technicians had to inventory every item going into and out from the spacecraft. 

When the crew of Apollo 15 came back from their successful summer 1971 mission, they returned the stamp covers to Sieger, and thought nothing more of what had transpired.
Unfortunately for Irwin, Scott, and Worden, Sieger got trigger-happy, and began to sell the stamp covers in Europe for a $1,500 a piece. Soon authorities from the United States got wind of what had been going on. The remainder of the stamp covers were confiscated, and the crew ended up forfeiting their career-ending sums of $7,000 a piece. All three men were also suspended from flight status. All astronauts were forced to sign an agreement that they would never take memorabilia for profit into space. 

The person who REALLY got screwed in this entire deal wasn't even present on Apollo 15. Jack Swigert – the famously swinging bachelor astronaut who almost kicked the bucket on Apollo 13, and somehow managed to bring its crippled command module back to Earth – was apparently interviewed about the practice of sending random items into space for profit by government investigators. Jack was all like “Hahahahaha, NOPE” to the investigators; this caused a fall-out between himself and the venerable head of the Astronaut Office, Donald “Deke” Slayton. As a result, Swigert was also removed from flight status. It was rumored that Swigert was meant to fly on the Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975; Deke himself ended up taking his spot. Swigert never again flew into space. He ended up leaving NASA some years later. 

In retrospect, the Apollo 15 stamp incident probably is the least scandalous “scandal” ever. Yeah, the crew of Apollo 15 were ill-advised to accept merely $7,000 each in exchange for their careers, but it wasn't like any of them committed kidnapping and attempted murder. This particular scandal wouldn't hit NASA for over another thirty years...

EDIT, APRIL 2013: Please read Al Worden's Falling to Earth (reviewed here) for the full story about what really happened with this scandal. It's an excellent read.