Little Bits of History

You Go Girl!

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 3, 2014
Eileen Collins

Eileen Collins

February 3, 1995: STS-63 lifts off at 05:22 UTC. This was the 20th mission for the Space Shuttle Discovery and the second mission of the US/Russian Shuttle-Mir Program. Liftoff was from Kennedy Space Center with Eileen Collins as pilot. It was the first time a woman pilot took the Space Shuttle into flight. There were a total of six people aboard. Besides the pilot, James Wetherbee, Bernard Harris, Jr., Michael Foale, Janice Voss, and Vladmir Titov were aboard. They were to deploy and retrieve the Spartan-204 platform and do a flyaround Mir in preparation for a mission with docking of the shuttle to the space station. The returned to Earth on February 7.

Eileen Collins was born November 19, 1956. Her parents were immigrants from Ireland, coming to New York where they raised their family of four children. Eileen graduated from Syracuse University in 1978 and was one of four women chosen for pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. She worked as a professor in mathematics as well as a T-41 instructor pilot in Colorado. She became the second female to attend the US Air Force Test Pilot school and was selected for the astronaut program in 1990.

After this mission, she received the Harmon Trophy. Each year, three international trophies are awarded: one to the world’s outstanding aviator, one to the outstanding female aviator, and one to the outstanding aeronaut (balloon or dirigible). It was begun and funded by Clifford Harmon, a wealthy balloonist and aviator who established the award in 1926. Such luminaries as Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride have also earned the trophy. Eileen went on to pilot another mission in 1997, STS-84. She was also the first female commander of a US Spacecraft mission when STS-93 launched in July 1999.

Her next mission was STS-114 which was sent to resupply the International Space Station. Launch date was July 26, 2005. During this mission, Eileen became the first astronaut to fly the Space Shuttle through a complete 360-degree pitch maneuver which was done to assess the underbelly, looking for any damage which might impact reentry. She retired from NASA in 2006 to spend more time with her family. She has also been seen on CNN as an analyst covering Shuttle launches.

We have had a fantastic mission. We are so glad to come back and be able to say it’s a success.

We brought Discovery back in great shape. The crew was very anxious to walk around and see what the outside looks like and it looks fantastic.

It’s just been a wild ride. We’ve finally been able to put the icing on the cake with this mission.

Getting the shuttle back up there is just going to bring the space station back to its full potential. – all from Eileen Collins

Also on this day: Constitutionally Taxing – In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment passes, creating the US income tax.
Show Me the Money – In 1690, the Massachusetts Colony issued a new currency, America’s first paper money.
Say “Cheese” – In 1815, the first industrial cheese plant opened in Switzerland.
Atrocity of War – In 1377, the Cesena Bloodbath took place.

Looking Outward

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 24, 2012

Hubble Space Telescope

April 24, 1990: STS-31, the thirty-fifth mission of the Space Shuttle program lifts off at 8:33:51 AM. The Space Shuttle Discovery rose into the sky from launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The five person crew was led by Commander Loren J. Shriver with Charles F. Bolden, Jr. piloting the craft. Steven A. Hawley, Bruce McCandless II, and Kathryn D. Sullivan completed the crew. John Young had originally been assigned to command the mission but was reassigned to an administrative position after the Challenger disaster four years earlier.

The original launch schedule, April 18, was moved to several different dates while the Flight Readiness Review oversaw preparations. The date moved to April 10 and was scrubbed four minutes prior to launch. The Discovery took off for her tenth mission with a 249,109 pound payload. The purpose of the mission was to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) which was accomplished the next day. The telescope is still changing astronomy and sending home miraculous pictures as well as scientific data.

It is frequently asked if the telescope can be used to take pictures of Earth. The telescope is orbiting 347 miles above the Earth, making one orbit every 96-97 minutes. HST is traveling at 25,000 feet per second and takes 0.1 seconds for the shortest exposure possible. That means the Hubble moves nearly 2,300 feet while taking a picture. The resulting image of the planetary surface would be nothing more than a blur. The telescope was designed to track distant stars, not the planetary surface.

The telescope has shown us the part of the sky we thought was empty isn’t as vacant as previously surmised. The detail in the pictures, a conglomeration from four separate cameras, gives astronomers more information to work with. They have dated the age of the Universe to ≈ 13 or 14 billion years old. They have found something called “dark energy” – a still mysterious force causing the expanding Universe to accelerate. Scientists have been able to observe all stages of evolution for galaxies. There have been more than 6,000 articles written using data sent back from the HST.

Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another. – Plato

From our home on Earth, we look out into the distances and strive to imagine the sort of world into which we were born. With increasing distance our knowledge fades until at the last dim horizon we search among ghostly errors for landmarks scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. The urge is older than history. It is not satisfied and it will not be suppressed. – Edwin P. Hubble

When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system. – Laurel Clark

Those who study the stars have God for a teacher. – Tycho Brahe

Also on this day:

Greeks Bearing Gifts – In 1184 BC the Greeks bring a gift to Troy.
Soyuz 1 – In 1967, the first space fatality occurred.
Hershey’s Park – In 1907, Hersheypark opened.