Category Archives: History

Listen to the Story of Apollo 8, when humans first left earth and orbited another world

Bob Zimmerman tells me his book, Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8, which tells the dramatic history of the first mission to send humans beyond earth orbit, is now available as an unabridged audiobook.  From the press release:

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of mankind’s boldest adventures, the first manned flight to another world. To mark the occasion, an audio version of the first book about the mission of Apollo 8 has been released, narrated by Grover Gardner, a legend in the ears of fans of audiobooks all over the planet.

Says Valerie Anders, wife of Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders, “When I first read this excellent account, published before the end of the space shuttle era, I was delighted.”

Now, with the advent of high quality audio books and online merchants like iTunes and Audible, and the resonant and expressive voice of narrator Grover Garner, everyone can enjoy this recording of this pivotal moment in space history.

While more recent books have been published on the mission of Apollo 8 (most of which rely heavily on Zimmerman’s work), none has captured the impact the Apollo program had on the families of the astronauts nearly so well as “Genesis – the story of Apollo 8.” The new forward to “Genesis,” by Valerie Anders, contains a moving tribute to those pilots who never returned from their missions – not as faraway as the moon, but just as dangerous and far more frequent.


Video trailers: “The First” – Hulu TV series with Sean Penn + “First Man” – Film with Ryan Gosling

The First is a new Hulu original series starring Sean Penn about the first human mission to Mars. It will premier on September 14th. Here is the trailer:

From the caption:

The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and stars Sean Penn. Set in the near future (2030), this groundbreaking story explores the challenges of taking the first steps towards Mars. Viewers will get an intimate look at the dedicated characters trying to reach the unknown while dealing with the psychological and physical toll it takes to achieve the impossible.


July 20, 2019 will be the 50th anniversary of the first time a human set foot on another celestial body. A start on the coming year of tributes and remembrances will be the movie First Man, starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong. It is currently set to open on October 12th. Here is a trailer:

From the caption:

On the heels of their six-time Academy Award®-winning smash, La La Land, Oscar®-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie will explore the sacrifices and the cost—on Armstrong and on the nation—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

Written by Academy Award® winner Josh Singer (Spotlight), the drama is produced by Wyck Godfrey & Marty Bowen (The Twilight Saga, The Fault in Our Stars) through their Temple Hill Entertainment banner, alongside Chazelle and Gosling. Isaac Klausner (The Fault in Our Stars) executive produces. DreamWorks Pictures co-finances the film.



Run a realistic Apollo 8 guidance computer emulation

December 21st of this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon. Astronauts Frank BormanJames Lovell, and William Anders became the first humans to leave Earth and orbit another celestial body. The mission was extremely risky. The Saturn V rocket had only launched twice before and never with a crew and on the previous launch there were engine shutdowns on the second stage (longer firing of the remaining engines saved the mission). Although there was no lunar lander on Apollo 8 , many key technologies and operations needed for a successful lunar landing mission were demonstrated for the first time such as translunar injection, command module navigation, communications, and midcourse corrections.

And all these tasks were performed with computer technology that was far less powerful than what runs a $10 wristwatch today. To get an appreciation for the state of the art in advanced compact computers in 1968, check out the free Apollo 8 Launch Emulator for Android created by astronomer Rick Boozer.

Emulation of Apollo 8 spacecraft’s guidance computer.

The program allows you to

operate a realistic replica of the Apollo 8 spacecraft’s guidance computer”.  

This app is not a traditional game (no winning or losing involved). It is also not an entire mission simulation. So, if you are looking for either of those, then don’t download this app. 

Instead, it is a commemoration of the launch of humankind’s first trip to another world by way of an emulation of a realistic Apollo Guidance Computer (or AGC) and DiSplay KeYboard interface (called DSKY).

You can re-enact the launch of the powerful Saturn V rocket that sent the Apollo 8 spacecraft with its crew on the way to the Moon on December 21, 1968. The animation you will see will not be of a flying rocket, but the mission critical true-to-life data displayed as it would have been shown in real-time to the astronauts as they ascended from the launch pad to Earth parking orbit. 

To add to the enjoyment of the experience, the app supplies optional English explanations of the data shown. Not only that, you will be continually informed of major events that occur at each mission critical point between launch and Earth orbit at the appropriate time.

As a bonus, you will be able to type in a small subset of the actual commands that the astronauts entered into the AGC via the DSKY and see relevant results. 

The program is available for free at the Google Play Store.

If, as in my case,  you don’t have an Android device, you can run the app on a PC or Mac computer by downloading the free NOX virtual Android device creator at


Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean dies at 86

Astronaut, Moon walker and artist, Alan Bean has passed away at the age of 86 following an illness that came on two weeks ago while traveling : Alan Bean Family Obituary Statement | NASA

Bean was the lunar pilot on the Apollo 12 mission and he and mission commander Pete Conrad explored the Moon’s Ocean of Storms in November 1969.

Bean became an accomplish artist after retiring from the astronaut corps. See galleries of his works at Alan Bean Art. He had been allowed to keep the name patch from his Apollo EVA suit and it turned out to be saturated with space dust. He would crush a tiny bit of the patch into the paints used for his lunar renderings.

Another NASA video about Bean:

The Sally Ride forever stamp released by US Post Office

American astronaut Sally Ride is commemorated with a new US postage stamp:

Sally Ride Stamp Launches Tomorrow
America’s First Female Astronaut to Soar on Forever Stamp 

Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, a pioneering astronaut, brilliant physicist and dedicated educator who inspired the nation, will be commemorated on a Forever stamp tomorrow [May 23, 2018]. Followers of the U.S. Postal Service’s Facebook page can view the 8 p.m. EDT, ceremony live at Share the news using the hashtags #SallyRideForever and #AstronautStamps. (PRNewsfoto/U.S. Postal Service)
SAN DIEGO, May 22, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, a pioneering astronaut, brilliant physicist and dedicated educator who inspired the nation, will be commemorated on a Forever stamp tomorrow. Share the news using the hashtags #SallyRideForever and #AstronautStamps.

The Sally Ride Forever stamp 5 p.m. PDT dedication ceremony, free and open to the public, will take place at the Price Center, University of California San Diego . Ride served as a professor of physics at the university, which also is home to Sally Ride Science @ U C San Diego, a non-profit organization she co-founded to inspire young people in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) and to promote STEM literacy.

Followers of the U.S. Postal Service’s Facebook page can view the ceremony live at The stamps may be pre-ordered now at this link for delivery shortly after tomorrow’s issuance.

“Sally Ride’s history-making journey has made it easier for young girls to dream of one day being an astronaut, an engineer, a physicist or a mathematician. Today, girls don’t just dream. Because of trailblazers like Sally Ride, they have been empowered to do!”

said U.S. Postal Service Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President Kristin Seaver.

Scheduled to join Seaver are Pradeep K. Khosla, chancellor at UC San Diego; Becky Petitt, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion at UC San Diego, who will serve as master of ceremonies;  Billie Jean King, tennis legend, champion of social justice and Ride’s friend; Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and another friend of Ride; and Tam O’Shaughnessy, co-founder and executive director of Sally Ride Science @ U C San Diego and Ride’s widow.

“Sally started collecting stamps when she was a girl, and she continued to do so her whole life —especially stamps of the Olympics and space exploration,” said O’Shaughnessy. “Sally would be deeply honored to have her portrait on a U.S. stamp.

[Ochoa said, ]

“I admired Sally for her intellect that she applied as a scientist, her focus and passion for STEM education, and her astounding competence in so many areas, including her critical contributions to NASA and the nation,” … “As much in demand as she was, she always made time to meet with young women who dreamed of becoming astronauts. I am thrilled to be part of the Sally Ride Forever stamp dedication, continuing her legacy of inspiring people across the country, and indeed around the world.”

The stamp art features a colorful portrait of Ride in her light blue space suit with a dramatic depiction of a space shuttle lifting off in the background. Sketched first in charcoal and then rendered in oil paint, artist Paul Salmon of Burke, VA, reflects her positivity and confident spirit, as well as the excitement and danger of space travel. Art director Ethel Kesslerof Bethesda, MD, designed the stamp.

Her Legacy
Ride galvanized the country with her pioneering space flight and inspired generations of students as a physicist, astronaut and champion of science education.

After completing her doctorate in physics, Ride joined NASA’s 1978 class of astronaut candidates for the agency’s new space shuttle program. She was the first woman to serve as a capsule communicator for Columbia’s second flight in 1981, communicating from the ground with both the shuttle crew in space and the flight director at Mission Control. In spring 1982, NASA assigned her to her first flight crew as a mission specialist.

On June 18, 1983, at 7:33 a.m., Ride realized her ultimate adventure when she launched through Earth’s atmosphere aboard space shuttle Challenger, becoming the first American woman to reach space. For six days, she worked closely with her four male crewmates, proving to the world below that women were as adept as men in the final frontier. She completed a second successful trip to space the next year, breaking another barrier as a member of the first flight crew with two women.

Ride was the only person to sit on the investigative panels for both the Challenger and Columbia accidents. As a professor, she used her experiences in space to explain complicated physics concepts. She also co-authored six children’s books about science with O’Shaughnessy. In 2001, Ride and O’Shaughnessy joined three friends to start a science education company, Sally Ride Science, with the goal of narrowing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math.

The Sally Ride stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp. This Forever stamp will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

Stamp ideas welcome
The public is encouraged to submit stamp suggestions. Visit the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee website for details on the stamp selection process and instructions for submitting suggestions in writing. Due to the time required for research and approval, ideas for stamp subjects should be received at least three years prior to the proposed release. Each submission should include pertinent historical information and important dates associated with the subject.

Ordering first-day-of-issue postmarks
Customers have 120 days to obtain first-day-of-issue postmarks by mail. They may purchase new stamps at Post Office locations, at The Postal Store or by calling 800-782-6724. Customers must affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

FDOI – Sally Ride Forever Stamp
USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services
8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO  64144-9900

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for postmarks up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged 5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by September 23, 2018.

Ordering first-day covers
The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamps and stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the USA Philatelic publication and online at Customers may register to receive a free USA Philatelic publication online at

Philatelic products
The following Philatelic products are available at

  • 477306, Press Sheet with Die-cut, $90
  • 477310, Digital Color Keepsake, $11.95.
  • 477316, First-Day Cover, 94-cents.
  • 477321, Digital Color Postmark, $1.65.
  • 477330, Ceremony Program, $6.95.

You may view many of this year’s other stamps on Facebook at or via Twitter @USPS. All postage stamps are available for purchase at Post Office locations, online at and by toll-free phone order at 1-800 STAMP-24.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.