Today is the the 52nd anniversary of America’s first spacewalk, performed by NASA astronaut Edward H. White II on the afternoon of June 3, 1965 during the four-day Gemini IV mission. In NASA terminology spacewalks are also referred to as extravehicular activities, or EVAs—basically anything done outside the protection of a spacecraft. The video above shows footage of the historic Gemini IV EVA with narration by White himself. (Sound begins about 30 seconds in.)
The photo below was captured on medium-format film by fellow astronaut Jim McDivitt from inside the Gemini IV craft. It shows White free-floating in orbit during his EVA, holding the Hand-held Maneuvering Unit (or “zip gun”) that used canisters of propellant to move the user around. (You can see scans of the original photos from the mission here on ASU’s “March to the Moon” gallery.)
White was tragically killed just two years later on Jan. 27, 1967 in the fire that claimed his life and those of fellow Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee. But his legacy lives on each and every time an American astronaut “suits up” and opens a hatch to venture out into an alien environment, whether it’s in Earth orbit, on the Moon, on Mars…or somewhere we haven’t even thought of visiting yet!
On Feb. 3, 1966 the Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft made the first successful robotic soft landing on the Moon. Seven hours later it transmitted its first images of the lunar surface back to Earth. The image above is Luna 9 lander’s first view—the first time humans had ever seen a picture from the surface of another world.
Got the Monday back-to-work blues? Upset by bad news headlines? Concerned about a potential future President Trump? Take a couple of minutes and watch this.
This video, published by The Royal Institution on YouTube in Dec. 2015 and shared again on Twitter today, features an adorable animation about spaceflight with narration taken from a lecture given by Carl Sagan in 1977.
At that time it had been five years since humans had last walked on the Moon, the first Space Shuttle flight was still three and a half years away and the Voyagers had only just passed the orbit of Mars. But Sagan’s confidence and enthusiasm about the future of space exploration and human spaceflight is as inspirational now as it was then…let us continue to remember his words and pass along his message to each new generation that looks up and wonders “what’s out there” and, more importantly, “can I go?”
“Artifacts from Earth are spinning out into the cosmos. I believe the time will come when most human cultures will be engaged in an activity you might describe as a dandelion going to seed.”
— Carl Sagan, 1977
While I highly advise against humans making a meal out of it (despite my headline) the radioactive element plutonium has long been a staple energy source for many of NASA’s space missions, from Apollo’s ALSEPs to the twin Voyagers to the Curiosity rover.* But the particular non-weapons-grade flavor that NASA needs — plutonium dioxide, aka Pu-238 — has not been in production in the U.S. since the late ’80s; all the Pu-238 since then has been produced by Russia.
That is, until now; researchers at the Department of Energy‘s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee have successfully produced the first Pu-238 in the U.S. in 30 years. 50 grams (about one-tenth of a pound) of plutonium dioxide have been manufactured at ORNL, and once the sample has undergone testing to confirm its purity large scale production** will begin.
“This significant achievement by our teammates at DOE signals a new renaissance in the exploration of our solar system,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Radioisotope power systems are a key tool to power the next generation of planetary orbiters, landers and rovers in our quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe.”
Watch a video below from the DOE celebrating this new milestone.