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Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History
Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History

Rare Snapshots From the Space Race

Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History
Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History

In 1961, the Soviet Union successfully sent astronaut Yuri Gagarin into space with a Vostok spacecraft. Just three weeks later, the United States launched Alan B. Shepard Jr. 116 miles above earth. The space race captured the attention and imagination of millions, and astronauts were proclaimed heroes. Spaceshots and Snapshots of Projects Mercury and Gemini: A Rare Photographic History aims to capture this magic using rare and otherwise unpublished photographs. 

John Bisney and J. L. Pickering—a former correspondent who covered the space program for CNN and a space-flight historian, respectively—brought this rich history to life with rare images from NASA’s first two missions to space: Projects Mercury and Gemini. Between the two of them, they have collected an impressive selection of photographs. The book’s massive assortment comes from NASA archives, fellow collectors, retired NASA and news photographers, and auction houses, and does a wonderful job of illustrating the culture and experience of the space race. You can pre-order the book here to see of all the stunning photographs and learn more about America’s journey to the final frontier. Here's a preview of what you can expect, with captions by the authors.

The second shift of McDonnell Aircraft workers pose with Freedom 7 in the white room at LC-5 on April 28, 1961. Ed Sieblist, assistant foreman, is first-row center. McDonnell won the Mercury spacecraft contract over the Grumman Corp. in 1959 largely because the federal government knew Grumman would have its hands full with a number of critical US Navy projects.

A television cameraman perched atop a Chevrolet station wagon provides TV network pool coverage at LC-5 early on July 19, 1961—the second launch attempt, which, like the first on July 16, was called off due to bad weather.

Glenn in the white room at LC-14 on January 20, 1962 (one month before the eventual launch). The “J” numbers on the spacecraft identified umbilical cable connections.

A CBS-TV cameraman on launch morning at the Mercury Press Site. He operates an RCA TK-31 black-and-white camera with turret-mounted telephoto lenses. A white ABC-TV camera can be seen just below the CBS camera. On the roof (right) is a pool camera shared by the three broadcast television networks.

Cooper with his suit ventilator in front of Hangar S at Cape Canaveral. His Mark IV Goodrich suit incorporated many changes from Shepard’s suit, including boots, improved gloves, and new shoulder construction.

White’s helmet is equipped with a detachable visor assembly with two separate over visors. The gold film-coated outer visor offers protection against visible sunlight (which is blinding when unfiltered by Earth’s atmosphere) and ultraviolet rays. An inner visor provides protection against micrometeoroids and heat. His chest pack contains an emergency oxygen supply and a ventilation control unit for cooling. The open hatch and its window are reflected in his visor.

Earth view: Florida’s east coast

Gemini VII seen from a few feet away. The two spacecraft remained three hundred feet apart or less for more than three revolutions of the Earth over five hours. The two small gold protrusions from the white adapter section are cryogenic spectrometer/interferometers, a USAF experiment to obtain spectral irradiance information about terrestrial features and celestial objects.

The Titan II’s two first-stage engines belch smoke down the two-hundred-foot-long concrete flume after ignition at 11:41 a.m. (EST) on March 16, 1966, in this view looking south. The flume leads directly to the obscured flame bucket and can handle 25,000 gallons of water per minute sent through the bucket for cool­ing and propellant residue neutralizing. Robert Goddard successfully launched the first liquid-fueled rocket forty years to the day earlier from a relative’s Auburn, Massachusetts, farm.

In the white room at LC-19, Cernan and Stafford prepare to enter Gemini IX-A on the morning of June 3, 1966: their launch day. Backup Pilot Aldrin is behind Stafford, with backup Command Pilot Lovell and McDonnell pad leader Guenter Wendt to the right. The legs of Cernan’s suit are covered with Chromel-R, a cloth woven from stainless steel fibers to protect the astro­naut and suit from the hot exhaust thrusters of the AMU. A blue cover protects his EVA helmet visor. Beginning with this mission, Gemini helmets were made from multiple layers of epoxy-impregnated fiberglass cloth and visors were made of polycarbonate, providing far better impact protection than Plexiglas used previously. Each crewman has two gray life preservers on his parachute harness.

The space­craft is covered with its bridle and parachute lines after the eighty-four-foot-diameter main chute settled around the spacecraft because of the lack of wind.

The ATV recedes from twenty-five to sixty feet away from Gemini XII during a station-keeping exercise on the third orbit from 8:31 to 8:35 p.m. after the first series of docking tests. This sequence was over the Atlantic Ocean.

Gemini XI’s view of the ATV at a distance of twenty-five feet after the astronauts caught up with it over the California coast about an hour and twenty minutes after launch. The docking cone is to the far left and one of the ATV’s horizon sensors is at the bottom edge (center left). The crewmen (who’d been watching the ATV’s acquisition lights in darkness) donned sunglasses when it flashed into sunlight over the Pacific.

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George C. Beresford/Getty Images
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literature
12 Facts About Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
George C. Beresford/Getty Images

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella about venturing into the moral depths of colonial Africa is among the most frequently analyzed literary works in college curricula.

1. ENGLISH WAS THE AUTHOR’S THIRD LANGUAGE.

It’s impressive enough that Conrad wrote a book that has stayed relevant for more than a century. This achievement seems all the more impressive when considering that he wrote it in English, his third language. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, Conrad was a native Polish speaker. French was his second language. He didn’t even know any English—the language of his literary composition—until age 21.

2. HEART OF DARKNESS BEGINS AND ENDS IN THE UK.

Though it recounts Marlow's voyage through Belgian Congo in search of Kurtz and is forever linked to the African continent, Conrad’s novella begins and ends in England. At the story’s conclusion, the “tranquil waterway” that “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” is none other than the River Thames.

3. THE PROTAGONIST MARLOW IS CONRAD.

The well-traveled Marlow—who appears in other Conrad works, such as Lord Jim—is based on his equally well-traveled creator. In 1890, 32-year-old Conrad sailed the Congo River while serving as second-in-command on a Belgian trading company steamboat. As a career seaman, Conrad explored not only the African continent but also ventured to places ranging from Australia to India to South America.

4. LIKE KURTZ AND MARLOW, CONRAD GOT SICK ON HIS VOYAGE.

Illness claimed Kurtz, an ivory trader who has gone mysteriously insane. It nearly claimed Marlow. And these two characters almost never existed, owing to their creator’s health troubles. Conrad came down with dysentery and malaria in Belgian Congo, and afterwards had to recuperate in the German Hospital, London, before heading to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo hydrotherapy. Though he survived, Conrad suffered from poor health for many years afterward.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ALLEGED KURTZES IN REAL LIFE.

The identity of the person on whom Conrad based the story’s antagonist has aroused many a conjecture. Among those suggested as the real Kurtz include a French agent who died on board Conrad’s steamship, a Belgian colonial officer, and Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

6. COLONIZING WAS ALL THE RAGE WHEN HEART OF DARKNESS APPEARED.

Imperialism—now viewed as misguided, oppressive, and ruthless—was much in vogue when Conrad’s novella hit shelves. The "Scramble for Africa" had seen European powers stake their claims on the majority of the continent. Britain’s Queen Victoria was even portrayed as the colonies' "great white mother." And writing in The New Review in 1897, adventurer Charles de Thierry (who tried and failed to establish his own colony in New Zealand) echoed the imperialistic exuberance of many with his declaration: “Since the wise men saw the star in the East, Christianity has found no nobler expression.”

7. CHINUA ACHEBE WAS NOT A FAN OF THE BOOK.

Even though Conrad was no champion of colonialism, Chinua Achebe—the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and other novels—delivered a 1975 lecture called “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” that described Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and his ubiquitous short classic as “an offensive and deplorable book.” However, even Achebe credited Conrad for having “condemned the evil of imperial exploitation.” And others have recognized Heart of Darkness as an indictment of the unfairness and barbarity of the colonial system.

8. THE BOOK WASN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL—AT FIRST.

In 1902, three years after its initial serialization in a magazine, Heart of Darkness appeared in a volume with two other Conrad stories. It received the least notice of the three. In fact, not even Conrad himself considered it a major work. And during his lifetime, the story “received no special attention either from readers or from Conrad himself,” writes Gene M. Moore in the introduction to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. But Heart of Darkness managed to ascend to immense prominence in the 1950s, after the planet had witnessed “the horror”—Kurtz's last words in the book—of WWII and the ramifications of influential men who so thoroughly indulged their basest instincts.

9. T.S. ELIOT BORROWED AN IMPORTANT LINE.

Though Heart of Darkness wasn’t an immediate sensation, it evidently was on the radar of some in the literary community. The famous line announcing the antagonist’s demise, “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” serves as the epigraph to the 1925 T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

10. THE STORY INSPIRED APOCALYPSE NOW.

Eighty years after Conrad’s novella debuted, the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now hit the big screen. Though heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness, the movie’s setting is not Belgian Congo, but the Vietnam War. And though the antagonist (played by Marlon Brando) is named Kurtz, this particular Kurtz is no ivory trader, but a U.S. military officer who has become mentally unhinged.

11. HEART OF DARKNESS HAS BEEN MADE INTO AN OPERA.

Tarik O'Regan’s Heart of Darkness, an opera in one act, opened in 2011. Premiering at London’s Royal Opera House, it was reportedly the first operatic adaptation of Conrad’s story and heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

12. THE BOOK ALSO SPARKED A VIDEO GAME.

In a development not even Conrad’s imagination could have produced, his classic inspired a video game, Spec Ops: The Line, which was released in 2012.

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Dan Bell
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Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

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