April 12, 2012

New Chinese Rocket Engine Enters Production (Source: Aviation Week)
China’s main rocket engine maker appears to have begun deliveries of production-standard YF-100 engines, the key powerplants for the forthcoming Long March 5, 6 and 7 launchers. A propulsion system for the Long March 5 heavy launcher, comprising two main engines and two auxiliary thrusters, was “recently” delivered by the Academy of Aerospace Propulsion Technology (AAPT) — also known as the 6th Academy — according to its parent, the national space group China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC).

Although the integrated propulsion set will be used for trials, CASC adds that it is the first “formal product” — apparently meaning that it is not experimental — and that the event “indicates that the delivery of engines burning kerosene and liquid oxygen has entered a normal condition.” The delivery was attributed to AAPT’s 7103rd Factory, which is presumably the engine’s manufacturer. (4/12)

North Korean Rocket 'May Have Broken Apart' After Launch (Source: RIA Novosti)
North Korea’s rocket, launched on Friday, appears to have broken apart minutes after blastoff, CNN quoted U.S. officials as saying. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Friday cited South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seook as saying that the reclusive communist state has launched the Unha-3 long-range rocket. Two U.S. officials confirmed the launch, CNN reported. There have been no reports of any injuries or damage inflicted by falling debris, CNN said. Japanese officials also said the launch failed. (4/12)

UF-Led Team Uses Observatory to Characterize Low-Mass Exoplanets (Source: UF)
University of Florida astronomers have found compelling evidence for two low-mass planets orbiting the nearby star Fomalhaut, just 25 light years from Earth. Twice as massive as the sun and 20 times brighter, Fomalhaut is surrounded by a ring of dust and debris, making it a favorite system for astronomers to study and a natural laboratory for testing planet formation theories.

In 2008, images of Fomalhaut taken by the Hubble Space Telescope led to the discovery of “Fomalhaut b,” the first extra solar planet to be directly detected in visible light. At the time, astronomers believed it to be a giant planet, akin to Jupiter or Saturn, but later infrared images failed to detect the planet, meaning that it had to be smaller than Saturn. (4/12)

Orion Test Capsule Rolls Through Volusia County En Route to Washington (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
A test astronaut escape capsule for the Orion spacecraft rolled through Volusia County on Interstate 95 about 9:45 this morning. Volusia County Health Department engineer Lee Faircloth captured photos of the capsule as it rolled through town on the back of a flatbed truck. The "oversize load" was escorted by Florida Highway Patrol troopers. The module is being taken from Kennedy Space Center to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It will be displayed as part of the ceremonies for the arrival of space shuttle Discovery later this month. (4/12)

Plan to 'Knock' Space Junk Out of Orbit Using Puffs of Gas (Source: Daily Mail)
More than 500,000 pieces of 'space junk' orbit the Earth - and NASA has come up with a radical solution to 'clean' the space near Earth. A team from the University of Michigan is investigating a new technology where 'pulses' of gas will be fired into the path of debris. The technology would increase 'drag' on orbiting space junk, leaving it to plunge downwards into Earth's atmosphere. (4/12)

NASA Picks Up 3 UCF Projects (Source: Central Florida Future)
Despite its recent retirement of the space shuttle program, NASA is continuing to further space exploration in today’s day and age, and UCF is getting taken along for the ride. Last month, three UCF projects involving experiments observing the surfaces of asteroids and other objects in space were selected by NASA as part of their Flight Opportunities Program, a unique chance for scientists and engineers to create an experiment that will be flown on commercial suborbital vehicles.

With a team made up of undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni and hired staff from UCF, the 12 engineers, three physicists, assistant research scientist and manager of engineering staff were led by Principal Investigator Dr. Joshua Colwell, who said that the projects they have developed are meant to serve NASA in the long run. (4/12)

Delivering the Space Shuttles is Tougher Than You Think (Source: LA Times)
When you need to move a nearly 175,000-pound space shuttle with a 78-foot wingspan, who you gonna call? NASA, of course. But also companies that own big cranes. In New York, call a barge owner. And in Los Angeles, traffic engineers and the LAPD.

Delivering retired orbiters to their final display sites in Los Angeles, New York, the Washington, D.C., area and Florida’s Kennedy Space Center is presenting special challenges to the agency that put men on the moon. Delivery crews have dusted off an apparatus last used in the 1980s for transporting the shuttle. They have rehearsed the delicate task of unloading the orbiter from atop a Boeing 747. And they have surveyed Los Angeles streets to ensure they can withstand the spacecraft’s weight. (4/12)

4th Boeing-Built WGS Satellite Accepted by US Air Force (Source: SpaceRef)
Boeing announced that the U.S. Air Force accepted control of the fourth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) military communications satellite on April 11, after the spacecraft passed several weeks of rigorous on-orbit tests. WGS-4 was launched Jan. 19 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket. It is the first spacecraft in the program's upgraded Block II series, which includes a new radio frequency (RF) bypass that supports the transmission of airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery at data rates approximately three times greater than those currently available on Block I satellites. (4/12)

DiBello: FAA Should Play Role in Commercial Industry Now (Source: Florida Today)
Earlier this year, a federal moratorium was extended, limiting FAA involvement in the emerging U.S. commercial spaceflight industry. Considering the inherent risks in human spaceflight and the FAA’s well-established expertise in ensuring safety in the skies, this moratorium will only delay the inevitable. As the commercial spaceflight industry considers how future standards are to be established, which will guide it in the years to come, it is our obligation to strengthen dialogue with the FAA now, rather than debate the extent of its future role in the process.

This increased dialogue will help the industry to play an active role in shaping a viable and sustainable future for itself and ensure safety remains the number one priority for all. It is my firm belief that — in the near term — the FAA should immediately move ahead with the establishment of its planned tech center in a NASA spaceport state to work directly with industry and the agency, to help set the standards that will ensure future commercial space programs for both government and private-sector astronauts are flying soon and safely.

The FAA has a proper and required role in this industry’s future. For this reason, it is imperative that industry embrace FAA involvement, with NASA participation, in shaping new standards for commercial spaceflight to ensure the appropriate checks and balances are in place as we embark on this exciting journey. The time is now for the aerospace community to show wide support for the establishment of an FAA technical center to help ensure our commercial space industry gets off the ground and remains stable for many decades to come. (4/12)

Europe’s Massive Envisat Goes Silent, Jeopardizing GMES Transition Plans (Source: Space News)
Europe’s large Envisat Earth observation satellite has stopped communicating with its ground controllers and has not responded to emergency measures despite four days of effort, the European Space Agency (ESA) said April 12. "While it is known that Envisat remains in a stable orbit, efforts to resume contact with the satellite have, so far, not been successful,” ESA said in an April 12 statement.

With a core body 8 meters long and a launch weight of 8,000 kilograms, Envisat is the largest nonmilitary satellite ever launched. Placed into low Earth orbit in 2002, the satellite on March 1 passed its 10th anniversary — more than double its expected five-year life. But Envisat, which is equipped with 10 observing instruments, is doing more than just logging overtime. It is viewed by ESA and by the European Commission as essential to providing data continuity as they prepare a multibillion-dollar GMES network of Earth observation satellites. (4/12)

Will a SpaceX Texas Site Pose a Hazard to Florida? (Source: Brevard Times)
The FAA issued a notice on April 10 that Space X proposes to construct a vertical launch area and a control center area to support up to 12 commercial launches per year near Brownsville, Texas. The geography is strikingly similar to that of Cape Canaveral, Florida with barrier islands attached to the mainland with a port inlet.

The proposed site is also next to the Los Palomas Wildlife Management Area and Boca Chica State Park similar to the uninhabited Merritt Island National Refuge. But there is one major difference between launches from the proposed Texas site and that of launches from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport - a clear shot to the open Atlantic Ocean. A launch due east from the Texas site would place a payload over heavily populated South Florida metro areas within minutes after launch.

Now to be clear, the possibility of a payload crashing down on Florida is extremely remote because the launch failure would have to occur within a window measured in milliseconds at the altitude necessary for a payload to reach Florida. The irony of the Texas site is that the Space Coast of Florida would actually lie in a potential launch debris field. (4/12)

Putin Calls for Space Launch Development Strategy (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday a national strategy was needed for the development of the country’s space launch centers. “I believe we need to develop a long-term national development strategy,” he told a conference on the future of Russian space centers, speaking on Russian Cosmonautics Day. He said about 150 billion rubles (about $5 billion) will be earmarked for space programs from the federal budget. That includes over 40.5 billion rubles for the development of cosmodromes, he added. (4/12)

Russian Hockey Puck Will Fly to Space (Source: RIA Novosti)
The ceremonial first puck in Friday's Gagarin Cup final series-opener will blast off for the international space station, the KHL said Thursday. The puck will hit the ice in Omsk at the final series curtain-raiser between local team Avangard and Dynamo Moscow on Friday. Valery Kamensky, the chairman of the KHL's disciplinary committee, said the puck would then be put aboard a Soyuz rocket and sent to the orbiting laboratory.

"The first puck to be dropped in the final series will be sent into orbit," Kamensky said. When it arrives back on terra firma, the puck will be deployed in the first match of next season, traditionally played out in September between the previous year's finalists. (4/12)

Failure is an Option for North Korea Satellite... Then What? (Source: MSNBC)
Officially, we now are only hours from North Korea's launch of its Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite. The first of four reserved daily launch windows has already passed, with three to go until Monday. Celebrations are already planned that involve a successful mission. The radio beacon is to transmit hymns in honor of the country’s ruling dynasty. Foreign displeasure of the demonstration of rocket prowess will be ignored. All that is planned — if the launch works. But what if it doesn’t? What if the Earth-observing satellite goes the way its two predecessors apparently did — into the ocean, as scorched shrapnel, following a launch failure? (4/12)

Mars Viking Robots 'Found Life' (Source: Discovery)
New analysis of 36-year-old data, resuscitated from printouts, shows NASA found life on Mars, an international team of mathematicians and scientists conclude in a paper published this week. Further, NASA doesn't need a human expedition to Mars to nail down the claim, neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller, with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, told Discovery News. "The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope -- watch the bacteria move," Miller said. "On the basis of what we've done so far, I'd say I'm 99 percent sure there's life there," he added. (4/12)

Florida Agencies Solicit Spaceport Infrastructure Projects for State Funding (Source: Space Florida)
Each year, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is required to prepare a five-year work program in partnership with local Transportation Planning Organizations (TPO). This five year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is the basis for receiving Federal and State transportation funds. Preparation of the TIP begins with the establishment of project priorities.

Spaceport Infrastructure Facilities Projects may be included in the FDOT TIP if they are included in the Space Florida Spaceport Master Plan and adopted by the local TPO. New legislation, passed during the 2012 session, provides the following definition of projects and territories eligible for the FDOT Spaceport funding: Click here. A "Technical Assistance Workshop" is planned for April 26. (4/12)

Russian Firm to Roll Out Moon Rover (Source: RIA Novosti)
The prototype of the Russian moon rover competing for the Google Lunar X PRIZE will be finished by summer, developers said on Thursday. The Selenokhod (“Moon Walker”) will then undergo extensive testing, including the vacuum camera, the vibration test bed and on a simulated moon surface complete with craters. Selenokhod is the only Russian entrant among 26 teams competing for the $20 million that Google and the X Prize foundation assigned in 2007 for the company to build the first successful private moon rover. The winner has to create an unmanned probe that would successfully reach the moon, travel at least 500 meters across its surface and send high-definition video and photo from its trip back to Earth. Click here. (4/12)

Russia Losing Space Race - Poll (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is losing its position as the leader of the space race and needs to invest more in the space industry, a new poll by Levada Center revealed to mark Cosmonauts Day on Thursday. Forty-six percent of the respondents said Russia needs to spend more effort on its space exploration programs, compared to 36 percent who think the current level of support is enough and seven percent who advocate a cut in spending, the pollster said on its website. (4/12)

CASIS and NanoRacks Close Deal to Use Commercial Research Platform (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has completed a deal with NanoRacks, LLC, to reserve space on the first commercial platform available for researchers outside the ISS in the extreme environments of space. In June, CASIS will issue a formal solicitation to the research community and private enterprise for their proposals to use this one-of-a-kind platform for anything from earth observation to materials, and biological sciences.

The deal, worth $1.5 million, enables NanoRacks, the provider of sophisticated shoe-box sized space research hardware, to begin construction on the external platform and be ready for flight as early 2013 – almost a year ahead of the original schedule. NanoRacks already operates unique platforms inside the U.S. National Lab with more than 60 payloads under contract. NASA recently gave NanoRacks permission to expand its operations to the Japanese Kibo module’s exposed facility.

The NanoLabs platform provides a research space up to 8”x8”x8”. Through the CASIS investment, up to four companies will have an opportunity to fly their research onboard a NanoLab at minimal or no cost, depending on the project. Payloads will be delivered to the ISS by available vehicles launching from the U.S and Russia. Click here for a video. (4/12)

The Amazing Trajectories of Life-Bearing Meteorites from Earth (Source: Kurzweil AI)
The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago (10 km in diameter, mass greater than 1 trillion tons) must have ejected billions of tons of life-bearing meteorites into space. Now Kyoto Sangyo University physicists have calculated this could have seeded life in the solar system and even as far as Gliese 581. As much ejecta would have ended up on Europa as on the Moon: around 100 million individual Earth rocks in some scenarios. That’s because the huge gravitational field around Jupiter acts as a sink for rocks, which then get swept up by the Jovian moons as they orbit.

About a thousand Earth-rocks from this event would have made its way to Gliese 581 (a red dwarf some 20 light years from here that is thought to have a super-Earth orbiting at the edge of the habitable zone), taking about a million years to reach their destination. If life evolved at just 25 different sites in the galaxy 10 billion years ago, the combined ejecta from these places would now fill the Milky Way. The probability is almost 1 (close to certain) that our solar system is visited by microorganisms that originated outside our solar system. Click here. (4/12)

Orbital Rolls Out Antares First Stage to Launch Pad (Source: Examiner)
For the next several days, Orbital Sciences Corp. will be conducting “pathfinder” operations for the critical process of rolling out their Antares rocket to a launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Antares rocket will head up a ramp to the launch pad aboard a specifically designed transporter erector launcher, after a one-mile journey beginning at the Horizontal Integration Facility. (4/11)

Space Travel for Beginners (Source: Fin Channel)
Until now, reaching for the stars has only been possible for the chosen few. But soon the universe could be open to anyone willing to pay 200,000 dollars for an undistorted view of the home planet. Allianz Global Assistance is already developing the appropriate insurance programs. Just a few years ago, the notion of space flight for all was a pipe dream, if only because of the costs involved. So only a few super-rich enthusiasts have been able to buy their way into the exalted ranks of cosmonauts and astronauts.

For the 530 or so professional space pioneers who have gone into space thus far and prepared for months on end for their missions, it must be a bitter pill to see their exclusive club being overrun by wealthy amateur astronauts, whose only qualification consists, at the most, of having seen all the Star Trek sequels.

To boldly go where no insurance company has gone before, Morazin is relying on SpaceCo, a subsidiary of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. As one of the world's leading insurers of satellites, SpaceCo knows all about the specific risks involved in space travel. Morazin would also like to bring Allianz Global Investors on board, since the Enterprise recruits are all wealthy clients for whom not only the gateway to space but also new business opportunities may be opened up. (4/12)

Editorial: Full Commitment Needed to Make Spaceport America Successful (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
I agreed to serve on the board of directors of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority because I wanted to work to make it a success for the residents of Doña Ana County. I believe in the promise of Spaceport America. However, today we are forcing compromises when what we need is commitment and resources. The best example of this is the welcome centers. When the voters of Doña Ana County and Sierra County took on additional taxation to fund the spaceport, they were told that high-end welcome centers in Hatch and Truth or Consequences would bring scores of tourists to their towns.

Now, because our contract requires us to fund runway extensions that are required for legitimate safety concerns, we are looking for new ways to fund these centers. Why? Because we have made a commitment to not spend more than the $209 million. As change orders and engineering for actual construction have moved forward, the governing board finds itself forever cutting from one place to fund another place. That is not the right way to manage a resource of this magnitude.

Unless the situation improves, and we collectively work to make thes facilities the world-class innovations we voted for, then I'm not sure how we can honestly say that we've lived up the commitments made in the past. Combining this situation with the lack of action by the New Mexico Legislature regarding the hold-harmless law, I'm beginning to wonder how committed Santa Fe is to making this project a success. Other communities and states have stepped up to compete with us for commercial space business. We need to do what competitors do and step up our game and reaffirm our commitment to leading the world in commercial space. (4/12)

Russia Launches 20-Year Space Program (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia has started building the first post-Soviet space center, Vostochny, which is intended to demonstrate Russia’s commitment to upholding its space heritage. Vladimir Putin issued a decree on launching “one of the largest and most ambitious projects in modern Russia” in November 2007. The new spaceport is needed because the Defense Ministry’s Plesetsk spaceport is not used for manned missions and the Baikonur space center is leased from Kazakhstan and is not Russia’s property.

Vostochny will be built on the site of the former Svobodny spaceport in the Russian Far East. It will have 10 sites with launch pads and assembly and trial facilities. The rockets launched from Vostochny will fly over scarcely populated areas and bodies of water, which could pose problems for manned missions, said Alexander Lopatin. It will take at least eight years to launch the first mission from Vostochny, which is a short time for such an ambitious project. The approval of Space Development Strategy 2030 has given Roscosmos a direction, but its success will largely depend on Vostochny.

Vostochny not only implies major financial obligations but is also a prestige project. Solutions used for building the Soyuz-ST launch pad on Kourou, French Guiana, will be applied at Vostochny. Flight tests of a new manned cargo spacecraft are to begin by 2020. Roscosmos is focused on unmanned projects that promise major socioeconomic and research benefits, but will need a fundamentally new carrier rocket to do this. Click here. (4/12)

Man on Mars by 2030 (Source: Cosmos)
The head of NASA has reaffirmed putting man on Mars as a main goal of the agency. When the 12th and current administrator of NASA, Charles F. Bolden Jr., addressed a full house at the University of Sydney last Wednesday, his words were nothing if not aspirational. “Mars has always been the goal,” he stated, predicting that a manned mission to the red planet would be possible by the 2030s. “We’ve got to get data to the ground,” he cautioned, before such an objective could be realized, and added, “It’s hard getting things off this planet.” (4/12)

In North Korea, When is a Missile Not a Missile? (Source: CNN)
Log on to the Korean Central News Agency's state-run website and you'll find a concise explanation of what North Korea's launch of an Unha-3 long-range missile is all about: It's not about the missile, it's about the satellite sitting on top of that missile. "Kwangmyongsong-3, which is to be launched under the DPRK government's policy on space development for peaceful purposes, is an earth observation satellite for collecting data essential for the country's economic development," the agency says.

For the United States, and most other countries, it's very much about the missile. Missiles can be used innocuously to launch peaceful satellites - and they can be used to deliver nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. As the National Security Council's Tommy Vietor quipped Wednesday: "North Korea doesn't need to spend this kind of money on a weather satellite. Go to weather.com."

"Even the North Koreans say 'Yes, it's a ballistic missile but we're using it to launch a satellite,'" North Korea expert John Park says, "and so if you use that legalistic interpretation, that's acknowledgment right there." And if North Korea is launching a long-range missile, regardless of the purpose, Park and other experts say, it's simple: "They are in violation" of a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions. (4/12)

Astronaut Underwear Wins Students $5,000 (Source: Space.com)
An old NASA idea for keeping astronauts cool could finally become reality. U.S. high school students recently won $5,000 to make spacesuit undergarments using materials that can absorb heat without changing temperature. Today's NASA astronauts must wear stretchy underwear with 300 feet of tubes carrying chilled water to avoid overheating during long spacewalks. The students from West Salem High School in Oregon proposed making lighter undergarments by using phase-changing crystals — materials that are able to stay the same temperature during phase changes (such as solid ice melting into liquid water). (4/12)

UK and Japan Commit to Greater Collaboration on Space (Source: NDS)
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts will today sign an agreement with the Japanese Economy Minister Motohisa Furukawa for greater collaboration on space research and technology, alongside identifying potential commercial opportunities. One of the key areas for collaboration is on earth observation technology, such as the NovaSAR programme or the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) run by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited. In partnership with the UK Space Agency, DMC provided vital data to assist with rescue efforts and damage assessment in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. (4/12)

Is This a Parrot on Mars? (Source: Discovery)
A new paper claims this is not a Rorschach test for the extraterrestrially challenged, but an anatomically correct, three-dimensional rendering of a parrot on Mars that is too accurate for chance. So concludes an independent team of two geologists, three veterinarians and a sculptor -- who spent six years hashing out the details of three images from NASA's now-defunct Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft taken between April 2000 and December 2005. Click here. (4/12)

'Monolith' Object on Mars? You Could Call It That (Source: Space.com)
Amateur stargazers have discovered an intriguing object jutting out from the surface of Mars. The seemingly perfectly rectangular, upright structure, found in NASA images of the Red Planet, bears a striking resemblance to the monoliths planted on Earth and the moon by aliens in the classic sci-fi film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

The object in question was first spotted several years ago after being photographed by the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a NASA space probe; every so often, it garners renewed interest on the Internet. But is it unnatural — a beacon erected by aliens for mysterious reasons, and even more mysteriously paralleled in the imaginations of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, creators of "2001"? Or is this rock the work of nature? Click here. (4/12)

Future Russian Space Hotel May Serve Pharmaceutical Purposes (Source: RIA Novosti)
An orbiting hotel for space tourists being designed by Russian company Orbital Technologies will also host experiments for the pharmaceutical industry, the company’s CEO Sergei Kostenko said. Orbital Technologies announced in 2010 plans to launch the first module of a hotel in space by 2016. The four-room structure will be built by Russian state-owned rocket and space corporation Energia and will accommodate seven space tourists. We are also working on a project that involves growing proteins in zero-gravity conditions,” Kostenko said. Click here. (4/12)

Caution: Comet Crash Zone Ahead (Source: Discovery)
There's a comet massacre under way at Fomalhaut, a young, very bright star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus that is about twice as big as our sun. The proof? Fomalhaut's ring of dust, first discovered in the 1980s and the subject of ongoing and conflicting studies about the size and temperature of its particles. New research from scientists using the European Space Agency's Herschel infrared space telescope resolves the dispute with a theory that the belt is filled with the dusty remains of comets and that it is being continually replenished. (4/12)

Distant Galaxies Confirm Accelerating Growth of Universe, Dark Energy (Source: Space.com)
The pesky reality that the universe's expansion is accelerating — an observation that prompted astronomers to invoke an unknown entity called dark energy to explain it — has been further confirmed by new measurements. Scientists have used cosmic magnifying glasses called gravitational lenses to observe super-bright distant galaxies, giving a measure of how quickly the universe is blowing up like a giant balloon. They found, in agreement with previous measurements, that the universe's expansion is indeed speeding up over time.

Scientists still don't have much of an idea why the universe is not only expanding doing so ever-faster. The gravity of all the mass in the universe would be expected to pull everything back inward, so scientists call whatever force is counteracting gravity "dark energy." (4/12)

ISS Crew Celebrates Gagarin Flight (Source: Florida Today)
A multinational crew aboard the International Space Station took time Thursday to share special meals to celebrate the 51st anniversary of the world’s first human spaceflight. On April 12, 1961, Russian Air Force pilot Yuri Gagarin rocketed into the history books, launching into space from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (4/12)

Gagarin's Falsified Flight Record (Source: Discovery)
On April 12, 1961, the world met Yuri Gagarin, a former Soviet Air Force pilot who shot from obscurity to international fame after making one full orbit around the Earth in his Vostok 1 spacecraft. But the mission records the Soviet Union submitted to international authorities to secure Gagarin's place as the first man in space present a very different mission. Specifically, his landing was deliberately falsified. During the year, lies about the Vostok landing system called into question whether or not Vostok 1 deserved its place as history's first spaceflight at all.

Based on FAI international rules, for the flight to count as a "first", the pilot-astronaut or pilot-cosmonaut would have to land with his spacecraft. Gagarin's landing was much scarier than the innocuous one described in the FAI's formal record. Vostok had major cable problems during re-entry, exposing Vostok's fragile hatch to the heat. Only after the cables burned away did Vostok reorient itself with its heat shield down. Its parachute deployed late, and Gagarin ejected 23,000 feet above the ground, separate from the spacecraft. He landed 10 minutes after and miles away from his spacecraft. Click here. (4/12)

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