Category Archives: Spaceflight

Watch This Hauntingly Beautiful Footage From Orion’s Fiery Return to Earth


On December 5, 2014, at 7:05 a.m. EST, an enormous Delta IV Heavy roared into the sky from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, sending a test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft on a “flawless” four-and-a-half hour, two-orbit voyage which took it 3,604 miles away from Earth – farther than any spacecraft designed for human occupants has ventured since Apollo 17. (Read my personal account of that historic event here.) Later that same day Orion returned to Earth, reentering the atmosphere and splashing down in the Pacific off the southern tip of Baja California where U.S. Navy ships and recovery divers were waiting. The event was broadcast live as seen by surveillance aircraft, but today NASA has shared HD video captured from the spacecraft itself: a hauntingly beautiful rear-view mirror look at Orion’s “trial by fire” reentry, parachute descent, and splashdown.

A look back through Orion's reentry plasma trail (NASA)

A look back through Orion’s reentry plasma trail (NASA)

It’s ten minutes and fifteen seconds that you will certainly not want to miss. Check it out above.

“The video begins 10 minutes before Orion’s 11:29 a.m. EST splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, just as the spacecraft was beginning to experience Earth’s atmosphere. Peak heating from the friction caused by the atmosphere rubbing against Orion’s heat shield comes less than two minutes later, and the footage shows the plasma created by the interaction change from white to yellow to lavender to magenta as the temperature increases. The video goes on to show the deployment of Orion’s parachutes and the final splash as it touches down.”

Learn more about the Orion spacecraft and mission here.

Video credit: NASA

NASA Makes Orion’s First Launch a Social Event

The attendees of the EFT-1 NASA Social in front of Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral AFS (NASA)

The attendees of the EFT-1 NASA Social in front of Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral AFS (NASA)

“It’s gonna be a BFD,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week during a live broadcast on NASA TV, regarding the then-imminent launch of the Orion spacecraft. And it certainly was a “BFD” – to NASA and its partners, to the nation, and especially to the 150 participants of the EFT-1 NASA Social who were seated around the Administrator in a packed conference room inside Kennedy Space Center’s Operations Support Building II, located just a few hundred yards from its enormous and iconic VAB. If you read my earlier posts you already know that I was lucky enough to be a part of this group, and once again NASA created an incredibly memorable event for its space fan guests – which included me!

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Orion to Soar Into Space This Week for a NASA Social

This Thursday, at 7:05 a.m. EST, the launch window for NASA’s Orion will open and – weather permitting – it will lift off aboard an enormous ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral for its maiden voyage into space. The event will be broadcast live on NASA TV starting at 4:30 a.m., and I’ll also be live on site watching from the causeway at Kennedy Space Center as part of a NASA Social event. As they’re saying on Twitter, #ImOnBoard!

Orion is NASA’s next-generation human spaceflight vehicle, built by Lockheed Martin to allow astronauts to one day travel farther than ever before… beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon, asteroids, and Mars. Designed to ultimately launch aboard the upcoming Space Launch System of rockets, Orion’s uncrewed EFT-1 launch this week will send it into orbit 3,600 miles above the Earth to test its flight, reentry, and splashdown capabilities.

Follow the launch on Twitter at hashtags #DeltaIV and #EFT1, and follow me on Instagram for some pics from KSC and the launch site too!

Learn more about NASA’s Orion program here.

NASA’s Turning Up the Heat: Orion’s Upcoming Trial by Fire


On the morning of December 4 2014, at 7:05 a.m. EST, a ULA Delta IV Heavy will thunder into the sky from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Pad 37, its orange-and-white triple-barreled, Boy Scout salute-shaped rocket carrying NASA’s next-generation Orion space vehicle 3,600 miles into space where it will perform a multi-stage orbital test before splashing down in the Pacific. Called Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1 for short) it will be the first high-altitude flight of the Lockheed Martin-built Orion vehicle and the first step in NASA’s current goal of sending humans farther out into the Solar System than ever before.

The EFT-1 reentry will subject Orion to temperatures of over 4000ºF!

The EFT-1 reentry will subject Orion to temperatures of over 4000ºF!

The video above shows what will happen during the four-hour EFT-1 “Trial by Fire,” from liftoff to splashdown.

And while nobody will be on board Orion for this flight, I (and quite a few other space fans!) will be on board for a NASA Social event at the Cape and Kennedy Space Center, where we’ll learn more about Orion, NASA and its commercial crew partners, and ultimately watch the launch from the Causeway viewing site from the incredibly close distance of 2.7 miles! It’ll be loud, it’ll be bright, and it will be the beginning of a new era for NASA. I’m honored to be able to be a part of it!

Want to know more about Orion’s first flight? Check out an infographic below of what will happen on Dec. 4:

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Spaceflight is Still Hard: Antares Explosion Destroys Station Supplies

Explosion of the Antares rocket and Cygnus resupply vehicle on October 28, 2014. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Explosion of the Antares rocket and Cygnus resupply vehicle on October 28, 2014. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

This past Tuesday, October 28, at 6:22 p.m. EDT, an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket lifted off from the shorefront pad at NASA’s Wallops Space Flight Facility in Virginia, the Cygnus vehicle inside its fairing . The third of eight planned launches in Orbital Sciences’ $1.9-billion NASA contract, the Orb-3 mission was to deliver over 5,000 lbs of cargo to the International Space Station after a beautiful nighttime launch that would be visible to viewers up and down the U.S. East Coast.

Except, as you probably know by now, that’s not at all what happened.

Just six seconds after ignition and liftoff from the pad, a series of explosions ran through the Antares rocket. Ablaze, the 133-foot-tall stack stopped in midair and then fell back onto the pad in a fiery smear, where it and its contents of fuels and cargo detonated in an enormous explosion. It was incredible, it was catastrophic, it was awful.

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No, The Moon Landings Weren’t Faked. (And Here’s How You Can Tell.)

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon with a lunar seismic experiment, July 20, 1969 (NASA photo)

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon with a lunar seismic experiment, July 20, 1969 (NASA photo)

When you write about space as often as I do (and use a laptop with a big NASA sticker on the cover no less) you’re occasionally going to get the question posed to you: did we really land on the Moon? (That, and “do you believe in UFOs?”) And with this year marking the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing — which, by the way, most definitely happened — and this particular weekend being 45 years since the Apollo 10 “dress rehearsal” lunar orbiting mission, I thought I’d assemble a list of a few oft-purported  “proofs” of a Moon landing hoax… and then let you know why they’re completely wrong.

You’ve probably heard a few of these before…

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Now You Can Watch Beautiful Live Video of Earth From Space

Image from one of the four HDEV cameras mounted on the ISS on May 7, 2014 (NASA_

Video screen capture from one of the four HDEV cameras mounted on the ISS on May 7, 2014 (NASA)

This is something really special, and everyone should know about it, and so I’m doing my part and sharing it here but please feel free to pass it along yourself as well. We now have publicly-accessible, high-definition video of our planet coming in live from the Space Station, thanks to the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment aboard the ISS. Activated April 30 of this year, HDEV consists of four cameras contained within a single housing mounted on the External Payload Facility of the European Space Agency’s Columbus module. When the experiment is running these cameras take actual video of the planet as the ISS passes overhead in real time (not a recording or time-lapse) which is simultaneously aired live online FOR EVERYONE TO SEE.

It’s beautiful, it’s mesmerizing, it’s fascinating (when it’s on, of course) and you really just need to see it for yourself.

Check out the live video here, or you can watch the Ustream feed right here on LITD below:

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