Posts Tagged ‘space’

Cloudy skies and Endeavour

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

At the moment where I live we are in a phase of visible passes of the International Space Station. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I love to watch the ISS glide gracefully overhead around 240 miles up and that it fascitates me to know that there are people living and working on it.

I went outside earlier this evening when the first of tonight’s visible passes was due but I was disappointed to find that there was thick cloud above me. I knew that I wouldn’t see anything, and I usually go back inside, but tonight I decided to stay outside while it was gliding overhead even though I couldn’t see it. Tonight was special because the Space Shuttle Endeavour is docked to it. I would have loved to have seen them both go over together. When I went back inside I knew that it would only take them just over an hour and a half to travel all the way round the earth and be back again so that I would have a second chance.

This time it was dark, too dark to tell if there were clouds above me, but I couldn’t see any stars which isn’t a good sign. I waited, hoping that there would at least be some gaps in the clouds, and then I saw it. It wasn’t big and bright and right overhead as it had been a couple of nights ago, it was further south and not very clear because of the cloud, but I could see it for at least part of it’s journey overhead. It looked bigger than usual and a different shape, so I thought I could see the Space Shuttle, but it could have just been my imagination!

Endeavour was launched on it’s sixth attempt. It had been held up for over a month by gas leaks and bad thunderstorms storms over the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Eventually it began it’s journey to the ISS the day before the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 on it’s way to the Moon and man’s first Moon landing, using the same launchpad that had been used to launch Apollo 11 on 16 July 1969.

With the addition of the seven astronauts on the shuttle, a new record has been set as it’s the first time that 13 people have been in space together, breaking the previous record of 10. I hope that during the 16 days of the shuttle’s mission, there will be some clear skies for me to have a good view of the ISS and Endeavour docked together.

Lift off, we have a lift off

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

“Neil Armstrong’s just reported back it’s been a real smooth countdown, we’ve passed the 60 second mark, power transfer is complete, we’re on internal power with the launch vehicle at this time, 40 seconds away from the Apollo 11 lift off, all the second stage tanks now pressurised, 35 seconds and counting, we are still go with Apollo 11, 30 seconds and counting, astronauts report it feels good, T minus 25 seconds, 20 seconds and counting, T minus 15 seconds, guidance is internal, 12, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence starts, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, all engines running , LIFT OFF, we have a lift off. 32 minutes past the hour. Lift off on Apollo 11″

The world watched and held it’s breath as these words were spoken.  Forty years ago today on 16th July 1969 this countdown sequence accompanied the launch in Florida of the first manned mission to the Moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were making history and heading for the Moon. It would take them 3 days to travel the 250,000 miles at 7,000 miles an hour.

What an amazing achievement it was. With computer technology in it’s infancy compared with what’s available to each one of us today. There is more technology is the small mobile phone that I carry around with me than there was in Apollo 11.

The men who worked on this project, every one of them, were pioneers. Armstrong and Aldrin were the ones to walk on the Moon, but they couldn’t have done it without every man involved in the project. They were working at the cutting edge of technology, inventing things, doing things that had never been done before.

Man’s first journey to another world. Although it was Neil and Buzz who stepped on to the surface of the Moon, the spirit of the whole world went with them. They represented us, mankind, and took our hopes and future with them.

The interesting thing is that although they were exploring another world, one of the most amazing and enduring discoveries of the Apollo missions was that for the first time man was able to see the Earth, blue and beautiful, hanging in space. For the first time we saw photos of what our beautiful world looks like from space and it started to change peoples attitudes. We saw how small our world looked, and realised that we should stop wars and work together and care for and look after our planet.

Thank you to Neil and Buzz and the other 10 men who walked on the Moon on our behalf and changed us here on Earth.

See here for the countdown sequence and launch of Apollo 11 and here for a close up.

This photo of the Moon showing the Sea of Tranquility where Apollo 11 landed was taken by Astronomer B.A. Kinglsey who has kindly allowed me to use it on my blog. See here for his photostream on Flickr and how he created this amazing image.