Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NASA Celebrates 50 Years!

NASA 50th Anniversary

NASA Ares Concept Art

International Space Station - after mission STS-124

Kennedy Space Center - Space Shuttle Endeavor - STS-118

Shuttle Launch - Endeavor STS-118

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

Earthrise - William Anders - Apollo 8

The Earth

The Solar System

The Space Race

After the Soviet space program's launch of the world's first human-made satellite (Sputnik 1) on 4 October 1957, the attention of the United States turned toward its own fledgling space efforts. The U.S. Congress, alarmed by the perceived threat to U.S. security and technological leadership (known as the "Sputnik crisis"), urged immediate and swift action; President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his advisors counseled more deliberate measures. Several months of debate produced an agreement that a new federal agency was needed to conduct all non-military activity in space.

Explorer 1, officially Satellite 1958 Alpha, was the first Earth artificial satellite of the United States, having been launched at 10:48pm EST on 31 January 1958.

On 29 July 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). When it began operations on 1 October 1958, NASA consisted mainly of the four laboratories and some 80 employees of the government's 46-year-old research agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). A significant contributor to NASA's entry into the Space race was the technology from the German rocket program, led by Wernher von Braun, who became a naturalized citizen of the United States after World War II. He is today regarded as the father of the United States space program. Elements of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (of which von Braun's team was a part) and the Naval Research Laboratory were incorporated into NASA.

NASA's earliest programs involved research into human spaceflight and were conducted under the pressure of the competition between the U.S. and the USSR (the Space Race) that existed during the Cold War. Project Mercury, initiated in 1958, started NASA down the path of human space exploration with missions designed to discover simply if man could survive in space.

On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard—one of the seven Project Mercury astronauts selected as pilot for this mission—became the first American in space when he piloted Freedom 7 on a 15-minute suborbital flight. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on 20 February 1962 during the 5 and a quarter-hour flight of Friendship 7.

Once the Mercury project proved that human spaceflight was possible, Project Gemini was launched to conduct experiments and work out issues relating to a moon mission. The first Gemini flight with astronauts on board, Gemini 3, was flown by Gus Grissom and John Young on 23 March 1965. Nine other missions followed, showing that long-duration human space flight was possible, proving that rendezvous and docking with another vehicle in space was possible, and gathering medical data on the effects of weightlessness on human beings.

Apollo program

The Apollo program was designed to land humans on the Moon and bring them safely back to Earth. Apollo 1 ended tragically when all the astronauts inside died due to fire in command module during an experimental simulation. Because of this incident, there were a few unmanned tests before men boarded the spacecraft. Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 tested various components while orbiting the Moon, and returned photography. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11, landed the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. Apollo 13 did not land on the Moon due to a malfunction, but did return photographs. The six missions that landed on the Moon returned a wealth of scientific data and almost 400 kilograms of lunar samples. Experiments included soil mechanics, meteoroids, seismic, heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic fields, and solar wind experiments.


Skylab was the first space station the United States launched into orbit. The 75 tonne station was in Earth orbit from 1973 to 1979, and was visited by crews three times, in 1973 and 1974. Skylab was originally intended to study gravitational anomalies in other solar systems, but the assignment was curtailed due to lack of funding and interest. It included a laboratory for studying the effects of microgravity, and a solar observatory. A Space Shuttle was planned to dock with and elevate Skylab to a higher safe altitude, but Skylab reentered the atmosphere and was destroyed in 1979, before the first shuttle could be launched, landing over parts of Western Australia and the Indian Ocean, with some fragments being recovered.


The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (or ASTP) was the first joint flight of the U.S. and Soviet space programs. The mission took place in July 1975. For the United States of America, it was the last Apollo flight, as well as the last manned space launch until the flight of the first Space Shuttle in April 1981.

Shuttle era

The Space Shuttle became the major focus of NASA in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Planned to be a frequently launchable and mostly reusable vehicle, four space shuttles were built by 1985. The first to launch, Columbia, did so on April 12, 1981.

The shuttle was not all good news for NASA — flights were much more expensive than initially projected, and the public again lost interest as missions appeared to become mundane until the 1986 Challenger disaster again highlighted the risks of space flight. Work began on Space Station Freedom as a focus for the manned space program, but within NASA there was argument that these projects came at the expense of more inspiring unmanned missions such as the Voyager probes.

Nonetheless, the shuttle launched milestone projects like the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The HST is a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), and its success has paved the way for greater collaboration between the agencies. The HST was created with a relatively small budget of $2 billion but has continued operation since 1990, delighting both scientists and the public. Some of its images, such as the groundbreaking Hubble Deep Field, have become famous.

In 1995 Russian-American interaction resumed with the Shuttle-Mir missions. Once more an American vehicle docked with a Russian craft, this time a full-fledged space station. This cooperation continues to today, with Russia and America the two biggest partners in the largest space station ever built – the International Space Station (ISS). The strength of their cooperation on this project was even more evident when NASA began relying on Russian launch vehicles to service the ISS during the two year grounding of the shuttle fleet following the 2003 Columbia disaster.

Costing over one hundred billion dollars, it has been difficult at times for NASA to justify the ISS. The population at large has historically been hard to impress with details of scientific experiments in space, preferring news of grand projects to exotic locations. Even now, the ISS cannot accommodate as many scientists as planned.

During much of the 1990s, NASA was faced with shrinking annual budgets due to Congressional belt-tightening in Washington, D.C. In response, NASA's ninth administrator, Daniel Goldin, pioneered the "faster, better, cheaper" approach that enabled NASA to cut costs while still delivering a wide variety of aerospace programs (Discovery Program). That method was criticized and re-evaluated following the twin losses of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in 1999. Yet, NASA's shuttle program had made 116 successful launches as of December 2006.

The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, which killed the crew of six Americans and one Israeli, caused a 29-month hiatus in space shuttle flights and triggered a serious re-examination of NASA's priorities. The U.S. government, various scientists, and the public all reconsidered the future of the space program.

NASA's future

NASA's ongoing investigations include in-depth surveys of Mars and Saturn and studies of the Earth and the Sun. Other NASA spacecraft are presently en route to Mercury and Pluto. With missions to Jupiter in planning stages, NASA's itinerary covers over half the solar system.

Managed by the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the Phoenix mission was launched on August 4, 2007. It will search for possible underground water courses in the northern Martian pole. This lander revives much of its experiments and instrumentation from the failed 1999 Mars Polar Lander, hence its name. An improved and larger rover, Mars Science Laboratory, is under construction and slated to launch in 2009. On the horizon of NASA's plans are two possibilities under consideration for the Mars Scout 2013 mission.

The New Horizons mission to Pluto was launched in 2006 and will fly by Pluto in 2015. The probe received a gravity assist from Jupiter in February 2007, examining some of Jupiter's inner moons and testing on-board instruments during the fly-by.

Vision for space exploration

On January 14, 2004, ten days after the landing of the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, US President George W. Bush announced a new plan for NASA's future, dubbed the Vision for Space Exploration. According to this plan, mankind will return to the Moon by 2018, and set up outposts as a testbed and potential resource for future missions. The Space Shuttle will be retired in 2010 and Orion will replace it by 2014, capable of both docking with the ISS and leaving the Earth's orbit. The future of the ISS is somewhat uncertain — construction will be completed, but beyond that is less clear. Although the plan initially met with skepticism from Congress, in late 2004 Congress agreed to provide start-up funds for the first year's worth of the new space vision.

Hoping to spur innovation from the private sector, NASA established a series of Centennial Challenges, technology prizes for non-government teams, in 2004. The Challenges include tasks that will be useful for implementing the Vision for Space Exploration, such as building more efficient astronaut gloves.

Moon base

On December 4, 2006, NASA announced it was planning to build a permanent moon base. NASA Associate Administrator Scott Horowitz said the goal was to start building the moonbase by 2020, and by 2024, have a fully functional base, that would allow for crew rotations like the International Space Station. Additionally, NASA plans to collaborate and partner with other nations for this project.

Man on Mars

On September 28, 2007, NASA administrator Michael D. Griffin stated that NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037, and in 2057, "We should be celebrating 20 years of man on Mars."

Check out the article at Wikipedia.

When you look at how much NASA has brought us in the past 50 years, one cannot even begin to imagine what the next 50 will bring! Exciting stuff!!!

Be sure to check out the image gallery at the NASA 50th Anniversary website!

For more information, check out the following interesting links:

Monday, July 21, 2008

"The Dark Knight" breaks records!

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Batman has sent Spidey packing as king of Hollywood's box-office superheroes.

"The Dark Knight," the crime saga about vigilante Batman and his wealthy alter ego Wayne, debuted with a record $158.4 million.

Starring Christian Bale as Batman and the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, "The Dark Knight" surpassed Hollywood's previous best opening weekend of $151.1 million set in May 2007 by "Spider-Man 3."

The movie's release was preceded by months of buzz and speculation over the performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, Batman's nemesis. Ledger, who died in January from an accidental prescription-drug overdose, played the Joker as a demonic presence, with critical acclaim over his maniacal performance firing up fans for the film and prompting predictions that the role might earn him a posthumous Academy Award nomination.

"We knew it would be big, but we never expected to dominate the marketplace like we did," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., which released "The Dark Knight." The movie should shoot past the $200 million mark by the end of the week, he said.

"The Dark Knight" reunites director Christopher Nolan with his "Batman Begins" star Christian Bale, whose vigilante crime-fighter is taunted and tested by Ledger's Joker as the villain unleashes violence and chaos on the city of Gotham.

"The Dark Knight," which cost $185 million to make, also broke the "Spider-Man 3" record for best debut in IMAX large-screen theaters with $6.2 million. "Spider-Man 3" opened with $4.7 million in IMAX cinemas.

On opening day Friday, "The Dark Knight" pulled in a record $67.85 million. The previous opening-day record also had been held by "Spider-Man 3" with $59.8 million.

Additionally, "The Dark Knight" broke the record for a 12:01 a.m. film opening, earning an unprecedented $18,489,000 at the box office. The previous record was also held by "Spider-Man 3" with $16.9 million

Check out the article at Fox News.

What an awesome movie! Definitely worth seeing again! Heath Ledger's performance was excellent, on par with the rest of the cast!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Blue Angels Airshow

The Blue Angels - Pensacola Beach, Florida

Blue Angels #5 solos upside down over Pensacola Beach, Florida

Blue Angels fly Echelon over Pensacola Beach, Florida

The United States Navy's Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, popularly known as the Blue Angels, was formed in 1946 and is the world's first officially sanctioned military aerial demonstration team, as well as the oldest currently flying aerobatics team.

The Blue Angels’ mission is to enhance Navy and Marine Corps recruiting efforts and to represent the naval service to the United States, its elected leadership and foreign nations. The Blue Angels serve as positive role models and goodwill ambassadors for the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps.

A Blue Angels flight demonstration exhibits choreographed refinements of skills possessed by all naval aviators. It includes the graceful aerobatic maneuvers of the four-plane Diamond Formation, in concert with the fast-paced, high-performance maneuvers of its two Solo Pilots. Finally, the team illustrates the pinnacle of precision flying, performing maneuvers locked as a unit in the renowned, six-jet Delta Formation.

The team is stationed at Forrest Sherman Field, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, during the show season. However, the squadron spends January through March training pilots and new team members at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.

The Blue Angels are scheduled to fly 66 air shows at 35 air show sites in the United States during the 2007-2008 season, as the team celebrates 20 years of flying the F/A-18 Hornet. Last season, more than 15 million spectators watched the Blue Angels perform. Since its inception in 1946, the Blue Angels have performed for more than 427 million fans.

Check out the Official Blue Angels website.

We headed back to Pensacola to catch the annual Blue Angels Airshow. Saturday rained out, so it was rescheduled for Sunday, July 13... but they didn't disappoint! If you've never seen the Blue Angels perform live, you don't know what you're missing! They're awesome every time you see them!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Vacation in Pensacola

The Blue Angels - Pensacola NAS

National Museum of Naval Aviation - NAS - Pensacola, Florida

Old Pensacola Lighthouse - Pensacola, Florida

Fort Barrancas - NAS - Pensacola, Florida

 Fort Barrancas - NAS - Pensacola, Florida

Beautiful Pensacola Beach, Florida

Emerald Green waters of Pensacola Beach, Florida

Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier

Almost Sunset over Pensacola Beach, Florida

Pensacola Beach Celebrates July 4th with a Kaboom!

Palafox Pier - Pensacola, Florida

Palafox Pier - Pensacola, Florida

Seville Fountain - Pensacola, Florida

9-11 HOMAGE TO AMERICA - Pensacola, Florida

Bayfront Homes - Pensacola, Florida

Pelicans in Paradise sighting!  opposite corner from Seville Square - Pensacola, Florida

Tail of Two Cities - Pelicans in Paradise - Pensacola, FloridaEl Perdido Pelicano - Pelicans in Paradise - Pensacola, FloridaBlue Angel 1 - Pelicans in Paradise - Pensacola, FloridaPelikini - Pelicans in Paradise - Pensacola, FloridaMarines - Pelicans in Paradise - Pensacola, FloridaPresston - Pelicans in Paradise - Pensacola, FloridaStyle - Pelicans in Paradise - Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola is a sea port on Pensacola Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. A large United States Navy base, Naval Air Station Pensacola, is located southwest of Pensacola and is home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the Pensacola Naval Air Station Historic District, and historic Fort Barrancas and its associated Advance Redoubt are all located at NAS Pensacola.. The main campus of the University of West Florida is situated north of the city center.

Pensacola is nicknamed "The City of Five Flags" due to the five governments that have flown flags over it during its history: the flags of Spain (Castile), France, Great Britain, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. Other nicknames include "World's Whitest Beaches" (due to the white sand prevalent along beaches in the Florida panhandle), "Cradle of Naval Aviation," "Western Gate to the Sunshine State," "America's First Settlement," "Emerald Coast," "Redneck Riviera," and "Red Snapper Capital of the World."

Check out the article at Wikipedia.

We had an awesome vacation in Pensacola! The city is beautiful and boasts a very nice public parks system. The highlights of our vacation were Historic Downtown Pensacola, Naval Air Station Pensacola, and Pensacola Beach! We didn't get a chance to do any fishing, but this is the place for it: from the bayfront parks in downtown to the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier, to some awesome offshore charters!

While we were there, we discovered Pelicans in Paradise, which is a promotional city-wide art project (much like the New Orleans Festival of Fins) from a few years back. The only question I have is... now that the city's project is over, where have all of the pelicans gone? The original locations are mostly vacant, so I've embarked on my own personal Pelican Hunt!