We can call it Apollo 50. Are you on board?

Behind Apollo 11, Norman Rockwell 1969 [via NASA]
2018 started on a sad note for space enthusiasts with the passing of John Young. 
Less than a week into the new year, news started to filter through that the veteran astronaut had left us for good – aviation records, 2 Gemini flights, 2 Apollo flights to the Moon, the ninth man to walk on the moon and commander of the first orbital shuttle flight, Young had spanned the initial eras of America’s spaceflight adventures. His achievements back on Earth were no less impressive. He served NASA faithfully for 42 years, staying with the agency whilst many of his Apollo contemporaries chose to move on and serving as Chief of the Astronaut Office for over a decade.

Continue reading


Thoughtful Courage or Fearful Safety? Thoughts inspired by ‘Safe Is Not An Option’ by Rand Simberg

The international crew of Columbia’s final flight STS-107 [IMG: NASA]
Having recently read Safe Is Not An Option, I started out intending to write a review of the book but decided to expand that out to capture some thoughts on the subject at greater length.

Firstly I think its worth noting the book’s full title  –  Safe Is Not An Option: Overcoming The Futile Obsession With Getting Everyone Back Alive That Is Killing Our Expansion Into Space. So a pretty uncompromising introduction right there on the cover, but any serious discussion on this subject needs to confront the subject head on and challenge our preconceptions and Simberg certainly doesn’t dodge that challenge. So why the need for this seemingly iconoclastic viewpoint?
Continue reading

Blue Shuttle – How the Air Force influenced the STS design process

Enterprise nestling amongst the hills at Vandenberg AFB [IMG: Air Force/TSGT James R. Pearson]
Enterprise nestling amongst the hills at Vandenberg AFB [IMG: Air Force/TSGT James R. Pearson]
Few spacecraft are quite so instantly recognisable as the Shuttle Orbiter. Even in retirement the surviving craft remain iconic, resplendent in their black & white thermal tiles and boasting their trademark double-delta wing.

But the story of how the Orbiter got its familiar shape and the Space Transport System reached it’s eventual configuration is an interesting one reflecting the requirements of the US Air Force more than the needs of NASA. So why did the Air Force have such a big hand in the design and what were their plans for the Shuttle? The story starts in the Apollo era of the late 1960’s.
Continue reading