Tag Archives: NASA

Apollo 11: Day 3


Image taken on the third day of Apollo 11’s flight. Earth seen from 162,400 nautical miles away; Africa, with the Sahara Desert, is quite clear. Image credit: LPI

Aldrin: “Houston, Apollo 11. We’ve got the continent of Africa right facing toward us right now, and of course, everything’s getting smaller and smaller as time goes on. The Mediterranean is completely clear. The Sun looks like it’s about to set around Madagascar. The equatorial belt of Africa stands out quite clearly. We’re seeing a dark green or a muddy colored green, compared to the sandier colors of the southern tip of Africa and, of course, the Sahara northern coast of Africa. There’s a rather remarkable cloud that appears in the vicinity of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s just about to go into the sunset now. It is casting quite a large shadow. It’s isolated. There don’t seem to be any other clouds. The band of clouds near the tropical convergent clouds down around the equator clearly separate the clockwise and the counter-clockwise cloud formations. Over.”

This was the final day of preparations for the lunar landing scheduled for the following day. The spacecraft approached the moon, and went behind it, putting Apollo 11 in a blackout with Earth. The crew used that time to prepare for their first lunar orbit insertion maneuver: To position themselves to orbit the moon.


Apollo 11: Day 2


Earth as seen from 113,500 miles away, on Day 2 of Apollo 11’s journey. North is up, with Greenland visible, South America can also bee seen. Image credit: LPI

Collins: “Rog. I’ve got the world in my window for a change and looking at it through the monocular, it’s really something. I wish I could describe it properly, but the weather is very good. South America is coming around into view. I can see on the – what appears to me to be upper horizon, a point that must be just about Seattle, Washington, and then from there I can see all the way down to the southern tip – Tierra del Fuego and the southern tip of the continent.”

Armstrong and Aldrin, while on live TV, put on their spacesuits and went down the docking tunnel from Columbia to the Lunar Module (LM). They gave viewers on Earth a short tour of the vehicle that would take them to the lunar surface.

To break away from the Earth’s gravitational field, Apollo 11 needed a speed of 7 miles per second. By the close of the second day, Apollo 11 would leave the Earth’s gravitational field, and enter the moon’s. The Columbia and Eagle would then slow to 2400 mph at this time.


The Saturn V


The Saturn V Rocket of the Apollo 4 mission, stands at the launch pad in November 1967; Photo credit: NASA

The Saturn V rocket was developed under the direction of Wernher von Braun, the German-born engineer, and Adolph Hitler’s star rocketeer. The Saturn V went from idea on paper to actual flight in a period of six years. The rocket’s first flight was the unmanned Apollo 4 mission in 1967. It’s first manned flight was Apollo 8 in 1968.

The Saturn V had a height of 363 feet, and a width of 33 feet. It weighed 6,540,000 lbs, with a payload of 310,000 lbs to (low earth orbit) and a payload of 90,000 lbs to the moon. The Saturn V was a three stage rocket: The first stage was powered by five F-1 engines, the second stage by five J-2 engines, and the third stage by a single J-2 engine.

The first stage of the Saturn V, saw the five F-1 engines use 20 tons of fuel a second, producing 7.5 million pounds of thrust. When Charles Lindberg crossed the Atlantic in 1927 in his Spirit of St. Louis, the small plane used 450 pounds of fuel for the entire flight. The Saturn V used 10x that amount in it’s first 1/10 of a second.


The five F-1 engines of the Saturn V; Photo credit: space.com

The Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket to launch. It holds the record for heaviest payload launched. Fifteen Saturn V rockets were built, but only thirteen saw flight, with all 13 launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. To this date, it remains the only vehicle to transport humans beyond low earth orbit. 24 astronauts were sent to the moon on the Saturn V. Of its thirteen missions, the Saturn V saw no loss of life or loss of payload. However, the rocket was tested by Mother Nature during Apollo 12, when lightning struck the vehicle moments after launch. Other than some strange warning lights within the cockpit, there was no major damage, and they went on to land in the moon’s Ocean of Storms. Which seems more than appropriate.

The Saturn V saw it’s final flight on May 14, 1973, when it carried Skylab into orbit.


Apollo 11 Liftoff


Apollo 11’s Saturn V rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center; Photo credit: NASA

The crew of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, launched from Kennedy Space Center on this date in 1969.


Apollo Week


Fires from Space


The two main Fairbanks Fires as seen from space; Photo credit: NASA

NASA released a photo from one of their satellites the other day, showing the smoke from both the Shovel Creek and Nugget Creek fires. As of Monday morning, the Nugget Creek Fire had reached 6900 acres, and the Shovel Creek Fire at 10,000 acres, with zero percent containment.

Residents of 52 homes in two subdivisions have been told to evacuate, along with residents of 93 homes being told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Cabins and homes along the Chatanika River are also under threat. The area received .3″ of rain on Sunday evening, which isn’t much, but along with cooler temperatures, the firefighters were able to catch a small break. Hot, dry weather is back in the forecast, however.


Niagara Aerospace Museum

The Niagara Aerospace Museum is located in the old terminal of the Niagara Falls International Airport. Because the Curtiss-Wright and Bell Aircraft corporations played such a huge part in the aviation history of the Buffalo/Niagara area, those two companies are well represented within the museum.


The P39: “Miss Lend-Lease”

Arguably the centerpiece to the museum is this Bell Aircraft P39Q “Airacobra”. The P39 left Niagara Falls on December 26, 1943 bound for Russia due to the Lend Lease program. Talking to the museum volunteers, the P39 went through Ladd Field in Fairbanks before crossing the Bering Sea. The P39 then went missing in action during November of 1944.

In 2004, the P39 was found in Lake Mart-Yavr in northwestern Russia. Bell Aircraft took recovery of the aircraft in 2008, the pilot’s remains were given a military funeral, and the plane’s logbook was recovered and preserved. Over 4500 Bell P39 Airacobras were sent to Russia during lend-lease, along with 2500 Curtiss-Wright P40 Warhawks and 2500 Bell P63 King Cobras. Russia’s top ten aces during WWII flew P39 aircraft.

The plane has been nicknamed “Miss Lend-Lease” by the museum. Two local Niagara women, who worked at Bell Aircraft during the war, wrote hidden messages in the P39 when they worked on its assembly over 70 years ago. They have been discovered, and are now on display next to their P39.


P40 Warhawk mural

More than 16,000 P40 Warhawks were built at the Curtiss-Wright Buffalo plants. On September 11, 1942, a P40 on a test flight, caught fire. The test pilot parachuted safely to the ground, but the P40 mysteriously turned back and traveled two miles before plummeted through the Curtiss-Wright Plant roof, killing six workers at the scene, while eight died of their injuries later. 43 others were wounded, mostly with burns.

The Curtiss plant was torn down in 1999, but a plaque honoring the victims who lost their life due to the P40 crash is still displayed at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. The one in the photo above is a copy of that plaque, located at the Niagara Aerospace Museum, within the Curtiss-Wright section.


A replica of a Curtiss “Jenny”

The Curtiss “Jenny” above is a replica, on display showing the wings without their canvas covering. 10,000 Curtiss “Jenny” aircraft were produced in Buffalo between 1914 – 1917.


Apollo EECOM Station

Thanks to Bell’s involvement in the space program, there is quite a display at the museum on the Apollo missions. The EECOM Station above, was used throughout the Apollo Programs, but played a particularly vital role in the Apollo 13 Mission.


The Agena 8081 Rocket Engine

The Agena rocket engine saw 360 mission flights, with a reliability record of 99.7%. It had action in the Ranger Mariner, Gemini and Nimbus Programs. It was used extensively to launch the Lunar Orbiter space probes, which preceded the successful Apollo missions.


Cunningham-Hall GA-36

The Cunningham-Hall Aircraft Company produced aircraft such as the GA-36 in Rochester, NY during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. This particular GA-36 was found languishing in a field at a small airport in Michigan. It was acquired and restored by volunteers at the Amherst Museum.

Admission to the museum was $8 for adults. Parking is directly in front of the old terminal, where passenger drop off and pick up used to take place. The volunteers were very knowledgeable and eager to talk about their collection.