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Alan Shepard's Voyage to Space

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Getty Images

53 years ago today, Alan Shepard became the second human to visit space. The first person in space, Russian Yuri Gagarin, completed an orbit of the Earth almost a month before Shepard's 15-minute voyage. Gagarin's craft was fully automated, but Shepard had some control over the Freedom 7, and this agency led to what is known amongst astronauts as "Shepard's Prayer"—before blast-off, he apparently said some version of, "Please, dear God, don't let me f*ck up."

He didn't, and the trip—launch-to-orbit-to-splashdown—can be seen below, complete with annotations and in-vessel camera view:

After his famous voyage, Shepard was diagnosed with Ménière's disease, an inner-ear ailment that affects balance and directional sense. This obviously presents a problem for someone piloting a spaceship, and he was grounded for the five years that followed.

After undergoing experimental surgery to treat the problem, he was cleared for extra-terrestrial activities and commanded the Apollo 14 mission to the moon in 1971. Shepard became the fifth man to walk on the moon and, perhaps most notably, the first person to play golf on another planet:

In less than ten years, Alan Shepard went from a 15-minute trip in a rocket-boosted sardine can to living on the moon for a two-day period and managing to fit in some golf. Not bad.

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Gregory H. Revera, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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Study Suggests There's Water Beneath the Moon's Surface
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Gregory H. Revera, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Astronauts may not need to go far to find water outside Earth. As CNN reports, Brown University scientists Ralph E. Milliken and Shuai Li suspect there are significant amounts of water churning within the Moon’s interior.

Their findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, lean on the discovery of glass beads encased in the Moon’s volcanic rock deposits. As recently as 100 million years ago, the Earth’s moon was a hotbed of volcanic activity. Evidence of that volatile time can still be found in the ancient ash and volcanic rock that’s scattered across the surface.

Using satellite imagery, the researchers identified tiny water droplets preserved inside glass beads that formed in the volcanic deposits. While water makes up a small fraction of each bead, its presence suggests there’s significantly more of it making up the Moon’s mantle.

Milliken and Li aren't the first scientists to notice water in lunar rocks. In 2008, volcanic materials collected from the Moon during the Apollo missions of 1971 and 1972 were revealed to contain the same water-flecked glass beads that the Brown scientists made the basis of their recent study. They took their research further by analyzing images captured across the face of the Moon and quickly saw the Apollo rocks represented a larger trend. "The distribution of these water-rich deposits is the key thing," Milliken said in a press statement. "They're spread across the surface, which tells us that the water found in the Apollo samples isn't a one-off. Lunar pyroclastics seem to be universally water-rich, which suggests the same may be true of the mantle."

The study challenges what we know about the Moon's formation, which scientists think occurred when a planet-sized object slammed into the Earth 4.5 billion years ago. "The growing evidence for water inside the Moon suggests that water did somehow survive, or that it was brought in shortly after the impact by asteroids or comets before the Moon had completely solidified," Li said. "The exact origin of water in the lunar interior is still a big question."

The findings also hold exciting possibilities for the future of space travel. NASA scientists have already considered turning the Moon into a water station for astronauts on their way to Mars. If water on the celestial body is really as abundant as the evidence may suggest, figuring out how to access that resource will definitely be on NASA's agenda.

[h/t CNN]

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NASA Is Posting Hundreds of Retro Flight Research Videos on YouTube
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Bruce Weaver / Stringer / Getty Images

If you’re interested in taking a tour through NASA history, head over to the YouTube page of the Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, in southern California. According to Motherboard, the agency is in the middle of posting hundreds of rare aircraft videos dating back to the 1940s.

In an effort to open more of its archives to the public, NASA plans to upload 500 historic films to YouTube over the next few months. More than 300 videos have been published so far, and they range from footage of a D-558 Skystreak jet being assembled in 1947 to a clip of the first test flight of an inflatable-winged plane in 2001. Other highlights include the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final flight over Los Angeles and a controlled crash of a Boeing 720 jet.

The research footage was available to the public prior to the mass upload, but viewers had to go through the Dryden Aircraft Movie Collection on the research center’s website to see them. The current catalogue on YouTube is much easier to browse through, with clear playlist categories like supersonic aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. You can get a taste of what to expect from the page in the sample videos below.

[h/t Motherboard]

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