Tag Archives: Astronaut

23 June 1961

Bob White exits the cockpit of an X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake. (NASA)

23 June 1961: Major Robert Michael White, United States Air Force, became the first pilot to exceed Mach 5 in an aircraft. This was the 38th flight of the X-15 Program. Flights during this phase incrementally increased the speed and altitude of the X-15 up to its design limits of Mach 6 and 250,000 feet (76,200 meters).

The second North American Aviation X-15A, 56-6671, was air-dropped from the NB-52A Stratofortress mothership, 52-003, over Mud Lake, Nevada at 2:00:05.0 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time (21:00 UTC). White fired the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 engine for 78.7 seconds, reaching Mach 5.27 (3,603 miles per hour, 5,799 kilometers per hour) and climbed to 107,700 feet (32,827 meters). 10 minutes, 5.7 seconds after being dropped from the B-52, White touched down on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base.

Bob White was the first pilot to exceed Mach 4, Mach 5 and Mach 6. He also flew an X-15 to an altitude of 314,750 feet (95,936 meters), qualifying for U.S. Air Force astronaut wings.

After leaving the X-15 program, Major White flew 70 combat missions in the Republic F-105D Thunderchief fighter bomber during the Vietnam War. He lead the attack against the heavily-defended Paul Doumer Bridge in Hanoi, 11 August 1967, for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Major General White retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1981. He died 10 March 2010.

56-6671 is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The mothership, 52-003, is on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.

North American Aviation X-15A 56-6671. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 June 1983, 11:33:00.033 UTC

Sally Ride aboard Challenger, STS-7, June 1983. (NASA)
Sally Ride aboard Challenger, STS-7, June 1983. (NASA)

18 June 1983: At 7:33:00.033 a.m., EDT, Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on mission STS-7.

This was Challenger‘s second flight, and it carried a five-person crew, the largest aboard a single spacecraft up to that time. Commanded by Robert L. Crippen on his second shuttle flight, STS-7 was to place two communications satellites in orbit and to deploy an experimental pallet with multiple experiments.

Aboard was Mission Specialist Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., America’s first woman to fly in space. She operated the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System, a robotic arm, to deploy and retrieve satellites.

Wheel stop: 175:13:58:14

Challenger lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center,  11:33:00 UTC, 18 June 1983. (NASA)

Sally Ride was born 26 May 1951 at Encino, California [in “The Valley”]. She was educated in the Los Angeles public school system and then attended the Westlake School for Girls, a private university prep school in the Holmby Hills area of Westwood, California, where she graduated in 1968. She then studied for three years at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and then entered Stanford University, earning a bachelor’s degree in both English (B.A) and physics (B.S.) in 1973. Continuing post-graduate studies at Stanford, she was awarded a master of science degree (M.S., 1975) and then a doctorate in physics (Ph.D., 1978).

Dr. Ride was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in 1978 an underwent a year of training as a mission specialist. While awaiting assignment to a space shuttle mission, she served as CAPCOM (“capsule communicator”) for the second and third shuttle missions.

Sally Ride flew aboard Challenger for Mission STS-7, between 18–24 June 1983, with 147 hours of space flight. Her next flight was STS 41-G, also aboard Challenger, 5–13 October 1984, for 197 hours. She was assigned to STS-61M, which was also to have been flown with Challenger, but the mission was cancelled following the destruction of Challenger, 28 January 1986.

Sally K. Ride, Ph.D., with th3 Rogers Commission, 1986. (Getty Images)
Dr. Sally Ride, with the Rogers Commission, 1986. (Getty Images/Corbis News/Mark Reinstein)

She served aboard the Rogers Commission investigating the tragic loss of the shuttle, along with physicist Richard P. Feynman, Ph.D., astronaut Neil A. Armstrong and test pilot Chuck Yeager.

Sally Ride left NASA in 1987 and worked at the Center for International Arms Control at Stanford University, and in 1989, became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. In 2001, she formed Sally Ride Science, an advanced educational program at UC San Diego. In 2003 Ride was appointed to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., died 23 July 2012, at the age of 61 years.

Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., Astronaut (1951–2012)
Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., Astronaut (1951–2012)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 May 1962, 12:45:16 UTC, T plus 00:00:00.57

Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Scott Carpenter, United States Navy, NASA Astronaut. (NASA)

24 May 1962: Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Scott Carpenter, United States Navy, NASA Astronaut, was launched aboard Mercury-Atlas 7 at 12:45:16.57 UTC, from Launch Complex 14 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the fourth manned space flight of the American space program. Carpenter was the sixth human to fly in space.

During the launch, Carpenter experienced a maximum of 7.8 gs acceleration. 5 minutes, 12.2 seconds after liftoff, Aurora 7 separated from the Atlas booster and entered Earth orbit, having reached a speed of 17,534 miles per hour (28,219 kilometers per hour). The orbit was elliptical, with a minimum altitude of 86.87 nautical miles (160.88 kilometers) and a maximum of 144.96 nautical miles (268.47 kilometers). Carpenter completed an orbit every 88 minutes, 32 seconds.

During the orbital phase of the mission, a pitch horizon scanner—part of the automatic flight control system—malfunctioned, causing the capsule’s attitude jets to fire to correct perceived errors in the ship’s attitude. This caused an excessive consumption of the hydrogen peroxide fuel for the reaction controls.

At T+04:30:00 (four hours, thirty minutes after launch) the Mercury capsule’s retrorockets fired to slow the capsule and begin the reentry phase of the flight. Each of the retro rockets fired at 5 second intervals and burned for 10 seconds. The capsule decelerated 550 feet per second (168 meters per second) and fell out of orbit. The PHS failed again, yawing Aurora 7 25° off track, which prevented the full thrust of the retrorockets from being directed along the correct path. Scott Carpenter had to fire the rockets manually and this 3 second delay, along with the misalignment of the capsule, caused it to overshoot the planned splashdown point  in the Atlantic ocean by approximately 250 nautical miles (463 kilometers). (N. 19° 27′, W. 63° 59′)

Autographed photo of Scott Carpenter being hoisted aboard Sikorsky HSS-2 (SH-3A) Sea King, Bu. No. 148964 (c/n 61-036), in the Atlantic Ocean, 24 May 1962. (U.S. Navy)
Autographed photo of Scott Carpenter being hoisted aboard Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King, Bu. No. 148964 (c/n 61-036), in the Atlantic Ocean, 24 May 1962. (U.S. Navy)

At 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) Aurora 7‘s main parachute opened. Aurora 7 splashed down at 17:41:21 UTC. The total duration of the flight was 4 hours, 55 minutes, 57 seconds.

Scott Carpenter was recovered by a Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helicopter from USS Intrepid (CVS-11). Aurora 7 was picked up by the Allan M. Sumner-class destroyer, USS John R. Pierce (DD-753), 6 hours after landing.

The flight of Scott Carpenter and Aurora 7 was a success, but Carpenter was subject to criticism for his performance during the mission.

In 1963, Carpenter was injured in a motorcycle accident and lost some mobility in his left arm. Despite two surgical procedures, it was determined that he was ineligible for spaceflight. He resigned from NASA in 1967 and retired from the U.S Navy in 1969 with the rank of Commander.

The Mercury spacecraft, named Aurora 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. It was the 18th Mercury capsule built. Designed to carry one pilot, the Mercury space craft could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by thrusters. The space capsule was truncated cone with sides angled 20° from the longitudinal axis. It was 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) long and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.892 meters). The total height of the spacecraft, from the tip of the aero spike to the booster adapter, was 26 feet, 1.26 inches (7.957 meters). Aurorra 7 weighed 4,244.09 pounds ( kilograms) at Launch.

The rocket, a “1-½ stage” liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 109-D, was built by the  Convair Division of General Dynamics at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force SM-65 Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle.

The LV-3B was 65 feet (19.812 meters) long from the base to the Mercury adapter section, and the tank section is 10 feet (3.038 meters) in diameter. The complete Mercury-Atlas orbital launch vehicle is 93 feet (28.436 meters) tall, including the escape tower. When ready for launch it weighed approximately 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms).

The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. Two Rocketdyne LR89-NA-5 engines and one LR105-NA-5 produced 341,140 pounds (1,517.466 kilonewtons) of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

Diagram of Atlas LV-3B (Space Launch Report)

Malcolm Scott Carpenter died 10 October 2013 at the age of 88. His spacecraft, Aurora 7, is on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Lakeshore Drive, Chicago, Illinois.

MA-7, Aurora 7, lifts of from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 7:45:16 a.m., EST, 24 May 1962. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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15 May 1963, 13:04:13.106 UTC, T plus 00:00:00.106

Leroy Gordon Cooper (March 6, 1927 – October 4, 2004). NASA photograph.
Major L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., United States Air Force. NASA Astronaut. (March 6, 1927 – October 4, 2004). Major Cooper is wearing a modified U.S. Navy Mark IV full-pressure suit produced by B.F. Goodrich. (NASA photograph)

15 May 1963: At 8:04:13.106 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Mercury-Atlas 9, carrying NASA astronaut, L. Gordon Cooper aboard Faith 7, lifted off from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Florida. Cooper reported, “The liftoff was smooth, but very definite, the acceleration was very pleasant. The booster had a very good feel to it and it felt like we were real on the go, there.” The maximum acceleration experienced during launch was 7.6 gs.

Faith 7 separated from the Atlas booster at T+00:05:05.5.3 and entered low Earth orbit with an apogee of 165.9 statute miles (267.0 kilometers) and perigee of 100.3 statute miles (161.4 kilometers). The orbital period was 88 minutes, 45 seconds. The spacecraft’s velocity was 25,714.0 feet per second (7,837.6 meters per second), or 17,532.3 miles per hour (28,215.5 kilometers per hour).

MA-9 was the final flight of Project Mercury. Gordon Cooper flew 22.5 orbits. Due to electrical system problems that began on the 21st orbit, he had to fly a manual reentry which resulted in the most accurate landing of the Mercury program.

The spacecraft’s three retrorockets fired 5 second intervals beginning at T+33:59:30. 34 hours, 19 minutes, 49 seconds after lift off, Faith 7 “splashed down” approximately 70 miles (112.7 kilometers) southeast of Midway Atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, just 4.4 miles (7.1 kilometers) from the primary recovery ship, the United States Navy Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CV-33).

The Mercury spacecraft, which Cooper named Faith 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri, which would also build the follow-on, two-place Gemini spacecraft. It was the 20th and final Mercury capsule to be built, and was one of four which were modified to support a day-long mission. Some items considered unnecessary were deleted and extra oxygen and battery capacity was added.

Designed to carry one pilot, the Mercury space craft could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by thrusters. The space capsule was truncated cone with sides angled 20° from the longitudinal axis. It was 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) long and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.892 meters). The total height of the spacecraft, from the tip of the aero spike to the booster adapter, was 26 feet, 1.26 inches (7.957 meters). Faith 7 weighed 4,330.82 pounds (1,964.43 kilograms) at liftoff.

During flight outside the atmosphere, the Mercury spacecraft could be controlled in its pitch, roll and yaw axes by hydrogen peroxide-fueled reaction control thrusters. Both manual and automatic attitude control were available. It could not accelerate or decelerate (except for reentry) so it could not change its orbit.

The spacecraft cabin was pressurized to 5.5 psi with 100% oxygen. Gordon Cooper wore a modified  B.F. Goodrich Mark IV full-pressure suit and flight helmet for protection in the event that cabin pressure was lost. Cooper’s suit varied considerably from those worn by previous Mercury astronauts.

Mercury-Atlas 9 at Laucnh Complex 14. The gantry has been pulled back, but the rocket has not been filled with propellants. (NASA)
Mercury-Atlas 9 at Launch Complex 14. The gantry has been pulled back, but the rocket has not been filled with propellants. Two men at the lower right of the image provide scale.(NASA)

The rocket, a “1-½ stage” liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 109-D, was built by the  Convair Division of General Dynamics at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force SM-65 Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle.

The LV-3B was 65 feet (19.812 meters) long from the base to the Mercury adapter section, and the tank section is 10 feet (3.038 meters) in diameter. The complete Mercury-Atlas orbital launch vehicle is 93 feet (28.436 meters) tall, including the escape tower. When ready for launch it weighed approximately 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms).

The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. Two Rocketdyne LR89-NA-5 engines and one LR105-NA-5 produced 341,140 pounds (1,517.466 kilonewtons) of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

Diagram of Atlas LV-3B (Space Launch Report)
Diagram of Atlas LV-3B with dimensions. (Space Launch Report)

Faith 7 is displayed at the Space Center Houston, the visitor center for the Johnson Space Flight Center, Houston, Texas.

Faith 7 and Atlas 130_D lift off from Launch Complex 14 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 13:04:13 UTC, 13 May 1963. (NASA)
Mercury Atlas 9 (MA-9), consisting of  Faith 7 and Atlas 130-D, lifts off from Launch Complex 14 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 13:04:13 UTC, 15 May 1963. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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