Category Archives: Neil Armstrong

Buzz Aldrin 1.20.13 Thought of the Day

“Beautiful, beautiful, magnificent desolation.”–Buzz Aldrin

Aldrin on the Moon [Image courtesy: Buzz]

Aldrin on the Moon [Image courtesy: Buzz]

Edwin EugeneBuzzAldrin, Jr. was born on this day in Montclair, New Jersey in 1930. He is 83 years old.

Aldrin’s father was a Colonel in the Air Force, an aviation pioneer and a Doctor of Science graduate from MIT. His mother, whose maiden name was, appropriately enough, Moon, was the daughter of an Army Chaplain. He had two older sisters, the younger of whom couldn’t pronounce brother, instead she said “Buzzer.” That was shortened to Buzz.

[Image courtesy: Buzz]

[Image courtesy: Buzz]

He was offered a full scholarship to MIT, but turned it down, choosing instead to enter West Point Military Academy. He graduated third in his class.

He then joined the Air Force where he flew F86 Sabre Jets in 66 combat missions in Korea, shot down two MIG-15′s, and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross.  After a tour of duty in Germany flying F100’s, he went on to earn his Doctorate of Science in Astronautics at MIT and wrote his thesis on Manned Orbital Rendezvous. []

He joined NASA as part of the third group of astronauts. His expertise on docking techniques earned him the nickname “Dr. Rendezvous”

The docking and rendezvous techniques he devised for spacecraft in Earth and lunar orbit became critical to the success of the Gemini and Apollo programs, and are still used today.  He also pioneered underwater training techniques, as a substitute for zero gravity flights, to simulate spacewalking. [Ibid]

[Image courtesy: Buzz]

[Image courtesy: Buzz]

During his Gemini 12 Mission he “performed the world’s first successful spacewalk” [Ibid].

In July of 1969 he landed on the Moon with Neil Armstrong while Michael Collins orbited over head during the Apollo 11 Mission. Aldrin and Armstrong   became “the first two humans to set foot on another world. They spent 21 hours on the lunar surface and returned with 46 pounds of moon rocks.” [Ibid]

Image Courtesy: NASA]

Image Courtesy: NASA]

Although he has since retired from NASA he remains a tireless advocate for Space exploration, especially the exploration of Mars. He has written a children’s book, an autobiography, and two space based science-fact-fiction novels.

[Image courtesy: Buzz]

[Image courtesy: Buzz]

At the passing of Neil Armstrong he wrote:

Whenever I look at the moon I am reminded of that precious moment, over four decades ago, when Neil and I stood on the desolate, barren, yet beautiful, Sea of Tranquility, looking back at our brilliant blue planet Earth suspended in the darkness of space, I realized that even though we were farther away from earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone. Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us. I know I am joined by many millions of others from around the world in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. My friend Neil took the small step but giant leap that changed the world and will forever be remembered as a historic moment in human history…. [Buzz]

When people talk about Neil Armstrong they sometimes say he was the “First man on the Moon.” I’m a huge Armstrong fan, but that statement is just not true. Armstrong was the first man to WALK on the Moon, because he descended the ladder of the Lunar Lander first, but he and Aldrin landed on the Moon at the same time.

English: One of the first steps taken on the M...

English: One of the first steps taken on the Moon, this is an image of Buzz Aldrin’s bootprint from the Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon on July 20, 1969. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Click here the ritaLOVEStoWRITE bioBLOG on Neil Armstrong.


Thought of the Day 11.14.12 Fred Haise

“I grew up on Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon. There wasn’t a space program or NASA when I was a kid,”

“We just kept putting off the worry as we focused on the next problem and how to solve it,”

“Given that the movie had to condense four days into two hours, and given that the communications were sometimes rather tedious and technical, it was pretty accurate…”

–Fred Haise

Astronaut Fred Haise in his Apollo 13 space suit. [Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.]

Fred Wallace Haise, Jr.was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, USA on his day in 1933. He is 79 years old.

His interest in flying happened by accident.  He was in junior college pursuing a career in Journalism when the Korean War broke out. Haise wanted to enlist

“The only program I could get into that would lead to a commission, which was my primary goal, was the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. So… I ended up in the flying business, which I loved.” [Johnson Space Center Oral History Project]

After being honorably discharged from the service –Haise went from the Cadet Program to the Marine Corps, served a tour of duty, then went into the Air National Guard —  he got his  BS in aeronautical engineering from the University of Oklahoma.

It was quite a path for a young man who had never been in a plane (not even for a commercial flight) prior to entering the Navy. He reckons he’s “flown about 80 types of aircraft.” [Ibid.]

While in the Oklahoma Air National Guard he was introduced to the idea of becoming a NASA research pilot. He was very interested, but the queue at Langley, Ames and Edwards Air Force Bases — NASA’s premier flight test centers at the time — was long. So Haise opted for Lewis Research Center. He worked for 7 years before entering the NASA astronaut program as a research pilot. This was the same path Neil Armstrong had taken three years ahead of him.

He was part of the “Original 19”  astronauts, nine of whom flew in the Apollo program and eight of whom flew in the Shuttle Program. Haise did both. He was a the back up Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 and the back up commander for Apollo 16. But the flight he is best remembered for is Apollo 13.

Apollo 13 was slated to go to the Fra Mauro region of the Moon; deploy “a set of scientific experiments involved in the ALSEP [Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package] packages” [Ibid]  and do field geological work while on EVA.

English: S70-34854 (11 April 1970) --- The Apo...

English: S70-34854 (11 April 1970) — The Apollo 13 (Spacecraft 109/Lunar Module 7/Saturn 508) space vehicle is launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center (KSC), at 2:13 p.m. (EST), April 11, 1970. The crew of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) third lunar landing mission are astronauts James A. Lovell Jr., commander; John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot; and Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mission took off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on April 11, 1970. The crew included Commander by James Lovell, Lunar Module Pilot, Haise and Command Module Pilot, Jack Swigert. Swigert was a last-minute replacement for Ken Mattingly who was exposed to the measles and pulled off the primary crew a week before take off.

When the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 13 crew was about 2/3rds to the Moon there was an explosion in the oxygen tank. Haise recalls:

‘I was still buttoning up and putting away equipment from a TV show we had completed, and… we were going to get ready to go to sleep. I knew it was a real happening, and I knew it was not normal and serious at…that instant. I did not necessarily know that it was life-threatening.” [Ibid]

He quickly went to his station where he encountered an “array of warning lights.” [Ibid] Haise looked at an instrument panel that read the pressure, temperature and quantity of the oxygen tanks. One had the needles at the bottom of all three gauges.

They had lost an oxygen tank, and, according to Mission Rules, that meant they had lost the Moon. They were now in abort mode.

Still, the situation didn’t seem life threatening. But after a few minutes it became evident that the second oxygen tank– the remaining tank — was also leaking.

“When it became obvious it was dwindling or losing oxygen, then the handwriting was on the wall that the command module was going to die and have to be powered-down.” [Ibid]

The crew transferred to the smaller Lunar Module.

Ground controllers in Houston faced a formidable task. Completely new procedures had to be written and tested in the simulator before being passed up to the crew. The navigation problem had to be solved; essentially how, when, and in what attitude to burn the LM descent engine to provide a quick return home. []

Power and consumables were the first concern, but another danger, Carbon Dioxide, proved a hidden foe.

There were enough lithium hydroxide canisters, which remove carbon dioxide from the spacecraft, but the square canisters from the Command Module were not compatible with the round openings in the Lunar Module environmental system…Mission Control devised a way to attach the CM canisters to the LM system by using plastic bags, cardboard, and tape- all materials carried on board.[Ibid]

To navigate back to Earth the space craft was  put on a free-return course that required two burns of the engines. The first burn lasted  35 seconds and occurred  5 hours after the explosion. The second burn was 5 minutes and took place as they approached the Moon.

Apollo 13 crew aboard the USS Iwo Jima after splash in the Pacific. They are (l-r) Fred Haise, John Swigert and James Lovell. [Image courtesy:]

Amazingly the three men in the capsule and the hundreds of people back at Mission Control were able to get the space craft back to Earth safely. Apollo 13 splashed down near Samoa  on April 17, 1970.

After Apollo 13 both Haise and Swigert had hopes of being assigned another Moon mission, but that did not come to pass.  (Swigert went on to become a member of the House of Representatives from Colorado in 1982 before dying of bone cancer.)  Haise stayed with NASA and worked on the Shuttle program.

Portrait of Astronaut Fred H. Haise Jr. in flight suit holding a model of the space shuttle. [Image courtesy NASA]

He was commander of one of the two 2-man crews who piloted space shuttle approach and landing test (ALT) flights during the period June through October 1977. [Ibid]

There were a total of 8 “piggy back” flights that tested  the Shuttle’s critical glide, approach, landing, rollout, and flare capabilities.

After resigning from NASA in 1979 Haise became VP of Space Programs at Grumman Aerospace Corporation.

View of NASA 747 and T-38s flying over Shuttle Orbiter 101 “Enterprise” just after Haise and C. Gordon Fullerton landed the Shuttle on September 23, 1977. [Image courtesy NASA]

Thought of the Day 11.4.12 Walter Cronkite

“And that’s the way it is.”
–Walter Cronkite, Jr.

Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr was born on this day in  Saint Joseph, Missouri, USA in 1916. Today is the 98th anniversary of his birth.

Walter was the oldest of six children. The Cronkites lived in Kansas City, Missouri (where young Walter was a paper boy for the Kansas City Star) until 1926 when the moved to Houston, Texas. At San Jacinto High School he worked for the school newspaper, eventually becoming editor.

Young Cronkite read the World Book Encyclopedia. He built a telegraph system to link the houses of friends. The churchgoing Boy Scout also learned he had an alcoholic father, and about divorce. His single mother taught him tolerance in a Jim Crow state. []

According to Boy Scout lore Cronkite wanted to become a newsman after reading an article reporters in Boys Life Magazine.

He went to the University of Texas at Austin but dropped out in his Junior year  to start working as a reporter. He worked for a number of newspapers (including the Huston Post) and radio stations (under the name “Walter Wilcox”) reporting the news and sports.

... Walter Cronkite

During World War II Cronkite became a War correspondent covering the North African and European campaigns for the United Press. After covering the Nuremberg Trials for that organization  he was recruited to CBS News by Edward R. Murrow.

Cronkite started at the Washington, DC affiliate for CBS.

…He worked on a variety of programs, and covered national political conventions and elections. He helped launch the CBS Evening News in 1962 and served as its news anchor until his retirement in 1981. []

He was “The most trusted man in America” and he covered events from the assignations of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, to Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, to Watergate and Vietnam.

U.S. television journalist Walter Cronkite in ...

He also hosted:  You Are There, a historical reenactment program; The Twentieth Century, a documentary using newsreel footage to explore historical events; and a game show, It’s News to Me.

He retired in 1981. He continued to report as a special correspondent and presenter.

After retiring, Cronkite hosted CBS’s Universe (1982), co-produced Why in the World (1981) for Public Broadcasting System, and hosted Dinosaur (1991) for the Arts and Entertainment cable television. He also did a special short series for CBS and the Discovery Channel in 1996 called Cronkite Remembers. In addition to his television work, Cronkite wrote several books, including A Reporter’s Life (1996) and Around America (2001). [Ibid]

Walter Cronkite passed away on July 17, 2009 in New York City.

RIP 2009-Walter Cronkite

Thought of the Day 8.5.12 Neil Armstrong


Sadly I have to give an update to this post.

One of America’s greatest heros, Neil Armstrong, passed away today due to complications from cardiovascular procedures. He had  heart surgery last month in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Looking back, we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go,” Armstrong said.


“I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine”

–Neil Armstrong

Neil A. Armstrong was born on this day in Wapakoneta, Ohio, in 1930. He is 82 years old.

He grew up near the local airport and took flying lessons as a teenager. He got his pilots license before he got his driver’s license.

Armstrong was a naval aviator for three years, flying 78 combat missions during the Korean War,  prior to joining the National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics (NACA) in 1955. (The NACA was the precursor to NASA.) He  logged over 2,400 hours of air time testing experimental aircraft at Edwards Airforce Base.

According to the NASA’s Glenn Research Center web site:

He has flown over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders.

In 1962 Armstrong became one of the “New Nine” NASA astronauts, the second group of men selected for US space flight to augment the Mercury 7. The Mercury astronauts established orbital space flight, the New Nine would fly in Gemini space capsules and would tackle docking two vehicles in space and space walks.

English: Close-up on orbiting Agena D rocket s...

English: Close-up on orbiting Agena D rocket stage Polski: Zbliżenie orbitującego członu rakietowego Agena D (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On his historic Gemini 8 mission Armstrong and Dave Scott successfully docked their ship with an unmanned Agena target vehicle. It was an essential first step  towards getting to the moon. Unfortunately about 27 minutes after docking the two ships began to roll and yaw. Assuming the problem was with the Agena, Armstrong undocked, but it was a faulty thruster on the Gemini that was making the capsule spin, and undocking only exacerbated the problem. Armstrong and Scott had to shut down Gemini’s main reaction control system and use the reentry thrusters to zero out yaw and roll on the wildly spinning craft. Armstrong’s masterful flying skills were successful, but they used up 75% of the system’s fuel and Mission Control cut short the flight.

On the Gemini 11 flight he acted as CAPCOM — the person at Ground Control who interfaces with the astronauts in space — and he was the commander of the back-up crew for Apollo 8 (the first human space flight to leave Earth’s orbit, fly to the moon — but not land — and return to Earth.)

Flag of the United States on American astronau...

Flag of the United States on American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s space suit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Armstrong was the Commander of Apollo 11, the first manned space craft to land on the Moon. He accompanied by Michael Collins, who stayed aloft in the Command Module, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. who touched down on the Moon’s surface on July 20, 1969 with with Armstrong. Armstrong descended a lader and took the first steps on the lunar surface. Armstrong and Aldrin had about 2 hours outside the lander, the Eagle,  to take photographs, set up experiments and collect moon rocks. The Eagle blasted off from the Sea of Tranquility and  Armstrong and Aldrin rejoined Collins on the Command Module, Columbia.

The reverse of the Anthony dollar is based upo...

The reverse of the Anthony dollar is based upon the insignia of the Apollo 11 mission, which was also used on the reverse of the Eisenhower dollar that preceded it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He worked for NASA as Deputy Associate Administrator for aeronautics until 1971.

Post NASA he taught and did research as a professor of aerospace engineering at University of Cincinnati and served as the chairman of the board for several privately owned aerospace/defense industries.

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969. The photo was taken by Armstrong. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Please note that I did not say Armstrong was the first man to LAND on the moon. Both Aldrin and Armstrong landed on the Moon at the same time.  … Armstrong was the first man to WALK on the Moon.]

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