Sunday, May 12, 2013

Greatest Music Video Ever? Col. Chris Hadfield Does "Space Oddity" in SPACE

From our friends at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), here's the country's finest doing an ah-maz-ing cover of the David Bowie chestnut. This has been posted a million times everywhere, but I'm going to post it again. 

By the way, Col. Hadfield will be back on terra firma tomorrow. This caps off an awesome mission for Hadfield; a couple of days back, he and his crew saved the day, fixing an ammonia leak on the ISS. I'll really miss his ever-awesome updates from space, but it will be great to see him and Exp. 35 back. 

In another CSA video, Col. Hadfield reflects upon his time on the ISS. The music sounds better with you, sir!

Jack Swigert of the Week: BB JACK SWIGERT

Jack Swigert, 1951. BEFORE THA LADIES!!!!! Look at that baby face. 

Jack plays football at the University of Colorado, 1952-ish. Fun fact: Jack's nickname there was "Big Swig."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Missions We're Glad Didn't Happen: Grissom, Borman and Aldrin Fly Apollo 11, 1969

A proposed mission patch. (This was originally album art by Smog; if you sue me, I'll take it down.) I'm no artist. 

So here's some alternate NASA history, had Deke Slayton won the lottery, left NASA temporarily, and crowned Wally Schirra as the man in charge of mission selections. Wally, of course, was known to have a bit of fun and would have stuck Gus Grissom, Frank Borman and Buzz Aldrin together. On a lunar mission. In the same capsule and lunar module. For days. God help us all. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Unsung Jewels of the Space Race in Cape Canaveral and Titusville

If you're lucky enough to visit Florida's Space Coast, there are a few unsung places that will provide excitement to dedicated space enthusiasts who love all things related to spaceflight history. 

This past weekend, I visited the Air Force Space and Missile History Center, located before one enters the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. For those interested in the early days of spaceflight and programs such as the Dyna-Soar space plane and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, this place is a must-see. The history center is well laid-out and each exhibit shows the pads which helped to usher in the Space Race, beginning in 1950. If you book a tour, you will be fortunate to see some of the launchpads, many of which are inactive, save for Complex 40 (the SpaceX launch site), Complex 41 (known for launching Atlas rockets, such as Juno's Atlas 551) and Complex 37B (the Delta launch site). 

Last two photos: a Gemini launch console and a Titan IIIC model. The Titan IIIC was supposed to launch the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) into space; however, the program was cancelled in 1969. Many of its astronauts were absorbed into NASA and flew on the space shuttle. Photos by me, 3/23/13. 

Tours must be scheduled in advance and they book quickly; however, a visit to the history center is free and much recommended. (The history center also has a great gift shop and some rare patches, for all the patch collectors out there.) For more information on how to schedule a tour and visiting hours, check out the Air Force Space and Missile Museum's website at

If you're in Titusville, the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Park and Museum are also two must-see locales. The museum is located on Main Street and is a jewel, housing many rare artifacts from the early manned U.S. space program (and some items from the Soviet space program). Photos don't really do this place justice, as around every corner, there is something awesome. 

Photos taken by me, February 2011. 

While Kennedy Space Center is a great tourist destination and does have wonderful gems, don't miss these tucked-away places which, too, will capture a rocket-chaser's imagination. In addition, many former Cape workers – and perhaps an MOL astro-spy – are known to hang out at these places. They love to talk space, and you will treasure those conversations forever. 

Feel free to leave recommendations for space road trips in the comments – for those on the U.S. West Coast, feel free to let the readers know about must-see places on that side of the country!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy...Be Back Soon!

 If you have some spare time, enjoy a dip in the pool with your space BFF. 
LIFE magazine photo, 1969.

Hey all, 

I've been pretty bad about updating this blog in the last month - I've been extremely busy in work and life. But no worries - I hope to be back soon. In the meantime, feel free to peruse this blog's archives for some space lolz. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

So Yeah, This Happened Today...

I entered the Axe Apollo competition and I'd appreciate your vote, so one day I can go into space. My profile is linked right here. Yeah, it's a long shot, but stranger things have happened in my life. If you do vote for me, thank you! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Apollo 1: Where the Road Led

Plaque at LC-34 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Sunday, January 27, 2013. Photo by me. 

On Sunday, January 27, I was honored to have been invited to the annual Apollo 1 Memorial at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is the home of LC-34. Seeing the Grissom family congregate was an unreal experience for me. Guests, including me, jumped on a CCAFS bus and went down to the pad. I've been to the pad before, so I knew what to expect visually - but I wasn't prepared, emotionally, for what I'd encounter there. 

As the bus swung around to reveal the pad's blockhouse, I could literally feel what happened there, as insane as that will make me sound. I could envision the scene. That was when I lost it. Certain places have energy and LC-34 certainly does. The air was chilly and windy, very much what it was like the same evening 46 years earlier. It hit me right in the chest. 

I don't claim to feel "presences" of any sort on a regular basis, but the guys were there. Mid-memorial, a bald eagle flew over the pad's platform; a movie director couldn't have invented a more haunting, timely image. The memorial itself was very lovely and I feel humbled to have been there with such an amazing group of people, including dignitaries and family members. 

The feeling I got there was these men (and later, women) knew their sacrifices would pave the way to the future. They also left the world doing something not many people can claim to do: they left it a better, safer place. It is important that young people maintain their legacy by keeping the memory of their accomplishments alive and by remembering what they gave up. Ad aspera per aspera. 

From the Astronaut Memorial at Kennedy Space Center, April 2012. Photo by me. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Unsung Heroes of the Space Age, Part 1: Rene Carpenter

Scott and Rene Carpenter cut a rug before his 1962 orbital mission. LIFE magazine photo.

I spend too much time writing about astronauts, so I wanted to diverge a bit and discuss some of the unsung heroes of the 1960s space age - namely, the astronauts' wives, who in their own way, probably experienced as much stress (if not more) as their spouses. Author Lily Koppel's The Astronaut Wives Club is coming out June 11, looks like a must-read and will touch on the lives of these brave women. 

I'd first like to discuss Rene Carpenter, wife of Aurora 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter. She and Scott were the Ultimate Glamour Couple of NASA during the early 1960s. That notwithstanding, Rene was pretty badass in her own right. She had her own syndicated newspaper column called A Woman, Still, and after her divorce from Scott, she had her own TV show called Everywoman. In this medium, she tackled controversial topics, encompassing feminism and birth control. She also campaigned for Robert Kennedy prior to his untimely 1968 assassination. A 1975 People magazine article discusses her time in the spotlight - she was 47 at the time and showed no sign of slowing down. She was enthusiastic: "I have always been a warm and wonderful wood nymph." 

 Scott and Rene Carpenter, 1959 LIFE photo.

Last two photos: LIFE magazine, late 1960s.
A blog post by My Pretty Baby Cried She Was a Bird is loaded with awesome photos of Rene and Scott. I was always very impressed by Rene's reaction to her husband's very stressful spaceflight - he was actually lost at one point and splashed off-target, freaking out most of the nation (understandably). However, Rene, in the accompanying LIFE photo set, looks calm and in-control. Following his recovery, she said to the press at Cape Canaveral, "I was dry-eyed the whole day. I'm not a brooding person by nature." She was tough as nails. Much respect to this amazing woman who kept it together when most people would've crumbled.

A smile of relief: Rene Carpenter on the phone learning that her husband splashed down safely, 1962 LIFE photo.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Gus Grissom: Where the Road Would Lead...

In a few weeks, the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire will be upon us. Sometimes I wonder what Gus Grissom would have done in his life, had this tragedy not occurred. It's no secret that Gus is still very much loved and remembered by This Space Available. So, here's our take on what Gus would have done if Apollo 1 had gone off as planned. 

There's no doubt there were major engineering and technical problems with the Apollo command module during that time. When Apollo 1 came back, Gus would have vociferously spearheaded efforts to fix these problems. Unfortunately, this would have resulted in a similar delay with the Apollo program, but Gus would wait. In 1968, Apollo 7 and Apollo 8 would have launched, as usual. However, in July 1969, the first man on the moon would have borne the name tag "Grissom." (Sorry, Neil.) The first steps on Tranquility Base would have been his; Deke Slayton admits this himself in his autobiography, Deke! 

Upon coming back from his walk on the moon, Gus would, of course, have had to dive into the business of doing press. Gus was shy and would have hated this, but he at least would have enjoyed hanging out with Bob Hope. After doing a world tour, he would have probably worked at NASA - maybe in Apollo Applications - for another year. He would have retired in 1971. There's part of me that thinks he would have gone back into the Air Force as a combat pilot over Vietnam. 

Following his return from combat - around 1974 - he would have seen his best friend, fellow Mercury 7 colleague Deke Slayton, prepare to make his first spaceflight. This would have overjoyed Gus. On July 15, 1975, Gus would have been standing on top of the Vehicle Assembly Building, watching Deke finally fly into space on Apollo Soyuz. Gus would have been uncharacteristically emotional, punching the air joyously as the Saturn IB rose. 

There's part of me that would have really wanted this next bit to happen: despite the protestations of his wife, Gus would have been bitten by the space bug again. At the age of 50, he would have reentered NASA again as an astronaut. And on April 12, 1981, Gus would have been sitting in Columbia's commander seat. (Sorry, John.) At the ripe age of 59 in 1985, Gus would have finally retired from NASA, but not before commanding another shuttle flight. He and his fellow Molly Brown companion, John Young, would have been called "the old men of space," but Gus would have scoffed at that designation - "There's nothin' old about me."

Gus and Deke would have then co-authored a book together - probably something similar to Moonshot, which Deke wrote with Alan Shepard. Space enthusiasts worldwide would have clamored to see these two space veterans and closest pals just talking about the good old days. 

These days, Gus would still be around, a little shorter than he used to be, but still in good shape. He'd be 86 and would still hate being called "Virgil." He'd have lots of good times tooling around in his vintage Corvette and hanging out with his grandchildren. He'd still miss his best friend, Deke. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ringing in 2013...House Passes Bill to Rename NASA Dryden As...

...The Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center. More information about this news at Spaceflight Now.

 Your thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments. Photo by Retro Space Images.