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April 12th, 2011

04:00 pm
Fifty / Thirty Years Ago Today

Wednesday 12 April 1961

Fifty years ago today, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin rode his Vostok 1 spacecraft into Earth orbit -- Man had reached Space. That first flight lasted 1 hour 48 minutes. In contrast, NASA's first two manned missions into space would be aboard the suborbital Mercury/Redstone combination -- those May and July 1961 flights combined totaled just a few seconds more than 31 minutes, start to finish. Titov's Vostok 2 flight 7 August 1961 lasted 25 hours 18 minutes. CCCP ruled Space in 1961.

John Glenn's orbital mission would be nearly a year later on 20 February 1962, just shy of five hours flightime.

In a little over two years, 19 July 1963, NASA's X-15 rocket plane program would place its first astronaut in space by non-capsule means, a suborbital harbinger of the future Space Shuttle by virtue of the X-15 flying above the Kármán line, 100 km above the surface of the Earth.

In just fifteen years, the United States would run through their entire capsule-era space program -- Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo Applications -- and by the 15th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight we would be waiting for the Space Shuttle. It would be another five years.

Sunday 12 April 1981

Twenty years later to the day, NASA would finally get back into manned space missions with the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1). Seven months later, Thursday 12 November 1981, Columbia would fulfill its promise as a reusable space vehicle on STS-2.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

So here we are at the 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight and the 30th Anniversary of the Space Shuttle in space. Though the Soviet Union is no more, its legacy continues on with the Russian space program, still flying men and materials into space in support of the International Space Station -- and Americans now hitch ride on some of the Soyuz capsule flights. The Space Shuttle program, though closing soon, is also still flying, with Endeavour up next at the end of the month.

APOD has a nice piece today. Of course Gagarin died in 1968 on a training flight in a MiG-15UTI. He was just 34 years old. And the Space Shuttle Columbia, it died 1 February 2003 on re-entry during mission STS-107. Wikipedia notes that "Columbia was the only shuttle to have been spaceworthy during the Shuttle-Mir and International Space Station programs and yet to have never visited either Mir or ISS." Thus Columbia never visited Russian territory in space.

That I have lived through all fifty years of the manned space programs of all nations, is quite amazing.

Dr. Phil

04:00 pm
Fifty / Thirty Years Ago Today

Wednesday 12 April 1961

Fifty years ago today, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin rode his Vostok 1 spacecraft into Earth orbit -- Man had reached Space. That first flight lasted 1 hour 48 minutes. In contrast, NASA's first two manned missions into space would be aboard the suborbital Mercury/Redstone combination -- those May and July 1961 flights combined totaled just a few seconds more than 31 minutes, start to finish. Titov's Vostok 2 flight 7 August 1961 lasted 25 hours 18 minutes. CCCP ruled Space in 1961.

John Glenn's orbital mission would be nearly a year later on 20 February 1962, just shy of five hours flightime.

In a little over two years, 19 July 1963, NASA's X-15 rocket plane program would place its first astronaut in space by non-capsule means, a suborbital harbinger of the future Space Shuttle by virtue of the X-15 flying above the Kármán line, 100 km above the surface of the Earth. ***

In just fifteen years, the United States would run through their entire capsule-era space program -- Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo Applications -- and by the 15th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight we would be waiting for the Space Shuttle. It would be another five years.

Sunday 12 April 1981

Twenty years later to the day, NASA would finally get back into manned space missions with the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1). Seven months later, Thursday 12 November 1981, Columbia would fulfill its promise as a reusable space vehicle on STS-2.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

So here we are at the 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight and the 30th Anniversary of the Space Shuttle in space. Though the Soviet Union is no more, its legacy continues on with the Russian space program, still flying men and materials into space in support of the International Space Station -- and Americans now hitch ride on some of the Soyuz capsule flights. The Space Shuttle program, though closing soon, is also still flying, with Endeavour up next at the end of the month.

APOD has a nice piece today. Of course Gagarin died in 1968 on a training flight in a MiG-15UTI. He was just 34 years old. And the Space Shuttle Columbia, it died 1 February 2003 on re-entry during mission STS-107. Wikipedia notes that "Columbia was the only shuttle to have been spaceworthy during the Shuttle-Mir and International Space Station programs and yet to have never visited either Mir or ISS." Thus Columbia never visited Russian territory in space.

That I have lived through all fifty years of the manned space programs of all nations, is quite amazing.

Dr. Phil

*** Update 1/2/2015: Ran across this entry today and thought I'd add what I learned recently. The Air Force originally set space at fifty miles. The 100 km (62 miles) was settled on after those flights. The X-15 with the big XLR-99 engine qualified under the old rules. I just assumed that astronaut wings were astronaut wings.

10:36 pm
One Hundred And Fifty Years Ago Today

First Fire

On April 12th 1861, the U.S. Civil War formally began. As in the first shots fired at Fort Sumter. One can argue technicalities. Washington tried to resupply the fort on 9 January 1861, and the unarmed merchant ship was fired upon by South Carolina shore batteries. And even earlier "[o]n December 26, 1860, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surreptitiously moved his small command from the indefensible Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island to Fort Sumter" (Geeked from Wikipedia), so things were already in motion.

Some argue that the Civil War began with the election of Abraham Lincoln. Maybe. Or perhaps it was James Buchanan's failure to do anything. Personally, I think it goes deeper and earlier.

Watch 1776 -- you can see the seeds of conflict embedded in Philadelphia in July 1776. Take a look at the text, and look to see what's in it -- and what isn't.

And I'm not talking just about slavery. Some people say the Civil War was all about slavery. Some argue it was about state's rights. Some say it's about the union, and whether once assembled, it could be dissolved or seceded from. I suppose it's about all of these things. And what was important in 1861, changed and evolved over the years to 1865.

And as I mentioned the other day, we watched a number of episodes of the recent PBS rerun of Ken Burn's definitive The Civil War. After the series aired the first time, we went to two talks that Ken Burns gave locally. I was always struck by something he said then, and was also featured in his documentary. That before 1861 people said "The United States are..." And after 1865, people said "The United States is..."

Mention "The Civil War" to an American and they immediately link to 1861-1865.

This has happened with other events. Before 15 April 1912, it was "RMS Titanic" and after... "The Titanic".

One could argue that the Civil War was necessary to anneal and forge America. Alas, it did not rid us of the scourge of slavery. It only redistributed things, especially as an impatient nation threw itself into the work of rebuilding and expanding and blasting their way towards the 20th century.

There are some who would like to throw away much of what we've built since 1776 and 1865. Even some talk of a new round of secession. Sigh. We've been down that road, it wasn't pretty, and the people talking this talk are a majority only in their own minds. We don't need the Second Civil War, CW II, Civil War - The Sequel. We've moved our wars offshore. We don't want modern warfare inside these borders. Anyone who does is a fool. I'm pretty sure that North and South didn't know what they were getting into in 1860-1861.

Growing up in the North, upstate New York, the Civil War was more of historical interest. It took on a different meaning when we moved to North Carolina. As fascinating as it is intellectually, it was a traumatic event for those involved. A chunk of a generation killed. And to some, the adventure of a lifetime.

It is ironic that April 11th includes "the most boring day in the 20th century". And April 12th includes this event, albeit in the 19th century, and the anniversaries noted previously. Arbitrary to be sure, but that's history.

Dr. Phil