Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday Thirteen

Today, January 28, is the anniversary of the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger. A school teacher was on board as part of the crew, and millions of children were watching when the shuttle burst apart in the air.

I was on my way to work after attending a morning class at the local community college, listening to the launch on the radio, so I learned about it while driving down the interstate. I had to pull over so I could cry.

The space program has always fascinated me. I never really wanted to be an astronaut, but those stars! And the idea of life on other planets. And Star Trek! So my idea of space was a bit on the fantastic side, and probably still is. I like to look up at the night sky and wonder who is looking back, thinking the same thing about our sun.

So here are a few facts about space stuff.

1. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, but she was not the first female. That title belongs to Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova. This Russian cosmonaut made it into orbit 20 years before the first American woman. Tereshkova was also the first civilian in space. She made her historic flight in 1963 as part of the Vostok 6 mission. A former textile worker and amateur parachutist, Ms. Tereshkova performed experiments on herself to test the effects of space travel on the female body.

Moon Set, March 2015

2. Rovers Opportunity & Spirit were sent to Mars in a twin mission in 2004. Landing a day apart, both rovers were to operate for about four months, then cease to work. Instead, the two robot craft kept moving about and sending back information to Earth.

3. Spirit's last communication was in 2010, was after it hung up on something and couldn't extricate itself.  Opportunity continued communicating with Earth into 2013.

4. Curiosity was a rover that landed on Mars in 2011.

5.  The Voyager program began in 1977, when the U.S. launched Voyagers 1 and 2. The two craft were sent on a multi-faceted mission into deep space. Mainly they were to serve as messengers to anybody else out there, but NASA used the two Voyagers to study planets and moons along the way.
Moon Set January 2016

6. Voyager 2 is expected to enter interstellar space early this year (20160). (I always think of the Star Trek movie where V-Ger has taken over and is trying to get back to earth; it turns out to be one of the Voyager probes). But isn't it totally amazing that these machines are still running and sending data back to Earth? They've been flying around for 27 years.

7. Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said that if aliens exist, they most likely will be something far beyond anything we could have imagined. He had theorized that even if they take a form that we can relate to, the difference between our intelligence might be as great as that between a human and an ape.

8.  Artists' concepts of other possible "alien" races include whale-like beings that "swim" through the atmosphere of a gas giant. The possibilities are endless. The only thing that most theorists agree upon is that they will not resemble humans.
Moon 2011

9. We may have a new planet! Science magazine recently reported recently that scientists believe there is another planet out there, moving in an orbit beyond Neptune. The researchers haven't observed Planet X itself, but believe it exists because of the unique configuration of six objects when they come closest to the sun.

10.  On January 19, 2006, the space probe New Horizons left Earth for Pluto. In 2007, it made close contact with Jupiter. On January 15, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft began its approach phase to Pluto. On July 14, 2015, it flew 12,500 km (7,800 mi) above the surface of Pluto, making it the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet.

11. Our efforts to go into space came about because of the Cold War, the political divisions between the United States and the Soviet Union. After the Russians launched Sputnik, the race really began. The U.S. formed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The space program became a metaphor for the success and failure. The Russians placed the first craft into orbit, the first man in space, the first woman in space, and achieved  the first spacewalk. The U.S. made the first manned spaceflight and the first man on the moon. Later, however, the two superpowers would meet each other in orbit during 1975's Apollo-Soyuz Mission, part of an attempt to reconcile.

12. Pluto is no longer a planet. It's a "plutoid." That change happened in August 2006, leaving those of us who grew up learning it was a planet scratching our heads.

13. The Nasa website ( is full of wonderful information about the heavens and the things we know. At the sight you can see eclipses, space launches, and learn all about the world that is outside of our reach.


Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 432nd time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.


  1. fascinating I'm doing a future post on something left on moon

  2. Wouldn't it be great to know before we die if there is alien life or not and why do we always represent aliens so similar, with a humanoid body and big heads. Something from our subconscious?

  3. I didn't know a lot of this, even though I'm also a space fan.

  4. It's certainly a fascinating and endless subject. I remember well where I was when I heard about Challenger, and it inspired the topic of an informative speech I had to give in English class soon after (space disasters). A weighty and sad topic, but it was also the best speech I'd ever done. My T13

  5. I remember I was teaching at Jackson Jr. High, and I was standing in my doorway when I heard the news. I think one of the classes had been watching it on TV. When classes changed, it seemed like everyone was talking about it.

    1. I was at home watching it on tv right when it happened

  6. I remember being in my high school French class when I learned about the Challenger tragedy.

  7. I love space stuff! We live near NASA. My husband is a contractor to NASA, and my father-in-law was one of the first scientists when they opened NASA in Houston. Apparently, astronauts were regulars at his home back in the 60's and 70's, but none there since I married into the family. I remember the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding. I don't remember where I was, but since I'm a teacher, I remember how I felt.


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