Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson says he wants to fly to space aboard SpaceShipTwo as America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, Agence France Presse (AFP) reports.
“My wish is to go up on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, that’s what we’re working on,” the head of the Virgin group said on the sidelines of an event to honor Virgin Galactic at the Air and Space Museum in Washington.
Whether a SpaceShipTwo flight on the anniversary of the moon landing will be seen as a fitting tribute to America’s greatest achievement in space or merely a giant PR distraction is uncertain.
Whether they will be able to make that date is equally unclear. SpaceShipTwo Unity is still undergoing flight tests at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. (Branson told AFP the next flight is set for Feb. 20, weather permitting.) And practically all of his previous predictions for the start of commercial flights have been proven wrong over the past 14.5 years.
Branson plans to be on Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight, which will take place from Spaceport America in New Mexico. His son, Sam, and other passengers are set to be aboard the flights. Perhaps he will take Apollo 11 moon walker Buzz Aldrin, who just turned 89, along with him.
Branson told AFP that Virgin Galactic costs $35 million per month or $420 million per year to operate. He previously estimated he has spent $1 billion to $1.3 billion on the SpaceShipTwo program since it was announced in 2004.
Virgin recently laid off about 40 employees from Virgin Galactic and its sister company, The Spaceship Company.
With Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin in attendance, President Donald Trump gave a shout out to NASA during the annual State of the Union address.
“In 2019, we also celebrate 50 years since brave young pilots flew a quarter of a million miles through space to plant the American flag on the face of the moon. Half a century later, we are joined by one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who planted that flag: Buzz Aldrin. This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets,” he said.
NASA’s commercial crew program is set to begin transporting astronauts to the International Space Station later this year. Today, NASA released the following schedule for flight tests of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.
Test Flight Planning Dates:
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019 Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019 Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019 SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019 SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019 Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019
Video Caption: From director Todd Douglas Miller (Dinosaur 13) comes a cinematic event fifty years in the making. Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names.
Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, we vividly experience those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.
WASHINGTON (U.S. Mint PR) – The United States Mint (Mint) opened sales for the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program on January 24 at noon EST.
This unique four-coin program includes the Mint’s first reeded five-ounce proof silver dollar, a $5 gold coin, a silver dollar, and a half dollar. All coins are curved. This year, the Mint increased the silver content of its commemorative standard silver dollars to 99.9 percent silver. In the past, these coins were 90/10 silver—90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.
Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program (Courtesy: U.S. Mint)
The world eagerly watched on July 20, 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin, Jr. took mankind’s first steps on the Moon. This unprecedented engineering, scientific, and political achievement was the culmination of the efforts of an estimated 400,000 Americans and secured our Nation’s leadership in space for generations to come. The Apollo 11 crew—Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins—safely returned to Earth on July 24, 1969, fulfilling the national goal set in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. Nearly half a century later, the United States is the only country ever to have attempted and succeeded in landing humans on a celestial body other than Earth and safely returning them home.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon, Public Law 114-282 authorizes a four-coin program: a curved $5 gold coin, a curved $1 silver coin, a curved half-dollar clad coin, and a curved 5 ounce $1 silver proof coin. (more…)
DALLAS, Texas (Heritage Auctions PR) — The vast personal collection of Neil Armstrong, who as the first man to walk on the moon changed the course of human history, will be presented in a series of auctions beginning November 1-2, 2018 by Heritage Auctions. The Armstrong Family CollectionTM will offer never-before-seen artifacts from his momentous lunar landing to private mementos — including pieces of a wing and propeller from the 1903 Wright Brothers flight that Armstrong took with him to the moon, a gold pin from Gemini VIII, Armstrong’s first mission, and historic correspondence about the planning that went into the moon mission. The auctions will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission.
“There will be flown items, autographed items and items of historical significance,” son Mark Armstrong said. “There will be items that make you think, items that make you laugh and items that make you scratch your head.” (more…)
As NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of manned Apollo flights leading to the first moon landing in July 1969, the number of astronauts from the program is slowly dwindling away.
Of the 29 men who flew in the Apollo lunar program, 15 are still alive while 14 others have passed away. When the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs are included, there are 21 Apollo-era astronauts still with us while 17 have died.
Video Caption: The cast and crew of Universal’s feature film First Man reflect on the story of Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 moon landing, one of NASA’s most notable figures and one of the agency’s crowning achievements. They also note their visits to NASA and working with the agency’s staff in the production of the film. NASA provided our historical expertise, footage and imagery, plus allowed for filming access at our facilities.
Film footage provided courtesy of Universal Pictures.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The first steps on the Moon – fueled by a national will to excel – marked a turning point for America and humanity as a whole. At the core of that historic moment, however, lay the story of one man whose strength, perseverance and personal conviction brought him to the moment his foot would leave the indelible and iconic imprint on the lunar surface.
Entertainment Weekly reports the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” has received rave reviews following its debut at the Venice Film Festival.
“This is a strikingly intelligent treatment of a defining moment for America that broadens the tonal range of Chazelle, clearly a versatile talent, after Whiplash and La La Land,” writes The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney, further praising the film’s “refusal to engage in the expected jingoistic self-celebration” that celebrating Armstrong’s first-man-on-the-moon milestone could have registered.
“Gosling downplays his natural charisma here to portray a man simply intent on doing a job, approaching it with the utmost seriousness and without ego. Armstrong shows zero willingness to consider what he’s doing in any self-aggrandizing historical context, his taciturn demeanor proving frustrating to the press, who want uplifting soundbites. That makes the characterization almost antithetical to the standard Hollywood conception of a historically significant figure of this type,” he continues. “Instead, Gosling pulls you in on an intimate level, whether Neil is tackling life-or-death situations mid-mission or simply staring at the moon from his backyard, as if the distant image somehow holds the secret to a successful landing. It’s a subdued, almost self-effacing performance that nonetheless provides the drama with a commanding center.”
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw similarly heralds Gosling’s work, calling his lead performance one of “muscular intelligence and decency,” while pegging the film as a “mostly soaring” effort overall, and Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman similarly heralds the project as “turbulently spectacular” and a “docudrama in the most authentic and exciting sense of the word” through Chazelle’s “audacious strategy…. to make a movie so revelatory in its realism, so gritty in its physicality, that it becomes a drama of thrillingly hellbent danger and obsession.”
Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson was one of three people honored for contributions to further space exploration during the Apollo Celebration Gala held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.
Locked in a bitter legal dispute with his own children, Buzz Aldrin was a no-show at a gala event on Saturday designed to raise money for the ShareSpace Foundation he created and to celebrate his signature achievement.
Aldrin skipped the black-tie Apollo Celebration Gala held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The event kicked off a year-long countdown to the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, which was accomplished by Aldrin and Neil Armstrong aboard Apollo 11’s lunar lander, Eagle, on July 20, 1969.
Aldrin is involved in a dispute over control of the foundation with two of his children, Andrew and Jan Aldrin. Buzz Aldrin has sued his children and his former business manager, Christina Korp, alleging misappropriation of funds, misuse of credit cards and slandering him with claims of dementia.
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.