Water: Bringing life to Mars

In the next few hours, an announcement will be made at a NASA press conference which could change forever the way we view the planets of the solar system, our place in the solar system and may go some way to answering the question:

Could life be sustained on worlds in our solar system other than the Earth?

The expected confirmation of water on the surface of Mars, to be announced at a NASA press conference at 11AM Eastern time today has wide ranging ramifications both for our view of  the solar system, of Mars and for the future direction of space exploration.

If  as expected, NASA announces there is water, possibly flowing, on the surface of Mars, our view of the red planet, and indeed, our destiny in space may well be changed forever.

Long suspected as having harboured life at some previous time, the presence of water may be a precursor to the answering of the question: is there or was there ever life on Mars. It is fairly certain that no major life forms are present on the planet; however, the presence of microbiological forms of life cannot be ruled out. For almost half a century, evidence has been gathered pointing toward the ability for biological organisms to survive in hostile environments or vacuums on various bodies throughout the solar system. During the November 1969 flight of Apollo 12, the crew retrieved and returned the camera from the Surveyor 3 television camera after 31 months on the airless lunar surface. When examined on Earth, microbes, thought to have been present in the camera prior to launch, were found to be still alive.

Microbiological life is also suspected to live in potential seas on satellites such as Jupiter’s icy world Europa and Saturn’s satellite, Enceladus.

On Mars itself, since planetary landings began, there has been tantalising evidence gathered that water may be present…beginning with observations of the so called canals, first glimpsed during the earliest telescopic observations in the 1600’s and more recently, through visual imaging of deposits of Carbon Dioxide frost first seen at the Viking 2   landing site in Utopia Planitia in 1977 and again at Vasitis Borealis in the Northern polar region of Mars during the 2008 Phoenix mission with the lander  being targeted for this area after the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft detected high concentrations of sub surface ice at the site.

Today, hundreds of years of questions may finally be answered, but with the answering of those questions many more will surely take their place… What is the chemical composition? In what quantities does it exist? Does it, as has been seen on other worlds, provide shelter to microbiological life?

Is it of a quality that could support or sustain human life?

That is the reason why we have sent so many spacecraft to the red planet. We are analysing every aspect of the planet. Its atmosphere, geology, its ability to sustain life.

Whether that life be extra terrestrial, microbiological or, in time, the lives of the human race.

Today’s announcement may bring that question closer to resolution

This announcement has major ramifications for space exploration and space settlement. Should, as we expect, the presence of flowing water be announced, one of the major obstacles for future human colonization of the red planet will be removed.

If there is indeed running water at this site, most likely emenating from some source deep within the mountains that surround the Curiosity lander or possibly from some source within the planet itself such as Artesian water on the Earth,  we may very well, within the coming hours, have our first glimpse of the site that will, in the very near future be the initial  landing site for the first manned mission to Mars, and in all likelihood, the site for the first attempt by humans to colonize the red planet.

For any landing on the Martian surface or for any planetary colony to prove viable, the pioneers of such colonies will need to be as self sufficient as possible relying heavily on the natural resources available and on the ability of the colony to be largely self sustaining thereby generating its own resources utilising the natural resources available. The propulsive power simply does not exist to launch a fully equipped mission with full life sustaining provisions to the red planet

The presence of water would make a Martian colony more than just a dream… it would go a long way toward such a colony becoming a reality, with the water providing the necessary backbone to long term sustainability, both as a working fluid, source of irrigation for agriculture, cooling fluid for life support, source of electrical power or indeed as a constituent of rocket fuel for a voyage home, or a voyage further out into space.

Today, in a few short hours, we may be looking at images of a site which will become our first human planetary outpost beyond the Earth-Moon system.

For the human exploration of space, for the future colonization of space and indeed for the long term viability of the human race, today’s announcement may be a turning point in our vision for space habitation.

For we may truly have found our first save haven on our journey outward to the stars.

Kapryan – A role model for the future

Resting on the bookshelf above my work station is one of the most unique and treasured books in my archive.  It is unique not only for its content, it is unique for the story that this particular copy of this book represents. The book itself is a silent witness to history having served its previous owner in making decisions that would change history. Its previous owner was a man who was one of the silent heroes of the early space program, a man who bore the final decision to send missions to the moon, to Skylab, America’s first space station and to the first Soviet American space mission. The name, printed in bold on the front cover gives the book identity. “Kapryan”

Born in 1920 inFlint Michigan, Walter J “Kappy” Kapryan graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from WayneStateUniversity in 1947 after serving as a flight engineer on the B-29 bomber with the US Air force during World War 2 with the rank of Lieutenant. Following graduation; Kapryan served as an engineer in Hydrodynamic research for NACA before becoming part of the Space Task Group at Langley Research Center. Following the formation of NASA in 1959, Kappy relocated to Cape Canaveral as a Project Mercury engineer beginning with the initial Mercury Redstone 1 launch attempt in 1960.

With the cessation of the Mercury program, in 1963 Kapryan established the Gemini Program Office at Cape Canaveral participating in the countdown and launch of the 10 manned Gemini missions. Included in his Gemini duties were spacecraft testing and determining requirements for the equipment that would be used in Gemini spacecraft checkout.

In 1966, Kappy transferred to the Apollo program serving first as Assistant to the Apollo Spacecraft Manager before serving as Deputy to Apollo Launch Director, Rocco Petrone for Apollo Saturn launches up to and including the launch of Apollo 11 in July 1969.

With the primary goal of Apollo met, a number of senior engineers and managers within the manned spaceflight program were either reassigned or left NASA for lucrative contracts in private industry.

With the transfer of Petrone to NASA Headquarters, Kappy ascended to the position of Launch Director for the remainder of the Apollo moon landing program, Skylab, ASTP and other flights up to the advent of the Shuttle program beginning with the Apollo 12 launch in November 1969.

Kappy’s last role with NASA was to serve as the initial Director of Space Shuttle Operations at Kennedy SpaceCenter, a position held until his retirement from NASA July 1st 1979.

Moving to Private Industry, “Kappy” became Chief Technical Advisor for Lockheed Space Operations, then contractor for Space Shuttle processing.

The stereotypical view of a launch director as held by laymen is one of a crew cut square jawed military officer counting down from ten to zero and pushing a button to launch a rocket. Kapryan, standing just 5ft 4 inches tall was none of those things. Unlike his predecessor Petrone, Kapryan, known affectionately as “Captain Lightning” following the lightning strikes that impacted the Apollo 12 launch, was described as a cool calm effective leader. In contrast to the authoritarian Petrone, Kapryan was described by colleages as calm, cool, business like and to some, a gentleman. Such was the comfort of the launch team with Kapryan that their Christmas skit for 1969 parodied the Apollo 12 lightning strike with simulated thunder and lightning and, in a cape, “Captain Lightening” himself.

. We could have no finer example of what it is to lead a launch team than the example set by Walter Kapryan. It is a tribute to his character that he was not only able to achieve the record of launches that he did through what was arguably the golden era of space exploration to date, he was also able to guide the Kennedy launch team through the dark years of uncertainty that followed Apollo and preceded the shuttle. To many of the Kennedy launch team, Kappy was seen as a father figure, seeing them through the difficult period of transition that followed the Apollo program.

Walter Kapryan passed away in Indialantic Florida August 14 2015 aged 95.

Walter Kapryan’s passing sees the number of Apollo era engineers and managers with working knowledge and first hand experience that got us to the Moon continuing to dwindle. As we prepare to once again break the bonds of Low Earth Orbit we will look to the storehouse of knowledge that is the legacy of Apollo, drawing on the wisdom of its engineers and, if we are wise, looking at the makeup of the men who achieved that which was long thought impossible, yet was achieved in under ten years.

With NASA’s renewed commitment to space exploration, it is to be questioned as to whether the level engineering knowledge and experience among those currently in place in the Orion and other programs is appropriate to fulfil such an undertaking of such technical complexity. It would therefore be sheer folly not to seek guidance from those who came before.

This new generation of engineers will need to be visionaries. They will need to be capable of co-ordinating vast teams of engineers scattered across the globe and, in time, across space itself overcoming language and cultural barriers to create a truly global response to the challenges of planetary exploration.

If the new generation of Launch Director’s are truly wise, they will look to the example left by the engineers and flight controllers of Apollo and seek their guidance as they prepare to take the next steps in space exploration. They will look at the designs of the machines created by these men; they will look at the once futuristic concepts created by Apollo era engineers for lunar and interplanetary travel and use them as a basis for the challenges ahead. They will look at the procedures and mission rules developed to make the craft of the early programs fly, They will look at the decisions that were made in the preparation and launch of those craft and analyse the thought processes that went into those decisions; and they will undoubtedly look at the character of those who bore the ultimate responsibly for the success or failure of those flights: The Launch Directors in Florida; and the Flight Directors in Houston.

In any new exploratory endeavour, those who lead must be able to inspire those around them and command their respect. Even in the most fraught moments of the countdown such as that faced by Kapryan on Apollo 12, they must, under a pressure few can comprehend, make instantaneous decisions that could affect the success or failure of a flight and, by association, a program; based on information supplied in real-time by those under their leadership and they must do all this under the intense gaze of a watching waiting world.

Overriding all this is the fact that the very lives of the flight crew, in the final moments of the countdown are solely in the hands of the Launch Director. The decision of the Launch Director is literally a life or death decision for the crew riding atop the launch vehicle in what has been described as a controlled explosion.

In our new vision for space exploration, we will look to the new generation of Launch Directors and Mission Managers to make the decisions that will alter humanity’s course, for it is they who will send humanity on the beginning of a journey which will last for generations, if not eons as we take the first steps on the road to the stars. It will be they that will make the ultimate decision to Go for the Moon! And in time, Go for Mars! It is they who will lead humanity away from Earth and ever outward into space.

As the space program turns toward the flights of Orion and the Space Launch System, let us hope that there will always be men of the calibre of Walter J Kapryan to lead our endeavours… ever onward…ever outward… to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Timeline for New Horizons Pluto encounter (Australian times)

The following are times for the New Horizons encounter with Pluto.

Times shown are Australian Eastern Standard Time

Tuesday July 14th

9:50PM: Spacecraft Closest aproach to Pluto at 12,500KM

10:04PM: Closest aproach to Charon at 28,800KM

10:51PM: New Horizons passes through Pluto’s shadow measuring its atmosphere (if any)

Wednesday July 15:

12:18AM: Spacecraft passes through Charon’s shadow

11:02PM: Reacquire spacecraft signal post encounter

Thursday July 16:

Begin transmission of data from the spacecraft to Earth

The lost astronauts of Columbia and Challenger – a memorial.

In the flight control rooms of the JohnsonSpaceCenter, the emblems of missions successfully flown are mounted high on the wall for all to see, silent testimony to the many moments of triumph observed those rooms.

Three emblems however, are mounted apart; their placement is symbolic for these represent the flights that never made it home. In the minds of the flight controllers, their mission is now one of inspiration instilling for all time a desire for excellence amongst flight control teams.

They are a reminder of the deep sense of loss still felt within the NASA family.

It is a loss that NASA and the astronauts’ families have been reluctant to share.

Until now.

This weekend in a small subdued ceremony attended by the astronauts families the latest exhibit opened at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center.

This exhibit is unlike any other in any space museum. You will not find talking animatronics, gee wiz facts panels or experimental thrills for would be astronauts.

This exhibit is starkly confronting, very personal and deeply moving.

In truth, it is entirely wrong to call this an exhibit. It is a memorial.

Located underneath the Space Shuttle Atlantis,Forever remembered” pays homage to the two darkest moments in the Space Shuttle program: The loss of the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia.

Forever Remembered” is not designed to tell the graphic story of the loss of the two vehicles, stories of which have been retold countless times, rather it honours, in a very personal way, the 14  fallen astronauts and their lost vehicles: Challenger and Columbia.  

After several years of careful planning and sensitive collaboration conducted in secret between NASA and the families of the Challenger and Columbia accidents, the lives of the 14 lost astronauts are told through personal artefacts donated by the crew’s families.

In individual display cabinets arranged seven aside, along the central gallery of the memorial; Ron McNair’s Judo suit with black belt, Judy Resnik’s violin and piano music, Rick Husband’s bible, a house plan drawn up by Mike Smith, a copy of one of Kalpana Chawla’s favourite books, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and a burnt sheet from Ilan Ramon’s flight notebook allow us to see the astronauts as they really were both in their quest to explore space and in their private lives on the planet. We see people of skill, intellect and passion, people of faith and compassion and most importantly, we see Fathers, Mothers, sons and daughters, people who were after all not so very different from us all.

This memorial serves a dual purpose, as it honours not only the crews, but the lost orbiters as well.

For many years, the policy of NASA has been not to display artefacts directly associated with the three major accidents that have befallen the program, Apollo 1, (1967) Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003)

To date, the remains of all three have been kept in secure locations far from the public gaze. The Apollo 1 Command Module remains in sealed storage at LangleyResearchCenter in Hampton VA.

Recovered portions of Challenger rest in two disused minuteman missile silos at Cape Canaveral.

The catalogued remains of Columbia, stored in a disused office suite in the Vehicle Assembly Building, are available for loan, subject to NASA approval, to scientific institutions for further analysis and investigation that could be of benefit to the development of future generations of manned spacecraft; thereby continuing Columbia’s legacy of scientific investigation and discovery.

Only portions of Columbia have thus far been displayed, usually for in-house NASA exhibits serving to emphasise the importance of flight safety.

For the first time in the public domain, a single artefact from each of the fallen shuttles is displayed in solitude within the memorial.

Challenger is represented by a torn portion of her aft starboard fuselage displaying the American flag.

 Columbia is represented by its wrap around flight deck windows, displayed in such a way as to replicate their position on the orbiter’s flight deck.

Each iconic artefact bears stark testimony to the terrible forces that destroyed the two craft as well as carrying enormous symbolism. Challenger’s scarred flag mirrors the pain felt by the entire country at its loss. Columbia’s windows are a mirror to the soul of the vehicle. Looking into their six glassless panes, we see at once Astronauts Young and Crippen on the first (STS 1) shuttle flight and the faces of her final STS 107 crew as they executed their flight plan.

Some may question of displaying artefacts from the orbiters themselves. However, Columbia and Challenger left us with a scientific and engineering legacy which will carry us forward into the future of space exploration. It is fitting that they too should be honoured.

Whilst confronting, this is a memorial that is long overdue, It is all to easy to ignore that which is difficult or painful; yet this is a chapter of NASA’s history that should never be ignored for without setback we can never truly appreciate our successes.

The location of the memorial, beneath the retired orbiter Atlantis and only metres from the Space Mirror memorial and reflective pool allows us not only the opportunity to see the accidents in the context of the overall Space Shuttle program but also to honour all astronauts and cosmonauts lost in the cause of space exploration.

It is to be hoped that, in time, a similar permanent commemoration will honour the crew of Apollo 1.

NASA and the astronaut’s families are to be commended for their courage in sharing with the American nation and the world the lives of their family members through this memorial.

I urge everyone visiting KSC, whether as a tourist or as a dedicated student of spaceflight history to visit the memorial, to honour the memory of the lost astronauts of Challenger and Columbia and in so doing to pause and reflect on their lives, their achievements and their legacy to future generations.

A quote from former US president Ronald Regan, mounted in the memorial’s main gallery is appropriate:

                       “The future does not belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave.”

Jack King 1931- 2015

Resting on a shelf in my office are a number of reel to reel audio tapes, each one containing original recordings from the Apollo lunar landings.

For me these tapes are a portal to another time providing as they do, a unique portal into the Apollo era.

One recording is from the Apollo 11 flight in 1969. Correspondent William McCorry leads the Voice of America live coverage of the 1969 launch. During the 45 minute recording, the flight progresses from T – 20 minutes to orbital insertion.

Listening to the recording of that historic day, one cannot help but be swept up once again in the emotion, tension and sense of anticipation associated with that first lunar landing mission, making it seem as real and exciting as it did on that July day 46 years ago.

Perhaps no one portion of that tape is as striking as the final countdown from T-6 minutes to lift-off. The final stage of that commentary remains one of the most recognised and reproduced pieces of audio from the space program of the 1960’s. Both stirring and emotive, it conveys precisely the sense of history that surrounded the launch of the first lunar landing mission its impact not diminishing despite the passage of four decades:

“LIFT-OFF! we have a Lift-off  32 minutes past the hour lift-off on Apollo 11. TOWER CLEARED!!”

The man who uttered those words, John (Jack) King, the voice of the ApolloLaunchControlCenter, passed away June 11 inCocoaFlorida at the age of 84.

Born in Boston in 1931, King initially served as Sports Editor for the Associated Press before leading the Cape Canaveral bureau of AP through 1958 and 59.

Joining NASA Public Affairs in 1960, King, as Manager of Press Operations, developed from scratch many of the press site facilities for the early flights at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center.

Most notably, Jack commentated launches from Gemini 4 through the Apollo missions to Apollo 15 before advancing in the NASA hierarchy to become Director of Public Affairs at the Manned Spacecraft Center (Now Johnson Space Center) A position encompassing education and public outreach including astronaut appearances, inter government relations and exhibit programs.. For the 1975 Apollo Soyuz Test project, King was part of a 3 member panel that negotiated a joint information plan for the first US – Soviet mission including live broadcast of the launch and landing of the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. In 1975, following ASTP, he moved to WashingtonDC and the US Energy Research and Development Administration before leaving government service in 1977 to join Occidental International followed by P.R firm Powell Tate.

The final part of his career was spent in CocoaBeach with United Space Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed contracted to manage the processing space shuttles for flight, before retiring in 2010.

Such was Jack’s dedication to the space program that he continued to volunteer for NASA public affairs following his retirement from USA.

With Jack King’s passing, another of the silent heroes who made the first golden age of space exploration possible has been lost.  His words and his legacy will however live on.

Jack King’s contribution to NASA was not merely to translate the technical chatter that comprised any countdown, but to bring that event to the general public in a very real, very human way that provided a sense of awe and wonder and a true realisation of the historical nature of the event as it unfolded.

No one who hears the Apollo 11 recording can fail to miss the tinge of very human emotion that invaded Jack’s voice at the 2 second mark in the countdown closely followed the emphatically powerful pronouncement of Liftoff as the Saturn left the launch pad.

There will be other countdowns, there will be other pioneering flights, that may in time outshine the accomplishments of Apollo; but the launch of Apollo 11 will be unique for all time as our first meaningful step toward establishing a foothold off the planet. As the next generation of space designers and explorers look outward, to the moon, Mars and points beyond, they will inevitably look back, for inspiration to the successes of Apollo and in so doing, they too will hear Jack King’s words echoing down through the years, stirring in those who strive for a renewed space exploration initiative a desire to take the next steps on our journey to the stars.

When we do launch again, the spirit of Jack King and the other silent heroes of Apollo will journey with us.


                              Jack King NASA Public Affairs Officer, 1931 – 2015

We Remember – and look to the future

This week marks a time of remembrance for NASA with the agency marking its annual day of remembrance; honouring the memories of the astronauts lost in the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia accidents.

In reality, it is a time for all in the space community to pause and reflect on the sacrifices of those who sought to expand our horizons in space.

Since the flight of Alan B Shepard in 1961, we have lost seventeen astronauts in three accidents over 166 flights in 54 years. Some may consider such a figure unacceptable, but let us not lose sight of the fact that commercial aircraft accidents claim many hundreds of lives in one calendar year. Indeed, the recent crash of the Air Asia flight on December 28 claimed 162 lives. What makes space related accidents more impacting is that space accidents by their very nature are visually horrific, some may say horrifically hypnotic as thousands of pounds of energy are released resulting in the destruction of the spacecraft. They create an image that endures forever. Even 29 years after the event; many can recall where they were when the shuttle Challenger was lost in 1986.

It is a fact that NASA is a transparent agency. It is part of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, under which NASA was founded that the civilian agency will conduct all its activities in an open manner. This means that for better or worse, all NASA’s activities are in the public eye. Therefore events such as the loss of the Space Shuttles Columbia and Challenger are made all the more horrific because they occurred within and in front of the public eye, in the case of Challenger, live on nationwide TV.

We do not shy away from our failures, we acknowledge them learn from them and move on.

Every astronaut, regardless of their level of experience or training, knows exactly what risks they are facing every time they enter the spacecraft; every astronaut has come to terms with and accepts the inherent dangers of spaceflight.

It is inevitable that others seeking to enhance our knowledge of the heavens will make the ultimate sacrifice. That is the price we must pay as we seek to move outwards and conquer space.

As we move forward, there will surely be other lives lost, other names to be added to the Astronaut memorial mirror at the Kennedy Space Center.

In this week of remembrance, with the recent successful flight of the Orion spacecraft so fresh in our minds, we recall the memorial for the Challenger astronauts delivered by Commander Rick Hauck and the crew of STS 26 in September 1988 on the return to flight mission:

“Dear friends we have resumed the journey we promised to continue for you, dear friends your loss has meant that we can confidently begin anew, dear friends your spirit and your dream are still alive in our hearts”

Godspeed the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia,


In the Beginning God…. Apollo 8

46 years ago, three men orbited the Moon in Apollo 8, on Christmas Eve 1968, people around the world tuned in to the voices and words of three men as the orbited the Moon 230 000 miles away. In light of recent events in  Sydney, the words that were heard that day bear repeating this Christmas:

Lunar Module Pilot William Anders

We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Command Module Pilot James Lovell

“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Commander Frank Borman

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear’: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth

The dawn of Orion and a new era of space exploration”

        “Liftoff at dawn. The dawn of Orion and a new era of space exploration”

So said NASA media commentator Mike Curie at 11:35PM AEST Friday night as the Delta 4 heavy, on only its eighth mission lifted into the Florida sky carrying the Orion spacecraft on a flight that  opened a new age of space exploration for the United States. Three and a half years after the last shuttle fight and 42 years after Apollo 17, a spacecraft designed to carry man once again left Low Earth Orbit.

My immediate reaction to Orion’s mission was I suspect similar to millions of others around the world who were watching the flight in person, on social media or via NASA TV. Despite my best efforts to I became so absorbed by the pictures from the spacecraft and the unmanned airborne Ikhana drone of the final stages of descent and splash that my live blog lay forgotten after entry interface.

Now we wait, with great anticipation for the next Orion flight.

Currently under construction at Lockheed, this Orion spacecraft, coupled with the ESA developed service module will fly from Kennedy’s Pad 39B on an unmanned circumlunar trajectory. Launch of the Space Launch System heavy lift vehicle, from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39B is currently scheduled for 2017.  

Only then, in 2020, will astronauts strap into Orion for the first time… nine years after the final shuttle flight.

What effect will Friday’s success have in the corridors of both NASA Headquarters and the Congress? One hopes that a combination of the apparent faultlessness of this first flight, coupled with the public enthusiasm generated world wide will inspire a rethink of the Orion development schedule, and that through increased support and funding for NASA and Orion by the Senate and Congress we will see a substantial revision of both the budget and the flight schedule, with the first manned flight occurring sooner than the predicted date of 2020.

NASA therefore faces the formidable task of maintaining public interest and support for Orion and its mission of manned exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit in the intervening period until the next flight.

Maintaining interest and support for Orion and other programs whether they be manned or unmanned is a task that belongs not just to NASA, but to every person across the world who believes in the peaceful exploration and development of space. It is therefore, the mission of everyone who genuinely believes in and supports a bold program space development and exploration to take a level of ownership and openly support the space program trough representation to those in a position to directly influence NASA’s budget, either at a national government or industry level.

Exploration Flight Test One was indeed a new dawn. Now we eagerly wait for the sun to rise further on a new and robust era of manned missions, to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Let us all play our part in ensuring that the sun never sets on this new age of exploration.

Orion Flight Test One – Live updates begin at 10:30PM Friday Night

Good evening and welcome to the second launch attempt for NASA’s orion Spacecraft on the Exploration Flight Test one mission from Pad 37B at Cape Canaveral.

10::30PM: At this time the count is continuing on schedule, the vehicle is fully fueled with topping of all tanks completed. Weather is GO and we are not tracking any issues with the booster or the spacecraft at this time.

T-15 Minutes and counting with launch 29 minutes from now. The diference in time is due to the final scheduled hold at T-4 minutes, a hold of some 14 minutes duration. At this time Liquid Hydrogen flight conditioning in the Delta 4 Heavy is complete.

10:49PM: we are in the T- 4 Minute hold, with weather remaining acceptable at this time, launch remains on schedule for 11:05PM, some 16 minutes from now.

10:59PM We have permission from the Launch director to launch. At L – 6 minutes, We have a final clear to launch.

11:01PM T – 4 minutes and counting ! entering the terminal count

11:03PM: T – 2:50 seconds all proceeding well, ordnances armed

11:04PM: range is Green. Standby for launch…

11:12PM launch abort separation after a successful lauch from Cape Canaveral, sorry for the dropout we just lost Internet here and have only just got going again

11:13PM 900 miles from the Cape Orion functioning perfectly as it heads due East from KSC

11:15PM now getting pictures down from Orion showing a clouded earth over the American east coast

11:18:  2100 miles downrange from Canaveral, the core boosters of the Delta 4 have separated, the second  stage is now burning as Orion drifts in its preliminary orbit. Again, our apologies, the NASA websites crashed, probably due to the demand for access, we’re back up and running now

11:21: Orion now at 221 miles apogee and continuing to climb

11:24PM : preliminary orbit with the second stage shutdown  orbit is 554 X 115 miles

11:29PM: launch Replays NOW on NASA TV

11:36PM: NASA TV showing replays of a flawless launch, orion continues in its orbital coast still attached to the second stage booster with the second burn due in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

11:45PM:  T + 40 Minutes:  Flying east of Madagascar, All quiet in Mission Control: Todays launch was truly unique as it was the only time that the Orion Delta 4 Heavy combination will fly, the next flight will be on the Heavy Lift Vehicle from Kennedy Space Center Pad 39B.

At this moment we have Orion in a BBQ roll mode, damilliar from Apollo days, we rotate the spacecraft to distribute heat evenly over the surface of the spacecraft to prevent overheating of avionics and instrumentation of the spacecraft.

11:52PM: We’ll hold our rolling coverage at the moment and come back for the engine burn in around  1 hour from now.

12:42AM: Weather conditions within the orion recovery area 600 miles SE of San Diego are favourable to support recovery of today’s flight.

12:55AM:  5 minutes to restart of the second stage engine of the Delta 4 Heavy. Burn time 4 Mins 40 seconds. peak altitude will be 3600 miles.

1:00AM: We show the burn in progress at 1hr 56 Mins Mission Elapsed Time

1:01AM Chamber pressure stable in this 4 min 40 second burn, for the first time in 42 years, a spacecraft designed to carry man is leaving Low Earth Orbit, Velocity: 27,000 Feet per Second.

1:08AM: Burn should be complete, no word yet from NASA TV.

1:10AM “A perfect burn”according to NASA TV.

1:15AM: getting set for the tests associated with radiation levels within the Van Allen belts.

1;30AM: We’ll stand by now and come back when we get apogee and provide rolling coverage of entry and splashdown.

1:54AM : orion’s Reaction Control System has been activated, this system  of two strings of six hydrozine fueled rocket s will be used to guide the spacecraft’s descent.

2:15AM:  Orion has reached its peak atitude of 3,604.2 miles (In excess of 5000KM) with peak altitude reached, decent into the atmosphere will begin shortly.

2:32AM: Orion flies free !!! the second stage, acting in liew of the Service Module has separated, we are 56 minutes from splashdown at this time.

2:54AM: Flight Dynamics Officer has reported that Orion splashdown target is only 1.5 miles off that predicted prior to launch at a point 275 miles west of Baja California. at maximum reentry speed the spacecraft will be subjected to a force equivalent to 8.5 G.

3:03AM: Orion now manoeuvering into position for the “Raise burn” a test of the Reaction Control system, Orion is in the correct angle of attack for entry.

306AM: 806 miles altitude, 22 minutes to splashdown and 12 minutes to entry interface.

3:11AM: 3036 miles to splashdown at an altitude of 500 miles.

Orion: The next generation of manned spacecraft launches Dec 4

Within 36 hours of this posting, December 4 at 7:03AM EDT, NASA will take the first meaningful step leading to the first manned missions beyond Low Earth Orbit since the final flight to the Moon in 1972.

The Orion Spacecraft, America’s new generation spacecraft stands ready on Pad 37 at Cape Canaveral awaiting launch on a Delta 4 Heavy launch vehicle. It was from this same launch complex that the original Saturn 1 launches took place in the mid 1960’s lofting Apollo Boilerplate Command Modules to Low Earth Orbit in the first flight tests of the Apollo Spacecraft, now, 48 years later, we are, from the same facility, returning to deep space exploration. This time, to stay. Orion will take Americans, back to the Moon and  to  destinations beyond … firstly to an asteroid and ultimately a manned exploration of Mars.

In the most anticipated flight test in a generation, Orion will, during a 4 hour 2.5 orbit flight, be boosted to an altitude of 5,800KM before a 32,000 KM/H re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in a dramatic test of the spacecraft and heatshield that will sustain American astronauts as they travel to destinations beyond the confines of Low Earth Orbit.

As NASA takes this major step towards the future of space exploration, Orbital Projects plans to provide updates via the website and via ABC Radio around Australia.

Join us Dec 3 at 9PM AEDT on 936 ABC Hobart for a flight preview with updates continuing through the night via the website as the countdown and flight progresses.

Further radio coverage times will be posted on the Homepage as they are confirmed.

For live video coverage of the launch take the NASA Television link on our Other Links Page.