Endeavour safely splashes down


Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Splashdown of Endeavour

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Endeavour Dragon capsule has successfully splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, returning two humans back to Earth safely after completing the first two month long manned commercial space mission.

If you go to the live stream to watch recovery operations, note that the boats and ships and persons involved are all property and employees of SpaceX. This is entirely an operation of the private company. The government is not involved, other than NASA’s justified monitoring as SpaceX’s customer.

One cool tidbit for the future. Endeavour is scheduled to fly again, in the spring of 2021. On that flight will be Megan McArthur, the wife of astronaut Bob Behnken, and she will likely sit in the same place he did on his flight.

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31 comments

  • Larry

    Thank you for your work, Mr. Zimmerman. I hear you regularly on Batchelor Show online.
    Please correct, as Megan McArthur is Behnken’s wife.

  • Larry

    Also, not to be Mr. Nit-Picky, but you’re probably about to add the “s” to “Capitalim”. Thank you—rare mistakes.

  • Larry: Thank you. I made the mistake of not checking the info prior to posting. And I always appreciate my readers correcting me.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Hurley’s wife is also a veteran astronaut, but I think she’s retired. She made a bit of a stink about Trump not long ago, iirc. Perfectly within her rights, I guess.

  • Mitch S

    “note that the boats and ships and persons involved are all property and employees of SpaceX.”

    Was funny to see how many boats had nothing to do with SpaceX and were private craft that came out to gawk.
    After a boat displaying a Trump/Pence flag cruised past the camera, the announcer commented that perhaps next time they shouldn’t make the splashdown location public.
    Never would have happened in the NASA days – nobody likely to get past the cordon of navy ships and aircraft.
    I figure SpaceX’s whole recovery op cost less than it cost the US gov’t to send just the carrier out to location for a NASA recovery.

  • Kyle

    I thought these capsules were only going to fly once with humans then get converted to cargo only

  • Steve Richter

    just do not see the point of putting people in space. All the weight that has to be launched to support them. Has the space station provided anything of value? True, a lot of solid knowledge on the effects of space on humans.

    Did the Dragon not land on earth like SpaceX reusable rockets because of the weight of the crew and the components ( seats, air tanks, food, water ) required only when humans are onboard?

  • Kyle: Yup, what you thought was what they initially were going to do, based on pressure from NASA. As time has passed and SpaceX has proven it knows what it is doing, NASA has come around to SpaceX’s way of doing things.

  • David

    Steve, sending people to space will be a waste until we learn how to make it not be a waste. History tells us we can’t predict what it is that we’ll discover, it could be an industrial process, something to mine, a health benefit, or a “oh God, I’m glad I’m up here, not down there in the fireball.” But we won’t get there without putting in the long slog of one small step after the other to figure things out, and hopefully soon, lots of people who aren’t on a government clock with their every moment analyzed so they can start playing around and experimenting on their own time.

  • David

    Robert, how do I make a suggestion for the evening pause? I know it’s been asked many times before, but search doesn’t seem to go into comments and I can’t find the answer.

  • Kyle

    Thanks Robert, I’m glad NASA came to its senses, it seemed like a waste to only use them once for human flight.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Steve,

    Luckily, it’s not your decision.

  • Ray Van Dune

    A technical tour de force for Spacex… with the possible exception of the teamwork on the Go Navigator -did anyone else notice how long it took to get around to having the flight crew check the interior air for toxicity after there was evidence of a toxic substance they were not expecting? And I noticed one crewman began working with a respirator on, while his mate had none until several minutes later when someone fetched him one.

    Even once the toxic gas traces were eliminated, the NASA Flight Surgeon never seemed to get in there first to check on the boys like the commentators said he would. The contingency work on the boat just felt like it wasn’t as sharp as everything else up to that time.

    But I was so impressed with the space work!! Quite a contrast with their.competition!

  • Richard M

    Mitch,

    “I figure SpaceX’s whole recovery op cost less than it cost the US gov’t to send just the carrier out to location for a NASA recovery.”

    Yeah, no kidding.

    To recover a Dragon with an Amphibious Strike Group today would more than double the entire cost of the mission!

    But as we saw today, you don’t need to do that. One more example of how using the private sector is dramatically bringing the cost of access to space down.

  • Richard M

    “Did the Dragon not land on earth like SpaceX reusable rockets because of the weight of the crew and the components ( seats, air tanks, food, water ) required only when humans are onboard?”

    SpaceX’s original plan was to use the Super Draco engines to do a propulsive landing for the Dragon.

    But what NASA wanted to prove the concept out and certify it would have been cost prohibitive for SpaceX (which would have had to pick up the tab for the testing program). So they shifted to parachute recovery at sea.

  • sippin_bourbon

    “just do not see the point of putting people in space.”

    Didn’t JFK give a speech about that?

  • Steve Richter

    “… Didn’t JFK give a speech about that? …”

    yeah, and 50 years after the moon landing, what more have humans been able to do in space? Arguably, sending men to the moon rather than machines made practical sense in that computer, communication and automation technologies were relatively primitive in the 60s and 70s. And if you want to talk about exciting the public, sending up solar radiation shields would garner billions in funding and advance rocket and automated machine technology.

  • Steve Richter

    does the Dragon have heat shields similar to the Apollo crew capsule? Is Dragon able to slow down by gliding? How does it dissipate all the energy of its orbital speed?

  • Ray Van Dune

    Steve Richter,
    Dragon works the same way as Soyuz, Apollo, Gemini, Mercury, and Starliner, using a heat shield to dissipate orbital energy into the atmosphere.

    Apollo had the most ability to “glide” by virtue of being the most discus-like. And of course it returned at more like 25kmph than 17kmph since it was returning from the moon, not Earth orbit. It actually dipped into the atmosphere, then gained back some altitude before again dipping in to lose the rest of its excess energy. Think of a huge frisbee (although it did not spin).

  • sippin_bourbon

    “Arguably, sending men to the moon rather than machines made practical sense in that computer, communication and automation technologies were relatively primitive in the 60s and 70s.”

    I wonder why those techs advanced so rapidly.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Necessity is the mother of invention.

    20 inventions or or improved products as a result of Space travel:
    https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/infographics/infographic.view.php?id=11358
    I think this just scratches the surface, tho.

    Historically, war has been the driving force that causes advancements in technology.
    We are forever finding new tech to further destruction, either directly (new weapons systems) or indirectly (support or logistics systems). Advancements in drones and remote use “robots” has proceeded quickly. Mid-flight interception of rockets, and the battlefield use of ground penetrating RADAR has taken off in the last 30 years as well. Such tech has advanced, been hardened and miniaturized.

    War is always a boost to medical R&D as well. Amputations abounded in the Iraq/Afg confilcts because advanced body armor spared lives that would have otherwise been lost, at the cost of a limb (sometimes several). Look how much prosthetic limbs have advanced since 2001.

    Space travel provides the necessity without the direct conflict. Basic googling can help you find the benefits of a Space Program. And now that it is becoming commercial, I expect it the advancements to increase.

    “sending up solar radiation shields ” To do what? Block the sun? The thing that provides light and heat to keep us alive, and makes our food grow? For what purpose “global warming”. No.. sorry, such a plan sounds like mass starvation in the making.

  • Tim Smyth

    Kyle and Bob:

    I think some of the reason for re-use of crew dragons is concern about when Starliner will come into service and the fact that SpaceX can only build so many so fast thus given the low odds of Starliner being ready for Crew-2 I don’t think NASA had a lot of choice other than to allow re-use. Another effect of Starliner’s problems is in efffect now NASA has a bunch of mission already paid for in part to Boeing back loaded out several years when SpaceX could very well be selling seats for even less than they do today.

    I do want Starliner to succeed however, for this reason. A big part of the whole justification for ISS as it exists in partnership with Russia is from the beginning that Russia brought a “second” redundant access means to the program i.e. Soyuz. If you have “two” redundant US crew access means you can start going back to the original 1980s era plans for the space station cutting out the Russians, having the station at a much lower inclination and higher apogee and using the station as an intermediate transport point for deeper space exploration as was intended in the Reagan era Space Station Freedom plans.

    I think the sooner Starliner gets off the ground the sooner we can have this real discussion.

    PS To me there is nothing apparent in the early LOP-G plans that would block it from being repurposed as a lower inclination higher apogee replacement for ISS.

  • Edward

    Steve Richter asked: “just do not see the point of putting people in space. All the weight that has to be launched to support them. Has the space station provided anything of value? True, a lot of solid knowledge on the effects of space on humans.

    Some companies are doing research on ISS to improve their production on Earth. Often they are discovering what is possible so that they can figure out how to do it on Earth. Most of the science, however, is basic knowledge exploration. Who knows how valuable that will turn out to be? For instance, no one could have foreseen the effect lens grinding would have on health care until a microscope discovered germs.

    There are several points to putting people into space. People are adaptable and can repair faulty equipment or experiments. They have the opportunity to modify or follow up on experiments that produce unexpected or interesting results. People can explore much more and much faster than our probes and rovers, producing far more value for the money spent than unmanned exploration provides; the samples are better when we have the better perspective as to which ones to collect.

    But my favorite reason is the same as the one used for vacations; being there is very important to humans (Robert once phrased this eloquently). The photographs have more meaning when we are in them.

    50 years after the moon landing, what more have humans been able to do in space?

    Only what Congress is willing to fund. This is a major complaint that we have had for four decades, ever since the Space Shuttle proved it could not do what had been promised. Today, NASA Administrator Bridenstine was on the Ben Shapiro radio show, and three things he said resonated with me. He wants to see a commercial marketplace in low earth orbit; if the government is the only supplier of resources then it is a zero sum game, meaning that commercial space is able to expand the “pie” rather than have only one pie that is distributed by government; and there is far more capital available outside of NASA than there is inside of NASA. Depending upon NASA is why we are so very far behind in the use and exploration of space.

    does the Dragon have heat shields similar to the Apollo crew capsule? Is Dragon able to slow down by gliding? How does it dissipate all the energy of its orbital speed?

    Dragon’s heat shield is a different material than Apollo’s, hopefully usable about ten times, but the concept is the same. There is no gliding, but like Apollo, Dragon has a small amount of maneuverability during reentry to help hit the target splashdown zone. Once it is on parachutes, though, it is at the whim of the breeze.

    The energy is dissipated through heating the air. The blunt base of the capsule causes the air to compress at supersonic speeds, and due to the laws of thermodynamics, this causes the air to heat up. The air gets so hot that it becomes ionized, and radio signals do not propagate well through ionization. This is why there is a blackout period. The heating is great enough that a portion of the heat shield melts and is blown away, called ablating, and that carrying away of part of the heat is part of how the heat shield helps keep the capsule from overheating.

    The Space Shuttle also compressed the air in front of it, but it had enough lift to stay higher in the atmosphere, where the air was thin enough that the heating was less, allowing for the heat shield to not be ablative, thus reusable. Apollo, Soyuz, and Dragon do not have the lift capability to stay in this thinner part of the atmosphere.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb4prVsXkZU (17 nominates, “How to land the Space Shuttle from space”)

  • pzatchok

    i can not see why Space X can not test the draco engines on a cargo drop,

    They can test fire them after the burn in blackout period and still allow the capsule to parachute into the water.

    Eventually working up to landing the capsule on one of the barges used for the first stage landings.

    It doesn’t need landing legs it can land in a huge airbag on the deck.

  • Edward

    pzatchok suggested: “It doesn’t need landing legs it can land in a huge airbag on the deck.

    Unless the hot exhaust from the SuperDracos bursts the airbag. If the engines are shut down higher, so that the airbag is not damaged, then the drop becomes farther and the soft landing becomes less soft. There are tradeoffs in engineering, so the question is whether this one is worth pursuing.

  • sippin_bourbon

    5 min vid about competition in space, from John Stossel

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP2l2oJUJY4

  • pzatchok

    The bag could be packed in a safe container until the actual last second then inflate like an airbag from a car.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Why mess with that.
    They originally wanted legs that extended from the bottom through the heat shield.
    NASA said “we do not compromise the shield with holes.

    When not pivoting legs that drop from the sides, the same as the booster legs.

    Only down side I can think of is weight.

  • pzatchok

    I am right there with you Sippin_bourbon.

    There might be a problem with space on the outside. The legs might now block areas they need access to.

    But designs can change and Space X has proven they can make those changes fast.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I thought about it. Anything in the outside of the vessel would have to be protected from the heat of re-entry, even on the side.
    The temp would not be as high as the bottom, of course, but still signifigant.

    So legs on the side, either pivoting, or telescoping, would need to be protected, and be rated against the heat so that they would be 100% reliable after exposure.

    The booster does not have this issue, as it does not have the same heat to contend with. So legs on the outside work fine.

    Putting them on the vessel means they would need to be embedded or covered in someway. That turns into a major re-design.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I missed this from a few weeks ago.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1tsU3Se6GM

    NASA Admits they Favored Boeing over SpaceX
    7:40

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