SkyMan goes Ballistic. (Caution: Many Pix).

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In 1919 a New York hotelier by the name of Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 prize for the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight between NY and Paris. The prize was designed to help spur the development of aviation. Almost exactly 85 years ago (specifically May 21, 1927) Charles Lindbergh won the prize. Due to the prize, and a variety of others like it, the boundaries of aviation were pushed outward.


In May 1996, to help spur the development of commercial spaceflight, the X Prize Foundation offered a $10,000,000 prize to the first non-governmental organization to twice launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space (100 km. high, ~ 62 miles) within a two week span. The two flights would be ballistic suborbital flights. The prize was won on October 4, 2004, the 47th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, by the Tier One project designed by Burt Rutan and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, using the experimental spaceplane SpaceShip One. Over $100,000,000 was spent by the various teams competing for the prize, and commercial spaceflight was kick-started in a Big way. After SpaceShip One won the prize, Richard Branson, of the Virgin Group, decided to create a subsidiary called Virgin Galactic that would offer commercial suborbital flights using a scaled up version of of SpaceShip One. The new spaceship would be called SpaceShip Two. Over the last decade a variety other companies have gotten involved in commercial spaceflight, culminating in the resupply of the International Space Station last week by the Dragon space capsule owned by SpaceX.


Spaceship One, on it's two ballistic suborbital flights, 9/29/04 and 10/4/04, took ten $2 bills on the two flights. I was lucky enough to recently win one of these bills. The pilots of the two flights, Mike Melvill, 9/29/04, and Brian Binnie, 10/4/04 signed the bill after the second flight. One nice extra add-on is that the Certificate of Authenticity that accompanies the bill was printed on paper carried on the second flight.








Here are some pictures of SpaceShip One. The first picture is of it suspended beneath it's mothership/carrier "The White Knight".








For those of you just interested in numismatics, that is the end of this post. For those of you interested in space memorabilia in general here's some more information on space stuff I've been involved with in the last year.


Last week I went to Spacefest IV in Tucson, AZ. For those of you interested in this sort of thing, most likely there will be a Spacefest V in Tucson next year in mid-May. The convention is a meeting for space geeks, quite literally from around the world. There are ~ 15 retired astronauts that show up, a wide variety of speakers that are active in the space exploration field giving talks (I listened to talks on the new Mars outside-affiliatelinksnotallowed, on asteroid exploration/exploitation, and on SkyLab) and a wide assortment of vendors of everything from space art to meteorites. At the most recent show the astronauts in attendance were; (from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab era) Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Gene Cernan, Fred Haise, Walt Cunningham, Richard Gordon, Charlie Duke, Edgar Mitchell, Dave Scott, Al Worden, Ed Gibson, Jack Lousma, Paul Weitz and Vance Brand (the latter three also flew during the shuttle era). From the shuttle era there were Thomas Jones, Mike Mullane, and Charles Walker.


I normally bring assorted pieces from my collection to get the true skinny on them from the astronauts that actually used them. Here's a picture of Aldrin and myself looking at a page I own of the Apollo 11 flight plan that has handwriting on it. FWIW, it is extremely rare to find a page of the Apollo 11 flight plan that has actual handwriting, as opposed to checkmarks etc., on it. I found out that the handwriting was most likely Michael Collins'.




Over the last year I've been collecting a variety of artifacts. I recently decided to get a few shuttle pieces because it is a cool machine too. I got a Leading Edge Wing Spar Insulator (LEWSI) that was flown 4 times on the shuttle Discovery (STS 60, 63, 64 and 70). The shuttle is a much bigger machine than the Apollo craft (although the Shuttle/Booster is only about 1/2 as tall as the Apollo/Saturn V). The LEWSI is significantly larger than any other flown piece I own. You can see quarter(s) next to it for scale. As the name implies, it was at the leading edge of the wing, where the heat load from re-entry would have been highest, and the shuttle tiles would have been glued on top of the LEWSI to offer even more thermal protection. As large as the piece is, it is relatively light, ~ 5 pounds. The red S spray painted on the piece signifies it is now scrap. That is what NASA spray painted on all flown pieces that had finished their lifespan.








The second shuttle piece I got is an aft separation bolt and screw (not flown) used on STS-104. There are a variety of honking big bolts on the shuttle that hold parts of the booster to the launch pad. The bolts are designed with a C4 explosive charge within them, and when the conditions are "nominal" (e.g. things are proceeding the right way) then the bolts are blown and the rocket is released to fly. This particular bolt was taken from the tail service mount (TSM) on the mobile launch platform (MLP) 2. This bolt ways about 56 pounds. It is one of the SMALLER bolts holding the rocket down to the launch pad. The other bolts weigh about 110 pounds, but you can't get both blown pieces of them as 1/2 of those bolts are left on the launch platform and the other half takes a ride on the solid rocket boosters. Anyhow, you can see where the teeth are on my bolt is where the explosive blew the bolt in half. I'm guessing that the two smooth (inner) portions of the bolt originally had some sort of electrical charge going through them that was actually used to trigger the explosion. Again, I've used some quarters for scale, and in some of the pix the LEWSI.






Amusingly enough, as a collector of toned coins, you'll see that certain parts of the LEWSI have an oil slick toning pattern on them courtesy of differential heating.



Here's a pic of a shuttle launch (specifically the Columbia) that I got signed at the convention...



While I'm obviously very happy about the assorted shuttle parts and the SS1 flown $2 bill, my focus has always been on the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo (MGA) era. I recently purchased an item that to me is akin to the holy grail of artifacts from that era. It is unflown, but...


On top of the Apollo Command Module (CM) there was an emergency rocket to pull the CM away from the Saturn V if there was any sort of an emergency. To put things in perspective, this escape rocket was MORE powerful than the Redstone rocket that launched Alan Shepard, America's first man in space. Here's a pic of the rocket.




Needless to say, it would be rather embarrassing if the rocket was fired prematurely. In order to quite literally cover this situation, a lock was designed to go over the emergency rocket arming switches. It was called the CM safety lock. It was the LAST item removed from the CM before the doors were sealed shut. The commander of EACH mission would unlock it and hand it over to Guenter Wendt, the pad leader. This lock was used on ALL of the Apollo flights, from Apollo 7 in 1968 through the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975. In turn it would have been handled by Schirra, Borman, McDivitt, Stafford, Armstrong, Conrad, Lovell, Shepard, Scott, Young, Cernan, Conrad, Bean, Carr and Stafford just before they closed the hatch and sealed themselves in for their missions. I've got a handwritten Certificate of Authenticity from Guenter Wendt (as well as a picture of him signing the piece) that reads in part, "This lock covered the escape rocket arming switches and was the last item removed before closing the hatch for flight... This item was used on all Apollo flights after rocket igniter installation and hook-up". As a coin collector, I often wonder who has held a particular coin, particularly if it's from the late 1700's or early 1800's. With this piece I know who handled it, and when they did so. To the best of my knowledge it is the ONLY piece that was used on ALL the Apollo CM's. It was the last piece that Armstrong touched before the hatch was sealed on Apollo 11. So, while it may never have flown, it has certainly seen more history than any other Apollo era piece I am aware of. Here's some pix of it, and where it was located (on the left, commanders, side of the cabin).










It's been a fun year collecting these (and other) items. I wish you all well in collecting whatever floats your boat.

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