Showing posts with label space. Show all posts
Showing posts with label space. Show all posts

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Russian cartoons of the future--1958

"Technicolor visions of the future"


Matt Novak

April 25th, 2012


On 4 October 1957, the Soviet Union hurled a shiny silver ball into space and changed the world forever.

Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth's orbit, was not only a bold display of military might but also a defining moment for popular culture that stretched far beyond its Kazakhstan launch pad. Almost overnight, everything from toys and clothes to cocktails and film began to incorporate sputnik and space iconography. And the pages of newspapers, as well as reporting on the escalating space race, began to fill with science, technology and futurism-themed comics.

This Saturday, 28 April, I’ll be hosting an event in Los Angeles with BBC Future and Atlas Obscura called Retrofuture: Celebrating a Future That Never Was. It will be a paleofuturist party of sorts, showcasing a range artefacts from my personal collection including many items from this defining period. Amongst the space age toys and others artefacts I have chosen to display some of my favourite comic strips triggered by that Soviet launch, including Closer Than We Think and Our New Age, both of which started just one year after Sputnik soared above the Earth.

Closer Than We Think was illustrated by Detroit-based commercial artist Arthur Radebaugh, who was known for his streamlined-futuristic style, most notably doing illustration work for the automotive industry in Detroit. His techno-utopian sensibilities brought stories of future technologies to life, and helped define the jetpack and flying car futurism that so many people look back fondly on today. At its peak, Closer Than We Think reached 19 million readers every Sunday, exploring everything from the future of education to the mechanisation of war.

The first strip ran on 12 January 1958 and was appropriately satellite-themed - a pulp-and-ink answer to the soviet launch. The language in the strip was optimistic: “The far reaches of space are no longer distant. Space stations, anchored in the sky beyond the full pull of gravity, are being planned today. They’ll be the next, nearby step after man-made satellites have proved themselves.” The imagery would not look out of place in a Stanley Kubrick film, but the strip was based on the thinking of the time. Specifically it references a report that outlined a plan by a “famed rocket expert” to build a space station orbiting the earth. The module would be built from pieces carried by a “dozen” rockets, he said.

‘Funny fight’

It all sounds very familiar, particularly to a generation that has grown up with Mir and the International Space station. However, it is also a reminder of just how recently these projects – that are so easy to take for granted – were in the realms of fantasy.

The strip would often draw from news stories of the time and extrapolate fantastical technologies. For example, the 11 May 1958 edition of Closer Than We Think took a report from the American Rocket Society about the potential medical benefits of weightlessness and imagined space hospitals “anchored in the heavens”. The strip went on to describe how “one of these hospitals might be shaped like a disc atop elevator tubes leading to the control section. The mushroom-like disc would contain weightless operating rooms for treating heart and other organic troubles as well as bone diseases.”

Of course, the strip did not just focus on space. Sputnik had lit a touch paper on the whole scientific endeavour.  For example, the 9 February 1958 edition of the strip took a quote about solar technology from a vice president at the car company Chrysler and imagined the solar powered vehicles of tomorrow: “Tomorrow the sunmobile may replace the automobile. The power of bottled sunshine will propel it. Your solar sedan will take energy from sunrays and store it in accumulators that work like a battery. This power will drive your car just like gasoline does today.”

This broader scientific remit is also evident in Our New Age, a strip dreamt up in 1957 by the dean of the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology, Dr Athelstan Spilhaus, and launched in 1958 with illustrator Earl Cros. Spilhaus wrote the strip and would later joke that he wore out three artists, as Earl Cros was later succeeded by E C Felton and then Gene Fawcette. When Spilhaus stopped writing the strip in 1973, Fawcette continued with Our New Age, at least until 1975.

Dr Spilhaus was very upfront about his desire to get kids interested in science after the launch of Sputnik. He recalled in an interview: “I decided to [start writing the comic strip] right after Sputnik, when I was disturbed about kids knowing very little about science. Rather than fight my own kids reading the funnies, which is a stupid thing to do, I decided to put something good into the comics, something that was more fun and that might give a little subliminal education.”

But it wasn’t just kids that were influenced by Our New Age. After President John F Kennedy appointed Dr Spilhaus to a position directing the science exhibits at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, he met with JFK. The president reportedly told Spilhaus at that meeting, “The only science I ever learned was from reading your comic strip in the Boston Globe.” It’s an extraordinary admission, particularly from a president who just a year earlier had announced plans to put an American on the moon.

The 26 September 1965 edition of Our New Age was typical in that it laid out scientific facts and history in the first few panels, and then predicted what modern science might do with future technologies. This strip, on “ultra cold” explained that in 1860 a Scottish scientist had produced a temperature of almost -40 degrees F. By the last panel we see scientists in the year 2165, looking after two people and their dog laying in tubes while in a state of “cryogenic hibernation,” waiting to be brought back to life.

It is easy to dismiss strips like this as simply a technicolor curiosity of an age long gone. However, I believe they offer much more. Pop culture, by its definition, offers a reflection of the interests, preoccupations, fears and desires of the time. The Sputnik launch perfectly exemplifies this – showing an impulsive response to the Soviet’s technological triumph.

The importance of science was suddenly brought home by a distant beep in the skies above the Earth, inspiring a generation to explore new frontiers. And though public opinion polls from the time show that the children of this era were more excited about the prospects of the space age than their parents, the techno-utopian visions of Radebaugh and Spilhaus gave people a window on to these beginnings. The hi-tech world we live in owes a debt to a simple silver sphere that captured the world’s attention more than 50 years ago.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Space...humans or robots

"Humans vs. Robots: Who Should Dominate Space Exploration?"


Adam Mann

April 11th, 2012


The most recent footprints on the moon are 40 years old, and the next artificial mark on the lunar surface will probably be made by a robot’s wheels rather than human soles.

Many space scientists, engineers and politicians argue that this is a good thing. Most astronomers will tell you that virtually anything a human can do on another planet, a robot can do, only cheaper and without the risk of losing a life. But the battle between humans and robots for the starring role in the next chapter of space exploration is not yet settled.

“In what was really only a few days on the lunar surface, the Apollo astronauts produced a tremendous scientific legacy,” said planetary scientist Ian Crawford of Birkbeck College in London, author of a paper in the April issue of Astronomy and Geophysics. “Robotic exploration of the moon and Mars pales in comparison.”

Robots have done all the recent planetary exploration in the solar system. In past decades, rovers, landers, and orbiters have visited the moon, asteroids and comets, every planet in the solar system and many of their moons as well. But how does their work compare to that of human astronauts?

In terms of sheer scientific output, manned exploration of outer space has a good track record. More than 2,000 papers have been published over the last four decades using data collected during the manned Apollo missions, and the rate of new papers is still rising. In comparison, the Soviet robotic Luna explorers and NASA’s Mars Exploration rover program — Mars Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity — have each generated around 400 publications.

Humans hold a number of advantages over robots. They can make quick decisions in response to changing conditions or new discoveries, rather than waiting for time-delayed instructions from Earth. They are more mobile than current robot explorers: The Apollo 17 astronauts covered more than 22 miles in three days, a distance that has taken the Mars Opportunity rover eight years to match. Humans can drill for samples deep underground and deploy large-scale geologic instruments, something that no rover has achieved on another body.

Despite these qualities, many experts are skeptical of Crawford’s argument.

“I strongly disagree with his conclusions,” wrote engineer Adrian Stoica, who supervises the Advanced Robotic Controls group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an email to Wired. He notes that Crawford’s paper seems to focus on cost in terms of scientific output achieved.

The Apollo program was incredibly expensive — about $175 billion in today’s money — though it was not solely a scientific mission. It was mainly a geopolitical stunt during the Cold War to show American technological superiority over Russia, with science piggybacking on the ride.

The total amount spent on science over the Apollo missions, Crawford estimates, comes to about $2.09 billion in today’s dollars, making it comparable to or even cheaper than the recent $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory.

But contrasting manned lunar missions with robotic Mars missions is not the right way to go, wrote Stoica. A better analysis would use the potential cost of a manned Mars mission, which NASA estimates to be at least hundreds of billions of dollars.

Crawford counters that cost is not the biggest impetus behind his analysis. Instead, he wanted to bring attention to the sheer efficiency and legacy that the Apollo program achieved during its short time. If space exploration continues to focus on sending robots to other planets, “we will learn less about the solar system in the next 100 years than we will if we engage in an ambitious program of human exploration,” he said.

Of course, humans and robots each have their own advantages for exploration of outer space.

“There isn’t a battle between robots and humans — that’s comparing apples and oranges,” said James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We send the robots as our pathfinders and scouts, and they open the frontiers so that we can decide where and when to send the people.”

Humans and robots already work together on Earth and in space. There are schemes that offer the advantages of human exploration without incurring as high of a cost.

“What makes robots at a distance inferior to humans is one thing only: latency,” said astronomer Dan Lester of the University of Texas at Austin.

The time it takes for a signal to travel from a robot back to mission control on Earth is a major stumbling block. Commands sent to a Mars rover take between 5 and 15 minutes. Light travel time to the moon is around 2.6 seconds.

“It takes 10 minutes to tie a knot with the Earth-moon latency,” said Lester. “But if we could bring that down to about 100 milliseconds, the robots themselves are very capable.” Teleoperated robots on the surface of another planet would have greater strength, endurance, and precision than human explorers, he added.

Teleoperation has been considered in the past for space exploration. During the Apollo era, the technology was not well developed but in the last decade, it has taken off. On Earth, surgeons in Baltimore now perform operations in Indonesia while officers in Nevada covertly spy on nuclear sites in Iran.

Lester envisions a future where astronauts camp out on Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos and order remote-controlled robots to drive long distances over the planet’s surface, set up geologic instruments, and collect samples for analysis. He estimates this could greatly reduce costs because roughly half the price tag of a manned mission is spent on getting people down and back up the deep gravity well of a planet.

Crawford agrees such a plan would be a step beyond simply sending a robot, though perhaps less efficient than putting people on a planet’s surface.

“I think it will be strange to spend all the money to go all that way and then not land,” he said.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Morris Jones and Chinese space efforts

This is the wave of the future...not run by NASA but world-wide players.

"My Decade with Shenzhou"


Morris Jones

August 3rd, 2009


2009 will mostly be remembered by space enthusiasts as the 40th anniversary of the first Moonwalk. For me, there's a second but more personal anniversary. I'm celebrating ten years of watching China's exciting buy mysterious human spaceflight program. This has not been an easy or a conventional task, but it's certainly been rewarding. China launched its Shenzhou 1 spacecraft in 1999, publically kicking off a program that has preoccupied me ever since.

China has conducted its Shenzhou spaceflight program behind a fairly tight veil of secrecy, and has offered few glimpses of its work to the outside world. Older spacewatchers would remember the problems of watching the Soviet Union's space program in the 1960s, where successes would be triumphantly splashed across news headlines, and failures concealed. General details on spacecraft design and mission planning were scarce.

Plans for landing a Soviet cosmonaut on the Moon were very well suppressed, and it took decades of research for the full story to be unveiled. For someone like me, who missed the 1960s and the Moonlanding, watching China has given me a chance to experience the same excitement and frustrations as an earlier generation of spacewatchers.

I've published dozens of articles on the Shenzhou program in publications such as SpaceDaily, and other news sources. I've also fielded a lot of inquiries from other journalists bedeviled by the same problems I have experienced, namely, the lack of easy access to information and sources inside China.

I haven't had much to work with. Most of my information comes from open-source literature, mostly published by the Chinese themselves. I have never had a "Deep Throat" source within China, contrary to the beliefs of some of my readers. Nobody from any external intelligence agency leaks things to me, either.

I have used speculation and deductive reasoning to fill in the blanks, sometimes missing the mark, sometimes not. The need to solve puzzles makes this more interesting to an inquiring mind than some forms of reporting, but it can also leave you shrugging your shoulders.

There's another beef to get off my chest. The Chinese space program moves slowly. Very slowly. During the first test flights, delays in excess of a year could be found between some missions. There would be very little discussion of the program in Chinese media sources during these gaps. This was frustrating to watch, but it also raised serious doubts about the state of the program in my mind.

Would the Chinese government cancel the Shenzhou program, just as it cancelled China's first attempt at human spaceflight in the 1970s? Gradually, we have all grown used to the delays and the drawn-out plans, which have seen intervals of roughly three years between astronaut launches.

Science fiction writers have long toyed with the idea of devices that accelerate or slow down time, like watching a video on fast-forward. I have often thought that such a device would be useful for watching China's space program. The slow pace of activities makes it very difficult for anyone to cover it as a dedicated reporting round, and nobody can build a full-time career around watching Shenzhou. This has probably deterred many journalists from getting involved.

Some mysteries have been solved over the years as missions finally flew, but some questions have never been properly answered. We still haven't had a solid technical overview of the Shenzhou spacecraft, or other elements of China's space hardware.

Judging from photography in Chinese media outlets, the influence of Russian technology on everything from the shape of the spacecraft to the design of China's spacesuits seems to be profound, but China still won't say how far it really goes. Nobody has explained how and why a series of heavily doctored photos of the Long March 2F rocket, used to launch Shenzhou, were leaked onto the Internet in 1999 before China officially revealed the program. We still don't know exactly what happened to Shenzhou 2, an unmanned test mission that apparently crashed on landing.

The activities performed by the crew of Shenzhou 6, widely suspected to have been photo-reconnaissance, remain unofficially documented. Rumours of technical problems during the flights of Shenzhou 5 (the first manned mission) and Shenzhou 6 have not been dispelled.

The lack of official access to the Shenzhou program has long highlighted a paradox in China's spaceflight strategy. The nation clearly craves recognition and admiration for its feats in space, but blocks so many pathways to promoting it. China's state-run media explains the program to its own citizens, but anecdotal reports I have received from visitors to China suggest that awareness is generally low.

The Chinese public cannot generally name their first astronaut or the spaceship that carried him. Outside of China, awareness of Shenzhou is even lower. China also engenders suspicion among international observers through its lack of transparency, suspicion that could well be justified in some cases.

This unusual lack of information has also created some interesting experiences for me. It's fun to take phone calls from international reporters about Shenzhou. It's even more fun when the reporters are calling me in Sydney, Australia, and they're based in Beijing! Being physically close to the story doesn't grant you any more access. I have also done interviews with magazines, radio and television networks based in Hong Kong and China, who should have an easier time than foreign wire service reporters.

The problem of revealing "state secrets", a very fluid concept in China, is probably enough to scare many Chinese reporters. Problems could appear for a journalist who talks to an engineer, and accidentally reveals something previously unrevealed. But quoting a foreigner who has already published his own material is probably safer.

This is an interesting time to be watching China. America's space program is in a state of flux, and is going through a very public dissection of its problems. Plans for returning American astronauts to the Moon seem to be open to question, with sources suggesting that the original plan for a 2020 landing are unrealistic. China has been relatively quiet in its recent statements, but has not concealed its desire to send its own astronauts to the Moon.

Generally ignored by the world, the Chinese space program will grow more important in the future, and its progress will probably cause alarm bells in Washington. As difficult as it is, I will have plenty of reason to keep watching the Chinese space program in the future.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"For All Mankind"...40 years after Apollo 11

Al Reinert's For All Mankind won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1990 covering the Apollo 11 mission [including Apollo 1 and Apollo 7 through 10]. The film is available as a restored high-definition digital transfer from The Criterion Collection or you can watch it for free from NASA .

For All Mankind

Monday, July 28, 2008

NASA and the Internet Archive

This is a good marriage of NASA photographs and a growing repository of knowledge. The Internet Archive is a HUGE collection of books, music, still images, audio, and motion pictures that have expired copyrights and fallen into public domain. It is a noble effort and fraught with problems. I have used this venue a lot and experienced technical issues and items that just disappear with no explanation. Many vintage foreign feature films are offered for a short time and then are withdrawn such as Akira Kurosawa's The Men Who Tread On the Tiger's Tail, Stray Dog, Rashomon, Ikiru, and Sanjuro. Categorizing items is a mess and difficult to find such as Polish experimental short films. It is encouraging to discover many old texts on the sciences and illustrated scientific catalogs. Given time, these and many other issues will be resolved.

"NASA And Internet Archive Launch Centralized Resource For Images"

July 28th, 2008

Space Travel

NASA and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco, made available the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA's vast collection of photographs, historic film and video Thursday.

The Internet site combines for the first time 21 major NASA imagery collections into a single, searchable online resource. A link to the Web site will appear on the NASA home page.

The Web site launch is the first step in a five-year partnership that will add millions of images and thousands of hours of video and audio content, with enhanced search and viewing capabilities, and new user features on a continuing basis.

"This partnership with Internet Archive enables NASA to provide the American public with access to its vast collection of imagery from one searchable source, unlocking a new treasure trove of discoveries for students, historians, enthusiasts and researchers," said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.

"This new resource also will enable the agency to digitize and preserve historical content now not available on the Internet for future generations."

Through a competitive process, NASA selected Internet Archive to manage the NASA Images Web site under a non-exclusive Space Act agreement, signed in July 2007. The five-year project is at no cost to the taxpayer and the images are free to the public.

"NASA's media is an incredibly important and valuable national asset. It is a tremendous honor for the Internet Archive to be NASA's partner in this project," says Brewster Kahle, founder of Internet Archive.

"We are excited to mark this first step in a long-term collaboration to create a rich and growing public resource."

The content of the Web site covers all the diverse activities of America's space program, including imagery from the Apollo moon missions, Hubble Space Telescope views of the universe and experimental aircraft past and present. Keyword searching is available with easy-to-use resources for teachers and students.

Internet Archive is developing the NASA Images project using software donated by Luna Imaging Inc. of Los Angeles and with the generous support of the Kahle-Austin Foundation of San Francisco.

Internet Archive

Thursday, May 8, 2008

NASA budget appeal this 2008

It's the season to petition congress with rhetoric to garner renewal and more funding for NASA projects. Below are five speeches given on May 7th, 2008 before congress's Senate Hearing on Reauthorizing the Vision for Space Exploration by Frederick Tarantino [CEO and president of Universities Space Research Association], Joan Johnson-Freese [Chair, National Security Decision Making Department of the Naval War College], Major General Robert Dickman [USAF-Retired] [Executive Director of The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)], Gene Kranz [Advisory Board Member for the Coalition for Space Exploration and former NASA Flight Director / Director Mission Operations], and George Whitesides [ executive director of the National Space Society]. It is about economics, environment, education, embracing private enterprises and the world space exploration community. I don't agree will all of the thoughts but it is a positive direction. Wouldn't it be great if the billions were appropriated and public referendums were set up to vote on proposed projects. That would certainly spark debate regarding unfeasible trips to Mars, tenability of the ISS, other smaller research projects--get the public involved.

Frederick Tarantino

Joan Johnson-Freese

Major General Robert Dickman

Gene Kranz

George Whitesides

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Echo 1

In a few weeks will be an historical benchmark--the launch of Echo 1. May 13th, 1960 marks the date of the first passive telecommunication satellite launched by a Delta rocket. This simple balloon-like satellite some 90 feet in diameter was made of mylar polyester film 0.0127 mm thick and lasted a little over eight years. Many a summer night yielded, without the aid of optical instruments, it's trek across the night sky.

Gunter's Space Page

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NASA space trivia

Good material for trivia at a cocktail party.

"The Adventures of Cece Bibby: On and Off The Launch Pad"


Lawrence McGlynn

September 9th, 2005

In 1959, Cecelia "Cece" Bibby found her way into the RCA graphics arts department located at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Arriving at the dawn of the space age, she would soon find herself surrounded by what was then the men-only world of high performance jets and rocketry.

An artist by trade, talent, and self-determination, Bibby would become the first to design and paint a logo on the outside of a U.S. manned spacecraft destined for orbit. She would work with three of the Mercury astronauts to customize their craft and in the process see her artwork become as recognizable as the astronauts themselves.

Bibby's path to becoming the first woman allowed on the launch pad was not one without its hurdles.

Following the loss of her father at age 3, Bibby and her brother lived with their mother for six years before the pressure of raising two young children became too much for their single parent. Made a ward of the Masons at age nine, Bibby and her brother would live in the Masonic Home for Children in Covina, California until they came of legal age. She would never see her mother again.

"I don't know what would have become of me if it wasn't for that home," says Bibby today.

"I never took typing or shorthand in school because I felt I would have no need for those skills," explains Bibby of her public school education. "The Home never told me I had to take practical courses, yet I know they did tell some of the other girls that."

Bibby says that becoming an artist wasn't something that she consciously planned.

"As a child that's all I ever wanted to be... I used my crayons on everything, probably even on walls. I cannot remember a time when I wanted to be anything else."

"The Home saw to it that I had the art supplies I needed. Not all the ones I wanted, but what I needed."

After graduating from high school, Bibby left the home to enter art school. To support herself, she took a job as an operator with the local telephone company.

It was there she made her first connection with the space program, which itself was in its infancy.

"I used to place calls for Dr. Theodore von Karman, who worked at Aerojet Corporation in Azusa, California. He would place calls to the Banana River Test Site (which later became Cape Canaveral) to all kinds of scientists and engineers. Sometimes I'd have to chase people down via telephone and Dr. V was always so appreciative of my efforts," tells Bibby.

"While trying to put his calls through, he would talk to me and tell me what he was working on. He had that great German accent and was so interesting to talk to. I guess that intrigued me, knowing there were those tests going on in Florida."

It was a want ad in the newspaper, rather than inspiration from a founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, that led Bibby to the East Coast.

She was hired as a draftsman for RCA's Missile Division at Patrick Air Force Base "doing 'as built' drawings for the downrange missile tracking sites." Bibby was then transferred to the publications department, "where we did all kinds of artwork such as engineers' ideas of space."

"I left there and went to Aerospace Corporation, which was a think tank," explains Bibby. "Most of the people there had PhD's except for me. I did illustrations based on their ideas about the future of space. Ideas like hotels and the space shuttle or the International Space Station. These ideas were figments of someone's imagination and I would convert them to pictures. What they would do is sit down and talk to me and tell me about their idea and I would then draw it in color."

In 1959, Chrysler would hire Bibby as a contract artist at the NASA Publications office, where she worked in the NASA Administration Building across the street from the astronaut office.

Friends in (soon to be) high places:

"From what John Glenn told me later, [he] had decided that he wanted the name of his spacecraft applied in script and applied by hand, because Al Shepard's and Gus Grissom's [mission logo] names had been applied by some mechanic who went into town, got a can of spray paint, a stencil cut of the names and then spray painted them on to the capsule. John did not want that, he had a specific idea," explains Bibby of the way in which she and the first American to orbit came to know each other.

"John Glenn wanted Friendship 7 done in script. He wanted it applied by hand and not by stencil and a can of spray paint."

The astronaut office called the art department and explained to its manager what they wanted. "He went over to the astronaut office," recalls Bibby, "and talked with John about how John wanted to do the job."

"My boss came back to the department and announced what 'Colonel Glenn' wanted and told me that the job was mine. He said that men had such poor handwriting and so he wanted me to do the job because as a woman I might have better handwriting," remembers Bibby.

"I made up about three rough designs. He took them from me and went over to have John make a selection."

"My boss came back from the astronaut office with a very red face and threw the selected design on my drawing board. [He said] that 'Colonel Glenn' wanted the person who made the design to paint it on the capsule. I could tell he wasn't a happy camper."

Bibby later learned from Glenn and other astronauts who had been there that day, what had transpired between the astronaut and her boss to set him off. The conversation as described went something like this:

Glenn: I want the person who designed this to paint it on by hand.

Boss: Well, that's a woman.

Glenn: So?

Boss: She'd have to go out to the launch pad and up to the top of gentry.

Glenn: Is she handicapped in some way?

Boss: Well, she's a woman.

Glenn: Is she afraid of heights?

Boss: I don't know... but she's a woman.

Glenn: Why don't you find out from her whether she has some objection to going up to the top of the gantry.

Boss: Well, you know, I could have a stencil cut and have one of the guys spray paint it on the capsule.

Glenn: I don't want a stencil and a can of spray paint. I want the artist to hand paint this design for me. Go ask her about it.

"John said that when the boss uttered the words 'stencil and spray paint' it really got his dander up," says Bibby.

"I got the job simply because [my boss] thought, in the beginning, that he was putting a woman down. I got the job as a fluke, but I have been always glad that John really persisted in having the designer paint Friendship 7 on his capsule," states Bibby.

Bibby became the only woman to make her way up the gantry to the White Room during the Mercury Program. To paint the Friendship 7 logo on Glenn's capsule, she had to take the elevator up the side of the Atlas, don a white coat and apply the artwork to the corrugated finish of the spacecraft's shingles.

A woman in the White Room:

"The first trip out to the pad was to find the area that I was to do the painting on the spacecraft and to measure, because I would want to do a large cartoon so I could trace it onto the capsule. I would use chalk to transfer my design to the capsule," explains Bibby.

It was at the gantry White Room that she encountered the problems of being a woman in a man's haven.

"When I got up to the top of gantry I encountered Pad Leader [Guenter Wendt] who informed me that women weren't allowed up there. I was told leave immediately."

"I told him he'd have to take it up with John Glenn and I went ahead and did my job."

Bibby was subjected to taunts from other pad workers.

"It was very difficult to work on the project when you were being subjected to ridicule," relates Bibby. "That, coupled with the fact that the capsule was being checked out and subject to movement or tests caused the whole project to take about a week to complete."

In spite of the objections, Bibby completed the logo and John Glenn - after many delays - launched into space as the first American to orbit the Earth. Friendship 7 lifted off with her art on February 20, 1962 - Cece Bibby's birthday.

Scotty, Wally and Bibby ('Oh, my!'):

Cece would follow-up Friendship 7 by doing the logo art for Aurora 7 and Sigma 7 - Scott Carpenter's and Wally Schirra's missions.

Before she could paint for them though, she had to meet them.

"I met Wally first," recalls Bibby.

"When I was told to report to the Astronaut Office to handle the mission logo for John Glenn, I was stopped at the gate. I did not have the proper ID tag to get into the building. The guard called their office and they said they would send someone down to escort me."

"I was standing there talking to the guard when he said, 'You must really rate. Look who they sent down to meet you.' It was Wally Schirra."

"Wally came out with that big 'Wally Schirra grin' on and he was wearing a sport shirt, chinos and loafers. He came over and introduced himself to me and signed me in with that lovely Schirra voice. He took me upstairs to meet John Glenn."

Glenn took Bibby around the office and introduced her to Deke Slayton, Gordo Cooper and Scott Carpenter.

"I guess Wally had kind of clued them in that this young lady was there as the artist," assumes Bibby. "I don't know whether they had expected a male artist or not, but I had a good conversation with them."

"Gordo made the comment to me, 'Well, you are not what we expected.' I asked what had they expected and Gordo said, 'You don't giggle when we talk to you.'"

Bibby's ability to exceed the astronauts' expectations had previously caught Carpenter's attention, though he did not know it was her at the time.

"I was out putting the top up on my car because it was going to rain. Right about that same time a U.S. Air Force car with Scott Carpenter in the passenger seat [drove by]. He did a double take because he saw me putting the top on the car," tells Bibby.

"I was wearing a patchwork skirt with red patent leather belt and matching shoes. A few weeks later, when I went over to meet John that day, I had on the same outfit and Scott had remembered me. Scott told them that I was the owner of the AC ACE."

At the time, Bibby was a rarity: she owned and could repair her own sports car. She had an AC ACE. The car was a British made racing machine that Shelby would later use as a model for his famous Shelby Cobra series of race cars. It was bright red with white racing strips.

That car would lead to one of the many pranks that the astronauts pulled on Bibby.

Braking short:

The Mercury astronauts were great practical jokers. They really enjoyed playing jokes - "gotchas" - on anyone they considered fair game. Their houses were right across the street from Bibby's house.

"One of the taillights went out on my sports car," tells Bibby. "I was in my garage trying to replace the light. It wasn't the bulb, but a short in the wiring."

"Gordo ambled over to find out what I was doing and I explained that I would have to take the car to a mechanic to get the wiring checked. Gordo said he could fix it. I went into the house to answer the telephone and shortly after that Gordo came in and said that he had found the short and the light was fixed."

"The next morning it was raining. I put the top up on the car, turned on the car lights and went to work. When I got into the parking lot, one of the guys I worked with told me that he thought I had permanent brake lights."

"Sure enough," confirmed Bibby, "when I turned the lights on again I had permanent brake lights, not just plain old taillights."

"That rat!" exclaimed Bibby. "The guy wanted to know what I meant by that, so I told him the story about Gordo 'fixing' my taillight. Well, my friend got a good chuckle out of that."

The Naked Lady Incident:

One of the more famous 'gotchas' began as a result of a comment made by Mercury 4 astronaut Gus Grissom to Bibby about her painting Glenn's logo.

"One day, as I was leaving the Astronaut Office, I met Gus on the stairs," remembers Bibby. "He asked how the 'Boy Scout's paint job' was going. Gus said he thought what I should really do was paint naked ladies on the capsule because that would really shake John up, since he was a 'straight arrow.'"

"I told Gus that a naked lady on the capsule's exterior was not a good idea. As Gus headed up the stairs he made a crack that I was chicken. I told him it was my job that would be in jeopardy and not his, that they wouldn't fire an astronaut, but an artist was another matter. Gus just made a clucking noise as he went up the stairs."

It was a dare that Bibby could not let go.

"I thought about how I could do it and came up with the idea that I could play a joke on John by using the [craft's] periscope view for the naked lady drawing. The periscope had a plug located on the exterior of the capsule and the plug would be removed just prior to the countdown."

"I painted a naked lady with the caption that said: It's just you and me against the world, John Baby."

"I had the photo lab make a print of the drawing and gave it to a friend, Sam Beddingfield. An engineer on the pad, [he] would be able to put the lady into the periscope view and then remove her just prior to the beginning of the countdown," says Bibby.

As it happened, the day the drawing was put in place, the flight was scrubbed.

"When I came into work the next morning there was a note taped to the lamp on my drawing board. The note was from John Glenn telling me he had gotten a big kick out of the drawing. He also added that I shouldn't let anyone tell me that he was upset about the drawing."

Based upon that comment, Bibby figured there was a problem and there sure was.

"It is my understanding that [manager] Rocco Petrone wanted to have me fired due to the naked lady painting," tells Bibby. "Petrone told my boss that I had upset John with the painting and could have caused the mission to fail. I showed John's note to my boss, but it didn't carry any weight with him."

"I didn't get fired. John and Gus intervened and defended me. Gus even said he challenged me to the deed in the first place."

"My boss didn't dare fire me. He did try to get me banned from the pad, but that didn't work either. All the guys banded together and told management that they intended to have me design their insignias and paint them on their capsules. They really stepped up and protected me. I will forever appreciate their help and friendship."

Bolstered by the strong support of the astronauts, Bibby put paint to paper again.

"Just before John's next launch date, I did another lady for his periscope view. She wasn't what he expected. She was a rather frumpy old lady in a house dress. She had a mop in one hand and bucket in the other. The bucket had "Friendship" on it in the same script as his insignia on the capsule. The caption was: You were expecting maybe someone else, John Baby?"

Not long after, Scott Carpenter asked Bibby for a "nekkid lady" of his own.

"I told him I thought I could manage that and I did."

"I had wanted to do a lady for Wally too, but thought it was pushing my luck after an incident that occurred prior to Wally's flight. It made me think twice about doing any more naked ladies."

NASA had published a manual about safety issues on launch pads. One item covered was the use of elevators. A photo was used to show the correct use. They grouped six men in a pad elevator and photographed the proper way to ride in it.

NASA distributed several hundred manuals only to find out that some enterprising artist airbrushed out one of the men in the back row and substituted a very buxom blonde wearing nothing more than a smile. Once NASA found out they recalled all the manuals, but the majority were never recovered.

"The finger of blame was pointed right at me," tells Bibby.

"I was in the clear though, because NASA had farmed out the contract on the manual and I had nothing to do with it. However, that cured me of painting naked ladies."

Life after NASA:

Bibby initially left NASA in 1962 with the thought of moving back to California, but the thrill of the Cape and the launches soon lured her back.

"I left NASA after Wally's flight, but I returned shortly after Gordo's flight. I finally left NASA in 1970 when I got married."

Toward the end of the Apollo era, Bibby married a naval officer. Once she left Florida, she traveled the world with her husband, including stops in Singapore, Brazil, Norway and the Caribbean. Today she lives in a small town in Georgia.