Who was the first person to float freely in space?

Images from space that show earth as nothing more than a blur of blue tug at our hearts in a way that can’t be put into words. The ones that you see here, while evoking such emotions, are also iconic in their own right. This is because they show the first human ever to walk untethered in space. The subject of these photographs is NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II.

Born in Boston in 1937, McCandless did his schooling at Long Beach, California and received his Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1958. He then obtained his Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1965, and eventually also ended up with a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Houston in 1987.

Communicator role

A retired U.S. Navy captain, McCandless was one of 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He served as the mission control communicator for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their famous 1969 Apollo 11 mission, which included the first human landing on the moon. McCandless, in fact, famously felt let down by Armstrong as the latter hadn’t revealed ahead what he had planned to say while setting foot on the moon.

McCandless flew as the mission specialist on two space shuttles, STS-41B in 1984 and STS-31 in 1990. While the 1984 mission saw him become the first human to perform an untethered spacewalk, he helped deploy the Hubble Space Telescope during the 1990 mission.

Helps develop MMU

Apart from these, McCandless also served as a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 14 mission and was a backup pilot for the first crewed Skylab mission. For the M-509 astronaut manoeuvring experiment that was flown in the Skylab programme, McCandless was a co-investigator. He collaborated on the development and helped design what came to be known as the MMU – manned manoeuvring unit.

The STS-41B was launched on February 3, 1984. Four days later, on February 7, McCandless stepped out of the space shuttle Challenger into nothingness. As he moved away from the spacecraft, he floated freely without any earthly anchor.

"Heck of a big leap for me"

“It may have been a small step for Neil, but it’s a heck of a big leap for me,” were McCandless’ first words. If the mood at mission control had been apprehensive before, the raucous laughter that followed this comment certainly reduced the tension - a fact that was confirmed by his wife, who was also at mission control. McCandless would later say that his comment was consciously thought out and that it was his way of saying things were going okay, apart from getting back at Armstrong for not revealing his words in 1969.

The images that were shot then, showing McCandless spacewalking without tethers, gained widespread fame. The spacewalk was the first time the MMU that he helped develop was used. These nitrogen-propelled, hand-controlled devices afforded much greater mobility to their users as opposed to restrictive tethers used by previous spacewalkers.

Fellow astronaut Robert L. Stewart later tried out the MMU that McCandless first used. Two days later, both of them tried another similar unit with success. By February 11, the STS-41B mission was complete as the Challenger safely landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre.

In one of his last interviews, before his death in December 2017, McCandless told National Geographic what he had probably told countless others who wanted to know how it was out there.

Fun, but cold

While he always maintained that it was fun, he also adds that the single thing that disturbed him as he moved away from the shuttle was that he got extremely cold, with shivers and chattering teeth.

The reason for that is pretty straightforward. While he had prepared for that moment for years, he wasn’t prepared for the temperature in the suit. As the suit was designed to keep astronauts comfortable while working hard in a warm environment, even the H (hot) position on the life support system actually provided minimal cooling. Considering that McCandless wasn’t really performing strenuous labour during the first hours of his untethered spacewalk, he felt cold. That’s a small price to pay for becoming the first-ever human to walk freely in space.

Picture Credit : Google

When did Voyager 2 achieve its closest approach to Jupiter?

On July 9, 1979, Voyager 2 made its closest approach to the largest planet in our solar system. Now in interstellar space. Voyager 2 altered some of our ideas about the Jovian system.

The Voyager probes are: humanity's longest running spacecraft as they have been flying since 1977 Both Voyager 2 and Voyager 1 are now in interstellar space, and though their power sources are gradually fading, they are still operational as of now.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but Voyager 2 was the first to be launched on August 20, 1977-about two weeks before the launch of Voyager 1. Both spacecraft were equipped with an extensive array of instruments to gather data. about the outer planets and their systems, in addition to carrying a slow-scan colour TV camera capable of taking images of the planets and their moons.

Based on Mariners

The design of the Voyagers was based on the Mariners and they were even known as Mariner 11 and Mariner 12 until March 7. 1977. It was NASA administrator James Fletcher who announced that the spacecraft would be renamed Younger. The Voyagers are powered by three plutonium dioxide radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGS) mounted at the end of a boom (a long metal beam extending from the spacecraft and serving as a structure subsystem).

Even though Voyager 1 was launched a little later, it reached Jupiter first in 1979 as it took a trajectory that put it on a faster path. Voyager 2 began transmitting images of Jupiter from April 24, 1979 for time-lapse movies of atmospheric circulation. For the next three-and-a-half months, until August 5 of that year, the probe continued to click images and collect data. A total of 17,000 images of Jupiter and its system were sent back to the Earth.

The spectacular images of the Jovian system included those of its moons Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. While Voyager 2 flew by Callisto and Europa at about half the distance between the Earth and its moon, it made an even closer approach to Ganymede.

Ocean worlds

The combined cameras of the two Voyager probes, in fact. covered at least four-fifths of the surfaces of Ganymede and Callisto. This enabled the mapping out of these moons to a resolution of about 5 km.

Voyager 2's work, along with observations made before and after, also helped scientists reveal that each of these moons were indeed an ocean world.

On July 9, 1979, the probe made its closest approach to Jupiter. Voyager 2 came within 6,45,000 km from the planet's surface, less than twice the distance between Earth and its moon. It detected many significant atmospheric changes, including a drift in the Great Red Spot in addition to changes in its shape and colours.

Voyager 2 also relayed photographs of other moons like lo and Amalthea. It even discovered a Jovian satellite, later called Adrastea, and revealed a third component to the planet's rings. The thin rings surrounding Jupiter, as had been seen by Voyager 1 as well, were confirmed by images looking back at the giant planet as the spacecraft departed for Saturn. As the probe used the gravity assist technique, Jupiter served as a springboard for Voyager 2 to get to Saturn.

Studies all four giant planets

 Four decades after its closest approach to Jupiter, Voyager 2 successfully fired up its trajectory correction manoeuvre thrusters on July 8, 2019. These thrusters, which had themselves last been used only in November 1989 during Voyager 2's encounter with Neptune, will be used to control the pointing of the spacecraft in interstellar space.

In those 40 years, Voyager 2 had achieved flybys of Saturn (1981), Uranus (1986), and Neptune (1989), thereby becoming the only spacecraft to study all four giant planets of the solar system at close range. Having entered interstellar space on December 10, 2018, Voyager 2 is now over 132 AU (astronomical unit-distance between Earth and the sun) away from the Earth, still relaying back data from unexplored regions deep in space.

Picture Credit : Google

When was the third human landing on the moon?

On February 5, 1971, Apollo 14 made a successful landing on the lunar surface, thereby becoming the third human landing on the moon after Apollo 11 and Apollo 12.

When we talk about the Apollo programme, it is often hard to look beyond the Apollo 11 mission, which achieved the distinction of landing the first humans on the moon. Even though the Apollo programme is best remembered for this, it should also be noted that it provided for innumerable demonstrations of ingenuity and problem solving and increased NASA's expertise by leaps and bounds.

Following the success of Apollo 11 in July 1969, Apollo 12 landed humans on the moon in November 1969. Apollo 13, however, had to be aborted following an oxygen tank explosion in the service module.

This meant that the Fra Mauro Formation, originally planned to be the lunar landing site for Apollo 13, served as the landing site for Apollo 14, once NASA had completed an accident investigation and upgraded the spacecraft.

Shepard, Mitchell, and Roosa

Launched on January 31, 1971, Apollo 14 had a three-member crew that included commander Alan Shepard, lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell, and command module pilot Stuart Rossa. Even though there was a potential short circuit in an abort switch on the lunar module and the landing radar came on very late during the landing sequence, Shepard and Mitchell successfully landed on the lunar surface on February 5. In fact, it was the most precise landing until then, as they landed less than 100 feet from the targeted point.

Shepard and Mitchell spent over 33 hours on the moon, including two extra vehicular activities (EVAS) that spanned nine hours and 23 minutes. Even though the first of the two EVAS began an hour later than scheduled due to communications systems problems, it turned out to be a success.

Modular Equipment Transporter

The first EVA was mainly to deploy a number of experiments and some of these sent back data to Earth until September 1977. While a seismometer detected thousands of moonquakes and helped find out the moon's internal structure, other instruments looked at the composition of solar wind and the moon's atmosphere.

Apart from the safety upgrades that were done for Apollo 14, there was also the addition of the Modular Equipment Transporter (MET). While Apollo 11 astronauts carried their tools by hand and Apollo 12 astronauts used a hand tool carrier, Shepard and Mitchell could employ the MET like a wheelbarrow, stowing away their scientific equipment, tools, camera, and sample collections.

During the duo's second EVA dedicated to explore the Cone Crater, the MET came in handy as they were able to pick up a football-sized rock, designated 14321, but better known by its nickname "Big Bertha". Using the MET, the astronauts were able to transport this sample back to the lunar module. As recently as 2019, studies suggested that a two-cm sliver of the Big Bertha might have originally come from the Earth's crust, and not the moon.

42 kg of samples

Even though the crew never saw the interior of the crater, post-mission comparisons showed that Shepard and Mitchell were within 50-75 m from the crater rim. The round trip lasted four hours and 35 minutes in which the duo traversed nearly 3 km, including samples from the first EVA, the duo had collected 42 kg of lunar samples.

While Shepard and Mitchell were busy on the lunar surface, Roosa, who was in the command module, clicked many pictures in high resolution. These photographs of the moon's Descartes region played a pivotal role in certifying the area's safety as a landing site and even helped plan rover traverses for the Apollo 16 mission.

Liftoff from the lunar surface took place exactly on schedule, while rendezvous and docking with the command module was just two minutes off schedule. After spending 2.8 days in lunar orbit, during which time the command module had circled the moon 34 times, the Apollo 14 crew members headed back to Earth. They splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on February 9, exactly nine days and two minutes after launch.

Picture Credit : Google 

Who is the first Latin American to fly into space?

Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, (born Jan. 29, 1942, Guantánamo, Cuba), Cuban pilot and cosmonaut, the first Latin American, the first person of African descent, and the first Cuban to fly in space. After the revolution of 1959, Tamayo Méndez joined the Cuban air force as a pilot.

Born in 1942, Mendez makes no mention of his father in his book Un cubano en el cosmos (A Cuban in the cosmos). As he lost his mother to tuberculosis while just eight months old, he grew up as a poor orphan in Guantanamo.

Limited schooling

He worked as a shoeshine boy, sold vegetables, delivered milk and worked as an apprentice carpenter by the time he reached his teenage years. Even though he had limited opportunities for schooling, he excelled at it in whatever little chance he got.

After joining the Association of Young Rebels during the Cuban Revolution, Mendez made his way to a technical institute. Here, he saw a chance to pursue his dream of flying and he readily enrolled himself into a course for aviation technicians, passing it with flying colours in 1961.

His success at this course gave him the confidence to become a pilot and make his dream a reality. He was then selected to travel to the Soviet Union to further his studies and learn to fly the Soviet MiG – 15 fighter jet. Mandez rose through the ranks in the next 15 years, becoming a captain in the Cuban Air Force by 1978.

Interkosmos programme

 During the time Mendez was making his way up the Cuban Air Force, the Soviet Union had designed and formed the Interkosmos space programme (1967) and had the first flight of this programme in 1978. The objective of Interkosmos was to help the Soviet Union's allies with crewed and unscrewed missions to space.

The search for the first Cuban Cosmonaut began in 1976 and a long list of 600 was shortlisted to two by 1978: Mendez and the other being Jose Lopez Falcon. It could have been purely based on merit, or it might have been an act of propaganda with political motivations, but what we do know is that Mendez was selected to fly aboard the Soyuz 38 mission.

On September 18, 1980, Mendez created history as he flew aboard Soyuz 38 along with Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko. On that same day, they docked at the Salyut 6 space station, and Mendez met Soviet cosmonauts Leonid Popov and Valery Ryumin as the hatch opened and was sealed.

Over the next seven days, Mendez completed 124 orbits around the Earth, conducting a number of experiments on science and health. There were a total of nine experiments, including those that studied stress, blood circulation, immunity, balance, and the growth of a single crystal of sucrose in weightlessness.

Instant fame

Mendez and Romanenko landed back on Earth on September 26 and the former was lauded by both the Cubans and the Soviets Mendez became an instant national hero and was honoured with the Hero of the Republic of Cuba medal, and received The Order of Lenin from the Soviets, among many other recognitions.

Mendez, who is now an 80-year-old, rose to the position of brigadier general following his space flight. He spent many years leading the education efforts of the Cuban army. Cuba's Museum of the Revolution in Havana is home to the space suit that Mendez used for his historic Voyage.

The Interkosmos programme successfully flew many non-Soviets, including India's Rakesh Sharma and astronauts from Britain, Japan, France, and Vietnam, among many other countries. Mendez's flight not only made him the first Cuban cosmonaut, but also the first with African heritage to make it to space.

Picture Credit : Google 


On May 5, 1961, barely three weeks after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's historic orbit of the Earth, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard waited, strapped into the Freedom 7 spacecraft. He would become the first American in space. What NASA officials hadn't anticipated was that Shepard would have to endure five hours of delay cocooned in his shiny silver spacesuit before his 15-minute orbit.

"Man, I got to pee," he frantically radioed launch control. Allowing Shepard to urinate in his suit would destroy the medical sensors he was wired with, but eventually launch control had no option but to let him go. Shepard had to suffer the discomfort of a wet suit till the cooling system inside evaporated the liquid.

Early efforts

NASA hadn't solved the problem entirely even in 1963 when Gordon Cooper blasted off on the last Project Mercury flight. There was a urine collection device inside the suit, but the urine leaked out of the bag and the droplets seeped into the electronics, leading to a systems failure towards the end of the mission.

If wayward pee was a problem, think of what its twin, poop, could do in the cramped quarters of a spacecraft!

The Gemini project was launched to prepare men for the Apollo moon mission. In 1965, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman spent 14 days flying in Gemini 7, the longest manned mission at the time. They had to poop into a cylindrical plastic bag and add a substance to kill the bacteria and odours. Though the pee could be sent out directly into space through a valve-operated hose, the poo bags had to be stored in the craft till they landed.

By the time the Apollo missions came around, the system hadn't improved much. The Moon men's toilet ordeal lasted 45 minutes to an hour. They had to undress completely in a corner of the spacecraft and stick a faecal collection bag to their bottom. Low gravity meant that the poop wouldn't fall down. The astronauts had to manually help it along with a finger cot, a glove-like covering for a single finger. They also had to knead a germicide into it to prevent the growth of gas-forming bacteria that could cause the bags to explode.

Hit and miss

Accidents did happen. Houston once heard the commander of the 1969 Apollo 10 mission Tom Stafford say, "Give me a napkin quick. There's a turd floating through the air!"

On the first Space Shuttle mission in 1981, astronauts had to unclog smelly blocked toilets. Frozen urine ejected from the Russian Mir space station, damaged the station's solar panels over time, reducing their effectiveness by around 40%.

Today, on the International Space Station (ISS), each astronaut is given his or her own funnel for peeing. It attaches to a hose. Urine is sent through a filtration system and recycled into drinking water. There is a proper sit down toilet for more serious business. The waste is sucked into a canister, which is stored and later shot back towards Earth along with other trash, where it burns up in the atmosphere.

Did you know?

Astronauts go through 'positional training' on Earth to perfect their aim since the toilet on the ISS has a narrow opening. The mock toilet has a camera at the bottom. Astronauts don't actually go, but watch a video screen in front of them to check that their alignment is spot on. The toilet costs millions of dollars, so missing the target is not an option.

 During a spacewalk or an EVA (extravehicular activity), astronauts wear a maximum absorbency garment, which is essentially a large diaper.

NASA'S 2020 Lunar Loo Challenge, which invited designs from the public for compact toilets that would work well in both microgravity and lunar gravity received tremendous response. The Artemis program plans to land a man and the first woman on the Moon by 2024.

Picture Credit :Google 


On August 8, 2007, space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-118 mission was successfully launched. Among the crew members was Barbara Morgan, the first teacher to travel into space. Barbara Morgan, in full Barbara Radding Morgan, (born Nov. 28, 1951, Fresno, Calif., U.S.), American teacher and astronaut, the first teacher to travel into space. Morgan earned a B.A. in human biology from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1973.

Among the many new things during the COVID-19 pandemic was the school classroom, or the lack of it. During the height of the pandemic in the last two years, students were often seen attending virtual classrooms from homes with the teachers conducting the classes from their houses.

A group of students in the U.S. experienced something similar 15 years ago. Only that their teacher, Barbara Morgan wasn't teaching virtually from the comfort of her home. Morgan was the first teacher to travel into space and she did do some teaching while in space!

Born in November 1951 in Fresno, California, Morgan obtained a B.A. in human biology from Stanford University in 1973. Having received her teaching credentials by the following year, she began her teaching career in 1974 in Arlee, Montana, teaching remedial reading and maths.

She taught remedial reading, maths, and second grade in McCall, Idaho from 1975-78, before heading to Quito in Ecuador to teach English and science to third graders for a year. Following her return to the U.S., she returned to McCall, Idaho, where she taught second through fourth grades at McCall-Donnelly Elementary School until 1998.

Teacher in Space

Morgan's tryst with space began in July 1985 when she was selected as the backup candidate for NASA's Teacher in Space programme. As the backup to American teacher Christa McAuliffe, Morgan spent the time from September 1985 to January 1986 attending various training sessions at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. After McAuliffe and the rest of the crew died in the 1986 Challenger disaster, Morgan replaced McAuliffe as the Teacher in Space designee and worked with NASA's education division.

Morgan reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1998 after being selected by NASA as a mission specialist and NASA's first educator astronaut. Even though Morgan didn't participate in the Educator Astronaut Project, the successor to the Teacher in Space programme, NASA gave her the honour of being its first educator astronaut.

Following two years of training and evaluation, Morgan was assigned technical duties. She worked in mission control as a communicator with in-orbit crews and also served with the robotics branch of the astronaut office.

Further delay

Even though she was assigned as a mission specialist to the crew of STS-118 in 2002 and was expected to fly the next year, it was delayed for a number of years following the 2003 Columbia disaster. It was on August 8, 2007 that Morgan finally flew into space on the space shuttle Endeavour on STS-118.

The STS-118 was primarily an assembly-and-repair trip to the International Space Station (ISS). The crew were successfully able to add a truss segment, a new gyroscope, and external spare parts platform to the ISS. Morgan served as loadmaster, shuttle and station robotic arm operator, and also provided support during the spacewalks. All this, in addition to being an educator.

Answers from space

For the first time in human history, school children enjoyed lessons from space, conducted by Morgan. Apart from speaking to the students while in space, she also fielded questions. For one question from a student on how fast a baseball will go in space, she even had another astronaut Clay Anderson throw the ball slowly before floating over to catch it himself. While that opened up the opportunity of playing ball with yourself while in space, she also informed the student that the ball can be thrown fast, but it is avoided in order to not cause any damage to the craft and the equipment on board.

Following the first lessons from space, the Endeavour returned to Earth on August 21 after travelling 5.3 million miles in space. Having carried 5,000 pounds of equipment and supplies to the ISS, it returned with 4,000 pounds worth of scientific materials and used equipment.

As for Morgan, she retired from NASA in 2008 to become the distinguished educator in residence at Boise State University. A post created exclusively for her, it entailed a dual appointment to the colleges of engineering and education. As someone who strongly believes that teachers are learners, she continues to teach and learn, be it from space, or here on Earth.

Picture Credit : Google 


On June 18, 1983, Sally K. Ride was onboard the space shuttle Challenger for the STS-7 mission, thereby becoming the first American woman to go into space. Apart from making two space flights, Ride championed the cause of science education for children.

The first decades of space exploration was largely dominated by two countries the US and the Soviet Union This period is even referred to as the Space Race as the two Cold War adversaries pitted themselves: against each other to achieve superior spaceflight capabilities.

While the two countries were neck and neck in most aspects. the Soviets sent a woman to space much before the US. Even though Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in June 1963, it was another 20 years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space

Urged to explore

Ride was the older of two daughters born  to Carol Joyce Ride and Dale Ride. Even though her mother was a counsellor and her father a professor of political science. Ride credits them for fostering her interest in science by enabling her to explore from a very young age.

An athletic teenager, Ride loved sports such as tennis, running, volleyball, and softball. In fact, she attended Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles on a partial tennis scholarship. She even tried her luck in professional tennis, before returning to California to attend Stanford University.

By 1973, Ride not only had a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, but had also obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She got her Master of Science degree in 1975 and obtained her Ph.D. in Physics by 1978

Restriction removed

Having restricted astronaut qualification to men for decades,  NASA expanded astronaut selection with the advent of the space shuttle from only pilots to engineers and scientists, opening the doorway for women finally. Having seen an ad in a newspaper inviting women to apply for the astronaut programme Ride decided to give it a shot

Out of more than 8,000 applications, Ride became one of six women who were chosen as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. Spaceflight training began soon after and it included parachute jumping, water survival, weightlessness, radio communications, and navigation, among others. She was also involved in developing the robot arm used to deploy and retrieve satellites.

Ride served as part of the ground-support crew for STS-2 and STS-3 missions in November 1981 and March 1982. In April 1982, NASA announced that Ride would be part of the STS-7 crew, serving as a mission specialist in a five-member crew.

First American woman in space

On June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space. By the time the STS-7 mission was completed and the space shuttle Challenger returned to Earth on June 24, they had launched communications satellites for Canada and Indonesia. As an expert in the use of the shuttle's robotic arm, Ride also helped deploy and retrieve a satellite in space using the robot arm.

Ride created history once again when she became the first American woman to travel to space a second time as part of the STS-41G in October 1984. During this nine-day mission, Ride employed the shuttle's robotic arm to remove ice from the shuttle's exterior and to also readjust a radar antenna. There could have even been a third, as she was supposed to join STS-61M, but that mission was cancelled following the 1986 Challenger disaster.

Even after her days of space travel were over, Ride was actively involved in influencing the space programme. When accident investigation boards were set up in response to two shuttle tragedies - Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 Ride was a part of them both.

Picture Credit : Google 


On May 15, 1963, the last mission of Project Mercury got under way. Astronaut Gordon Cooper closed out things in style as his flight stretched the capabilities of the Mercury spacecraft to its limits.

The Mercury Seven, also referred to as the Original Seven, were a group of seven astronauts selected to fly spacecraft for Project Mercury - the first human space flight program by the U.S. Even though there were some hiccups, the project, initiated in 1958, was largely successful in its three goals of operating a human spacecraft. investigating an astronaut's ability to work in space, and recovering spacecraft and crew safely.

Youngest of the Mercury Seven

The final flight of Project Mercury took place in May 1963. The youngest of the Original Seven, astronaut Gordon Cooper, went on to become the first American to fly in space for more than a day during this mission.

Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr. was born in 1927 and served in the Marine Corps in 1945 and 1946. He was commissioned in the U.S. Army after attending the University of Hawaii.

He was called to active duty in 1949 and completed pilot training in the U.S. Air Force. He was a fighter pilot in Germany from 1950 to 1954 and earned a bachelor's degree at the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1956. He served as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California until he was selected as an astronaut for Project Mercury. Cooper flew Mercury-Atlas 9, the last Mercury mission, which was launched on May 15, 1963. He called his capsule Faith 7, the number indicating his status as one of the Original Seven astronauts.

Conducts 11 experiments

 Longer than all of the previous Mercury missions combined. Cooper had enough time in his hands to conduct 11 experiments. These included monitoring radiation levels, tracking a strobe beacon that flashed intermittently, and taking photographs of the Earth.

When Cooper sent back black-and-white television images back to the control centre during his 17th orbit, it was the first TV transmission from an American crewed spacecraft. And even though there were plans for Cooper to sleep as much as eight hours, he only managed to sleep sporadically during portions of the flight. After 19 orbits without a hitch, a faulty sensor wrongly indicated that the spacecraft was beginning re-entry. A short circuit then damaged the automatic stabilisation and control system two orbits later. Despite these malfunctions and the rising carbon dioxide levels in his cabin and spacesuit. Cooper executed a perfect manual re-entry.

Lands without incident Cooper had clocked 34 hours and 20 minutes in space, orbiting the Earth 22 times and covering most of the globe in the process. This meant that he could practically land anywhere in the globe, a potential pain point that the U.S. State

Department was nervous about. In fact, on May 1, 1963, the country's Deputy Under Secretary fuel, venting gas that made the spacecraft roll, and more in what felt like a never-ending series during their eight-day mission. They, however, completed 122 orbits, travelling over 5.3 million km in 190 hours and 56 minutes, before safely making their way back to Earth.

After accumulating more than 225 hours in space, Cooper served as the backup command pilot of Gemini 12, which was launched in November 1966, and the backup command pilot for Apollo 10 in May 1969. By the time Cooper left NASA and retired from the Air Force in July 1970, human beings had set foot on the moon, further vindicating the Mercury and Gemini projects that Cooper had been involved with.

Picture Credit : Google 


The first woman to travel in space was Soviet cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova. On 16 June 1963, Tereshkova was launched on a solo mission aboard the spacecraft Vostok 6. She spent more than 70 hours orbiting the Earth, two years after Yuri Gagarin’s first human-crewed flight in space.

Tereshkova was born on 6 March 1937 in the village of Bolshoye Maslennikovo in central Russia. Her mother was a textile worker, and her father was a tractor driver who was later recognised as a war hero during World War Two. At the time of his death on the Finnish front, Tereshkova was only two years old. 

After leaving school, Tereshkova followed her mother into work at a textile factory. Her first appreciation of flying was going down rather than up when she joined a local skydiving and parachutist club. It was her hobby of jumping out of planes that appealed to the Soviets' space programme committee. On applying to the cosmonaut corps, Tereshkova was eventually chosen from more than 400 other candidates. 

Tereshkova received 18 months of severe training with the Soviet Air Force after her selection. These tests studied her abilities to cope physically under the extremes of gravity, as well as handle challenges such as emergency management and the isolation of being in space alone. At 24 years old, she was honourably inducted into the Soviet Air Force. Tereshkova still holds the title as the youngest woman, and the first civilian to fly in space. 

While Tereshkova remains the only woman to have flown solo in space, her mission was a dual flight. Fellow cosmonaut Valeriy Bykovsky launched on Vostok 5 on 14 June 1963. Two days later, Tereshkova launched. The two spacecraft took different flight paths and came within three miles of each other. The cosmonauts exchanged communications while making 48 orbits of Earth, with Tereshkova responding to Bykovsky via her callsign ‘Seagull’. During the flight, the Soviet state television network broadcast a video of Tereshkova inside the capsule, and she spoke with the Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev over the radio. 

In her later life, Tereshkova was decorated with prestigious medals and has held several prominent political positions both for the Russian and global councils. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, she was an official head of State and was elected a member of the World Peace Council in 1966. 

Today, she holds the position of Deputy Chair for the Committee for International Affairs in Russia. She also remains active within the space community and is quoted as suggesting that she would like to fly to Mars - even if it were a one-way trip. 

Credit : Royal  museums greenwich

Picture Credit : Google


Yes, that credit goes to American astronaut Alan Shepard. He was the first to play golf on the lunar surface. He achieved the feat when he was part of the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. He is said to have hit two golf balls across the surface of the moon with a makeshift club.

Shepard took a few moments during the Apollo 14 landing to show off his hobby during a live broadcast from the lunar surface on Feb. 6, 1971. He took two shots, with the second ball going "miles and mile," he said on-camera. He was exaggerating, according to new analysis from the United States Golf Association (USGA). Based on data from the crew and a modern-day moon mission, the group found that the first ball traveled 24 yards (22 meters) and the second about 40 yards (37 m). By comparison, a 2019 report using golf tournaments' gender categories shows that an average amateur male golfer on Earth can drive the ball 216 yards (198 m), and an average female golfer 148 yards (135 m), although those distances have increased significantly since Shepard's flight. To be fair to Shepard, however, he had more obstacles to contend with than your typical Sunday hobbyist. His golf "club" was actually a modified sample collection device with the head attached to the end. He was also wearing a notoriously stiff spacesuit that forced him to swing with a single arm. 

USGA found the lunar golf balls in high-resolution, enhanced scans of the original flight footage of the Apollo 14 mission. The association measured the point between divot and locations where the balls ended up using high-resolution images from orbit taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launched in 2009.

The association used a second technique to confirm the measurements. Some of the images used were photo sequences taken from the lunar module, the astronauts' landing craft, taken to show the entire landing site to geologists on Earth. USGA stitched the photographs into a panorama to demonstrate the location of the divot and the two balls, which (after taking the new photo enhancements into account) were well within view of the landed spacecraft. 

The two balls are also visible in Apollo 14 takeoff footage, but only after applying "a complex stacking technique on multiple separate frames," according to a USGA Golf Journal story. This means NASA astronauts Shepard and Ed Mitchell likely couldn't have seen the balls themselves from the spacecraft, either during their time on the ground or when flying away from the moon.

Credit : Space.com

Picture Credit : Google 

Why do the footprints of astronauts remain unchanged on the surface of the moon?

We are pretty proud of the human flight to the Moon and our footprints on the lunar surface. But did you know these footprints can last a million years on the surface of the Moon? It has been decades since humans last set foot on the Moon, but its surface is still marked with the historic footprints of the 12 astronauts who walked across it Unlike on Earth, there is no erosion by wind or water on the Moon because it has no atmosphere. The Moon is geologically inactive there are no earthquakes or volcanoes. So, nothing gets washed away and nothing gets eroded.

However, the Moon is exposed to bombardment by meteorites, which change the surface. One little spacerock could easily wipe out a footprint on the moon. And since the Moon has no atmosphere, it is exposed to the solar wind, a stream of charged particles coming from the sun, and over time this acts almost like weather on Earth to scour surfaces on the moon, but the process is very, very slow.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong put his left foot on the rocky Moon. It was the first human footprint on the Moon. They had taken TV cameras with them. The two astronauts walked on the Moon. They picked up rocks and dirt to bring back to Earth. The astronauts had much work to do. Then, the Eagle went back to meet astronaut Collins. He was in the Command Module working.

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin visited the moon 50 years ago, they left roughly 100 objects behind, including a portion of their lunar lander, the American flag and, yes, various kinds of trash. Those objects are still there, surrounded by rugged bootprints marking humanity’s first steps on another world. But that site, called Tranquillity Base, may not be as enduring as the legacy those prints represent.

Picture Credit : Google 

Did the fruit flies survive in space?

Fruit flies were the first organisms sent to space. For many years before sending mammals into space, such as dogs or humans, scientists studied Drosophila melanogaster (the common fruit fly) and its reactions to both radiation and space flight to understand the possible effects of space and a zero-gravity environment on humans. Starting in the 1910s, researchers conducted experiments on fruit flies because humans and fruit flies share many genes. On February 20, 1947, fruit flies became the first living and sentient organisms to go to space and return, which paved the way for human exploration. At the height of the Cold War and the Space Race, flies were sent on missions to space with great frequency, allowing scientists to study the nature of living and breeding in space. Scientists and researchers from the Soviet Union and the United States both used fruit flies for their research and missions.

Fruit flies have been used in recent years as the reality of Mars and Moon colonization becomes clearer. These flies further the understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and the genes of astronauts. Fruit flies have been invaluable assets to scientific discoveries that humankind have made, especially discoveries about space travel.

Mankind has long admired the heavens and wondered about space. Even after the Space Race was completed, advancements in space travel continued. Researchers continue to study the ability of life to survive in the harsh atmosphere of space, promote commercial development, expand and advance knowledge, and prepare future generations for exploration. Throughout time, Animals in space have ensured suitable conditions for human exploration. Larger animals including dogs, monkeys, cats, mice, and others, have been vital to many excursions, as have insects.

The fruit fly has frequently been utilized for space travel, due to its comparable genetics to that of humans. The short gestation period and quick maturing process allows their continued use. Additionally, a female fruit fly can lay one hundred eggs daily, and each egg requires less than ten days to fully mature. Since three-quarters of its genome compares to other organisms, fruit flies frequently proceed humans in space travel because their entire genetic makeup, including the sex chromosomes, have been sequenced by scientists.

Credit : Wikipedia 

Picture Credit : Google

When did Surveyor 3 land on the Moon?

Launched on April 17, 1967, Surveyor 3 was the third engineering flight of the Surveyor series and the second in the series to achieve a soft landing on the moon. It was based on Surveyor 3's surface sampling tests that it was concluded that the lunar surface could hold the weight of an Apollo lunar module

The Apollo 11 mission will remain in the collective consciousness of human beings forever. This is because it was the first time we humans managed to set foot on our natural satellite, the moon.

It is important to remember that this was made possible due to a number of missions that preceded this one. Among these was the Surveyor 3 spacecraft which proved beyond doubt that an Apollo lunar module could indeed safely land on the moon's surface.

The third engineering flight of the Surveyor series, this spacecraft was the first to carry a surface-sampling instrument that could reach up to 1.5 m from the lander and dig up to 18 cm. Unlike its predecessors, Surveyor 3 began its mission from a parking orbit around Earth on April 17, 1967.

Bouncing to a stop

While it became the second in the series after Surveyor 1 to achieve a soft landing on the moon three days later on April 20, it was far from smooth. As highly reflective rocks confused the landers descent radar, the main engine did not cut off at the correct moment during the descent to the lunar surface.

This meant that Surveyor 3 bounced off the moon, not once but twice-first to a height of 10 m and then again to a height of 3 m. It was third time lucky for Surveyor 3 as it landed softly in the southeastern region of Oceanus  Procellarum.

With its worst behind it. Surveyor 3 set out to do what it was sent to do. Within an hour after landing, the spacecraft began transmitting the first of over 6,000 TV pictures of the surrounding areas.

Similar to wet sand

The most important phase of the mission included deployment of the surface sampler for digging trenches, manipulating lunar material, and making bearing tests. Based on commands from Earth, the probe was able to dig four trenches, performing four bearing tests and 13 impact tests.

The results from these experiments were the most important aspect of this mission. The scientists were able to conclude that lunar soil's consistency was similar to that of wet sand and that it would be solid enough to bear an Apollo lunar module when it landed.

The start of May saw the first lunar nightfall following the arrival of Surveyor 3. The spacecraft's solar panels stopped producing electricity and its last contact with Earth was on May 4. While Surveyor 1 could be reactivated twice after lunar nights, Surveyor 3 could not be reactivated when it was attempted 336 hours later during the next lunar dawn.

Tryst with Apollo 12

 That, however, wasn't the last of what we heard about Surveyor 3. Four months after the huge success of Apollo 11, NASA launched Apollo 12 in November 1969. The lunar module of Apollo 12 showcased pinpoint landing capacity as the precise lunar touchdown allowed the astronauts to land within walking distance of the Surveyor 3 spacecraft. During their second extra vehicular activity on November 19, astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr. and Alan L. Bean walked over to the inactive Surveyor 3 lander and recovered parts, including the camera system and the soil scoop.

Just like moon rocks, these were returned to Earth for studying, as they offered scientists a unique chance to analyse equipment that had been subjected to long-term exposure on the moon's surface. The studies of the parts showed that while Surveyor 3 had changed colour due to lunar dust adhesion and exposure to the sun, the TV camera and other hardware showed no signs of failure.

While NASA placed some of the Surveyor 3 parts into storage along with moon rocks and soil samples, the remaining parts found home elsewhere. Even though NASA treats them as lunar samples and not artefacts, they are greatly valued when gifted or loaned out, both to museums and individuals.

Picture Credit : Google 

Who drank the first coffee in space?

The first espresso coffee was drunk in space by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in May 2015. The Italian Space Agency worked with Italian coffee manufacturer, Lavazza, to get the first coffee machine, called  ISSpresso, flown into the International Space Station.

In 2014, Argotec and Lavazza partnered to determine the feasibility of the project. Argotec then approached ASI, with Lavazza as a partner, and ASI agreed to sponsor the ISSpresso as an ASI payload on the ISS. NASA approval was then obtained.During the same year a feasibility study with the creation of some subsystems was conducted in order to validate the technological choices. On 14 April 2015, the flight model of ISSpresso was sent with SpaceX CRS-6 to the International Space Station and on 3 May 2015, Samantha Cristoforetti drank the first espresso in micro-gravity conditions. On 30 September 2017, Paolo Nespoli used the espresso machine on board the ISS to celebrate International Coffee Day.

The machine has conditions of use that are similar to the traditional ones, in order to facilitate the operations of the astronauts without requiring specific training. After verifying that the water container is installed properly, the astronaut inserts the coffee capsule into an opening on the top surface of the machine, then they close the small door and select the drink size. After that, they attach the drink pouch to the adapter and start the process of making coffee. The interfaces of the water container as well as of the drink pouch are the same used with the potable water dispenser installed on the space station, in order to facilitate the use of the system by the astronaut. The ISSpresso's "Coffee in Space" mission came to an end on 14 December 2017.

Credit : Wikipedia 

Picture Credit : Google 

Do astronauts get taller in space?

Astronauts can grow up to 3 per cent taller during the time spent living in microgravity, NASA scientists say. That means that a 6-foot-tall person could gain as many as 2 inches while in orbit. While scientists have known for some time that astronauts experience a slight height boost during stays on the International Space Station, NASA is only now starting to use ultrasound technology to see exactly what happens to astronauts' spines in microgravity. Past studies have shown that when the spine is not exposed to the pull of Earth's gravity, the vertebra can expand and relax, allowing astronauts to actually grow taller. That small gain is short lived. Once the astronauts return to Earth, their height returns to normal after a few months. Now, astronauts will use a ultrasound device on the station that allows more precise musculoskeletal imaging to scan each other's backs to see exactly what their spines look like after 30, 90 and 150 days in microgravity. Researchers will see the medical results in real time as the astronaut take turns scanning the spines of their crewmates.

A better understanding of the spine's elongation in microgravity could help physicians develop more effective rehabilitation techniques to aid astronauts in their return to Earth's gravity following space station missions.

Picture Credit : Google