Monday, December 8, 2008

50 YA - Pioneer III

Actually I'm off by a couple of days, I'm referring to Dec. 6, 1958. Oh well.
Pioneer 3 was a plucky step forward for the USA. It was originally meant to be a lunar probe. Its job was to fly close enough to the moon to have the lunar light activate a photosensor which would trigger a camera. This probe did not include the camera, but was meant to test the trigger device. In the actual event, the satellite did not reach escape velocity and did not go into a solar orbit.

After reaching almost 110,000 kilometers from the Earth, the little probe began to fall back in Earth's gravity. Revised objectives allowed scientists to use the probe to investigate the Van Allen radiation belt which had been discovered by our first satellite to orbit, Explorer 1.  The data from Pioneer 3 helped Dr. Van Allen to eventually discover a second belt of radiation around the planet.

The photo shows scientists assembling the probe. The launch was conducted by both NASA and the US Army Ballistic Agency (where good old Dr. Von Braun was working).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Up to now 50 YA

Well, let's see if I can get on track with this blog thing.  While things have been quite busy for me (enough to really distract me for the last month), back in 1958 things were very busy as well.

NASA's first official day was October 1, 1958.  Imagine the vast challenge they felt as they organized their management and tried to create a space program! All sorts of space programs run by other agencies, like project Vanguard, were transfered officially to NASA.

October 4 was a noted date- the Vandenberg Air Force base was dedicated. It was the world's first ICBM base located among the free nations.

On October 7, an important program was adopted- Project Mercury. It had 3 goals: first, to place a manned capsule in orbit. Second, investigate how man can live and work in orbit. Third, recover the astronaut and spacecraft safely.  That is just cool - 50 years ago...

I think it was October 8- Lt. Clifton M. McClure almost set a balloon altitude record in the MAN HIGH III balloon to 99,900 feet.

Go Baby! On October 11, 1958, Pioneer I launched from Cape Canaveral, FL on a Thor-Able rocket. One of its tasks was to measure micrometeorite density in space. It also explored the magnetic field and traveled 70,700 miles before coming back to Earth.

October 15- A most excellent date. The first of the three X-15 experimental rocket craft rolled out of North American Aviation's plant. Eventually Neil Armstrong would fly one of those three before transferring to NASA.

October 21st saw a double launch of BOMARC missiles from Cape Canaveral in a test, which successfully intercepted their targets. These missiles were designed to protect our country from invading enemy bombers at long range.

Although not related to NASA, a significant event occurred on the 26th when Pan American World Airways began cross- Atlantic service with the Boeing 707 jet from New York to Paris. Today it's hard to imagine a world without transatlantic jets.

With the start of Project Mercury, America was committing itself to make science fiction come true. "Buck Rogers" would be traveling in space, and if it was up to NASA, the first spaceman would be an American. 

50 years ago. Busy month.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Welcome to SpaceRubble!

This little spot on the blogosphere will be my depository for all sorts of musings, opinions, outbursts, ramblings, mumblings, ponderings, rants, questions and observations. What they will all have in common is my unending fascination with all things relating to the Exploration of Space. Whether it involves space history, space politics, manned space, robotic space, astronomy, science fiction, space opera, collecting, modelling, conventions, and wargames, it will all probably end up here.

Who am I?  I'm a technical writer involved in educational software, and before that I was a 5th grade teacher. I entered the educational field after a long time in various business fields. For the last 18 years, I've also been involved with a remarkable institution: the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center. Currently I work part time as a simulator flight director and as the center's Assistant Director. CMSEC is a remarkable place where 15,000 visitors a year, mostly kids, come to experience imaginary space flights in the future and learn about our place among the stars. You can find out more about CMSEC at

Why Now? October 2008 happens to be the 50th anniversary of NASA! What a great time to start this project. Many of my posts will deal with NASA history. What I'd like to do is post on the events that occurred 50 years ago as they progressed through that remarkable time when we Americans were stunned by the success of Sputnik and looked unflinchingly towards our future in space.  For myself and many of my friends, this is a nostalgic look back at our childhoods when space science grabbed our attention and never let us go. For my younger friends from school and the Space Center (as CMSEC is usually called) this is a look at how this whole space thing began. 

I decided to name this blog SpaceRubble because it covers a little bit of this and that, sometimes big stuff and sometimes small, it may be worth something or it may be just junk. Our solar system is also full of space rubble, the leftovers of its formation and the events of its lifetime so far. Some of it may be just dirt clods, but some of it could be valuable to our efforts to explore and conquer space.

Here's hoping we all find something of worth amidst the rubble!