Category Archives: Space Exploration

Intrepid-Surveyor

Fifty years ago, Apollo 12 landed within sight of another spacecraft, a dramatic demonstration of pinpoint landing capability. While Dick Gordon orbited Luna in the command module Yankee Clipper, Pete Conrad and Al Bean left the lunar module Intrepid and … Continue reading

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Stainless Steel Starship

Welders in a Texas swamp have built a starship. But don’t bet against SpaceX. Starship is a prototype upper stage for a next-generation, fully reusable, two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle designed to enable the human exploration of the solar system and the … Continue reading

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After the Moonwalk

Iconic is Neil Armstrong’s photograph of Buzz Aldrin during the first moon walk, with Armstrong reflected in Aldrin’s visor. Much less well-known is this pair of photographs taken just after the moon walk. To my eyes, Armstrong seems exhausted but … Continue reading

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“Contact Light”

Our TV is broken, so Aunt Nora invites us to her apartment. (Aunt Nora isn’t really our aunt, but she introduced our parents to each other, so that’s what we call her.) My brother Jim and I lie on the … Continue reading

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Black Hole Radii

I set the alarm for 8:55 AM. Brutal, but I wanted to watch live the National Science Foundation Event Horizon Telescope news conference. I was expecting the first image of a black hole, and the EHT team did not disappoint. … Continue reading

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Dr. Rendezvous

Edwin Aldrin earned his PhD from MIT in 1963 with a thesis titled, “Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous”. Just three years later in 1966, Aldrin was the pilot of Gemini XII, the last flight of the Gemini program, … Continue reading

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Moon Dance

I ran up the stairs to Studio Art. Justine was already rolling out the treadmill, so I climbed another flight of stairs to the old running track and let down both ends of the steel cable, one end connected to … Continue reading

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Falcon Heavy

I was supervising Jr IS, but as I circulated around the lab, I watched the clock. Everyone was working quietly. Just before launch, I snuck back to my office and closed the door. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy was surrounded by … Continue reading

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The Cupola

In the sky is a castle, built in free fall, brick-by-brick, where the sun rises and sets every ninety minutes. The castle derives its energy from sunlight and recycles its water. Sealed against a vacuum, its inhabitants float and glide … Continue reading

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Raptor Interplanetary Transport Engine

Why has SpaceX chosen methane to fuel its Raptor rocket engine? Robert Goddard’s first rockets used liquid oxygen O2 or LOX and gasoline. The Saturn V moon rocket first stage used LOX and refined kerosene. The Saturn V second stage used … Continue reading

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