New photos of the Space Shuttle Challenger

A young man, looking through his grandfather’s photographs, has discovered previously unseen photographs of the Space huttle Challenger on its last flight.


A decade on Mars

Opportunity landed on Mars on January 24, 2004 PST (January 25, 2004 UTC) on what was to be a three-month mission, but instead the rover has lived beyond its prime mission and roved the planet for nearly 10 years. It’s identical twin Spirit no longer works, but also functioned long past its intended lifespan. Together, they have conducted one of the most success exploration missions in history.

Opportunity takes a selfie.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.


The late Robert W. Smith, a retired USAF test pilot, created a wonderful website about the NF-104A before he passed away.

Photo of the week

Photo of the week

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Swamp Foxes of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74 flies in front of the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56). San Jacinto, part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with units assigned to French Task Force 473 to enhance levels of cooperation and interoperability, enhance mutual maritime capabilities and promote long-term regional stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Image credit: U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the French navy by Chief Petty Officer Bruno Gaudry

Brigadier General Robbie Risner, 1925-2013

American hero Robbie Risner has gone west.

Book review – Topgun Days

Topgun Days: Dogfighting, Cheating Death, and Hollywood Glory as One of America’s Best Fighter Jocks
Dave “Bio” Baranek
Skyhorse Publishing

What it’s about:

Dave Baranek was an F-14 RIO who attended Topgunn and then became an instructor at the famed school. He happened to be on the Topgun staff at the time that the movie Topgun was produced, and was involved in several aspect of the film.

What I liked about the book:

  • Nicely written and vivid description of how Bio developed in his profession from a “nugget” new to the fleet to a Topgun instructor.
  • Good description of how the pilot and RIO worked together in an F-14.
  • Excellent photography by the author.
  • Pleasant writing style.

What could have been done better:

  • Nothing that I can think of.


As one who has a enormous collection of aviation, aerospace and military history books, and a particular interest in the Cold War in which I participated as a bit player, this book would have seemed to be a natural for me. But to be honest, I judged the book by its cover. The mention of “Best Fighter Jocks” smacked of the bombastic egotism seen in some other books of this genre, and the making of a movie really didn’t interest me. But I was at the National Air and Space Museum when Dave “Bio” Baranek was signing books outside the bookstore, and I struck up a conversation with him. He was a nice and interesting guy, and I purchased a copy of the book. My prejudice was incorrect. In the book, Dave comes across as thoughtful, modest and genuinely respectful of a wide variety of people (i. e. none of the “if you ain’t a fighter jock, you ain’t #$%&” attitude). The aerial vignettes are fascinating, but so are the stories of how Topgun instructors bring their professionalism to the classroom (really, trust me). If you want to understand not only how fighters were flown in the early 1980s but also how an elite organization works, this is the book for you. Highly recommended.


5 stars out of a possible 5.

Great video of X-47B carrier operations

50th anniversary of the SA-5 launch

Fifty-years ago this month, NASA successfully launched the first Saturn I Block II heavy-lift launch vehicle.  Known as Saturn-Apollo No. 5 (SA-5), the mission featured the largest mass ever orbited up that time in the history of spaceflight, putting America into the lead in heavy launch vehicles. J. Terry White has an excellent post on this mission at his blog.

With its black nose cone, I have always thought that the Saturn I Block II was one of most attractive rockets.

Image credit: NASA

Antares launches Cygnus on ISS resupply mission

On January 9, 2014, Orbital Sciences Corporation used its Antares rocket to launch its Cygnus spacecraft on an ISS resupply mission. Cygnus docked with the ISS on January 12.

Image credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation


Image credit: NASA

F/A-18 Hornet 35th anniversary

Naval aviation was changed forever 35 years ago when the F/A-18 Hornet completed its first flight Nov. 18, 1978. On Dec. 9, 2013, the Naval Air Systems Command honored the F/A-18 and EA-18G for a job well done.