Archive for December, 2016

Buzz Aldrin: John Glenn was a hero. We owe it to him to keep exploring space.

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

I was deeply saddened by the passing of my friend John Glenn last Thursday. All of us have lost a space pioneer, a world icon and a visionary space exploration advocate.

As one of those special seven astronauts selected in 1959 for America’s Project Mercury program, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. His three circuits of our planet in his Friendship 7 capsule helped to galvanize the country’s will and resolution to surmount significant technical challenges of human spaceflight.

I still remember to this day John’s calm and reassuring call from space: “Zero G and I feel fine.”

From liftoff to splashdown, Glenn’s 4-hour, 55-minute flight propelled him into the history books for all time. That mission shone a spotlight on the country’s can-do spirit and put him in a pantheon of pioneers, along with the Wright brothers and Charles Lindbergh. Glenn’s flight was heralded by a ticker-tape parade in New York City, and he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal by President John F. Kennedy.

So great was the enthusiasm following Glenn’s flight, it bolstered Kennedy’s space challenge, delivered a few months later in an address at Rice University: “We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things,” the President said, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Glenn’s flight over 54 years ago also served as a notice to our Cold War competitor — the Soviet Union — that the United States was steadfast in its resolve to set sail on the new ocean of space. His confidence-building space flight reminded the globe that America is the greatest country on the planet through demonstrating our leadership in space.

It was in 1953 when I first met John Glenn. I was a fighter pilot in South Korea in the 16th squadron and the 51st fighter group. He was the operations officer of the 25th squadron in the 51st fighter group. Our respective careers put us on different pathways, but our passion for pushing the boundaries of flight would bring us together years later.

At MIT, my doctoral thesis published in 1963 was “Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous.” I dedicated that thesis with these words: “In the hopes that this work may in some way contribute to their exploration of space, this is dedicated to the crew members of this country’s present and future manned space programs. If only I could join them in their exciting endeavors!” It was my good fortune to be selected as a member of the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963 — and my own “re-rendezvous” with John Glenn. When I reported in to NASA and started training the next year, John and I both became elders in the same church in Houston.

Not long after that, Glenn retired from NASA and pursued a career in politics, while I went on to carry out my Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 missions.

I recall the public and political concern when Glenn — a national treasure and American space hero — was given the opportunity to fly into space again at age 77. It was a proud moment for all space travelers when in 1998 he became in the oldest person to fly into Earth orbit aboard a space shuttle mission.

Glenn and I saw each other over the years at astronaut gatherings and various memorials. I believe the last time we saw each other in person was at Neil Armstrong’s memorial at the Washington National Cathedral, although we spoke by phone and corresponded by email over the years.

His passing is a time to reflect not only on our past space exploits but to signal a renewed passion to build upon his legacy. Remembering him is to continue inspiring the next wave of scientists, technologists, astronauts and dreamers to reach beyond Earth orbit and set foot on Mars.

As Glenn pointed out: “The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and to advance the kind of science, math and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel.”
I regret that he has departed us with his wisdom.

Glenn was — and always will be — an Ambassador of Exploration for all of us. I join the nation and the world in paying homage to his service and encourage everyone to follow through on his desire to move forward on the next steps in space travel. I believe our country is ready for another great leap, another John Glenn moment in history and another presidential commitment to space worthy of our great nation.

Buzz Aldrin talks South Pole evacuation, John Glenn in TODAY exclusive

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

For the first time since being hospitalized after his trip to the South Pole, famed former astronaut Buzz Aldrin spoke in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Al Roker about his recovery from altitude sickness and his thoughts on losing friend and fellow space icon John Glenn.

A health scare forced the 86-year-old Aldrin earlier this month to cut short his personal expedition at the South Pole. Ironically, when reaching an elevation of 9,000 feet, Aldrin began showing signs of altitude sickness.

He was taken to a New Zealand hospital, where he spent a week recovering from congestion in his lungs.

“When turning back is about as difficult as pressing on, you press on because you’ve got an objective, especially when they tell me I just set a record,” he told Al while chatting at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “The oldest guy to the South Pole. See, now it was worth it, really.”

Aldrin, along with the late Neil Armstrong in 1969, became the first pair of humans to step foot on the moon.

While he was recovering in the hospital Down Under, Aldrin learned about the passing of another fellow astronaut, John Glenn. He honored his friend with a tweet in which he called him a “world space icon.”

The two space pioneers first met in 1953 while serving as fighter pilots during the Korean conflict. Glenn, was a “typical, all-American guy,” according to his friend.

“I just admire that guy so much, even though he was a Marine,” he said. “But he knew how to fly that airplane, I could tell you that.”

‘Go’ for the moon (coins): US Mint to strike Apollo 11 commemoratives

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Dec. 10, 2016 — The United States Mint will recognize the 50th anniversary of the historic first moon landing in 2019 by striking domed coins bearing an iconic image from the Apollo 11 mission.

The Senate late on Friday (Dec. 9) passed the legislation for the new commemorative coinage, days after the House of Representatives approved the same. The bill, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, will now go to the White House for the President to sign into law.

The Senate’s passage of the legislation was preceded by a meteoritic rise in cosponsors, rocketing from only 16 to 70 senators in the course of three days. The sudden burst of support could be partially attributed to the House’s vote on Monday (Dec. 5), but it was also bolstered by members of the space community advocating for the coins, including letters sent by the surviving two Apollo 11 astronauts, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

Aldrin, together with the late Neil Armstrong, became the first men to land on the moon on July 20, 1969, as Collins remained in lunar orbit.

The iconic image of Buzz Aldrin’s spacesuit helmet visor will serve as the design for the reverse of commemorative coins recognizing the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, as Congress directed. (NASA)
With the consent of the Congress and the President, the Secretary of the Treasury will direct the U.S. Mint to issue as many as 1.3 million gold, silver and clad coins, ranging in tender value from half a dollar to $5 each, in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 2019.

In each denomination and metal, the commemoratives will be produced such that their reverse is domed, or convex, “to more closely resemble the faceplate of [an] astronaut’s helmet.”

“The design on the common reverse of the coins minted under this act shall be a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the moon’ photo… showing just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut [Aldrin], in which the visor reflects the image of the United States flag and the lunar lander,” the legislation directs.

The front of the coins will feature a design “emblematic of the [U.S.] space program leading up to the first manned moon landing,” to be selected through a juried competition overseen by the Secretary of the Treasury, with advice by the Commission of Fine Arts and a review by the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee, which put forth the Apollo 11 theme as a suggestion in 2014.

The Apollo 11 50th anniversary coins will be domed, or curved, like the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame coins. (U.S. Mint)
The commemorative coins will be sold to the public, in part to cover the cost of their minting, but also to benefit three organizations:
the Astronaut Memorial Foundation, to continue to honor the nation’s fallen space explorers;

the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, to continue to support college students excelling in science and technology degrees; and

the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, to fund its new “Destination Moon” gallery, slated to open in Washington, D.C. in 2020.
“The technology, teamwork and calculated risks the Apollo program produced to enable man to walk on the moon has impacted every aspect of life,” Tammy Knowles-Sudler, the executive director of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation told collectSPACE. “Nothing in our history has had such a profound influence on our everyday life.”

“The surcharges from the coins will allow us to continue to commemorate the legacy of the Apollo astronauts. We will be able to award a greater number of Astronaut Scholars and support them in positions that will have the optimum influence on society for positive changes,” she said.

The U.S. Mint previously recognized the moon landing by using the Apollo 11 mission patch as the reverse design on the Eisenhower and Susan B. Anthony dollars issued from 1971 to 1981. The Mint also struck the 2011 New Frontier Congressional Gold Medals awarded to Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins (and the late Mercury astronaut John Glenn).

FNM Exclusive: Buzz Aldrin Is ‘Totally Convinced’ We Should Live on Mars, and Here’s Why

Friday, December 9th, 2016

If it wasn’t obvious from his choice of shirt, Buzz Aldrin really thinks mankind should make its way to Mars.

SEE IT: Buzz Aldrin Snapped the Universe’s First ‘Space Selfie’

The famed astronaut has always been eager to see the space program extend its reach to the Red Planet (he even came up with a timeline to get us there by 2035), but he’s also very vocal about why the human race should go there — and stay there.

“It is more easily made into a home for people for long time, than the moon is,” Aldrin told Fox News Magazine in an exclusive interview. “It probably had oceans that somehow froze over, and the atmosphere thinned out. But at least there is some pressure. And there’s probably — maybe, maybe not — signs of previous life.”

Aldrin didn’t say whether he himself would be up for the trip, although we can’t imagine he’d pass up the opportunity. At the age of 86, he ventured all the way to Antarctica just to see what the environment might be like on Mars, although his trip was sadly cut short to due to altitude sickness:

There’s that shirt again! (Photo credit: Christina Korp via AP)
Nevertheless, Adrin’s sights remain squarely on Mars. As he tells FNM, he’s also thought of a great way to cut costs on any future Mars missions: Don’t bring any of the astronauts home.

READ: Buzz Aldrin Says THIS Might Be the Most Accurate Space Movie

Watch the clip above to hear more of Aldrin’s ideas, then click here to get one of those “Get Your Ass to Mars” t-shirts, because you know you want one.


Thursday, December 8th, 2016

As I sit in hospital and just heard that my friend John Glenn has passed away, I feel fortunate to be recovering from my own illness, but saddened that we lost another space pioneer and world icon.

I first met John Glenn in 1953 when I was a fighter pilot in South Korea in the 16th squadron and the 51st fighter group. He was the Ops officer of the 25th squadron in the 51st fighter group. The next time I learned about him he flew of course on his first orbital flight and then when I reported as a NASA astronaut in 1963 and started training in 1964 we both became elders in the same church in Houston, TX.

Not long after that he left NASA and of course pursued a career in politics while I went on to do my Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 missions. When he was 77 he flew again on a shuttle mission and became the oldest to fly in space. I saw him at various memorials and astronaut gatherings over the years and I believe the last time we saw each other in person was at Neil Armstrong’s memorial at the National Cathedral although we spoke by phone and corresponded by email since then.

I was very saddened to hear the John was ill over the past year. Since he was the last remaining Mercury astronaut, I was always lobbying him to encourage the Apollo guys to do regular reunions annually since we’re not getting any younger. With the news today I’m saddened again to hear that we have lost the pioneer of space flight for the United States, second only to Yuri Gagarin, and he will always go down in history as certainly one of the most influential officers in the Marine Corps and of course as one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. I am very sorry that he has departed us with his wisdom. I join that crowd of people and the entire nation and the world in paying homage to his service.