Gumdrop Meets Spider

Apollo 9 will probably never be remembered by the general population like Apollo 13 (thank you Forrest Gump) and Apollo 11 (thank you Walter Cronkite). However, it was an important step before man could walk on the moon. It was in the crawling phase and merely orbited our blue marble. Apollo 9 was […]


Startdown: Crawl Before You Walk

Also, what is that kid doing just wandering around back there?

Image via highpowerrocketry.


Landing Craft

Apollo 11’s Lunar Module “Eagle” as it prepares to land on the moon.

Paper-thin walls that would crumple if the craft were flown in Earth’s atmosphere. Standing room only. Two tiny windows that bulge outward from the air pressure inside. Two humans, flying across a heavenly body not their own. A flying machine […]


More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

Apollo 8 Launches on 21 December 1968

Engineers are, by nature, generally cautious people. We add design factors and contingency factors and factors of safety into our design to account for any variance between design and construction, or for errors in our assumptions. Flight engineers tend to be even more cautious since they generally will have human lives at stake.

It was this cautious approach to testing the various stages of the Saturn V rocket that put the Apollo goal — reaching the moon before the end of the 1960s — at risk. In order to meet that goal, when George Mueller took over as NASA’s Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight in September 1963 he declared that the Saturn V testing would go from a very incremental approach to an all-up approach. A full stack of stages should be tested as soon as stages are ready for testing.
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Atomic Awesome

Starfish Prime: Apollo’s Other Nuclear Concern

The Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test explosion on July 9, 1962.

On July 9, 1962 the US set off one of the largest nuclear bombs in low earth orbit ever. Part of it was experimental, but part of it was meant to inject nuclear radiation into the Van Allen radiation belts that encompass the Earth. The US was thinking that if the radiation level in the Van Allen belts could be raised then Soviet ICBMs that travel through the Van Allen belts would be fried and not destroy us.

The nuclear explosion was huge, visible as far away as Tonga and causing a red aurora over much of the South Pacific. The lasting effects of the radiation in the Van Allen belts was also a concern for NASA several years later.
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AT Hall of Fame

Ron Toomer Had one Hell of a Ride

Ron Toomer with his loops

Every once in a great while a man comes along that dabbles in a bit of everything. Ron Toomer was such a man. Ron lost his battle with cancer Monday at the age of 81. Leaving behind his wife of 54 years and his 4 children. Some of you are scratching your head and wondering who the hell this guy is. When this is done, you’ll either go “Oh yeah .. that guy.” Or you’ll learn something new about someone who deserved much more credit.

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User Input

User Input: Profiteering for Fun and, um, Profit

I didn’t realize until OA5599 pointed out in yesterday’s comments that the Apollo astronauts were such fans of the Corvette. Or at least, Chevrolet invested in making sure it looked like that. And why not? What’s the point of being famous if you don’t leverage the fruits of sponsorship deals? Granted, it may have […]

User Input

User Input: Cheerios for Exhaust

As engineerd™ points out, Atlantis will soon return to Earth, and the only shuttles being built will be part of an eighth grade science fair diorama. I’m not as up to speed on the space program as I probably should be, but the successor to the shuttle program, named […]


Apollo 11 Launch


Last night my phone buzzed. It was a bat signal from reader Jo Schmo with the above video. Watching this video, the raw feed from camera E-8 on the mobile launch platform, you can’t help but be in awe at the power of human ingenuity. At 500 fps, this 8 minute video represents […]

Holiday Shenanigans, Spaceheads

A “Major” Christmas Eve Tradition

I grew up in the heady days of the space race, and during my “aerospace infatuation” era (roughly ages 5-15), no doll action figure was as impossibly cool as Major Matt Mason. He flew in space (very cool). He wore very believable space garb (very cool). He met …alien friends? (okay — not so believable, thus not so cool, but whatever.) Not only were Major Matt Mason toys one of my Christmas gift request staples for at least a three or four year period, but he became an annual symbol of family Christmas memories long after the last Saturn V blasted off from the Cape.
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