Tag Archives: NASA

RIP Neil Armstrong

The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, has passed away at the age of 82. Armstrong was a part of a generation of astronauts that were attempting feats that had not been thought possible only a decade before. When President John F. Kennedy proclaimed that America would send a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s, NASA was still in its infancy and had just begun sending humans into space. Although Kennedy would not live to see the challenge met, America did beat the Russians to the moon on July 20, 1969. With Apollo 11, Armstrong became the first human being to step foot on a surface that was not Earth. It was a truly historic moment. Millions watched around the world as Armstrong famously said, “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Those watching the broadcast on CBS, heard Walter Cronkite narrate the events as he too was in awe of the events he was witnessing. This broadcast has become one of the defining moments of the 20th century. It was on that night in 1969 when Armstrong’s immortality was assured.

Today, NASA no longer directs manned space missions, and it is not likely they will resume any time soon. A man has not walked on the surface of the Moon since 1972, but the images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 mission will remind us of what is possible when we try. When we work hard, we can accomplish anything, no matter how impossible it may seem. Neil Armstrong will always be a symbol for what the United States is capable of, and that is one hell of a legacy.


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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Lands on Mars

I have been watching the coverage of the Curiosity Rover on NASA TV for the last hour, and it has been pretty exiting! Curiosity is the latest in a series of rovers to be sent to Mars by NASA. The goal of this mission to determine if Mars could have ever supported life. The advanced technology aboard Curiosity will answer this question and provide the most detailed information on Mars to date.

This is certainly an exciting development for NASA. Although the manned space program has ended, it is great to see that NASA is still investing in rovers and orbiters. Personally, I am looking forward to New Horizons view of Pluto, but we will have to wait until 2015!

You can keep up with the NASA Curiosity Mission by following the website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

I was hoping to add some photos from Mars, but all of NASA’s websites are currently down due to heavy traffic!

UPDATE: I was able to get this picture from NASA’s Facebook page. It shows Curiosity’s wheel.

UPDATE 2: And yet another cool photo from Facebook. This show Curiosity’s shadow!

UPDATE 3: NASA’s HiRISE team announces that their orbiter was able to capture an image of the Curiosity Rover descending toward the surface of Mars last night.

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Sally Ride Loses Battle With Cancer

Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died this morning after a seventeen month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 61.

Dr. Ride was born in Los Angeles in 1951 and received degrees in English, physics, and astrophysics. When NASA allowed women to apply for the astronaut program in 1977, Dr. Ride applied and was accepted in 1978. In 1983, Dr. Ride became the first American women to enter space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger and went into space again in 1984.


Dr. Ride aboard Space Shuttle Challenger

Ultimately, her 1984 trip into space would be her last. The Space Program was halted after the 1986 explosion of the Challenger. After assisting with the investigation of the Challenger disaster, Dr. Ride retired from NASA in 1987. After leaving NASA, Dr. Ride went on to teach at Stanford University and then the University of California, San Diego. In 2001, she founded the Sally Ride Science, a company that develops educational programs in science, technology, engineering, and math for children in grade K-12. Since leaving NASA, she has returned on a number of occasions and has won numerous awards.

Dr. Ride leaves behind her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, as well as her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; and her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science. She has been an inspiration to women and girls around the world and will be remembered for her many accomplishments.

Read her full obituary by The New York Times or read her full biography provided by Sally Ride Science.

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New Header/Change of Web Address

Today, NASA released a new high resolution image of the Earth. I really liked the image and thought I would incude it as part of the header for The Whole Earth Blog. The colors on the new image of Earth are more vibrant and true to life. This is one example of how improvements in technology are changing how we view our planet. Below is a previous image of the Earth used in the header for this website.

IMPORTANT: this a brief reminder that on February 7th, the old web address for this website, emwgradstudent.com, will expire. Please update your bookmarks to the new address, wholeearthblog.com, before that date.

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The End of the Space Shuttle Era

Last week marked the end of the historic Space Shuttle era of exploration.  Over the past 30 years, the Space Shuttle is responsible for the launch of countless space probes and satellites that have broadened our knowledge of the Universes.  Many of these probes and satellites are functional today and are providing NASA with massive databanks of information.  It is hard to believe that the program was ended, but its accomplishments have been extraordinary.

Before we recognize the accomplishments of the program, we must honor those lost as a result of it.  The crew of Space Shuttle Challenger were lost January 28, 1986 when the shuttle exploded 76 seconds after takeoff.  The crew consisted of: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.  Following the Challenger disaster, the Space Shuttle program was put on hold to investigate the disaster and ensure the shuttles were safe for future missions.

The crew of Challenger

The second incident occurred February 1, 2003 when Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed on reentry due to damage to heat resistant tiles during the shuttle’s launch.  The crew consisted of: Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, David M. Brown, and Laurel Clark.  Again, NASA halted the program to ensure the shuttles were safe.  Many believe this led to the end of the Space Shuttle program.  Many felt the shuttles were beginning to show their age and the funds necessary to revamp the shuttles was not available.

The Crew of Columbia

The Space Shuttle program was successful in many other aspects of space exploration.  Here are some facts and figures from the past 31 years:

-System length: 184.2 ft

-Orbiter length: 122.17 ft.

-External Tank length: 153.8 ft.

-Solid Rocket Boosters length: 149.16 ft.

-System height: 76.6 ft.

-Orbiter height: 56.58 ft

-Orbiter wingspan: 78.06 ft.

-Gross take-off weight: 4.5 million lbs.

-SRBs(2): 3,300,000 lbs. Thrust each in vacuum

-Main Engines (3): 393,800 lbs. Thrust each at sea level at 104 percent

-Cargo bay: 60 ft. long, 15 ft. diameter

-Enterprise – NEVER FLOWN

-Columbia – 28 missions, first launched: Apr 12, 1981

-Challenger – 10 missions, first launched: Apr 04, 1983

-Discovery – 39 missions, first launched: Aug 30, 1984

-Atlantis – 32 missions, first launched: Oct 03, 1985

-Endeavour – 25 missions, first launched: May 07, 1992

There are simply too many accomplishments to list!  From the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope to the countless missions to the International Space Station, the Space Shuttles have been at the cutting edge of space eduction.  There are still missions within NASA to get exited about, such as New Horizons mission to Pluto, but there will be a big gap without the occasional launch of a space shuttle.  We will be able to enjoy these marvels of technology, however.  NASA announced that each Space Shuttle would be sent to a new home in its retirement.  The shuttles will be sent to:

-Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida

-Endeavour: the California Science Center in Los Angeles

-Discovery: the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia

-Enterprise: the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York (moved from its current location at the Smithsonian)

The Space Shuttles will likely not be moved until 2012, but it will be exiting to see them in person.  The launch of a Space Shuttle is one of the most awesome spectacles that I have ever witnessed (never in person, unfortunately), so I leave you with an image of a rare, but spectacular, night launch.

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The Retirement of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Atlantis reentering the atmosphere yesterday morning.

Yesterday the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed, returning from its final mission into space. This marks the final flight for NASA’s Space shuttle program.

Space Shuttle Atlantis launched for its final time July 8, 2011. It returned to Earth yesterday and will retire at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. The Atlantis had an illustrious career. Here are some interesting facts about Atlantis:

-Construction began on March 30, 1980

-Atlantis was nearly 3.5 tons lighter than Columbia

-made 33 flights into space

-first Space Shuttle to dock with the Russian’s MIR

-Deployed the Magellan probe bound for Venus in 1989

-Deployed the Galileo interplanetary probe bound for Jupiter in 1989

-Deployed the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory in 1991

-flew the final servicing mission the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009

-Michael Massimino became the first person to use Twitter in space in May 2009 aboard Atlantis

Atlantis will be missed by me and many other space aficionados, as will the entire Space Shuttle program. I leave you with a picture from Atlantis’ final launch, the last Space Shuttle launch ever, from July 8.

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Final Space Shuttle Launch Tomorrow

Atlantis is scheduled to be the final Space Shuttle launch tomorrow at 11:26 AM ET.  Keep in mind, the time is estimated.  Keep an eye on NASA TV for the latest launch information.

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