Tag: spacecraft

Farewell to Pioneer 10

This week, we bid farewell to a true pioneer: Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to leave our solar system. NASA last received a signal from Pioneer 10 on January 22. A February attempt failed, and last week NASA announced there would be no more attempts. That final faint signal traveled more than 12 billion kilometers—a …

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Space propulsion

  It’s been more than 40 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth, and, in the process, traveled faster than any human before.  Today, we continue to send humans into orbit…where they travel at pretty much the same speed.  Oh, sure, unmanned spacecraft have traveled much faster, and so did …

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Missions to Mars

Thursday, September 23, 1999, wasn’t a good day for NASA. At 5:01 a.m. EDT, the Mars Climate Orbiter, a $125 million (U.S) space probe intended to observe Martian weather for two years, fired its engines to enter orbit around Mars and dove behind the planet. It never reappeared. After several hours of study, NASA announced …

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Liberty Bell 7

On July 21, 1961, Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom, 33, a decorated fighter pilot, was strapped into the tiny Mercury space capsule he’d nicknamed Liberty Bell 7 and launched into space aboard a Redstone rocket. The U.S.’s first manned spaceflight, Alan Shepard 15-minute sub-orbital flight, had occurred just 2 1/2 months before. Grissom’s mission was nearly …

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Rockets

I have vivid memories from when I was a kid in Texas of travelling out into the countryside to watch my oldest brother and his friends launch rockets. This wasn’t some ’60s radicals’ attempt to overthrow the government of Swisher County, but a new hobby called model rocketry. The rockets came in all sizes, from …

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The Saga of NEAR

Monday, a plucky little spacecraft called NEAR, for “Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous,” is going to attempt to make space exploration history. Back in February of 1996, the 805-kilogram spacecraft, a short, stubby cylinder with four solar panels forming a cross shape at one end, was launched to rendezvous and orbit the asteroid Eros, whose orbit …

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Sputnik

  This Saturday marks the 40 anniversary of one of the most pivotal events in 20th century science:  the launch by the late Soviet Union of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. Nowadays, of course, we take satellites for granted:  we see photographs taken by satellites every evening on the news, we watch television signals …

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