In Dire Peril: 55 Years Since the Troubled Mission of Aurora 7 (Part 2)

Chrysler artist Cece Bibby chats with Scott Carpenter, after stencilling the name “Aurora 7” onto his spacecraft. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty-five years ago, this week, Scott Carpenter became America’s second man in orbit. Aboard Mercury-Atlas (MA)-7—a spacecraft which he had dubbed “Aurora 7”—the astronaut was tasked with the most comprehensive program of scientific research yet seen on a piloted mission: astronomical observations, visibility and flying evaluations and medical checks. Sadly, as outlined in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, his five-hour and three-orbit voyage suffered from severe technical problems, including a faulty pitch horizon scanner and a worrisome decline in fuel quantities in both Aurora 7’s manual and automatic tanks. The result was a mission which remains mired in controversy to this day.

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New Moon Discovered by Hubble Orbiting Third Largest Dwarf Planet in Kuiper Belt

Two images of dwarf planet 2007 OR10 from Hubble, taken a year apart, showing the small moon. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory)/J. Stansberry (STScI)

Moons are exceedingly common in the Solar System – Jupiter alone has 67! But smaller planets do as well of course, except for Mercury and Venus, and even some dwarf planets and asteroids have moons. This includes dwarf planets such as Pluto, which has five moons despite being so small itself. Most of the larger dwarf planets are now known to possess moons, and now another one has been discovered, by the Hubble Space Telescope and two other telescopes, orbiting the third largest known dwarf planet known as 2007 OR10.

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Dawn of a New Age: 55 Years Since the Troubled Mission of Aurora 7 (Part 1)

Scott Carpenter, America’s fourth man in space and second to orbit the Earth. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty-five years ago, this week, America launched its second man into orbit around the Earth. That man should have been Deke Slayton, but a heart murmur had left him grounded, not in favor of his backup, Wally Schirra, but in favor of John Glenn’s backup, Scott Carpenter. The theory was that the second orbital voyage would essentially repeat Glenn’s achievement—five hours and three orbits—and it made sense to fly Carpenter and keep Schirra for a subsequent mission. Schirra learned of the change in assignment during an impromptu gathering at the Carpenters’ home, and what should have been the most exhilarating moment of Scott Carpenter’s life turned into an ordeal.

Slayton was angry at having lost his mission and Schirra was indignant at having been skipped in the pecking order, to such an extent that Carpenter felt he was spending more time apologizing than training. One evening, Carpenter told his wife, Rene: “Damn it! I’m tired of apologizing. This is my flight now!” The flight would prove highly successful in many ways, highly controversial in others, and, it is said, would deny Carpenter the chance of ever flying into space again.

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James Webb Space Telescope Arrives at Johnson Space Center for Cryogenic Testing

The giant 18-piece mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope, inside the cleanroom at Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Often referred to as the successor for Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is one of the most highly anticipated space telescopes ever built. A large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror, JWST will be able to look at every phase of the Universe, from the period just after the Big Bang to the formation of stars, galaxies, exoplanets and even our own Solar System. Scheduled for launch in fall 2018, JWST recently arrived at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where it will undergo its last, and crucial, cryogenic test.

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SpaceX Heads for the Hundred, With Rousing Inmarsat 5-F4 Launch from Pad 39A

Pad 39A plays host to its 99th launch in almost 50 years, with the rousing pre-sunset ascent of SpaceX’s Upgraded Falcon 9 at 7:21 p.m. EDT Monday, 15 May. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Six months shy of five decades since its first launch, historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida is primed and ready to stage a landmark 100th mission in the coming weeks. Earlier tonight (Monday, 15 May), SpaceX successfully launched its workhorse Upgraded Falcon 9 booster on an ambitious mission to deliver the heavyweight Inmarsat 5-F4 communications satellite to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). Liftoff of the 230-foot-tall (70-meter) booster occurred on time at 7:21 p.m. EDT, right at the start of Monday’s 49-minute “window”.

A little under 32 minutes later, the 13,450-pound (6,100 kg) satellite was deployed, after which its on-board Liquid Apogee Engine will commence the climb to its operational orbital slot, at an altitude of 22,236 miles (35,786 km).

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'See the Sunrise?': 20 Years Since STS-84, Mission of the Six Nations (Part 2)

The pressurized modules and solar arrays of Mir, as viewed through the windows of Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-84. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Two decades ago, tonight, the Florida sky and much of the eastern seaboard of the United States, was lit up and shaken awake by the rousing launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on an ambitious voyage to Russia’s Mir orbiting station. As outlined in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, STS-84 served as a precursor for International Space Station (ISS) operations in more ways than one. During her nine days in orbit, Atlantis delivered supplies and exchanged astronauts. Her seven-strong crew—Commander Charlie Precourt, Pilot Eileen Collins and Mission Specialists Jean-Francois Clervoy, Carlos Noriega, Ed Lu, Yelena Kondakova and Mike Foale—represented no fewer than six sovereign nations: the United States, France, Peru, China, Russia and the United Kingdom. No subsequent shuttle crew ever surpassed STS-84’s accomplishment.

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'We Just Lit Up the Sky': 20 Years Since STS-84, Mission of the Six Nations (Part 1)

Atlantis roars into the night on 15 May 1997, kicking off her sixth visit to Russia’s Mir space station. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Twenty years ago, this week, Space Shuttle Atlantis roared into the night, creating a new dawn across the marshy landscape of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). “We just lit up the sky, all the way up and down the Florida coast,” STS-84 Pilot Eileen Collins remembered, then added: “So we’re told!” The launch of Collins and her six crewmates—with a heritage of no fewer than six sovereign nations—from Pad 39A occurred at 4:07 a.m. EDT on 15 May 1997, kicking off an ambitious nine-day mission to rendezvous, dock and exchange astronauts and supplies aboard Russia’s Mir space station.

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Whitson/Fischer Stand on Shoulders of Titans for Historic 200th ISS Spacewalk

Today’s shortened U.S. EVA-42 saw Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson retain her place as the world’s fifth most experienced spacewalker. Her crewmate Jack Fischer became the 217th person and the 130th American to venture outside his craft in space. Photo Credit: NASA

For the fifth time in as many months in 2017, a pair of astronauts ventured outside the International Space Station (ISS) earlier today (Friday, 12 May), tasked with a broad range of objectivess, including the removal and replacement of an avionics box and the installation of data connectors, protective shielding, a new high-definition camera and a pair of wireless antennas. Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson—who already stands as the world’s most experienced female spacewalker—and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer spent an abbreviated four hours and 13 minutes outside the station. Returning inside after the historic 200th Extravehicular Activity (EVA) of the ISS era, Whitson retains her previous position as the fifth most seasoned spacewalker in the world.

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Soyuz MS-06 Crew Discusses Changes to Forthcoming Space Station Expedition

Soyuz MS-06 crew members (from left) Aleksandr Misurkin, Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei will spend five months in space from September 2017 through February 2018. Photo Credit: Michael Galindo/AmericaSpace

A trio of space explorers, who six months ago could not have imagined they would ever be flying together, gathered yesterday (Wednesday, 10 May) at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, to discuss their forthcoming voyage to the International Space Station (ISS). Seasoned Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Misurkin and a pair of NASA astronauts—first-time flyer Mark Vande Hei and shuttle and ISS veteran Joe Acaba—spoke at length about the five months they will spend aboard the multi-national orbiting outpost from September 2017 through February 2018.

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Grand Finale Part 3: Cassini Completes Third Ring Dive, Sees Bright Clouds on Titan

Two versions of the image of Titan’s clouds, taken on May 7, 2017. The first is with stronger enhancement, and the second is with softer enhancement. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

NASA’s Cassini probe has now survived its third dive into Saturn’s rings, specifically the gap between the innermost rings and the planet itself. This is just the latest in a series of 22 such planned dives for the Grand Finale phase, before the mission ends on Sept. 15, 2017. This time, as well as obtaining more close-up views of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere again, Cassini took a look at Saturn’s largest moon Titan from a distance, and saw some of the longest and brightest clouds in the hazy atmosphere that it has seen in the entire mission. Even though Cassini won’t be making any more close flybys of Titan, these new views are fantastic.

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