Vintage Space Fun Fact: the 900-pound Cake

Everybody wanted to be a part of the celebration of John Glenn’s return, including Henri Landwirth. Polish born Landwirth, a holocaust survivor, arrived in Miami Beach in 1954. He began managing the Starlight Motel that was quickly a hit with NASA personnel who worked hard and played harder in Florida. It was through his motel that Landwirth met and struck up a friendship with the Mercury astronauts. When it came time for NASA to launch John Glenn into orbit, Landwirth marked the occasion with a custom made cake the size and shape of a Mercury capsule. (Left, Landwirth with the Friendship 7 cake in January, 1962.) Continue reading “Vintage Space Fun Fact: the 900-pound Cake”


Carnival of Space #232

It’s time for another Carnival of Space! Articles this week cover topics from our own planet to other worlds light years away, and from past events to future endeavours. There’s a lot to think about this week. (This Carnival’s unrelated fun photo: Joe Kerwin give Pete Conrad a dental checkup during the Skylab 2 mission in 1973. This looks like a much easier, and more fun, way to have your teeth cleaned than having a dentist reaching over you and moving your head around for a half hour.) Continue reading “Carnival of Space #232”

Vintage Space Fun Fact: The Overshadowed Arrow

In the 1950s, Canada was as much at risk of nuclear attack as was the United States; the country lies in the direct path of any Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) the Soviet Union could launch over the North Pole towards a US target. To protect the nation, the Avro Aircraft Company designed the Arrow, a high speed interceptor aircraft. But the Arrow was nearing extinction before it even left the ground. (The Avro Arrow. Image credit: The Canadian Department of National Defence.) Continue reading “Vintage Space Fun Fact: The Overshadowed Arrow”

Pluto: It’s Still Out There

My recent post on the history of Pluto got me thinking about why I’m more interested in the story of Pluto than the ongoing debate about its status. I decided to look at some of the bigger and more common issues surrounding Pluto that pop up online – Pluto bloggers, message boarders, and online societies looking to save Pluto. Their arguments vary from the scientific to the ridiculous. The original article can be found at, but I thought it would make a good complement to my last post, so I’ve reblogged the article here and added a few pro-Pluto comics that have been making their way around the internet lately. (Left, Pluto. Still at home in the solar system.) Continue reading “Pluto: It’s Still Out There”

Carnival of Space #211

Another week ends another Carnival of Space begins! A lot of great writers bringing great articles to the table, so let’s get started. (My unrelated fun photo offering: X-15 pilots enjoy a lighter moment during the program – I guess you can only clown around so much when dealing with this level of technology. Mid-late 1960s.)

Continue reading “Carnival of Space #211”

The Paresev: The Winged Tricycle Pilots Built

I’ve devoted a fair bit of time to discussing landing methods in the 1960s, particularly with respect to the Gemini program. Splashdowns were unsuitable as a long-term method of returning from space, and NASA’s second generation manned spaceflight program presented an opportunity to develop a new landing system. (Pictured, the Paresev 1B – a later version of the paraglider test vehicle. 1964.)

From the multiple proposed land landing systems, NASA chose the Rogallo wing – a paraglider-style inflatable wing that would deploy from the ballistic spacecraft during descent to turn it into a glider. The system would give the pilot considerable directional control, and a land landing would spare him from the dangers associated with a splashdown. It would also cut down on NASA’s reliance on the Navy for recovery of its astronauts.

Gemini never used the Rogallo wing despite considerable time and money spent developing the system. Development began in 1961 before the system was cut from Gemini in 1964. In the intervening three years, however, the system was sufficiently promising that the astronauts had to learn to fly it. Thus was born the paraglider research vehicle or Paresev – built by pilots, for pilots, literally in their own back yard. Continue reading “The Paresev: The Winged Tricycle Pilots Built”