Today’s Tidbits: April 15, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: April 15, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for April 15, 2019: Beresheet 2 already in the works; Falcon Heavy core stage tips over; Apollo 11’s Mike Collins wants “JFK Direct” to Mars; Skylab and shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott passes away.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Beresheet 2 Already in the Works

The Israeli non-profit SpaceIL had a disappointing day last week when its Beresheet lunar lander crashed into the surface instead of making a soft landing.  Words of support echoed from everywhere, however, with rousing cheers of “if at first you don’t succeed…”

And so shall it be.  The $100 million cost of Beresheet (Hebrew for In the Beginning) was borne largely by wealthy philanthropists, including Morris Kahn, the organization’s President.  He has announced that Beresheet 2 is already in the works.

What is known publicly about the cause of the failure so far is that Beresheet’s main engine failed during the descent.

Falcon Heavy Core Stage Tips Over

SpaceX had a big day on Thursday, April 11, with the first successful commercial launch of its Falcon Heavy (FH) rocket, sending the Arabsat-6A communications satellite into orbit.

FH is composed of three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together. In a truly impressive display of its prowess at bringing Falcon 9 first stages back to Earth for reuse, all three first stages landed.  The two side boosters returned to SpaceX’s two landing pads (Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2) on Terra Firma at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  The central core booster returned to SpaceX’s autonomous drone ship Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) off the Florida coast.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy core stage from launching Arabsat-6A lands on drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.  April 11, 2019. Screengrab.

That’s all the good news.  Unfortunately, rough seas prevented SpaceX crew members from securing the core stage to the deck of OCISLY and it tipped over.  SpaceX explained what happened in an emailed statement today.

“Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX’s recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral. As conditions worsened with eight to ten foot swells, the booster began to shift and ultimately was unable to remain upright. While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence. We do not expect future missions to be impacted.” — SpaceX

SpaceX has a lot of experience landing first stages on OCISLY, but the Falcon Heavy core stage is a little different so the system they ordinarily use to secure the stage to the deck could not be utilized this time.

This was only the second Falcon Heavy launch.  The first, a test launch last year, whimsically placed a Tesla Roadster into a heliocentric orbit.  The website “” keeps track of where it is for those who are curious.

Apollo 11’s Mike Collins Wants “JFK Direct” to Mars

Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins at the National Press Club, April 15, 2019. Screengrab.

Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot Mike Collins was interviewed at the National Press Club this evening by journalist Marvin Kalb.  Collins reiterated his support for getting on with sending astronauts to Mars instead of returning to the Moon.

Asked by Kalb if he thinks the Trump Administration’s directive to NASA to land astronauts back on the Moon by 2024 is achievable, Collins said “no,” “probably not,” but then turned to the question of “go back to the Moon and do what? … Go back to the Moon as opposed to going to Mars?”

Harkening back to President John F. Kennedy (JFK), who started the Apollo program in 1961 and told NASA to do it by the end of the decade, Collins said he wants a “JFK Direct” route to Mars, not via the Moon.  Acknowledging the difficulty of a 2-year mission like that, he stressed that “I’m not sure getting there in a hurry is as important as getting there.” His estimate is that it could be done by around 2040.

Oh, and he wants to rename NASA the National Aeronautics and Mars Administration.

Check our Twitter feed @SpcPlcyOnline for our live tweets from the interview.

Skylab Astronaut Owen Garriott Passes Away

NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, who spent 59.4 days on the Skylab space station in 1973 and another 10 days on a 1983 space shuttle mission, passed away today at his home.  He was 88.

Garriott was selected as an astronaut in 1965 in the first class of “scientist-astronauts,” although he was an engineer with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford.

Skylab was the first U.S. space station.  Launched in 1973, it was visited by three crews who set records for longest duration in space at that time:  28 days (Skylab 2), 59 days (Skylab 3), and 84 days (Skylab 4).  Garriott was part of the Skylab 3 crew along with Alan Bean and Jack Lousma.

Ten years later, Garriott made a second spaceflight on the STS-9 space shuttle mission.  STS-9 was the first shuttle to carry Europe’s Spacelab scientific research module.  Garriott flew with NASA astronauts John Young, Brewster Shaw, and Robert Parker; payload specialist Byron Lichtenberg, an MIT engineer; and payload specialist Ulf Merbold, the first European to fly on the shuttle.

The Association of Space Explorers shared the news via Twitter today.

Garriott’s son, Richard, a wealthy video game developer, flew to the International Space Station as a “tourist” aboard Russia’s Soyuz TMA-13 in 2008.  He stayed for 12 days, not enough to best his father’s record, but earning the title astronaut like his dad.

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