Subscribe  Subscribe to Comments  Follow me on Twitter  Circle me on Google Plus  Friend me on Facebook  Follow me on StumbleUpon

≡ Menu
    In late December of 1968, three men took us to the Moon. Then, on that Christmas Eve, they took us a little farther.

Start: It was forty years ago. How can that be?

Christmas Eve, 1968: my parents, my brother, and I were in our living room, me sitting in my pajamas on our immaculately varnished hardwood floor, watching our Zenith color television set, transfixed by the CBS News coverage of Apollo 8, a manned American spacecraft over two hundred thousand miles away from the Earth, which was every two hours silently circling the Moon.

The Night Before Launch
The Night Before Launch

Three days before, December 21, 7:51 AM Eastern Standard Time, the three thousand ton Saturn V rocket, capped with the Apollo 8 spacecraft, unleashed an inferno of burning kerosene and liquid oxygen, and was held captive as it built up a full seven and a half million pounds of thrust, straining to leap from its pad and spend itself hurtling three astronauts into deep space. Crewed by Commander Colonel Frank Borman, Lunar Module Pilot Major William A. Anders (who, due to the change in the mission profile, actually did not have a Lunar Module to pilot), and Command Module Pilot Captain James A. Lovell, the mission was to dare to do something no human beings had ever done before — leave the Earth on a immensely risky journey to circumnavigate and go into close orbit around another celestial body.


[click to continue…]

Start: Did Soviet cosmonauts die in space in the early 1960s?

Any space buff worth his or her salt is keenly aware of the tragic fate of Vladimir Komarov, who died on April 24, 1967, due to parachute failure after the reentry of Soyuz 1.

But the question really is: were there events like this (or ones even more dramatic) earlier in the Space Race that the Soviet Union chose to hide from us?

As a child I heard a number of stories of amateur radio operators intercepting signals of cosmonauts dying or otherwise meeting some dark fate in their efforts to conquer space. The most dramatic I can recall was of a cosmonaut stranded in orbit, his heartbeat failing as he dies, the cabin depressurizing, and his lifeless body taken from the cabin by unknown means.

(Of course, how an amateur radio operator would be able to tell that last part is way beyond me.)

[click to continue…]