Saturday, December 23, 2017

Ed Gibson’s Dances With The Sun: Skylab 4, 1973 – 1974

NASA photo, Feb. 1974: "Scientist-astronaut Edward G. Gibson, science pilot for the Skylab 4 mission, demonstrates the effects of zero-gravity as he sails through airlock module hatch." 
There's another world behind the sun / He used to shine on everyone / And lately I'm amazed at the way it's grown / It moves in at midnight when I'm all alone. - Duncan Browne, “My Only Son”

On January 21, 1974, Dr. Ed Gibson was hard at work in orbit aboard Skylab, viewing what he characterized as a “moderately active” Sun. He’d been advised what to spot by the previous mission’s science pilot. Gibson wrote in the 1979 NASA publication A New Sun, [Skylab 3 science pilot] Owen Garriott...had suggested that when a tiny bright point appears on the extreme ultraviolet image of the Sun, it may be an early signal that a flare is beginning.”

Monday, December 18, 2017

I Finally Read “A House In Space,” And Damn, It Is A Big Ol’ Mess

Square-jawed shitstirrer Dr. Ed Gibson gets ready to upset some space journalists, NASA photo, Sept. 10, 1973: "Scientist-astronaut Edward G. Gibson, science pilot for the third manned Skylab mission (Skylab 4), enters a notation in a manual while seated at the control and display panel for the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) during simulations inside the one-G trainer for the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) at the Johnson Space Center (JSC)."
A good friend sent over a copy of A House In Space, published in 1976 and written by Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr., with a caveat stating there were parts within it I probably wouldn’t like, and boy, he was right! My personal feelings aside, from a space history standpoint, this book is a total mess and I’m not sure how or why it was published. I guess I’ll start first with the few things I enjoyed about the book.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

This Space Available's Best of 2017: The Top Five

This year, the space community lost many notables, including Gene Cernan, Dick Gordon, and Paul Weitz (pictured aboard Skylab). NASA photo, June 1973: "Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, Skylab 2 pilot, mans the control and display console of the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) in this onboard view photographed in Earth orbit. The ATM C&D console is located in the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) of the Skylab 1/2 space station." 
2017 was, in many ways, a difficult year for the space community, as it suffered losses of notables including (but not limited to) Gene Cernan (Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, and Apollo 17), Dick Gordon (Gemini 11, and Apollo 12), and Paul Weitz (Skylab 2, and STS-6). However, the year was also punctuated with many triumphs, including Cassini's last glimpses at the Saturnian system, Spacefest VIII, and many fun times on the Space Coast. Authors such as Gerald Brennan, Rod Pyle, and Lauren Baratz-Logsted wowed readers with stories that were alternately touching, gripping, and sometimes hilarious. Update: Sadly, on Dec. 21, the space world also lost astronaut Bruce McCandless.

Here is a sampling of some of my articles from 2017; hope you enjoyed them, and I hope you keep reading my work in 2018! In the next year, I intend to seriously chisel out my upcoming book for publication, among other activities. You're all invited to come along for the ride!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Frank Kelly Freas, Sci-Fi Pulp Art, and His Lasting Skylab Legacy

Dr. Joseph Kerwin, Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., and Paul Weitz, each sporting the mission patch designed by artist Frank Kelly Freas. 1973 NASA photo.
A grand, spider-like space station, stark and monolithic, silhouetted against the seas of a blue and green Earth, all against the backdrop of a fiery, violent Sun flaring away: this was one of the first images associated with Skylab iconography in the early 1970s, and was courtesy of someone who may have seemed to be an unlikely space mission patch designer. The artist was called “the dean of science fiction artists” and was perhaps more well-known for his magazine and book covers, which adorned science-fiction pulp magazines with pithy names such as Weird Tales and Astounding Science Fiction. How did someone commonly associated with buxom space divas become the originator of one of the (in my estimation) best space mission patches?