Tag Archive: Space shuttle Enterprise


Shatner pic   NS18P X

With this morning’s successful launch and return of 90-year-old William Shatner into outer space aboard the Blue Origin New Shepard spacecraft, Shatner gave his fans worldwide perhaps the greatest single moment in the annals of science fiction.  Melding the best of fantasy and reality, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ New Shepard NS-18 mission took the most famous fictional character, Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk, and made him an actual space traveler, 60 years since the first manned spaceflight, 52 years since the first Moonshot, and 55 years since Shatner first stepped onto the bridge of the Enterprise set.  It’s something no fan of Shatner or Star Trek ever could have dreamed of, a landmark, one-of-a-kind, impossible opportunity that is a giant leap for any writer, actor, or other creator of the ideas behind science fiction, back to all those past dreams of space travel, from the science fiction of Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon, and George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, to crewmembers of the fictional starship Enterprise invited by NASA to the ribbon-cutting for the first space shuttle named for the Enterprise, to actual astronaut Mae Jemison flying aboard the space shuttle Endeavor and returning to be a guest star on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Does anyone not want Star Trek to be “real”?

Only William Shatner could have done something like this.  If you’ve met the man in person, you know he has unbounded energy like probably nobody else, certainly no one at the age of 90, showing no signs of slowing down, as evidenced again today.  The approximately 10-minute flight took the actor and crewmates above the 62-mile (100 kilometers) Kármán line at 9:53 a.m., which is the most commonly recognized boundary of the edge of space.

Shatner Kirk costumes b

Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight company Blue Origin postponed the flight to today due to forecasted high winds at its launch site (Bezos, a fan of Star Trek, had a cameo as an alien in the movie Star Trek Beyond).  The flight had liftoff at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One near Van Horn, Texas, at 9:49 a.m. (Central Time), returning at 10 a.m. sharp.

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A collection of hundreds of digitized video clips of unique research aircraft from the 1940s until this past decade is making its way to YouTube.  The collection contains footage of many of the vehicles flown at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, previously known as the Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards, California.  It only takes a few minutes to get sucked into this visual history of modern aviation and spaceflight.  Every few days more video resource materials are being uploaded to YouTube by the Center, and the result is a superb educational tool.  For decades much of this footage was limited to access by the public via still images in World Book Encyclopedia, and now anyone can observe and compare NASA’s aerial test vehicles at their own pace.

Want to revisit the liftoff and landing of the space shuttle Columbia?  Check it out here from April 1981.  How about flights of the Enterprise, Endeavour, and Discovery, and a beautiful landing of the Atlantis?  Much footage has been made available for everyone in the past few years by NASA, but not in such a complete collection as is happening this summer.  NASA has even uploaded footage of a visit by Nichelle Nichols to the Flight Research Center’s page, as well as a 1969 training flight of the lunar landing vehicle by the Center’s namesake, Neil Armstrong.

You’ll find a full history of experimental flight–views of the rocket-powered supersonic research aircraft X-1 from the 1940s and 1950s to Boeing’s present day flying wing, the X-48.  Some of the videos are mere curiosities, like painting the first Orion crew module and various earthbound Mars Rover tests.

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NASA released some interesting information this week for fans of all things space related.

First off, the space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to fly its final mission April 17, 2012 on the back of a Boeing 747 to land at Washington Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC.  The transfer of the shuttle’s title to the Smithsonian Institution will include a four-day celebration by the National Air and Space Museum, although the Discovery will end up not on the National Mall at the National Air and Space Museum building but instead at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia (useful to know in scheduling future vacation trips to DC).  The Udvar-Hazy Center currently houses the prototype space shuttle Enterprise, which will be flown to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City at a later date.  The Museum expects that Discovery will be available for public viewing but the final display will not be finished until approximately two weeks after arrival of the shuttle.

In the “truth is stranger than fiction” category (a maxim that usually proves not to be true if you hang around with creative people) this week NASA also released some great video footage of Earth from space.  Check out this video of Earth taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station:

Despite all the efforts in movies and TV to show what it would be like to travel in outer space, Hollywood has yet to create footage that matches the real thing seen above.  They’ve come close for sure, but think of how much it would cost to mock-up this type of visual for a motion picture.

This video is a great reminder that despite the fact that we have no current space shuttle program, thankfully scientific research continues with humans in outer space.  Check out more updates on what’s happening with research by NASA at www.space.com.