Tag Archives: Astronaut

19–20 February 1979

Professor Neil A. Armstrong in his classroom at the Iniversity of Cincinatti College of Engineering, 1974. (Peggy Palange, UC Public Informaton Office)
Professor Neil A. Armstrong in his classroom at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, 1974. (Peggy Palange, UC Public Information Office)

19–20 February 1979: Professor Neil A. Armstrong of the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, member of the Board of Directors of Gates Learjet Corporation, former United States Navy fighter pilot, NACA/NASA research test pilot, Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and The First Man To Set Foot On The Moon, set five Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and National Aeronautics Association class records for time to climb to an altitude and altitude while flying the prototype Learjet 28, serial number 28-001.

Professor Neil Armstrong and co-pilot Peter Reynolds in the cockpit of the record-setting Learjet 28, March 1979.
Professor Neil Armstrong and co-pilot Peter Reynolds in the cockpit of the record-setting Learjet 28.

Armstrong, with Learjet program test pilot Peter Reynolds as co-pilot, and with NAA observer Don Berliner aboard, flew the Learjet 28 to 15,000 meters (49,212.598 feet) in 12 minutes, 27 seconds at Kittyhawk, North Carolina on 19 February. On the same day, during a flight from Wichita, Kansas, to Elizabeth City, New Jersey, Armstrong flew the Learjet to 15,584.6 meters (51,130.577 feet), setting records for altitude and for sustained altitude in horizontal flight.

The following day, 20 February 1979, flying from Elizabeth City to Florence, Kentucky, Armstrong again set altitude and sustained altitude in horizontal flight, in a different class, by taking the Learjet to 15,585 meters (51,131.89 feet).

Learjet 28, serial number 28-001
Learjet 28, serial number 28-001

The Learjet 28 was a development of the Learjet 25 twin-engine business jet. It was operated by two pilots and could carry 6–8 passengers.  The Model 28 used a new wing design. It was the first civil aircraft to be certified with winglets. The prototype first flew 24 August 1977, and it received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration 29 July 1979.

The Learjet 28 is 47 feet, 7 inches (14.503 meters) long with a wingspan of 43 feet, 10 inches (13.360 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 3 inches (3.734 meters). It has an empty weight of 8,267 pounds (3,749.9 kilograms) and gross weight of 15,000 pounds (6,803.9 kilograms).

The Learjet 28 is powered by two General Electric CJ610-8A turbojet engines, each  producing 2,850 pounds of thrust at Sea Level, and 2,960 pounds of thrust for takeoff (five minute limit).

The business jet has a cruise speed of 470 miles per hour (756.4 kilometers per hour) at 51,000 feet (15,544.8 meters). Its maximum speed is 549 miles per hour (883.5 kilometers per hour). Maximum range is 1,309 miles (2,106.6 kilometers). The service ceiling is 51,000 feet (15,544.8 meters), the same as the record altitude.

The aircraft was limited by its older technology turbojet engines, and only five Learjet 28s were built.

The first Learjet 28, serial number 28-001, has been re-registered several times. At the time of its FAI record-setting flights, it carried FAA registration N9RS. Later it was registered as N3AS. The most recent information shows it currently registered as N128LR.

A bronze statue of Neil Alden Armstrong in front of the Hall of Engineering.
A bronze statue of Neil Alden Armstrong in front of the Hall of Engineering.

Neil Alden Armstrong, one of America’s most loved heroes, passed away 25 August 2012.

Learjet 28 (Business Aviation Online)
Learjet 28 N128LR. (Business Aviation Online)

FAI Record File Num #2652 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1e (Landplanes: take off weight 3 000 to 6 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Time to climb to a height of 15 000 m
Performance: 12 min 27s
Date: 1979-02-19
Course/Location: Kitty Hawk, NC (USA)
Claimant Neil A. Armstrong (USA)
Aeroplane: Learjet 28 (N9RS)
Engines: 2 G E CJ-610

FAI Record File Num #8657 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1f (Landplanes: take off weight 6 000 to 9 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Altitude in horizontal flight
Performance: 15 584.6 m
Date: 1979-02-19
Course/Location: Wichita, KS (USA) – Elisabeth City, NC (USA)
Claimant Neil A. Armstrong (USA)
Aeroplane: Learjet Learjet 28 (N9RS)
Engines: 2 G E CJ-610

FAI Record File Num #8670 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1f (Landplanes: take off weight 6 000 to 9 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 15 584.6 m
Date: 1979-02-19
Course/Location: Wichita, KS (USA) – Elisabeth City, NC (USA)
Claimant Neil A. Armstrong (USA)
Aeroplane: Learjet Learjet 28 (N9RS)
Engines: 2 G E CJ-610

FAI Record File Num #2653 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1e (Landplanes: take off weight 3 000 to 6 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Altitude
Performance: 15 585 m
Date: 1979-02-20
Course/Location: Elizabeth City, NC (USA) – Florence, KY (USA)
Claimant Neil A. Armstrong (USA)
Aeroplane: Learjet 28 (N9RS)
Engines: 2 G E CJ-610

FAI Record File Num #2654 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1e (Landplanes: take off weight 3 000 to 6 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Altitude in horizontal flight
Performance: 15 585 m
Date: 1979-02-20
Course/Location: Elizabeth City, NC (USA) – Florence, KY (USA)
Claimant Neil A. Armstrong (USA)
Aeroplane: Learjet 28 (N9RS)
Engines: 2 G E CJ-610

The first Learjet 28, serial number 28-001, registered as N128LR, in 2009. (Lone Mountain Aircraft Sales)
The first Learjet 28, serial number 28-001, registered as N128LR. (Lone Mountain Aircraft Sales)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 February 1962, 14:47:39 UTC, T + 4 seconds

Launch of Friendship 7 from Launch Complex 14, Kennedy Space Center, 14:47:39 UTC, 20 February 1962. (NASA)

20 February 1962, 14:47:39 UTC: At 9:47:39 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 6 lifted off from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the third launch of a manned Mercury spacecraft, and the first time that an Atlas rocket had been used.

Aboard the spacecraft was Lieutenant Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, an experienced fighter pilot and test pilot.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., NASA Project Mercury Astronaut. (Ralph Morse/LIFE Magazine)

2 minutes, 10 seconds after liftoff, the booster engines cut of and were jettisoned. 23 seconds later, the escape tower, no longer needed, was also jettisoned. The Atlas sustainer engine continued to burn until T+00:05:20. The spacecraft had now reached 17,544 miles per hour (28,234 kilometers per hour) and was in an elliptical orbit around the Earth. At T+00:05:24 the Mercury spacecraft separated from the Atlas booster.

Glenn’s orbit had an apogee of 162.2 statute miles (261 kilometers) and perigee of 100 miles (161 kilometers). The orbit was inclined 32.54° relative to Earth’s orbital plane. Friendship 7 completed an orbit every 88 minutes, 29 seconds.

Analysis showed that the Atlas had placed Friendship 7 in orbit at a velocity with 7 feet per second (2.1 meters per second) less than nominal. However, computer analysis showed that the orbital trajectory was good enough for nearly 100 orbits.

This photograph of Friendship 7’s cockpit was taken in orbit around the Earth, 20 February 1962. Astronaut John Glenn’s hands and legs are visible at the lower edge of the image. (Ohio State University)

During the 4 hour, 55 minute, 23 second flight, the Mercury capsule orbited the Earth three times. John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.  (Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had orbited the Earth 12 April 1961.)

After re-entry, the capsule parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean, only six miles from the recovery ship, USS Noa (DD-841).

The Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. It was the 13th Mercury capsule built. Designed to carry one pilot, it could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by steam thrusters fueled by hydrogen peroxide. The Mercury was 9 feet, 7.72 inches (2.939 meters) long, conical, and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2½ inches (1.885 meters). The spacecraft weighed 2,700 pounds (1,224.7 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 (118,000 kilograms) and could place a 3,000 pound (1,360 kilogram) payload into low Earth orbit.

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.

Friendship 7 is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

John Glenn's Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.)
John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 February 1973, 02:33:12 UTC

Skylab in Earth orbit, as seen by the departing Skylab 4 mission crew, 8 February 1974. (NASA)
Skylab in Earth orbit, as seen by the departing Skylab 4 mission crew, 8 February 1974. (NASA)

8 February 1973: At 02:33:12 UTC, the Skylab 4/Apollo command module undocked from the Skylab space station in Earth orbit, after 83 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes, 12 seconds. After several orbits, the Apollo capsule reentered the atmosphere and landed in the Pacific Ocean southwest of San Diego California, at 15:16:53 UTC. The crew was recovered by USS Okinawa (LPH-3), a helicopter carrier. Today, the Apollo capsule is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Skylab was an orbital laboratory built from a Saturn S-IVB third stage. It was launched from Cape Canaveral 14 May 1973 as part of a modified Saturn V rocket. The Skylab 4 crew was the third and final group of astronauts to live and the space station. Skylab’s orbit gradually decayed and it re-entered the atmosphere near Perth, Australia, 11 July 1979.

The Skylab 4 mission crew, left to right, Mission Commander Gerald P. Carr, Mission Scientist Edward G. Gibson and Pilot William R. Pogue. Pogue and Carr had joined NASA during the Apollo Program and were scheduled for Apollo 19, which was cancelled. This was the only space flight for these three astronauts. (NASA)
The Skylab 4 mission crew, left to right, Mission Commander Gerald P. Carr, Mission Scientist Edward G. Gibson and Pilot William R. Pogue. Pogue and Carr had joined NASA during the Apollo Program and were scheduled for Apollo 19, which was cancelled. This was the only space flight for these three astronauts. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 February 1984

Bruce McCandless outside Challenger in an MMU. (NASA)
Bruce McCandless outside Challenger in a MMU. (NASA)

7 February 1984: During mission STS-41-B, NASA astronauts Captain Bruce McCandless II, United States Navy, and Colonel Robert L. Stewart, United States Air Force, left the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) on the first untethered space walk.

McCandless tested each of the Manned Maneuverung Units (MMU) while Stewart tested a work station. For 5 hours, 55 minutes, they used the nitrogen-fueled Manned Maneuvering Units (MMU) to move about the outside of the space ship. At the farthest, McCandless was 320 feet (98 meters) away from Challenger.

Manned Maneuvering Unit #3 in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.

The Manned Maneuvering Unit was designed and built by Martin Marietta Corporation (now, Lockheed Martin). It is constructed primarily of aluminum. The MMU is powered by two batteries with 852 watts at full charge, and propelled by 24 gaseous nitrogen thrusters, providing 1.4 pounds of thrust (6.2 newtons), each. The astronaut controls the MMU with two hand controllers. It has six-axis motion and automatic attitude hold. Including a full supply of nitrogen, the MMU weighs approximately 338 pounds (153.3 kilograms). It is designed for a maximum of 6 hours of operation. The unit is 50.0 inches (127.0 centimeters) high, 33.3 inches (84.6 centimeters) wide and with control arms extended, has a maximum depth of 48.0 inches (121.9 centimeters).

Bruce McCandless II (NASA)

Bruce McCandless II is the son of Rear Admiral Bruce McCandless, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions aboard USS San Francisco (CA-38) at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12–13 November 1942, and grandson of Commodore Byron McCandless. He graduated second in his class at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, in June 1958 and was trained as a Naval Aviator at Pensacola, Florida. McCandless then served as a fighter pilot, flying the Douglas F-6A Skyray and McDonnell F-4B Phantom II.

Bruce McCandless II was accepted into the NASA astronaut program in 1966. Though he was involved in the Apollo Program, he did not fly until the space shuttle became operational. He served as a Mission Specialist aboard Challenger (STS-41-B) in 1984, and Discovery (STS-31) in 1990.

Captain McCandless has logged over 5,200 hours of flight, and 312 hours, 31 minutes, 1 second in space and completed 208 orbits of the Earth.

Bruce McCandless at a distance of approximately 320 feet (98 meters) from the space shuttle Challenger, 7 February 1984. (NASA)
Captain Bruce McCandless II, U.S. Navy, at a distance of approximately 320 feet (98 meters) from the space shuttle Challenger, 7 February 1984. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 February 1971, 09:18:11 UTC, T + 108:15:09.30

The Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares (LM-8) on the surface of The Moon. (NASA)
The Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares (LM-8) on the surface of The Moon. (NASA)

5 February 1971, 09:18:11 UTC, T + 108:15:09.30: The Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares (LM-8), with astronauts Alan B. Shepard and Edgar D. Mitchell aboard, landed at the Fra Mauro Highlands, The Moon.

This was the third manned lunar landing. It was 9 years, 8 months, 30 days, 18 hours, 43 minutes, 58 seconds since Shepard had lifted off from Cape Canaveral aboard Freedom 7, becoming the first American astronaut launched into space.

5 hours, 36 minutes later, at 14:54 UTC, T + 113:51, Alan Shepard stepped on to the surface of The Moon.

Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., Captain, United States Navy, Astronaut, on the surface of The Moon, 5 February 1971. (Edgar D. Mitchell/NASA)
Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., Captain, United States Navy, Astronaut, on the surface of The Moon, 5 February 1971. (Edgar D. Mitchell/NASA)
Edgar D. Mitchell died last night, 4 February 2016, at the age of 85 years. (Alan B. Shepard/NASA)
Edgar D. Mitchell, Sc.D., Captain, United States Navy, died last night, 4 February 2016, at the age of 85 years. (Alan B. Shepard/NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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