Space Chronicles (Part 1)

Astronaut Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt, American Flag, and Earth (Apollo 17 EVA-1) Credit: NASA.

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About This Episode

You know the names: Sputnik, Apollo, JFK, LBJ, Gagarin, Laika, von Braun. You know the speeches: “…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, …” But do you know the reality? Find out when astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews Prof. John Logsdon, an expert in the history of space exploration. You’ll learn Eisenhower’s secret reason for starting NASA, why JFK offered to explore space jointly with the Russians, and how “Operation Paperclip” helped us win the Space Race… and the Arms Race. Find out why the Apollo program ended early and why NASA retired the Space Shuttle but the Soyuz is still going strong. Plus Neil’s favorite moment in the US space program and a history lesson “through the lens of Chuck Nice.” And this is just Part 1.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Space Chronicles (Part 1).

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  • Canadian K@

    Canadian. Astronauts. RULE!
    Eh? 😉

  • Christina Vonthronsohnhaus

    Hi My Dad was a Aerospace Engineer & worked for NASA for years.

  • Tino

    Yes! 😀

  • Jacob B.

    GREAT episode. Thanks Neil! 🙂

  • Ivan N

    Loved this episode! As always 🙂
    Where can I listen to/download ALL the StarTalk shows from the beginning (I missed quite a few)? I suppose I can browse the “/show” part of the website but is there a list of some kind that would make playback/download easier?

    Ivan N

  • Could you guys get this onto Stitcher please?

  • Blaed Hutchinson

    FYI, Laika was female. and here’s a fun little music video dedicated to her:

    • Jeff

      That was great. Thanks for sharing it, Blaed.

  • Bob E

    Love your podcast and regularly listen, but I have to challenge you on one point you made. You said, “600 mph at 41,000 feet never hurt anybody.” Alaska Flight 261 and Aloha Airlines Flight 243 are just two examples of mid-flight deaths that challenge your statement. I thought it was great when you called James Cameron on his mistake with the stars the night of the Titanic sinking, and I assume this misstatement was an oversight on your part. Just thought it would be appropriate to correct a mistake.

  • Sam

    Bob E,
    I’m pretty sure Neil was being sarcastic when he said that.

  • Emma

    Go space! This is a a lovely short film to watch about early space exploration and astronauts viewing earth from space for the first time. Everyone should check it!

  • Al

    Is there a source for the widows and widowers, the spouses standing up and saying that we have to keep going statement?

    • Jeff

      Al, this is Jeff. I can’t give you an exact source for what Neil said, but I can point you in the direction of the The Challenger Center at, which says the following: “On January 28, 1986, the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger/STS-51L “Teacher in Space” mission set out to broaden educational horizons and advance scientific knowledge. Their mission exemplified man’s noblest and most wondrous qualities – to explore, discover, and teach. To the nation’s shock and sorrow, their Space Shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff. In the aftermath of the Challenger accident, the crew’s families came together, firmly committed to the belief that they must carry on the spirit of their loved ones by continuing the Challenger crew’s educational mission. In April 1986, they created Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center). They envisioned a place where children, teachers and citizens alike could touch the future: manipulate equipment, conduct experiments, solve problems, and work together-immersing themselves in space-like surroundings. The goal: to spark youth interest and joy in science and engineering; a spark that could change their lives. The result: the creation of a Challenger Learning Center. The first Learning Center opened in Houston in August 1988. Today, there are more than 45 Learning Centers in the U.S., Canada, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Collectively, these centers reach more than 400,000 middle-school aged students and 40,000 teachers each year. Since 1986, Challenger Center has impacted more than 4 million students. It maintains strong partnerships with NASA, other federal agencies, universities and the aerospace industry who help keep curriculum current.”

  • Linda

    Laika (space dog) was female : )

  • Jason

    Niel! The first animals in space were fruit flies not a dog!!!!

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