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August 26, 2012

US astronaut Neil Armstrong dies

US astronaut Neil Armstrong dies – Wikinews, the free news source

US astronaut Neil Armstrong dies

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Armstrong in his space suit before the launch of Apollo 11.
Image: NASA.

Former American astronaut Neil Armstrong has died at the age of 82, due to complications following heart bypass surgery earlier this month. He is known as the first person to walk on the moon when commander of Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the moon.

Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. On March 16, 1966, he became the first American civilian to orbit Earth whilst onboard Gemini VIII with crewmate Davis R. Scott. Following Gemini VIII’s docking with another spacecraft in orbit, it began tumbling out of control due to a faulty thruster. Armstrong used an emergency set of thrusters to regain control; Gemini VIII then landed in the Pacific Ocean after ten hours of flight.

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, with Armstrong and crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Whilst Collins stayed in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20; On touchdown, Armstrong said: “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”. Upon stepping on to the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969, he famously said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” The landing, and subsequent moonwalk, was watched by half a billion people around the world. Armstrong and Aldrin spent approximately two hours walking on the lunar surface before lifting off for Apollo 11’s return to Earth on July 24.

Neil Armstrong describes the Moon’s surface before setting foot on it.
Video: NASA.

Armstrong later spent a few years as a NASA manager. Also teaching engineering at the University of Cincinnati, he was appointed to panels investigating the Apollo 13 and Challenger disasters. His first wife, Jan, divorced him in 1995; he married Carol Knight in 1999, and lived in Cincinnati.

After Armstrong’s death, his family released a statement saying, “While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.”

Buzz Aldrin released a statement on his website paying tribute to Armstrong: “I will miss my friend Neil as I know our fellow citizens and people around world will miss this foremost aviation and space pioneer.”



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August 25, 2012

American astronaut Neil Armstrong dies

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Armstrong in his space suit before the launch of Apollo 11.
Image: NASA.

The American astronaut Neil Armstrong has died aged 82 following heart bypass surgery earlier this month.

Armstrong was the commander of Apollo 11, the first manned mission to the Moon and is the first man to walk on the Moon. Upon stepping on to the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969, he famously said “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”



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July 1, 2011

U.S. space agency NASA sues ex-astronaut

U.S. space agency NASA sues ex-astronaut

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Edgar Mitchell’s official NASA portrait, taken in 1970.
Image: NASA..

NASA, the space agency of the United States, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against former astronaut and sixth human to walk on the Moon Edgar Mitchell. NASA filed the lawsuit in a Miami federal court after learning of Mitchell’s plans to auction off a camera that was used on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 14 mission.

Mitchell, 80, claims that he had permission from NASA to keep the camera, saying that astronauts of his era were permitted to keep mementos from their missions. He argues that had he not kept the camera, it would have been destroyed: “It was government throwaways, government junk.”

According to the lawsuit, however, NASA claims that “All equipment and property used during NASA operations remains the property of NASA unless explicitly released or transferred to another party.” NASA goes on to claim that there is no official record of the possession of the camera being transferred to Mitchell.

The camera, which Mitchell planned to sell because of financial problems, was expected to catch about US$60,000 to $80,000.

Mitchell, along with Commander Alan Shepard and Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, flew to the moon aboard the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, the third manned lunar landing. While Roosa orbited above, Shepard and Mitchell spent 33 hours on the surface of the Moon. Shepard and Mitchell became the fifth and sixth humans to walk on the Moon, respectively.



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January 11, 2011

Moon water possibly originated from comets, data shows

Moon water possibly originated from comets, data shows

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Water on the moon may have originated from comets, a new study shows.
Image: Luc Viatour.

Data from recent detailed analyses of samples collected on NASA Apollo moon missions, released Sunday, show that Lunar water may originate from comets that collided with the moon early in its geologic history.

A team of astrophysicists led by James Greenwood of Wesleyan University in Connecticut analyzed samples collected on the Apollo 11, 12, 14, and 17 missions and found that the chemical properties of traces of lunar water in these samples differ from water typical of Earth.

“The values of deuterium/hydrogen (D/H) that we measure in apatite in the Apollo rock samples”, Greenwood told Space.com, “is clearly distinguishable from water from the Earth, mitigating against this being some sort of contamination on Earth.” Greenwood and his team of researchers studied in particular the variations of hydrogen in the mineral apatite.

The newfound data show that the chemical properties of water in the apatite samples resemble data from the comets Hale-Bopp, Halley, and Hyakutake, suggesting that the water present on the moon could have originated from these comets or others.

According to Greenwood, the results of this study could also provide evidence as to the origin of water on Earth.



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August 28, 2010

Wikinews interviews William Pomerantz, Senior Director of Space Prizes at the X PRIZE Foundation

Wikinews interviews William Pomerantz, Senior Director of Space Prizes at the X PRIZE Foundation

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Regardless of who wins the prize, people all around the world will be able to experience the mission through high-def video-streams.
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Photo of William Pomerantz.
Image: X PRIZE Foundation.

Andreas Hornig, Wikinews contributor and team member of Synergy Moon, competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, managed to interview Senior Director of Space Prizes William Pomerantz of the X PRIZE Foundation about the competitions, goals, and impacts via e-mail for HDTVTotal.com and Wikinews.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngAndreas HornigWikinews waves Right.pngPlease introduce yourself and the Google Lunar X-Prize (GLXP)

Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam PomerantzWikinews waves Right.pngMy name is William Pomerantz, and I am the Senior Director of Space Prizes at the X PRIZE Foundation. In that capacity, I manage all of our space activities here at the X PRIZE, including most notably the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is an unprecedented international competition that is challenging and inspiring engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. By reigniting a race to the Moon, we are engaging a new generation, making lunar exploration not just a historical accomplishment but a tangible and ongoing reality. The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a competition that will award US$30 million for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the Moon. The robot is required explore the Moon by travelling 500 meters along, above, or below the lunar surface and by transmitting high definition video and high resolution photos back to Earth.

Logo of the GLXP.
Image: Google.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngWhy is Google, an internet services provider, interested in philanthropic and scientific fields?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngGoogle believes that by setting an ambitious goal like landing on the surface of the Moon and by offering an incentive prize is a good way to both inspire the world and to incentivize the development of technologies and systems that will both allow us to explore the universe and, in so doing, improve the state of humanity in the world. As Larry Page said when we announced the Google Lunar X PRIZE, “science has a serious marketing problem, and I think this is the best antidote I’ve seen for that.”

A few choice words from Sergey Brin also help explain Google’s role in this endeavour: “We’re proud to sponsor the Google Lunar X PRIZE. … Google is sponsoring this PRIZE because it is really different than any other kind of corporate sponsorship that I’ve seen. It’s really going to accomplish something very, very impressive. … We hope to have helped make private space flight more viable. Efforts like this will stimulate a passion for space-related research and education in a new generation of potential innovators. … One of the things that really exited me about this project is how it can help with education. I mean, space really fascinates college students, and I think this will inspire a lot of interest in space, in the physics that surrounds it, the math, and the history of the space programs. I think all the interest and attention on this prize is going to be very beneficial to the education of our children. We’re hopeful that our sponsorship of the Lunar X PRIZE will help spark a new generation’s interest in the fields of math, science, and computer science, which should ultimately prove quite beneficial to both the international workforce in general and Google in particular.”” (WP)

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngOne of the tasks the GLXP-teams have to do is to capture and stream videos in high-definition quality from Moon back to Earth. Why is this important?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngAn important aspect of “Moon 2.0”–the new era of lunar exploration–is how participatory it is. Regardless of who wins the Google Lunar X PRIZE, millions upon millions of people all around the world will be able to experience the mission through these video streams. That’s hugely important as we look to capitalize on the excitement inherent in those voyages to get people of all background more excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngWhat conditions do these 720p videos have to meet? Bandwidth in space is still crucial and expensive, so high frame-rates and data-rates will be difficult to broadcast as a live stream and videos with frame-rates almost in still-mode aren’t interesting for audiences. So what wonderful dynamic sequences can we expect? And What cameraman’s and editor’s dreams do you want to see come true, like color-depth, contrast (finally seeing stars on Moon images not outshined by Moon’s surface) or even audio-video codec?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngWe’ve imposed a few minimum quality guidelines upon our teams, but the majority of these decisions will be left them. We want to give them the freedom to select both the shots and the technology that best fits their mission–the design of their spacecraft or spacecrafts, the landing site they chose, the manner in which they move along or above the lunar surface, et etcetera.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngWhat will happen to the video and the collected data? Is there a plan to publish the video on YouTube and to integrate the photos in Google-Earth? Is this the logic expansion of StreetView to bring people to places, where really most of us won’t never ever put a step?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngThe video and other footage will be majorly promoted around the world. We expect that this will be a massive, global story that appeals to a huge variety of audiences, and we’ll work with our partners to provide as many ways as possible for fans and for students to follow along.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngA nice little side-effect will be if one team will accomplish the secondary point to rover to one of the Apollo mission landing sites and capture images of the remaining relics. Wouldn’t it be helpful to prove a lot of Moon landing conspiracy theories wrong by finding and showing these relics? This will definitely influence the search rates of this topic on Google. And how do you achieve conservation of these almost sacred monuments of human accomplishment and not contaminating it with new tracks of landing and rover gears?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngThe Google Lunar X PRIZE includes a bonus prize for revisiting the sites of previous missions to the Moon–including not only the Apollo sites, but a variety of other robotic probe landing or impact sites. This is important not just for the reasons you mention, but also carries a huge amount of scientific significance as well. This is the reason why NASA itself has already conducted one such mission, when the Apollo 12 crew visited one of the Surveyor landers.

Our teams all understand that any such visit needs to be done respectfully, though. Thankfully, no one can appreciate the historical significance of the vehicles currently on the lunar surface more thoroughly than those people all around the world currently working on new lunar missions. Each of them will have enormous emotional incentives to ensure that whatever they do, they do respectfully–and, with teams relying largely on donors, corporate sponsors, and similar who are backing their missions to earn good will, they will have financial incentives as well.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngAlthough space-exploration has ever been an object of national prestige, the importance of international and multilateral connections are so intense that almost any big space project and mission is the result of close collaboration. The International Space Station (ISS) is on a global scale, the Ariane 5 launcher on a European scale and even the members of GLXP-teams are working together across borders. Is it possible to connect the collected data with other already collected data, like the Japanese SELENE-Mission, that Kaguya named orbiter also had a HDTV-camera on board and took videos from lunar orbit, or future missions like European long term mission plan (Aurora Programme) and Indian and Chinese missions planed to go to the Moon? Although the teams are privately funded the scientific data should be used for the benefit of everybody and that it could be validated by the scientific community.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngThe missions of the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams are indeed sure to add to the body of data used by professional and amateur scientists and engineers all around the world.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngThe Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee (Augustine Commission) last year and US President Obama’s speech in February changed the goals of the US space programs. Especially President Obama announced that the emphasis of private contractors should be strengthened to reduce public money in NASA and other related projects on the one side but also to encourage private enterprise to fill in the gaps (like private company SpaceX servicing the ISS with Falcon launchers). In this highly disputed way NASA should play the role of the arrowhead to do the high-level exploration and leaving ground for private business in low-level.

Way back before this was announced the GLXP was started. Did you foresee this and what could be GLXP’s part in this new orientation?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngIt’s difficult to say where exactly the final decision will end up regarding the future of NASA’s exploration programs, but one this is already clear: people on both sides of the debate are realizing that, if appropriately planned out, civil space agencies can greatly benefit from space exploration capabilities developed by private firms. To reach the ideal, most efficient situation, it’s important to ensure that the capabilities being developed by these commercial firms are complementary to, rather than competitive with, what NASA and its counterparts in other nations are developing. Thankfully, this is exactly the case, and indeed, we had veterans of both NASA and ESA involved in helping us draft the rules for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. In the end, the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams will be developing a large number of systems and technologies that NASA, ESA, and other agencies can use to accomplish more of the amazing things those agencies do for less money.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngAre there special points a team can get for capturing videos in stereoscopic 3D? Some Mars rovers had 3D-cameras on board and even director Cameron is investing private money to help NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Mission to get a previously dumped 3D-camera on board the Curiosity rover. On the one hand side it is scientifically worth to have this for optical measurements and on the other it will provide a more realistic view to the audience. And of course YouTube offers a beta status feature to present it in adequate ways with current stereoscopic video-players. You still have time to complete it.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngTeams will likely see some important financial incentives for capturing videos in 3D, but the Google Lunar X PRIZE itself does not explicitly reward this. Recall, though, that the Google Lunar X PRIZE should be just the first step of a long and lucrative business plan for our competing teams.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngWhat will you do for the first successful mission? is there media-coverage planned? from Twitter feeds to live-streams and of course videos on YouTube and possible documentary distribution, besides doing a celebration party on Googleplex! For the first moon landings the video is one of the most significant historical recordings and was broadcast all over the world, even with low resolution, noisy quality and in black-white. And some of this data was almost lost and poorly archived so that it had to be restored before being released in 720p for the 40th anniversary. How will you handle these priceless records?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngWe definitely plan on a huge, real-time online presence coinciding with any Google Lunar X PRIZE attempts. Social media will play a key role.

All-electric test drive by Cornell 100+ MPG Team for Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngI’m a Mars enthusiast, so what will come after the successful GLXP mission? will there be a Google Mars X-Prize eventually, or will there be a logical next step like a GLXP with sample return requirement? The X-Prize Foundation announced new Categories and more competitions every year. What can we expect?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngWe are currently considering a wide range of potential future space X PRIZEs. We’re looking at a broad range of technologies and missions, including everything from orbital debris clean up to radically more efficient launch technologies.

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngIn closing, do you have a question, request or wish for our readers?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWPWikinews waves Right.pngPlease, be sure to follow along with the competition and with our teams by visiting our various web properties–see below for a list. Our teams really appreciate feedback: it is great to know that there are people out there following their progress, and cheering them on!

GLXP related websites: Official Webpage: googlelunarxprize.org YouTube Channel: youtube.com/googlelunarxprize Staff Blog: thelaunchpad.xprize.org Facebook: facebook.com/googlelunarxprize Twitter: twitter.com/glxp Tumblr: flightplan.xprize.org

Wikinews waves Left.pngAHWikinews waves Right.pngThank you for this nice interview and clear sky for all teams!

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This interview originally appeared on HDTVTotal.com, released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Credit for this interview goes to HDTVTotal.com and Andreas -horn- Hornig.


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August 22, 2010

Scientists say the moon is slowly shrinking

Scientists say the moon is slowly shrinking

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

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The moon, as seen in 2006
Image: Luc Viatour.

New research identifies cracks over the moon‘s crust that may have been created by the cooling and shrinking of it over the past billion or so years.

Scientists have discovered landforms littered across the moon’s surface called lobate scarps that have apparently resulted from the moon’s shrinking very slowly. These scarps were found all over the moon and appear to be minimally weathered, indicating that the geologic events that created them were fairly recent. This theory contradicts the claim that the moon is completely devoid of geologic activity.

Over the past billion years, about a quarter of the moon’s 4.5 billion-year lifespan, it has shrunk about 200 meters (700 feet) in diameter. The scarps that are thought to have resulted from the contraction scenario were first identified near the lunar equator by cameras aboard the Apollo moon missions of the early 1970’s.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter recently photographed similar landforms in other locations on the moon, further supporting the theory that Earth’s closest neighbor in space may in fact be shrinking.

The concept, however, is not a recent one. Scientists know that the moon’s core was once very hot, causing it to expand. As the core cools, the moon naturally begins to contract.



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September 28, 2009

Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan finds water on moon

Indian lunar mission Chandrayaan finds water on moon

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Monday, September 28, 2009

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India’s first lunar moon mission Chandrayaan-1 has helped NASA find water on the moon’s surface. NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) on board Chandrayaan found the evidence of water molecules on the surface of the moon.

Even 40 years ago, rock samples brought to Earth by Apollo (US) and other missions led some scientists to claim that water existed on moon. But they had doubts about the findings, as the boxes in which the moon rocks were brought to earth had leaked—contaminating the samples with air from the atmosphere.

Previous U.S. space missions, Cassini and the Deep Impact spacecraft, had detected slight traces of water in molecular form in the moon’s polar craters. Recent studies made by Chandrayaan have found water (H2O) and hydroxyl (OH) molecules with silicate rock at moon’s equatorial region. It is estimated that less than a teaspoon of water could be extracted out from several kilograms of lunar soil.

Forty years after first landing, some say this major discovery will trigger new interest in the moon.



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July 20, 2009

Fortieth anniversary of first manned Moon landing

Fortieth anniversary of first manned Moon landing

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first ever landing of humans on the Moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 touched down on the lunar surface at 20:17 UTC on July 20.

The historic anniversary was marked by the current United States President, Barack Obama, meeting the crew, Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin, the first men on the satellite’s surface, and Michael Collins, who remained in lunar orbit. Obama praised the men and commented on the global historical significance of their deeds. At the time of the initial landing Aldrin and Armstrong spoke to then-president Richard M. Nixon by radio shortly after landing.

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”

The culmination of the 1960s space race between the Soviet Union and the U.S. was not solely the work of the Americans. Among the statements surrounding the anniversary, Armstrong had written a message praising the Australian team at Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station near Canberra. Without their involvement there would have been no black and white television pictures for the millions worldwide who watched man’s first step onto the Moon. Armstrong stated he had been surprised when Mission control told him they had pictures, commenting about the camera, “in all that testing, I never saw a picture successfully transmitted. But the chaps assured us that it would, in fact, work. And it did.”

NASA’s current plans to return to the Moon by 2020 have been derided by Buzz Aldrin. Today at a reunion of lunar astronauts he dismissed these proposals, “America to Mars is what ought to be, not America back to the moon”. Plans for a lunar base to practice for a Mars trip also met with his scorn.

The journey to the Moon was initiated by then-President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The last time an astronaut walked on the moon was in 1972. In 1989 then-President George H.W. Bush used the twentieth anniversary to announce plans to fly back to the Moon and then on to Mars, but these never materialized. Obama has set up a commission to provide advice on where to take the U.S. space program next.

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July 18, 2009

Iconic American newscaster Walter Cronkite dies at 92

Iconic American newscaster Walter Cronkite dies at 92

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

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Walter Cronkite, the American newscaster who was a household name in television journalism, has died at the age of 92, according to media reports. Cronkite died after a long battle with cerebrovascular disease.

Walter Cronkite in 2006
Image: NASA.

From 1962 to 1981, Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News, and in that capacity reported the Kennedy assassination in 1963, the 1969 landing of the Apollo 11 astronauts on the Moon, and the 1974 Resignation of Richard Nixon to millions of Americans. As an editorial journalist, Cronkite’s powerful criticisms of the Vietnam War reportedly moved then-president Lyndon Johnson to say, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” He will be remembered by some for his customary signoff, “and that’s the way it is…”, which ended most of his broadcasts. Also, his addition of “day…” counting up the days of the Iranian hostage crisis inspired a similar practice on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Cronkite’s career began in radio in the 1930s in Houston, Texas. Joining UPI in 1939 as a war correspondent, he covered the Nuremberg war crimes trials following World War II. Cronkite’s rise to television prominence began with the 1952 Republican National Convention. The term “news anchor” was coined to describe his role in the coverage.

After retiring in 1981, Cronkite remained active and prominent in the media, advising an eponymous journalism school at Arizona State University, writing books, recording voice-overs for the film Apollo 13, and making guest appearances on the newsroom-based sitcoms The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Murphy Brown. Cronkite was also an avid sailor.

“It is impossible to imagine CBS News, journalism or indeed America without Walter Cronkite. More than just the best and most trusted anchor in history, he guided America through our crises, tragedies and also our victories and greatest moments,” said CBS News president, Sean McManus in a statement to the press.

Cronkite leaves behind three children, Nancy, Kathy, and Walter III (“Chip”); and four grandchildren.



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August 3, 2008

Falcon 1 rocket fails during third launch attempt

Falcon 1 rocket fails during third launch attempt

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

An engine test being conducted on a Falcon 1 in 2005
Image: Mark Mackley.

A SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket has failed during its third attempt to reach orbit. Over four years behind schedule, the rocket lifted off from Omelek Island, part of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, at 03:34 GMT this morning, carrying three technology development satellites, and the ashes of 208 people, including astronaut Gordon Cooper, and Star Trek actor James Doohan. According to a statement issued by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the first and second stages of the rocket failed to separate, making this the third consecutive unsuccessful launch for the Falcon 1, which is yet to conduct a successful mission. Musk described the failure as a “big disappointment”.

The primary payload for this flight was the Trailblazer satellite, which was to have been operated by the United States Air Force, and MDA. Two CubeSats, Pharmasat Risk Evaluation Satellite (PREsat) and Nanosail-D, were also to have been deployed. The CubeSats would have been operated by NASA and Santa Clara University. The space burial capsules, named Explorers and operated by Celestis, were to have intentionally remained bolted to the second stage of the rocket. The remains of several famous individuals were flown, most notably Project Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan, best known for his role as Montgomery Scott in the science fiction television series Star Trek. Director John Meredyth Lucas, who also worked on Star Trek, had some of his ashes on the flight as well, as did Mareta West an astrogeologist who was responsible for choosing the landing sites for the Apollo missions to the Moon. This is the second consecutive failure of a major orbital space burial mission, following a failed Taurus launch in September 2001. The last successful major orbital space burial was conducted in December 1999, although a single burial capsule was launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006.

This launch was originally planned to occur in early 2004, with the TacSat-1 satellite and the Explorers payload. It would have been the maiden flight of the Falcon 1. A number of procurement delays pushed it to 2005, and subsequent issues with the availability of Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg AFB, from where it was originally scheduled to launch, led to the first attempts to launch being made in late 2005. During the second attempted countdown, a faulty valve caused the first stage fuel tank to be deformed, leading to a delay.

In March 2006, a flight which was originally scheduled to be conducted after this one, with the FalconSat-2 spacecraft, was launched as the maiden flight, and ended in failure less than a minute after lift-off due to a fuel leak. This caused delays for all other Falcon launches, and a test flight without a functional payload was added to the schedule in order to ensure that the problems with the rocket had been resolved. This was launched in March 2007, and also failed – this time due to a sequence of events started by human error in setting the fuel ratio for the first stage. Despite the failure to reach orbit, most critical systems were tested, so the third flight was cleared to launch an operational payload.

In the meantime, the satellite that was to replace TacSat-1, TacSat-2, was launched, and TacSat-1 was subsequently cancelled as obsolete. During early 2008, the US Air Force announced that they would replace it with a satellite for a programme called Jumpstart, which would be selected a few weeks before launch. Trailblazer was chosen in late May, over two other options, PnPSat, or a pair of CubeSats. The launch was at that time scheduled for late June, but it was subsequently delayed due to small cracks in one of the rocket’s engines.

Today’s launch followed an eventful countdown, lasting almost to the end of the five hour launch window, with the loading of helium onto the rocket taking longer than expected, and requiring several long holds. Following this, an attempt to launch was made at 03:00 GMT, which resulted in a last-second abort at T-0, just after ignition of the main engine, due to a marginal performance issue with the turbopump. The launch was recycled, and the rocket lifted off 34 minutes later.

This was the first flight of an uprated version of the Merlin engine, which powers the first stage. The new version, named Merlin-1C, features regenerative cooling as opposed to ablative cooling used on the earlier launches. It is believed that the failure of the launch was unrelated to the presence of the new engine, the performance of which was described as “picture-perfect” by Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX.

The next Falcon 1 launch was scheduled to have been launched in September with the Razaksat spacecraft for ATSB of Malaysia, and up to three CubeSats. This will almost certainly be delayed whilst the failure is investigated. It is unclear whether this failure will affect the maiden flight of the larger Falcon 9, currently scheduled for 2009, on a demonstration mission for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services programme. Today’s launch is the 38th orbital launch of 2008, and following the resale and recovery of the AMC-14 satellite, the first outright failure of the year.



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Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about SpaceX and Falcon 1 on Wikipedia.
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