history stories

For NASA and space fans alike, the Space Shuttle program could not be winding down at a headier time. The landing of Atlantis this morning marks the end of an era, and comes the same day as one of NASA's early milestones 50 years ago exactly: Virgil "Gus" Grissom's suborbital voyage aboard the Liberty Bell 7 — the second launch for Project Mercury, NASA's earliest manned spaceflight program. Yesterday also happened to be the 42nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and just this May was the 50th anniversary of the first manned NASA spaceflight ever — also part of Project Mercury. So, yeah: heady times. Gus Grissom was the second American to go up into space, and the first to do it twice. He was an active influence on all of NASA's initial manned spaceflight programs, starting with his controversial Mercury flight, then on to Gemini and, finally, Apollo, where Gus Grissom would make the ultimate sacrifice. It should be stated here — and it's no slight to the man — that while this article focuses primarily on Grissom and includes interviews with people who worked in the space program, it's also about the untold thousands who go unmentioned. As Apollo programmer Homer Ahr told us over the phone, "We wanted to fly a successful mission, and sooner or later when you get people to discuss it from that vantage point, egos tended to go away." It was a team effort, through and through. With that in mind, join us as we take a look back at Grissom's contribution to our space program by way of his three landmark spacecraft, and the fierce controversy that threatened to tarnish an amazing legacy.
Today is the 65th anniversary of the modern bikini. Or actually, it was yesterday. We spent a lot of time (like, seriously a lot of time) yesterday doing serious research for this piece in order to provide you with the best possible bikini content, and it just sort of happened that we looked up and all of a sudden it was tomorrow. Oops.
In the early 1980s I attended a BASIC programming contest in Philadelphia with some fellow "whiz kid" friends. For those of you who came up after that era, it was a colloquial term for computer geeks in the '80s. Our coding for the contest was on Apple IIe machines, which I remember fondly. At the end of the contest, we gathered in the lecture hall auditorium for the awards ceremony. In the forefront, set out on display podiums like queen's jewels were something we had never seen before: Macintosh computers. Unlike today, there had been no websites with leaked photos and we had only vague news of what this was from the magazines of the period. One thing was certain, we were in awe. Three of these "gems" (Mac 128s, pictured above) were for us to try, at the end of the awards presentation we were each allowed to briefly give one of them a test drive. I opened up Mac Paint, I dragged and dropped, and I clicked on things for the very first time. I was in love.
On Monday, May 16, NASA is planning to send Space Shuttle Endeavour up into orbit on its last voyage ever. Endeavour, the fleet's youngest shuttle, comes from a family of six: two of which were lost during missions, two retired and the last, Atlantis, is scheduled for a final launch in June. The Space Shuttle program is one filled with the highest of highs and lowest possible lows. Saturday, May 14, also happens to be the 38th anniversary of the launch of Skylab, America's first space station, which deorbited in 1979 and disintegrated in Earth's atmosphere. In short, it's a pretty complex time for America's space program, with each day full of reminders of the heights the country soared to, and the nervous transfer of manned space exploration from a national effort to the private sector. For the last 30 years, NASA's Space Shuttle has served U.S. interests in orbit. You can see the fleet's greatest hits in the gallery below. Each image comes from the flight mentioned, complete with the mission's badge, which were unique to each flight.
50 years ago today, Alan Shepard, America's first astronaut, and the then-newly-formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (or NASA to you and me) achieved an important milestone for the U.S. space program: America's first manned spaceflight. The effort is often talked about in terms of the people involved, or the spacecraft that made it possible. Alan Shepard, for instance, is rightfully regarded as a national hero, and the humble Redstone rocket that carried him into sub-orbit is an iconic reminder of that first flight. There's a crucial component that also played a massive role, however, a young technology at the time that rarely gets its due considering how important it was: the computer.
30 years ago today, Xerox launched what's generally considered to be the world's first commercially available computer mouse. Arguably, the mouse ushered in the era of personal computing, since it made it easy and intuitive for people without computer experience to click around and get stuff done. That 30 year old mouse is very different from what we're used to nowadays, though, and here's a look back at how mousing technology has evolved, from bowling balls of the past to mind control of the future.