Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Celebrating My Birthday With NASA

Today is my birthday. And while numerous space missions were taking place on my birthday (for example, the current ISS Expedition 28), there hasn't been a lot on this day.

NASA Astronaut David C. Burbank was born today in 1961. He is the second astronaut from the United States Coast Guard. He flew on Atlantis twice, in September 2000, on STS-106, and in September 2006, on STS-115, and is scheduled to launch for six months in September 2011, for ISS Expedition 29/30.

On this day in 1972, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor was born. He would become the first Malaysian to go into space, launching on October 10, 2007 and returning October 21. He launched as part of the Soyuz TMA-11 crew (who were comprising ISS Expedition 16) and returned as part of the Soyuz TMA-10 crew (ISS Expedition 15). He is an orthopedic surgeon and spent 18 months training in Russia. While he is officially designated a 'spaceflight participant' by English-language materials put out by NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency, he did perform some medical experiments on liver cancer and leukemia cells and microbes; a Russian ambassador called him a 'fully-fledged cosmonaut', while now-retired NASA astronaut Robert Gibson said he was fully qualified as an astronaut and should be called one. The distinction is because Malaysia arranged his flight as a trade for buying 18 Russian fighter jets under the Angkasawan

On this day in 2005, NASA grounded the shuttle program for the third time, after the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and this was because on the launch of STS-114 the day before, debris from the external tank separated from it and hit the shuttle Discovery--the same thing that happened to Columbia. This was the first 'Return to Flight' shuttle mission after the loss of Columbia, and while the mission was a success and returned safely, this grounding lasted until July 4, 2006. (Ironically, Discovery had also been the first shuttle to fly the 'Return to Flight' mission after the Challenger accident.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Atlantis Returns: The End of a Great Era

I wonder, is this how space exploration aficionados felt after Apollo 17 (1972) or the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975) missions, when there was a lull in our manned efforts until the shuttle finally flew (1981)?  (I am not ignoring Skylab, but Apollo 17 ended the manned trips to the moon, while Skylab continued the string of our Earth-orbital missions, then Apollo-Soyuz ended them.) Welcome home, Atlantis!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Meta Probe

Meta Probe The Meta Probe was a manned mission due to be launched from the Space Dock in lunar orbit in late September 1999, as seen in the episode "Breakaway" in the television series Space: 1999.

The Meta Probe was slated to visit the rogue planet named Meta, from which signals were received on Earth and at Alpha. Two astronauts would control the Meta Probe from a standard Eagle Transporter cockpit module. Astronauts underwent training at Moonbase Alpha and over the Far Side of the Moon, using Navigation Beacon Delta and Nuclear Waste Disposal Area 1 as landmarks. The two astronauts assigned to the mission were Frank Warren and Eric Sparkman.

However, the magnetic radiation from the waste disposal site caused a fatal illness in Warren and Sparkman. Before a replacement crew could be trained and then launched, Disposal Area 2 exploded, thrusting the Moon out of orbit. The Meta Probe was attached to the Space Dock (both shown above), possibly undergoing fueling. The gravitational stresses tried to tear the Meta Probe off the Dock, while presumably the Dock's station-keeping thrusters fired automatically in an attempt to keep it in orbit. As a result, both the Dock and the Probe were destroyed.

The Meta Probe is part of the Space: 1999 timeline.

Space Dock (Space: 1999)

Space Dock The Space Dock appeared in the episode "Breakaway" of the television series Space: 1999.  Also appearing in "Dragon's Domain", it was an international space station in orbit around Earth's Moon.

The Ultra Probe from "Dragon's Domain" and the Meta Probe (seen above with the Space Dock in "Breakaway") were launched from this station.

The name 'Centuri Space Dock' was coined by the author of the Starlog Technical Notebook and was never used in the series.

The Space Dock was destroyed when the Moon was blasted out of Earth orbit on September 13, 1999, during the events of the episode "Breakaway" (although a news announcer, in a broadcast picked up by departing Alphans, states that it was merely blown from orbit, it was clearly destroyed). Presumably, gravitational stresses tried to pull the Meta Probe off the station, while the automatic station-keeping thrusters of the Space Dock probably fired automatically in an attempt to keep the Dock's orbit stabilized. If the Dock actually survived, it would have been severely damaged when the Meta Probe tried to tear itself away. Since the Probe was nearing launch, it was probably in the process of fueling, explaining why it exploded and (apparently) took the station with it.

The Space Dock is part of the Space: 1999 timeline.


Moonbuggy The Moonbuggy is a surface transport vehicle used in the television series, Space: 1999. It is seen in several episodes on the surface of the moon, and a few times used on missions to planets. It appears in two scenes in "Breakaway". Moonbase Alpha has several for external work, and a few are shipped in passenger modules for planetary duty.

Part of the Space: 1999 timeline.

Eagle Transporter

Eagle Transporter The Eagle Transporter is one of the most versatile, and most amazing, spaceships in all of science fiction. I rank it as the second best of all-time, behind only the USS Enterprise of Star Trek: The Original Series. Seen in Space: 1999, this modular vehicle can serve many missions.

Its most common use is with the transporter pod, a passenger module to transport people from Moonbase Alpha on the Moon's surface to space stations such as the Space Dock or to Earth. After the Moon leaves Earth's orbit on September 13, 1999, transporter pods carry survey teams to worlds in attempts to find habitable worlds to move to. Some passenger modules are equipped to carry a Moonbuggy for surface exploration.

The rescue pod is an emergency rescue pod, likely carrying advanced medical supplies and rescue gear (like fire trucks) to dock with Eagles crashed on the surface or damaged in orbit. I suspect medical personnel would go on these missions in case of casualties requiring immediate medical attention, including surgery. Seen in a few episodes.

The V.I.P. is a pod for important passengers, such as Space Commissioners. They probably come with amenities like a first-class airplane, including personnel assigned as flight attendants. Space Commissioner Simmonds came to Alpha in such a pod in the episode "Breakaway".

Pallet pods are used to carry cargo, primarily seen hauling nuclear waste in "Breakaway". There are also cargo pods, for different cargo types.

Booster pods were used when a mission needed extra thrust, such as on a mission to a heavy-gravity world.

Some of the modules have docking tubes to dock with other spacecraft. This was used to dock with the alien Kaldorian ship in "Earthbound". Additional boosters could be attached to the top or sides of the module frame. Cargo winches were used in several episodes, and the module was equipped with a horizontal grab arm not unlike the remote manipulator arm on NASA's space shuttles. There was also a harness to lower astronauts when they couldn't land the ship for some reason.

In the armament category, some Eagles carried laser turrets on the top of the ship, or fixed-mount lasers on the bottom of the command module cockpit (with a wide firing arc). "Devil's Planet" verbally indicated the ships could carry missiles.

In the defensive category, Eagles had anti-gravity screens, radiation screens, heat shields, a glare shield in the cockpit window, and once an Eagle had a special protective shield against storms ("The Mark of Archanon").

Eagle cockpits are designed to be interchangeable with the space frame as well as the module pods and the boosters. Eagles are normally flown with a crew of two, though many routine missions are flown by one pilot. Passenger modules resemble the cabins of passenger aircraft with a number of seats and some equipment storage.

Eagles can be flown remotely and frequently are in dangerous situations for pilots, much as modern aircraft have automatic pilots.

Eagles are the primary spacecraft of the Space: 1999 timeline.

Moonbase Alpha

Moonbase Alpha, seen prominently throughout the Space: 1999 television series, is an advanced base. It is a major scientific research center, monitors the various nuclear-waste-disposal sites on the far side of the Moon, and is the training ground for astronauts of the Meta Probe. At least 311 people were assigned to the base when the Moon left Earth's orbit on September 13, 1999 (episode "Breakaway").

Various episodes state it was constructed in the 1980s ("Voyager's Return", "Death's Other Dominion") and in 1994, Nuclear Disposal Area One was closed down ("Breakaway").

John Koenig was assigned as the ninth Commander of Alpha on September 9, 1999, in an attempt to get the Meta Probe launched; he replaced Anton Gorski ("Breakaway"). Funding for Alpha comes from the International Lunar Finance Committee, although the base is under the leadership of the World Space Commission ("Breakaway"). Surface transport is by Moonbuggy; long-distance transport is via Eagle Transporter ("Breakaway").

Part of the Space: 1999 timeline.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

United Nations Space Police Station

A United Nations Space Police Station was launched on December 2 of an unknown year. The next day, a crew of 8 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Presumably, they launched in either a series of Soyuz capsules, or a shuttle or shuttles borrowed from the United States or various other powers, including Russia.)

The mission was led by Commander James McFadden. He was born in Scotland but emigrated to the United States and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He became a top fighter pilot and joined NASA 3 years ago, when he was 29. His interests include acrobatics, ice-climbing, free-diving, and Chinese ceramics.

Also on the mission were British astronaut Esmee Templeton, 3 more Americans, 2 Russians, and 1 Spanish astronaut.

The mission was to police space and enforce UN space laws. Not long before this, NASA had launched another deep-space probe.

Dating is uncertain, although the book states that the space station was launched from a vessel on the equator at 0300 on 2 December. Personnel were launched on 3 December. No other information about the personnel was given, although it is implied that they were all veteran astronauts in order to be assigned to this posting. While the mission is not the focus of the book, one of the teen heroes does have a signed photograph of Esmee Templeton and is clearly infatuated with her, implying she is attractive. There is supposed to be a massive solar flare around this date, the biggest one ever. In our reality, the biggest one ever recorded by instruments took place on November 4, 2003. Since the book was first published in 2007, I think that we could assign a tentative date no earlier than December 2003 (to account for various inter-universal differences, such as a Big Bang that happened a month later), and no later than December 2006 (to account for enough lead time to write the book and publish it). We are given no information about the design of the station, although I believe it is not a toroidal station (like in 2001) but a cylindrical affair similar to Skylab, based on its shipboard launch.

This mission would be part of the STORM timeline (named for the book series by E.L. Young where it first appeared). See my companion blog, Gordon's Galaxy, for information about the book and a review.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July to everyone! Thanks to the great astronauts who inspired the characters and fans of these characters over the years!

The crew of the last shuttle launch arrived at Kennedy today, as seen in the accompanying photo. I will enjoy this mission and savor it.

Welcome to the AlterNASAverse!

Hello, everyone! I am a child of the 70s. I grew up in a great era for fans of science fiction and fantasy: Star Trek and Star Wars, Doctor Who, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, awesome Saturday morning series, television heroes like The Six Million Dollar Man, and exciting things at NASA with the last Apollo missions to the Moon, the Skylab missions, the Apollo-Soyuz project, and the preparations for the great space shuttle program.

In this blog, I am going to explore the visions of early space travel reflected in science fiction and fantasy. Specifically, I will talk about astronauts and cosmonauts, their missions, the programs the missions were a part of, and the space agencies shown. This is not limited to stuff produced in the 1970s, so there's stuff going back into the 1950s, and continuing to the present.

For example, "I Dream of Jeannie" featured actual space missions of Captains (later Majors) Anthony Nelson (United States Air Force) and Roger Healey (United States Army). They were fictional missions in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Later, in the era of the reunion movies, now-Colonel Nelson participated in a shuttle mission. And Admiral Al Calavicci---Al, the Hologram from "Quantum Leap", Sam's best friend---was an astronaut on Apollo 8! (Obviously, there are differences between the Apollo 8 mission in our world and that of Sam Beckett.)

Besides the more famous Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Soyuz, and Space Shuttle programs, there are others such as the Capricorn Project (a backdrop for the film Capricorn One), which was to be a series of manned missions to Mars. I'll also explore the agencies---not just the alternate versions of NASA, or the Russian Federal Space Agency, but groups like ANSA, who were responsible for the missions of Taylor and Brent in the Planet of the Apes film series, and the British Rocket Group, whom Professor Bernard Quatermass worked for and which was mentioned in Doctor Who.

The more familiar characters will largely come from television and movies, but I'll also explore radio, books, short stories, and comics. I expect that there will be entries from alternative formats: role-playing and video games; projects for the home audio, video, and computer markets; and the Internet.

So sit back and enjoy the ride!