Who'll be the first to take American astronauts to the International Space Station to claim the U. S. flag?
On the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, the crew planted the flag in the hatch of the International Space Station in 1981. The final 2011 shuttle flight left the flag behind in orbit, a prize to be claimed by the next crew to fly into space from U.S. soil.
SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (a Boeing and Lockheed Martin partnership) are locked in a pitched battle to be the first to reach orbit with astronauts on board their capsules. The commercial spaceships will be the first to launch U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil since NASA's space shuttle fleet retired in July 2011. Since then, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets and spaceships to fly U.S. astronauts in space.
After months of testing, a SpaceX Dragon capsule with its stubby nose and matte-black fins, was shipped to Cape Canaveral in mid-July. However, this Dragon won’t carry crew on its first flight, instead, it’s due to make an uncrewed practice run to the space station on a mission known as DM-1.
The launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center earlier this year was the latest in a series of milestones that has revived interest in the space industry and the hallow grounds that stretch along the Florida coast in Brevard County that has witnessed so many epic flights into outer space.
Traffic near the Kennedy Space Center was bumper to bumper, hotel rooms were sold out and hordes of press descended on the Kennedy Space Center, just like the good old days of the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. That's quite a turn-around from seven years ago after the government shutdown of the shuttle program, which led to massive furloughs in NASA’S workforce and employees leaving the Space Coast.
In 2002 when Elon Musk revealed his idea of making rocket flights comparable to air travel many folks in and outside of the aerospace industry thought he was more than a bit looney.
Fast forward. On May 11 SpaceX successfully launched its most modern Falcon 9 rocket delivering the first Bangladeshi telecom satellite into orbit. The first stage booster landed approximately 11 minutes after liftoff on a drone ship floating 340 nautical miles down range of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the 25th successful landing of a booster rocket by the Hawthorne, Calif. company.
The enhanced version of Falcon 9 is called Block 5. Musk sees a host of new milestones for SpaceX, including launching and landing the same rocket twice in 24 hours – as early as next year.
"We expect [Block 5] to be the mainstay of SpaceX business," Musk said in a teleconference with space reporters a day before the launch. “We still need to demonstrate it. It’s not like we’ve done it. But it can be done.”
Sports fans know all about the "Curse of the Billy Goat." It was placed on the Chicago Cubs when local tavern owner William "Billy Goat" Sianis cursed the Cubs when he was not allowed to bring his pet goat, Murphy, into Wrigley Field to watch a 1945 World Series game. The curse was finally snapped when the team won the 2016 World Series.
But what about the "Curse of Apollo?" It now stands at 136 years-- the oldest curse in American sports. No unraced 2-year old has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882.
Since 1937, sixty one horses have entered the Derby without a race at two. Their record, a collective "0 for 61." Most recently Bodemeister came the closest to ending the famed Apollo streak in the 2012 Derby. The Bob Baffert trainee tried to wire the field, opening a clear lead at the top of the stretch, only to be worn down by I'll Have Another in the final sixteenth of a mile.
This year a pair of budding superstars, Justify and Magnum Moon, head to Kentucky both undefeated looking to sack the so-called Apollo curse in the 144th renewal of the "Run for the Roses" on May 5.
There’s no denying that seahorses are mesmerizing little creatures. They sport a head that resembles that of a horse. Have eyes like a chameleon, a pouch like a kangaroo and a prehensile tail like a monkey. Ready for their most unusual trait? A seahorse is the only the male who gets pregnant and gives birth in the animal kingdom.
Unique among fish for having bent necks and long-snouted heads, they mirror horses. They swim vertically, bony plates reinforce their entire body and they have no teeth, a rare feature in fish. Seahorses (genus Hippocampus erectus) move their fins very quickly similar to a hummingbird, but are notorious as one of the slowest swimmers on the planet. On the other hand, they are quite maneuverable and able to move up, down, forward and backward.
Those extraordinary looks and surprising social behavior have earned seahorses a mythic stature along the lines of unicorns. The aquatic creatures have been lionized in popular culture starring in cartoons and Disney movies such as The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. However, their universal appeal has worked against them. About 25 million seahorses are plucked from the wild each year for display or medicinal purposes.
Tiny in size and coming in a rainbow of colors, lined seahorses have been consistently listed as one of the most popular exhibit animals in zoos and public aquaria. Members of the pipefish family, seahorses boast specialized structures in their skin cells which allow them to change color to mimic their surroundings. The thumbnail-size pygmy seahorses are masters of camouflage and survive by attaching to vibrant corals where they become nearly invisible to both predators and researchers.