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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

Space is cool as sending people to the freakin Moon for the first time 50 years ago

Earth is a spaceship, just like Apollo - and just like Apollo, the crew must learn to live and work together. We must learn to manage the resources of this world with new imagination.

Jim Lovell.

Kate Howells works with The Planetary Society to build and manage a global network of volunteers who do educational outreach in their communities, and to develop volunteer activities that support The Planetary Society's goals and strategic vision. Kate also leads the development of the Society's youth education program.

50 Years ago today mankind escaped the pull of Earth's gravity for the first time.

We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth. William Anders

21st December 1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 is launched from the Kennedy Space Center, placing its crew on a lunar trajectory for the first visit to another celestial body by humans.

  • The first manned spacecraft to leave Earth orbit, reach the Earth's Moon, orbit it and return safely to Earth

  • Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders (on his first flight!!! 35th person)

  • First Christmas for Humans is space

  • First humans to: travel beyond low Earth orbit;

  • First humans to see Earth as a whole planet;

  • First humans to pass through the Van Allen radiation belts,

  • Highest speed, relative to Earth, that humans had ever traveled

  • First humans to enter the gravity well of another celestial body

  • First humans to orbit another celestial body);

  • First humans to directly see the far side of the Moon with their own eyes;

  • First humans to witness an Earthrise;

  • First humans to escape the gravity of another celestial body;

  • First humans to re-enter the gravitational well of Earth

  • Podcast 60 for our 49th anniversary Rundown.

Podcast 75 for our chat with Robert Kurson who wrote Rocket Men about Apollo 8 HIGHLY recommended,

  • Bill Anders's space suit is on display at the Science Museum in London,

Happy Birthday or “s Dnem rozhden'ya”

Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko (born December 22, 1961)

The retired Russian cosmonaut. the first person to marry in space when he married Ekaterina Dmitrieva, who was in Texas, while he was 240 miles over New Zealand, on the International Space Station.

Safely home!

Alexander Gerst of ESA , NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev safely touched down on the snowy steppe of Kazakhstan at 12:02 a.m. EST (0502 GMT), one minute ahead of schedule. The trio spent a total of 197 days in space working as part of Expeditions 56 and 57.

This Week in Space

Virgin Galagtic ...getting close!

Mark "Forger" Stucky and C.J Sturckow piloting VSS Unity vlast Thursday before burning its rocket motor for 60-seconds

  • Mach 2.9 and soared to an

  • altitude of 82.68km.

  • Is this space Jonathan McDowell thinks it very may well be.

Indian Triumph

A Military communications satellite with a weight of 2,250 kg, GSAT-7A was launched from Sriharikota via Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) on Wednesday.


On Monday this week, BepiColombo began its very first routine electric propulsion firing.

  • BepiColombo ESA/JAXA mission will be steered by 22 thruster burn arcs, each providing the same acceleration from less fuel compared to traditional, high-energy chemical burns that last for minutes or hours.

  • This first arc will last two months, during which BepiColombo’s electric blue ‘jet packs’ will steer the explorer on its interplanetary trajectory and optimise its orbit, ahead of its swing by of Earth in April 2020.

  • BepiColombo’s maximum planned thrust level for the entire journey is 250 mN, with two thrusters each firing at 125mN. This is equivalent to 250 ants pulling the 4 tonne BepiColombo spacecraft all the way to the innermost planet of the Solar System!

  • Each thruster would feell like holding the weight of a tablespoon of sugar. 12.5grams

  • Travelling nine billion kilometers in total, BepiColombo will make nine flybys at Earth, Venus and Mercury, looping around the Sun 18 times.

And staying with ESA

Exactly one year after the signing of the Prometheus demonstrator development contract between the European Space Agency (ESA) and ArianeGroup, testing of the 3D-printed gas generator has started at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen, Germany.

  • Prometheus is a European demonstrator for a very low cost reusable engine operating on liquid oxygen (LOx) and methane. It is the precursor of the future engines for Europe’s launchers by 2030.

The aim is to be able to produce future liquid propellant engines at a unit cost which is 10 times less than the cost of building the Vulcain®2 type engine today. The success of a technological challenge of this nature rests on a completely new design and the use of innovative methods and resources in both design and production.

  • In addition to a change in the traditional Ariane propellants (i.e., the transition from a liquid oxygen and hydrogen to a liquid oxygen and methane), the demonstrator will incorporate a number of key changes, including digitized control and engine diagnostics, as well as construction using 3D printing, in a connected factory environment.

  • “The success of the gas generator campaign as well as, compliance with the scheduled Prometheus design review date, is excellent news for the development of the European technologies of tomorrow and the future of Europe’s launchers. It is vital to demonstrate the pertinence of our technological choices, less than a year before the ESA Ministerial Conference which will decide the evolution of Ariane 6”, said Alain Charmeau, CEO of ArianeGroup.

Other Companies pursuing Methane?

  • Blue Origin - BE-4 (ULA Vulcan and New Glenn)

  • Raptor - SpaceX - BFR

  • MIRA from VEGA E


  • methane being not a long chain of carbon means there are less intermediate products, so you avoid having coke forming in your rockets' plumbing, this is a good advantage over RP-1 for reusable rockets.

  • methane has lighter exhausts so that translates into higher ISP than RP-1,

  • Less dense that RP-1 but more dense than Liquid Hydrogen, bit of a down side, but not that bad

  • Burns cooler so better for re-uusable engines

  • Can be made on Mars using the Sabatier Process (ship Hydrogen to mars and that can be converted to Methane and LOX using the planets CO2.

  • You can pressurise the tanks using the same gas you are using, just cycle it round the engine and heat it.

  • AUTOGENOUS PRESSURISATION (SPACE WORD OF THE WEEK) so you can get rid of a bit of complexity and not bother with helium pressure tanks for example!!!

  • It’s cryogenic so can cool engine parts etc.

ESA announced the winners of it’s new space transport services competition, winners included SpaceTug which offers orbit-raising services to satellite customers via electric propulsion. and Spain’s PLD Space microlauncher, Miura 5 (formerly Arion 2),

Electron: A Rocket Lab Electron rocket successfully launched a group of cubesats Dec. 16

NASA purchased the launch for its CubeSat Launch Initiative program, which provides launches for cubesats developed by academic institutions and NASA centers. This particular flight, known as Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) 19, features three satellites built by NASA centers, six by universities and one by a charter school in Idaho.


  • What happens when galaxies collide?

  • It is very common for galaxies to collide

  • A galaxy is made of roughly 100 billion stars. So a head on collision between two galaxies, there would be countless collisions between stars?

  • The probability of two stars colliding is almost 0.

  • The sizes of the stars are very small compared to the average distance between them.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth. Frank Borman

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