Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Zond 2, mysterious Soviet probe to Mars, launched 1964

Zond 2, the Soviets’ second spacecraft to Mars, was launched November 30, 1964 just two days after Mariner 4 blasted off from Cape Canaveral.  The next day, December 1, communications with Zond indicated that a serious problem had occurred.  Only half of the expected level of power was available on the spacecraft, due to one of two solar panels that did not deploy properly because of a broken tug cord.  Controllers freed the second panel by firing plasma engines to shake it loose but it was too late for a necessary mid-course maneuver to fine-tune its approach to Mars. 

On or about February 17, 1965, the controllers made a mid-course correction, but in April the communications with Zond 2 began having more problems.  On May 5, controllers were unable to raise Zond. 

It is believed Zond 2 flew by Mars on August 6, 1965 and headed into interplanetary space.

In an April 1991 article in the Electronic Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic, Andrew J. LePage speculates on the true mission of Zond 2, which he describes as “probably the most mysterious of any planetary mission…by Soviet authorities.”

In the article, he cites Zond 2’s slower trajectory to Mars, arriving several weeks after Mariner 4, despite being launched only two days after the US spacecraft.  Its trajectory also indicates that the probe would minimize speed once it approached Mars.

Two books from Russia, one a biography of the Soviets’ chief spacecraft designer Sergei Korolov and the other a story about an early Soviet Mars mission, strongly suggest Zond 2 could have been carrying a lander to touchdown on the Martian surface to test for signs of life.

However, the truth might never been known since Zond 2 hasn’t been heard from in almost fifty-two years.

June Pointer born 1953

Goddess of music and Muse June Pointer was born November 30, 1953 in Oakland, California.  She founded the super-group the Pointer Sisters with sister Bonnie in 1969 and they eventually grew into a trio to a quartet and then back to a trio, where they enjoyed their biggest successes.

She managed to have a solo career while performing with her sisters Anita and Ruth.

She left us April 11, 2006 from several forms of cancer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Enos the Chimp launched in Mercury-Atlas 5, 1961

Although the Soviets had already put two cosmonauts (Yuri Gagarin being the first) into orbit by November 1961, NASA was still debating putting a man into orbit.  On November 29, 1961, Enos, a chimpanzee, was launched in the Mercury-Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral.  He made two orbits of Earth and splashed down off the coast of Puerto Rico a little over three hours from lift-off.  Enos carried out a series of tests and came through unharmed.

The Mercury spacecraft was deemed ready for human occupants.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Space Shuttle Columbia's 6th mission, launched 1983

L-R: Mission Specialist 1 Owen K. Garriott, Payload Specialist II Byron Lichtenberg, Pilot Brewster H. Shaw, Commander John W. Young, Payload Specialist 1 Ulf Merbold, Mission Specialist 2 Robert A. Parker.

Space Shuttle Columbia blasted off November 28, 1983 on her sixth mission.  Her commander was John Young, his sixth mission as well.  It was the largest crew to date, six!!  She carried the first Spacelab moduleand the first European Space Agency representative (West German Ulf Merbold).

John Young is the 9th person to walk on the moon and the first person to make 6 space flights.  Owen Garriott, who hails from Enid, Oklahoma, spent 56 days aboard Skylab 3 in 1973.

They landed safely December 8, 1983 at Edwards.

Mariner 4, first spacecraft to fly past Mars, launched 1965

Mariner 4, launched November 28, 1965, was the first spacecraft to perform a flyby past Mars, answering the burning questions about life on the Red Planet.

It was the first spacecraft to navigate using the stars, like mariners did in old times.  Mariner 4 sent back data at a staggering, blistering speed of 8 1/2 bytes/minute!  While they waited, scientists used pastel set to color paint-by-number style the first images from Mars.  Its signals helped scientists determine the Red Planet had a thin atmosphere.

The wait was worth it as Mariner 4 took the first photos of the surface of Mars on July 14-15, 1965, passing within 9,846 km from the surface of Mars.  Communications were terminated with the spacecraft on December 21, 1967.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Soyuz 11 Cosmonaut Vladislav Nikolayevich Volkov born 1935

Cosmonaut Vladislav Nikolayevich Volkov, born November 23, 1935, blasted off June 6, 1971 on Soyuz 11, his second spaceflight.  Unfortunately, tragedy struck when he, Georgy Dobrovolsky, and Viktor Patsayev died upon re-entry June 30 when their space capsule depressurized.   At the time, cosmonauts did not wear space suits, but afterwards, the Soviets redesigned the capsules so only two cosmonauts would ride but in space suits.

The spacecraft operated correctly, the retrorockets fired and the parachutes deployed as scheduled.  When ground crews reached the capsule, they didn't see any outer damage, but when they opened the hatch, they found all three cosmonauts dead.

The Soyuz 11 cosmonauts are the only men to die in space.

What will humble abodes look like on Mars?

It probably goes without saying that the first homes on Mars will be built for substance rather than style, so what will these humble abodes look like?

Since the first settlers on the Red Planet will not be able to rely on Earth for resources, houses must be self-sustaining, providing oxygen, water and food. 

In other words, ugly.  Imagine an igloo made from red brick.  But that doesn’t mean they have to be uncomfortable.  Maybe some nice window treatments, an accent rug, throw pillows here and there…The possibilities are endless!

I realize that at first we won’t have to worry about next door neighbors or friends just dropping by but SERIOUSLY, people!  How about some PRIVACY?

The settlers will have to take equipment with them, dehumidifiers to pull water from the air, oxygen generators and 3-D printers.  Stephen Petranek, author of How We’ll Live on Mars says that 3-D printers will be absolutely necessary for Martians.  National Geographic erected a home based on Petranek’s ideas as research for a new miniseries about the Red Planet.

The first homes will be built from a cement mixture using the Martian soil, combined with recycled spacecraft parts.  Features include a double air-locked entrance, a small cooking area and a bed.

Cozy.  Let’s hope the beds are big enough for our Significant Others, tricks du jour, one-night stands...but I digress.

The entrance is necessary to protect Martians from the poisonous atmosphere, freezing temperatures and from having red dirt everywhere.  The downstairs “basement” will house the heaters, oxygen generators and dehumidifiers.

NASA plans to send people to the Red Planet in the 2030’s, but they and Petranek aren’t the only ones striving to go to our nearest neighbor.  Elon Musk has also entered the race to Mars.  His Space X company plans to put people on Mars as early as 2025.  Earlier this month, Space X resumed stage testing of a Falcon 9 rocket, which failed during a September 1 test.  Musk claims Space X claims they will be able to travel from Earth to Mars in only 80 days.

It will be a great day to see people walk on Mars, even if it isn’t me.  I removed the Red Planet and the moon from my bucket list a long time ago.  Perhaps it won’t be too far in the future, we LGBT folks turn the Red Planet into the Pink Planet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"Religious" Oklahomans select a president who isn't

Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers, senior minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC Church and professor of social justice in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University, posted this commentary in the OK Gazette.  And he doesn't pull any punches.  

He is apalled that Oklahomans who reviled Bill Clinton and his infidelities have flocked to the banner of Trump, a man who has openly cheated on his wives and mocks the sacrament of communion.  This is just the beginning, folks.  

Read on:

Happy birthday, Guion Bluford, first African-American in space!

Dr. Guion Bluford, Jr., first African-American in space, was born November 23, 1942 in Philadelphia, PA.  He entered the NASA program as an astronaut in 1979 and blasted off August 30, 1983 on his first mission in the Space Shuttle Challenger.  Dr. Bluford made a total of four shuttle missions on the Challenger and the Discovery.

He retired from the Air Force in 1993.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Oklahoma governor loses grip on reality

In an unexpected but hardly surprising announcement, Oklahoma Governor Scary Failing tells the education system, schools and teachers to step up!  Clearly, she blames the educational system, devastated in the past few years by her and the Republican-controlled government by their ruinous policies, for their own demise.

Funding for education has been cut so much that schools are going to four-day weeks, valuable after-school programs are being cancelled, and teachers are fleeing the state so fast they leave skidmarks in school parking lots.

However, not all of the blame can be laid upon the legislators.  Earlier this month, Oklahoma voters defeated State Question 779 59% to 40% which would have raised sales tax by one cent, to give teachers a $5000 raise and increase education's coffers.  Apparently, Okies want the legislators to come up with a solution other than raising taxes.  Fair enough, but what do you plan to do in the meantime while the Republicans consult with lawmakers with educational backgrounds "just as they have always been."  Maybe they were consulted but certainly not heeded.

For now, Okies will watch teachers disappear over the horizon to greener pastures, see their children's education suffer and pad the pockets of Oklahoma's legislators.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Alan B. Shepard, first American in space, born 1923

Alan Bartlett Shepard, born November 18, 1923, was the first American in space, and the fifth and oldest person to walk on the Moon!  He also hit two golf balls on the lunar surface during the Apollo 14 mission.  In 1961, he achieved sub-orbit in Freedom 7 becoming the first American in space, just weeks after Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space.

He passed away in 1998 at the age of 74.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Alan Parsons Project releases "Stereotomy" 1985

The Alan Parsons Project released their ninth studio album Stereotomy November 1985.  It contains some of the longest songs the group has recorded:  Light of the World over 6 minutes; Stereotomy (the single) over 7 minutes and (my favorite) Where's the Walrus? over 7 1/2 minutes.  All songs were written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson.

Where's the Walrus? earned APP a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance - Orchestra, Group or Soloist in 1987.  That award went to the "Top Gun Theme".  The album made it to #43 on the Billboard 200 and #32 in Canada.

I had never seen the video for Stereotomy until today.  Totally random and freaky!  I love it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Skylab 4 launched 1973

Carr, Gibson and Pogue

The third manned Skylab mission, the third and final crew to the first space station, lifted off November 16, 1973.  The crew, Commander Gerald P. Carr, Science Pilot Edward G. Gibson and Pilot William R. Pogue, spent 84 days in space, the longest period at that time.

During the mission, the crew complained they were being pushed too hard, being made to work long hours without sufficient rest.  NASA thought they weren't working hard enough or efficient enough.  On New Year's Day 1974, the crew, fed up with their work schedule, turned off their communications and enjoyed the view of Earth for a day.  NASA did not find that even remotely funny,  but their work schedule was modified and the crew completed more work than scheduled.

Part of their mission was to make observations of Comet Kohoutek.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Russian Space Shuttle Buran launched 1988

Buran on the launch pad November 15, 1988

The Soviets, trying to keep up in the space race, launched their version of the space shuttle Buran (Russian for Snowstorm) November 15, 1988.  It was the only flight of the Buran program.  She carried no crew since the life support system had not been checked out and no software on the CRT displays had been installed. It landed just 206 minutes after lift-off.

In 1988, the Soviet Union was already crumbling and no more flights were attempted.  Four more orbiters were never finished.  The Buran program was officially cancelled in 1993.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mannheim Steamroller releases "Yellowstone: The Music of Nature" 1989

Mannheim Steamroller released "Yellowstone: The Music of Nature" November 14, 1989.  The music honors the beautiful flora and fauna of Yellowstone National Park.  It contains pieces from previous Mannheim Steamroller albums but also classics from Vivaldi's Four Seasons and selections from the Grand Canyon Suite (another magnificent National Park).

Apollo 12, struck by lightning, launched 1969

Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr.; Command Module Pilot Richard F. Gordon, Jr.; Lunar Module Pilot Alan L. Bean

Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the moon, launched November 14, 1969, but was struck by lightning twice during take-off.  The crew had a narrow margin in which to launch to reach the moon, but bad weather threatened to delay take-off.

The first strike, 36 seconds after launch, triggered overload false alarms and took all three fuel cells off-line.  It also shut off much of the Command Service Module instrumentations.  The second strike, at 52 seconds knocked out the altitude indicator, but the Saturn V flew correctly.

Alan Bean remembered the Signal Conditioning Equipment (SCE) switch during training a year prior in which this problem had been simulated.  the fuel cells went back on line and telemetry was restored.  Teh mission continued and was completed successfully.

"Santa Claus Conquers The Martians" released 1964

A milestone in cinematic  history occured November 14, 1964 when Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was upon audiences everywhere!  Imagine the horror of Santa Claus and two innocent Earth children being kidnapped by terrifying Martian robots.  Imagine the suspense of Santa Claus battling evil Martians and some old guy to return to Earth but save Martian children at the same time!

A movie like this has never been seen before or since!  Praise the Lord!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Atlantis launched to rendezvous with Mir 1995

Front row: Pilot James D. Halsell, Commander Kenneth D. Cameron
Back row: Mission Specialist 3 William S. McArthur, Jr.; Mission Specialist 2 Jerry L. Ross; Mission Specialist 1 Chris A. Hadfield (Canadian Space Agency)

November 12, 1995, the Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off for its second rendezvous with the Russian Space Station Mir.  It was the fourth mission of NASA's Space Shuttle and Russia's Mir joint program.  Atlantis would make a total of seven trips to the space station.

She had been scheduled to blast off on Nov 11 but bad weather caused the launch to abort.  Atlantis returned to Earth eight days later.

The Pointer Sisters release "Energy" 1978

"Energy" the fifth studio album by my girls (the Pointer Sisters) was released in November 1978.  They had split up briefly after Bonnie left the group but reformed and came back strong.  The album included a cover of "Fire" by Bruce Springsteen, who wasn't too happy their version did much better than his.

It was their first gold certified album since "That's A-Plenty" released in 1974.  "Happiness" is an awesome song but "Hypnotized" is my favorite.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Gemini XII launches 1966

James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin blasted off in Gemini XII November 11, 1966, the final mission of the Gemini project.  Aldrin performed three EVA's, proving that a person could work effectively outside the spacecraft.  The success of  the mission paved the way for the Apollo mission.

And they got to observe a solar eclipse from space.  How cool is that!?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Star Trek: The Corbomite Maneuver" airs 1966

"The Corbomite Maneuver" the tenth episode (although the third one produced) of Season 1 of Star Trek (the original series) aired November 10, 1966.  Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, made an appearance as the diminuitive Balok, an alien show threatens to destroy the Enterprise.

But doesn't.  He was just jerking their chain.  Kirk makes up a substance known as "corbomite" to bluff their way out of the situation, but Balok, whether he buys it or not, invites the crew over for some 'tranya' and social intercourse.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Discovery's second flight (STS-51-A) launches 1984

Mission Specialist Dale A. Gardner

Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off November 8, 1984 on its second voyage, the fourteenth shuttle mission for NASA.  It deployed two satellites and retrieved two others, which were malfunctioning.  The Palapa B2 and Westar 6 communication satellites had been deployed by the Space Shuttle Columbia in February 1984.  Mission Specialists Joseph Allen and Dale Gardner performed tetherless EVA's to retrieve the satellites.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Surveyor 6 launched 1967; First liftoff from the Moon!

The sixth Surveyor in the series and the fourth to achieve a soft landing on the moon launched November 7, 1967.  Its primary goals were to validate technology for the Apollo project to achieve a soft landing and to determine the relative abundance of chemical elements in the soil.

Surveyor 6 landed November 10 and a week later, its engines fired for 2.5 seconds.  It lifted off the surface about 3-4 meters and came to rest about 8 feet west of its original position, becoming the first powered take off from the Moon.

NASA put Surveyor 6 into hibernation mode on November 26 in preparation for the two-week lunar night and re-established contact on December 14, but no useful data was obtained.

How could it gather data if it was in hibernation mode?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Godzilla roars onto the screen 1954!

Our favorite G-Man, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, premiered November 3, 1954 in Japan.  American audiences would have to wait a little longer to watch it.  Toho Company probably didn't realize how successful the Godzilla franchise would become.  He's starred in over 30 movies (not even counting the Matthew Broderick movie with the same name).

If anyone knows where Godzilla: Resurgence is playing in the U.S. please let me know!

Laika, first lady in space, aboard Sputnik 2 1957


Laika, the first animal in space, was launched aboard Sputnik 2, November 3, 1957.  Laika proved that humans could survive the launch process but the Soviets had not devised a return to Earth and recovery method (did they care?) so Laika died in orbit.

The adorable little mongrel was found wandering the streets of Moscow so  Soviet scientists figured she had already experienced extreme cold and hunger.  (I suppose they did care. A little.)  Laika has been described as 'quiet and charming'.  Of course, she was.  She  thought she had been rescued  from the streets, not knowing she was going to be sacrificed to science.

Laika's Memorial 

She has been immortalized in space history forever as the first woman in space!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

USSR launches Mars 1 probe 1962

The former Soviet Union launched the first of its Mars probes, Mars 1, November 1, 1962.  It was intended to perform a flyby of Mars from 6800 miles and until March 1963, it continued to send back large volumes of data on interplanetary space. However, on March 21, 1963 communications ended when (it is assumed) Mars 1's antennae could be oriented to receive commands from Earth.

On June 13, 1963, it made its closest approach to Mars, about 120,000 miles, and then entered a heliocentric orbit.