Let’s head to Romulus and start off with some pop culture history.
On November 4th, 1991, The Star Trek the Next Generation Episode “Unification Part” 1 aired on Television.
“Unification” is a two-part episode where Picard and Data travel to Romulus to determine why Ambassador Spock traveled to the Romulan homeworld in secret.
No spoilers, but there is political intrigue with galactic implications; plus great performances by Patrick Stewart, Leonard Nimoy, and his father in real life Mark Leonard, who plays Sarek, Spock’s father.
It looks like the Romulans are going to play a big role in the upcoming “Star Trek: Picard” series that begins in January of 2020. I’m excited to see what’s happened on Romulus since these episodes and the last Star Trek movie with the crew from The Next Generation.
Now, it’s time some spooky space science.
On November 4th, 2003, the largest X-ray flare ever observed from our Sun was recorded as an X28 flare. This was part of the “Halloween solar storms” in 2003. The European Space Agency notes that the “associated coronal mass ejection (CME) came out of the Sun’s surface at about 2300 kilometers per second (8.2 million km/h).” That’s an astonishing 5,144,953 miles per hour.
This ESA post goes into more detail about this event and how solar flares are classified. Thankfully the flare in 2003 was a glancing blow, otherwise, it could have been especially devastating here on Earth.
Here’s a NASA page with images showing the aurora from this storm. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/halloween_storms.html
Moving from failure to success-
Mariner 3 launched on November 5th, 1964. This mission was a failure due to an issue with the payload fairing. Even though this mission was a failure, NASA followed it up with the successful Mariner 4 mission just weeks later.
November 6th was a busy day in space history-
On November 6th, 1966, the Lunar Orbiter 2 mission was launched on an Atlas Agena rocket. The Lunar Orbiter spacecraft were instrumental for the Apollo and Surveyor missions since NASA needed an accurate map of the lunar surface if they were to land a robotic or human spacecraft on the surface.
This spacecraft spent nearly a year in orbit, surveying the near side and some of the far side of the moon.
These stunning views were taken by the Lunar Orbiter 2.
According to NASA:
“The Lunar Orbiter’s camera made a telephoto exposure through the 610 mm lens of the crater from a long, low, oblique angle to the lunar surface when lighting conditions were optimum for best contrast. The resultant picture revealed geographic and topographic features of the central portion of this 100-kilometer-wide crater which had never before been discerned. Dominating the center of the photographic frame were mountains rising over 300 meters from the crater floor. Behind them a ledge of bedrock and the crater’s rim could be seen. Behind all of this the Gay-Lussac Promontory in the Carpathian Mountains towered 1,000 meters above the lunar surface on the horizon.”
The angle of these pictures shows the stark contrast in elevation on parts of the lunar surface. Some peaks reach more than 1,300 feet or about 400 meters above the bottom of the crater.
Next up, we’re landing on Luna-
Surveyor 6 launched on November 7th, 1967. It was the 4th American spacecraft to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. The surveyor missions were crucial for the upcoming Apollo flights since they showed that it was indeed possible to safely land on the moon. These missions also provided insights into what the surface of the moon was like when a spacecraft touched down. Plus, these missions also returned scientific data at the landing sites as well. The Surveyor landers had targets that were selected because they were possible sites for the Apollo missions.
After its landing on November 10th, Surveyor 6 sent back 29,952 television pictures and acquired dozens of hours of data over its operational life. The readings and pictures gave scientists on earth insight into the composition of the lunar surface. The spacecraft also performed a “hop” where it ignited its Vernier rocket engines for two and a half seconds lifting the spacecraft eleven and a half feet high and about eight feet laterally.
The surveyor program ended in January of 1968 having completed its objectives. The Surveyor 3 spacecraft and the crew of Apollo 12 rendezvoused on the Lunar Surface. The first rendezvous by two spacecraft on another world.
On November 8th, 1984, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched on a satellite deployment and retrieval mission. STS-51A may not seem remarkable, but it did have a bit of humor which is why I’m mentioning it here. If you’ve ever seen the picture of an astronaut holding up a “for sale” sign while in space, this was the mission that iconic photo was taken on.
Astronaut Dale Gardner held up the for-sale sign in front of the malfunctioning satellite that the crew had retrieved during an EVA. It’s also worth noting that in his astronaut photos he sported a glorious mustache that would make any no shave November participant quite jealous.
Liftoff of Apollo 4-
The first launch of the colossal Saturn 5 took place during the Apollo 4 mission that launched on November 9th, 1967. Apollo 4 was an uncrewed Saturn/Apollo launch, the first all-up test of the new Saturn V rocket. The all-up test meant the Saturn V was flying in the configuration it would be in had there been humans on board.
The risks of all-up testing were outweighed by the practical needs of the Apollo program, and the fact that all-up testing gave scientists the ability to fully test the entire rocket, not just parts of it. The all-up testing meant that the CSM wasn’t just a boilerplate. It had a camera in it that took pictures of Earth and sent them back to ground controllers. This flight also ensured that the Apollo headshield worked, especially critical since the crew capsule would be reentering Earth’s atmosphere at around 25,000 mph.
The first flight of the Saturn V was an impressive technical achievement. It was also quite the spectacle since the rocket made an incredible amount of noise at launch, startling onlookers with a prodigious roar and vibrations that are the byproduct of over 7.5 million pounds of thrust.
Looking back, it is crazy to think that it has been well over fifty years since the launch of the first Saturn V rocket. The fact that the Saturn V still remains the most powerful rocket ever flown, even after 50 years, is a testament to the incredible work done on that rocket. Rockets like Blue Origin’s New Glenn, the SpaceX Starship, and the Space Launch System, are the next generation of super heavy-lift rockets, but their flights are still years away.
That’s it for this week. I’ve got a number you can call or text with questions or comments. Hit me up at 720–772–7988 and leave me a message! I will be sure to get back to you!
Also, check out The Space Shot podcast via Apple Podcasts.
I’ll catch you on the flip side.
Picture credits- NASA