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Everything posted by GordonD

  1. Sixty years ago today the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, carrying the first living creature into orbit - a mongrel dog (possibly part Husky) named Laika. This was only the second satellite to be launched, and recovery from space had not yet been developed, so it was known beforehand that she would not survive. For many years the Soviet authorities stated that Laika had died peacefully after a week or so when her oxygen supply ran out, though some reports said that she had been fed poisoned food that put her to sleep. Not until 2002 was it admitted that she had lived only a few hours and had suffered a painful death from overheating. But enough was learned from the short time she did survive in orbit to pave the way for later dog flights which were brought back successfully, and eventually the triumph of Vostok 1 in 1961, with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
  2. Apollo 4

    Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the flight of Apollo 4, the first (unmanned) launch of the Saturn V. Following the loss of the Apollo 1 crew in the pad fire in January, NASA needed a major success and took a big gamble by arranging an "all-up" test in which the entire launch vehicle was live and flight-capable, rather than being tested incrementally. While this approach eliminated several unmanned tests, it required everything to work first time. The S-IC and S-II stages were being flown for the very first time; only the third stage had previously flown on the smaller Saturn IB. Only the LM was missing, but a dummy flight test article was included to simulate the mass. When the first stage engines fired, the sound pressure was greater than expected, and TV reporter Walter Cronkite was showered with ceiling tiles from his press booth, and he and his producer had to hold the window in place to stop it vibrating. Link to YouTube here It was worth the gamble: everything worked perfectly, including the first restart of the third stage engine, which would later become routine on lunar missions. Then the Apollo CSM separated and used the big Service Module engine to fire itself back towards Earth, simulating a Command Module re-entry at lunar return velocity. The CM splashed down just 16km from the recovery vessel to complete a highly successful mission and get the Apollo programme moving again. There's a famous film clip showing the interstage ring dropping away from the S-II second stage. Less commonly seen is the first stage itself separating - both of these were filmed on Apollo 4, from camera pods which were later jettisoned and recovered. Here's that footage. Fifty years on, the Saturn V remains the largest and most powerful launch vehicle ever flown.
  3. What have you purchased 9

    This has just been delivered: Purists may sneer that it's not a proper scale model, but I don't care! It's my Christmas present to myself and as such I won't be touching it until the big day... assuming I can resist the temptation! It does have a fairly hefty price tag but all the reviews (including a couple on Britmodeller) say it's worth it. When completed it's about a metre tall, slightly smaller than the Revell kit. There are 1,969 pieces (wonder how they came up with that number!) and of course when it's finished, you can take it apart and build it all over again! I'll do a WIP when I finally start building it. One final thought - it has arrived on the fiftieth anniversary of the first launch of the Saturn V.
  4. Dick Gordon RIP

    Sad to report the death of former astronaut Dick Gordon on 6 November, at the age of 88. Gordon was selected as part of NASA's Astronaut Group 3 in October 1963. He made two spaceflights: as Pilot on Gemini XI in September 1966, when he performed two EVAs, then as Command Module Pilot on Apollo 12 in November 1969, remaining in orbit while his colleagues made the second lunar landing. He would have flown a third time, as Commander of Apollo 18, but that mission was cancelled due to budget cuts. He logged a total of 315 hours 53 minutes in space.
  5. Dick Gordon RIP

    Turns out we've lost two Apollo-era astronauts in the last few weeks - Paul Weitz, part of the first Skylab crew (and later to fly on STS-6) left us on 22 October. As usual the BBC didn't think this worthy of mention.
  6. Dick Gordon RIP

    Indeed. Though as time goes on more of them are dying from natural causes rather than accidents.
  7. Sputnik 1

    Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, the world's very first artificial satellite. The announcement came as a major shock, particularly in the USA, who were preparing their own satellite. When details were released, many in the West doubted the accuracy - Sputnik weighed 83.6kg (184lb) and some believed that the decimal point had been misplaced, as it was many times bigger than the Vanguard satellite that America was building, which tipped the scales at only 1.47kg (3.2lb). But the numbers were correct, and even though Sputnik carried no scientific instruments - just a transmitter whose 'beep-beep' signals could be picked up easily - it kick-started the Space Race. Sputnik ceased broadcasting on 26 October when its batteries ran down, but it remained in orbit, visible through telescopes, until 4 January the following year. By then it had been joined in orbit by its successor, Sputnik 2 - but that's another story.
  8. Short Jokes II The Sequel

    Shamelessly stolen from another group... Researchers for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority found over 200 dead crows near greater Boston recently, and there was concern that they may have died from Avian Flu. A Bird Pathologist examined the remains of all the crows, and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was definitely NOT Avian Flu. The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts. However, during the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colours of paints appeared on the bird's beaks and claws. By analyzing these paint residues it was determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with trucks, while only 2% were killed by an impact with a car. MTA then hired an Ornithological Behaviourist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills. The Ornithological Behaviourist very quickly concluded the cause: when crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger. They discovered that while all the lookout crows could shout "Cah", not a single one could shout "Truck."
  9. Short Jokes II The Sequel

    Get rid of the traffic wardens and let's just have squads of these guys patrolling the streets in search of illegally-parked cars!
  10. Stanislav Petrov RIP

    Stanislav Petrov died in May though his death has only just been made public. You may never have heard of him, but you have every reason to be grateful to him. In 1983 Petrov was on duty in a Soviet early warning centre when his systems reported a massive incoming nuclear attack by the USA. Petrov felt that an attack on such a huge scale made no military sense and decided it must be an error, so instead of declaring an attack he reported a system malfunction . Had he passed the information up the chain as per his orders, it's almost certain that Moscow would have retaliated on a similar scale. It turned out, of course, that Petrov was right - investigation showed that Soviet satellites had mistakenly identified sunlight reflecting on clouds as the engines of intercontinental ballistic missiles. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41314948
  11. Farewell, Cassini - and we thank you

    I'd actually forgotten I started this topic - I was going to do a new one (with the same title! ) but didn't get round to it. Footage here of Mission Control at the moment Cassini went silent, followed by a press announcement.
  12. The Cassini probe, which for the last twelve years has been sending back data about Saturn and its moons, is now almost out of propellant so will be put on a trajectory that will take it between the planet's upper atmosphere and its ring system, which means it will enter the atmosphere and burn up in September. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39672263
  13. Now we are six

    Old news now (because I forgot to post this yesterday) but the ISS crew is back up to the optimal six. Soyuz MS-06 was launched in the late evening (UK time) on Tuesday 12 September and docked with the space station a few hours later. The new arrivals are Joseph Acaba and Mark Vande Hei from the USA and Aleksandr Misurkin of Russia. Vande Hei is on his first flight, while Misurkin and Acaba have both done one previous stint on the ISS (and Acaba has a Shuttle mission as well). The existing team of Nespoli, Bresnik and Ryazansky are due to return to Earth in mid-December, which will mark the beginning of Expedition 54.
  14. Short Jokes II The Sequel

    Man goes into Boot's and asks the assistant for some deodorant. The assistant asks, "The ball type?" "No," he says, "it's for under my arms." "Mummy, Mummy, I don't want to go to Ireland for my holidays!" "Shut up and keep swimming!" "I don't want to go to school - the kids all hate me and even the teachers laugh at me behind my back!" "But you have to go - you're the headmaster!"
  15. Jack Fischer and Fyodor Yurchikhin landed safely in Soyuz MS-04 shortly after midnight BST, having been in orbit since April. With them was Peggy Whitson, who has been aboard the ISS since last November. She now holds all the US spaceflight records except one (longest single flight, still down to Scott Kelly). Whitson's total time in space is 665 days 22 hours 44 minutes, and this particular mission lasted 289 days 5 hours 2 minutes. Whitson's total time still leaves her only eighth overall: the record holder is Gennadi Padalka, with 878 days 11 hours 31 minutes.
  16. "Your on-line shopping has arrived..."

    So it was free.
  17. The latest cargo flight to the ISS has arrived safely. SpaceX Dragon CRS-12 was berthed yesterday (16 August) by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Here's a timelapse video of the launch, first stage recovery, capture by the manipulator arm and berthing to the ISS. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2od5IRQW8D4
  18. A book I'd like to see filmed is 'A Fall of Moondust' by Arthur C. Clarke. Wouldn't need to be that expensive - much of the 'action' takes place aboard a tourist bus which has become buried beneath the dust on the Moon (you can see where the title comes from!!) so it wouldn't need huge sets.
  19. 1/144 Saturn V Options

    If you like Voyage (great book) then you might find this interesting. Might give you a few ideas!
  20. BBMF Grounded

    This article from the BBC News site implies that the Griffon-engined Spitfires aren't grounded but are unavailable "for other reasons". Whatever the problem is, nobody can blame them for taking no chances. These planes are irreplaceable.
  21. 1/144 Saturn V Options

    The engines on the 1/144th Revell-Monogram S-II second stage are a disgrace. If you look closely at this picture you'll see that the nozzles don't extend up beyond the heat shield. This won't show if you're displaying the rocket as a stacked unit. Also the Service Module has the same problem as the original Airfix release - it's much too narrow, so looks totally wrong. For the 40th anniversary Airfix retooled their Service Module and SLA so theirs is now accurate... apart from the Command Module, though that doesn't show under the LES shroud.
  22. Forty-eight years ago today the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia splashed down in the Pacific Ocean to fulfil the commitment that President Kennedy had made in 1961, of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" before the end of the decade.
  23. Today in (and back from) space...

    I remember reading an SF story (though I have no idea who wrote it) about an alien species which collects space artifacts and puts them on display in their museum. Among the exhibits are the backpacks and other stuff that Armstrong and Aldrin left behind at Tranquillity Base. The story is told in a series of memos between various departments of the alien government. As the story progresses it becomes clear that Mankind is preparing to return to the Moon and due to a Star Trek-style Prime Directive there must be no evidence that the aliens have been there, so the order goes out to create exact duplicates of the backpacks to leave on the Moon in place of the originals. However the story ends with one memo saying that Mankind has revisited Tranquillity Base and all hell has broken out. It seems that there's been a breakdown in communication and the group which created the duplicates didn't realise that although Apollo 11 had a crew of three, only two of them went down to the lunar surface...
  24. Short Jokes II The Sequel

    Something similar happened to me. Apparently all the water drained out before the customer got home.
  25. Short Jokes II The Sequel

    Oh, I've been living in here for years!