Saturday, 28 July 2012

Spacemen of the world (3) - China's Taikonauts

Tiangong 1 天空1号 module was successfully launched and positioned in outer space in Sept. 2011

For the past decades China had diligently pursued its part to play in aerospace research, explorations and expeditions without much publicity and fanfare. The successful docking of the Shenzhou 8 capsule神舟8 with the Tiangong 1 module 天空1 caught the cautious and eager attention of NASA and other international space-science players who could not believe China’s achievement had progressed by leaps and bounds. The first China’s orbital docking was completed on November 2nd 2011, and undocked on November 14th 2011. The effort of China’s venture into outer space suffered a humiliation (not necessary a setback) when the US Congress imposed a unilateral rule to limit cooperation between China and American aeronautical engineering activities following the June 4th 1989 incident at Tiananmen Square. The Chinese authority used excessive force to suppress their students during a mass pro-democracy demonstration when the event went ugly. It was reported that thousands of student died during that chaos. For that matter China was also banned from using the International Space Station in the outer space as it was confined to 15 membership-nations.

This Long March II-F T1 carrier rocket carried Tiangong 1 module into aerospace in Sept. 2011 to prepare for ShenZhou Capsules 神舟  to dock into the module.

Thought the docking mechanism had been developed since the ‘60s by the NASA as well as their Soviet counterpart, it was by no means a simple feat for the Chinese as they started on their own from scraps. Aerospace critics commented that China’s resilience and self-reliance contributed towards the historical breakthrough. Bolstered by enhanced confidence, China next targets to launch its own space laboratory in the form of a Space Station by 2020; it will open to all global space scientists when it is operational.

Maj. Liu Yang 浏阳 waved to a cheering crowd during the departure ceremony in Gansu Province prior to the launching of the Spacecraft ShenZhou 9 on June 16th 2012.

Liu Yang, an amicable 33 year-old Chinese Air force fighter pilot with the rank of major was the first Chinese woman Taikonaut. She joined two other comrades aboard the ShenZhou 9 spacecraft 神舟9when it blasted its way out of atmosphere from a remote Gobi Desert launch site. The Chinese Taikonauts returned to earth after a 13 day-mission on June 29th 2012 when their capsule landed in Western Inner Mongolia deploying a parachute. Liu Yang and her co-Taikonauts’s latest adventure in aerospace greatly prompted a surge in China’s national pride as the country reveled and rejoiced with the successful mission.

Tiangong 1 module 天空1 had been in aerospace since Sept. 2011 awaiting more mission spacecrafts to be docked into it.

China’s Father of Rocketry – Qian Xuesen錢學森1911-2009 (Name was spelt as Ch'ien Hsüeh-sên in early years)

The legacy and important contribution left by Qian Xuesen (1911-2009) could not be ignored in China’s ambition in research and development of aerospace science. Qian’s career in aerospace technology began when he left China to pursue a master of mechanical engineering at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after he graduated with his first degree at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University. In 1939 he earned his doctorate with his research on slender body theory at high speeds at Caltech (California Institute of Technology). Together with his mentors and fellow scientists, Qian quickly earned his undisputed reputation as a leading jet propulsion and rocket researcher. Some of his early works in the US would inspire and influence in the development of the present day space shuttle. After World War II he was commissioned at the US army with the rank of Colonel (a temporary one though) to join his doctorate adviser Von Karman to investigate the progress of wartime aerodynamics research in Germany. It was during his query into Germany’s advances in high speed propulsion his distinguished knowledge at the relevant field was noted as he impressed everyone.

Prominent Chinese aerospace scientist Qian Xuesen and his wife Jiang Ying married in 1947 before China turned red to embrace communism in 1949

In 1947 September Qian married Jiang Ying who was well-known as a Chinese opera singer. Shortly after that Qian left Shanghai to take up a teaching position at MIT. However his fate took a twisted turn as Qian was accused of being a communist as he applied for naturalization in 1949. Qian found himself in an adverse situation whereby he was being suspected by FBI and the department of naturalization and immigration. Clearly he was victimized by McCarthyism which raised its ugly head to pursue relentlessly leftists and communist sympathizers. With his application tuned down and his security clearance revoked, Qian could not carry out his normal work as a researcher and a college professor. He announced his wish to leave for his homeland, viz. China. Instead of approving his application for naturalization, the US government imprisoned him and later placed him under house arrest for a long 5 year, for a crime that never took place. Qian was accused of dispatching a secret document to China and the FBI deemed it as an act of espionage. It turned up to be logarithm tables for common use in schools and colleges.

Col. Qian wearing his military cap quizzed German scientist Ludwig Prandtl (Left) together with Theodore Von Karman about German's progress in wartime aerodynamics research after the WWII.

There were sporadic voices that could be heard for his cause. The undersecretary of the Navy at that time Dan A. Kimball loudly exclaimed: “It was the stupidest thing the country ever did; he was no more a communist that I was, and we forced him to go.” Caltech’s president Lee DuBridge flew to Washington to argue Qian’s case with Grant Cooper as the attorney to defend Qian. Later Cooper had this to say in expressing the feeling of Qian’s supporters: “…..that the government permitted this genius, this scientific genius to be sent to communist China, to pick his brain is one of the tragedies of the century.”

Professor Qian Xuesen suffered stoically and was humiliated by the FBI during his incarceration from 1949-1955 

Though he was supported by his loyal colleagues and fellow US scientists during his incarceration, appeals for his release were largely ignored. In the end of his 5 year-imprisonment, poor Qian became a hostage for exchange when China and the US swapped him for the repatriation of a US pilot captured during the Korean War. He left for China in 1955 to begin his illustrated career in the aerospace industry for his motherland China.

Professor Qian was the Head of Missile Academy in which he helped to form shortly after his return in 1955.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao greeted Qian Xuesen, the founder of China's space technology, during his visit to Qian in Beijing on Aug. 6, 2009. Qian passed away on Oct.31st 2009

In 1979 Caltech awarded the coveted Distinguished Alumni Award to Qian Xuesen in recognition of his contribution towards aerospace research works. Qian did not receive the award until the normalization of Sino-US relationship took place in the 80s. Qian turned down earnest invitation to visit US as he wanted an official apology for his wrongful detention. The US in face-saving ethics would never admit any gross mistake done in the past. His friend Frank Marble who represented Caltech to offer him the award, said that though Qian might have resentment and had lost faith in the US government at that time, deep in his heart, he would always have very warm feeling for the American people.

Qian Xuesen died peacefully at the ripe age of 97 in Beijing in Oct. 31st 2009.

Chinese university students carried and displayed large banner to mark the passing of one great pioneer in aerospace science in 2009.

Alan CY Kok

Monday, 23 July 2012

Spacemen of the world (2) - The American Astronauts

Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle prepared for landing on moon surface on July 20th 1969

NASA, the American Space Mission Agency had more success stories to tell than their arch-rival The Soviet Union’s quest for supremacy in outer space expeditions. Since the late 50s NASA had launched more than 100 mission space-faring rockets, spacecrafts, and space shuttles, manned or unmanned.

Americans took great pride when Neil Armstrong was first to set foot on the moon surface from the landing
craft Eagle and told the world his famous line:
"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”

Insignia of The Apollo 11 - it was designed by  astronaut Michael Collins who took part in this epoch-making expedition
The superb team of Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin made Mission Apollo 11 moon landing a great success.
First man on the Moon Neil Armstrong died at age 82 (Born Aug. 5th 1930 Died Aug. 25th 2012) in the city of Columbus, US.

Neil Armstrong and his compatriot Buzz Aldrin were the first two humans set foot on moon surface in The Apollo 11 mission on July 20th 1969. Another astronaut Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit aboard the command module until they returned 15 hours later. For this remarkable feat, NASA realized the call of the late President John F. Kennedy to land humans on the moon before the end of the decade.

The Apollo 11 Moon Mission Spacecraft that successfully sent humans to the Moon

Depending on the missions or programs they vested at that time, varied names were used to document their conquest of the aerospace deep into the atmosphere and beyond. They were The Pioneer and Lunar (Moon Missions), Mariner and Mars Orbiter (Mars Missions), then they have the Pioneers 5 to 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2 for interplanetary missions. Later Apollo, Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, and Discovery were names used for their various missions as NASA progressed into maturity with advancement for their conquest into outer space. Their spacecrafts evolved into re-usable space shuttles and the first Shuttles Atlantis was launched in 1985, later it was the Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, and The Endeavour. For launching the Atlantis, it was a great leap for space discovery feat with its first mission held in 1985 and in 2010 the last. The Atlantis had orbited the Earth 4,848 times, covering a distance 525 times from Earth to the Moon, traveling more than 203million km.

First major casulties - Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were killed in a fire during a ground test mishap on Jan.27th 1967 in the Apollo 1 program
2nd major disaster that took away the precious lives of 7 astronauts on board the Challenger on Jan. 28th 1986 when their spacecraft exploded 73 seconds after the launch. The Astronauts were: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.
3rd major loss occured while it was so close to success when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated into thousands of pieces while on its way to re-enter into the atmosphere with 7 astronauts on-board on Feb.1st 2003. The immense loss, sadness and frustration that followed were understandable - years of hard work and training, sacrifice of normal family life, enormous amount of effort and dedication, and most paramountly the precious human lives etc. gone to a disastrous misadventure; besides, multi-billions of US treasury funds being pumped in had vapourised.  The loss lives were: Astronauts Brown, Clark, Chawla, Anderson, Ramon, Husband, and McCool.
The doomed Space Shuttle Columbia with names of the astronauts who perished in an mishap while returning to earth.

Of course NASA also had its sorrowful stories to tell as it suffered three major, devastating tragedies in embarking their ambitious space projects. The first accident occurred on January 27th 1967 when fire broke out in the Apollo 1 module during a ground test; three astronauts seated in their cockpits lost their lives. While launching The Challenger on January 28th 1986, 7 astronauts died in an explosion 73 seconds after their space shuttle was thrust into the sky. The incidents left an indelible setback to the NASA’s space project as their ground crew staffs were disheartened and morale for all was very low for sometime. Subsequently the space shuttle program was delayed for a long three years. Lives of another 7 astronauts were sacrificed when their space shuttle Columbia was returning to the Earth upon completing their mission on February 1st 2003. While re-entering into the atmosphere the damaged heat shield of the orbiter failed to protect the shuttle from the intense heat generated. The Columbia space shuttle disintegrated over the sky of Texas and Louisiana.

    Moon mission Saturn V for Apollo 11 project prepared to take off
Before the days of the Space Shuttle, NASA astronauts returned to Earth deploying the parachute with their capsules onto the ocean.

With the monumental task NASA faces, for the sake of the nation’s image as the fore-runner of outer space exploration and expedition, more reviews and enhanced measures with regards to safety standard must be carried out to prevent life loss. It is easier said than done; it is a gargantuan challenge NASA encounters in order to achieve perfection in total safety for its astronauts.

Latest: Americans pay tribute to their first woman in space Sally Ride who died of pancreatic cancer on Monday July 23rd 2012 after 17 months of battle against the disease, she was 61. She had clocked a total of 343 hours in space aboard The Challenger missions twice in 1983 and 1984.

NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock who was aboard the International Space Station shares pictures of the Earth he snaps with the world through Twitter. He has been an experienced astronaut for NASA in few missions that include flights with Space Shuttle, International Space Station Expeditions ISS 24 & 25,
and Russaian Soyuz. He has clocked a total of 178 days in space missions.

Known to his nearly 68,000 Twitter followers(now probably in the hundreds of thousands) as 
Astro_Wheels, Wheelock has been posting impressive photos of the Earth and some of his thoughts ever since he moved into the space station in June 2010, five months after it got Internet access. Here are some of the best shots he shares with us:
Beautiful atoll in the Pacific Ocean , photographed using 400mm lens. Approximately 1930 km south of Honolulu.
Mystery Island " - located in the Indian Ocean close to Madagascar . Interesting features on the island and the unusual shape should be enough to help you discover this beautiful place.
Another spectacular sunset. We see 16 such sunsets each day, and each of them is really valuable. 
At a speed of 28,163 kilometers per hour (8 kilometers per second), we rotate the Earth's orbit, making one revolution every 90 minutes, and watch sunsets and sunrises every 45 minutes. So half of our
journey is in darkness. For the work we use lights
on our helmets. 
Above the center of the Atlantic Ocean , before another stunning sunset. Downstairs in the setting sun visible spiral Hurricane Earl. 
Every time I look out the window and see our beautiful planet, my soul sings! I see blue skies, white clouds and bright blessed day. 
 Module Union 23C Olympus docked with the ISS. When our work ends here, we go back home to Earth. We fly over the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus . The rising sun is reflected from the Caspian Sea
"Dome" on the side of nadir station gives a panoramic
view of our beautiful planet. Fedor made the picture from the window of the Russian docking compartment. In this photo I'm sitting in the dome, preparing the camera for our evening flight over Hurricane Earl. 
Greek islands on a clear night during our flight over Europe .. Athens shine brightly along the Mediterranean Sea .
Of all the places of our beautiful planet few can rival the beauty and richness of colors in the Bahamas . In this photo, our ship is seen against the backdrop of the Bahamas . 
Our unmanned 'Progress 39P' approaches the ISS for refuelling. It is full of food, fuel, spare parts and all necessities for our station. Inside was a
real gift - fresh fruit and vegetables. What a miracle after three months of food from a tube! 
Over the Sahara desert, approaching the ancient lands and thousand-year history. River Nile flows through Egypt by the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo . Further, the Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Dead Sea , Jordan River, as well as the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea and Greece
on the horizon. 
                            The Moon is just simply breathtaking

Pics and stories of Astronaut D. Wheelock obtained from mail received
through the net.
Alan CY Kok           

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Spacemen of the world (I) – Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin

First man to be thrust into outer space to orbit round the earth - Yuri Gagarin of Russia

During the time when Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, (15th-16th Century Italian scientists, astronomers and others) gazed longingly into the sky, yearning to discover what was up there,  humans had not been able to fly. Till this day humans still literally cannot fly, but with those flying machines in aero planes and spacecrafts we could have our widest dreams come true.

Suave and handsome, Gagarin's smile attracted the attention of many female fans when he visited London on July 11th 1961

Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man on earth to go orbiting the earth in outer space back in 1961 on board the Vostok 1 spacecraft. After his famous feat as an epoch making hero, he was promoted to the rank of Lieut. Colonel and eventually Colonel in 1963. Gagarin helped vigorously in The Soviet Union’s advancement in aero space expeditions as a deputy training director of the Cosmonault Training Centre outside Moscow, which was named after him later. He was banned as back up crew to the Soyuz 1 space mission after it ended in a crash, killing his best friend Vladimir Komarov, despite Gagarin’s fore-warning that the space craft needed further safety measure. However ill-fate nailed him anyway as Yuri Gagarin was killed together with flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin in a MiG-15 fatal crash near the city of Kirzhach in 1968 as he went under training to re-qualify as a fighter pilot.

Stamps were issued to commemorate his adventurous flight into outer space

Gagarin basked in the fame for the success of the Soviet first manned spaced craft aboard the Vostok 1 during the many trips he made to some European cities, Japan, Brazil, Egypt, and Canada. He was very popular in Manchester and London with his endemic smile as he was mobbed and cheered on by frenzied crowds, particularly from the female fans. One of the masterminds of the early Soviet space program Sergei Korolev once commented that Gagarin’s endearing smile “lit up the Cold War”.

Yuri Gagarin waved to crowds when he visited Sweden.

Yuri Gagarin had his fair share of dark side as a celebrity; he was known to be a womanizer and an avid Vodka drinker in later life, but of course the Soviet Union authority denied all these negative reports. He was survived by two capable daughters and his wife Valentina. His elder daughter Elena is an art historian who works as a director-general in the Moscow Kremlin Museum. The younger daughter Galina Gagarin seats as department chair at Plekhanov Russian Economic University, Moscow.

New 2 ruble coin issued with his likeness in 2001
             Yuri Gagarin's statue as seen in London, near Admiralty

Tributes to Yuri Gagarin were many; The Soviet Union issued stamps and new coins bearing his likeness in 2001 and 2011, marking the 40th and 50 anniversary of his flight into outer space. Gagarin had been bestowed with countless honorary titles, military honors, honorable citizenships of cities round the world; names of sports leagues and towns were named after him, busts and statues were erected all over Russian cities to remember him. On July 20th 1969 American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 mission placed memorial bag of medals on the moon surface to commemorate Gagarin and his comrade cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. The Americans did that one more time in August 1st 1971 when astronauts David Scott and James Erwin of Apollo 15 left the “Fallen Astronauts” memorial insignia on moon surface to remember all the 15 spacemen and spacewomen who had sacrificed their lives in the “space race”. 

With his small built physique at 5'2", Gagarin fitted well in this capsule. While the spacecraft  Vostok 1 plummeted back to earth, at 20,000 ft he ejected, deployed his parachute and landed in the Saratov region of Russia.

Russia's arch-rival in aerospace expedition USA's NASA discovered huge amount of space chunks of breakage debris found orbiting the atmosphere; for which they claimed to be proof of Russian’s past multiple failures. It might be true to some extent; many aspiring cosmonauts had met with mishaps in outer space or during launching.  One must know at the time of prevalent Cold War, ubiquitous rivalry of any sort was riled that any adverse event would be classified as top national secret by the Soviet Union. Of course USA's space programs and missions had their fair share in failures too in the initial stage, as NASA suffered huge human life loss over a few incidents.

Alan CY Kok
Some facts were obtained from Wikipedia

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Human presence in animal kindgom

                                    Finally you propose!
                          It's all because the humans dug a hole here
It's all because the humans dug a hole here
               Grow up quickly, perhaps we could be better friends
Let's play Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer as in Mark Twain's story book. Wonder what's the scene behind the wooden fence?
            Journey interrupted by middle of the road breast feeding
Let me out, it's wet and cold here!
                                   No, you're not seeing double
Seeing double again?
My dear frienship with a dear
                                       Where do I go from here?
8 yr-old Watteo Walch has built a strong bond with his furry friends at the Austrain Alps. The marmots are usually very shy around humans. The adult rodent-like animals weigh around 3 to 8 kgs.
Do I know you?
An American bullfrog destined for the cooking pot.
Sad parting that depicts loyalty to a friend. The man broke down as his dog was being taken away to an animal shelter
Fireman to the rescue to quench the thirst of a furry friend-The poor Koala Bear in an Australian wild fire.
I'm hungry!
 No joke, without adults being around, the baby could become lunch.

Comfortable and safe ride
Feeding a baby dolphin. Now where's Mom?
                            Slower, I can't catch up the fast pace
                                  Two brothers drinking milk
                                    Let go, will you! I spotted it first!
       It's not Kermit the Frog, it's Prince Edward the Chameleon!
Life seems so boring for these canines
                                     It's too huge a body to hug
                             A neck to lean on, albeit a  long one.
                                          Now this is for you!
               The lion cub refuses mother's milk, so I chip in to help
The day I went out shooting pics and made some new friends
           And so....the elephant accepted the blessing of the priest....
           Ducks, ducks everywhere! To the ponds or to the market?
                               Wow, it's a brand new world out there!
       This human baby could be too heavy, I'm not sure I could help
Strange, you don't look at all like me!
                Nice to know you have one trusted companion to rely on
This super large crustacean-a Tasmanian King Crab was saved from the cook pot in time when it was bought by a British aquarist, to be showcased at Weymouth Sea Life Park, Dorset, UK. There were three of them.
                           Ah, icy cold water for the start of the day
                          Ah ooh, sure it hurts! Let go, will you moron!
                                            Ah... life couldn't be better
                Look, we're caught. We can't go on meeting like this!
                Jumping trampoline excercise on kitten's stomach, it's so much fun.
                         Intimacy caught on film! No escape this tme!
                                            Cat people
                                    Wow, I could appear on commercial.

Time to relax together
                                  Don't you dare get any closer!
                                      What have you got there?
                              Sorry seems to be the hardest word........
Stop doing that, it's very annoying! Come down this instant!
This laughing chimp is well-known in the net

Alan CY Kok            
All pictures obtained from mails received through the net