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07/16/2019 – Ephemeris – 50 years ago today the Apollo mission left for the Moon

July 16, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 9:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:13. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 9:30 this evening.

50 years ago today at 11:32 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time the most powerful rocket ever built roared into life. The Saturn V, a three stage rocket, 363 feet tall, which in turn launched two spacecraft, the Command and Service modules, and the Lunar Module, and three astronauts on their journey to destiny, Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, and Michael Collins. It was the start of the Apollo 11 mission. It happens that tonight the namesake of the rocket, the planet Saturn is to the right of the Moon. At launch the Moon was two days old, a thin crescent in the west that evening. Four days later they would be orbiting the Moon, and Armstrong and Aldrin would be descending to the Moon’s surface.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addenda

Apollo 11

Crew of Apollo 11

Left to right Neil Armstrong, Mission Commander; Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot; and Buzz Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot. Credit: NASA.

Apollo 11 launch

The Saturn V for the Apollo 11 mission lifts of from Pad 39A. Credit: NASA.

The Moon and Saturn tonight

The Moon and Saturn tonight, 11 p.m. July 16, 2019. In reality the Moon will be so bright that Saturn will be almost overwhelmed. Created using Stellarium.

Here’s an excellent podcast series from the BBC:  13 Minutes to the Moon.

Partial Lunar Eclipse

The partial lunar eclipse today is not mentioned in the program because it is not visible locally.

Partial Lunar Eclipse of July 16, 2019. Click on image to enlarge. Credit NASA/GSFC/F. Espenak.

06/17/2019 – Ephemeris – President Kennedy wanted to get us to the Moon… But how?

June 17, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, June 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 9:30, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 9:56 this evening.

President Kennedy’s Challenge to land “a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” came only 20 days after Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital flight and 45 days after Yuri Gagarin’s orbital flight. To the NASA designers the question was how! Three scenarios were studied. The Moon direct approach where the spacecraft would be sent intact to the Moon and back which would take a really gigantic rocket. The Earth rendezvous where the spacecraft would be assembled in Earth orbit and then sent to the Moon. And the lunar orbit rendezvous where only part of the craft would be sent down to the lunar surface, while the main craft stayed in orbit of the Moon. After a lot of study the third option was accepted. It was up to project Gemini to develop the skills necessary to rendezvous and dock two spacecraft in orbit.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

How will we get to the Moon

Three flight techniques to land on the Moon. John Houbolt, who came up with the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous went through a lot of grief before his method was accepted in 1962. Credit: NASA.

Categories: Ephemeris Program, History, NASA Tags:

06/13/2019 – Ephemeris – Project Mercury

June 13, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, June 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 4:23 tomorrow morning.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon we’ll look at the first human space mission program, Mercury. It was taken over from the Air Force by the newly organized NASA space agency in 1958. It’s mission to launch a man in orbit, having him survive for at least a day and return him to the Earth. Alan Shepard crewed the first Mercury launch on a suborbital hop on May 5th, 1961, 25 days after the Soviet Union launched Yuri Gagarin on a single orbit of the Earth. On the third Mercury Launch John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth in his Friendship 7 capsule. In all there were 6 flights in the Mercury program. Of the seven Mercury astronauts, only Deke Slayton never flew on Mercury for medical reasons buy flew in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The 7 Mercury Astronauts

The seven Mercury astronauts were (from left) Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Gordon Cooper and Scott Carpenter. Credits: NASA

The Mercury Capsule

The Mercury Capsule diagram. Not shown is the Retropack on the back of the heat shield held on by straps.  The Retropack contained solid rockets to slow the capsule so it can descend from orbit. Credit: NASA.

05/16/2019 – Ephemeris – Looking back at the Ranger program: Getting really close up pictures of the Moon

May 16, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, May 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 9:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:12. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 5:51 tomorrow morning.

The reconnaissance missions that had to be accomplished before the United Stated could land on the Moon in 1969 started with the Ranger program. The idea was to send a spacecraft to crash on the Moon taking and transmitting television pictures all the way down. In addition to the camera some Ranger spacecraft had a lunar capsule with a seismometer with a retro rocket to slow that package down and survive the landing. That feature never worked. Nine Rangers were launched. Only the last three were successful in returning images. Each returned thousands of images each returning detail down to 20 inches. One surprise, the rays we see from craters like Copernicus are actually chains of craterlets caused by ejecta from the impact.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Here’s a time lapse video of Ranger 9 hitting the crater Alphonsus. 17 minutes collapsed into 13 seconds:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpFifHgZyrg

05/09/2019 – Ephemeris – The USA: Step by step to the Moon

May 9, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, May 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 8:57, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:20. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 1:54 tomorrow morning.

The Apollo 11 manned landing on the Moon 50 years ago was the culmination of a series of incremental steps. The Mercury program was in progress when President Kennedy announce the goal to land on the Moon. Following that was Gemini a two man capsule to test long duration flight, rendezvous and docking of two spacecraft, and EVA’s or spacewalks. There was the Ranger program attempted to photograph the Moon close up by sending probes to crash into the Moon. The Lunar Orbiter program to map the entire Moon, the Surveyor program to soft land on the Moon and test its surface. All this leading up to the three man Apollo program to test out the strategy and equipment and to land humans on the Moon.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Project Mercury

Project Mercury astronauts and a model of the Mercury-Atlas rocket and capsule. Left to right: Grissom, Shepard, Carpenter, Schirra, Slayton, Glenn and Cooper, in 1962. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit NASA.

Project Gemini

Project Gemini: Left Ed White during the US first space walk during Gemini 4 in June of 1965. Right The rendezvous of Gemini 6 & 7 in December of 1965. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit NASA.

Ranger Program

Left: The Ranger spacecraft. Right: The floor of the crater Alphonsus from Ranger 9. Only the last 3 spacecraft were successful. They transmitted images all the way down as they crashed into the Moon. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit NASA.

Lunar Orbiter program

In the most unheralded of the lunar programs the 5 successful Lunar Orbiter satellites photographed 99% of the Moon. from 1966 to 1967. The Moon was photographed on film in strips, developed and the images scanned and transmitted back to Earth. Right: The oblique view of the crater Copernicus was dubbed at the time “The Picture of the Century”. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit NASA.

Surveyor program

Surveyor 3, visited by astronaut Pete Conrad during the Apollo 12 mission. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: NASA / Alan Bean.

 

04/12/2019 – Ephemeris – The proposed Deep Space Gateway

April 12, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, April 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 8:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:02. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 3:55 tomorrow morning.

With international cooperation NASA is hoping it and its partners, the European Space Agency, The Japanese JAXA, The Canadian Space Agency and the Russian Roscosmos will a build the Deep Space Gateway, a way station between the Earth and Moon to exchange crews and vehicles traveling between the two bodies. This plan is an integral part of the returning to the Moon by around 2028. The gateway will also be a way station for the eventual exploration of Mars. How President Trump’s new demand to have the United States return to the Moon by the last year of his second term, if he has one, will affect current plans and international cooperation remains to be seen.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Deep Space Gateway

Deep Space Gateway configuration concept. This would orbit the moon is a long elliptical orbit. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: NASA.

03/15/2019 – Ephemeris – The era of US crewed space launches begins

March 15, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Ides of March, Friday, March 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 7:48, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:53. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 5:07 tomorrow morning.

Two weeks ago, the United States began to get back in the human space launch business with the launch of a test Crew Dragon space capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket, all made by SpaceX. The 6 day mission to dock with the International Space Station and then return to the Earth was an apparent success as everything appeared to go smoothly. After a successful in-flight abort test with the same capsule in a few months, another test with a crew will be flown. Boeing’s Starliner capsule is not far behind with a possible uncrewed launch in April. Both companies have abort tests to get behind them before crews can be launched. SpaceX is expected to launch a crew as early as June.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

NASA

Crew Dragon Demo-1 liftoff

SpaceX Falcon 9 Crew Dragon Demo-1 liftoff. Credit NASA.

Docking

NASA-SpaceX Demo-1 Screen Cap of docking at the ISS. Credit NASA.

Inside the Crew Dragon

Inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon with Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Credit NASA/SpaceX.

Splashdown

NASA-SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon Capsule splashdown in the Atlantic. Credit NASA/SpaceX.