Space Exploration in a Time of Social Turmoil

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The contrast was jarring. In one browser window, two NASA astronauts were making their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first orbital launch of a crew from U.S. soil in nearly 9 years.

In another window, scenes of chaos played out as protests over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by Minneapolis police erupted into violent clashes across the country.

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NASA Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 7

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On Oct. 11, 1968, NASA launched its first crewed Apollo mission, which paved the way for the moon landing less than a year later.

The Apollo 7 crew was commanded by Walter Schirra, with Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele, and Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham. The mission consisted of an 11-day Earth-orbital test flight to test the Apollo command and service module. It was also the first time a crew flew on the Saturn IB rocket.

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Borman & Lovell Celebrate 90th Birthdays

Apollo 8 crew members William Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell on the carrier after their mission. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Parabolic Arc would like to extend belated birthday wishes to Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, who both celebrated their 90th birthdays this month. Lovell’s birthday was Sunday, and Borman celebrated his latest trip around the sun on March 14.

The two nonagenarians, who were crew mates on Gemini 7 and Apollo 8, are the oldest of the surviving Apollo astronauts. The rest of their compatriots are all in the 80’s.

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Walter Cunningham on the Gap

Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham has added his voice to a growing chorus of people who want to extend space shuttle missions beyond 2010 and to provide NASA with billions in additional funding to move up the launch date of its successor.

“What we really need is a fix for the five-year hiatus, not a Band-Aid,” Cunningham writes in Launch Magazine. “That means both extending the life of the shuttle and moving the launch date for Orion forward. NASA needs a $2 billion appropriation to extend the life of the shuttle for 18 to 24 months, and an additional $2 billion to move the first flight of Orion closer by 18 to 24 months.”

Cunningham argues that a long gap between flights would erode American leadership in space, devastate the space workforce and astronaut corps, leave the United State dependent upon an increasingly authoritarian Russia, and place the fate of the International Space Station in the hands of other nations. He also called the NASA COTS program, which is designed to fund private human spacecraft alternatives, “a long shot at best” that will be prone to delays.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin is staunchly opposed to extending the life of the aging shuttles on safety and cost grounds. The shuttle’s retirement will free up billions of dollars needed to get Orion and its Ares boosters flying, the administrator says.