Recently in History Category

NASA Viking at 40 Symposium Lectures

"This week NASA hosted the Viking Mars Landers 40th anniversary symposium. In 1976 Viking 1 and 2 were the first landers to successfully land on Mars."

"NASA's Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander, became the first space probes to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface; characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface; and conduct on-the-spot biological tests for life on another planet."

"Viking provided the first measurements of the atmosphere and surface of Mars. These measurements are still being analyzed and interpreted. The data suggested early Mars was very different from the present day planet. Viking performed the first successful entry, descent and landing on Mars. Derivations of a Viking-style thermal protection system and parachute have been used on many U.S. Mars lander missions since."

Federal Acquisition Regulation; Removal of Regulations Relating to Telegraphic Communication, NASA et al

"DoD, GSA, and NASA are proposing to amend the FAR to delete the use of the terms ``telegram'', ``telegraph'', ``telegraphic'', and related terminology. The word ``telegram'' emerged shortly after the invention of the electrical telegraph in the 1840s. This terminology and way of communicating was incorporated into the first issue of the FAR, effective April 1, 1984. The emergence of electronic means of communication, starting with the facsimile machine, and then followed by email and mobile-phone text messages in the 1990s, resulted in the sparing use of telegraph services and use of telegrams. On this basis, the Councils are proposing to delete telegraphic services from the FAR and replace these terms with an option for electronic communications. This case is consistent with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Memorandum dated December 4, 2014 on transforming the marketplace, which describes ongoing actions to support the needs of a 21st century Government."

Keith's note: Of course, there is no email address listed within this whereby you can contact the government employees nor is any fax number included. Also, it looks like it took DoD, GSA, and NASA 2 years to implement this simple editorial change. Inevitably someone, somewhere within NASA will eventually think that this means that telegrams no longer need to be archived and you'll see people throwing them out or putting them in boxes without labels. Then there will come a time when the information contained in those telegrams will needed and ... we've seen this movie before. Moon walk tapes anyone? Larger image (NASA actually used telegrams for important stuff once upon a time).

Kennedy's vision for NASA inspired greatness, then stagnation, Ars Technica

"Perhaps the best insight into Kennedy's motives can be found in a recording of a November 21, 1962 meeting in the White House Cabinet Room. Kennedy had boasted of the lunar plan just a month earlier at Rice. The main participants that day were Kennedy and James Webb, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At issue was the true purpose of NASA and the Apollo program, and at the outset of the meeting Kennedy asked Webb, "Do you think this program is the top priority of the agency?" In hindsight, Webb's answer was surprising: "No sir, I do not. I think it is one of the top priority programs, but I think it is very important to recognize here, that as you have found out what you could do with a rocket, as you find out how you could get out beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space to make measurements, several scientific disciplines that are very powerful have (begun) to converge on this area." To this Kennedy responds that Apollo is the top priority. That ought to be very clear, he explained. "This is important for political reasons, for international political reasons," Kennedy said. He told Webb he did not want to finish second to the Soviets in the "race" to the moon."

Keith's note: In other words had there been Twitter in 1960s we'd have heard nothing but #ManOnTheMoon on everything NASA PAO put out. In the case of Apollo in the 1960s NASA had a firm presidential mandate and a specific architecture in place in relatively short order - on a timeline what almost fit into a two-term Kennedy Administration. Flash forward: NASA is in no hurry to explain how it is going to send humans to Mars by a date that requires constant unwavering support from 4 to 5 presidential administrations - and a dozen Congresses. Most importantly, NASA now lacks that compelling reason to amass the requisite blood and treasure needed to mount an interplanetary project of geopolitical importance - because we're now competing with everyone (internally and externally) - each of whom is on their own timetable - each for their own purposes. Add in a lame duck Administration which has been disinterested - at best - for the past 7 years. Anyone with a reasonable grasp of history and current politics would be wise to ponder whether NASA and the U.S. government are no even capable of supporting a human missions to Mars in the ways needed for it to actually happen.

Its time to stop listening to the old professors, reading old advisory reports, and trying to find old historical resonances to justify or inspire future efforts. The world is as it is. Other nations are now starting to do interesting things in space because they see that it confers importance upon their nation, inspires their people, and offers access to new technologies. They also have their own reasons that have little resonance with America's. They learned both from our mistakes and successes and are now filling the vacuum created by our hesitance and lack of interest.

Others are seizing upon the opportunities presented by this American space malaise as well - and they are firmly established on American shores. The motivations may echo NASA's interests but they include many things that would not fit well on a NASA Powerpoint chart. Lets watch as SpaceX sends technology to Mars that NASA is incapable and/or unwilling of doing. There may well be an American #JourneyToMars - but mission control may be in Hawthorne - not Houston. And will the Americans who step out of a future human-rated Red Dragon be any less American?

Keith's note: JSC announced recently they were terminating the Oral History Project that has been ongoing for several decades. People working on the project have received lay-off notices. Have a look at the first recently completed ISS oral history reports. Some of these recollections are rather blunt. One NASAWatch reader notes:

"Especially eye-opening, the Suffredini oral history where he says his greatest challenge was taking $3.5 billion from research and technology (Code U, C and T budgets?) to put into hardware development. This and its effects is confirmed by Julie Robinson (Chief Scientist) and Mike Read (National Lab Manager) in their histories (was the change of funding use authorized?) Or Mike Read's history, where he was put in charge of payload integration, national lab and commercialization but without what he felt was the requisite experience or knowledge (both areas that have been suffering from lack of experience. Or John Charles, Chief Scientist for the 1 year mission, in his interview where he told the program manager, prior to the beginning of the one year mission, that ISS needed to get its house in order in terms of how they integrate payloads and science because the effort was totally disjointed. Gerstenmaier earlier pulled all funds for "lessons learned" beginning FY2014. There apparently is no interest in learning what is happening and why we wind up in the sort of shape we are in."

NASA chief: Apollo engineers who criticize SLS don't grok modern rocketry, Ars Technica

"Bolden then reiterated that Kraft knew more than him about rockets, but he again qualified this praise: "I have the advantage of a team around me that he didn't have," he said. "You have to remember. Most of us forget. I have a very mature leadership team. When Dr. Kraft was in mission control, and when he led the Johnson Space Center, we went to the Moon. Most of the people were 20 years old. They didn't know anything."

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden clearly misses the irony within his insulting characterization about the younger NASA that sent humans to the Moon. If Bolden serves out the end of the current Administration's term he'll have been Administrator for 7 1/2 years - virtually the same distance between Mercury 3 and Apollo 11.

Orion has flown once - without a crew. SLS has yet to fly and its schedule often slips to the right faster than actual progress is made. Humans may finally fly on it in 2023 some 19 years after the Bush Administration originally initiated a return by American astronauts to the surface of the Moon. In the 1960s NASA went from zero human spaceflight capability to putting humans on the surface of the Moon in less than half that time.

I'll bet some of those 20 year old kids could teach Charlie Bolden and his "very mature leadership team" a thing or two.

John Newcomb

NASA Langley Engineer and Author John Newcomb Dies

"An engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center during the critical Apollo years and those that successfully landed Viking on Mars, John Foster Newcomb passed away March 10, 2016. In the early heady days of space exploration, Newcomb worked on the Lunar Orbiter Project which placed five Lunar Orbiters around the moon, a mission critical to the success of the Apollo Project. The Lunar Orbiters photographed and mapped the moon, giving researchers insight into the best potential landing sites for the crewed Apollo missions."

Keith's note: John Newcomb and I recently exchanged voicemails about his book but never managed to talk. I wanted to talk to him about his Lunar Orbiter experiences. He spoke at NASA HQ just last week - but NASA does not tell people about these events. Now he is gone. Dammit. I'm glad he was able to write this book and speak to people about it such that we know what it was like to do crazy things that no one has ever done before.

Janelle Monae Will Co-Star in a Movie About the Women Behind the Space Program, Gizmodo

"This is amazing. One of our favorite musicians, Janelle Monae is co-starring in a movie about the African American women who helped launch America into space, alongside Person of Interest's Taraji P. Henson. Hidden Figures comes out in January 2017, on Martin Luther King Day weekend, and it's based on a new book that comes out in September called Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. Henson is playing Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer is playing Dorothy Vaughan, and Monae is playing the youngest of the three, Mary Jackson. The film is being directed by Ted Melfi."

Keith's note: NASA PAO confirms that they have been involved in his project from its onset.

Keith's note: Nancy Reagan has died. Thus turns the final page from an era wherein space exploration was elevated as an aspirational goal for America as well as a cause to ponder our own mortality. Only after Columbia did we again dwell on such matters as a nation. When Nancy Reagan revealed her husband's Alzheimer's diagnosis she helped part a long-standing curtain of secrecy that covered an insidious disease. She was a tireless crusader for Alzheimer's research. To my younger readers Nancy Reagan is just a name and Alzheimer's is something that is not on their radar.

A favor, if you will. The next time you watch someone from NASA, the aerospace industry, or the space community in their 50s and 60s - and you notice that they seem tired, or annoyed, or frustrated as they talk about a large program of exploration that is not doing as well as it should (or talk about one that is doing well) consider that there way be something going on behind the scenes. Having a parent with Alzheimer's can rob you of the most prized parts of your own life. Trust me.

Just as many of us in my generation reach that point in their careers - careers for which their parents sacrificed so much - and would be most proud, there is often no one left inside the parent to be proud of their child. Many older veterans from NASA's history no longer appear in public or are quoted in print. There are many reasons why, but in my experience, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are at the top of the list.

I am not asking you to do anything - other than to appreciate that there is a silent scourge that stalks the space family - just as it stalks so many others. The only thing that lessens the loss and sorrow felt by those who support those who are affected is to soar higher and further - in our case, into space.

Was The V-2 a Nazi Weapon?, Popular Science

"The short answer is that, no, the V-2 wasn't strictly speaking a Nazi weapon. The long answer is more complicated, and a lot more interesting."

Keith's note: Amy Shira Teitel who has done PR things for NASA on occasion, posted a video in December that accompanies this article wherein she splits hairs over whether the V-2 rocket was a "Nazi weapon". Of course it was. Its kind of odd that anyone would even ask that question. As Teitel happily wanders through a superficial review of German military history she seems to be thinking that because it was a German Army project before some Nazi walked in and took complete control over, that this affects whether or not to call it a "Nazi Weapon". At best this is a distinction without a difference. Anyone who has read one page in one book on World War II knows that the Nazis ran Germany - period. Teitel ends her video with a bubbly "The V2 is a really interesting rocket that played a very interesting role and it can be looked at so many different ways." Yes, it was an "interesting rocket", Amy. My father was severely injured by a V-2 that struck London - his roommates were killed by it, so I guess I am biased. But I am not alone in holding this view.

Amy Teitel can look at the always "interesting" V-2 anyway she wants from her millennial revisionist viewpoint 3/4 of a century after the fact- and she can even try to recast the V-2 as something it was not. Oddly, you never hear her mention the horrific and subhuman conditions that slaves endured to produce this "interesting rocket". I guess this is a trivial detail that gets in the way of her story telling. In the end the V-2 was created by Nazi Germany plain and simple. The V-2 is and always was a Nazi weapon. Klar, Amy?

Fred Durant, George Mueller, and Bob Farquhar Honored at The Smithsonian

"There are three displays presently located in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC honoring Fred Durant, George Mueller, and Bob Farquhar who left our planet in 2015. Ad Astra."

Heroic Junkyard Owner Says He Saved Priceless Moon Rover From Scrap Heap, Motherboard

"Tuesday, we told the sad story of a prototype NASA lunar rover that was sold by an Alabaman to a scrap yard. That is true, but there's a twist: A heroic scrap dealer has saved the buggy, which appears to be in good condition."

Someone in Alabama Sold a Priceless Lunar Rover for Scrap Metal, Motherboard

"According to documents acquired by Motherboard as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, a priceless lunar rover prototype designed for the Apollo missions was sold to a junkyard in Alabama for scrap metal sometime last year. Specific names and details are redacted in the documents, which include internal emails and reports by NASA's Office of the Inspector General, the agency responsible for investigating and recovering lost and stolen NASA property."

- Skylab Is Still Rotting in Huntsville, earlier post
- JSC Is Letting a X-38 Rot In The Rain, earlier post

Bad News From Earth

11 September 2001: Bad news from Earth, New Moon Rising

"In Washington, and all along the east coast, it was another one of those classic clear September days [Bill] Readdy had stopped to admire the previous week. While many were still on the commute into work, the attacks began. At NASA Headquarters, as with the rest of Washington DC, no one quite knew what was going on. Soon people were watching news footage of the Twin towers on fire in New York. Then came word of an explosion at the Pentagon and rumors (which later proved to be false) of another one at the State Department. Anyone looking to the west from Washington could clearly see a plume of dark smoke rising from across the Potomac. Meanwhile, rumors of another plane flying up the Potomac toward Washington made the rounds. Other rumors spread of an odd plane seen circling above the Mall. People quickly left their desks and, in the hours ahead, managed to find their way home. Soon the entire agency would either be shut down or shut off from the rest of the world. Shuttles were secured, and gates were locked."

NASA Remembers September 11th

"Upon further reflection, Culbertson said, "It's horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point. The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are."

Keith's note: As I noted last week there is a Kickstarter effort to recreate the NASA 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual - the document that spelled out how NASA's new logo aka the worm logo - was to be used by the agency. Very retro cool. So what does NASA do they release the document online for free. Why not - its a government document. One small problem: the NASA online version is a pathetically ugly scan of the document whereas the Kickstarter team is going to make their version look as nice as the original.

By all means the Reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual on Kickstarter will be a vastly superior product. They exceeded their original $158,000 and are now at $683,456. Please support it.

The Care and Feeding of the NASA Worm Logo, earlier post

Apollo-Soyuz Lessons

What We Can Learn From a Forty-Year Old Handshake in Space, Ron Garan

"For the first 15 years of my adult life, I trained to fight the Russians as a fighter pilot during the Cold War. On April 4th, 2011, two and a half decades after joining the U.S. Air Force, I stood at the base of a rocket that would take me and my two Russian crewmates, Sasha Samokutyaev and Andrei Borisenko, into space from the same launchpad as Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, fifty years before."

Related: History Remembered: The 40th Anniversary of the Flight of Apollo-Soyuz

Bernice Steadman

Bernice Steadman, part of NASA's 'Mercury 13' dies, AP

"A woman who was among 13 selected for training as possible astronauts in the early 1960s has died at her northern Michigan home. She was 89. Bernice Steadman was a member of the so-called "Mercury 13." NASA dropped the program, and it was 22 more years before a U.S. woman went to space."

Celebrate the Centennial of NASA's Predecessor: The NACA

"Today marks a special anniversary for the NASA family. It was 100 years ago, on March 3, 1915, when Congress created the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the organization from which NASA was created in 1958. The NACA was formed because our nation's leaders were concerned the U.S. was losing its edge in aviation technology to Europe, where World War 1 was raging on. Its mission, in part, was to "supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution." As you all know, we not only regained that edge, but we became the world leaders in civil aviation."

Remembrance

NASA Administrator Message: Day of Remembrance - Jan. 28, 2015

"Today we remember and give thanks for the lives and contributions of those who gave all trying to push the boundaries of human achievement. On this solemn occasion, we pause in our normal routines and remember the STS-107 Columbia crew; the STS-51L Challenger crew; the Apollo 1 crew; Mike Adams, the first in-flight fatality of the space program as he piloted the X-15 No. 3 on a research flight; and those lost in test flights and aeronautics research throughout our history."

Keith's note: NASA JSC is shutting down its Media Research Center. The MRC employees, with more than a century of collective service stretching back to the Apollo era, are being laid off effective 22 October. The building that houses this team will be closed. All materials will be put in boxes - and forgotten. This is a stupid, short-sighted decision. All too soon these boxes will get moved again and again as floor/shelf space is needed for more urgent things, labels will come off boxes, people will dig through the boxes looking for souvenirs that will end up on eBay, and the people who originally managed the contents will disappear. In so doing NASA will have lost yet another big chunk of its history.

I have seen the effect of this bad habit on NASA's part with my own eyes. Once you stop maintaing a resource like this it invariably disintegrates. Yet JSC seems to think that hosting longhorns and prairie chickens is a more important use of its limited funds.

Petitioning NASA Johnson Space Center - Please Save the Media Resource Center!, Change.org

Keith's note: Today is NASA's 56th birthday. This video contains NASA's first Administrator T. Keith Glennan delivering a message to employees of NACA about "N - A - S - A ". Is it just me or does this guy sound like Heywood Floyd during his moon base speech in "2001 A Space Odyssey"? Just sayin'.

NASA Releases Space Commerce Monograph

"NASA has released a new monograph "Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce" in the Monographs in Aerospace History series (no. 54)."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Message, SpaceRef

Marc's Note: It's hard to believe that it's been 45 years since Apollo 11. I was five years old and glued to my television like so many other people. That moment in time provided inspiration to countless people around the world.

The Hackers Who Recovered NASA's Lost Lunar Photos, Wired

"Sitting incongruously among the hangars and laboratories of NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley is the squat facade of an old McDonald's. You won't get a burger there, though-its cash registers and soft-serve machines have given way to old tape drives and modern computers run by a rogue team of hacker engineers who've rechristened the place McMoon's. These self-described techno-archaeologists have been on a mission to recover and digitize forgotten photos taken in the '60s by a quintet of scuttled lunar satellites. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Progject has since 2007 brought some 2,000 pictures back from 1,500 analog data tapes. They contain the first high-resolution photographs ever taken from behind the lunar horizon, including the first photo of an earthrise (first slide above). Thanks to the technical savvy and DIY engineering of the team at LOIRP, it's being seen at a higher resolution than was ever previously possible."

John Houbolt

NASA moon landing engineer John C. Houbolt dies at 95, AP

"John C. Houbolt, an engineer whose contributions to the U.S. space program were vital to NASA's successful moon landing in 1969, has died. He was 95. His efforts in the early 1960s are largely credited with convincing NASA to focus on the launch of a module carrying a crew from lunar orbit, rather than a rocket from earth or a space craft while orbiting the planet."

John Houbolt, Wikipedia

Keith's update: We REALLY Need this document: GSFC Document ISEE-733-74-001, Revision C, dated 28 June1976 "International Sun-Earth Explorer - A/C, Electrical Interface Specification".  Does anyone have a copy?

Keith's note: We have had multiple folks ask if we have any received data telemetry tapes from ISEE-3 or the others in the series (ISEE-1 or ISEE-2). If anyone has any of these tapes it would be incredibly useful as we could then feed them into our software radio program. We have the ability to read a lot of different formats as that is what we have been doing with the Lunar Orbiter and the Nimbus data recovery efforts. If anyone has them squirreled away in boxes anywhere it would be great to know about. Send an email to wingod - at - skycorpinc.com if you have any information on possible tapes.

Help us make ISEE-3 do science again at http://rkthb.co/42228

Tweeting JFK and NASA

Deep Space Music Network

Listening to the Deep Space Music Network, Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP)

"Dennis Wingo: A funny story from today. I was running a Lunar Orbiter tape today and all of a sudden I started hearing music coming from the audio speaker. It was really nice, staring out with a piano solo and then a couple of other pieces then a full on concert by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. It was really cool to hear this old sixties music coming across the deep space network."

Keith's note: All of the data tapes from the Lunar Orbiter program had an audio track that contained technical information by the tape drive operators at ground stations in Woomera, Goldstone, and Madrid. Usually it is technobable. Quite often there is also chatter about things in the news, and in this case, inadverdently, what was playing on the radio. Right now the LOIRP is going though a series of tapes recorded in Madrid.

- Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project website
- 1967 Audio Recording on First Anniversary of Lunar Orbiter 1 Launch
- Lunar Orbiter Photo Techs talk About Looking for Surveyor 1 & Luna 9 Landing Sites
- Video: Lunar Orbiter Techs Talk About Crater Kepler in 1967

First Earthrise Photo Taken 47 Years Ago Today

"47 Years ago today, on 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 snapped the first photo of Earth as seen from lunar orbit. While a remarkable image at the time, the full resolution of the image was never retrieved from the data stored from the mission. In 2008, this earthrise image was restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project. We obtained the original data tapes from the mission (the last surviving set) and restored original FR-900 tape drives to operational condition using both 60s era parts and modern electronics."

More information on the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Wallops History - Launching Excellence Through the Years (2010)

"Established in 1945 under NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) ... Wallops launched its first rocket on July 4, 1945. Since then, we have fulfilled our mission with the launch of more than 14,000 rockets."

Wallops Island - 60 Years of Exploration (2005)

"Since 1945, NASA's Wallops Flight Facility has launched more than 15,000 rockets from Wallops Island for science studies, technology development, and as targets for the U.S. military."

Keith's note: Lets see. 1945-2010 - that's 65 years of rocket launches - 23,725 days. If Wallops did complete 14,000 rocket launches you'd need to launch a rocket every 1.7 days nonstop for 65 years. Or if you believe the 2005 number of 15,000 launches (60 years, 21,900 days) that would require a rocket launch every 1.5 days.

I wonder if Wallops actually has records to back up these conflicting claims. Or is this just something they keep repeating - because the old hands say its true and no one really cares to check. Indeed, Wallops PAO can't even get their own grand history straight. In 2005 they claimed it was 15,000 launches. Five years later it was 14,000. How did the number go down - shouldn't it be going up? It is interesting that both numbers are exact multiples of a thousand and that they differ by exactly 1,000.

Keith's update: I asked Wallops PAO "Do you have actual statistics to support the 14,000 / 15,000 launches from Wallops claims that appear on NASA.gov webpages? Why are there different official numbers? Can you direct me to those statistics - and explain what a "rocket launch" actually means i.e. does it include model rocket launches, mortars, etc.?"

NASA at 55


NASA at 55, SpaceRef

"President Eisenhower commissioned Dr. T. Keith Glennan, right, as the first administrator for NASA and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator. The National Aeronautics and Space Act, the United States federal statute that created NASA, was signed into law 55 years ago today on July 29, 1958.

NASA officially began operations on Oct. 1, 1958, to perform civilian research related to space flight and aeronautics.
---

The Birth of NASA
By NASA's Chief Historian, Steven J. Dick
(First published March 28, 2008 for the 50th anniversary.)

It may well be argued that NASA has become the world's premier agent for exploration, carrying on in "the new ocean" of outer space a long tradition of expanding the physical and mental boundaries of humanity. Fifty (Five) years ago, however the agency that pushed the frontiers of aeronautics, took us to the moon, flew the space shuttle, built the International Space Station and revealed the secrets of the cosmos, was in its birth throes, and fundamental decisions were being made that profoundly shaped all that was to come."

Marc's note: What are your thoughts on NASA 55 years after it came into existence?


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