Odds & Ends
We all know Skylab was the first orbiting American space station. However, it wasn't the first seriously proposed. Outpost was designed by the Convair Division of General Dynamics shortly after the space race began with Sputnik I and before the first man had been orbited.
France in Space?
France had a desire to acquire its own manned space capabilities. By 1987, the Hermes spaceplane was in the planning stages. The Ariane 5 rocket was designed with Hermes in mind. As the costs for Hermes began to escalate, France sought partners within the realm of the European Space Agency. Germany teamed with France, but by 1992, the costs became unreasonable* and Hermes was dropped. The Ariane 5, however, did survive and attempted its first flight in 1996.
* One visitor to America in Space who had been living in Germany at the time pointed out that the economic realities of German reunification was a driving force in Germany's withdrawal from the Hermes project.
Ever wonder how a booster guidance system works? Well wonder no longer! It is all explained right here.
The following is from the Houston Chronicle Interactive Edition, 30 October 2000
Movie, toilet first stops on trip to space station
BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (Reuters) - Since Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, superstitious Russian cosmonauts have followed his example of watching a certain film and relieving themselves in the desert.
The U.S.-Russian crew blasting off for the international space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome Tuesday had no intention of changing ritual.
Gagarin watched the classic Soviet film Beloye Solntse Pustinny (The White Sun of the Desert) on the eve of his historic trip round the Earth.
Legend has it that while on his way to his rocket the next morning dressed in his space suit, Gagarin was faced with the need to answer the call of nature.
He clambered out of the bus and relieved himself through a tube from his suit against one of the rear wheels.
Since then, all cosmonauts -- men and women -- have stuck to both traditions.
"Who are we to break with tradition? No doubt other traditions will be set in the future, but we must keep the old ones," said Russian Yuri Gidzenko, pilot of the white, orange and gray Soyuz rocket heading for the $60-billion space station.
William Shepherd, the U.S. commander of the first crew aboard the station, said he too was unwilling to tempt fate.
"We watch the movie at 6 p.m. And when we make the stop near the rail tracks tomorrow, I'll be there too," he said.
Even in times of tragedy, we can find something to laugh about. According to this television report, it's no wonder Columbia broke apart!
For those of you who have doubts about the "real" goals of the American space program, you may want to read FIRE FROM THE SKY: Battle of Harvest Moon & True Story of Space Shuttles by "One Who Knows". Here you will find 30 pages on the downing of Skylab by Russian Super Heavy Cosmospheres, Psychoenergetic Range Finders, genetic replicas ("Synthetics") of shuttle pilots Crippen and Young (killed when STS-1 was shot down!), and, oh, so much more!
(IMHO, the author built too many model airplanes as a kid, and kept forgetting to put the cap back on the airplane glue).
We know about the primates that have flown in space. We know about dogs in space. We know there have been rabbits, mice, fish, turtles, mealworms, insects, and such in space. What about cats? Actually, yes, there was one. On 18 October 1963, France launched a stray cat named Felix to an altitude of 120 miles. He was recovered. A second attempt to launch another cat on 24 October 1963 failed and the cat was not recovered.