Space

VIDEO: NASA’s Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell Dies At Age 85

By  //  February 6, 2016

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LUNAR MODULE PILOT ON APOLLO 14

ABOVE VIDEO: Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, passed away Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., on the eve of the 45th anniversary of his lunar landing.

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, passed away Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., on the eve of the 45th anniversary of his lunar landing.

Mitchell joined Apollo 14 commander Alan Shephard, Jr., the first American in space, in the lunar module Antares, which touched down Feb. 5, 1971, in the Fra Mauro highlands. Shepard and Mitchell were assigned to traverse the lunar surface to deploy scientific instruments and perform a communications test on the surface, as well as photograph the lunar surface and any deep space phenomena. It was Mitchell’s only spaceflight.

Mitchell and Shephard set mission records for the time of the longest distance traversed on the lunar surface; the largest payload returned from lunar surface; and the longest lunar stay time (33 hours). They were also the first to transmit color TV from the lunar surface. Mitchell helped collect 94 pounds of lunar rock and soil samples that were distributed across 187 scientific teams in the United States and 14 other countries for analysis.

Charles Bolden

Charles Bolden

“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my condolences to the family and friends of NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

“As a member of the Apollo 14 crew, Edgar is one of only 12 men to walk on the moon and he helped to change how we view our place in the universe. “

Mitchell was drawn to the spaceflight by President Kennedy’s call to send astronauts to the moon.

“After Kennedy announced the moon program, that’s what I wanted, because it was the bear going over the mountain to see what he could see, and what could you learn, and I’ve been devoted to that, to exploration, education, and discovery since my earliest years, and that’s what kept me going,” Mitchell said in 1997 interview for NASA’s oral history program.

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“To me, that (spaceflight) was the culmination of my being, and what can I learn from this? What is it we are learning? That’s important, because I think what we’re trying to do is discover ourselves and our place in the cosmos, and we don’t know. We’re still looking for that.”

In his book “The Way of the Explorer”, Mitchell wrote, “There was a sense that our presence as space travelers, and the existence of the universe itself, was not accidental but that there was an intelligent process at work.”

Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14 lunar module pilot stands by the deployed U.S. flag on the lunar surface during the early moments of the mission's first spacewalk. He was photographed by astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., mission commander. While astronauts Shepard and Mitchell descended in the Lunar Module "Antares" to explore the Fra Mauro region of the moon, astronaut Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Module "Kitty Hawk" in lunar orbit. (NASA.gov image)

Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14 lunar module pilot stands by the deployed U.S. flag on the lunar surface during the early moments of the mission’s first spacewalk. He was photographed by astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., mission commander. While astronauts Shepard and Mitchell descended in the Lunar Module “Antares” to explore the Fra Mauro region of the moon, astronaut Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Module “Kitty Hawk” in lunar orbit. (NASA.gov image)

Mitchell retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in 1973, organized to sponsor research in the nature of consciousness. In 1984, he co-founded the Association of Space Explorers, and international organization for all who “share experience of space travel.”

The mission of this organization is to provide a new understanding of the human condition resulting from the epoch of space exploration.

Edgar D. Mitchell was born Sept. 17, 1930 in Hereford, Texas, and considered Artesia, N.M., his hometown. He graduated with a B.S. in Industrial Management from Carnegie Mellon in 1952, a B.S. in Aeronautics from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1961 and a Doctorate in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964.

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, passed away Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., on the eve of the 45th anniversary of his lunar landing. (NASA.gov image)

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, passed away Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., on the eve of the 45th anniversary of his lunar landing. (NASA.gov image)

NASA selected Mitchell as an astronaut in 1966. He served on the support crew for Apollo 9 and as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 10. He worked in the lunar module simulator at the Johnson Space Center during Apollo 13, developing procedures that would bring the crew of that crippled spacecraft home.

Mitchell has resided in Palm Beach County, Florida, since 1975. He is survived by his four daughters, Karlyn Mitchell, Elizabeth Kendall, Kimberly Mitchell, Mary Beth Johnson; two sons, Paul Mitchell and Adam Mitchell; and nine grandchildren.

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Burns for Jupiter

Artist concept of Juno and Jupiter
Launching from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This graphic shows how NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter
This graphic shows how NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter became the most distant solar-powered explorer and influenced the future of space exploration powered by the sun.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/

NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully executed a maneuver to adjust its flight path today, Feb. 3. The maneuver refined the spacecraft’s trajectory, helping set the stage for Juno’s arrival at the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant five months and a day from now.

“This is the first of two trajectory adjustments that fine tune Juno’s orbit around the sun, perfecting our rendezvous with Jupiter on July 4th at 8:18 p.m. PDT [11:18 p.m. EDT],” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

The maneuver began at 10:38 a.m. PST (1:38 p.m. EST). The Juno spacecraft’s thrusters consumed about 1.3 pounds (0.6 kilograms) of fuel during the burn, and changed the spacecraft’s speed by 1 foot (0.31 meters), per second. At the time of the maneuver, Juno was about 51 million miles (82 million kilometers) from Jupiter and approximately 425 million miles (684 million kilometers) from Earth. The next trajectory correction maneuver is scheduled for May 31.

Juno was launched on Aug. 5, 2011. The spacecraft will orbit the Jovian world 33 times, skimming to within 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops every 14 days. During the flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its aurorae to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Juno’s name comes from Greek and Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife — the goddess Juno — was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

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Here’s Why the SpaceX Rocket Landing Is Such a Big Deal

In November, Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, also landed a rocket. (Which landing was the bigger achievement? That’s up for debate).

This is a big deal because rockets are expensive. The Falcon 9 that SpaceX uses costs around $60 million to build, the company told NBC News. Fuel costs per launch are about $200,000.

Most rockets are designed to burn up during re-entry. That means rebuilding a $60 million rocket for every single space mission— not exactly the most cost-effective system.

Related: SpaceX Makes History: Falcon 9 Launches, Lands Vertically

Reusable rockets, however, would mean cargo could be sent into space with only the fuel and maintenance costs to consider.

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred,”Musk said on SpaceX’s website.

“A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.”

SpaceX Launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lands on Monday night in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX

If it’s 100 times cheaper to send something into space, imagine how many more companies would be able to launch space ventures, ranging from satellites to commercial space flights.

“With lower costs and competition, prices could fall, stimulating demand for more access to space,” Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told NBC News.

While the Falcon 9 landing was “an important” step toward reusable rockets, Pace said, SpaceX engineers still have a lot of work to do. So far, they have managed to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket.

“The next step is to see how much it costs and how long it takes to refurbish the recovered stage and fly it again,” Pace said.

Related: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Welcomes Elon Musk ‘To the Club’ After Rocket Landing

And if companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance (a consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin) can reuse rockets again and again? That might not only make for cheaper satellites, but could also open up the next frontier: Mars.

Musk has repeatedly talked about the importance of reaching the Red Planet, not only for NASA pioneers, but for ordinary people. Considering it cost around $2.5 billion to send the Curiosity rover to Mars, prices will have to drop a lot to make sending large groups of human colonists feasible.

“This is a critical step along the way toward being able to establish a city on Mars,” Musk told reporters on Monday. “That’s what all this is about.”

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