On February 26, NASA announced the discovery of an addition 715 planets found by the Kepler space observatory. These 715 planets are in orbit around 305 distinct stars and NASA has said that four of the planets orbit in the Golidlocks zone, where life is possible. THe new planets join nearly 1,000 previously discovered extrasolar planets and are from data collected by Kepler between its launch in 2009 and 2011.
Mercury Astronaut Malcolm Scott Carpenter (b.1925) died on October 10. Carpenter flew reconnaissance missions for the Navy in Korea before being selected as part of the initial astronaut class by NASA. When Deke Slayton was grounded, Carpenter was moved forward in the flight rotation. He flew on Aurora 7 on May 24, 1962, the fourth American in space and the second to achieve orbit. His flight considered a success until the last moments when a mechanical problem caused him to splashdown 400 km beyond his planned landing zone. Two years later, he left NASA to join the Navy’s SEALAB program and, after leaving the Navy in 1969, he founded Sea Sciences, Inc. to help develop products from the oceans. Prior to his own flight, Carpenter uttered the phrase “Godspeed, John Glenn” just before Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule was launched. Glenn is now the only living member of the Mercury 7.
In Heinlein’s 1956 novel Time for the Stars, he described an experiment in which one identical twin was sent on a space mission while the other stayed at home. NASA has now announced that it will be using a set of twins to examine the effects of prolonged space flight on the human body. Astronaut Scott Kelly, veteran of two shuttle missions and a former ISS Commander, will spend a year aboard the ISS for NASA longest spaceflight ever. His brother, Mark Kelley, who flew four shuttle missions, including as commander of Endeavour‘s final flight, will remain on Earth as the control. Scott Kelly is scheduled to join the ISS crew in March 2014.
Jeff Bezos has confirmed that the engines his team discovered on the ocean floor in March are in fact the engines which launched the Apollo XI to the Moon in 1969. His announcement, based on the discovery of part numbers at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, comes one day before the 44th anniversary of the first lunar landing, accomplished by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin using the engines Bezos has recovered.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has announced that a privately funded effort has located and recovered two of Apollo 11’s first stage F1 engines located on the ocean floor about 350 miles from Cape Canaveral in 3 miles of water. The engines were part of the first stage booster that lifted Apollo 11 on the flight that resulted in the first manned landing on the moon.
NASA manager Jesco von Puttkamer (b.1933) died on December 27 at his home. Von Puttkamer immigrated to the US in 1962 and joined Wernher von Braun’s team in Huntsville, Alabama, where he worked on Apollo. He also worked on the Skylab program and helped rescue the space station when it would have been sold for scrap after it deorbited. While working at NASA, he also served as a Technical Advisor to Paramount Pictures for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. For more than a decade, von Puttkamer was responsible for the daily ISS Onorbit Status reports. In addition to published more than a dozen non-fiction books, he also published the Star Trek novelette “The Sleeping God.”
Astronaut Sally Ride (b.1951) died on July 23. In 1983, Ride became the first American woman (and youngest at that time) astronaut to fly into space when she flew on Challenger flight STS-7. Prior to that she worked on the development of the shuttle’s robotic arm. She flew on Challenger again in 1984 and was in training for a third flight when Challenger explored. Ride left NASA in 1987 and taught physics. In 2003, she served on the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, has announced the addition of Sy Liebergot as a special guest. Liebergot served as EECOM for NASA from Apollo 8 to Apollo 15 and was on duty when an explosion rocked Apollo 13. He continued to work at NASA and served as controller for the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz Test Mission.
Astronaut Janice Voss (b.1956) died on February 6 after a battle with breast cancer. Voss served as a mission specialist on five space shuttle missions between 1993 and 2000. Flying two missions each on Endeavour and Columbia and one on Discovery. Following her in-space career, Voss worked as the Science Director for the Kepler Space Observatory and Payloads Lead of the Astronaut Office Station Branch.
Engineer Roger Boisjoly (b.1938) died on January 6. Boisjoly worked for Morton Thiokol in 1986 and warned NASA that due to falling temperatures, the O-Rings on the space shuttle Challenger could undergo a catastrophic failure and urged for them to cancel the flight. The next day, his predictions came true when Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight.