National Association of Rocketry October 2016
narTcert Gets Even Easier
I've marveled at the generation gap between me and my son of how much of his schoolwork is online with most all of it done on his laptop. I had textbooks that were books and tests that were on paper sheets. Teaching techniques and resources have changed and it's a rush to stay upgraded. The NAR Rocket Teacher Certification Program, "narTcert," has recently been able to catch up in its distance learning process by putting the certification test entirely online. For those registered and participating who email your lesson plan to NAR education, you'll get the link to the twenty question quiz and can be done with it in less than in fifteen minutes and immediately get your score. You won't have to have a NAR member to administer and grade the test anymore, but you'll still need one to witness your rocket's flight and sign off on it. Launching a model will always be a 'live hands-on' event with another rocketeer and that's the value of the activity.
Now that the process is much easier, your fall plans should include getting certified as a NAR rocket teacher. Take a moment to visit the intro to narTcert http://www.nar.org/educational-resources/welcome-to-nartcert/ and investigate the program. It's really simple and would get you equipped to enrich your science material as well as advancing your professional development. Just click the link to launch your training
NAR Education Chairman
|2017 Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) Competition
Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is an aerospace design and engineering event for teams of US secondary school students (7th through 12th grades) run by the NAR and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). Teams can be sponsored by schools or by non-profit youth organizations such as Scouts, 4-H, or Civil Air Patrol (but not the NAR or other rocketry organizations). The goal of TARC is to motivate students to pursue aerospace as an exciting career field, and it is co-sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers, Estes Industries, the Department of Defense, and NASA.
The first fourteen Team America Rocketry Challenges, held in 2003 through 2016, were the largest model rocket contests ever held. Co-sponsored by the NAR and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the events together attracted over 8,955 high-school teams made up of a total of over 60,000 students from all 50 states. These students had a serious interest in learning about aerospace design and engineering through model rocketry. The top 100 teams each year came to a final fly-off competition in mid May near Washington, DC, to compete for $100,000 in prizes and a free trip to either the Paris or the Farnborough air show in Europe. These teams were selected based on the scores reported from qualification flights that they conducted locally throughout the US.
Are you ready to accept the challenge?
2017 Team America Rocketry Challenge registration is now open at rocketcontest.org. Teams may register anytime between now and December 2, 2016.
The 2017 Challenge brings a new difficulty to the competition: teams must transition between two different body tube diameters. Rockets must carry one raw egg to 775 feet and back safely in 41-43 seconds, returning it in a separate section. Remember to leave some extra margin in your engine selection, as national finalist teams will be expected to fly their rocket to a second higher target. As with last year, we're not specifying your recovery mechanism, so get creative!
We have a few important announcements below:
TARC Essay Contest:
After 15 years of rocket contests, we're ready to celebrate! That's why we're kicking off TARC 2017 with a contest to showcase the talent and excitement in our program. Our essay contest will award one winner a cash prize of $500 and a TARC website feature story. Two runners up will also have their essays published. See full details here. Deadline is December 16, 2016.
Engineering Notebook Competition:
The Engineering Notebook Contest is back again this year. You can read the rules here and see the notebook from the Odle Middle School Space Potatoes that won the 2016 contest. Even if you don't submit your notebook for the contest, we encourage you to keep one. Building an engineering notebook will help you keep organized and analyze your data. It's not a coincidence that the Space Potatoes went on to win TARC 2016 and the International Rocketry Challenge. Entries will be judged by engineers from TARC sponsor companies and the winning team will be awarded a cash prize.
Team Outreach Competition:
The TARC Outreach Competition will also continue this season. The competition provides an opportunity to show off your team's work getting others involved with rocketry and STEM. The team with the best TARC Outreach Competition score that submitted a valid set of qualifying flights (sorry DQs do not count), but did not make the top 100 teams by flight score, will earn a spot to compete in the National Finals and will be eligible to compete for prize money just like all the other teams. We will also award a prize at the National Finals to the team with the best overall outreach program. Teams in the top 100 are eligible for this award too. You can read full details here.
The webinar series will continue this fall. Stay tuned for details.
That's all for now. If you want to stay up to date on what's happening with TARC 2017, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
The entry forms, contestant handbook, rules, and other details about TARC 2017 are posted on
the AIA's website
. The most recent version of the rules is posted at the bottom of this page. Event registration is open from September 1 until December 4, 2105.
NAR TARC Manager
The Solar System Ambassadors Program
The Solar System Ambassadors Program is a public outreach program designed to work with motivated volunteers across the nation. These volunteers communicate the excitement of JPL's space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries to people in their local communities.
The Solar System Ambassadors Program builds on and expands the outstanding efforts undertaken by the Galileo mission since 1997. Because of the success of the original Galileo Ambassadors program, JPL missions exploring Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Asteroids, Comets, Earth, the Sun and the Universe now come together to expand the program's scope to the Solar System and beyond.
To arrange for a Solar System Ambassador event in your community, click on Meet the Ambassador, select your state or territory and review the entries. Ambassadors furnish short biographical statements for the purpose of detailing their areas of interest and expertise. Following the biography is a list of past events conducted by the Ambassador to further aid in decision making. Inquiries about an Ambassador's availability should be made by sending an email directly to the individual.
Check the "Calendar of Events" section as well to see if an Ambassador event will be occurring in your local community. For a listing of Solar System
Ambassadors by name, visit the Directory of Ambassadors.
Reach for the Stars
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the loss of the Challenger.
Affordable as it's hosted by you - at your location. No travel expense. Ages 10 to 18. Easy to run spot-landing competition - average of 2 launches. Closest parachute landing to a target wins!
Free Registration for orders placed by Oct. 31st, 2016.
Everyone involved in the RFTS Competition receives a full color certificate bearing Christa's picture and one of her quotes.
The certificate background (an astronaut reaching for a star) is the artwork of astronaut and moonwalker, Alan Bean.
Certificates are professionally printed and ready for framing.
5 national winners will celebrate under an 'October Sky' at Space Camp/US Space & Rocket Center in 'Rocket City' Huntsville, Alabama. There they will launch rockets at Homer Hickam field in celebration and be awarded a Space Shuttle Challenger commemorative coin and certificate signed by Challenger pilot, astronaut Jon McBride.
Answer the questions below - we'll send you a 'no obligation' estimate.
1. How many competitors?
2. What age / grade?
3. When do you want to launch?
4. Do you have launch equipment? (launch pad and control)
5. Are you experienced?
NOTE: If you are not hosting the event at your location - RFTS Competition is a great STEM outreach. Just forward the info to schools, Scouts and youth groups (YMCA, 4-H, Civil Air Patrol, etc.) in your area. We'll take it from there.
Wishing you light winds on launch day.
Jack & Kathy Colpas, co-directors
Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition
STEAM - Educational Outreach (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)
Honoring the memory of Christa McAuliffe / 1st Teacher-in-Space
Rockets and the Maker Movement
Have you heard of the Maker movement? If you haven't, just imagine a classroom where students learn by doing hands-on experimentation and design with trial and error, building and launching model rockets and creating miniature houses with working electricity. Picture an environment where a kid's natural instinct to explore our world and solve problems is supported through invention and play.
The Maker movement was inspired by MAKE Magazine's annual Maker Faire. The Maker Faire is the "world's largest show and tell." Since the first Faire, this movement has spread through communities, businesses and into education. 10 high schools created "makerspaces" in a pilot program in California, offering students a chance to try welding, woodworking, machining, rockets and robotics among other Maker skills.
Is the Maker movement just another trend or is it here to stay? Is it just a fancy label for what teachers already know - that kids learn better through hands-on, self-directed learning? Most teachers are already using some Maker elements in their classrooms when their students build models, rockets and volcanoes, or make puppets for putting on puppet shows. These types of activities have gone on for many years in schools, and the Maker movement is a perfect fit for these activities.
And here's another thought: by encouraging people to make things by hand, the Maker movement may be one of the most important ways to improve STEM education in the U.S. Why? Because it works outside of the realm of standardized testing and everything associated with it. The movement behind Maker Faires and MAKE Magazine should be one of the keys to helping kids discover science, technology, engineering and math in an exciting hands-on way.
How do model rockets fit into the Maker movement and STEM? Model rockets are a perfect fit, because you're building a model rocket (making it by hand with hands-on learning), launching it and conducting lots of experiments with it. Building, experimenting and playing are powerful ways to learn - and whether building and launching rockets are done at school or in youth groups, kids need lots more of this.
Favorite Maker resources:
Maker Faire Education Outreach: Learn how to start a Maker Faire at you school.
Makerspace: Explains how to set up a "makerspace" in your school.
DIY.org: Website where young Makers can share what they have created and meet other Makers.
MakeyMakey.com: An invention kit that lets students play video games with Play-Doh, make music with bananas and more.
Model Rocket Books
book on why rockets work and how to make them. It is much like Stine's Handbook of Model Rocketry but it has more detail and technical content.
If you are looking to learn why and how rockets work, you will enjoy reading the very clear explanations of the physical concepts behind them. If you are the more hands on type, you can get right down to the business of building and seeing the action because it is all about making the rockets. Author Mike Westerfield says, "This is the rocket book I wished I had in high school," so teachers and students should take notice, there is a lot in it for them. Order an
e-copy or a print version
Rocketry: Investigate the Science and Technology of Rockets and Ballistics with 25 Projects
Grade Level 4-6
There are many rocket books available but few are out as real primers geared toward the young reader or a total rocket newbie.
Rocketry: Investigate the Science and Technology of Rockets and Ballistics
introduces elementary level students to the fascinating world of rocketry and aerodynamics. Readers discover the history of rocket development, from the earliest fire arrows in China to modern-day space shuttles, as well as the main concepts of rocketry, including how rockets are launched, move through the atmosphere, and return to earth safely. Exploring the science behind rocket flight, kids learn how the forces of thrust, gravity, lift, and drag interact to determine a rocket's path. It all leads up to asking "what's next?" which would be NAR rocketry.
Combining hands-on activities with physics, chemistry, and mathematics, Rocketry brings fun to learning about the world of rocket science. Entertaining illustrations and fascinating sidebars illuminate the topic and bring it to life, while Words to Know highlighted and defined within the text reinforce new vocabulary. Projects include building a pneumatic rocket and launcher, determining the role of fins in rocket stability, and testing a rocket recovery system. Additional materials include a glossary, and a list of current reference works, websites, and Internet resources.
The convenient, affordable online format provides elementary teachers of grades 3-8 and school counselors with online STEM training in background preparation, classroom activities, and teaching strategies, and lets them progress through the same key topics with discussions and project-based work moderated by course instructors at the traditional academy.
The online training program includes real-time tools allow users to interact with the instructor and to collaborate with other teachers. The program also features a notification tool to remind teachers about class discussions and assignments and an interface designed to provide easy access to online sessions, including videos, e-books, integrated media recordings, and virtual labs.
"We know most students are engaged and curious about science and math in the early elementary grades," said Sally Ride Science CEO Sheryle Bolton. "But too many students -- particularly girls and under -- represented minorities -- lose interest in those disciplines by the end of middle school. Economists tell us that more than 80 percent of all jobs in the coming decades will require some kind of STEM background, so it is essential for our nation's future that we help prepare students to seize this opportunity."
School districts in Alaska, Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. have access to this new program. Check with your district to see if it is available for you.
Many companies offer grants to help provide the needed funds to bring core STEM curricula into the classroom. For a list of forty-eight other companies, please visit the Estes Educator
Youth Scientists Impacting the Future
Model Rocketry Classes Begin!
The Colorado Springs Rocket Society (COSROCS) is gearing up for the 2016-2017 Beginner Model Rocketry Classes.
Colorado Springs Rocket Society
(COSROCS), a National Association of Rocketry (NAR) sectioned club, and Colorado's 4-H Model Rocketry Program; both organizations are non-profit and instruction is provided by skilled volunteers in the field of model rocketry.
OPEN ENROLLMENT STARTS: September, 2016
Open to Youth Ages 8-18 (20 Students Maximum)
to School Teachers and/or Youth Mentors (10 Maximum)
ENROLLMENT ENDS: October 28, 2016. Class space is limited, sign up now!
CLASS SCHEDULE: Class 1: Two dates to choose from in October: Saturday 15th or the 29th.
Classes 2-8: 1st Saturdays of every month-Starting Nov. 5th and ending May 6, 2017.
All Classes: 1:00-4:00 p.m. (3 Hours Total: ~1 ½ hrs lesson, ~1 ½ hrs build).
Weather Makeup Days: Scheduled for the Sunday immediately following the
1st Saturday for the months of November-March.
CLASS LOCATION: Fire Station #20. Address: 6755 Rangewood Dr., COS 80918
(NE corner of Rangewood Drive and Dublin Blvd.)
CLASS DESCRIPTION: The COSROCS Beginner Model Rocketry Class is designed for students with limited to no experience in model rocketry. Teachers and youth mentors are encouraged to participate. You will learn basic construction skills building low- to mid-power, balsa-fin model rockets-skill levels 1-3-based on your individual abilities. Students will learn about the history of rocketry, the science and stability factors of a rocket, how black-powder motors work, proper flight preparations, range and launch safety, and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) Safety Codes.
CLASS LESSON TOPICS:
- Class #1 - Oct. 15th or 29th, 2016: Intro to Model Rocketry, NAR Safety Codes, What's Needed, etc.
- Class #2 - Nov. 5, 2016: Basic Model Rocket Components, Construction & Techniques.
- Class #3 - Dec. 3, 2016: Rocket History, Model Rocketry History, Newton's Three Laws of Motion.
- Class #4 - Jan. 7, 2017: Flight Stability, Center of Gravity, Center of Pressure.
- Class #5 - Feb. 4, 2017: Launch & Range Safety, Launch Techniques, Tracking.
- Class #6 - Mar. 4, 2017: Black Powder & Composite Rocket Motors, Rocket in Flight.
- Class #7 - Apr. 1, 2017: Recovery Systems, How to Make a Simple Parachute and Streamer.
- Class #8 - May 6, 2017: Finishing Techniques (Painting Skills and Decal Applications).
REQUIREMENTS AND APPROXIMATE COSTS:
1. Youth must be between 8-18 years of age. Teachers and mentors
welcome, but must register, too.
2. 1 parent or adult guardian must attend, per family, for youth under
the age of 14.
3. Youths' knowledge and skills with model rocketry will be assessed
during the October classes.
4. Class Fee is $30 per student or $35 per family
5. Rocket kit costs will range between $5 to $50 for most kits (Skill
Levels 1-4): COSROCS will be providing a numerous selection of kits for students to purchase at half the retail price or you may purchase your own.
6. Build Supplies' and Range Box Tools' Cost-approximately $10-$50:
Students must provide their own build supplies and range box tools, any extra rocket kits, rocket motors, etc. (Do not purchase any chemicals, wood fillers or paints prior to November's class.)
Les and Deanna Mann
for more information or to register for classes at 719-528-5969 or email:
NAR Instructional Video
Several years ago the NAR and Aerospace Industries Association produced a one-hour instructional video "How to Build and Fly a Model Rocket" in support of student teams in the Team America Rocketry Challenge student rocket contest. Originally only available in DVD format, this useful resource and much more are now available.
While model rocketry offers a rich set of learning experiences, teachers should keep a few items in mind as they plan and conduct lessons.
Be aware that many children have never used an X-acto knife or equivalent. It is best to hold a separate learning session on knife safety rather than during a model building session. Another alternative for untrained youth is to completely eliminate the need for a hobby knife during the build or have an adult pre-cut parts needing a hobby knife before the session begins. If you do choose to have students use hobby knives, limit the number being used at any given time and closely supervise their use.
Model rocketry was created in the late 1950's as a means by which non-professional individuals could build and fly their own rocket powered models. The hobby was structured to safely pursue an activity that has a potential for personal injury and property damage. The use of manufactured motors to minimize the mixing and handling of propellants was a major factor in model rocketry's safety success. Safety procedures for the construction and operation of the models, based on aerospace industry practices, were another factor in this excellent safety record.
The primary safety officers are the Range Safety Officer (RSO) and the safety check-in officer. The RSO is responsible for safe operation of the rocketry range. The safety check-in officer is responsible for verification of the vehicle flight-worthiness. He will inspect the vehicles for structural integrity, systems condition (e.g. recovery system, motor restraint), motor certification, and dynamic properties (e.g. center of gravity, center of pressure).
NAR Sections all over the country hold numerous sport launches each year, at which you are welcome to come fly. The Section takes care of providing the permits, field, launch equipment, and range organization and safety; just bring your rockets, motors, and flight supplies and join in the fun! With sport launches accounting for over twelve million rocket flights every year nationwide, the NAR offers a number of services for the sport modeler.
Civil Air Patrol
Aerospace Education Library
If you enjoy learning about aviation and aircraft or launch vehicles and spacecraft as well as the science behind all of this. Take a look at all the available
on their site! Want more? Check
National Coalition of Aviation and Space Education (NCASE)
The Dr. Mervin K. Strickler Jr. and Crown Circle Awards
NCASE has established two awards recognizing outstanding leadership in aerospace education; the Crown Circle Aerospace Leadership Award and the Mervin K. Strickler Jr. Aerospace Leadership Award, both to honor individuals or organizations who exemplify leadership in aerospace education. These two awards provide an opportunity to recognize outstanding efforts.
The Dr. Mervin K. Strickler Jr. Award was established
to recognize individuals or organizations that share his personal commitment and lifelong contributions to aerospace education at the national level.
Dr. Strickler promoted aerospace education for more than 50 years and is considered the "Father of Aerospace Education."
The Crown Circle Award was established in 1979 to recognize performance and outstanding leadership in aerospace education at the local and/or regional level. Those seeking this honor must demonstrate involvement in and commitment to aerospace education at the local or regional level.
Every day thousands of dedicated individuals and organizations around the country work with youth to provide opportunities through quality STEM aerospace activities. These selfless people don't do this for recognition, but because it is the right thing to do. Their efforts help all of us. Now we have the chance to recognize their outstanding work.
It is that time of year to nominate individuals or organizations that have demonstrated outstanding aviation and space education leadership through noteworthy achievements and/or made significant contributions to the aerospace field over a continuous period of time.
Recipients can be proud to receive one of the highest awards in aerospace education worldwide! Please take the time to nominate a worthy candidate and show them their efforts haven't gone unnoticed.
All nominations must be received by November 30th, 2016.
7 November 1967
Surveyor 6 was the sixth lunar lander of the
- Launched November 7, 1967, it landed on November 10, 1967. Surveyor 6 landed on the Sinus Medii. Mass on landing: 299.6 kg (660.5 lb). A total of 30,027 images were transmitted to Earth.
This spacecraft was the fourth of the Surveyor series to successfully achieve a soft landing on the moon, obtain post landing television pictures, determine the abundance of the chemical elements in the lunar soil, obtain touchdown dynamics data, obtain thermal and radar reflectivity data, and conduct a Vernier engine erosion experiment. Virtually identical to Surveyor 5, this spacecraft carried a television camera, a small bar magnet attached to one footpad, and an alpha-scattering instrument as well as the necessary engineering equipment. It landed on November 10, 1967, in Sinus Medii, 0.49 degree in latitude and 1.40 degree w longitude (
) - the center of the moon's visible hemisphere. This spacecraft accomplished all planned objectives. The successful completion of this mission satisfied the Surveyor program's obligation to the Apollo project. On November 24, 1967, the spacecraft was shut down for the 2 week lunar night. Contact was made on December 14, 1967, but no useful data were obtained.
Lunar soil surveys were completed using photographic and
backscattering methods. A similar instruments, the
, was used onboard several Mars missions.
In a further test of space technology Surveyor 6's engines were restarted and burned for 2.5 seconds in the first Lunar liftoff on November 17 at 10:32 UTC. This created 150 lbf (700 N) of thrust and lifted the vehicle 12 feet (4 m) from the Lunar surface. After moving west 8 ft (2.5 m) the spacecraft was once again successfully soft landed. The spacecraft continued functioning as designed.
November 30, 2016 marks 46 Years of Sounding Rockets at Wallops
On November 30, 1970
anagement of the sounding rockets program was transferred from Goddard Space Flight Center to the Wallops Flight Center (later Wallops Flight Facility). The first mission launched after the program relocation was a Princeton University astrophysics payload, 4.267, flown from White Sands Missile Range on December 2, 1970. Principal Investigator, Dr. D.C. Morton, had launched a series of rockets starting in 1964 and this was his 14th mission using the Aerobee 150 vehicle. The scientific purpose of the flight was to photograph far-ultraviolet spectra of stars in the constellation Perseus to study stellar absorption lines, circumstellar absorption and emission line and interstellar absorption lines.
With the beginning of the space age rockets were quickly becoming mainstream vehicles to carry scientific payloads above the Earth's atmosphere. The Aerobee built by Aerojet was the second rocket
* developed for the purpose of scientific measurements both within and outside of the atmosphere. The first version of the Aerobee was designed to carry a 68 kg payload to 60 km or above. The Aerobee 150 could carry approximately 100 kg to 200 km. At the end of the Aerobee program there were 10 versions of the vehicle.
In addition to launch vehicle development, the payload support systems also saw continued improvement during the early years of research flights. The first spectrophotometers were flown without attitude control systems in 1961 by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Stecher 4.011, and were mounted normal to the rockets roll axis with a very limited "time on target". Development of a threeaxis attitude control system by Space General Corporation (first science flight in 1966 by Morton and Spitzer) made it possible to point the instrument toward a specific target for longer periods. The Space General system could point the instrument within 3 degrees of the scientific target with a limit cycle jitter of +/- 15 arc minutes.
The primary instruments for the Princeton sounding rocket flights from 1964 through 1970 were Schmidt cameras.
These systems incorporate a full-aperture corrector for spherical mirrors. To facilitate UV spectrophotometry the correctors could be coated with layers of chemicals which enhanced the reflectance in the UV bands under study. Applying a coating of lithium-fluoride would enhance reflectance at wavelengths longer than 110 nm enabling study of Lyman alpha emission from the night sky. In a paper published in 1972 Dr. Morton describes the data processing from a June 1970 flight (4.271) as follows: "The Kodak far-ultraviolet film type 101-01 was used for all exposures. After the flight, the films were soaked in distilled water for 2 minutes and then developed at 68 deg F in D-19 for 6 minutes, except for the low resolution Scorpius exposure which was developed for only 4 minutes. The developing was monitored with a safe light and cut short on this one film which had a higher fog level as a result of either zero-order light from the horizon or zero- and first order Lyman alpha emission from the night sky. The intensity calibration was made by exposing strips of film for a range of times to a hydrogen lamp in a vacuum spectrograph and assuming reciprocity failure was absent."
Overall the UV astronomy program was a great success. Among other achievements the Princeton rocket spectrograph obtained the first UV spectra with enough resolution to show the line features in stars other than the Sun.
Today's sounding rocket scientists studying the Universe in the ultraviolet spectral range are following in the footsteps of Morton. An example of a current far-UV spectrograph is the Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph (CHESS), which gathers data in wavelengths between 102 and 160 nm. The Aerobee flight 4.267 had a slightly broader range 110 - 230 nm. Science targets for both payloads include stars in the Orion and Ophiuchus constellations. While science targets are the same much has changed in the capabilities of the program as well as the science instrumentation. The 4.267 payload is estimated to have weighed 300 lbs and reached an altitude of approximately 160 km
**. The CHESS II payload weighs about 1,100 lbs and is predicted to fly to an altitude of 287 km. Pointing accuracy of the Star Tracker flying on CHESS is 0.5 arcseconds and Dr. France is not heading off to the darkroom to process film after the flight. CHESS has a state of the art micro-channel plate (MCP) detector, the echelle grating in CHESS uses an electronbeam lithography process to better control scatter, and a powered holographically-ruled cross disperser focuses the light onto a detector - things that probably would have been inconceivable in 1970. Where will sounding rockets be in another 45 years?
*The first sounding rocket was the WAC Corporal.
**Exact weight and altitude cannot be confirmed for 4.267 but Princeton flew the same instrument system several times and the estimated weight and altitude given here are from flights 4.052 and 4.271.
1) Blair D. Savage - Early ultraviolet spectroscopy from space
2) Developed by Estonian-born optician Bernhard Schmidt Its concept is based on the unique property of spherical mirror with the aperture stop at the center of curvature to be free from off-axis aberrations.
3) Sounding Rockets: Their Role in Space Research (1969)
16 November 1973--Skylab 4 was the last Skylab mission.
Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Edward Gibson arrived aboard Skylab to find that they had company - three figures dressed in flight suits. Upon closer inspection, they found their companions were three dummies, complete with Skylab 4 mission emblems and name tags which had been left there by Al Bean, Jack Lousma, and Owen Garriott at the end of Skylab 3.
The all-rookie astronaut crew had problems adjusting to the same workload level as their predecessors when activating the workshop. Things got off to a bad start after the crew attempted to hide one astronaut's early space sickness from flight surgeons, a fact discovered by mission controllers after downloading onboard voice recordings. The crew's initial task of unloading and stowing the thousands of items needed for their lengthy mission also proved to be overwhelming. The schedule for the activation sequence dictated lengthy work periods with a large variety of tasks to be performed, and the crew soon found themselves tired and behind schedule.
As the activation of Skylab progressed, the astronauts complained of being pushed too hard. Ground crews disagreed; they felt that the astronauts were not working long enough or hard enough. During the course of the mission, this culminated in a radio conference to air frustrations. Following this, the workload schedule was modified, and by the end of their mission the crew had completed even more work than had been planned before launch. The experiences of the crew and ground controllers provided important lessons in planning subsequent manned spaceflight work schedules.
On Thanksgiving Day, Gibson and Pogue accomplished a 6 and a half hour spacewalk. The first part of their spacewalk was spent replacing film in the solar observatory. The remainder of the time was used to repair a malfunctioning antenna.
The crew reported that the food was good, but slightly bland. The crew would have preferred to use more condiments to enhance the taste of the food. The amount of salt they could use was restricted for medical purposes. The quantity and type of food consumed was rigidly controlled because of their strict diet.
Seven days into their mission, a problem developed in the Skylab attitude control gyroscope system, which threatened to bring an early end to the mission. Skylab depended upon three large gyroscopes, sized so that any two of them could provide sufficient control and maneuver Skylab as desired. The third acted as a backup in the event of failure of one of the others. The gyroscope failure was attributed to insufficient lubrication. Later in the mission, a second gyroscope showed similar problems, but special temperature control and load reduction procedures kept the second one operating, and no further problems occurred.
The crew spent many hours studying the Earth. Carr and Pogue alternately manned controls, operating the sensing devices which measured and photographed selected features on the Earth's surface. The crew also made solar observations, recording about 75,000 new telescopic images of the Sun. Images were taken in the X-ray, ultraviolet, and visible portions of the spectrum.
As the end of their mission drew closer, Gibson continued his watch of the solar surface. On January 21, 1974, an active region on the Sun's surface formed a bright spot which intensified and grew. Gibson quickly began filming the sequence as the bright spot erupted. This film was the first recording from space of the birth of a solar flare.
On December 13, the crew sighted Comet Kohoutek and trained the solar observatory and hand-held cameras on it. They gathered spectra on it using the Far Ultraviolet Camera /Spectrograph. They continued to photograph it as it approached the Sun. On December 30, as it swept out from behind the Sun, Carr and Gibson spotted it as they were performing a spacewalk.
The crew also photographed the Earth from orbit. Despite instructions not to do so, the crew (perhaps inadvertently) photographed Area 51, causing a minor dispute between various government agencies as to whether the photographs showing this secret facility should be released. In the end, the picture was published along with all others in NASA's Skylab image archive, but remained unnoticed for years.
Skylab 4 completed 1,214 Earth orbits and four EVAs totaling 22 hours, 13 minutes. They traveled 34.5 million miles (55,500,000 km) in 84 days, 1 hour and 16 minutes in space.