Remembering Columbia and Crew

The STS-107 crew includes, from the left, Mission Specialist David Brown, Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Michael Anderson, Pilot William McCool and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon. (NASA photo)

Images credit & copyright: NASA and the crew of STS-107 Columbia.

“And for the whole time I was growing up, for as long as I can remember, any time anyone asked me what I wanted to be it was, “I want to be an astronaut.” – Commander Rick Husband.

Crew of STS-107 Columbia (left to right):

David M. Brown: Born, April 16, 1956: Son. Naval aviator, test pilot and flight surgeon; Brown worked on a number of scientific experiments and this was his first spaceflight.

Rick D. Husband: Born, July 12, 1957: Son, father, husband. STS-107 commander, U.S. Air Force Colonel and mechanical engineer, who piloted a Discovery during the first docking with the International Space Station (STS-96).

Laurel Blair Salton Clark: Born, March 10, 1961: Daughter, mother, wife. U.S. Navy captain and flight surgeon; Clark worked on a number of biological experiments and this was her first spaceflight.

Kalpana Chawla: Born, March 17, 1962: Daughter, wife. Indian-born aerospace engineer and first Indian-American astronaut and this was her second spaceflight as she flew onboard Columbia during STS-87.

Michael P. Anderson: Born, December 25, 1959: Son, father, husband. U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and physicist who was in charge of the science mission and this was his second spaceflight as he also flew on STS-89 which saw Endeavour venture to Mir space station.

William C. McCool: Born, September 23, 1961: Son, father, husband. U.S. Navy commander, naval aviator, STS-107 mission pilot and this was his first spaceflight.

Ilan Ramon: Born, June 20, 1954: Son, father, husband. Colonel in the Israeli Air Force, veteran of Operation Opera, the first Israeli astronaut and this was his first spaceflight.

“This cause of exploration and discovery is not an option we choose; it is a desire written in the human heart. We are that part of creation which seeks to understand all creation. We find the best among us, send them forth into unmapped darkness, and pray they will return. They go in peace for all mankind, and all mankind is in their debt.”George W. Bush February 4, 2003 at the STS-107 Memorial Service at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston TX.

January 16, 2003; the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program was to be OV-102’s 28th and final flight as Columbia launched into the Florida sky from Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) as STS-107. The 16 day mission went as planned but it was unknown at the time , that Columbia had a massive hole in the leading edge of its left wing that it suffered during launch. A piece of orange external fuel tank foam broke free and struck the orbiter in flight. After reviewing the debris strike video, it was determined that it was unlikely that the event caused damage as this was a relatively common phenomenon.

January 16, 2003: The crew of STS-107 Columbia walk out to the transfer van that will take them to LC-39A and their ride to space

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Remembering Challenger and Crew

Images credit & copyright: NASA.

“I cannot join the space program and restart my life as an astronaut, but this opportunity to connect my abilities as an educator with my interests in history and space is a unique opportunity to fulfill my early fantasies.” -Christa McAuliffe

STS-51-L Challenger Crew: (Clockwise from top-left).

Ellison Onizuka: Born: June 24, 1946: Air Force Veteran, first Asian American & first of Japanese ancestry to reach space as a member of STS-51-C. He held a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from U Colorado at Boulder.

Christa McAuliffe: Born: September 2, 1948: she was the winner of the teacher in space contest, from Concord NH with a bachelors in Education and History from Framingham State College and a Master of Arts degree from Bowie State University. This was to be her first spaceflight.

Gregory Jarvis: Born: August 24, 1944: Air Force veteran with a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University, Boston MA. This was to be his first space flight.

Judith Resnik: Born: April 5, 1949: PHD in Electrical Engineering from U Maryland and second U.S. female astronaut in space with shuttle mission STS-41-D.

Ronald McNair: Born: October 21, 1950: Physicist from MIT, black belt karate instructor and veteran of STS-41-B whose mission was delivery of two Hughes 376 communication satellites as well as the mission that saw the first use of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) and first use of the Canadarm which was operated by McNair himself.

Dick Scobee: Born: May 19, 1939: Veteran of the Air Force, aerospace research pilot with a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona and veteran of STS-41-C.

Michael Smith: Born: April 30, 1945: NAVY Pilot, and Flight Instructor. He attended US Naval Post-Grad at Monterey CA. This was to be his 1st space flight.

“The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” Thank you. – Ronald Regan in his address to the nation.

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Apollo One Remembered “Ad Astra Per Aspera”

Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee at LC-34 on January 17, 1967

Images & video credit & copyright: NASA. Many images and videos below.

Ad Astra Per Aspera, or as it’s more commonly spoken, Per Aspera Ad Astra; “Through Hardship to the Stars.”

“If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.” – Virgil I. “GUS” Grissom after the Gemini 3 mission in 1965.

Most enter the final week of January as any other. Days begin to grow longer as the chill of winter brings its worst, while thoughts of spring begin to thaw our minds so long as we can dodge a few more winter storms. There are many of us however, that view this 6 day period in an entirely different light. This is a week that we remember NASA’s darkest week and the terrible loss suffered through the years. It’s a week that, over the course of a couple generations witnessed 17 Astronauts meet their ends. I will, in the next few days do my best to help us all remember them, how much they meant to the industry, and how much they meant to those of us who remember them every day even though we had never met them.

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Total Lunar Eclipse Tomorrow Night!

Images and illustrations credit & copyright: Eclipse images are mine and illustrations are via Sky & Telescope.

Head’s up! Sunday, January 20, (tomorrow night) and into the morning of Monday, January 21, 2019, the Earth will pass directly between the Sun and Moon, creating a total lunar eclipse with a totality of 63 minutes. This total lunar eclipse will be visible throughout the America’s (North and South) as well as Iceland, Greenland, Western Europe and Western Africa.

What is a lunar eclipse?

Typically there are two lunar and two solar eclipses every year to varying degrees. Sometimes it’s a partial and sometimes it’s a total with the Sun having a couple more possibilities like the annular and hybrid eclipses in there as well. When one happens, the other will take place two weeks later. Unlike a solar eclipse where the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, casting the Moon’s shadow upon us, a lunar eclipse is where the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon, casting the Earth’s shadow upon the Moon.

The shadow of the Earth has a couple different conical regions that extend from the earth outward and are set up in a target-like fashion. It has the outer shadow cone; the penumbra and the inner shadow cone; the umbra. When the Moon wanders into the Penumbra (outer region) somewhere on the Earth will witness a partial lunar eclipse. If all the Moon does is enter and exit through the penumbra, the entire event will just be a partial lunar eclipse. However if the Moon’s path takes it through the center of Earth’s shadow it will encounter the umbra and thus somewhere on Earth will witness a total lunar eclipse. A total lunar eclipse always starts and ends with a partial eclipse.

Not anywhere near as dramatic as a total solar eclipse, the total lunar eclipse has some benefits of its own. Where a total solar eclipse can only be seen along a relatively narrow path called the “Path of Totality,” a total lunar eclipse is usually witnessed by half the planet. Also a total solar eclipse’s totality lasts only a few minutes while a lunar eclipse’s totality can potentially last more than two hours.

Why does a total lunar eclipse appear red/orange?

When the Earth gets between the Sun and the Moon, all direct light from the Sun is blocked from reaching the Moon. The only light that reaches the lunar surface is sunlight that’s been refracted through Earth’s atmosphere. This process scatters blue light away (Rayleigh scattering) leaving only red wavelengths available to make their way to the Moon.

What will I need to see this event?

Not much. The only requirements are clear skies and to be in an area where the eclipse is visible from. Even if it’s cloudy, if you can catch a break during totality you can still see it because it’s a fairly long lasting event. If you have a telescope and or binoculars, great have at it but you don’t need it. You also don’t need dark skies because you’re looking at the brightest object on the night sky, the full moon. So grab a blanket, some friends and go witness a beautiful celestial event.

My 2019 eclipse page:

Time and Date (use the bar about half way down on the right to find your specific times):

Sky & Telescope page for this event:

Dominic Ford’s “In The Sky” page for this event:

Fred Espenak’s “EclipseWise” page for this event:

Apogee & Perigee Calculator:

The Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Color:

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Milky Way at Crater Lake

Image credit & copyright: Rick Parchen.

I hope that everyone’s having a great weekend and let’s keep it rolling with this image of the Milky Way over Oregon’s Crater Lake as seen by Rick Parchen.

A quick bit of information on Crater Lake; (formerly Mount Mazama) erupted about 7700 years ago creating the beautiful vista seen today. Its crater is 2148 ft. deep (though filled to a maximum of 1943 ft. with water), and about six miles long at its widest point. An interesting fact is that there are no rivers in or out of the caldera lake and its estimated that its water contained within comes only from snow melt and precipitation and the rate of evaporation would about 250 years to fully evaporate all the water out of the lake should all intake cease.

While evaporation takes place, new water is being rained, snowed and melted in to create a fresh supply. Two small islands stand out of the water’s surface, “Wizard Island” (the prominent cinder cone island) as well as “Phantom Ship.” Another interesting feature is the “Old Man of the Lake;” a tree stump (Formerly a full sized tree) that’s been bobbing up and down in place for over a century. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, the second deepest lake in North America (after Great Slave Lake in Canada) and 7th deepest lake in the world.

Rick Parchen Photography:





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SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Goes Vertical at LC-39A

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX.

Things are heating up at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as on the morning of Thursday, January 3, SpaceX rolled out their beautiful, long awaited Crew Dragon (Dragon 2) to Launch Complex 39A on Falcon 9 booster B1051.1. That afternoon, Dragon D2-1 (C202) and rocket went vertical, creating a beautiful, thought provoking display. Demonstration Mission 1 (DM-1) is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, January 17 with updates to come as we close in. This first flight will be an uncrewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS) with DM-2 possibly being crewed if all goes well with DM-1 and the in-flight abort test.

SpaceX DM-1 Campaign Thread:



Elon Musk Twitter:

Elon Musk Instagram:

SpaceX Twitter:

SpaceX Instagram:

SpaceX YouTube:

SpaceX Google Plus:

SpaceX Flickr:

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Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 6217

Image credit & copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

This incredible image of barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 was the first image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope after the completion of STS-125 Atlantis’s Hubble Servicing Mission 4 (HSM4). This galaxy at 44,000 light years in diameter is less than half the diameter of the Milky Way and resides 60 million years into the past in the constellation Ursa Minor.

This city is very much alive with star formation as can be seen in the pink regions, where newborn stars are coming to life all throughout the two major arms. Those arms are also alive with young bright blue stars creating an amazing color contrast. At the nucleus the telltale sign of yellow ancient stars glows, showing traces of gas and dust lanes.

Name: NGC 6217.

What is it?: Barred Spiral Galaxy.

How big is it?: 44,000 light years in diameter.

How far away is it?: 60 million light years.

Apparent magnitude: 11.2.

Where is it (general)?: Constellation Ursa Minor and the asterism of the Little Dipper.

Where is it (exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 16h 32m 39s.2 / DEC +78° 11′ 53″.

NASA Hubblesite News Center page for this image:

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