Monday, September 21, 2009


OK, I won't remind you of the funky 1969 movie of the same name... but NASA was always aware of the possibility that a crew could be stranded in space. With the increased duration flights of Skylab, they commissioned Rockwell (builder of the Command Module) to do something about it.

The hypothetical Skylab Rescue Mission would utilize a CM with the storage lockers behind the seats removed, and two extra couches installed. Two astronauts would launch on a Saturn 1B, dock with Skylab (or the ailing CM), transfer the crew of three, and bring all 5 men home.

During the Skylab 3 mission, they almost had a chance to test the craft. The Skylab 3 service module began leaking maneuvering fuel, reducing the working ACS thrusters to just two sets, the minimum allowable. NASA actually assembled a Saturn 1B with the modified CSM atop it in the VAB, prepped to move to the pad whenever needed. As it turned out, the Command Module attached to Skylab was able to bring home its crew after the 59-day mission, but it was a close call.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Remember the Soviet space shuttle? Way back in the early 1980's, the Soviet Union apparently got a case of "shuttle envy," and though they had experimented with a few unique designs (smaller scaled test vehicles), decided ultimately to build a darned-near drop-dead copy of the US shuttle. The most pronounced and obvious difference was the planned addition of two air-breathing jet engines to allow the Soviet item, named Buran ("Snowstorm") a come-about/landing abort capability.

Oddly, the craft was flown only once, and an unmanned flight at that. In 1988, after a launch through moderate storms, the craft performed two orbits of Earth and returned to land, under computer control, just a few feet from its projected touchdown point. For reasons not fully clear, the next flight was not planned until 1993, 5 years later. But the program was cancelled before that could occur. Buran was then quietly mothballed and left to sit under a large shed in Kazakhstan. There is sat, quietly moldering, until 2002, when record snowfall built up on the (apparently little-maintained) shed roof, and it collapsed, crushing Buran, which sat below. An ignominious end for an apparently capable, if unoriginal, spacecraft.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


On July 24, 1969, just a few days after the first maned lunar landing, Dr. Gilruth, NASA Director, sent this memo of thanks to the various-and-sundry folks who had worked so hard on Apollo. While it didn't repair the broken marriages, ruined health, sleep deprived psychoses, and other maladies resultant from 10 years or tireless work, it sure didn't hurt either. I hope we can see one of these soon, following another high-profile NASA program (are you listening, congress?)...

Sorry for the lapse in posting... my fair city (Pasadena, CA) has been trying to burn itself to the ground, and we've been a bit distracted!


Welcome to the Missions to the Moon book blog. This is a place to re-live the heady days of the Apollo and Soyuz lunar programs- perhaps the crowning achievements of the 20th Century. Many blog entries will include a new downloadable image or artifact from the space age- items rarely seen and not available in print. It's all in the spirit of my newest book, Missions to the Moon- to remember the great adventure of the Golden Age of space exploration, and ponder what wonders await us in space.

For more info on the author, go to