Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In Which We See Paul Weitz Claim A Dubious Spaceflight Record, And Then We See It Promptly Snatched Away By His Former Boss: 1974 AvWeek Edition

The Skylab 2 crew in happier times, NASA photo: "The three members of the prime crew of the first manned Skylab mission discuss their scheduled flight before a gathering of news media representatives, in building 1 auditorium, April 17, 1973. They are (left to right) astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., commander; Paul J. Weitz, pilot; and scientist Joseph P. Kerwin, science-pilot." 
One of the most curious spaceflight "feuds" emerged in the spring of 1974, and it played out in the pages of Aviation Week & Space Technology. Unearthed by Mike Poliszuk in the Facebook group Apollo Spacecraft History, we see a tense dynamic emerge between a quiet, yet determined mission pilot and a salty veteran commander keen to defend his space "record" at any cost. 

I will let the screenshots from AvWeek explain themselves; please click on the images to enlarge as needed. Here we see a short vignette from the magazine's Washington staff in the March 18th issue, entitled "Star Streak": 

Sadly, Weitz was only able to hold on to his record for two months, perhaps even less. He was unceremoniously thrown under the bus by his Skylab 2 commander, Pete Conrad, in a letter to the editor published in the May 27th edition: 

My favorite part is the end of the letter, in which Conrad appeals to the editors asking them if they required further clarification, "please let me know." I have a sick image of them ordering a junior reporter to cold call Pete, and ask him for more information about this whole nudity in space thing. 

This may be the greatest thing I've seen shared on Facebook in a very long time.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This Space Available’s Corrections Section: Félicette, not Félix

From Matthew Serge Guy's Kickstarter, "The Meow-cury 14": "The cats in training harnesses. Félicette on bottom right."
On November 7, 2010, over seven years ago, I published an (admittedly not very good) blog post about the story of France’s first space cat, Félix. The problem is...there was never a space cat named Félix. Read more about how I messed up, contributed to a falsehood concerning animals in space, and how a Kickstarter begun by Matthew Serge Guy intends to right these wrongs and honor the first real kitty who went to space. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Rest In Paradise, Richard F. Gordon, Jr.

NASA photo, labeled Sept. 22, 1969: "These three astronauts have been named by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as the prime crew of the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission. Left to right are Charles Conrad Jr., Richard F. Gordon Jr., and Alan L. Bean."
The space community has lost too many legends this year from the Apollo era, and today we lost one more: the congenial Dick Gordon, Gemini 11 pilot and Apollo 12 command module pilot. I'm personally a bit too numb from all the losses to write anything profound; linked here is an obituary from collectSPACE, which sums up Gordon's life and career more beautifully than I could. 

Dick Gordon was a warm, funny, always enthusiastic man, and a friend to everyone. That's how I will remember him. The photo above shows him in his prime years at NASA, posing with the Ultimate Apollo Dream Crew - three best friends who braved a freakin' LIGHTNING STRIKE to pull off one of the program's most successful, memorable missions.

Feel free to leave your memories of Gordon in the comments' section. I send my sincerest condolences to his family and friends.