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Happy 48th anniversary Apollo 8

22 Dec

It was 48 years ago today, Dec 21, that the Kennedy Space Center in Florida roared to life with the liftoff of the Apollo 8 craft. It was shortly after 7:00 am EST (4:00 am PST) that the whole nation was treated to the sight of three brave astronauts as they waited in the Apollo 8 command module, that sat on top of a 110 foot tall Saturn V rocket, as we listened to the countdown to launch. The viewers all held their breath as they heard 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…liftoff. Then there was a cheer as the engines came to life, at 7:51 am EST (4:51 am PST), and carried the rocket into space. For the next three days viewers eagerly watched as these brave men journeyed to the moon where they would go into a lunar orbit.

On Dec 24 (Christmas Eve), 1968 they reach their objective when they took up a lunar orbit. For the next 20 hours they would make 10 orbits of the Moon. Approximately million television viewers watched as we were able to see the lunar surface for the first time and what the Earth looked like as viewed from space. On that evening we were also treated to the voices of our astronauts as they read the first 10 verses of the book of Genesis from the Bible. The three astronauts took turns reading one verse for each orbit. Once that of the mission was over they started the 3 day journey back to Earth.

For the next three days we held our breath and watched as these men rocketed back to Earth. On Dec 27, 1968 at 10:51 am EST (7:51am PST) we were able to let that breath out as the Apollo 8 command module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. From there the command module would be recovered by the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. The astronauts would have to wait 43 minutes before frogmen from the USS Yorktown would reach the module to bring them the crew and capsule on board. The three men were then welcomed back to Earth and taken back to dry land. That year Colonel Frank Borman, Major William A Anders, and Captain James A Lovell were honored as Time “Men of the Year”.

Apollo 8 was the second time that Frank Borman and James Lovell were partnered on a space mission. The two were also paired for the Gemini 7 mission were they would perform the first orbital rendezvous. In that mission they would link with the Gemini 7 craft that was launched into Earth’s orbit 14 days earlier. After both missions James A Lovell would go on to command the infamous Apollo 13 mission that was never able to fulfill its mission of landing on the moon. Frank Borman retired from NASA after the Apollo 8 mission. William A Anders would be named as part of the back-up crew for Apollo 11 but never go on another mission.

Today we lost one of the great ones

8 Dec

Today; December 8, 2016; is a day of remembrance as we reflect back on the life of one of the truly great Americans; former Marine, Astronaut, and United States Senator John Glenn. Mr. Glenn passed away after battling an undisclosed illness that had hospitalized him twice in the last month. He had honorably served his country for almost 6 decades out of his 95 years of life.

Mr. Glenn began our country in 1942 when, as my Americans, heard the call to service after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though he had enlisted in the United States Army Air Corp it was the United States Navy that took him for flight training. Near the end of his flight training he transferred to the United States Marines where, in 1943, he was assigned to the VMF-353 squadron where he flew transport. Being a man of action he transferred to the VMF-155 squadron where he flew 59 combat mission in the south Pacific. After World War II his service continued fling patrol mission in the Pacific and then as a flight instructor. In the Korean war Mr. Glenn service two term of duty where he flew 95 combat mission.

After his service in two wars Mr. Glenn became a test pilot taking new military jets to their breaking-point. On July 16, 1957 he earned his 5th distinguished fling cross when he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight. At the time of the flight he set a record time of 3 hours and 23 minutes from California to New York.

In 1958 Mr. Glenn began the third phase of his career when NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Agency) put out the call for astronauts. He applied for the new agency along with 507 other military test pilots. Early the following year he found out that he had made the final cut and was introduced to the rest of the country as one of the “Mercury Seven” astronauts. On February 20, 1962 he became the third American in space and the first to orbit the Earth in the Friendship 7 capsule. Two years after that historic flight Mr. Glenn announced his retirement from NASA to start a career in politics. The following year he also retired from the United States Marines with the rank of Colonel.

After a few setbacks Mr. Glenn started his political career in 1974 when he won his first term as an United States Senator for the state of Ohio. In 1984, during his second term as Senator, he made an unsuccessful run for the Presidency. He then returned to the floor of the Senate where he won two more terms before NASA came calling once again. In 1998 he became the first United States Senator to go into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery. He left politics when his term expired in January of 1999.

A wild one in the west

24 Oct

Last night’s Sunday night match-up between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks was the most bizarre game of the NFL season. It was only the third game in the history of the NFL to end in a 6-6 tie. Yes, you read that right a 6-6 tie between the two titans of the west. That the game ended in a tie is not as strangest as how got to that point.

The first quarter of the game set the tempo as Seattle’s defense hand their hands full with the Cardinals high powered offense but managed not to break. On the other side of the ball the Arizona defense was making quick work of Seattle’s banged up an sluggish offense. The quarter ended with no score but the Cardinals were marching to Seattle’s end zone.

The second quarter started with the Cardinals driving down to Seattle’s 21 yard line before being stopped. They would attempt a field-goal only to have Seattle’s Bobby Wagner hurdle the line to block the kick attempt. After the blocked field-goal Seattle was only able to advance the ball to their own 44 before having to punt the ball back to the Cardinals. Starting at their own 11 yard-line the Cardinals drove down the field and were stopped at Seattle’s 28 yard-line. This time the field-goal attempt worked to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. After the kick-off the Seahawks were not able to advance the ball very far before punting once again. The Cardinals made their way down the field but were stopped on Seattle’s 32 yard-line as time ran out in the half.

The Seattle Seahawks started the second half of the game with a good drive that was stalled with penalties that put them in a hole too big to overcome. The Cardinals put together a great drive only to turn the ball over on downs as the Seahawks stopped them in the red zone. The rest of the third quarter ended up being a back-and-forth slug-fest. The quarter ended with the Cardinals still leading 3-0.

Much of the fourth quarter was again a back-and-forth game with the defenses keeping the to short gains. With just under 5 minutes left in the game the Seahawks blocked a punt at the Carinals 38 yard-line. The Seahawks offense was only able to advance the ball to the 22 before having to settle for a field-goal to tie the game. The last 4 ½ minutes were more back-and-forth play and the game ended tied at 3.

Overtime started with the Cardinals receiving the ball and marching down the field before having to settle for a field-goal. The Seahawks took the ball and marched down the field before being forced to settle for a game tying field-goal. With time still remaining in the overtime quarter the Cardinals once again marched down the field only to have their kicker hit the in a failed field1-goal attempt. The Seahawks then put on their most impressive offensive drive. On a 2nd & 10 at Arizona’s 10 yard-line the Seahawks opted to kick a field-goal only to have Stephen Hauschka hook it wide to the left. The Cardinals took over and ran out the final few seconds for a 6-6 tie.

Orbital Science makes triumphant return to space

19 Oct

Yesterday, Oct 17, was the first time in almost two years that the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia’s Wallop Island was the sight of an Orbital Science’s Antares rocket. On top of the rocket was a unmanned Cygnus craft filled with more than 2 and a half ton of supplies destined for the ISS (International Space Station). The mission would first for Orbital Science since the October 2014 explosion of an Antares rocket shortly after lift-off.

At 7:45 pm ET (4:45 pm PT) the ground crew on Wallop Island and those watching the live feed were thrilled at the sight of the engines roaring to life. There was cheering as the rocket lifted-off and started its accent. Within seconds much of the northern half of the east coast was able to witness the sight of the rocket as it soared into the stratosphere.

A few minutes after launch the Antares rocket broke into a low Earth orbit where it would separate with the Cygnus craft that would continue on its mission to the ISS. It will take 5 and a days for the Cygnus craft to rendezvous with the ISS where it will then be captured by the stations robotic grappling arm and brought in to dock. Then over the next few weeks the crew of the ISS will unload the 5,000+ pounds of supplies. Once the craft has been unloaded it will then be filled back up with 3,000 pounds of trash before it is released to fall back to Earth.

The Seahawks crush the 49ers

27 Sep

Yesterday, Sept 25, the Seattle Seahawks showed that they are still one of the elite teams in the NFL as they defeated the San Francisco 49ers 37-18. The game though was not as close as the score would indicate. The Seahawks thoroughly dominated the game from the opening kick off to the final whistle.

The first quarter started with Seattle receiving after the 49ers won the coin toss and elected to defer, On the first play from their own 25 yard line quarterback Russell Wilson threw an incompletion to running-back Christian Michael Sr. On the next play Mr. Wilson looked back to form as he completed a 34 yard bomb to wide-receiver Doug Baldwin. Mr. Michael followed up with a 41 yard run into the end zone for a touchdown. The three play drive only took 34 seconds off of the clock and was capped off with an extra point kick by Steven Hauschka to give the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.

Mr. Hauschka kicked off and the football went through the end zone for a touchback. The 49ers went to work from their own 25 yard line. They where soon forced to punt though as the Seahawks defense limited the to only 7 yards. The punt gave the Seahawks the ball at their own 30 yard line where they went to work on their drive. The second did not nearly go as fast. It took the Seahawks 14 plays, of a mixture of passes and runs, to come up to a second touchdown for the Seahawks. An extra point kick by Steven Hauschka gave the Seahawks a 14-0 lead with just over 4 minutes left in the first quarter. The two teams both had drives that ended in punts as the first quarter expired.

The second quarter started with the 49ers having ball. They were held to a small gain before once again punting to the Seahawks. On the 4th play of the drive receiver Jimmy Graham fumbled a 9 yard pass. The 49ers came up with the fumble for a 1st & 10 at Seattle’s 30 yard line. The 49ers were held to just an 8 yard gain and had to kick a field goal to make it a 14-3 game.

After the kick-off and a 19 yard return by Paul Richardson, Seattle started their drive at their 27 yard line. 4 plays later the drive ended with an 18 yard pass to Jimmy Graham for a touchdown. An extra point by Steven Hauschka gave Seattle a 21-3 lead.

After the ensuing kick-off the 49ers went to work once again. This time they put together an impressive drive that stalled at Seattle’s 35 yard-line. The 49ers tried a field-goal but came up short. The Seahawks took over at their own 43 yard-line. They drove down the field before stalling out at the 15 yard-line of the 49ers. Steven Hauschka kicked a field-goal to give Seattle a 24-3 lead with just over a minute left in the half. That would be the last score of the half after the next drive of the 49ers once again ended with a punt.

The 49ers started off the second half of the game. The drive was quickly stalled to force the 49ers to punt. The Seahawks did not fair much better as they had to punt. The 49ers were again held to a short gain and would punt the ball back to Seattle. Tyler Lockett had a marvelous 62 yard return to give Seattle a 1st & 10 at the 49ers’ 26 yard-line. The Seahawks drive fizzled out at the 14 yard-line where Steven Hauschka kicked a field-goal to make it 27-3.

The 49ers next drive would end at their own 27 yard-line when Bobby Wagner intercepted the ball. Trevone Boykin took over for Russell Wilson after a knee injury. He lead the team down the field before the drive stalled on the 49ers’ 4 yard-line. Steven Hauschka kicked a field-goal to give Seattle a 30-3 lead.

Another 3 & out by the 49ersgave the ball back to Seattle. 3rd quarter woul come to an end with Seattle marching down the field. Shortly after the 4th quarter started Doug Baldwin caught a pass from Trevone Boykin for a touch-down. An extra point by Steven Hauschka gave Seattle a 37-3 lead.

After the kick-off, the 49ers would come to life as they marched down the field. Their 11 play drive would take the into the end-zone for their first touch-down. A Phil Dawson extra point would cut Seattle’s lead to 37-10.

After the kick-off Trevone Boykin would have the Seahawks marching down the field until an interception at mid-field would give the ball back to the 49ers. It would take the 49ers 8 plays to drive 48 yards for a touch-down. A 2 point conversion would cut Seattle’s lead to 37-18 with just under a minute to go in the game.

Russell Wilson & Trevone Boykin would combine to complete 22 passes for 308 yards with 2 touch-downs and an interception. Doug Baldwin had 146 yards on 8 receptions and scored a touch-down. Jimmy Graham ended with 100 yards on 6 receptions and scored a touch-down. Christian Michael ended with 106 yards rushing and scored the first 2 touch-downs of his career.

26 years ago Ken Griffey Sr. & Jr. make baseball history

14 Sep

It was 26 years ago today, Sept 14, that fans at Anaheim Stadium witnessed a feat that has never been seen before or since in baseball. It was that day that the father and son duo of Ken Griffey Sr. & Ken Griffey Jr. hit back-to-back home runs. The two home runs gave the Seattle Mariners a 3-0 lead in the first inning of a game that they would end up losing 7-5.

It was the second game of a short road trip that would see the Seattle Mariners play four games against the California Angels. Since the Mariners were the visiting team they started off on offense. Second baseman Harold Reynolds stepped up to the plate first and drew a walk from Kirk McCaskill. Left-fielder Ken Griffey Sr. was up next to the plate. Kirk McCaskill had him 0-2 before the senior Griffey hit a home-run to left-center field to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead. Center-fielder Ken Griffey Jr. was the third player up to face Mr. McCaskill. The pitch count was 3-0 and Griffey was given the green light to swing. In what would become a familiar sight to Mariners fans, he connected with the ball hitting the sweet-spot of the bat. It was a high fly ball that seemed to just keep picking up momentum as it traveled over the left-center field wall in almost the exact spot that his dad’s home-run just cleared. The Mariners would only have two more runs in that game and lose to the Angels.

It was mid-August when Ken Griffey Sr. was let go by the Cincinnati Reds’ manager Lou Piniella, who would become the Mariners manager in 1993. In what was seen by many as a publicity stunt the Mariners signed the senior Griffey to play next to his son as the first father and son duo in baseball. Then on Aug 31in a game against the Kansas City Royals he made his debut in the line in the number two spot. The move turned out to be much more that just a mere stunt as Mr. Griffey would finish the season hitting .377 for the Mariners. He retired the following yer after playing 30 games for Mariners where he had a .282 batting average.

Ken Griffey Jr. debuted in 1989 for the Seattle Mariners as a 19 year-old. He would go on to play a total of 22 years for three teams (13 years with the Mariner, 8+ years with Cincinnati, and part of a season with the Chicago Whitesox). In his career he played in more than 2600 games racking up 2781 hits,630 home runs, 1836 RBI’s, and a .284 batting average. He also won 10 gold gloves and appeared in a dozen all-star games. 5 years after he retired Ken Griffey Jr. was elected to the baseball hall of fame with the highest percent in history.

The Seahawks pull out ugly win at home

12 Sep

Yesterday, Sept 11, was the day that Seattle Seahawks fans have been waiting 9 months to watch. The Seahawks take to the field for their season opener against the Miami Dolphins. At 1:00 pm they all turned on their televisions to see Russell Wilson lead the Seahawks on to victory.

Since the game would be at Centurylink field in Seattle and the recent history of both teams it was suppose to be an easy victory for the Seahawks. The Dolphins though didn’t seem to read the same script and came in ready to make it rough on the boys in blue and green.

The Miami kicked the ball off to the Seattle Seahawks and they started at their own 25 yard line. The first drive started well for the Seahawks with Russell Wilson completing a 7 yard pass to Doug Baldwin and two 6 yard passes to Tyler Lockett. After those three completions he ha two incompletions to Lockett that brought up a 4th & 4. Jon Ryan then came on field and made a 37 yard punt to pin the Dolphins on their own 19 yard line.

Ryan Tanneball and the rest of the Dolphin offense came out on the field for their first drive. That drive would be short though as the Seahawks defense limited them to a 3 & out gaining only 5 yards. That would bring out Matt Darr who kicked a 43 yard punt down to the Seahawks 32 yard line.

The Seahawks took the field for their second drive. Despite a penalty and sack the Seahawks were able to march down the field. The drive stopped at 21 yard like where Steven Hauscha kicked a field goal to give the Seahawks a 3-0 lead.

The Dolphins started their second drive at their own 20 yard line. They were able to march down the field. It look as though they would tie or take the lead in the game but it was not to be. On a 4th & 1 at Seattle’s 17 yard line the Dolphins elected to try for a 1st down rather then kick a field to tie the game. It turned out to be the wrong choice when the Seahawks defense stop them.

The next drive for both teams ended up in punts. The forth drive for Seattle ended up with Russell Wilson throwing an interception that gave the Dolphins good field position. Ryan Tanneball came back out and took the Dolphin down the field where they were able to get a game tying field goal.

The next few drives for both teams were filled with penalties, incompletions, and some sloopy playing. In the final 2 minutes of the game Seattle finally put together a good drive that ended in a field goal for a 6-3 halftime lead.

The second half of the game starts with a kickoff by Steven Hauscha and a return out to the 41 yard line of Miami. The Seahawks defense once again held Miami to a 3 & out. After a punt the Seahawks started their drive at their own 19 yard line. The drive seemed to be going well as the Seahawks gained two 1st dawns.

On the next play the entire crowd and Seattle’s bench all gasped in horror as Russell Wilson was sacked and his ankle was stepped on by Miami’s Ndamukong Suh. Mr. Wilson’s foot twisted and when he was able to get to his feet it was obvious he was in some pain. Instead of leaving the field he decided to continue the drive. When he attempted his next pass it was obvious that the injury was hampering his play. The pass was incomplete and forced another punt.

Sloppy play and penalties for the rest of the third quarter and most of the forth quarter. At just over halfway through the forth quarter the Dolphins put together a good drive and march down to score a touchdown for a 10-6 lead.

With just over 4 minutes left in game Russell Wilson showed that even banged up he was the comeback kid. The drive didn’t always look good but with each play Mr. Wilson seemed to be getting better. After a few plays Seattle was faced with a 4th & 4 that threatened to kill the comeback. After a timeout Russell Wilson completed a pass to Doug Baldwin for a 1st down. With just just over 2 minutes in the game the Seahawks continued their march to score the go ahead touchdown. Steven Hauscha missed the extra point so it was 12-10 Seahawks.

With 31 seconds left in the game the Dolphins took the field. They were determined to go down the field to kick the winning field goal. It was not to be as an incomplete pass and two sacks ended the game. Seattle survived to get a narrow victory at home.

A Falcon 9 rocket exploded in Florida

2 Sep

This morning, Sept 1, Cape Canaveral, Florida was rock when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded at a few minutes after 9 am ET. The rocket had been wheeled out to the launched pad for testing in preparation of this weekends mission. Shortly after re-fueling some yet unexplained mishap occurred to cause the rocket and its payload blow-up.

“Cause still unknown. More soon,” Elon Musk, founder and CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, said on Twitter.

Fortunately, all personal had already been cleared from the launch area so that there were no injuries. The only casualties of the explosion were the Amos-6 communication satellite, the Falcon 9 rocket, and the launch pad.

The explosion will most likely ground any future SpaceX launches until the cause and any needed fixes are made. The last time a Falcon 9 exploded was shortly after launch in June of last year. After that explosion it was 6 months before the necessary upgrades were made to resume launches. As a result SpaceX had a much improved Falcon 9 rocket that had 9 successful missions and 6 recoveries of the first stage.

Today disaster is also a setback for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his plan to bring Internet service to remote areas of Africa. The plan had been in the works for over a year before Facebook and France-based Eutelsat paid $95 million dollars on a 5 year lease of the Amos satellite array.

We are disappointed by the loss but remain committed to our mission of connecting people to the Internet around the world,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

Mark Zuckerberg was in Africa promoting the mission when he heard the news of the explosion.

I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent,” he said in a Facebook post. “We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.”

SpaceX successfully launches satellite

22 Aug

On Aug 15, 2016 the skies above Florida were lit up as the privately owned Hawthorn, California-based company SpaceX successfully carried off a pre-dawn launch of a Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket blasted-off at 1:26 am ET (5:26 am UTC) to carry off its two-fold mission of deploying the JCSAT-16 communication satellite and land the first stage of the rocket on a drone barge.

When the engines of the rocket rocket roared to life there was a large roar from the launch center. Within a few seconds the rocket accelerated and cleared the launch towers on its way to space.After a couple of minutes the rocket broke into space where the first and second stage separated.

The control center then took over control of the first stage to attempt bringing it back in for a landing on the drone barge “of course I still love you”. As the control center brought the first stage in for a handing everyone watching held their breath in anticipation. For those of us watching the live feed it was extra suspenseful as the feed froze just as the first stage approached the drone barge. Soon there was a cheer and the feed resumed showing that the first stage did indeed land. This was the 4th time that SpaceX has made such a landing since the first one took place in December of 2015. They also made 2 landings on solid ground earlier this year to bring the total to 6 landings overall.

After the separation, and landing of the first stage, the second stage of the Falcon 9 traveled on to finish the primary part of the mission and deploy the JCSAT-16 satellite into orbit 36,000 miles above the Earth. Once in a geostationary transfer orbit the satellite will become part of an array of satellites that provide a vast array of types of communications to Russia, the Middle East, Asia, North America, and other areas.

Review: The Vilcabamba Prophecy

15 Aug

The Vilcabamba Prophecy by Robert Rapoza is a thrill packed action/adventure/fantasy that will keep the reader riveted from beginning to end. The thrill-ride starts in the first few pages right after we meet Dr. Nick Randall when he becomes missing on an archeology expedition in Peru. His daughter, Dr. Samantha Randall, is soon called in to locate him snd she finds herself in the same type of danger as her missing father. Now, both doctors and their expedition parties find themselves running form their pursuers. Over the next few chapters they find themselves involved in kidnappings and gun battles as they try to find each other and the ancient city of Vilcabamba. Even when you think they are out of danger do not blink because it is not over.

The main characters in the book are well developed and very believable. There is Dr. Nick Randall, the adventurous archeologist and academic with some controversial theories; his daughter Dr. Samantha Randall; Frances Dumond, the head of the alliance; Colonel Ackers, leader of the mercenary forces; and several others. The interaction of all of the characters mesh together very well throughout the book.

The dialog between the characters has been well thought out and fits in very well with the characters and situations they find themselves in at the time. One of the best examples of this is when father and daughter are reunited and Samantha says, “I thought you were dead, Is it really you?”.

Some of the things the author does well in the book are maintaining the suspense and use of details. Mr. Rapoza keeps the suspense going in two ways. First, he use ciff-hangers at the end of chapters but does not make us wait too long before finding out what happens next. The second way is that just when we think the main characters are in the clear he puts them in danger once again. With the description he gives us plenty of detail to picture the characters, structures, and action without falling into the trap of going too far in detail.

I would recommend this book to any that loves the Indiana Jones series, Allan Quartermain movies, or shows like Ancient Aliens and Expedition Unknown. I think has elements of all of these that blended along with elements drawn from the authors own imagination that will keep the focus of all readers. I give it 4 out of 4 stars.