Category Archives: Space Flight

20 January 1930

ALDRIN, Edwin Eugene, Jr., Apollo 11. (NASA)
Colonel Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr., United States Air Force, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Astronaut, in the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, Eagle. (NASA)
Edwin E. (“Buzz”) Aldrin, Jr., 1947. (The Amphitheatre)

20 January 1930: Colonel Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., Sc.D., United States Air Force (Retired), was born at Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the second child of Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Aviation Director of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, and Marion Gaddys Moon Aldrin.

The family resided in Montclair, New Jersey. “Buzz” Aldrin attended Montclair High School, and participated in football and track and field (pole vault). He graduated in 1947.

After high school, Aldrin turned down a full scholarship to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and instead entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. During his Plebe Year (freshman), Cadet Aldrin placed first in academics and physical education. He was a member of the French Club and the track and swim teams. In his third year he was a cadet corporal, and was designated as “distinguished.” He served as a cadet lieutenant during his final year.

Cadet Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr., 1951. (The Howitzer)

Aldrin graduated from West Point on 5 June 1951 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.). He was ranked third in his class. A notation in the class yearbook states,

“As is evidenced by his fine record at the Academy, Buzz should make a capable, dependable and efficient officer in the U.S. Air Force.”

The Howitzer 1951, at Page 98

Aldrin accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force, with his date of rank retroactive to 1 June 1951. Second Lieutenant Aldrin was assigned to basic flight training at Bartow Air Force Base, Florida. Advanced training took place at Bryan Air Force Base, Texas. He trained as a fighter pilot and transitioned to the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, Nevada.

Lieutenant Aldrin flew the North American Aviation F-86E Sabre with the 16th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, located at Suwon Air Base (K-13), Korea. On 14 May 1953 he shot down an enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15 fighter, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.¹ Three weeks later, 7 June, he shot down a second MiG 15.

Still images from the gun camera film show an enemy pilot bailing out of a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15 shot down by Lieutenant Edwin E. (“Buzz”) Aldrin, U.S. Air Force, 5 miles south of the Yalu River, 14 May 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
1st Lieutenant Buzz Aldrin, 51st Fighter Interceptor Squadron, in teh cocpit of a North American Aviation F-86A Sabre, after shooting down an enemy MiG 15 fighter. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Lieutenant Buzz Aldrin, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, in the cockpit of a North American Aviation F-86E Sabre after shooting down an enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15 fighter during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

Buzz Aldrin flew 66 combat missions during the Korean War. After returning to the United States, he served as a flight instructor at Bryan AFB, Texas, and then a gunnery instructor at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Instructor Buzz Aldrin in the cockpit of a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star at Bryan Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)

1st Lieutenant Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., married Miss Joan Ann Archer at the Episcopal Church in Ho-ho-kus, New Jersey, 29 December 1954. They would have three children.

Lieutenant and Mrs. Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., 29 December 1954. The bride is the former Miss Joan Ann Archer.

Lieutenant Aldrin’s next assignment was to the three-month Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama. Aldrin then served as an aide to Brigadier General Don Zabriskie Zimmerman, the Dean of Faculty at the newly-established United States Air Force Academy, which was then located at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado.

In 1955, Captain Aldrin was assigned to the 22nd Fighter Day Squadron, 36th Fighter Day Wing, at Bitberg Air Base, Germany, flying the North American Aviation F-100 Super Sabre. The squadron trained at Wheelus Air Base in North Africa.

North American Aviation F-100C-20-NA Super Sabre 54-1941, 22nd Fighter Day Squadron, 36th Fighter Day Wing, at Bitberg Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force)

In 1959 Captain Aldrin returned to the United States to enter a masters degree program in aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Aldrin and his wife were both very seriously ill at this time, and he was a patient in a military hospital for the first six months. With nothing to do but study, Aldrin finished first among the other Air Force officers in the program.

Aldrin remained at M.I.T. to earn a Doctorate in Science in Astronautics (Sc.D.) by devising orbital navigation techniques. His thesis on Manned Orbital Rendezvous, earned Buzz another nickname: “Dr. Rendezvous.”

In October 1963, Major Aldrin was selected as an astronaut for the Gemini Program. He was one of 14 members of NASA Astronaut Group 3, which was announced 18 October 1963. He flew with James A. Lovell, Jr., aboard Gemini XII, 11–15 November 1966. They made 59 orbits of the Earth in 3 days, 22 hours, 34 minutes, 31 seconds. Aldrin performed the first successful “space walk.” He was outside the spacecraft for three “EVAs,” of 2 hours, 29 minutes; 2 hours, 6 minutes; and 55 minutes. A rendezvous and docking with an Agena target vehicle was also successful.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing in the open hatch of Gemini XII in Earth orbit. (NASA)

Gemini XII was the final manned flight of the Gemini Program. Buzz Aldrin moved on to the Apollo Program.

Along with Neil Alden Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, 20 July 1969.

Astronaut Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. on the surface of The Moon, 20 July 1969. (Neil A. Armstrong/NASA)

Aldrin resigned from NASA in July 1971. Returning to operational service with the Air Force, Colonel Aldrin was assigned as Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He retired in March 1972.

Colonel Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., United States Air Force.
Colonel Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr., United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

In Return To Earth, (Random House, Inc., New York, 1973) Buzz Aldrin wrote about the depression he suffered: After you’ve been to the Moon, what else is there?

Aldrin has been married three times. He and his first wife, Joan, divorced in December 1974. He married Mrs. Beverly I. Handelsman Van Zile, 19 December 1975. They divorced 10 April 1978. On Valentine’s Day, 14 February 1988, Aldrin married his third wife, Mrs. Lois Driggs Cannon. They divorced 28 December 2012.

Buzz Aldrin has written several books and he continues to advocate manned space exploration.

HAPPY 89th BIRTHDAY, Colonel Aldrin!

Edwin Eugene (“Buzz”) Aldrin, Jr., Sc.D., Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Retired), and NASA Astronaut, August 2016. (Mike Marsland/WireImage)

¹ Soviet records indicate that a MiG 15 of 913 IAP (Istrebitel’nyy Aviatsionnyy Polk, Fighter Aviation Regiment), 32nd IAD (Istrebitel’naya Aviatsionnyy Diveeziya, Fighter Aviation Division), based at Antung Air Base, China, was shot down by an F-86 on 13 May 1953. The pilot, Senior Lieutenant Hristoforov, ejected safely. There were three MiG 15 losses that occurred on 14 May 1953. Two MiGs of 224 IAP collided and both pilots, Senior Lieutenant Odintsov and Lieutenant Evgeny Stroliikov, ejected. Odintsov was seriously hurt. A third MiG 15 crash landed at Myagoy Air Base. Its pilot, Senior Lieutenant Vladimir Sedashev, 518 IAP, was killed.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 January 2003, 15:40:21.7 UTC, T plus 00:01:21.7

Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, 15:39:00 UTC, 16 January 2003. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, 15:39:00 UTC, 16 January 2003. (NASA)

16 January 2003, 15:39:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Columbia (OV-102) was America’s first space shuttle. This would be her final flight.

81.7 seconds after launch, Columbia was at approximately 66,000 feet (20,100 meters) altitude and 12.5 miles (20.1 kilometers) down range, accelerating through Mach 2.46 (1,623 miles per hour, or 2,612 kilometers per hour). Several pieces of insulating foam broke off of the external fuel tank (what NASA referred to as “foam shedding”) and struck the leading edge and underside of Columbia‘s left wing.

It is believed that at least one of these pieces of foam punctured a hole in the wing’s surface, estimated to be 6 inches × 10 inches (15 × 25 centimeters).

When Columbia re-entered on 1 February 2003, the damage would cause the shuttle to disintegrate. The entire crew would be lost.

Front, left to right: COL Richard D. Husband, USAF, Kalpana Chawla, CDR William C. McCool, USN. Back, left to right: CAPT David M. Brown, MD, USN, CAPT Laurel Clark, MD, USN, LCOL Michael P. Anderson, USAF, COL Ilan Ramon, IAF. (NASA)
The flight crew of Columbia (STS-107): Front, left to right, COL Richard D. Husband, USAF; Kalpana Chawla; CDR William C. McCool, USN. Back, left to right, CAPT David M. Brown, MD, USN; CAPT Laurel Clark, MD, USN; LCOL Michael P. Anderson, USAF; COL Ilan Ramon, IAF. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 January 2004

Mars rover Spirit landing site. The lander is at the low center of the image. at upper left are the backshell and parachute. The lander's heat shield is at the upper right on the rim of the crater. This image was taken in December 2006. (NASA)
Mars rover Spirit landing site. The lander is at the low center of the image. At upper left are the backshell and parachute. The lander’s heat shield is at the upper right on the rim of the crater. This image was taken in December 2006. (NASA)

4 January 2004, 04:35 Ground UTC: The NASA Mars Exploration Rover A, named Spirit, landed on the surface of Mars within the large impact crater Gusev. The location of touch down and the starting point for the rover’s exploration of Mars is named Columbia Memorial Station.

Spirit captured this color image of the surface of Mars from its landing point at Columbia Memorial Station. The horizon is approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) distant. (NASA)
Spirit captured this color image of the surface of Mars from its landing point at Columbia Memorial Station. The horizon is approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) distant. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 January 1959

Replica of Luna 1 on display at the Kosmos Pavilion of the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy of the USSR. (RIA Novosti Archive)
Replica of Luna 1 on display at the Kosmos Pavilion of the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy of the USSR. (RIA Novosti Archive)

4 January 1959: At approximately 16:40 UTC, the Soviet automatic space probe First Cosmic Ship came within 5,995 kilometers (3,725 miles) of the Moon. It was the first man-made craft to arrive in the vicinity of Earth’s natural satellite.

First Cosmic Ship (which was later known as Мечта (Mechta, “Dream”) and today is called Luna 1) was launched from the Scientific-Research Test Range No. 5 at Tyuratam, Kazakhstan (later named the Baikonur Cosmodrome) at 16:41:21 UTC, 2 January 1959, aboard an 8K72 three-stage launch vehicle.

Mechta was the fourth in a series of lunar probes, and was intended to impact the surface of the Moon.  It was spherical with several antennas, and weighed 361 kilograms (795.9 pounds). The probe carried a magnetometer, Geiger counter, scintillation detector and micrometeorite detector. It was powered by batteries. Radio telemetry equipment relayed the data to Earth.

Luna I trajectory.

It was intended that the spacecraft would impact the lunar surface, but an error in programming the third stage burn time caused a near miss. After 34 hours of flight, the probe passed within 5,995 kilometers (3,725 miles) of the lunar surface.  It then entered a solar (heliocentric) orbit between Earth and Mars, where it remains today, circling the Sun every 450.0 days.

The Vostok-L 8K72 was a modified R-7 Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 rocket was designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, known as The Chief Designer.

The 8K72 version consisted of two core stages with four external boosters. The first stage and each of the boosters were powered by a four-nozzle RD-107 rocket engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen. Total thrust was approximately 1,100,775 pounds. The second stage used a RD-0105 engine, producing 11,015 pounds of thrust. The Luna 1 was propelled by a third stage which remained attached during the translunar coast phase of flight.

The first two stages were 30.84 meters (101.18 feet) high and weighed 277,000 kilograms (610,680 pounds). The Luna 1 third stage weighed 1,472 kilograms (3,245 pounds), empty. It was 5.2 meters (17.06 feet) long with a diameter of 2.4 meters (7.87 feet).

The 8K72 rocket was capable of launching a 4,000 kilogram (8,818.5 pound) payload into Low Earth Orbit. The last launch of an 8K72 was in 1960, but the current Soyuz launchers are based on this early rocket.

Luna 1 was the first space vehicle to reach escape velocity and leave Earth’s gravitational field; the first to reach the vicinity of the Moon, and the first man-made device to orbit the Sun.

Luna 1 was launched from Tyuratam at 16:41:21 UTC, 2 January 1959.
Luna 1 was launched from Tyuratam at 16:41:21 UTC, 2 January 1959.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 January 1958

Replica of Sputnik 1 satellite at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum (NSAM)
Replica of Sputnik 1 satellite at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum (NASA)

4 January 1958: After completing 1,440 orbits, Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite, reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and was destroyed.

Простейший Спутник-1 (Sputnik 1, or Elementary Satellite 1) had been launched 4 October 1957 from Site No. 1 at the Scientific-Research Test Range No. 5, Tyuratam, Kazakh S.S.R. (now, Kazakhstan), aboard a two-stage Sputnik 8K71PS rocket, a variant of the R-7 Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile.

Mikhail S. Khomyakov
Mikhail S. Khomyakov

The satellite was designed at OKB-1 (the Special Design Bureau) by a team of Mikhail Stepanovich Khomyakov, Maksim Khramov and Oleg Genrikhovich Ivanovsky. It was constructed as a sphere with a diameter of 58.0 centimeters (22.84 inches), made from an aluminum alloy with a thickness of 2 millimeters (0.08 inch). The two halves were joined by 36 bolts and filled with pressurized nitrogen. Four “whip” antennas were equally spaced around the satellite’s shell, angled at 35° from the longitudinal axis. With three silver-zinc batteries and equipment, the Sputnik 1 mass was 83.6 kilograms (184.3 pounds).

The satellite entered an elliptical Low Earth Orbit, with a perigee of 215.0 kilometers (133.6 miles) and apogee of 939.0 kilometers (583.5 miles). The duration of each orbit was 1 hour, 36 minutes, 12 seconds.

An unidentified engineer with Sputnik 1.
An unidentified engineer with Sputnik 1. (OKB-1)

The Sputnik 8K71PS launch vehicle, serial number 1 M1-PS, was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket based on the R-7 Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 rocket was designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, known as The Chief Designer. It had a length of 29.167 meters (95.69 feet) and maximum diameter of 10.3 meters (33.79 feet) at the base, including stabilizers. Its mass was 267.13 tons (588,921 pounds) at liftoff. The propellant was Kerosene T-1 with liquid oxygen.

The first stage consisted of four “strap-on” boosters surrounding the second, of “core” stage, each with an RD-107 four-chamber rocket engine, for a total thrust of 323.6 tons (713,409 pounds) of thrust. The first stage burn time was 120 seconds.

The second stage (core) was powered by one RD-108 four-chamber engine, producing 93 tons (205,028 pounds) of thrust. Burn time for the second stage was 180 seconds.

Sputnik I launch, Site No. 1, Scientific-Research Test Range No. 5, Tyuratam, Kazakh S.S.R., 19:28:34 4 October 1957 UTC (5 October, Tyuratam). (RKK Energiya/Solaris ID 38466)

Sputnik 1 launched at 22:28:34 Moscow time. After 116.38 seconds, the stages separated. The second stage and satellite entered orbit 295.4 seconds after liftoff at an altitude of 228.6 kilometers (142.05 miles) and velocity of 7,780 meters per second (17,403.36 miles per hour). The satellite separated from the second stage 5 minutes, 14.5 seconds after launch.

The second stage reentered the atmosphere 2 December 1957.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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