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07/30/2020 – Ephemeris – This morning is the first opportunity to launch the Perseverance Rover to Mars

July 30, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, July 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 42 minutes, setting at 9:10, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:28. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 3:11 tomorrow morning.

This morning is the scheduled launch of the Mars 2020 Rover named Perseverance. The launch will have or had launched at 7:50 am. Or the whole thing was scrubbed for today. I can’t tell, I recorded this last Sunday night. To hit a spot on Mars less than six miles in diameter after a six and a half month coasting flight is quite a fete. Mars is not only moving in orbit of the Sun, but also rotating. The aeroshell the rover is packed in must hit the Mars atmosphere in the right place, and the right time despite the light time from Mars of 11 minutes, 22 seconds. It will take 6 minutes, 50 seconds for the rover to land after it hits the top of Mars’ atmosphere. So it will have landed one way or another before we get the signal that it hit the atmosphere.

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

Addendum

Atlas V with Mars 2020 Rover aboard on launch pad

Atlas V with Mars 2020 Rover aboard on launch pad. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: United Launch Alliance (ULA).

07/28/2020 – Ephemeris – The Mars Endurance Rover may launch to Mars on Thursday

July 28, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 47 minutes, setting at 9:12, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:26. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 1:49 tomorrow morning.

This Thursday at 7:50 am is the first opportunity to launch the Mars 2020 or Perseverance Rover to Mars to arrive on February 18th 2021. The rover will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5/Centaur rocket with 4 solid boosters. To send a payload to Mars one must launch within a specific window of time called a launch period. This was originally from July17 to August 11th. Some issues with testing caused a delay to July 30th. The launch period was extended to August 15th. Miss that and it’s a wait of 26 months until Earth and Mars are in the same relative position to try again. The landing area or ellipse is less than 6 miles long on the long axis and partially overlaps an ancient dried river delta that flowed into Jezero crater.

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

Addendum

Artist's concept of the Mars 2020 Rover launch

An artist’s concept of the Mars 2020 Rover launch. The rocket is an Atlas V with 4 solid boosters and a Centaur upper stage. Credit NASA.

 

12/05/2019 – Ephemeris – Artemis the new Moon program

December 5, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 5:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:05. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 2:01 tomorrow morning. | NASA has a new program to return to the Moon, perhaps to stay. The program is called Artemis, named after the Greek god Apollo’s twin sister. NASA is building a massive rocket called the Space Launch System, or SLS, and the Orion

, which I’m sure will guarantee European astronauts a ride. This is not going to be an Apollo type one rocket up and back. There will be a space station called the Lunar Gateway of International partners that will orbit the Moon. There the crew of the Orion Spacecraft will transfer to a Lunar Lander for the trip to and from the surface of the Moon. It’s a heavy push to accomplish by 2024.

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

Addendum

The Block 1b vrsion of the Space Launch System (SLS) which uses elongated Space Shuttle boosters and a core stage with 4 Space Shuttle main engines for the first stage. Credit NASA.

Orion MPC

Cone-shaped Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle with a European Service Module. Credit NASA.

Lunar Gateway

Lunar Gateway supplied by the same partners that built the International Space Station. It will orbit the Moon, Credit NASA.

Lunar Lander

Lunar Lander. This vehicle has not been designed yet. This is Blue Origin’s Ascent Module on top of a yet to be designed propulsion module. Credit Blue Origin.

08/15/2019 – Ephemeris – Looking back at Apollo 12

August 15, 2019 Comments off

Sorry for the late post.  I had a short hospital stay due to something that happened to me early Wednesday.

Ephemeris for Thursday, August 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 3 minutes, setting at 8:48, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:46. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 9:17 this evening.

Apollo 11 wasn’t the only moon landing mission in 1969. Four months after Apollo 11 took off Apollo 12 lifted off into ominous skies on November 14th. The rocket was struck by lightning shortly after takeoff, and popped the circuit breakers in the command module, but didn’t affect the computers controlling the Saturn V. The astronauts were able to reset everything in time for TLI, Trans Lunar Injection. They landed as intended some 600 feet from the Surveyor 3 lander spacecraft sent to the Moon 2 and a half years earlier. They cut off the spacecraft camera to return to the Earth. The improved color TV camera they brought with them was damaged when it was inadvertently pointed to the Sun while setting it up.

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

Addendum

The crew of Apollo 12 left to right: Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean. Credit: NASA.

Pete Conrad visiting Surveyor 3. Credit NASA/Alan Bean.

08/13/2019 – Ephemeris – Apollo 11 at 50: Soviet Moon landing plans

August 13, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, August 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 9 minutes, setting at 8:51, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:43. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 5:36 tomorrow morning.

The United States thought it was in a race to the Moon with the Soviets in the 1960s. The Russians in the meantime were pushing for space firsts, like the first man in space, first woman, first space walk. So they started too late with their Moon landing plans, on top of that their chief rocket designer Sergei Korolev died of a botched surgery in 1966 leading to a struggle for leadership. Despite their huge N-1 rocket, the payload to the lunar surface was less than the US had. They would have a 2 man crew in the Soyuz capsule and a one man lander they designated LK. The LK, much smaller than the US’s Lunar Module and to my knowledge was never tested and it never flew in space. The four moon rockets they built never flew more than a few seconds each.

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

Addendum

Saturn V vs. N1

Comparison between The United States Saturn V and the Soviet N-1. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit Karl Tate, Space.com.

Lunar Descent and Ascent Diagram

The Lunar landing strategy. When it comes to landing one cosmonaut space walks from the Soyuz (LOK) to the LK lander. The fifth stage called Block-D accomplishes the de-orbit burn of the lander, and is jettisoned. The LK is a two part vehicle somewhat like the American LM, except one engine accomplishes both landing and takeoff. On lunar rendezvous with the LOK the LK is the passive member of the docking. Credit: Rockets and People Volume IV The Moon Race by Boris Chertok/NASA.

The Rockets and People series can be downloaded from NASA.gov:  https://history.nasa.gov/series95.html. Look under Memoirs.

The LK Lander.

The LK Lander. Credit: Rockets and People Vol. IV/ NASA.

LK vs. LM

A comparison of the size of the LK Lander and the American Lunar Module (LM).  Click on the image to enlarge. Credit Wikipedia/ebs08.

08/12/2019 – Ephemeris – Apollo 8’s giant leap to the Moon

August 12, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, August 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 8:53, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:42. The Moon, 3 days before full, will set at 4:38 tomorrow morning. | On the road to the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon 50 years ago was Apollo 8’s Christmas orbiting of the Moon in 1968. Apollo 7’s shakedown of the Command and service modules in October that year meant that they had a good spacecraft. However on September 28th that year a US spy satellite photographed a giant rocket of approximately the same size as the Saturn V on a launch pad at the Tyuratam Missile Test Center in the Soviet Union. Were they going to get to the Moon before us? Also Grumman was behind schedule with producing the Lunar Module for Apollo 8’s scheduled shakedown of that module in Earth orbit. NASA then decided to send Apollo 8 to the Moon instead and not miss a launch opportunity.

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

Addendum

KH-8 spy satellite photo of an N-1 rocket on the launch pad on September 28, 1968.

Apollo 8 crew from he left: Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell.

The famous Earthrise photograph: ”We went to the Moon and Discovered the Earth.” Credit NASA/Apollo 8/Bill Anders.

 

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.

07/11/2019 – Ephemeris – Road to the Moon: Project Gemini

July 11, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, July 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 9:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:08. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 2:57 tomorrow morning.

In the steps to the Moon in the 1960’s The United States proved that humans could work in space for at least a day and a half with Project Mercury. Following that was Project Gemini to prove that humans could work and survive in space for the time it takes to get to the Moon and back, up to two weeks; to practice the techniques of rendezvous and docking of two spacecraft; and to learn how to work in space outside the spacecraft: Extravehicular Activities (EVAs), better known as space walks. Each took multiple flights to perfect. One of the hardest to perfect was working with Newton’s third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, especially when trying to tighten a bolt with a wrench.

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

Addendum

Rendezvous and docking practice.

Rendezvous and docking practice. Atlas launches an Agena target vehicle first then one orbit later the Titan II launches the Gemini spacecraft. Credit NASA.

Gemini 6 rendezvous with Gemini 7

Gemini 6 rendezvous with Gemini 7 after the Agena for Gemini 6 failed to orbit. Gemini 7 was a two week endurance flight. Then Gemini 6 was sent up to meet it. Credit NASA.

Ed White in America's first space walk

Ed White in America’s first space walk on Gemini 4. Floating around was easy. but performing work was hard. Credit NASA.

 

05/07/2019 – Ephemeris – We’re starting to look at the race to the Moon that culminated 50 years ago

May 7, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 8:54, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:23. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 11:58 this evening.

As we look at the Moon near the planet Mars tonight, we recall that fifty years ago today the United States was one week from launching Apollo 10, the penultimate lunar mission to test out the Lunar Module shortened to LM pronounced “Lem” in the vicinity of the Moon. President Kennedy announced the goal in 1961 to send a man to the Moon and return him safely by the end of the decade. This required a lot of learning steps and in the end a huge rocket, the Saturn V. That rocket’s chief designer was Wernher von Braun an ex-Nazi officer who designed the German V-2 during World War II. His counterpart on the Soviet side was Sergei Korolev, though we didn’t know his name until after he died in 1966.  His death hampered the development of the Soviet’s N-1 moon rocket.

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

Addendum

Wernher von Braun

Wernher von Braun around 1960. Image is in the public domain.

Sergei Korolev

Sergei Korolev, undated image published after his death. Image is in the public domain.

A fascinating look of the Soviet side of the moon race can be found here: https://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/rockets_people_vol4_detail.html.  The ebook Rockets and People Volume IV, The Moon Race by Korolev’s deputy Boris Chertok.  It’s available in epub, mobi and pdf formats.  Volume 3 covers from 1961 to 1967.  There are links to all the other volumes from that page.

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.