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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Sputnik – The Space Race Began!

Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, October 4, 2018
2:07 pm

SputnikSixty years ago today, on October 4, 1957, the USSR laughed Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, into orbit around earth.  I was just four years old.

Catching the western world by surprise, this launch was the first visible sign of the Soviet Union’s growing supremacy in space technology.  I grew up in the midst of this space race, with utter fascination in all things related to space travel.

It was several years before I gave up my dreams of becoming an astronaut to focus electrical engineering!

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Liftoff – So Cool!

Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, July 22, 2016
4:27 pm

At 12:45 a.m. EDT on July 18, 2016, the SpaceX Falcon 9 launched and landed over Port Canaveral. The rocket was carrying the Dragon CRS-9 craft to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com


Shots like this are still thrilling to me!

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First Step onto the Moon!

Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
2:43 pm

Where were you when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon July 20, 1969, forty seven years ago today?

I was sixteen years old, living on a farm outside Richfield, Idaho. Our family didn’t own a television set, but on that historic Sunday evening, our family joined some friends in town to watch the moon landing on their black and white television.

What a thrill to see that grainy image of a man from earth climb down the stairs and step onto the surface of the moon!


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First American to Walk in Space

Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, June 3, 2016
2:17 pm

Gemini 4

Fifty one years ago, on June 3, 1965, Edward H. White became the first American to walk in space. As pilot for the Gemini 4 mission, Ed White was able to step outside the Gemini capsule for 21 minutes, tethered to the spacecraft but propelled about by a hand held jet-propulsion gun.

I remember how fantastic that seemed to my young boy mind way back then.  It is still pretty cool to think about it now.

Unfortunately, on January 27, 1967, Ed White, along with Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, died in a flash fire in the Apollo 1 command module during a launch rehearsal test.

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Is it Real?

Social Media, Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
1:34 pm


This morning, I saw a cool photo of the Space Shuttle bursting through the clouds on Facebook and shared it with my friends.  

But alas, I subsequently found out in an article on Universe Today, that photographer Richard Silvera faked it;

The picture of the sky and clouds was taken by me from an airplane, and the shuttle is a picture from NASA. Then the assembly was done in Photoshop & Lightroom.

So, as the wise Abraham Lincoln once said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”

Or was that George Washington?

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First American in Space!

Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, May 5, 2016
8:05 am

Fifty-five years ago today, a long time before I knew anything about Cinco de Mayo, Alan Shepherd became the first American in space, riding the Freedom 7 Mercury space capsule atop the Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle for a fifteen minute sub-orbital flight. 


From Wikipedia:

Shepard’s mission was a 15-minute suborbital flight with the primary objective of demonstrating his ability to withstand the high g forces of launch and atmospheric re-entry. His spacecraft reached an altitude of 101.2 nautical miles (187.5 kilometers) and traveled a downrange distance of 263.1 nautical miles (487.3 kilometers). 

During the flight, Shepard observed the Earth and tested the capsule’s attitude control system, turning the capsule around to face its blunt heat shield forward for atmospheric re-entry. He also tested the retrorockets which would return later missions from orbit, though the capsule did not have enough energy to remain in orbit. After re-entry, the capsule landed by parachute on the Atlantic ocean off the Bahamas. Shepard and the capsule were picked up by helicopter and brought to an aircraft carrier.

The mission was a technical success, though American pride in the accomplishment was dampened by the fact that just 3 weeks before, the Soviet Union had launched the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, who completed one orbit on Vostok 1.

Although I was just eight years old, I remember this event distinctly.  I wanted to be an astronaut, just like Alan Shepard! In accord with the Cold War mentality of that time, we desperately wanted the US astronauts to beat the Russians, but it took several more years before the United States could achieve space race superiority.

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A Stroll in Space

Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
2:58 pm

What a way to celebrate Winter Solstice!  According to NASA:

Expedition 46 Flight Engineer Tim Kopra … and Commander Scott Kelly successfully moved the International Space Station’s mobile transporter rail car ahead of Wednesday’s docking of a Russian cargo supply spacecraft.


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Educational Resources for Space

Education, Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, August 3, 2015
6:36 pm


Recently, I received some fun suggestions from Jasmine Dyoco from EducatorLabs via the Feedback page on this site. Intrigued by some of the Space Travel posts on this blog, she suggested a number of great links to educational sites related to Space and science:

I was impressed by the Vision of EducatorLabs:

EducatorLabs is comprised of school librarians and media/market research specialists who work as curators and conservators of the scholastic web. In previous decades, our resource collections were finite and we knew our card catalog backwards and forwards; nowadays, modern technology provides us with a seemingly infinite inventory of educational resources. Unfortunately, there simply are no comprehensive card catalogs for the internet and, sadly, many untapped resources go undiscovered by most teachers.

Naturally, we feel compelled to bridge the gap. Our mission is to assist educators, for whom time is a precious commodity, in discovering valuable resources of substance for classroom use. We also seek to strengthen connections among the educational web by acting as courier: because of our high standards, our approach is grassroots and hands-on in nature.

As a father of six children, all of whom graduated from public schools in Mesa, AZ, I have deep respect for dedicated educators who go above and beyond their “job descriptions” to offer students outstanding educational experience. And now, as my grandchildren are growing up, I am so grateful for teachers and schools that are willing to go the extra mile to help young minds learn and grow and spread their wings of discovery!

Thank you, Jasmine!

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Coolest Travel Voucher I’ve Seen!

Space Travel, Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, August 3, 2015
12:45 pm

Submitting expense reports is one of the seemingly never-ending exercises I have had to endure in over three decades of professional travel. But last week I saw a copy of the coolest travel expense report I have ever seen.

Col. Buzz Aldrin submitted an expense report requesting reimbursement for $33.31 to cover personal expenses for his Apollo 11 trip to the moon!





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To the Moon and Back: We Can Do Hard Things

Leadership, Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
10:15 am

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Kennedy moon speech 1961

A brief excerpt of the speech:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

… in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

What a thrill it was of living through those years of incredible innovation, splendid courage and diligent work by so many people. As President Kennedy said, it was not just one man going to the moon, it was a nation united in effort to get that astronauts there and bring them back.

P.S.  I think the look on Lyndon Johnson’s face is priceless.  It is as if he were thinking, “What in the world has that guy been smoking? We’ll never do that!”

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