Alan Shepard: First American in Space, Space

Alan Shepard: First American in Space

Alan Shepard became the first American in space when the Freedom 7 spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 5, 1961, aboard a Mercury-Redstone rocket. Ten years later, Shepard would leave Earth’s atmosphere again to become the fifth man to walk on the moon — and the first one to play a bit of lunar golf.

Born on Nov. 18, 1923, to Renza Emerson and Alan Shepard, Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. grew up in rural New Hampshire. After graduating from high school, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated on June 7, 1944, one day after D-Day. Shepard spent the last year of World War II on a destroyer in the Pacific.

During the next 15 years, Shepard served in the Navy in various capacities. He received a civilian pilot’s license while in naval flight training and spent several tours on aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean. He attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1950 and participated in developmental tests for various aircraft. He also tested landing on the first angled carrier deck. Shepard later became an instructor in the Test Pilot School and logged more than 8,000 hours of flight time during his career. [Photos: Freedom 7, America’s 1st Human Spaceflight]

He attended the Naval War College in Rhode Island and following his 1957 graduation, was assigned as an aircraft readiness officer on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet.

Shepard’s time with NASA

In 1959, 110 test pilots were invited to volunteer for the spaceflight program headed by the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Although Shepard was on the list, his invitation was misplaced and he initially did not receive an offer, according to NASA. Regardless, he was eventually selected as one of the first seven astronauts for the organization. Known as the Mercury 7, the group included John Glenn, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Donald “Deke” Slayton, Malcolm “Scott” Carpenter, Walter “Wally” Schirra and Gordon Cooper. From this prestigious group of highly trained fliers, Shepard was selected to pilot the first flight into space, with Glenn acting as his backup.

The stakes were raised in the space race on April 15, 1961, when the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space and he became the first person to orbit the Earth, flying in space for 108 minutes.

The Soviets beat the Americans by less than a month. Shepard’s launch was initially scheduled for May 2 but was rescheduled twice because of weather conditions. On May 5, Freedom 7 lifted off, carrying Shepard to an altitude of 116 miles (187 kilometers) for a 15-minute suborbital flight. Because of the placement of the porthole windows, the first American in space was unable to catch a glimpse of the stars, and he was strapped in too tight to experience weightlessness. Also, a filter left on the periscope window made the Earth appear black and white. [Mercury Redstone 3: Photos from Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Spaceflight]

Although the Soviets had reached the historic milestone first, and Gagarin had achieved a longer orbital flight, Shepard’s suborbital flight still made a significant worldwide impact. Unlike with Gagarin, Shepard’s launch, flight and splashdown were watched on live television by millions of people. While Gagarin’s name was publicized, many of the details of his flight were kept confidential for more than a decade – such as the fact that he parachuted to Earth, rather than landing in his spacecraft. For Shepard’s daring achievement, U.S. President John F. Kennedy awarded him the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. [Infographic: America’s First Spaceship: Project Mercury]

Shepard worked on the ground for subsequent flights in the Mercury program and was scheduled to pilot the Mercury 10 mission. But after successfully putting an astronaut in orbit for a full day in 1963 with Faith 7 (piloted by Gordon Cooper), NASA decided to close the first manned space program and move on with Gemini, the next step on the journey toward the moon. Astronauts in Gemini practiced docking spacecraft in orbit and performing spacewalks, two skills that would be required for moon landings.

NASA selected Shepard to be part of the first crewed Gemini mission, which was called Gemini 3. However, he woke one morning dizzy and nauseated, and found himself falling constantly. He was subsequently diagnosed with Ménière’s disease. Fluid in his inner ear had built up, increasing the sensitivity of the semicircular canals and causing vertigo. Shepard was grounded in 1963, forbidden from solo flights in jet planes and from traveling in space.

Shepard switched gears, taking over as the Chief of the Astronaut Office for NASA. He oversaw the activities, training and schedules of the astronauts, and assisted with mission planning.

In 1969, Shepard underwent an operation that resolved his disease and allowed him to regain full flight status. Shepard, Stuart Roosa and Ed Mitchell were initially scheduled to fly on Apollo 13, but they were pushed back a mission to give everyone extra training, especially Shepard. Shepard was subsequently named commander for the Apollo 14 mission to the moon. This meant that when the Apollo 13 spacecraft was badly crippled by an explosion during its voyage and had to make an emergency return to Earth, Shepard was not on board. His crew also benefited from safety improvements to the spacecraft following the Apollo 13 flight, such as changes to the electrical wiring. [Lunar Legacy: 45 Apollo moon Mission Photos]

To the moon

Shepard blasted back into space from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 31, 1971. He and Mitchell landed in the Fra Mauro highlands on the lunar surface on Feb. 7. At age 47, Shepard was the oldest astronaut in the space program at the time. Before leaving the lunar surface, Shepard, an avid golfer, unfolded a collapsible golf club and hit two balls. The first landed in a nearby crater, but according to Shepard, the second flew for “miles and miles.” (In reality, the second ball likely landed about 655 feet away, or 200 meters, according to partner site collectSPACE.)

Shepard and Mitchell spent more than 33 hours on the moon, the longest time any crew had stayed up to that mission. Shepard and Mitchell also spent more time outside of their craft than previous astronauts had, logging 9 hours and 17 minutes. They brought home 94 pounds (nearly 43 kilograms) of lunar samples, including two rocks exceeding 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) apiece.

Over his two space flights, Shepard logged a total of 216 hours and 57 minutes in space.

Shepard’s legacy

After Apollo 14, Shepard continued his crucial behind-the-scenes role as the Chief Astronaut at NASA, making him the person responsible for astronaut training and giving him a voice in deciding which astronauts would be flying in the Gemini program. Many of the astronauts in Gemini went on to fly the Apollo missions, with several Gemini veterans even making it to the moon.

In 1974, Shepard retired from NASA as a rear admiral. He started working in the private sector and created an umbrella company for his diverse business interests, Seven Fourteen Enterprises, named for the Freedom 7 and Apollo 14 missions.

In 1984, he worked with the other surviving Mercury astronauts and the widow of Apollo 1 victim Gus Grissom to establish the Mercury Seven Foundation. Later renamed the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, the organization is still in existence today and raises money for college students studying science and engineering.

Shepard died on July 21, 1998, from complications of leukemia, at age 74. His wife died just over a month later, on Aug. 25.

Chapter 4

First us manned space flight

View of the moon from Apollo 8.

[ 97 ] NASA’s first four manned spaceflight projects were Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab. As the first U.S. manned spaceflight project, Project Mercury-which included two manned suborbital flights and four orbital flights-“fostered Project Apollo and fathered Project Gemini.” 1 The second manned spaceflight project initiated was the Apollo manned lunar exploration program. The national goal of a manned lunar landing in the 1960s was set forth by President John F. Kennedy 25 May 1961:

. . . I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goals, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon-if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. 2

The interim Project Gemini, completed in 1966, was conducted to provide spaceflight experience, techniques, and training in preparation for the complexities of Apollo lunar-landing missions. Project Skylab was originality conceived as a program to use hardware developed for Project Apollo in related manned spaceflight missions; it evolved into the Orbital Workshop program with three record-breaking missions in 1973-1974 to man the laboratory in earth orbit, producing new data on the sun, earth resources, materials technology, and effects of space on man.

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was an icebreaking effort in international cooperation. The United States and the U.S.S.R. were to fly a joint mission in 1975 to test new systems that permitted their spacecraft to dock with each other in orbit, for space rescue or joint research.

As technology and experience broadened man’s ability to explore and use space, post-Apollo planning called for ways to make access to space more practical, more economical, nearer to routine. Early advanced studies grew into the Space Shuttle program. Development of the reusable space transportation system, to be used for most of the Nation’s manned and unmanned missions in the 1980s, became the major focus of NASA’s program for the 1970s. European nations cooperated by undertaking development of Spacelab, a pressurized, reusable laboratory to be flown in the Shuttle.

Apollo 11 command and service module being readied for transport to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, in left photo. Apollo 11 Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., below, setting up an experiment on the moon next to the lunar module. Opposite: the Greek god Apollo (courtesy of George Washington University).

[ 99 ] APOLLO . In July 1960 NASA was preparing to implement its long-range plan beyond Project Mercury and to introduce a manned circumlunar mission project-then unnamed-at the NASA/Industry Program Plans Conference in Washington. Abe Silverstein, Director of Space Flight Development, proposed the name “Apollo” because it was the name of a god in ancient Greek mythology with attractive connotations and the precedent for naming manned spaceflight projects for mythological gods and heroes had been set with Mercury. 1 Apollo was god of archery, prophecy, poetry, and music, and most significantly he was god of the sun. In his horse-drawn golden chariot, Apollo pulled the sun in its course across the sky each day. 2 NASA approved the name and publicly announced “Project Apollo” at the July 28-29 conference. 3

Project Apollo took new form when the goal of a manned lunar landing was proposed to the Congress by President John F. Kennedy 25 May 1961 and was subsequently approved by the Congress. It was a program of three-man flights, leading to the landing of men on the moon. Rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit of Apollo spacecraft components were vital techniques for the intricate flight to and return from the moon.

The Apollo spacecraft consisted of the command module, serving as the crew’s quarters and flight control section; the service module, containing propulsion and spacecraft support systems; and the lunar module, carrying [ 100 ] two crewmen to the lunar surface, supporting them on the moon, and returning them to the command and service module in lunar orbit. Module designations came into use in 1962, when NASA made basic decisions on the flight mode (lunar orbit rendezvous), the boosters, and the spacecraft for Project Apollo. From that time until June 1966, the lunar module was called “lunar excursion module (LEM).” It was renamed by the NASA Project Designation Committee because the word “excursion” implied mobility on the moon and this vehicle did not have that capability. 4 The later Apollo flights, beginning with Apollo 15, carried the lunar roving vehicle (LRV), or “Rover,” to provide greater mobility for the astronauts while on the surface of the moon.

Beginning with the flight of Apollo 9, code names for both the command and service module (CSM) and lunar module (LM) were chosen by the astronauts who were to fly on each mission. The code names were: Apollo 9-“Gumdrop” (CSM), “Spider” (LM); Apollo 10-“Charlie Brown” (CSM), “Snoopy” (LM); Apollo 11-“Columbia” (CSM), “Eagle” (LM); Apollo 12-“Yankee Clipper” (CSM), “Intrepid” (LM); Apollo 13-“Odyssey” (CSM), “Aquarius” (LM); Apollo 14-“Kitty Hawk” (CSM), “Antares” (LM); Apollo 15-“Endeavour” (CSM), “Falcon” (LM); Apollo 16-“Casper” (CSM), “Orion” (LM); Apollo 17-“America” (CSM); “Challenger” (LM).

The formula for numbering Apollo missions was altered when the three astronauts scheduled for the first manned flight lost their lives in a flash fire during launch rehearsal 27 January 1967. In honor of Astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee, the planned mission was given the name “Apollo l ” although it was not launched. Carrying the prelaunch designation AS-204 for the fourth launch in the Apollo Saturn IB series, the mission was officially recorded as “First manned Apollo Saturn flight-failed on ground test. “

Manned Spacecraft Center Deputy Director George M. Low had urged consideration of the request from the astronauts’ widows that the designation “Apollo l”-used by the astronauts publicly and included on their insignia-be retained. NASA Headquarters Office of Manned Space Flight therefore recommended the new numbering, and the NASA Project Designation Committee announced approval 3 April 1967.

The earlier, unmanned Apollo Saturn IB missions AS-201, AS-202, and AS-203 were not given “Apollo” flight numbers and no missions were named “Apollo 2” and “Apollo 3.” The next mission flown, the first Saturn V flight (AS-501, for Apollo Saturn V No. 1), skipped numbers.

Lunar Rover parked on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission.

. 2 and 3 to become Apollo 4 after launch into orbit 9 November 1967. Subsequent flights continued the sequence through 17. 5

The Apollo program carried the first men beyond the earth’s field of gravity and around the moon on Apollo 8 in December 1968 and landed the first men on the moon in Apollo 11 on 20 July 1969. The program concluded with Apollo 17 in December 1972 after putting 27 men into lunar orbit and 12 of them on the surface of the moon. Data, photos, and lunar samples brought to earth- by the astronauts and data from experiments they left on the moon-still transmitting data in 1974-began to give a picture of the moon’s origin and nature, contributing to understanding of how the earth had evolved.

APOLLO-SOYUZ TEST PROJECT (ASTP) . The first international manned space project, the joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. rendezvous and docking mission took its name from the spacecraft to be used, the American Apollo and the Soviet Soyuz.

On 15 September 1969, two months after the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, the President’s Space Task Group made its recommendations on the future U.S. space program. One objective was broad international.

The Apollo spacecraft approaches the Soyuz for docking in orbit, in the artist’s conception at top. Cosmonaut Aleksey A. Leonov and Astronaut Donald K. Slayton check out the docking module in a 1974 training session.

[ 103 ] . participation, and President Nixon included this goal in his March 1970 Space Policy Statement. The President earlier had approved NASA plans for increasing international cooperation in an informal meeting with Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Presidential Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry A. Kissinger, and NASA Administrator Thomas 0. Paine aboard Air Force One while flying to the July Apollo 11 splashdown. 1

The United States had invited the U.S.S.R. to participate in experiments and information exchange over the past years. Now Dr. Paine sent Soviet Academy of Sciences President Mstislav V. Keldysh a copy of the U.S. post-Apollo plans and suggested exploration of cooperative programs. In April 1970 Dr. Paine suggested, in an informal meeting with Academician Anatoly A. Blagonravov in New York, that the two nations cooperate on astronaut safety, including compatible docking equipment on space stations and shuttles to permit rescue operations in space emergencies. Further discussions led to a 28 October 1970 agreement on joint efforts to design compatible docking arrangements. Three working groups were set up. Agreements on further details were reached in Houston, Texas, 21-25 June 1971 and in Moscow 29 November-6 December 1971. NASA Deputy Administrator George M. Low and a delegation met with a Soviet delegation in Moscow 4-6 April 1972 to draw up a plan for docking a U.S. Apollo spacecraft with a Russian Soyuz in earth orbit in 1975. 2

Final official approval came in Moscow on 24 May 1972. U.S. President Nixon and U.S.S.R. Premier Aleksey N. Kosygin signed the Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes, including development of compatible spacecraft docking systems to improve safety of manned space flight and to make joint scientific experiments possible. The first flight to test the systems was to be in 1975, with modified Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft. Beyond this mission, future manned spacecraft of the two nations would be able to dock with each other. 3

During work that followed, engineers at Manned Spacecraft Center (renamed Johnson Space Center in 1973) shortened the lengthy “joint rendezvous and docking mission” to “Rendock,” as a handy project name. But the NASA Project Designation Committee in June 1972 approved the official designation as “Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP),” incorporating the names of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. spacecraft. The designation was sometimes written “Apollo/Soyuz Test Project,” but the form “Apollo Soyuz Test Project” was eventually adopted. NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences announced the official ASTP emblem in March 1974. The circular emblem displayed the English word “Apollo” and the Russian [ 104 ] word ” Soyuz” on either side of a center globe with a superimposed silhouette of the docked spacecraft. 4

Scheduled for July 1975, the first international manned space mission would carry out experiments with astronauts and cosmonauts working together, in addition to testing the new docking systems and procedures. A three-module, two-man Soviet Soyuz was to be launched from the U.S.S.R.’s Baykonur Cosmodrome near Tyuratam on 15 July. Some hours later the modified Apollo command and service module with added docking module and a three-man crew would lift off on the Apollo-Skylab Saturn IB launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center, to link up with the Soyuz. The cylindrical docking module would serve as an airlock for transfer of crewmen between the different atmospheres of the two spacecraft. After two days of flying joined in orbit, with crews working together, the spacecraft would undock for separate activities before returning to the earth. 5

GEMINI . In 1961 planning was begun on an earth-orbital rendezvous program to follow the Mercury project and prepare for Apollo missions. The improved or “Advanced Mercury” concept was designated “Mercury Mark II” by Glenn F. Bailey, NASA Space Task Group Contracting Officer, and John Y. Brown of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. 1 The two-man spacecraft was based on the one-man Mercury capsule, enlarged and made capable of longer flights. Its major purposes were to develop the technique of rendezvous in space with another spacecraft and to extend orbital flight time.

NASA Headquarters personnel were asked for proposals for an appropriate name for the project and, in a December 1961 speech at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., then NASA Associate Administrator, described Mercury Mark II, adding an offer of a token reward to the person suggesting the name finally accepted. A member of the audience sent him the name “Gemini.” Meanwhile, Alex P. Nagy in NASA’s Office of Manned Space Flight also had proposed ” Gemini.” Dr. Seamans recognized both as authors of the name. 2

“Gemini,” meaning “twins” in Latin, was the name of the third constellation of the zodiac, made up of the twin stars Castor and Pollux. To Nagy it seemed an appropriate connotation for the two-man crew, a rendezvous mission, and the project’s relationship to Mercury. Another connotation of the mythological twins was that they were considered to be the patron gods of voyagers. 3 The nomination was selected from several made in NASA Headquarters, including “Diana,” “Valiant,” and “Orpheus”.

The Gemini 7 spacecraft was photographed from the window of Gemini 6 during rendezvous maneuvers 15 December 1965. Castor and Pollux, the Gemini of mythology, ride their horses through the sky (courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

. from the Office of Manned Space Flight. On 3 January 1962, NASA announced the Mercury Mark II project had been named “Gemini.” 4

After 12 missions-2 unmanned and 10 manned-Project Gemini ended 15 November 1966. Its achievements had included long-duration space flight, rendezvous and docking of two spacecraft in earth orbit, extravehicular activity, and precision-controlled reentry and landing of spacecraft.

The crew of the first manned Gemini mission, Astronauts Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young, nicknamed their spacecraft “Molly Brown.” The name came from the musical comedy title, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and was a facetious reference to the sinking of Grissom’s Mercury-[ 106 ] Redstone spacecraft after splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean 21 July 1961. “Molly Brown” was the last Gemini spacecraft with a nickname; after the Gemini 3 mission, NASA announced that “all Gemini flights should use as official spacecraft nomenclature a single easily remembered and pronounced name.” 5

Astronaut Edward H. White floats in space, secured to the Gemini 4 spacecraft.

MERCURY . Traditionally depicted wearing a winged cap and winged shoes, Mercury was the messenger of the gods in ancient Roman and (as Hermes) Greek mythology. 1 The symbolic associations of this name appealed to Abe Silverstein, NASA’s Director of Space Flight Development, who suggested it for the manned spaceflight project in the autumn of 1958. On 26 November 1958 Dr. T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator, and Dr. Hugh .

Full-scale mockups of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.

. L. Dryden, Deputy Administrator, agreed upon “Mercury,” and on 17 December 1958 Dr. Glennan announced the name for the first time. 2

On 9 April 1959 NASA announced selection of the seven men chosen to be the first U.S. space travelers, “astronauts.” The term followed the semantic tradition begun with “Argonauts,” the legendary Greeks who traveled far and wide in search of the Golden Fleece, and continued with “aeronauts”-pioneers of balloon flight. 3 Robert R. Gilruth, head of the Space Task Group, proposed “Project Astronaut” to NASA Headquarters, but the suggestion lost out in favor of Project Mercury “largely because it [Project Astronaut] might lead to overemphasis on the personality of the man.” 4

In Project Mercury the United States acquired its first experience in conducting manned space missions and its first scientific and engineering knowledge of man in space. After two suborbital and three orbital missions, Project Mercury ended with a fourth orbital space flight-a full-day mission by L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., 15-16 May 1963.

In each of Project Mercury’s manned space flights, the assigned astronaut chose a call sign for his spacecraft just before his mission. The choice of [ 108 ] “Freedom 7” by Alan B. Shepard, Jr., established the tradition of the numeral “7,” which came to be associated with the team of seven Mercury astronauts. When Shepard chose “Freedom 7,” the numeral seemed significant to him because it appeared that “capsule No. 7 on booster No. 7 should be the first combination of a series of at least seven flights to put Americans into space.” 5 The prime astronaut for the second manned flight, Virgil I. Grissom, named his spacecraft “Liberty Bell 7” because “the name was to Americans almost synonymous with ‘freedom’ and symbolical numerically of the continuous teamwork it represented.” 6

John Glenn, assigned to take the Nation’s first orbital flight, named his Mercury spacecraft “Friendship 7.” Scott Carpenter chose “Aurora 7,” he said, “because I think of Project Mercury and the open manner in which we are conducting it for the benefit of all as a light in the sky. Aurora also.

Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr., is hoisted out of the Friendship 7 spacecraft after splashdown in the Atlantic 20 February 1962. The god Mercury, poised for flight, at right (courtesy of the National Gallery of Art).

[ 109 ] . means dawn-in this case the dawn of a new age. The 7, of course, stands for the original seven astronauts.” 7 Walter M. Schirra selected “Sigma 7” for what was primarily an engineering flight-a mission to evaluate spacecraft systems; “sigma” is an engineering symbol for summation. In selecting “sigma,” Schirra also honored “the immensity of the engineering effort behind him.” 8 Cooper’s choice of “Faith 7” symbolized, in his words, “my trust in God, my country, and my teammates.” 9

SKYLAB . Planning for post-Apollo manned spaceflight missions evolved directly from the capability produced by the Apollo and Saturn technologies, and Project Skylab resulted from the combination of selected program objectives. In 1964, design and feasibility studies had been initiated for missions that could use modified Apollo hardware for a number of possible lunar and earth-orbital scientific and applications missions. The study concepts were variously known as “Extended Apollo (Apollo X)” and the “Apollo Extension System (AES).” 1 In 1965 the program was coordinated under the name “Apollo Applications Program (AAP)” and by 1966 had narrowed in scope to primarily an earth-orbital concept. 2

Projected AAP missions included the use of the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM). In one plan it was to be launched separately and docked with an orbiting workshop in the “wet” workshop configuration. The wet workshop-using the spent S-IV B stage of the Saturn I launch vehicle as a workshop after purging it in orbit of excess fuel-was later dropped in favor of the ” dry” configuration using the Saturn V launch vehicle. The extra fuel carried by the S-IV B when used as a third stage on the Saturn V, for moon launches, would not be required for the Skylab mission, and the stage could be completely outfitted as a workshop before launch, including the ATM. 3

The name “Skylab,” a contraction connoting “laboratory in the sky,” was suggested by L/C Donald L. Steelman (USAF) while assigned to NASA. He later received a token reward for his suggestion. Although the name was proposed in mid-1968, NASA decided to postpone renaming the program because of budgetary considerations. “Skylab” was later referred to the NASA Project Designation Committee and was approved 17 February 1970. 4

Skylab 1 (SL-1), the Orbital Workshop with its Apollo Telescope Mount, was put into orbit 14 May 1973. Dynamic forces ripped off the meteoroid shield and one solar array wing during launch, endangering the entire program, but the three astronauts launched on Skylab 2 (SL-2)-the first manned mission to crew the Workshop-were able to repair the spacecraft and completed 28 days living and working in space before their safe return.

Skylab Orbital Workshop photographed from the Skylab 2 command module during fly-around inspection. The Workshop’s remaining solar array wing, after second wing was ripped off during launch, is deployed below the ATM’s four arrays. The emergency solar parasol erected by the astronauts is visible on the lower part of the spacecraft. The cutaway drawing shows crew quarters and work areas.

[ 111 ] They were followed by two more three-man crews during 1973 . The Skylab 3 crew spent 59 days in space and Skylab 4 spent 84. Each Skylab mission was the longest-duration manned space flight to that date, also setting distance in-orbit and extravehicular records. Skylab 4, the final mission (16 November 1973 to 8 February 1974) recorded the longest in-orbit EVA (7 hours 1 minute), the longest cumulative orbital EVA time for one mission (22 hours 21 min in four EVAs), and the longest distance in orbit for a manned mission (55.5 million kilometers).

The Skylab missions proved that man could live and work in space for extended periods; expanded solar astronomy beyond earth-based observations, collecting new data that could revise understanding of the sun and its effects on the earth; and returned much information from surveys of earth resources with new techniques. The deactivated Workshop remained in orbit; it might be visited by a future manned flight, but was not to be inhabited again.

SPACE SHUTTLE . The name ” Space Shuttle” evolved from descriptive references in the press, aerospace industry, and Government and gradually came into use as concepts of reusable space transportation developed. As early NASA advanced studies grew into a full program, the name came into official use. * 1

From its establishment in 1958, NASA studied aspects of reusable launch vehicles and spacecraft that could return to the earth. The predecessor National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and then NASA cooperated with the Air Force in the X-15 rocket research aircraft program in the 1950s and 1960s and in the 1958-1963 Dyna-Soar (“Dynamic-Soaring”) hypersonic boost-glide vehicle program. Beginning in 1963, NASA joined the USAF in research toward the Aerospaceplane, a manned vehicle to go into orbit and return, taking off and landing horizontally. Joint flight tests in the 1950s and 1960s of wingless lifting bodies-the M2 series, HL-10, and eventually the X-24-tested principles for future spacecraft reentering the atmosphere.

Marshall Space Flight Center sponsored studies of recovery and reuse of the Saturn V launch vehicle. MSFC Director of Future Projects Heinz H. Koelle in 1962 projected a “commercial space line to earth orbit and the.

The Space Shuttle lifts off in the artist’s conception of missions of the 1980s, at left, with booster jettison and tank jettison following in sequence as the orbiter heads for orbit and its mission.

. moon,” for cargo transportation by 1980 or 1990. Leonard M. Tinnan of MSFC published a 1963 description of a winged, flyback Saturn V. 2 Other studies of “logistics spacecraft systems,” “orbital carrier vehicles,” and “reusable orbital transports” followed throughout the 1960s in NASA, the Department of Defense, and industry.

[ 113 ] As the Apollo program neared its goal, NASA’s space program objectives widened and the need for a fully reusable, economical space transportation system for both manned and unmanned missions became more urgent. In 1966 the NASA budget briefing outlined an FY 1967 program including advanced studies of “ferry and logistics vehicles.” The President’s Science Advisory Committee in February 1967 recommended studies of more economical ferry systems with total recovery and rescue possibilities. 3 Industry studies under NASA contracts 1969-1971 led to definition of a reusable Space Shuttle system and to a 1972 decision to develop the Shuttle.

The term “shuttle” crept into forecasts of space transportation at least as early as 1952. In a Collier’s article, Dr. Wernher von Braun, then Director of the U.S. Army Ordnance Guided Missiles Development Group, envisioned space stations supplied by rocket ships that would enter orbit and return to earth to land “like a normal airplane,” with small, rocket-powered “shuttle-craft,” or “space taxis,” to ferry men and materials between rocket ship and space station. 4

In October 1959 Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and Hughes Aircraft Company reported plans for a space ferry or “commuter express,” for ” shuttling” men and materials between earth and outer space. In December, Christian Science Monitor Correspondent Courtney Sheldon wrote of the future possibility of a “man-carrying space shuttle to the nearest planets.” 5

The term reappeared occasionally in studies through the early 1960s. A 1963 NASA contract to Douglas Aircraft Company was to produce a conceptual design for Philip Bono’s “Reusable Orbital Module Booster and Utility Shuttle (ROMBUS),” to orbit and return to touch down with legs [ 114 ] like the lunar landing module’s. Jettison of eight strap-on hydrogen tanks for recovery and reuse was part of the concept. 6 The press-in accounts of European discussions of Space Transporter proposals and in articles on the Aerospaceplane, NASA contract studies, USAF START reentry studies, and the joint lifting-body flights-referred to “shuttle” service, “reusable orbital shuttle transport,” and “space shuttle” forerunners. **

In 1965 Dr. Walter R. Dornberger, Vice President for Research of Textron Corporation’s Bell Aerosystems Company, published “Space Shuttle of the Future: The Aerospaceplane” in Bell’s periodical Rendezvous. In July Dr. Dornberger gave the main address in a University of Tennessee Space Institute short course: “The Recoverable, Reusable Space Shuttle.” 7

NASA used the term “shuttle” for its reusable transportation concept officially in 1968. Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller briefed the British Interplanetary Society in London in August with charts and drawings of “space shuttle” operations and concepts. In November, addressing the National Space Club in Washington, D.C., Dr. Mueller declared the next major thrust in space should be the space shuttle. 8 By 1969 “Space Shuttle” was the standard NASA designation, although some efforts were made to find another name as studies were pursued. 9 The “Space Shuttle” was given an agency-wide code number; the Space Shuttle Steering Group and Space Shuttle Task Group were established. In September the Space Task Group appointed by President Nixon to help define post-Apollo space objectives recommended the U.S. develop a reusable, economic space transportation system including a shuttle. And in October feasibility study results were presented at a Space Shuttle Conference in Washington. Intensive design, technology, and cost studies followed in 1970 and 1971. 10

[ 115 ] On 5 January 1972 President Nixon announced that the United States would develop the Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle would be a delta-winged aircraftlike orbiter about the size of a DC-9 aircraft, mounted at launch on a large, expendable liquid-propellant tank and two recoverable and reusable solid-propellant rocket boosters (SRBs) that would drop away in flight. The Shuttle’s cargo bay eventually would carry most of the Nation’s civilian and military payloads. Each Shuttle was to have a lifetime of 100 space missions, carrying up to 29 500 kilograms at a time. Sixty or seventy flights a year were expected in the 1980s.

Flown by a three-man crew, the Shuttle would carry satellites to orbit, repair them in orbit, and later return them to earth for refurbishment and reuse. It would also carry up to four scientists and engineers to work in a pressurized laboratory (see Spacelab) or technicians to service satellites. After a 7- to 30-day mission, the orbiter would return to earth and land like an aircraft, for preparation for the next flight.

At the end of 1974, parts were being fabricated, assembled, and tested for flight vehicles. Horizontal tests were to begin in 1977 and orbital tests in 1979. The first manned orbital flight was scheduled for March 1979 and the complete vehicle was to be operational in 1980.

SPACE TUG. Missions to orbits higher than 800 kilometers would require an additional propulsion stage for the Space Shuttle. A reusable “Space Tug” would fit into the cargo bay to deploy and retrieve payloads beyond the orbiter’s reach and to achieve earth-escape speeds for deep-space exploration. Under a NASA and Department of Defense agreement, the Air Force was to develop an interim version-the “interim upper stage (IUS),” named by the Air Force the “orbit-to-orbit stage (OOS),” to be available in 1980. NASA meanwhile continued planning and studies for a later full-capacity Space Tug. 11

Joseph E. McGolrick of the NASA Office of Launch Vehicles had used the term in a 1961 memorandum suggesting that, as capabilities and business in space increased, a need might arise for “a space tug-a space vehicle capable of orbital rendezvous and . . . of imparting velocities to other bodies in space.” He foresaw a number of uses for such a vehicle and suggested it be considered with other concepts for the period after 1970. McGolrick thought of the space tug as an all-purpose workhorse, like the small, powerful tugboats that moved huge ocean liners and other craft. The name was used frequently in studies and proposals through the years, and in September 1969 the Presidential Space Task Group’s recommendation for a [ 116 ] new space transportation system proposed development of a reusable, chemically propelled space tug, as well as a shuttle and a nuclear stage. 12

LARGE SPACE TELESCOPE. Among Shuttle payloads planned-besides Spacelab and satellites like those launched in the past by expendable boosters-was the Large Space Telescope (LST), to be delivered to orbit as an international facility for in-orbit research controlled by scientists on the ground. The LST would observe the solar system and far galaxies from above the earth’s atmosphere. On revisits, the Shuttle would service the orbiting telescope, exchange scientific hardware, and-several years later-return the LST to the earth.

LONG-DURATION EXPOSURE FACILITY. Another payload was to be placed in orbit for research into effects of exposure to space. The unmanned, free-flying Long-Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) would expose a variety of passive experiments in orbit and would later be retrieved for refurbishment and reuse.

SPACELAB . A new venture in space flight made possible by the Space Shuttle, Spacelab was to be a reusable “space laboratory” in which scientists and engineers could work in earth orbit without spacesuits or extensive astronaut training. The program drew the United States and Europe into closer cooperation in space efforts.

The name finally chosen for the space laboratory was that used by the European developers. It followed several earlier names used as NASA’s program developed toward its 1980s operational goal. In 1971 NASA awarded a contract for preliminary design of “Research and Applications Modules” (RAMs) to fly on the Space Shuttle. A family of manned or “man-tended” payload carriers, the RAMs were to provide versatile laboratory facilities for research and applications work in earth orbit. Later modules were expected to be attached to space stations, in addition to the earlier versions operating attached to the Shuttle. The simplest RAM mode was called a “Sortie Can” at Marshall Space Flight Center. It was a low-cost simplified. pressurized laboratory to be carried on the Shuttle orbiter for short “sortie” missions into space. 1 In June 1971 the NASA Project Designation Committee redesignated the Sortie Can the “Sortie Lab,” as a more fitting name. 2

When the President’s Space Task Group had originally recommended development of the Space Shuttle in 1969, it had also recommended broad international participation in the space program, and greater international cooperation was one of President Nixon’s Space Policy Statement goals in March 1970. NASA Administrator Thomas 0. Paine visited European.

A Spacelab module and pallet fill the payload bay of a scale-model Space Shuttle orbiter. The laboratory module is nearest the cabin.

. capitals in October 1969 to explain Shuttle plans and invite European interest, and 43 European representatives attended a Shuttle Conference in Washington. One area of consideration for European effort was development of the Sortie Lab. 3

On 20 December 1972 a European Space Council ministerial meeting formally endorsed European Space Research Organization development of Sortie Lab. An intergovernmental agreement was signed 10 August 1973 and ESRO and NASA initialed a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum was signed 24 September 1973. Ten nations-Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom-would develop and manufacture the units. The first unit was to be delivered to NASA free in the cooperative program, and NASA would buy additional units. NASA would fly Spacelab on the Shuttle in cooperative missions, in U.S. missions, and for other countries with costs reimbursed. 4

In its planning and studies, ESRO called the laboratory “Spacelab.” And when NASA and ESRO signed the September 1973 memorandum on cooperation NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher announced that NASA’s Sortie Lab program was officially renamed “Spacelab,” adopting the ESRO name. 5

[ 118 ] Spacelab was designed as a low-cost laboratory to be quickly available to users for a wide variety of orbital research and applications. Almost half the civilian Space Shuttle payloads were expected to fly in Spacelab in the 1980s. It was to consist of two elements, carried together or separately in the Shuttle orbiter: a pressurized laboratory, where scientists and engineers with only brief flight training could work in a normal environment, and an instrument platform, or “pallet,” to support telescopes, antennas, and other equipment exposed to space.

Reusable for 50 flights, the laboratory would remain in the Shuttle hold, or cargo bay, while in orbit, with the bay doors held open for experiments and observations in space. Seven-man missions, many of them joint missions with U.S. and European crew members, would include a three-man Shuttle crew and four men for Spacelab. Up to three men could work in the laboratory at one time, with missions lasting 7 to 30 days. At the end of each flight, the orbiter would make a runway landing and the laboratory would be removed and prepared for its next flight. Racks of experiments would be prepared in the home laboratories on the ground, ready for installation in Spacelab for flight and then removal on return. 6

One of the planned payloads was NASA’s AMPS (Atmospheric, Magnetospheric, and Plasmas-in-Space) laboratory, to be installed in Spacelab for missions in space. 7

At the end of 1974, life scientists, astronomers, atmospheric physicists, and materials scientists were defining experiment payloads for Spacelab. The first qualified flight unit was due for delivery in 1979 for 1980 flight. A European might be a member of the first flight crew. 8

* In January 1975, NASA’s Project Designation Committee was considering suggestions for a new name for the Space Shuttle, submitted by Headquarters and Center personnel and others at the request of Dr. George M. Low, NASA Deputy Administrator. Rockwell International Corporation, Shuttle prime contractor, was reported as referring to it as “Spaceplane.” (Bernie M. Taylor, Administrative Assistant to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, NASA, telephone interview, 12 Feb. 1975; and Aviation Week & Space Technology, 102 [20 January 1975], 10.)

** The Defense/Space Business Daily newsletter was persistent in referring to USAF and NASA reentry and lifting-body tests as “Space Shuttle” tests. Editor-in-Chief Norman L. Baker said the newsletter had first tried to reduce the name “Aerospaceplane” to “Spaceplane” for that project and had moved from that to “Space Shuttle” for reusable, back-and-forth space transport concepts as early as 1963. The name was suggested to him by the Washington, D.C., to New York airline shuttle flights. (Telephone interview, 22 April 1975.)

Application of the word “shuttle” to anything that moved quickly back and forth (from shuttlecock to shuttle train and the verb “to shuttle”) had arisen in the English language from the name of the weaving instrument that passed or “shot” the thread of the woof from one edge of the cloth to the other. The English word came from the Anglo-Saxon “scytel” for missile, related to the Danish “skyttel” for shuttle, the Old Norvegian “skutill” for harpoon, and the English “shoot.” (Webster’s International Dictionnary, ed.2 unabridged).

Humans in Space, National Air and Space Museum

Humans in Space

During the early years of the American and Soviet race into space, their competition was measured by headline-making “firsts”: the first satellite, first robotic spacecraft to the Moon, first man in space, first woman in space, and first spacewalk. To the dismay of the United States, the Soviet Union achieved each of these feats first. These events triggered a drive to catch up with—and surpass—the Soviets, especially in the high-profile endeavor of human space exploration.

The Mercury and Gemini programs were the early U.S. efforts in human spaceflight and they were spectacular successes:
May 1961: American astronaut Alan Shepard went briefly into space, but not into orbit, on the Mercury 3 mission
February 1962: Astronaut John Glenn spent five hours in orbit on the Mercury 6 mission
June 1965: Astronaut Edward White made the first U.S. spacewalk on the Gemini IV mission

Although the United States seemed to lag behind the U.S.S.R. in space, it pursued a methodical step-by-step program, in which each mission built upon and extended the previous ones. The Mercury and Gemini missions carefully prepared the way for the Apollo lunar missions.

After these first few missions that put Americans in space, America’s astronauts became the most visible symbols of space exploration. The public, newspapers, and television celebrated these young space pilots as national heroes, and their flights were widely heralded around the world.

Project Mercury

T. Keith Glennan approved Project Mercury in October 1958. The project was designed to put an astronaut into Earth orbit at the earliest date and test his ability to function in extreme acceleration (“g-forces”) and weightlessness. For many in the public, Congress, and NASA, these limited goals represented a first step in human exploration. Planning was already underway to evaluate more ambitious objectives, such as a space station or Moon landing.

The one-man Mercury missions developed hardware for safe spaceflight and return to Earth, and began to show how human beings would fare in space. From 1961 to 1963, the United States flew many test flights and six manned Mercury missions.

Six Mercury spacecraft were flown with astronauts aboard. The first two flights were suborbital and were boosted by Redstone launch vehicles. The last four were orbital flights and were boosted by Atlas rockets. The longest flight was 34 hours and 20 minutes.

Mercury Freedom 7

Astronaut Alan B. Shepard made the first U.S. piloted spaceflight in the Mercury Freedom 7 spacecraft on May 5, 1961. During this suborbital mission lasting 15 minutes and 22 seconds, Shepard reached an altitude of 186 kilometers (116 miles). The astronaut and his Mercury spacecraft were recovered 483 kilometers (302 miles) downrange from Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean by the USS Champlain.

Shepard was not the first human in space. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin had orbited the Earth 23 days before Shepard’s flight, on April 12, 1961.

The Mercury spacecraft consists of a conical pressure section topped by a cylindrical recovery system section. The capsule’s frame is made of titanium, covered with steel and beryllium shingles. The base of the spacecraft is a beryllium heat sink, a technique for preventing the heat generated during reentry from harming an astronaut. Later flights used ablative heat shields, which protected the spacecraft by vaporizing and burning away during re-entry.

The Mercury spacecraft was equipped with three 454 kilogram (1000 pound) thrust solid-propellant retro-rockets mounted in a package on the heat shield. After the three rockets were fired to slow the spacecraft and allow it to drop to the Earth, the retro-rocket package was jettisoned.

Spacecraft Specifications

  • Crew: one astronaut
  • Maximum Diameter: 2.0 meters (6 feet 6 inches)
  • Length at launch: 2.8 meters (9 feet 2 inches)
  • Weight at launch: 1660 kilograms (3650 pounds)
  • Weight as exhibited: 1100 kilograms (2422 pounds)
  • Interior atmosphere: Pure oxygen at 264 millimeters of mercury (5.1 pounds per square inch)
  • Reaction Control System: 16 rockets producing from 0.45 kilograms (1 pound) to 10.9 kilograms (24 pounds) thrust, depending on location
  • Propellant for reaction control system: 90% hydrogen peroxide
  • Prime contractor: McDonnell Aircraft Corporation

Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle

Used for the suborbital space flights of astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Jr. (Freedom 7) and Virgil I. Grissom (Liberty Bell 7) during the Mercury Program. The Mercury-Redstone launch vehicle was developed from the U.S. Army’s Redstone missile.

Launch Vehicle Specifications

  • Height (with spacecraft): 25.4 meters (83.38 feet)
  • Thrust: 35,380 kilograms (78,000 pounds)
  • Propellants: Liquid Oxygen and Alcohol

Mercury Friendship 7

Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth in the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. On February 20, 1962, Glenn circled the Earth three times, in a flight lasting 4 hours and 55 minutes. Friendship 7 landed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Glenn’s flight followed two successful Soviet orbital flights and signaled that the United States could compete successfully in space. The high-profile drama of the space race and Glenn’s professionalism made him a national hero.

Spacecraft Specifications

  • Height: 2.7 m (9 ft)
  • Maximum Diameter: 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in)
  • Weight: 1,300 kg (2,900 lb)
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Aircraft Corp. for NASA
  • Launch Vehicle: Atlas-D

Mercury-Atlas Launch Vehicle

The Mercury-Atlas launch vehicle was developed from the U.S. Air Force’s Atlas ballistic missile. It was used in the Mercury Program Earth orbital flights of astronauts John H. Glenn, Jr. (Frienship 7), Scott M. Carpenter (Aurora 7), Walter M. Schirra (Sigma 7), and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. (Faith 7).

Launch Vehicle Specifications

  • Height (with spacecraft): 29 meters (95 feet)
  • Thrust: 165,000 kilograms (365,000 pounds)
  • Propellants: Liquid Oxygen and RP-1 (a form of Kerosene)

John Glenn

Astronaut John Glenn during pre-launch preparations.

Mercury Capsule MA-6 Friendship 7

Mercury “Friendship 7” on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the Museum in Washington, DC.

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution / Eric Long

Inside Mercury “Friendship 7”

Interior of Mercury “Friendship 7” on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution / Eric Long

John Glenn

Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. is pictured aboard the MA-6/Friendship 7 capsule during the U.S. initial orbital flight.

S62-00303 (2-20-62) (ARCHIVAL PHOTO)

John Glenn Notebook

This notebook containing world maps and other data was carried by astronaut John Glenn Jr. during the flight of Friendship 7, the first U.S. orbital spaceflight carrying a human on February 20, 1962.

The Gemini Program

After Mercury, NASA introduced Gemini, an enlarged, redesigned spacecraft for two astronauts. Ten manned Gemini missions were flown from 1964 through 1966 to improve techniques of spacecraft control, rendezvous and docking, and extravehicular activity (spacewalking). One Gemini mission spent a record-breaking two weeks in space, time enough for a future crew to go to the Moon, explore, and return.

The Gemini had two major units. The reentry module held the crew cabin and heat shield. Behind it was the adapter, which consisted of two sections. The equipment section carried fuel, oxygen, and power supplies. The retrograde section carried retrorockets that slowed the spacecraft to make it fall out of orbit. Using small rockets on the adapter, the astronauts could not only change their orientation in space, but also their orbital path. Gemini was the first manned spacecraft that could alter its orbit during flight.

The adapter sections were discarded before reentry. The nose (rendezvous and recovery section) came off when the main parachute was deployed. The cabin section splashed down horizontally, with the two hatches on top.

Spacecraft Specifications

  • Length (in orbit): 5.7 m (18 ft 10 in)
  • Length (at landing): 2.74 m (9 ft)
  • Maximum diameter (adapter): 3.05 m (10 ft)
  • Diameter of heat shield: 2.26 m (7 ft 5 in)
  • Heat shield: Silicone-elastismer-filled, phenolic-impregnated fiberglass honeycomb
  • Spacecraft structure: Titanium (reentry module); magnesium and aluminum (adapter)
  • Reentry module shingles: René 41 (a nickel-steel alloy) and beryllium
  • Weight at launch (Gemini 7): 3,670 kg (8,074 lb)
  • Weight at landing: About 1,500 kg (3,300 lb)
  • Manufacturer: McDonnell Aircraft Corp.

The Gemini Heat Shield

A heat shield protected the Gemini spacecraft against the enormous heat generated by reentry into the atmosphere at more than 27,500 kilometers (17,000 miles) per hour. Like those of other early American and Soviet manned spacecraft, Gemini’s heat shield derived from ballistic-missile warhead technology. The dish-shaped shield created a shock wave in the atmosphere that held off most of the heat. The rest was dissipated by ablation—charring and evaporation—of the heat shield’s surface. Ablative shields were not reusable.

Gemini-Titan II Launch Vehicle

Used in the Gemini Program to boost the two-man Gemini spacecraft into Earth orbit. Ten manned missions were flown. The Gemini-Titan II was developed from the U.S. Air Force Titan II Intercontinental ballistic missile.

Launch Vehicle Specifications

  • Height (with spacecraft): 33 meters (108 feet)
  • Thrust at lift off: 193,500 kilograms (430,000 pounds)

Gemini 4: The First U.S. Spacewalk

American astronaut Edward H. White II was the pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 space flight. He became the first American to perform an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA, or “spacewalk”) from the Gemini IV spacecraft on June 3, 1965. He floated in zero gravity during the third revolution of the Gemini 4 spacecraft.

White is attached to the spacecraft by a 25-ft. umbilical line and a 23-ft. tether line, both wrapped in gold tape to form one cord. In his right hand White carries a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit (HHSMU). The visor of his helmet is gold plated to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun.

Gemini 7: Surviving 2 Weeks in Space

Launched into space aboard Gemini 7 on December 4, 1965, astronauts Frank Borman and James A. Lovell Jr. accomplished two of the central objectives of the Gemini program: rendezvous and long-duration space flight.

Their primary mission was to show that humans could live in weightlessness for 14 days, a space endurance record that would stand until 1970. Their spacecraft also served as the target vehicle for Gemini 6, piloted by Walter M. Schirra Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford, who carried out the world’s first space rendezvous. These two achievements were critical steps on the road to the Moon.

For Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, the flight was an endurance test. The cabin was very cramped—the size of the front half of a Volkswagen Beetle—and the two astronauts were the subject of numerous medical experiments.

Gemini 7’s primary mission was to demonstrate that astronauts could live in weightlessness without significant ill effects for 14 days, the longest duration anticipated for an Apollo lunar landing mission. Gemini 7 Astronauts Borman and Lovell later formed two-thirds of the Apollo 8 crew, the first to circle the Moon. Lovell also commanded Gemini 12 and the ill-fated Apollo 13 lunar landing mission.

Gemini 6: World’s First Space Rendezvous

Gemini 6 was actually launched after Gemini 7. It was supposed to take off on October 25, but the flight was cancelled after the unmanned rendezvous and docking target vehicle blew up. The mission was quickly changed to a rendezvous with Gemini 7.

Three days before Gemini 6’s successful launch on December 15, 1965, a heart-stopping shutdown of the Titan II launch vehicle’s engines occurred during the first lift-off attempt. Schirra and Stafford did not eject only because of their coolness under extreme pressure.

On December 15, 1965, Gemini 6, piloted by Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford, pulled within 0.3 meters (1 foot) of Gemini 7, piloted by Frank Borman and Jim Lovell. It was the first time in history that two vehicles had maneuvered to meet in space.

This photograph of the Gemini 7 spacecraft was taken from the hatch window of the Gemini 6 spacecraft during rendezvous and station-keeping maneuvers on December 15, 1965. The spacecraft were approximately nine feet apart, at an altitude of 160 miles.

Gemini 10 Checklists & Data Cards

Michael Collins carried these checklists during the Gemini 10 mission from July 18-21, 1966. The Systems Notebook had information about the Gemini spacecraft and mission protocol. The data cards were used as a checklist of procedures during the extravehicular activity (EVA) in Earth orbit. Procedures for experiments, as well as the results, were kept in the Experiment Log Book.

NASA, Apollo, and the Outdated Language of Spaceflight – The Atlantic

The Outdated Language of Space Travel

“Manned” spaceflight doesn’t make sense anymore.

Peggy Whitson, the American record holder for time spent in space NASA

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series reflecting on the Apollo 11 mission, 50 years later.

Half a century ago, there was only one kind of astronaut in the United States. Men launched atop rockets to space. Men maneuvered landers down to the surface of the moon. Men guided spacecraft safely home. From start to finish, they were at the controls. So it makes sense that the effort to send people to orbit and beyond was called “manned” spaceflight.

But when Peggy Whitson hears someone call the spaceflight program “manned” today, she can’t stifle her physical reaction.

“I cringe a little bit,” Whitson says.

The terminology is simply no longer accurate, and Whitson, a former astronaut at NASA, is just one example why. Whitson served as commander on two missions to the International Space Station, and spent 665 days in space, more than any other American astronaut, man or woman. NASA retired the description years ago, saving it for historical references to its early days, and now uses human and crewed. But as the country commemorated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing last week, the obsolete language cropped up in discussions about the modern American spaceflight program and its future, in congressional hearings, national headlines (some of which were edited quietly after publication), and elsewhere.

It shouldn’t happen again. Manned is a woefully outdated choice of vocabulary to describe the actions of an organization that has employed female astronauts for the majority of its existence. Language matters, and this particular vernacular reinforces the notion, once held to be true, that space exploration is for men only. It does a disservice to the dozens of women who became astronauts after Apollo, and to those who dream of doing the same. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, once said. The same is true of what you can’t hear or read.

In 1962, Congress convened a hearing to discuss the possibility of training female astronauts, after a group of 13 women successfully completed the same tests NASA gave its male candidates, in some cases doing better than the men. “I think this gets back to the way our social order is organized, really,” John Glenn, who had become the first American to orbit Earth only months earlier, told members of Congress. “The men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes and come back and help design and build and test them. The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order.”

The group of female trainees was disbanded, and NASA went on to send dozens of men into orbit around Earth and to the moon, their journeys carefully monitored from Mission Control in the appropriately named Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.

That facility was renamed the Johnson Space Center in 1973, several months after the end of the sixth and final mission to touch down on the moon’s surface. The rebranding was a better match for NASA’s next chapter; the agency had just started sending robotic, passenger-free spacecraft beyond the moon and deeper into the solar system, the first in a long line of machines that would take over the work of exploring the cosmos. Of course, the agency had new terminology to go along with these new spacecraft, programmed and piloted from afar: unmanned.

The push into deep space coincided with the development of NASA’s next generation of astronaut transportation, the space-shuttle program. The massive shuttle could carry far more people than the cramped Apollo capsules, which meant the passenger list didn’t have to be limited, as it had been, to mostly military pilots such as Neil Armstrong. Suddenly, there was room for the astronaut corps to more closely resemble the general population, including the half who had long been excluded.

When NASA selected its first female astronauts in 1978, “manned” was still the standard label for spaceflight that included humans. It did not help that the needs of this new class of astronauts were often, and sometimes astonishingly, misunderstood. Before Ride became the first American woman in space, in 1983, NASA staffers asked her whether 100 tampons would be enough for her one-week mission in orbit.

“When you’re a bloke, terms such as ‘mankind’ automatically include you. You don’t have to think about it at all; you’re already in there,” Alice Gorman, an archaeologist who studies the history and heritage of space exploration, wrote on her blog in 2014. “Women have to ‘think themselves into’ such expressions, even if it happens at a subconscious level.”

Research has found that this feeling of exclusion can have real, measurable effects. Studies by the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1970s, when NASA first began to recruit women astronauts, showed that women were significantly less likely to apply for jobs with titles that ended in man rather than person. A similar effect was found among men, who avoided professions with feminine-sounding names.

Such thinking is difficult to dispel. A study of college students in 1988 found that those instructed to complete sentences about professionals using he and him were more likely to imagine men, even when the researchers said the pronouns applied to both men and women. When the students used gender-neutral language, they pictured fewer men as they wrote.

This subconscious reasoning can take root early. In a 2013 study, when elementary-school teachers described male-dominated professions, such as astronaut, using masculine rather than gender-neutral language, their female students were more likely to think that women in those roles were less successful.

Astronauts who joined NASA in the 1990s say the agency had shifted away from manned and toward gender-neutral language by the time they arrived. But vestiges of Apollo-era vernacular still floated around, in part because many engineers who worked those missions were still at NASA. “There was still a lot of the same—I don’t want to say mind-set in a negative sense—but, ‘We call it this because we call it this, and no one’s ever questioned it,’” says Danny Olivas, who became an astronaut in 1998.

Pamela Melroy, another now-retired astronaut, remembers the terminology coming up in jokes. She joined NASA in 1995, after working as a pilot in the Air Force. When Melroy and a female colleague boarded a T-38, a sleek two-seater jet that astronauts often use for commuting, “the guys out on the flight line would tease me that it was an unmanned mission,” Melroy says.

NASA formally codified its preference for crewed and human over manned to describe spaceflight in the early 2000s, as part of a “major overhaul” of the agency’s internal style guide, says Stephanie Schierholz, a NASA spokesperson. Today the entry appears as follows:

manned, unmanned. Avoid use. In many cases, the distinction is unnecessary or implied. Substitute terms such as autonomous, crewed, human, piloted, unpiloted, robotic, remotely piloted.

“Now if we could just get others to follow suit,” Schierholz says.

The shift in NASA nomenclature did not prompt a massive revision of history books, or a frantic rush to wipe any mention of manned from Apollo mission reports. It sought to capture the reality of the changing organization, an effort that is more common and less fraught than you might think. For example, in 2016, after the Pentagon opened all military combat roles to women, the Marine Corps removed man from 19 job titles.

These days, the idea of an American manned-spaceflight program is a phantom. The proposal for the next moon mission not only includes women astronauts; it is named for Artemis, Apollo’s sister in Greek mythology—a woman, albeit an imaginary one. Donald Trump’s administration has stressed that the crew of the next lunar journey, targeted for 2024, will include the first woman to walk on the moon. NASA needs buckets of money from Congress to carry out the effort, so its immediate future remains uncertain. But whether the next American trip to the moon launches five years from now or 50, it will not be a manned mission.

NASA: 60 Years and Counting – Human Spaceflight

60 Years and Counting

60 Years and Counting

Human Spaceflight

The Cold War between the United States and former Soviet Union gave birth to the space race and an unprecedented program of scientific exploration. The Soviets sent the first person into space on April 12, 1961. In response, President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation “to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to earth.” It took eight years and three NASA programs — Mercury, Gemini and Apollo – but the United States got to the moon.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. Look for Neil Armstrong reflected in Aldrin’s visor. During the following three-and-a-half years, 10 astronauts followed in their footsteps.
Image Credit: NASA

Project Mercury

Project Mercury, the first U.S. program to put humans in space, made 25 flights, six of which carried astronauts between 1961 and 1963. The objectives of the program were: to orbit a human spacecraft around Earth, to investigate a person’s ability to function in space, and to recover both the astronaut and spacecraft safely. More than 2 million people from government agencies and the aerospace industry combined their skills, initiative and experience to make the project possible. Mercury showed that humans could function for periods up to 34 hours of weightless flight.

Mercury Astronauts

Mercury astronauts, the “Original Seven.” On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class. Front row, left to right: Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, and Gordon Cooper.

Freedom 7 mission

Liftoff of astronaut Alan Shepard Jr.’s Freedom 7 mission, powered by a Redstone rocket, May 5, 1961. Shepard became the first American in space, a flight that lasted 15 minutes, 28 seconds. He later made it to the Moon on Apollo 14.

Image Credit: NASA/Langley Research Center

Katherine Johnson

NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson did the trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s historic mission. Johnson worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center from 1953 to 1986. She and many other women made critical technical contributions to the space program.

View of Earth

View of Earth from Shepard’s Freedom 7 Mercury capsule, a view of our planet that no American had ever seen before.

Mercury Mission Control

Mercury Mission Control, Flight Control Area. During Project Mercury, the front wall of the Flight Control Area featured a large world map display with the path to be followed by the capsule. A circle marked each station in the worldwide tracking network.

John Glenn

Astronaut John Glenn onboard the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft, Feb. 20, 1962. Glenn made history by becoming the first U.S. astronaut to orbit Earth.

The Gemini Program

The Gemini program primarily tested equipment and mission procedures and trained astronauts and ground crews for future Apollo missions to the Moon. The program’s main goals were: to test an astronaut’s ability to fly long duration flights (14 days); to understand how a spacecraft could rendezvous and dock with another vehicle in Earth orbit; to perfect re-entry landing methods; and to further understand the effects of longer spaceflights on astronauts. NASA selected “Gemini” because the word is Latin for “twins,” and the Gemini was a capsule built for two.


Gemini IV spacewalk, June 3, 1965. NASA astronaut Ed White became the first American to walk in space.

Gemini X

Time exposure image of Gemini X spacecraft, launched July 18, 1966. Astronauts John Young and Mike Collins carried out a three-day mission to rendezvous and dock in space with an Agena spacecraft that had lifted off 101 minutes earlier.

Image Credit: NASA/MSFC archives

Gemini III

Gemini III astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young (photographed in a spacecraft simulator), crewed the first human Gemini flight, March 23, 1965. This mission tested the new maneuverable spacecraft that let the astronauts control more of the flight.

Image Credit: NASA/Buzz Aldrin

Gemini XII

The Agena target vehicle as seen from Gemini XII spacecraft, which docked with Agena on Nov. 11, 1966.

The Apollo Program

Exactly eight years, one month and 26 days after President Kennedy challenged Americans to reach for the Moon, Project Apollo landed the first humans on the lunar surface and returned them safely to Earth. The Apollo program also developed technology to meet other national interests in space, conducted scientific exploration of the Moon, and developed humanity’s capability to work in the lunar environment.

The ascent stage of the Apollo 11 lunar module approaching the command module for docking before the crew returned to Earth. Image Credit: NASA

The Apollo program was hit by tragedy as the first crew prepared to fly. On Jan. 27, 1967, fire swept through the Apollo 1 command module during a preflight test on the Cape Kennedy launch pad. Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives. NASA was not deterred, but rather changed how things were done to ensure the safety and success of future missions.

Apollo 7

Commander Wally Schirra looking out the rendezvous window in front of the commander’s station of the Apollo 7 Earth orbital mission, Oct. 19, 1968. Fifty years ago, Apollo 7 transmitted the first live TV broadcast from a human U.S. spacecraft.

Apollo 8

The famous ‘Earthrise’ photo from Apollo 8, the first human mission to the Moon. On Christmas Eve, 1968, as one of the most turbulent, tragic years in American history drew to a close, millions around the world watched and listened as Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders — first humans to orbit another world – read from the Bible’s Book of Genesis.

Audio: Apollo 8 Christmas Eve

Apollo 11

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong placed the first human footstep on the Moon. Here he’s shown working at an equipment storage area on the lunar module. This is one of the few photos that shows Armstrong during the moonwalk.

Audio: Apollo 11 One Small Step

Apollo 13

A makeshift arrangement of equipment, parts and duct tape on the Apollo 13 Lunar Module (LM) saved the crew’s lives after an oxygen tank explosion in the Service Module left them with the LM to use as a “lifeboat.” Using materials only found on the spacecraft, NASA engineers on the ground designed and tested a system that removed carbon dioxide from the LM; the Apollo 13 crew then made the system onboard, April 17, 1970, and returned safely to Earth.


In 1973, Skylab expeditions paved the way for the International Space Station. The four, windmill-like solar arrays were attached to the Apollo Telescope Mount. Observations of the Sun were one of this space lab program’s primary achievements.

Apollo Soyuz Test Project

In the 1970s, U.S.-Soviet political tensions that had accelerated the space race began to thaw. Competition gave way to cooperation between the two nations with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. International collaboration among many nations would become the norm during the space shuttle era and current cooperation in human spaceflight with the International Space Station. These partnerships have taught us more about the universe, improved our lives at home, and expanded the possibilities for future exploration into deep space.


Astronaut Tom Stafford (foreground) and cosmonaut Alexei Leonov make their historic handshake in space on July 17, 1975. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project docked together U.S. and Soviet spacecraft and paved the way toward international partnerships in space.

Space Shuttle Era

Over 30 years, NASA’s space shuttle fleet—Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour—flew 135 missions and carried 355 different people to space. Humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle carried people into orbit repeatedly; launched, recovered and repaired satellites; conducted cutting-edge research; and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. The space shuttle pushed the bounds of discovery ever farther, requiring not only advanced technologies but also the tremendous efforts of thousands of civil servants and contractors throughout NASA’s field centers and across the nation. Tragically, NASA lost two crews of seven in the 1986 Challenger accident and the 2003 Columbia accident.

Space Shuttle Columbia, the world’s first reusable space vehicle, landing at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center (now NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, April 14, 1981. Image Credit: NASA

Hubble Space Telescope

Deploying the Hubble Space Telescope from Space Shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay, April 25, 1990. A shuttle could carry several satellites into low-Earth orbit on one flight. Go see Discovery at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport.

First Six Women

The first six women selected to be NASA astronauts, 1978: (back row, left to right) Kathy Sullivan, Shannon Lucid, Anna Fischer, Judy Resnik, (seated left to right) Sally Ride and Rhea Seddon. NASA’s 1978 class of astronauts also included the first African-Americans and the first Asian American. The shuttle brought diversity to space.

S0 Truss Structure

One of many steps in assembling the International Space Station, Space Shuttle Atlantis delivered the S0 Truss Structure (the big set of solar panels across the top of the picture), which the crew installed on top of the Destiny module.

Space Station Era

The International Space Station is a model for global cooperation and scientific advancements that is enabling growth of private industry in low-Earth orbit and development of new technologies to advance human space exploration. Built between 1998 and 2011, the space station has housed humans continuously since Nov. 2, 2000. Because molecules and cells behave differently in space, research in microgravity helps advance scientific knowledge.В The space station is a U.S. National Laboratory, which the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages for research investigations that improve life on Earth. NASA has contracted with commercial companies SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Sierra Nevada Corporation to deliver science investigations, cargo, and supplies to the crews living in space, and soon Boeing and SpaceX will transport astronauts to and from the station.

This picture of the International Space Station was photographed from the space shuttle Atlantis as the orbiting complex and the shuttle performed their relative separation in the early hours of July 19, 2011 Image Credit: NASA

International Cooperation

Nine crew members gathered in the International Space Station’s Kibo laboratory represent four of the five participating space agencies. The station is a partnership of 15 nations through NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency. “Kibo” means “hope” in Japanese. All crew members speak English and Russian.


A SpaceX Dragon resupply ship nearing its capture point about 10 meters away from the space station. American, Japanese, and Russian cargo spacecraft bring science investigations and supplies to the station about 10 times a year. They don’t go away empty handed— the Orbital ATK Cygnus, JAXA’s HTV, and Russian Progress ships take out the trash and burn up during reentry while the SpaceX Dragon lands in the Pacific Ocean to return science and hardware to researchers on Earth.

300th Day

American astronaut Scott Kelly (left) and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko (right) celebrating their 300th day of working together in space, Jan. 21, 2016. The One–Year Mission helped identify and reduce the biomedical risks astronauts face during longer space exploration, a stepping stone to future missions to deep space.

Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson holds the U.S. record for the most cumulative time spent in space: 665 days.

Luca Parmitano

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, works with samples stored in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer in the Destiny laboratory of the ISS. The crew members of each International Space Station expedition work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the International Space Station, humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.

Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit and vegetables are a special treat for astronauts, so nearly every cargo resupply mission includes fresh fruit and veggies—and sometimes ice cream!

Spot the Station

Nighttime view of the eastern U.S. and Canada from the International Space Station. You can see the station too. Go to Spot the Station and sign up for text and email updates of sighting opportunities.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

History of Manned Spaceflight – the pioneers, World Air Sports Federation

History of Manned Spaceflight

History of Manned Spaceflight – the pioneers

Yuri Gagarin: first human being to journey into outer space

It was 50 years ago that man first ventured into space. On April 12, 1961, Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in Vostok 1 (Vostok 3KA-3) on a flight lasting 108 minutes and became the first human being to leave the confines of the Earth’s atmosphere. The space capsule was carried aloft by a Vostok 8K72K rocket, derived from the R-7 ICBM, from a launch site that was claimed to be at 47oN 65oE, not far from the mining town of Baikonur in Kazakhstan. In fact the true launch site was about 320km to the southwest, near Tyuratam railway station and the name ‘Baikonur’ was used to cause confusion and keep the location secret. Presently known as Gagarin’s Start (45.920278oN 63.342222oE) the launch pad is part of the world’s largest operational space launch facility now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The full details of Gagarin’s flight were submitted to the FAI by The USSR Central Aero Club V. P. Tchkalov on May 26, 1961, requesting that records for flight duration (108minutes), altitude (327km) and mass lifted to this altitude (4725kg) be recognised as World Records. Two copies of the [[<"attributes":<>,”fields”:<>>]] were provided, one in Russian and the other in English, each consisting of a title page and 16 numbered leaves, including Gagarin’s own flight report signed in ink, and black-and-white photographs of Gagarin in uniform, Gagarin in his flight suit and an inside view of the Vostok capsule. Gagarin begins his statement by saying that “On the 12th of April, 1961, the Soviet spaceship-sputnik ‘Vostok’ was put in orbit around the Earth with me on board”. He goes on to describe briefly his training, physical fitness and the beginning of the flight “ . In the course of the powered flight, in the ascent period, g-loads and vibrations had no depressing effects on me and I could fruitfully work in accordance with a predetermined programme. The spaceship put in orbit and the carrier rocket separated, weightlessness set in. At first the sensation was to some extent unusual, although I had experienced weightlessness of short duration before. But soon I adapted myself . and could continue fulfilling my programme”. He “ate and drank and maintained continuous communication with the Earth on different channels by telephone and telegraph”. He soon descends and lands uneventfully.

The inside view of the cosmonaut’s compartment of the spaceship-sputnik “Vostok” : 1.- pilot’s desk; 2.- instrument panel with the globe; 3.- television camera; 4.- porthole with an optical orientation system; 5.- control handle of the spaceship orientation

During the flight he also observes the Earth and “could clearly distinguish big mountain ranges, big rivers, large forests, coastlines and islands. The sky was jet black . The Earth had a very pretty and distinct blue halo [which] had a smooth transition from pale blue to blue, dark blue, violet and absolutely black . a magnificent picture”. He concludes, “Thanks to a thorough training I experienced no discomfort from the effects of the space-flight factors. At present I feel fine. April 15, 1961.”

Gagarin’s achievement launched a new era in the history of mankind. Further manned space flights occurred in quick succession. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 spacecraft and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space. He was launched by a Redstone rocket, and unlike Gagarin’s 108 minute orbital flight, Shepard stayed on a ballistic trajectory suborbital flight – a flight which carried him to an altitude of 187 km and to a landing point 486 km downrange. (see [[<"attributes":<>,”fields”:<>>]] )

Beginning of the Apollo program

Following this success, President John F. Kennedy announced on May 25, 1961, the dramatic and ambitious goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. This was the beginning of the Apollo program. Ten years later, Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission, and was the fifth person to walk on the Moon.

Gus Grissom: second American spaceflight

Shortly afterwards on July 21, 1961, Gus Grissom piloted Liberty Bell 7 on the second American (suborbital) spaceflight. This was the second of seven manned flights in Project Mercury.

German Titov: Vostok 2

Meanwhile the Soviet manned space programme continued and on August 6, 1961, German Titov completed over 17 orbits in Vostok 2, before returning to Earth safely at the beginning of the 18th orbit.

The flight was an almost complete success, marred only by a heater that had inadvertently been turned off prior to liftoff, allowing the temperature inside the capsule to drop to 10°C, a bout of space sickness, and a troublesome re-entry when the reentry module failed to separate cleanly from its service module. Once again the USSR Tchkalov Central Aero Club submitted the Records File to the FAI in support of World Record claims for Earth orbit flight duration (25h 18m) and distance flown (703150km). (see [[<"attributes":<>,”fields”:<>>]] )

John Glenn: first American to orbit the Earth

The first American to orbit the Earth was John Glenn who made a total of 3 orbits in Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. Interestingly, he became the oldest person to fly in space, and the only one to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs, when at age 77, he flew on Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95) on October 29, 1998.

Early Manned Spaceflight, First Spaceflight Information, Facts, News, Photos – National Geographic

Early Manned Spaceflight

NASA’s first human spaceflight program was Project Mercury. This ambitious undertaking was launched in 1958—about a year after the U.S.S.R. had signified the start of the Space Age with the successful launch of the satellite Sputnik 1.

The Mercury missions began the space race in earnest and drew upon the vast resources of the U.S. government and private sector—an estimated two million Americans contributed.

Testing the limits of the human body in space was an important objective of both space programs. To this end robots and animals were blasted aloft—most notably Mercury’s Ham the chimpanzee and the Soviet dog Laika. Though Ham returned to Earth and a comfortable retirement at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., Laika died aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957.

First Humans in Space

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space when he orbited the Earth in a Vostok spacecraft on April 12, 1961.

About a month later Alan Shepard, Jr. became the first American in space on May 5, 1961, when he was launched aboard Mercury-Redstone 3. His 15-minute flight, dubbed “Freedom 7,” was watched by some 45 million television viewers.

Between 1961 and 1963, six manned spacecraft flew as part of the Mercury project. Mercury pilots rode in wingless capsules, which detached from their launch rocket and fell back to Earth. The small craft were designed to withstand the tremendous temperatures of reentering the planet’s atmosphere and also survive a dramatic splashdown in the ocean.

Just a few weeks after Shepard’s flight, President John F. Kennedy announced his intent to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The challenge signaled the birth of NASA’s Gemini and Apollo missions.

Yet Mercury had more to accomplish. In February 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on the Friendship 7 mission.

NASA’s Gemini program was designed to refine spacecraft so that they could perform rendezvous, docking, and other advanced maneuvers that would be necessary to land an astronaut on the moon and return to Earth.

As the missions of this era grew longer, astronauts became more adept at living within their spacecraft and even venturing outside it. Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov became the first person to exit an orbiting spacecraft in March 1965.

Moon Landing

The launch of the Apollo missions precipitated an American triumph in the space race and was a major first in space exploration.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first people to reach the moon when they touched their lunar lander down in the Sea of Tranquility. Before the Apollo project ended in 1972, five other missions visited the moon.

The Apollo spacecraft included a command/service module, which could orbit the moon, and a lunar module that astronauts could detach, land on the moon, and then blast off to rejoin the orbiting command module for the return trip to Earth.

Later missions carried a lunar rover that could be driven across the satellite’s surface and saw astronauts spend as long as three days on the moon.

The Apollo missions achieved tremendous successes, but they came with a terrible cost. Astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in a launchpad fire during training before the first Apollo flight.

When the Apollo missions ended in 1972, the first era of human space exploration closed.

India s First Human Space Mission Planned For 2022: NPR

India Announces Plans For Its First Human Space Mission

Members of the press cover the launch of the solar-powered rover Chandrayaan-2 in September. The goal was a moon landing, but the craft crashed. Another attempt to send a rover to the moon is underway. Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Members of the press cover the launch of the solar-powered rover Chandrayaan-2 in September. The goal was a moon landing, but the craft crashed. Another attempt to send a rover to the moon is underway.

Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

India’s space agency says that four astronaut candidates have been selected for its first human mission, targeted to launch by 2022, but they’ve not been publicly named or identified.

India hopes to join the United States, Russia and China as the world’s fourth nation capable of sending people to space. It has been developing its own crewed spacecraft, called Gaganyaan (or “sky vehicle” in Sanskrit), that would let two to three people orbit Earth on a weeklong spaceflight.

K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, held a press briefing on New Year’s Day and told reporters that the four astronauts would start their training in Russia in a few weeks.

A Press Meet was organised today, January 01, 2020, at ISRO Headquarters, Bengaluru on the New Year’s Day. Dr K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO addressed and interacted with over hundred media persons during the meet.

He also said his agency had government approval for its next robotic moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, and that work is already underway. That mission could launch in 2021.

Sivan told reporters that this lunar effort would include a lander and a rover, much like the Chandrayaan-2 mission. Last year, India made an unsuccessful attempt to put a small solar-powered rover on the moon. Its landing system malfunctioned, and it crashed.

K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, announced plans for a moon mission and for the country’s first human space flight at a press conference Wednesday. Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, announced plans for a moon mission and for the country’s first human space flight at a press conference Wednesday.

Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

Last month, NASA released an image showing the debris field left on the moon by the doomed lander.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission also included an orbiting spacecraft, however, that is still circling the moon and functioning well. That means it can be used by Chandrayaan-3’s rover to relay communications back to Earth.

India’s first successful lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, put a spacecraft in orbit around the moon in 2008 and then later sent a probe hurtling toward the moon’s south pole, where it deliberately crashed and released material that got analyzed by the orbiter’s scientific instruments, helping to confirm the presence of water ice on the moon.

That orbiter stopped functioning after less than a year, but the success was a huge boost for India’s space program.

Then, in 2014, India put a satellite in orbit around Mars, beating its space rival China to the red planet and becoming the fourth national space agency to reach Mars.

So far, however, the only citizen of India to fly in space is Rakesh Sharma, an Indian Air Force pilot who traveled on a Russian spacecraft in 1984.

NASA aims for first manned SpaceX mission in first-quarter 2020

NASA aims for first manned SpaceX mission in first-quarter 2020

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (Reuters) – SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon astronaut capsule will be ready for its first manned flight into orbit in the first quarter of next year provided “everything goes according to plan” in upcoming tests, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Thursday.

The pronouncement of a revised time frame signaled NASA believes SpaceX is getting the Crew Dragon project back on track following an explosion during a ground test in April and technical challenges with its re-entry parachute system.

Bridenstine said successful development of the capsule was key to achieving NASA’s top priority – the resumed “launching of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil” for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

The NASA administrator spoke to reporters at the end of a visit to the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, just outside Los Angeles, where chief executive Elon Musk led him on a tour of the sprawling manufacturing plant.

Their joint appearance by a giant glass-enclosed “clean room” where engineers were working on a Crew Dragon marked a show of unity following a rare public spat over delays in the project.

NASA and SpaceX had previously aimed to launch the Crew Dragon on an initial test flight carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019.

The revised time line hinges on a series of system tests that SpaceX hopes to conduct by year’s end, Bridenstine said.

These include a high-altitude test of an in-flight abort system designed to propel the crew capsule to safety in the event of a rocket failure on the way to orbit.

The schedule also includes at least 10 more mid-air “drop tests” to gauge the resilience and performance of parachutes used to slow the capsule’s descent into the ocean after it re-enters the atmosphere from space.


“If everything goes according to plan, it would be the first quarter of next year,” Bridenstine said when asked how soon he the capsule would be ready to fly astronauts into orbit. He was quick to add that the new time line could slip again.

“We are not going to take any undue risk,” he said, standing beside Musk and the two astronauts slated to fly aboard the Crew Dragon – Doug Hurley and Bob Benkoe.

Bridenstine also praised SpaceX for its “fail fast, then fix” approach to spacecraft development, an ethos he said that differed from the cultures of other NASA contractors.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is paying commercial launch companies SpaceX and Boeing Co ( BA.N ) $6.8 billion to build rocket-and-capsule systems enabling NASA to resume human space travel with U.S.-made hardware.

SpaceX has so far never flown humans into orbit, only cargo. But the company successfully launched an unpiloted Crew Dragon to the International Space Station in March.

Musk said overcoming problems with re-entry parachutes had proved especially challenging.

“It’s a pretty arduous engineering job to get the parachutes right,” Musk said, declaring that Crew Dragon’s parachutes will be at least twice as safe as those used during NASA’s Apollo moon missions.

He expected that “testing will be complete and hardware at the Cape (Canaveral) by the end of December.”

The top executive for Boeing’s rival Starliner program, John Mulholland, said on Wednesday that its own key test of an abort system was slated for Nov. 4, while its unpiloted orbital test flight was set for Dec. 17. Under that time frame, the first Starliner manned mission is all but certain to slip into 2020.

NASA is currently paying Russia about $80 million per seat for rides to the space station.

Bridenstine said the agency was “still buying seats” for ride-alongs aboard Russia’s Soyuz as an “insurance policy” against future delays in U.S. crew capsule development.

While providing few concrete details on their joint investigation into an explosion during a ground test of Crew Dragon’s abort thrusters in April, Musk said such setbacks were inevitable in rigorous testing of complex systems.

Bridenstine’s visit came after he and Musk had clashed over the past two weeks, with the NASA chief chiding Musk on Twitter for celebrating a milestone on SpaceX’s deep-space Starship rocket while the Crew Dragon project remained delayed.

Bridenstine sought to bury the hatchet on Thursday, saying he was merely “signaling” to SpaceX and other NASA contractors that “we need more realism built in to our development time frames.”

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; additional reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; editing by Paul Tait, Rosalba O’Brien and Richard Pullin

US astronauts will soon fly again in American spacecraft – but not NASA s

US astronauts will soon fly again in American spacecraft – but not NASA’s


Neil Armstrong Chair and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The Ohio State University

Disclosure statement

John M. Horack does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


The Ohio State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

“This year, American astronauts will go back to space in American rockets.”

This one sentence from the 2019 State of the Union address may have escaped your notice. It ended a paragraph in which the president paid tribute to astronaut Buzz Aldrin of the Apollo 11 mission to mark the the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. From that point, the speech transitioned to increasing the standard of living for Americans in the 21st century. A small sentence, perhaps. Maybe perceived by some as a throwaway line. But behind these 12 words lies a revolution in how Americans will get to space in the future.

Americans have not flown to orbit aboard an American rocket or from an American launch pad since July 8, 2011. This gap of nearly eight years and counting is the longest in our history, eclipsing the six-year gap between Apollo-Soyuz in 1975 and the Space Shuttle program in 1981. Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, the United States has paid Russia approximately US$75 million per seat to launch U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz spacecraft from a launch site in Kazakhstan.

However, as noted in the State of the Union, things will change in 2019. American astronauts are scheduled to fly to space from U.S. soil this summer, aboard three separate launch systems, developed not by the U.S. government and its contractor workforce, but instead by commercial spaceflight companies. It is a change that heralds a new era in human space travel.

A new era of American spaceflight

SpaceX, Boeing and Virgin Galactic are all planning to send American astronauts into space in 2019. For SpaceX and Boeing – if the schedule holds and near-term test flights go well – their voyages will be orbital flights to the ISS launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX will fly two NASA astronauts in their Dragon Capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket, and Boeing will fly a crew of three in its CST-100 Starliner aboard an Atlas-V booster.

Virgin Galactic has already put Americans into space with their most recent flight in December 2018. Although this rocket did not orbit the Earth, and did just a quick “up and down” trajectory, it demonstrates amazing progress.

Most revolutions do not happen overnight, and our revolution in commercial human spaceflight is no exception. All of this activity can be traced back to the George W. Bush 43 administration, when NASA Administrator Dr. Michael D. Griffin put $500 million of NASA money on the table to help spur industry to develop commercial systems from which NASA could purchase delivery services, for crew and cargo, just as one buys airline tickets.

If I wish to fly from New York to Los Angeles, for example, I can go to a website, make a reservation, and enter my credit card number. I don’t have to build the airplane, construct the airport, own and operate the air-traffic control system, refine the fuel from crude oil, train the pilot, and so forth. I buy it as a simple commercial transaction. This mode is what NASA was after when the first commercial launch programs were established in 2006.

Virgin Galactic’s carrier airplane WhiteKnightTwo carrying space tourism rocket plane SpaceShipTwo takes off from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif., Dec. 13, 2018. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

Launches return to American soil

Development has occurred on a schedule much longer than anticipated, creating the record gap in American launches. However, it has led directly to the establishment of multiple independent systems of cargo supply to space, aboard the SpaceX Falcon-9 and Orbital Science’s Antares launch vehicle. All told, this arrangement has worked extremely well, safely and in a cost-effective manner.

In 2019, human launch capability will be added to the ongoing portfolio of cargo flights, returning American astronauts to American launch vehicles, and eliminating the requirement to launch to the ISS on a Russian system. After almost two decades at NASA, I can say that this is, indeed, a big deal.

This revolution is just getting started. In the not-too-distant future, you can also expect to see Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Sierra Nevada Corporation begin similar flights to orbit. Bezos’ team is already flying suborbital cargo and science experiment flights to space on a reusable vehicle named New Shepard from their launch facility in Texas. Sierra Nevada will be flying their Dream Chaser vehicle, which looks much like a mini-space shuttle and lands on a runway, for cargo to ISS (first) and then people (later).

Revolutions – even those cloaked in a simple sentence – do not happen in an instant. It has been 13 years since NASA first worked to spur commercial development of launch capabilities. Eight years have elapsed since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. A revolution is in the making, totally transforming how we send American astronauts into space. Perhaps not overnight, but it is coming soon to a launch pad near you … and, yes, this revolution will be televised.