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           

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