Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

March 28, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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Von Braun's Wheel
Credit: Courtesy NASA/MSFC Historical Archives

Explanation: Orbiting 1,075 miles above the Earth, a 250 foot wide, inflated, reinforced nylon "wheel" was conceived in the early 1950s to function as a navigational aid, meteorological station, military platform, and way station for space exploration by rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun. The wheel-shaped station could be easily rotated creating artificial gravity so that the astronauts would not suffer the effects of prolonged weightlessness. Von Braun and his team favored building a permanently occupied Earth orbiting space station from which to stage a lunar exploration program. But in the 1960s NASA adopted the Apollo Program, which called for astronauts to transfer to a landing vehicle after achieving lunar orbit, bypassing the construction of von Braun's wheel.

Tomorrow's picture: A Bright Young Open Cluster

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.