Launches and spaceflight updates for week of July 18, 2022

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Launches July 23 update: Buzz Aldrin selling moon memorabilia

Electronic bidding is already underway – and a live auction is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET (16:00 UTC) on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 in New York – for Buzz Aldrin’s personal moon memorabilia. Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made up the team that landed the lunar module Eagle at Tranquility Base 53 years ago this week (July 20, 2022) – during the Apollo 11 mission. Among the items for sale are the flight jacket worn by Aldrin during Apollo 11, the pen he and Armstrong used to mend a switch on the lunar surface (saving the mission and their lives), bits of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, as well as charts, maps and mission checklists. In addition, there are also artifacts from the Gemini XII mission.

The brokerage firm Sotheby’s, which is handling the sale, described the otherworldly auction like this:

Sotheby’s is thrilled to announce Buzz Aldrin: American Icon, the most important Space Exploration collection to come to market. The collection, consigned directly by Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, who has carefully preserved the materials since his missions, includes the most important mission flown artifacts from both the Gemini XII and Apollo 11 missions.

Astronaut in white space suit, helmet and backpack stands on gray, rocky surface of moon.
Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong took this photo of Buzz Aldrin – 2nd man on the moon – on July 20, 1969. Now Aldrin is auctioning personal moon memorabilia at Sotheby’s. Image via NASA.

July 22 update: Record-breaker Friday for SpaceX!

A Falcon 9 took to the skies today (July 22, 2022) carrying a payload of yet more Starlink satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It’s the 32nd time SpaceX has lifted a vehicle into space in 2022. The milestone is a highwater mark for the company, which in 2021 made 31 successful launches.

This liftoff also marks the private company’s 30th re-flight of a booster in 2022. Wow!

With nearly half the calendar year left, SpaceX is quickly closing in on the target CEO Elon Musk revealed back in March. In a tweet on March 21, 2022, he announced his aim of moving more than two-thirds of all the world’s space-bound cargo into orbit in a series of approximately 50 flights.

In mid-July, the company matter-of-factly said on Twitter it is well on the way to destroying that goal.

July 20 update: Artemis 1 launches as early as August 29?

NASA officials said at a press conference earlier today that the Artemis 1 mission – our first step in a human return to the moon – could launch as early as Monday, August 29, 2022. The announcement comes on the 53rd anniversary of the first human footsteps on the moon, during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Jim Free, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. later said via Twitter that his team is gearing up for the historic flight:

While we have a fair bit of work to do on Artemis 1 ahead of launch, we’ve put placeholders on the range starting on August 29.

The other two possible launch dates mentioned today are:

Friday, September 2, 2022
Monday, September 5, 2022

Free said the team is “focused” as they continue to work through a slew of procedures and processes in preparation for the first flight test of NASA’s newly developed heavy lift vehicle – the mighty Space Launch System, or SLS – and of the Orion crew capsule, in which the return crew to the moon will ultimately ride.

Artemis 1 will serve as a test flight for SLS. The SLS will send the (uncrewed) Orion crew capsule on a trip around the moon and back.

If the currently preferred launch dates don’t work out, NASA mission planners have other possible windows planned for Artemis 1 stretching to the end of 2022.

Want more details on the challenges ahead of launch? Here’s a great article from Alan Boyle at Geekwire

Read more from EarthSky: SLS v Starship: It’s a mini space race!

Standing rocket with many platforms snugged up around it.
Teams retracted the first two of 20 platforms surrounding the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft that allow work on the integrated system in High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At this writing (July 20, 2022), SLS is in the VAB to prep for the launch of the Artemis 1 mission. Potential launch dates include August 29 and September 2 or 5, 2022. Image via NASA/ Kim Shiflett.
Launches: Large rocket with an orange stage and boosters on each side launching through the atmosphere on a tail of flame.
Artist’s concept of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. It’s powerful and fast but carries a high price tag. Image via NASA.

July 18 update: Pop band goes to space

American pop duo The Chainsmokers will give a whole new meaning to its hit song High when the pair venture to the edge of space. The Associated Press reported today, July 18, 2022, that a new space tourism company called World View selected The Chainsmokers for its first crewed flight in 2024. The duo will get into a pressurized capsule tethered to a stratospheric balloon and perform some 20 miles (30 km) above the Earth. Commercial airliners fly about 6 to 8 miles (9 to 13 km) up.

The Chainsmokers said in the statement:

We have always dreamed of going to space and are stoked to collaborate with World View to have this adventure and experience. We know the views of both Earth and space are going to be incredible and inspiring, and we hope to leverage this flight for creativity on future projects.

Two young men making gestures to the camera and looking cool.
The Chainsmokers. One of the duo’s latest hits is High. The pair will get into a pressurized capsule tethered to a stratospheric balloon and perform some 20 miles (30 km) above the Earth. Image via DJMag.

Bottom line: Launches and spaceflight updates for the week of July 18, 2022. Pop band goes to space. Will Artemis 1 launch on August 29? SpaceX breaks a record. Buzz Aldrin sells moon memorabilia.

July 18, 2022

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