We mourn the passing for Frances Townes, wife of Charles Townes, on her 102nd birthday. You can read her obituary Berkeleyside.
The Flint native — who also went on to become a renowned aerospace engineer — was at the leading edge of a renaissance in Michigan’s distance running heritage that began in the mid-to-late 1970s, earning three Big Ten individual titles, four All-America awards and a school record at 10,000 meters that remains through the present day as the longest-standing in program history.
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On January 27, 1967, Apollo 1 sat on its launch pad, they were doing a plugs out test, i.e. a powered test with the astronauts in their space suits, strapped into their seats in the Apollo 1 capsule.
A frayed wire, a spark, a pure oxygen environment. Fire in the capsule with no way to get out. The three astronauts perished and the nation mourned.
January 28, 1986, almost 19 years to the day since the Apollo 1 disaster. The launch had several delays, launch conflict with another mission, equipment problems, launch abort site issues and of course weather delays.
The weather was bitterly cold on the 28th, icicles had formed all over the launch facility, some engineers called for another delay but visibility was high and the pressure to launch higher. The first teacher in space was on this mission.
STS 51 L launched at 11:38 EST, at T+68 seconds Mission Control gave the command “go at throttle up” and confirmed by Commander Dick Scobee. At T+73 Challenger disintegrated.
An international crew of Astronauts launched from the Kennedy Space Center on January 16, 2003. It was a beautiful Florida day but at T+82 seconds a section of the External Tank protection broke off. It was a suitcase size piece of foam. On February 1, 2003 after a mission filled with science experiments and a multitude of tasks, it was time to come home.
Unfortunately that piece of foam impacted the Orbiters wing and left a large hole, which allowed the searing temperatures of re-entry to cause a catastrophic failure in Columbia’s structure. Columbia disintegrated over Texas minutes before it was scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center.
This one week period spanning over 35 years saw some of NASA’s greatest loss of life. We remember and honor the crews, making the ultimate sacrifice in the exploration of space.
Space exploration is not easy, otherwise everyone would be doing it. From these tragedies comes innovation, new methods, better practices. The designers go back to their drawing boards. They strive to make the missions safer and more reliable.
Whether crossing the ocean’s looking for new lands, doing scientific experiments in low earth orbit on a space station, exploring the moon, or eventually Mars, they are explorers. They have walked on the Moon, Built Space Stations, deployed satellites or captured and repaired them.
John F. Kennedy famously said,
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
We have had great success in space travel and space exploration but this week we honor those who have paid the ultimate price.
Charles Townes was a physicist at Columbia University. He’d been trying to develop powerful beams of radiation, but he wasn’t having any luck. But as Townes recalled last year in this interview from the University of California, after a meeting in DC, it came to him.
TOWNES: I thought about it and I thought about it, and I sat on a bench in a park. Oh, hey! I got an idea — this is the way to do it. I think it’ll probably work. I went home, and it took me a long time to get it done….
Townes and his students developed that insight into the maser — TOWNES: Maser is microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation — a device that creates a beam of microwaves of the same wavelength that all move in step, like soldiers marching in review. Later, Townes and others extended the technique with beams of visible light, creating the laser. His work earned Townes a share of the 1964 Nobel Prize for physics.
Townes was born 100 years ago today in South Carolina, and passed away earlier this year. During his long career, he helped develop radar bombing systems for the military and probed the workings of molecules. He advised NASA on the science of the Apollo Moon landings, and the Reagan Administration on a missile system. And he used his creations to study the universe.
Scott C. Moulzolf, 42, of Walnut Creek, CA, formerly of Bangor, ME, and Babbitt, MN, passed away unexpectedly on November 9, 2013. He worked as an aerospace engineer at the Space Sciences Lab, University of California Berkeley and was highly regarded for his contributions to NASA and DOE programs.
Scott was born July 12, 1971, in Ely MN to Marcel and Julie (Tadych) Moulzolf. He graduated from JFK High School in Babbitt, St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, and earned his PhD in physics from the University of Maine where he was employed for several years as a research scientist.
At Photonis USA, Scott designed state-of-the-art photomultiplier tubes used in medical imaging and scientific research and was instrumental in rejuvenating the tube group at the company. Scott was personally responsible for the development and implementation of the first large, commercially available microchannel plate sealed tube sensor – the Planacon. Scott used these tubes in applications ranging from medical imaging and biomedical research to astronomical applications.
Scott is survived by his parents, Marcel and Julie Moulzolf of Babbitt, his brother Gerard (Heather) Moulzolf, niece, Alexa, of Plymouth, MN, numerous uncles, aunts, cousins and his beloved Tammy Poisson and Momma P of Lagrange, ME. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Michael and Anna Moulzolf, William and Cecelia Tadych, all of Foley, MN.
Scott especially enjoyed hiking, attending concerts, fairs, festivals and dining on the coast of Maine. He is deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.
Our dear Karen passed fully into the arms of Jesus this morning at 8:04am. Rich and Pastor Dana Cunliffe were with her, as were a few friends. Her passing was gentle and peaceful, without agitation or pain.
Details about memorial service/funeral arrangements are forthcoming.
Many of you are aware that Karen Meyer, an SSL employee of over 15 years, and a founding staff member of the education group at SSL had a seizure last year, 2012, during Cal Day. It was discovered after that incident that she had brain cancer. She and her family set up a website about her journey over the last year and a half.
Yesterday, Karen’s dear friend, Bora, posted the following message: