Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Third ALT of Space Shuttle Enterprise
23 Sep 1977

Flown by Haise and Fullerton, the five minute flight included an autopilot manoeuvre and was the last free flight with the tail cone attached.
Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) at Dryden all consisted of a ride atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (modified 747) - three captive and five free flights.
The last two free flights had simulated main engines and the OMS pods exposed for true aerodynamic man-in-the-loop testing.

Once the free flights were complete the ALT Program conducted four ferry flights.
Enterprise was readied by reinstalling the tailcone and lowering the cant of the orbiter on top the SCA from six degrees to three dgrees.

Now here is the cool part I bet you didn't know: Maybe I should wait and give you clues like Google did. Ha, mine would be better!
Did Space Shuttle Enterprise ever land at Marshall Spaceflight Center?

Of course not, there is no shuttle landing facility there. However, it was ferried to MSFC on March 13, 1978. It was mated to an External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters for a year-long series of verticle ground vibration tests. Enterprise was ferried to KSC on April 10, 1979 when the fit checks were done with Launch Complex 39A. So... the pad fit checks came after the flight tests, interesting!

Note: All photos of a white external tank and a completely white Space Shuttle on the pad are of Enterprise. Only the first three flights had a white ET (realized we could save weight by not painting the tank). However, Columbia had black paint on her wings.

Awesome site with lots more cool facts about Enterprise

Photos of ALT-3
Really, really cool photo of Enterprise @ Verticle Ground Vibration Tests

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Today in Space
STS-79 Launch

Fourth Shuttle-Mir docking with first crew exchange done by the Space Shuttle. STS-79 delivered Phase One's Increment 3 John Blaha to replace Shannon Lucid.

Only shuttle to roll back twice due to hurricane threats (In this case, Bertha and Fran).

The patch is in the shape of the Space Shuttle's airlock hatch, symbolizing the gateway to international cooperation in space.
The EVA handshake between a US EVA suit and a Rusian Orlon suit represents teamwork - not only the crew members, but the teamwork of both countries' space personnel.

From the Shuttle Mir History site:
In his Oral History, astronaut William Readdy said: "There are things that you remember visually and things that you remember, I guess, kind of emotionally. I remember first looking out the overhead window when I saw the Mir during the rendezvous. I could just see it as the brightest star in the sky, and I remembered somebody, when I flew my first flight in January of '92 called me up to the flight deck and said that, 'Hey, in five minutes you're going to be able to see the Mir go by,' because we were in similar-type orbits. So I remember floating up to the flight deck, and I saw the Mir go by, and I guess never would I have thought, given the political situation back then, never would I have thought in a million years, that we'd be joining not only physically with the Shuttle-Mir, but also joined up in this International Space Station."

Shannon Lucid Video Tour of Mir
Hatch Opening video with Lucid waiting

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Unexplained Google Doodle Phenomenon

While this entry may not really fit here, this is the closest blog I have that I can file this topic – I have linked some of the sweet vintage space-themed arcade games so that it may fit a little better. If you don’t care about the current Goggle Doodle mystery, skip to the bottom and hit the vintage pinball and arcade game links.

First and foremost – the first Google Doodle and/or Zero Wing has nothing to do with H. G. Wells - hence, the third doodle on the 21st for a 143rd anniversary of H.G. Wells' birthday is unlikely. However, there are often birthday doodles for randomly numbered anniversaries.

I tried to rationalize what the missing letters meant (and there may still be more to that one). But it seems an obvious by-product of simply, the doodle design. Here’s why:

I asked myself, why the "L" in the second doodle - since they left a clue about the second "O" being critical in recognition of the logo and the file names utilize the missing letter. However, the second "O" is commonly dropped to render a doodle. And the missing “O” was conveniently used to create a clue on their Twitter page that once deciphered said “All your “O”s are belong to us”. Linking the first Google Doodle to the Zero Wing Arcade Game. But let’s explore the path anyway to make sure there is no connection between the missing letters... why the "L"? All the other letters are circular allowing a crop circle - that was easy! So they made the “L” a tractor making the crop circles (implying crop circles are not real - that alone kind of diminishes any theory of celebrating outer space theme of its own). However, it does support a sci-fi theme (which may hurt my overall theory later in this blog). Crop circles are just a way to imply England (with the coordinates clue pointing directly to H.G. Wells' home where he wrote War of the Worlds). Again, no major anniversary of War of the Worlds on this date. As for the coordinates reportedly (I don’t know – I don’t have Google Mars installed) pointing to a similar upside down Google crater formation – I think just a red herring.

So – Akeem’s Theory comes into play. When all things seem the same, it is the most obvious answer. A missing O and a missing L are just a product of Doodle Design!

Turns out September 15th is the anniversary of the first black & white release of War of the Worlds Arcade Game. I admit the War of the Worlds Arcade Game is quite random - no big internet craze like with Zero Wing and the funny Janglish interpretation. But the date is key here. So we have two Arcade Games.

You must look at the link between the three events (Sept 5th, 15th, and ???). So far both are major anniversaries of Arcade Games. But what else do these two have in common? UFOs are certainly a feature of War of the Worlds, but I am not sure Zero Wing can really fall into that category - or is the common UFO just part of relating the Google Doodles? What started this after all? An untagged Google Doodle… that linked to “Unexplained Phenomenon”. It was unexplained why the Doodle had been deployed - simply the football tee used to kick off this whole mystery? Crop Circles are indeed unexplained phenomenon – another link between the Doodles. So there might not be a need to link Unexplained Phenomenon to Zero Wing. That being said, we have space and sci-fi.

So that is where I started… looking for the next game that would be the third Google Doodle. These anniversaries are Arcade Games, NOT video games. 20th, 30th… so what came out in 1969. Crap, there were no “Arcade Games” as we know them. So… maybe a pinball machine? A natural direction for me to take since I know a bit about space-themed pinball machines. I look in my online pinball databases. Hmmm… space related ones certainly came out in 1969. But most (especially ones that feature sci-fi/UFO artwork) either are different dates or do not have an exact day associated with them – often we only have a month and year. But there was this one… and there are no pictures, so I have no idea what the graphics theme might be other than the obvious implied ones – Apollo Ball by Bally. Now this was actually some kind of Bingo Machine – looks like a pinball machine, but different play and was often a gambling device before conversions were forced. The thing is, this game was released on September 25th, 1969. And THAT is my sole fact building this theory. The game does have some special uniqueness in that it was a six-card game that utilized “Mystery Intervals” (basically coin insertion resulted in different play each time). That is rather intriguing since we would now have a 20th on the 5th, a 30th on the 15th, and presumably a 40th on the 25th – all ten days apart.

What other commonality could be there? Is there any uniqueness about these two games? Someone has suggested solid state vector graphics of War of the Worlds. But what does Zero Wing offer in that category?

• The first two arcade games are very sci-fi (which supports the common UFO in both Google Doodles – along with the Tractor making the crop circles).
• Both relate to shooting things – where could that go? So many were.
• And both are an attempt to save the world. Hmmm..... that is a pretty big connection and would omit anything manned spaceflight related.

There are indeed, as I have found, in my searching many extremely cool space-themed Arcade Games of that time (and some alien shoot-em-up ones like Invaders). None of which I was able to associate a specific September date with (a complete list below). Except there are two pretty nifty ones that could be additional candidates because I have no month or day associated with their releases.

Space Flight - ?/69
A very cool lunar landing game that used an 8-track in it for sound. There is an awesome video of the game’s operation from a guy who restored one replacing the 8-track with Solid State sound. No sci-fi there though… unless you are a moon-hoax supporter! And if you are, check out Mythbusters – the hoax theory was busted.

Apollo Moon Shot Rifle - ?/69
Which totally ties in the shooting aspect of the puzzle.

There is also a pinball released in 1969 (no exact date) called Suspense - not space related… but Google has kept us in suspense!

So if it just the anniversary of a few Arcade Games, there is still one thing that bothers me… why?

Google Doodles began as scientific natured fun. But obscure arcade games? I can completely imagine a circle of laptop techies sitting in bean-bags with a Google Doodle brainstorm session on-going and see the whole thought process. There is a linkage – one was doing research for the Apollo 40th Google Doodle and found this obscure Apollo arcade game which also celebrates a 40th this year. Another remembers (due to its popularity) that Zero Wing has a big anniversary. And then you connect the dots, split the difference and go look for a 30th anniversary and find a perfect example, lending itself to clues, confusion by the public, and easy artwork. Great Puzzle, no?

But again, why? What is the bigger picture?

Why anniversaries ten days apart? As I said above – coincidence and splitting the difference? The Mysterious Intervals aspect of that bingo machine is quite coincidental… is it enough? Obscure arcade games don’t seem to be in the Google Doodle playground.

UPDATE: Just found out the “All your base are belong to us” was not in the arcade game – only the Sega Genesis/Megadrive version. Not sure if that is case-breaker or not…

Astronaut - 6/69
Cosmos (converted) -?/69
Cosmos (Bally) - 7/68
MoonShot - 8/69

Nifty Space-related Arcade Games:
Apollo 14 - ?/72
Apollo Moon Shot - 1/69
Lunar Rescue - ?/73
Missle - 6/69
Moon Rocket - ?/?
Radar Rocket - 40s
S.A.M.I. - 6/70
Space Ace - 10/83
Space Glider - 11/60
Space Gun - 5/64
Space Gunner - 5/58
Space Invade - 50s
Space Pilot - 11/68
Star Rocket - 50s

Saturday, September 5, 2009

This Day in Space
STS-8 Landing

September 5, 1983 - STS-8 was the first night landing of the space shuutle. Coincidentally, it was also the first night launch.

The crew patch shows a night launch. The crew also had an unofficial patch which illustrated the night launch/landing aspect of the mission.

STS-8 Press Kit