Today’s Tidbits: January 7, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: January 7, 2018

Here are our tidbits for January 7, 2018:  legendary astronaut John Young passes away; Zuma finally launches. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Legendary NASA Astronaut John Young Passes Away

John Young died Saturday at 87 due to complications from pneumonia.  Among all the legendary astronauts, his name rises to the top not only because of his six spaceflights — on Gemini, Apollo, and the space shuttle — but because of his unyielding commitment to technical excellence in decision-making about human spaceflights.

Former space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale tweeted that no Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for a shuttle mission “felt complete unless John Young stood up and asked the toughest questions.”

Young flew on every NASA human spaceflight vehicle except Mercury.  A U.S. Navy test pilot, Young was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1962.  He was the pilot of Gemini 3 (the first Gemini mission with a crew, along with commander Gus Grissom), command pilot of Gemini 10 (demonstrating rendezvous and docking with two Agena Target Vehicles, along with pilot Mike Collins), command module pilot for Apollo 10 (which orbited the Moon, along with commander Tom Stafford and lunar module pilot Gene Cernan, as a test prior to the Apollo 11 landing), commander of Apollo 16 (he landed on the Moon along with Charlie Duke while command module pilot Ken Mattingly orbited overhead), commander of STS-1 (the first flight of the space shuttle, along with pilot Bob Crippen), and commander of STS-9 (which carried the first Spacelab module and a crew of six, including the first non-U.S. astronaut on a U.S. spaceflight, ESA’s Ulf Merbold).

Tributes to Young are pouring in over Twitter, including from NASA.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot issued a statement hailing Young’s contributions to the nation and NASA.  He noted that on STS-9, “in an iconic display of test pilot ‘cool,’ he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end.”  Like Hale, Lightfoot, who worked on the space shuttle program in several capacities and is a former director of Marshall Space Flight Center, spoke of Young’s participation in space shuttle FRRs.  “I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic ‘hell of an engineer’ from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the perfect question — followed by his iconic phrase, ‘Just asking…”

NASA has a tribute page with more information and photos of his career. []

Zuma Finally Lifts Off

After a series of delays, most recently from Friday until today, SpaceX launched the mysterious Zuma spacecraft this evening at approximately 8:00 pm ET, the beginning of a two-hour launch window.  All that is publicly known about the satellite is that it is highly classified and was built by Northrop Grumman.  The 1st stage of the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed back at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

SpaceX livestreamed the launch and the return of the 1st stage to CCAFS, but because of the classified nature of the mission, not the flight of the second stage or orbital insertion.  The company has not stated whether those phases of the launch were successful. tweeted a replay of the video of the launch.

Apart from curiosity about what the satellite will do, the launch is notable because it frees SpaceX to focus on the first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket, expected later this month.  Tonight’s launch was the first of as many as 30 launches this year of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets according to [].

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