On this date

Roamy here.  Today marks the 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s first flight in Freedom 7.   It was suborbital and only 15 minutes, but he was OUR man in space.  The US Postal Service is honoring the occasion with a forever stamp, which is going to vie with The Gipper for use on my mail.

Recovery of Alan Shepard and the Freedom 7 capsule by USS Lake Champlain crew.

The article notes that of the original Mercury 7, only Scott Carpenter and John Glenn are still with us.  I don’t know if it’s because spaceflight is more routine or because we have so many more astronauts, but it’s hard for me to imagine what household names the Mercury 7 were.  I think the average American *might* be able to name Mark Kelly as an astronaut, because of the press coverage of his wife, Rep. Gabby Giffords, but I doubt anyone other than a NASA nerd could name seven current astronauts.  By the same token, I wish NASA PR was a little better, because the average Joe thinks NASA contributed Velcro and Tang, and that’s it.  Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal had a nice article on Gravity Probe-B and how it proved Einstein’s theory of relativity

…the exotic experiment measured how the revolving mass of Earth imperceptibly twists the fabric of space in a test of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. By one finding, the distortion amounts to 1.1 inches off true across the 24,900-mile circumference of Earth.

I worked on Gravity Probe-B, and I had the honor of working with the machinist who made the quartz spheres for the gyroscopes.  The article mentions these are the roundest objects ever made.  They were spherical to within half a millionth of an inch.  The techniques developed for measuring that sphericity would later be used in improving bearings for the Space Shuttle main engine.

Also, at the risk of turning this into a TLDR article, thank you for all the prayers and support for my family and me and especially the victims of last week’s tornadoes.  It’s good to be getting back to normal.

2 thoughts on “On this date”

  1. “Light this Candle” is a great biography of Alan Shepard. Can’t believe it has taken this long for USPO to honor him, or any of them for that matter.

  2. The space program also gave us integrated circuits, which led to the computer revolution which is still playing out as I write and you read. There have been so many spin offs from space program technology we couldn’t even begin to touch on all of them in this small space.

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