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Thursday, August 31, 2006

H2O abstract

I suppose most people sitting around the pool would want to dive in. I was having too much fun watching all the waves so I couldn't help but take some pictures. Turned out to be quite an interesting abstract. I may post another one or two.... This image was taken with my 70-300mm zoom at 190mm focal length on my 20D with an exposure of 1/800 seconds at f/5.6, ISO 400. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Project Mercury

This is a monument to Project Mercury and to the 7 astronauts of the Mercury program near the Mercury-Atlas launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The silver monument has a stylized 7 embedded in it signifying the 7 astronauts and the abundance of 7s used during the program, with spacecraft named "Freedom 7", "Friendship 7", "Sigma 7" and so on. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/500 seconds at f/11, ISO 400. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Missile Guidance Computer

This Borroughs computer was used to steer early Thor and Redstone missiles as they left the pad and flew downrange. No computer was small enough to put into the missiles in the late 1950s and early 1960s so tracking data had to be fed into a room sized computer like this in real time and guidance commands sent by radio to the missile as it climbed out. Today your hand calculators have more computing power than this behemouth and by the late 1960s, roughly the capability of this computer was able to fit into the Apollo spacecraft. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/25 seconds at f/5.6, ISO 1600. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 28, 2006

Heatshield from GT-2 MOL test flight

This is the top half of the heatshield from the Gemini 2 spacecraft used in the MOL test. You can see where the circular part of the heatshield was cut out and where the hatch would have been on the spacecraft, as well as the ablative pattern in the heatshield. The Gemini and Apollo spacecraft both used an off-center center of gravity which allowed the spacecraft to generate some lift during re-entry so that they could modify their path through the atmosphere by rolling the spacecraft, much as the Space Shuttle does with its wings as it rolls left and right during its re-entry. One could steer the spacecraft towards a splashdown point as well as change the g-loads on the crew during the re-entry. You can see here that the ablative pattern radiates from the bottom half of the heatshield. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/100 seconds at f/3.5, ISO 1600. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 27, 2006


It is often claimed that the Space Shuttle is the worlds first reusable spacecraft and that STS-2 was the first time a manned spacecraft flew twice into orbit. While that is technically true, this Gemini spacecraft was actually the first to fly into space twice. It's first mission was the last test flight of the Gemini-Titan series before Gus Grissom and John Young flew GT-3 into orbit. Later, this same Gemini capsule was refurbished and used to test the MOL (Manned Orbiting Laboratory) military program. MOL was to use Gemini spacecraft to launch and man a laboratory attached behind the Gemini. In order to get into the lab however, without doing a spacewalk, the plan was to have a hatch that passed through the heat shield into the lab! This Gemini spacecraft proved the concept and survived its re-entry with the modified heatshield. It was launched aboard a Titan IIIC on November 3, 1966 and completed its mission flawlessly. It is now displayed in the Air Force Museum at the Titan launch complex on Cape Canaveral and can be seen on the Cape Canaveral tour from the KSC visitors center. A photograph of its MOL launch aboard the Titan IIIC is visible on the wall to the left of the spacecraft. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/40 seconds at f/3.5, ISO 1600. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Command Module interior

This view into the Apollo 14 Command Module shows the left side of the cockpit where the Commander (in this case, Alan Shepard) would sit during the launch into orbit. The couch is clearly seen with the lower section in the launch configuration with the legs up. The hand controller is between the left and center couch and the instrument panel in front of the astronauts is easily seen. Imagine living in this relatively small space with two companions for up to two weeks! You wouldn't have to ask me twice. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 35mm focal length. The on camera flash was used with an exposure of 1/60 seconds at f/4.5, ISO 1600. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 25, 2006

Kitty Hawk

The Apollo 14 Command Module, named "Kitty Hawk", sits in the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville Florida. This spacecraft carried the crew of Apollo 14, Commander Alan Shepard, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell to the Moon and back in February 1971. Shepard and Mitchell landed their Lunar Module, named "Antares", in the Fra Mauro highlands near Cone Crater where they spent almost two days. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length. I used the on camera flash with an exposure of 1/60 seconds at f/4, ISO 1600. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 24, 2006

LC 34 in stereo - free viewing version

This is the same image pair side-by-side for use in free viewing the stereo. You may need to adjust the size down to be able to see the stereo properly. The left image is intended for the left eye and the right for the right eye. Posted by Picasa

LC 34 in stereo, anaglyph version

Here is a stereo anaglyph made from images taken at LC 34. This was created by taking consecutive images and stepping to the right between the two pictures. I chose a focus point to aim at and kept the focus and exposure unchanged between shots taken a second or two apart. I then used StereoPhoto Maker to combine the images and make minor adjustments. Posted by Picasa

In memory of the Apollo 1 crew

This flag and plaque are attached to the south side of the launch pedestal at Launch Complex 34 commemorating the disastrous day of January 27, 1967 when the Apollo 1 crew were killed.

This image was taken with the kit lens at 55mm focal length on my 20D with an exposure of 1/800 seconds at f/11, ISO 400. Converted to B&W in Picasa using an orange filter. Posted by Picasa

LC 34

This is Launch Complex 34. It is a somber place today, a place for reflection on the hazards of spaceflight. This is the pedestal on which a Saturn IB rocket would sit before launch. A gantry rolled in and out on the tracks in front and behind from this point of view and would roll to the left. In the background are two flame deflectors that would be rolled under the pedestal to deflect flame to the sides of the pad.

In the early evening of January 27, 1967, 3 men sat inside the capsule of a Block I Apollo spacecraft sitting on top of a Saturn IB booster resting on this launch pad, taking part in a countdown test in preparation for their launch about a month later on the very first manned Apollo spaceflight. The crew of Apollo 1 were Commander Gus Grissom, the 2nd American in space; Ed White, the first American to walk in space on Gemini 4; and rookie astronaut Roger Chaffee. They sat in spacecraft CM-012 atop Saturn IB rocket number 204. The hatch was sealed and the spacecraft pressurized to about 16.7 psi of pure oxygen. Their simulated countdown was halted at T-10 minutes while issues with the communications links were being worked out and the crew had been in the spacecraft on their backs for several hours. They must have been bored with not much going on and maybe a little tired of lying on their backs for so long, as well as frustrated by the nagging problems, but that was the life of a NASA astronaut.

At 18:31 local time, all that changed and our innnocence in manned spaceflight was lost in an entirely unexpected way. Somewhere below and to the left of Grissoms couch (from the hatch, Grissom sat on the left, White in the middle, Chaffee on the right), a spark probably from some chaffed wiring ignited a fire. The spacecraft was designed with fire safety in mind, but no one had considered the affects of pure high pressure oxygen. At 16.7psi of pure oxygen, almost anything is flammable and a lot of material in the spacecraft provided ample fuel for the fire. The crew quickly noticed the fire and called out over the comm channel about the fire, almost calmly at first. The fire grew rapidly and probably by the time they had noticed it, the pressure inside the spacecraft rose even more from the heat of the fire, sealing their fate. The hatch was designed to be held in place partly by the internal pressure of the spacecraft and with that pressure much higher than normal and rising due to the fire, it quickly became impossible even for a very athletic Ed White to pull the hatch free to make their escape. Even with no emergency, it normally took 90 seconds to remove the hatch. The 3 astronauts were trapped inside their burning spacecraft. The fumes quickly overcame them and probably in less than about 30 seconds, they fell unconscious as the smoke and heat grew. Because of the heat and smoke, it took more than 5 minutes for the pad crew to get the hatch open and by then it was too late. The crew of Apollo 1 were dead.

The sacrafice made by Grissom, White, and Chaffee undoubtably made the Apollo spacecraft into the remarkably successful vehicle it turned out to be and probably saved the lives of future astronauts and it was in their memory that we landed 12 men on the Moon during Apollo. Today, this launch complex sits abandoned as a monument to that tragic day and to the memory of those 3 brave astronauts. There is a small flag and plaque on the side of this pedestal and stenciled into the oceanside wall on the left in this image are the words "Abandon in Place" - a standard term used to indicate to leave this facility as is. It slowly deteriorates today in the Florida weather, but it is worth pausing here and remembering all fallen astronauts in our conquest and exploration of space.

Not long before his death, Gus Grissom said: "If we die, we want people to accept it. We're in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."

This image was taken with the kit lens at 18mm focal length on my 20D. The exposure was 1/640 seconds at f/11, ISO 400. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mercury-Redstone Stereo 3D - free view version

This free view version of the stereo image I posted earlier will look better than the anaglyph version if you know how to see stereo in this way. Stare straight ahead and try to merge the images together, left image to left eye, right to right eye. You might need to adjust the image size to make it easier and if you don't know how to do it, it might take some practice to get the hang of it. It's a talent I learned a few years ago and it allows me to display two images side by side like this and see clear stereo. This image was created with a freeware Windows PC program called StereoPhoto Maker. Posted by Picasa

Mercury Redstone in 3D

The left eye image in this 3D anaglyph appeared in yesterdays image of the day. You'll need red-blue (with red on the left eye) anaglyph glasses to see this image in stereo to imagine standing out on the launch pad as I did when I took these images. These images were taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/320 seconds at f/11, ISO 100. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mercury Redstone

This Mercury Redstone stands at the Air Force Museum at Cape Canaveral Florida at the site of the first two United States manned spaceflight launches. Alan Shepard launched on the first flight, MR-3 and Gus Grissom launched on MR-4, a duplication of Shepards suborbital flight (see yesterdays entry for an image of Gus's Liberty Bell 7 Mercury spacecraft). The blockhouse for this launchpad is visible behind the rocket. We're finally on day two of my visit to Kennedy Space Center on a tour of the launch pads at Cape Canaveral. This image was taken with the kit lens at 18mm focal length on my 20D with an exposure of 1/320 seconds at f/11, ISO 100. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 21, 2006

Liberty Bell 7

This spacecraft doesn't look so bad for its having sat at the bottom of the ocean for 38 years. Gus Grissom became the 2nd American in space when he repeated Alan Shepard's flight in this spacecraft on MR-4. A Redstone rocket lobbed him 118 miles high and 302 miles downrange from Cape Canaveral during a 15 minute and 37 second flight. Unfortunately, a malfunction caused the hatch to blow prematurely and it was all Gus could do to get out of the Liberty Bell and save his own life. The spacecraft became too heavy with seawater for the helicopter to lift it and they had to cut it loose. It's location was unknown until Curt Newport used the Magellan 725 Remotely Operated Vehicle to search the ocean floor and to bring it back to the surface once it had been found. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length. The exposure was 1/60 seconds at f/3.5, ISO 100 with a flash. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 20, 2006

LM Trainer

This LM trainer is on display at the Saturn V Center at KSC. On the left is the commanders station where he flew the Lunar Module to land on the surface of the Moon. The forward hatch is visible at the bottom. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/15 seconds at f/5, ISO 800. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 19, 2006


The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida used to have the largest enclosed space of any building in the world - I'm not sure if it still holds that distinction or not. It is a landmark visible from the whole Space Coast and was required for building the Saturn V rocket to launch astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s. It's 4 high bays were designed to hold that many Saturn V rockets in the original most pessimistic estimates of what it would take to get to the Moon by the end of the decade. The Saturn V rocket with an Apollo spacecraft on its nose just barely cleared the high bay doors on the way to the launch pad. Today, the Space Shuttles are stacked inside before being rolled out to the launch pad and presumably in the future, our new moon rockets will also be assembled here. In this image, you can see some irregularities in the panels on the side of the building which are from the hurricane that blew through the area in 2004 - they're just finishing with repairs to the building.

This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D with an exposure of 1/800 seconds at f/11, ISO 400. It was taken from the area where the Saturn V rocket that is now in the Saturn V center once sat, out in the weather next to the VAB. I am still posting pictures from my first day at KSC - yeah, I'm a space geek. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 18, 2006

Apollo CSM

This is an Apollo Command Service Module at the Saturn V center. This CSM is CSM-119 which served as the SkyLab rescue vehicle and the backup spacecraft for the Apollo Soyuz Test Project. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/80 seconds at f/4.5, ISO 800. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Saturn V F-1 engine

The huge F-1 engine generated about 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the S-IC first stage of the Saturn V rocket. 5 of them worked together to generate more than 7.5 million pounds of thrust to get the huge stack moving. This is a closeup of one of the 5 F-1 engines on display in the Saturn V center. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 55mm focal length with an exposure of 1/160 seconds at f/5.6, ISO 800. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Launch Control Center, Apollo 8

As you enter the Saturn V center at the Kennedy Space Center, you go through a series of shows/displays to take you through a lunar flight. Here, the Launch Control Center (LCC) is reproduced as it appeared the morning Apollo 8 launched on mans first flight around the Moon. They simulate what it was like during launch with the noise and light of a Saturn V launch as the consoles reproduce the activity from December 1968 when the crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders headed where no man had gone before. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/25 seconds at f/3.5, ISO 800. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Top view, Saturn V

Imagine you're one of the vultures that live around Kennedy Space Center in Florida and it is Wednesday morning, July 16, 1969. You've watched all those pesky humans who work around here slowly thin out in number, more cars driving away from here than towards here. You've enjoyed flying around this tall thin contraption since it appeared here, but today is different. There's a cold wind blowing off of it. It creaks and groans like it is coming to life. You watched as 3 bulky white suited humans arrived earlier in their van, rode in the elevator they need to raise them up to the top of this (you easily can fly that distance and more! Those humans must envy us!). They walked across that platform and disappeared. Then the last of the humans left this place, driving off into the distance. You can hear a little more noise now from this thing and suddenly - flames fly out from its base, just like the last time one of these was here just a few months ago! The sound is deafening and almost knocks you out of the sky as you swing around and fly away from this noisy beast as fast as you can. You just barely outrun the heat but the sound follows you like no other predator you've ever encountered. You look back over your shoulder and that tall white stick is high overhead, with light as bright as the sun coming from its tail. You're at the beach now, glad to be away from it as the sound dies out. That thing is now disappearing into the distance overhead and you can only imagine where it might be going. Maybe up to that light you see at night in the sky sometimes?

This is the view from the front of the Saturn V stack (compare this to my picture from August 11 from the other end of this display). At left is the launch escape tower which would pull an Apollo spacecraft away from a malfunctioning booster early in the flight. The Apollo Command Module rests under a "boost protect cover" and sits on top of the Service Module. Below that is the Spacecraft LM adaptor that houses the Lunar Module during launch and connects the 3 part Apollo spacecraft to the Saturn V booster. The Instrument Unit sits at the top of the S-IVB 3rd stage of the Saturn V which finishes putting Apollo into Earth orbit then rockets it off to the Moon. Below that is the S-II 2nd stage, powered by 5 J-2 rocket engines and all that sits on top of the S-IC first stage that gets the whole stack off the pad and moving. 363 feet of explosive rocket power to get that small lunar module onto the Moons surface!

This image was taken with my kit lens at 18mm focal length at the Saturn V center at Kennedy Space Center. The exposure was 1/60 seconds at f/5, ISO 800.

Monday, August 14, 2006

LM at 15 feet, down at zero....

This Lunar Module is on display at the Saturn V center at Kennedy Space Center, hanging obove the tables outside a small cafeteria. This is LM-9, a flight Lunar Module originally designated for the H-mission Apollo 15 was to have flown before the original Apollo 15 flight was canceled and changed to a J-mission with a lunar rover and LM-10, an improved lunar module that allowed heavier payloads to land and longer duration stays on the surface. Just imagine standing on the Moon watching a LM come in for landing from about this angle. You'd see two helmeted heads in the windows, with the commander in the right window as you look at the LM who at this point would be busy trying to set the LM down in his chosen landing site, having some trouble seeing through the dust being blown away by the descent engine visible at the bottom, firing at about 3,000 pounds of thrust to just balance the lunar weight of the LM whose descent tanks would be nearly empty now. This image was taken with the kit lens at 18mm focal length on my 20D with an exposure of 1/50 seconds at f/4.5, ISO 800.

BTW, today is the 1st anniversary of my first entry in this photoblog. Hard to believe it's been a year already.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Launch Complex 39A

As we drove past Shuttle Launch complex 39A we were just outside the fenced boundary and had a great view of the pad. This is the launch pad where all 6 lunar landing missions left Earth from as well as 2 of the other 3 manned lunar missions. It was refurbished in the late 1970s to support Space Shuttle launches with the old Saturn V launch tower being removed from the mobile launch platform and installed here on the launch pad. In this image, you can see the rotating service structure on the left side which rolls on tracks to cover the orbiter once it arrives at the pad so that ground crews can get into the payload bay of the orbiter. The tower on the right stands next to the orbiter and attached external tank and solid rocket motors with access arms to reach important areas of the vehicle including the white room which is visible near the center of the image on an arm that rotates up against the orbiter after it is parked at the tower. The white room allows access to the cabin of the orbiter and is where the astronauts climb into the orbiter on launch day. The tall white tower that extends out the image at top is a lightning rod. Refere to my image from a few days ago of Atlantis on launch pad 39B to see how the shuttle fits into the launch complex - the rotating service structure was in place next to the orbiter in that picture. This picture was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at a focal length of 55mm with an exposure of 1/500 seconds at f/8, ISO 400.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Last steps on Earth...

The last steps the Apollo 11 astronauts made on Earth before planting their footprints on the Moon were made on this access arm which now rests in the Rocket Garden at the visitors center at Kennedy Space Center. Imagine what it must have been like in your bulky space suit, carrying your oxygen supply in a suitcase sized container at your side, walking across a precipice some 300+ feet above the ground below with spectacular views of the living breathing Saturn V being readied to launch your fragile pink body out into the far reaches of space as well as views up and down the Florida coast as you waited for the pad crew to strap you into the Apollo Capsule, just visible at the end of the access arm. Must have been something! This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/80 seconds at f/16, ISO 100.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The business end of a Saturn V rocket

The last time I saw this Saturn V rocket, it lay exposed to the elements next to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) where Saturn rockets and nowadays, Space Shuttles are stacked for launch before being rolled out to launch complex 39. That was in the early 1980s. Happily, it was moved into a building and restored by the Smithsonian and is a reminder of just what it took to send Apollo astronauts to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. You can see the first and second stages of this Saturn V rocket stretching into the distance. The Saturn V rocket was 363 feet tall when topped with an Apollo spacecraft and its launch escape tower and the 5 - F-1 rocket engines you see on the left half of this image generated 7.5 million pounds of thrust to get this rocket moving on its journey to the Moon. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 18mm focal length with an exposure of 1/800 seconds at f/3.5, ISO 800.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Launch pad 39B

Space Shuttle Atlantis is prepared for its targeted launch date of August 27 as it sits on launch pad 39B at Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The orbiter is hidden by the rotating service structure but you can see the solid rocket boosters and external tank. This image was taken from a tour bus stop about 5000 feet from the launch pad, as close as they could take us with an orbiter at the pad.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Stormy sunset

We had a dust storm blow through before a pretty good thunderstorm drenched the area. This image was taken with the kit lens on my 20D at 30mm focal length with an exposure of 1/30 seconds at f/4, ISO 400.

I'll be on vacation the next week and I'm not sure how often I'll be able to post pictures, but being the space nut I am, hopefully you'll see some picutres of rockets and beaches while I'm away from home. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sensor cleaning - the before picture

My 20D's sensor was really really dirty. About 14 months of use with only occasional blasts of air from my rocket blaster (and before that, one of those wimpy little air blowers). Boy was it UGLY! These 3 images were taken by using the kit lens at 55mm focal length at with the camera set to f/36 in Av mode at ISO 100 so that the exposure is several seconds. Using a white sheet of paper with the lens focused at infinity, I then shot the paper from close range and moved the camera to blur any remaining detail in my "flat field". At f/36, the dust on the glass in front of the sensor is quite sharp and easy to see, made even better by stretching the contrast for display here. You can see just how effective the rocket blaster is - it did remove some of the big loose stuff, but a lot of the dirt on my sensor is really pretty firmly stuck to the glass window and the wet copper hill sensor cleaning method is quite necessary. Posted by Picasa