Space History | 1973-05-25 | First Skylab Crew Launched

May 25, 1973 – First crew to Skylab are launched, repairing damage incurred to Skylab during its launch (the Skylab Orbital Laboratory was launched on May 14, 1973).

Skylab Orbiting Lab - taken from as Skylab 2 mission undocked

Skylab Orbiting Lab – taken from as Skylab 2 mission undocked

The Skylab II (the first manned mission to Skylab, also called SL-2) was launched in an Apollo capsule on the last Saturn 1B rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B. The crew was Dr. Joe Kerwin, Pete Conrad (Apollo 12 Commander and Moonwalker), and Paul Weitz.

During the launch of the Skylab orbiting laboratory the space station lost its sun shield and one of its solar panels, and the only other  main solar panel was jammed and didn’t fully deploy. Without its shield, the temperature inside the space station continued to rise. The crew performed three EVAs to make the repairs and save the orbiting lab.

Skylab - Dr. Joe Kerwin gives dental exam to Pete Conrad

Skylab – Dr. Joe Kerwin gives dental exam to Pete Conrad

The 28-day mission returned to Earth on June 22 1973, having doubled the previous NASA record for mission time.

The Command Module that carried the Astronauts to the Skylab orbiting Laboratory and returned them to Earth is on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.

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Space History | 1961-05-25 | Kennedy’s Vision: The Moon

May 25, 1961 – Washington, D.C. –  In a speech to a joint session of Congress, John F. Kennedy outlines his vision for American Human Spaceflight, and gives us a goal – that before this decade is out, to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth.

Kennedy presents his vision for Americans to reach for the Moon - May 25, 1961

Kennedy presents his vision for Americans to reach for the Moon – May 25, 1961

This is the first of the Seven Forgotten Leadership Lessons of the Space Race: Vision. The first step to becoming a leader is to be able to have and cast your vision

Vision is the first and most obvious lesson from the Space Race. How powerful are the right words.

With just a few words, John F. Kennedy changed the course of human events and moved an entire nation to join the journey with him.

Those few words encouraged 400,000 engineers, scientists and others to labor for the better part of a decade to send just twenty-four men to orbit the moon and to have a mere twelve actually walk on it. All of that effort (and funding) came about because of one man’s vision.

Kennedy with von Braun at Cape Canaveral

Kennedy with von Braun at Cape Canaveral

Many people in aerospace today are working in that industry because of the lingering hope that’s still alive in Kennedy’s words. I’ve noticed that most aerospace engineers can recite the vision that Kennedy gave us – and some of those people weren’t even alive when he spoke those words! Yet that single compelling vision moved us all in a way no other force can.

Vision touches us and gives us the opportunity to own the dream with the leader who casts the vision. It gives us a meaning – a connection and a purpose – that drives us towards the goal. Their vision becomes our vision.

But without vision, even aerospace work becomes just a job. NASA flight director Gene Kranz took note of that in his book, Failure is not an Option:

“Approaching the end of Apollo, my frustration often surfaced. No one in America seemed to care that we were giving up, surrendering the future of the next generation of young people with stars in their eyes…. How I wished John F. Kennedy were still alive, challenging us to dare and to dream. I feel the same way today; the boldness and scope of his vision is not to be found today in our space program and in our nation.” (Kranz 2000)

Today’s “Vision Statement” – a Lesson in Contrast

In contrast, examine what passes today for having vision. If you have been around American businesses lately, you have probably had the unfortunate experience of having to participate in creating a “vision statement.”

Kennedy Casts his Vision for Space at Rice Univ. - "We choose to go to the Moon"

Kennedy Casts his Vision for Space at Rice Univ. – “We choose to go to the Moon”

The scene probably looked like this: the manager of your department (who is probably motivated by being freshly back from some “leadership” seminar) has the idea of getting everyone together to form a common vision statement. He corrals everyone into a room with a whiteboard, and for hours you talk about developing a “vision” for your department or company.

Having a vision is certainly a great idea. It’s important to have a vision for where a group of people is going, but the manager of today implements it poorly. No one in the history of developing a vision has ever successfully produced a compelling vision by having everyone stand around a white board while managers spout ridiculous tripe about how “we are the best team” or “we put customers first” or even more horrifically, some made-up slogan about how we are the best people doing the best job, and so that should motivate us.

If you have ever endured this process you know exactly what I am talking about. And for some reason, the management belief is that if we include everyone and take (lots of) time to develop our vision carefully, then we will have a team who is on-board, highly motivated and ready to go!

Managers are somehow immune to how ridiculous this process really is, and how in the long run it de-motivates. Many comic strips and websites are devoted to pointing out just how silly this type of thinking is. Perhaps the hearts of those managers are in the right place, and they have just got an incorrect idea about what constitutes real vision.

Here is the single biggest problem with writing a vision statement that includes everyone. There is a mathematical term for taking the sum of all and dividing by the number of participants – “average.” If everyone has a say, you get average results. You never end up with a vision by going through this process. You end up with the same group of people you started with – only now they are also confused.

Management recognizes the need for vision, which is good. But their methods are terrible. So what can the Space Race teach us about the first forgotten lesson?

More on this topic in a subsequent post.

Excerpted from Abandon in Place – The Seven Forgotten Leadership Lessons of the Space Race

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Space History | 1963-05-16 | End of Project Mercury – Launch Site Photos

May 16, 1963 – Today Gordon Cooper’s Faith 7 Capsule was recovered Southeast of Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean, officially ending the Mercury program.

Here are some recent photos of Launch Complex 14, where all of the Mercury-Atlas were launched.

Kennedy Space Center - Entrance to Launch Complex 14 (Mercury-Atlas)

Kennedy Space Center – Entrance to Launch Complex 14 (Mercury-Atlas)

LC-14 Launch Control Center blast door (and Bunkhouse rules)

LC-14 Launch Control Center blast door (and Bunkhouse rules)

LC-14 Launch Control Center (as seen from the Launch Table)

LC-14 Launch Control Center (as seen from the Launch Table)

Launch Complex 14 - the ramp to the Launch Table

Launch Complex 14 – the ramp to the Launch Table

LC-14 Launch Control Center parking

LC-14 Launch Control Center parking

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Space History | 1997-05-17 | Atlantis Docks with Mir

Mir from ENDEAVOUR. Note the Progress module docked on left and a Soyuz on right. Image Credit: NASA (STS-89)

Mir from ENDEAVOUR. Note the Progress module docked on left and a Soyuz on right. Image Credit: NASA (STS-89)

May 17, 1997 – Space Shuttle Atlantis (OV-104) performs its sixth docking with Mir during the STS-84 mission. The Shuttle-Mir project would eventually see 11 total Shuttle dockings with Mir, with Atlantis visiting Mir for a total of seven times. On STS-84, Atlantis carried the SPACEHAB in the payload bay.

During the May 17 Atlantis mission, Astronaut Jerry Linenger was replaced by Astronaut Michael Foale as the NASA representative on Mir. Linenger  spent a total of 123 days aboard Mir, and participated in the first U.S.-Russian spacewalk.

Earth and Mir (STS-71). Image Credit: NASA

Linenger was also aboard Mir on Feb 23, 1997, when fire broke out on the orbiting Russian laboratory, caused by a malfunctioning solid-fuel oxygen generator. Mir (which in Russian means “Peace”) certainly had it’s share of problems. On June 24 that same year,  a test was made of  a new Progress freighter docking system, which failed and resulted in a collision of the space freighter into Mir, starting an air leak and damage to the space station electrical systems. Mir deorbited and broke-up in Earth’s atmosphere on March 21, 2001.

STS-84 Atlantis KSC landing (Image Credit: NASA)

STS-84 Atlantis KSC landing (Image Credit: NASA)

Atlantis returned to Earth on May 24th, landing at the Kennedy Space Center runway, close to where it was launched just nine days previous at Space Launch Complex 39A.

On July 8, 2011 the Space Shuttle Atlantis (mission STS-135) flew for the last time, and that flight was also the final flight of the Space Shuttle program. The Space Shuttle Atlantis was retired on its return to Earth on July 21, 2011, and is planned to be on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

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Space History | 1963-05-15 | Final Flight of Project Mercury

Entrance to Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 14 - Mercury-Atlas

Entrance to Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 14 – Mercury-Atlas

May 15 1963 – Mercury-Atlas 9, carrying NASA Astronaut Gordon Cooper in his Faith 7 capsule, was rocketed into orbit by an Atlas booster.

The launch took place where all the Mercury-Atlas rockets were launched – Space Launch Complex 14 at Kennedy Space Center. Cooper was the first American in space for over a day, and the first person to sleep in space.

Gordon Cooper was the youngest of the original Mercury 7 Astronauts. After Project Mercury, Cooper flew an 8-day mission as commander of Gemini V with Pete Conrad. Cooper passed away on October 4 2004, the very day that SpaceShipOne won the X-Prize.

Launch Complex 14 (Launch Table) as it appears today

Launch Complex 14 (Launch Table) as it appears today

Until SpaceShipOne, Gordon Cooper was the last man to fly into space alone. And yes, when asked ‘who is the best pilot you ever saw,’ Cooper’s answer was, “You’re looking at him.”

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Space History | 1973-05-14 | Launch of Skylab

NASA Skylab Orbital Laboratory (Image Credit: NASA)

NASA Skylab Orbital Laboratory (Image Credit: NASA)

May 14, 1973 – The Skylab orbital laboratory was launched from Kennedy Space Center. Skylab was launched unmanned from Space Launch Complex 39A on a modified Saturn V rocket. Skylab would be visited by three crews from 1973 to 1974.

The Skylab orbital space station was damaged during the ascent, and much of the first manned mission to Skylab was used to repair the solar panels and deploy a canopy to keep the space station cool. That first manned mission lasted 28 days.

Manned Skylab II (Saturn 1B on "milkstool," left), and the Skylab Orbital Lab (Saturn V, right). Image Credit: NASA

Manned Skylab II (Saturn 1B on “milkstool,” left), and the Skylab Orbital Lab (Saturn V, right). Image Credit: NASA

On May 25, Skylab II (SL-2, the first of three manned mission to Skylab), was launched on a Saturn 1B from Space Launch Complex 39B. The Apollo capsule carried three astronauts to Skylab: Moonwalker and Skylab II commander Pete Conrad, Paul Weitz, and Joseph Kerwin.

Since the umbilical lines of the Saturn 1B and Saturn V were the same down to the first stage, a “milkstool” was used to boost the rocket up to the umbilical lines on the pad (a pad originally designed and built  only for Saturn V launches.

Conrad getting dental checkup from Dr Kerwin (Aboard Skylab). Image Credit: NASA

Conrad getting dental checkup from Dr Kerwin (Aboard Skylab). Image Credit: NASA

After the final manned mission to Skylab (SL-4), there was only a single Saturn 1B rocket left (which was eventually used for Apollo-Soyuz Test Project).

The unmanned Skylab orbital laboratory re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and broke up on July 11, 1979. Confirmed pieces of Skylab made it to the ground and were found in Australia.

The launch of the Skylab orbital laboratory was the final launch of a Saturn V rocket.

Pete Conrad showering aboard Skylab (Image Credit: NASA)

Pete Conrad showering aboard Skylab (Image Credit: NASA)

Some of my very favorite photos from space were taken during the Skylab missions, including these two from the first mission (both involving Pete Conrad). Notice that in space dental check-ups are much more practical. And take a look at the washcloth floating next to Pete Conrad next to him in the shower.

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Space History | 2002-05-12 | Russian Shuttle Buran Destroyed

Buran Launch Nov 15 1988 (Image Credit: Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Buran Launch Nov 15 1988 (Image Credit: Baikonur Cosmodrome)

May 12 2002 Kazakhstan – The Russian equivalent of the NASA Space Shuttle, called the “Buran,” was destroyed. The Buran was stored in a hangar in Kazakhstan. On May 12 2002, that hangar collapsed unexpectedly, killing eight people and destroying the Buran.

The Buran was designed and built in response to the U.S. Space Shuttle, but unlike the Shuttle, the Buran was designed to operate either manned or unmanned missions. It’s only orbital flight included a completely automated landing at a runway at Baikonur Cosmodrome (similar to the Kennedy Space Center runway strategy at that was used for the NASA Space Shuttle). Like the Shuttle, the Buran had a carrier aircraft for transport, but it used the Russian Antonov instead of a 747.

The only orbital flight of Buran was on November 15 1988 from Baikonur Cosmodrome. It was a three-hour unmanned flight, and made 2 orbits. Until the flight of the U.S. X-37 orbital vehicles, it was the only unmanned winged space vehicle to fly into orbit.

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Space History 2010-05-06 – Orion Pad Abort Escape System Test

May 6 2010 – White Sands Missile Range – Pad Abort 1  (PA-1) was the first test of Orion’s Launch Abort System. This test was part of the capsule qualification on the road to becoming a human-rated space craft. It was the first test of the integrated Abort System and the Orion Capsule.

Orion and Launch Abort System (Image Credit: NASA)

Orion and Launch Abort System (Image Credit: NASA)

The Launch Abort System is a rocket array at the tip of the spacecraft which are used to rescue the Orion Capsule and its crew in the event of a rocket failure during ascent. This system is similar in principle to the escape systems used in the Mercury and Apollo programs (Project Gemini had ejection seats!).

Orion was apart of NASA’s Constellation program, and continues it’s independent development to this day.

The first orbital (unmanned) test flight is scheduled to take place in 2014 and is planned to be launched by an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base as a test flight.

Orion Capsule PA-1 Pad Abort Test (Image Credit: U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range)

Orion Capsule PA-1 Pad Abort Test (Image Credit: U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range)

The first human launch with Orion is planned for 2020 from Kennedy Space Center, and is expected to have a crew of next-generation NASA astronauts.

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Space History 1961-05-05 – First American Astronaut in Space

Mercury-Redstone Rocket at Cape Canaveral LC-5

Mercury-Redstone Rocket at Cape Canaveral LC-5, Kennedy Space Center

May 5, 1961 – Alan Shepard, in his Freedom 7 capsule, was launched from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 5 as the first U.S. man in space as part of the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) mission.

MR-3 was the first manned mission of the Mercury program. This first U.S. journey into space was a short sub-orbital flight that took Shepard to an altitude of 116 miles, with a maximum speed of 5,180 miles per hour.

The first flights of the Mercury program were to ensure that NASA and the Astronauts had the technology to operate and survive in space. The ultimate goal of Mercury was to place an Astronaut into orbit.

Shepard’s flight came just weeks after Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the world’s first man in space. Shepard eventually flew into space again as the commander of Apollo 14 (redeeming the landing site of the ill-fated Apollo 13), and he became the fifth man to walk on the Moon (and the first to place golf on another world).

Entrance to Mercury-Redstone Launch Complex 5 (as it appears today)

Entrance to Mercury-Redstone Launch Complex 5 (as it appears today, Kennedy Space Center)

Shepard’s Mercury-Redstone flight lasted only 15 1/2 minutes, after which he splashed down and was picked up in the Atlantic by the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain, 300 miles East of the Cape Canaveral launch site.  Gus Grissom would make a similar flight several months later.

Subsequent flights of the Mercury program would involve placing the capsule into Earth orbit, and that would require a much more powerful rocket – Atlas.

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Space History 2012-04-27 – Final Flight of Space Shuttle ENTERPRISE

Space Shuttle EENTERPRISE - at the Smithsonian

Space Shuttle EENTERPRISE - at the Smithsonian

April 27, 2012 – Washington D.C. – One final flight today for the Shuttle ENTERPRISE (pictured at Smithsonian).

ENTERPRISE was used for the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT), but never flew into space. It was also used for Pad fit-checks (including at SLC-6 at Vandenberg AFB, which was planned and built-out as the Western Launch Pad for the Space Shuttle – but never used).

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