Sixty years ago Monday, a 27-year-old Russian test pilot named Yuri Gagarin strapped into a Vostok capsule in Central Asia and rode into orbit atop a launcher derived from a Soviet nuclear missile, becoming the first human to travel into the void of space. Twenty years later, in 1981, the era of reusable spacecraft dawned with the first launch of NASA’s space shuttle.
Thirty years ago Friday, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched aboard the shuttle Discovery with a famously flawed mirror, the opening chapter in an improbable saga of redemption and scientific discovery that revolutionized humanity’s view of the cosmos with jaw-dropping images now familiar to millions.
Former Johnson Space Center Director Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr., the man who created the iconic role of NASA flight director during the Mercury and Gemini programs and whose no-nonsense, uncompromising management style defined control room operations and discipline through the Apollo years and beyond, died Monday. He was 95.
A series of unprecedented back-to-back test-firings of a rocket engine originally developed for NASA’s space shuttle concluded earlier this month, giving engineers data crucial to achieving rapid 24-hour turnarounds planned for a U.S. military-funded reusable winged booster under construction at Boeing, government and industry officials said.
Former astronaut Bruce McCandless II, a retired Navy captain and son of a Medal of Honor winner who joined NASA during the buildup to the Apollo program, served as capsule communicator when Neil Armstrong took his historic first step on the moon and later flew in space twice during the shuttle program, died Thursday. He was 80.
When Chris Ferguson climbed into the commander’s seat of the shuttle Atlantis five years ago for the spaceship’s final flight, he didn’t know what turn his career would take when he returned to Earth. Now the former F-14 fighter pilot helps lead Boeing’s development of the CST-100 Starliner space taxi, one of two U.S.-built commercial spacecraft selected by NASA to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.