Monday, March 22, 2010

New Computer, New Problem

I had to have my computer replaced due to a bad logic board (their explanation. I can see them in the back room hitting it with a rolled up newsparper, "Bad logic board! Bad! Bad!"). Anyway, they were able to transfer all my files over so I'm cool there, but some of my 'professional' software did not port over. So I'm down my web maintenance software and the Field Guide is needing help. Hopefully, I'll get my copy back this week and can get in and do the fixes I need to and some much needed updates. Until then, ignore any broken links and missing images, as the lists and locations should still come up. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spacecraft of the Week #17

Gemini VIII is this weeks featured spacecraft. Commanded by Neil Armstrong and piloted by David Scott, this spacecraft successfully launched to and docked with an Agena target vehicle in 1966.

Shortly after docking, the spacecraft began rolling on its long access access. The Agena was shut down, but the problem persisted. Scott noticed the ships fuel supply was dropping, indicating the problem was with the Gemini. The astronauts undocked the two spacecraft and began to move away.

However, just like an ice skater who accelerates her spin by bringing in her arms (the conservation of angular momentum), the Gemini began to rapidly roll, reaching a rate of one revolution per second. This threatened the astronauts who risked losing their visual acuity and or consciousness. Armstrong reacted quickly by disabling the Gemini's system of thrusters, and, using the backup reentry thrusters, regained control of the ship. This act would cut short their mission to just 10 hours.

Though many mission objectives remained unfulfilled, Armstrong's quick reaction and presence of mind would be a factor in his selection to command Americas first mission to the lunar surface. Launched this week in 1966, and now on display at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the 17th Spacecraft of the Week, Gemini VIII.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spacecraft of the Week #16

This weeks' honored spacecraft has traveled almost as much after its mission as during it. Apollo 9, nicknamed Gumdrop for its shape, was launched to low Earth orbit 41 years ago this week. During its stay in space, it rehearsed the upcoming lunar missions by docking to and extracting a Lunar Module, transferring crew, separating and going through the paces of a moon landing. After 10 days in orbit, it returned to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

After its return, it was sent to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where engineers went over all parts of the spacecraft, checking and double checking to ensure craft and crew survivability of what was yet to come. After this inspection, it was placed on public display in the JSC Visitor Center.

Apollo 9 was later transferred to Jackson, Michigan and became the crown jewel of the collection at the Michigan Space and Science Center, located on the campus of Jackson Community College. While the collection was impressive, the center proved to costly and the college had to close it and remove the artifacts. Many of them, as well as curator Stewart Bailey, wound up at the Air Zoo in nearby Kalamazoo. Apollo 9 was a sweeter plum sought after by many. Since the spacecraft (as almost all flown spacecraft) is on loan from the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, they evaluated the requests and settled on San Diego.

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is located on the grounds of Balboa Park in the Ford Building, built as part of the California Pacific International Exposition, which was held in 1935 and 1936. There it was placed prominently in the entrance rotunda, sharing it's starring position with other aircraft manufactured in California (the Apollo spacecraft was built in Downey, California). The capsule is very accessible, forgoing the plexiglas cover seen on other Apollo capsules. It is displayed without it's hatch, which is sitting nearby.

So after 10 days in space and criss-crossing the US, Gumdrop finally rests about a 200 miles form where it was created. For that, and to celebrate its launch anniversary, Apollo 9 is this weeks' "Spacecraft of the Week'.