Tag: Human Spaceflight

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The depressing part about the commemoration of the Apollo 11 moon landing is that it marked the absolute peak of American greatness and achievement, and everything since then has been a long retreat and decline. Obviously, in space exploration, not only did we not push on to Mars or build a moonbase, but instead retreated […]

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Building an Apollo Simulator

 

For two years, I’ve been working to program and build a complete Apollo space flight simulator to use in my physics classes. When I say “complete,” I mean not just a computer program that lets you fly, but a mock-up of the spacecraft control panels and the entire Mission Control, as well.

I’m a physicist, and I do a lot of computer programming in my research, so I started with writing a Python language program to handle the physics of space flight. The basic idea is that, given a starting position and speed, you add up the forces acting on the spacecraft (gravity, atmospheric drag, engines), and from that you get the acceleration. That gives you, in turn, the new position and speed. Step the clock forward a fraction of a second, and repeat. I have a lot of computer engineering students in my class, so it fit naturally with the lessons.

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To the Moon! 50th Anniversary Year Starts

 

This is the 50th anniversary of Americans reaching the Moon, fulfilling President Kennedy’s challenge, to reach the Moon and safely return, before the end of the 1960s. The first man set foot on the Moon, 20 July 1969. This week marks the beginning of the methodical series of Apollo missions that led up to Apollo 11.

On 11 October 1968, Apollo 7 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, carrying a full crew, to simulate the crew going to the moon. The lunar module was not yet ready for live testing, so that component was not included. The three-man crew was Walter M. Schirra, Jr., commander, Donn F. Eisele, command module pilot, and Walter Cunningham, lunar module pilot.

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Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the Moon, died yesterday at age 86. Only four moon walkers are alive. I’ve met: Bean R.I.P. (Apollo 12) More

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This Week’s Book Review – The History of Human Space Flight

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Sunday. When it appears, I post the previous week’s review on Ricochet.
Seawriter
Book Review 
Reaching for the sky
By MARK LARDAS
“The History of Human Space Flight,” by Ted Spitzmiller, University Press of Florida, 2017, 648 pages, hardcover, $39.95
The Space Age opened in 1957 with the launching of Sputnik I. Humans began traveling in outer space soon after that and have been a space-traveling race for over half a century.

“The History of Human Space Flight,” by Ted Spitzmiller, attempts to capture that history — all of it.

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There is a great article over at ArsTechnica on the internal debate at NASA, Where next? http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/12/time-to-choose-between-the-moon-and-mars-or-nasa-isnt-going-anywhere/ More

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My publisher (the wonderful Baen Books) is running a sale just in time for Father’s Day. Starting Wednesday, Farside and Perigee will be available through all of your favorite ebook outlets for the obscenely low price of 99 cents. (Hint: Read Perigee first. It’s a SERIES.) This is a limited-time, don’t-miss chance to score Dad (or yourself) a […]

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Saturday Night Science: Humans to Mars

 

“Humans to Mars” by David S. F. PortreeEver since people began to think seriously about the prospects for space travel, visionaries have looked beyond the near-term prospects — flights into Earth orbit, space stations, and even journeys to the Moon — and toward the red planet: Mars. Unlike Venus, eternally shrouded by clouds, or the other planets which were too hot or cold to sustain life as we know it, Mars, about half the size of the Earth, had an atmosphere, a day just a little longer than the Earth’s, seasons, and polar caps which grew and shrank with the seasons. There were no oceans, but water from the polar caps might sustain life on the surface, and there are dark markings that appeared to change during the martian year. Some people interpreted this as plant life that flourished as polar caps melted in the spring and receded as they grew in the fall.

In an age where we have high-resolution imagery of the entire martian globe — obtained from orbiting spacecraft, telescopes orbiting Earth, and ground-based telescopes with advanced electronic instrumentation — it is often difficult to remember just how little was known about Mars in the 1950s, when people first started to think about how we might go there. Mars is the next planet outward from the Sun, so its distance and apparent size vary substantially depending upon its relative position to Earth in their respective orbits. About every two years, Earth “laps” Mars and it is closest (“at opposition”) and most easily observed. But because the orbit of Mars is elliptic, its distance varies from one opposition to the next, and it is only every 15 to 17 years that a near-simultaneous opposition and perihelion render Mars most accessible to Earth-based observation.

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