Sign Up Log In

Sign in with Facebook


Sign in with Geocaching

Forgot Username/Password

Mystery Cache

Ad Astra Per Aspera

A cache by RocketMac Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 4/16/2011
In Wisconsin, United States
3 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: small (small)

Join now to view geocache location details. It's free!


How Geocaching Works

Please note Use of services is subject to the terms and conditions in our disclaimer.

Geocache Description:

The cache is NOT at the above coordinates.

Stealth is Required

"Ad Astra Per Aspera" is a Latin phrase commonly translated as "Through adversity to the stars."

Update: 1/1/2013 - The cache hiding spot has drifted North. If you solved the puzzle before the New Year, please double check the coordinates or email for the change. I have also removed the worksheet and placed the values next to the answers.

In order to honor the men and women who have served and will serve in the space programs of our planet both on Earth or in space, I created this puzzle cache to tell some of their stories.

To find this cache, you will need to learn a little about the space program and answer a quiz about it. For each of the questions below, circle the correct answer. Use the numbers in [brackets] for the coordinates.

1. The concept of human beings walking on the moon is breathtaking enough. It becomes all the more amazing when you consider that this event took place less than a century (66 years) after humankind first took flight on December 17th, 1903.

Which two brothers brought the dream of flight to life?

  1. The Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) [2]
  2. The Wright Brothers (Orville and Wilbur) [4]
  3. The Wachowski Brothers (Andy and Larry) [6]
  4. The Smothers Brothers (Dick and Tom) [8]

2. The beginnings of the space program took place during the "cold war" with communist Russia. National pride dictated that the United States would be the first at every turn. Known as the "Space Race" both countries had their "firsts" over the other. Russia put the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit. The United States put the first man on the moon. Russia had the first space station.

Who was the first person to orbit Earth:

  1. Alan Sheppard [0]
  2. John Glenn [1]
  3. Yuri Gagarin [3]
  4. Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov [5]

3. The original seven astronauts were selected from over 500 qualified candidates. While NASA originally intended to open the process to everyone, President Eisenhower insisted that only test pilots be allowed.

Many of the requirements were due to the size of the spacecraft (no taller than 5' 11" and under 180 lbs) while others related to their aptitude for the mission (at least 1,500 hours flight time and qualified to fly jets) and others (under the age of 40 and have at least a bachelor's degree) to assure that they were the best of the best and could ride out the program as long as it lasted.

The tests included, hours at a time running on treadmills, centrifuge tests, and submerging limbs into buckets of ice. The mental and social tests were to assure that each candidate had a high IQ and worked well in groups as well as in isolation.

In the end, seven individuals were chosen:

  • Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (Navy)
  • Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (Air Force)
  • John Herschel Glenn, Jr. (Marines)
  • Malcom Scott Carpenter (Navy)
  • Walter Marty "Wally" Schirra, Jr. (Navy)
  • Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. (Air Force)
  • Donald Kent (Deke) Slayton (Air Force)

Of these seven, Deke would be grounded for a heart murmur. Similarly, Shepard would be grounded for medical reasons after his Mercury mission and not fly again until the Apollo program.

Only two men were eligible to fly in all three projects. One was Grissom, though he died in the plugs-out test of Apollo 1.

Who was the only one of the original "Mercury Seven" to fly in all three projects:

  1. Walter Marty "Wally" Schirra, Jr. [0]
  2. John Herschel Glenn, Jr. [9]
  3. Malcom Scott Carpenter [5]
  4. Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. [2]

4. Project Mercury was the first U.S. human spaceflight program. Running from 1959 to 1963, it was created to put an American in Earth orbit.

Other goals of the program included determining the human ability to survive and function in space and to safely recover both the pilot and spacecraft after completion of the mission.

The plan was to use "existing technology and off-the-shelf equipment" as much as possible. The vehicles themselves were very small leading to the joke they were "worn, not ridden."

Seven individuals became the first "Astronauts" in America and were chosen to fly these vessels into space.

Starting with Alan Sheppard, each astronaut gave their mission a "call sign" and each ended with the number seven to show the connection to their fellow astronauts.

Which of these was NOT the call sign of a Project Mercury mission:

  1. Freedom 7 [7]
  2. Patriot 7 [2]
  3. Friendship 7 [5]
  4. Sigma 7 [1]

5. During the same time that the Mercury 7 were undergoing their tests to prepare them for space flight a non-NASA, privately funded program was testing women to see if they could meet the same physical requirements for space flight. William Randolph Lovelace II had developed the tests for the men and wanted to know how women could manage with the same tests. He invited Geraldyn "Jerrie" Cobb, an accomplished pilot to enter. The program was financed by world-renowned aviatrix, Jacqueline Cochran. Together they invited 19 women to take the tests.

Thirteen women pased the same Phase I tests the Mercury 7 men had taken. All of the women were accomplished pilots with over 1000 hours of flight experience each.

  • Myrtle Cagle
  • Jerrie Cobb
  • Janet Dietrich
  • Marion Dietrich
  • Wally Funk
  • Sarah Gorelick (later Ratley)
  • Janey Hart (née Briggs)
  • Jean Hixson
  • Rhea Hurrle (later Allison, then Woltman)
  • Gene Nora Stumbough (later Jessen)
  • Irene Leverton
  • Jerri Sloan (née Hamilton, later Truhill)
  • Bernice Steadman (née Trimble)

While they never met met as a group, Hollywood producer James Cross read about the project in 1995 and called the group: Mercury 13

Three of the women also completed Phase II of the testing including isolation tank testing and pyschological examinations. Several of the others were unable to take the additional tests due to work or family obligations.

Many of the members had made arrangements to meet in Florida to complete Phase III of the testing. But a few days before, they were notified that the tests were cancelled. NASA would not allow the facilities to be used for an unofficial project.

This led to public hearings before the Subcommittee of the House Commitee on Science and Astronautics about gender discrimination within the astronaut selection program. NASA required that all astronauts needed to be graduates of military jet testing program and have engineering degrees. Since women were still banned from Air Force training schools, no woman could meet the requirements despite the fact that most of the women in the group had more flight hours than the men.

It wouldn't be until 1978 and Astronaut Group 8 that a woman would be selected to become an astronaut. Of the 35 astronauts in the group, six were women. One of these six was Sally Ride, the first American woman in space on June 18, 1983; almost exactly 20 years to the day after Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963.

Of the original "Mercury 13," which were the only one(s) to complete all three phases of testing that the Mercury 7 had undergone:

  1. Jerrie Cobb [5]
  2. Janet and Marion Dietrich [4]
  3. Wally Funk [3]
  4. Jacqueline Cochran [2]

6. Project Gemini was the successor to Project Mercury. Its goal was to develop techniques for space travel which would be used later for long spaceflights including those taking humans to the moon and back.

Gemini missions included the first American spacewalks and rendezvous and docking of multiple spacecrafts. The major objectives were to show that humans and spacecraft could endure the long periods needed for landing on the moon (at least eight days and up to two weeks) and that multiple vehicles would work together in space.

Each mission used an unmanned Agena Target Vehicle (ATV) launched as close to the same time as possible to its Gemini craft for test docking and maneuvering.

Some of the most interesting stories of this program focus around Gemini 6a and Gemini 7.

Gemini 6 was originally scheduled to launch on October 25th, 1965, but a plug fell out of the rocket starting the onboard computer prematurely. The computer sensed no upward movement and aborted the mission. The procedure in this case was for the crew to eject as the computer was anticipating that the rocket would now explode. The crew, Walter M. Schirra, Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford, was able to use their training and their brains to know that it was a glitch and not a real problem. They decided to ignore procedure and walked away from the craft unharmed. During a subsequent launch attempt, the ATV for the mission failed and had to be destroyed.

On December 4th, Gemini 7 was launched without an ATV for what was the longest mission to date at 14 days. The crew consisted of Frank F. Borman and James A. Lovell, Jr. They were the first people to use new space suits. The suits proved to be extremely uncomfortable and each had only the brief chance to slip out of them for a short while. They described it like trying to change clothes in the front seat of a compact car.

Gemini 6 was renamed Gemini 6a and finally launched on December 15th with a new mission: to rendevouz with Gemini 7 and practice maneuvering with another live ship. Geminis 6a and 7 spent several hours flying in formation and practicing maneuvering.

Just before both crews would enter their sleep cycles, the crew of Gemini 6a had a surprise for Gemini 7. What was it:

  1. They brought presents along for Gemini 7 which they passed through the docking ports [1]
  2. They brought along replacement suits for Gemini 7 and took back the others [3]
  3. Both ships participated in the only simulated "space battle" with lights and sensors [5]
  4. They claimed to see Santa Claus flying near the North Pole [8]

7. The Astronaut pin (below) is awarded to all NASA astronauts who complete training. Each branch of the military has its own Astronaut Badge for military officers who have completed training and flown at an altitude greater than 100 kilometers above the earth. For NASA astronauts, they are awarded a gold pin once they have flown in space.

Astronaut Pin

Only one gold pin has been awarded to an astronaut that has never flown in space. Donald "Deke" Slayton was one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts. He was grounded before ever flying in space because of a heart murmur. Instead, he served as Director of Flight Crew Operations from 1963 until 1972.

The astronauts of Apollo 1 had a special gold astronaut pin created for Deke to honor his contributions to NASA, because they felt that they would not have been able to fly if it weren't for him. They had planned to take the pin with them into space until the disaster that claimed their lives. Instead the pin was given to Deke by the widows of the astronauts in their memory.

The astronauts knew that because of his pride, Deke would refuse to wear a standard astronaut pin since he was ineligible, so they made an additional change to the pin to make it unique for him. What was the change:

  1. The pin was made from moon rock and then gold plated [2]
  2. The pin showed Earth at the bottom to represent his place in Mission Control [4]
  3. The star at the top was replaced with a diamond [5]
  4. The "halo" has his name engraved in it [6]

8. The Apollo 8 mission was originally scheduled to be another in-orbit flight to test the ability of the Lunar and Command Modules. The Lunar Module was not ready in time so it was decided to move the flight up and use this mission to practice flying to, around, and back from the moon. During this time, the crew would take photos of the surface of the moon in preparation for the later missions which would include landing.

This mission included the first photos of the whole Earth in a single shot. The best known of these is the famous "Earthrise" photo (below) from the far side of the moon.


At one point in the mission, Jim Lovell accidentally erased some of the computer memory causing the computer to think it was somewhere else and it started to "correct" the ship's alignment. It took a while for the crew to figure out why this was happening and then to come up with a plan. Lovell was able to use the position of two stars in the window's reticle to manually align the craft and fix the computer.

During the Apollo 13 mission, Lovell would have to perform a similar maneuver, but this time in a far more dangerous and hurried situation. He has credited the "practice" on Apollo 8 as one of the things that saved their lives on Apollo 13.

Which two stars did Lovell use to manually align the craft on Apollo 8:

  1. Polaris and Kochab [0]
  2. Castor and Pollus [6]
  3. Rigel and Sirius [8]
  4. Altair and Tau Ceti [5]

9. On July 20th, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Alden Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon and shortly after that, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. became the second human to walk on the moon.

A total of six Apollo missions included successful landings on the moon. In 2008, Japan's "SELENE" space probe took pictures of all six landing sites from only 31 miles above the lunar surface. Reports claimed the pictures were so crisp and detailed that if the missions were going on at that time, the probe could have witnessed each and every step.

Who was the fifth person to walk on the moon:

  1. James A. Lovell, Jr. [8]
  2. Fred Wallace Haise, Jr. [2]
  3. Alan B. Shepard, Jr. [7]
  4. Michael Collins [1]

10. In 1975, the US and USSR space programs flew a joint Apollo/Soyuz mission. The Soyuz program was the Soviet space program's equivalent to NASA's Apollo program.

While the mission did perform a number of scientific experiments, including using the Apollo craft to create an artificial eclipse so the Soyuz crew could photograph the sun's corona; the primary purpose of the mission was to relieve Cold War tensions between both nations and lay the groundwork for further cooperation such as the Shuttle-MIR and the International Space Station programs.

On the U.S. side, an Apollo craft was used and, while it had no official number, it was often known as Apollo 18. On the Soviet side, the Soyuz craft had the official designation of "Soyuz 19," but it was just known as "Soyuz" for the purpose of the joint operation.

Both ships were designed for three person crews, but the Soyuz craft had to be modified to allow for the docking capability and the use of space suits, so there was only room for two crew on the Soviet craft.

The Soviet crew consisted of Alexei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov. Leonov was the first person to walk in space.

The US crew consisted of Thomas P. Stafford, Vance D. Brand and, most notably, Donald K. "Deke" Slayton.

This was Deke's first and only spaceflight. He was one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts selected in 1958, but had been grounded with a heart murmur shortly after the program began. At the time of Apollo/Soyuz, he was the oldest man to fly in space at 51 years old. This record would remain until 1998 when it would be broken by John Glenn at 77 years old.

Deke's role in the Astronaut Office put him in the unique position of being able to select himself for this mission. There was a lengthy medical examination first to clear him for flight status.

The two ships docked together and, operating as a team the crews performed experiments, exchanged flags, ate meals together, and built a commerative plaque for the combined mission from pieces of the separate mission plaques.

Both ships remained docked for 44 hours before going their separate ways. The mission was deemed successful on all counts.

How many languages were spoken between these two teams:

  1. One: The Russians both spoke English, avoiding any language barrier [4]
  2. Two: English and Russian, though both teams spoke a little of the other [5]
  3. Three: Russian, English and German. The latter was in use by both teams' ground engineers who were originally from Germany and shared this bond [3]
  4. Three: Russian, English and "Oaklahomski" (a joke about Stafford's drawl while pronouncing Russian) [5]

11. After almost a decade without a U.S. manned mission into space the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1) took flight on April 12, 1981.

Before that, there were a number of test missions using a different shuttle. This first test shuttle was named "Enterprise."

The first of these test missions saw the Enterprise carried into the sky on the back of a large plane. After that, some flights were carried up on the back of a plane but flew and landed under their own power.

Just as the Mercury, Gemini and early Apollo missions were proving grounds to make sure that aspects of going to and landing on the moon were possible; so too were these early shuttle missions to demonstrating that this new "Orbiter" re-usable craft was up to the challenges. Four men flew in these missions: Fred Haise, C. Gordon Fullerton, Joseph H. Engle, and Richard H. Truly.

Truly and Fullerton would go on to fly in space as part of future shuttle missions. Engle was part of the X-15 program (experimental rocket-powered vehicles) along with Neil Armstrong.

Fred Haise flew in space as part of which previous mission:

  1. Gemini 7 [9]
  2. Mercury-Atlas 7 [8]
  3. Apollo 13 [5]
  4. X15 Flight 138 [7]

12. The Space Shuttle mission STS-95 was another milestone in the U.S. space program as it included returning Mercury astronaut and (still as of this writing) U.S. Senator John Herschel Glenn, Jr. into space. The mission began on October 29th, 1998 and returned on November 7th. At 77, Glenn became the oldest person to go into space, breaking the record previously set by Deke Slayton who flew on Apollo-Soyuz in 1975 at the age of 51.

The insignia for this mission (below) included a tribute to Glenn's Mercury flight aboard "Friendship 7" by showing a red "jetstream" in the shape of a number seven flying up to the shuttle.

STS-95 Insignia

The missions of this flight included investigating the solar corona and the impact and nature of solar wind, the third service mission of the Hubble Space Telescope, and studying the comparison of the effects of aging and spaceflight on the human body. The latter of which was the purpose for Glenn's involvement in the mission.

Aside from Glenn's return to space, what other first occurred during this mission:

  1. It was the first time a retired space craft (Mercury-Atlas 6) was brought back into space as part of the aging experiments [6]
  2. It was the first time an "emergency" medical procedure was performed in space when Glenn's heart rate began to flutter [4]
  3. It was the first time a memorial service was performed in space honoring the anniversary of the Apollo 1 and Challenger tragedies [8]
  4. It was the first time a "High Definition" ("HD") broadcast was used in the U.S. to cover the launch [2]

13. Both the United States and Russia have put space stations into orbit. The first was Salyut 1, launched by the Soviet Union in 1971. The United States launched Skylab in 1973 and it remained in orbit until 1979.

The Soviet Union created Mir in 1986 which was the first "modular" station allowing it to be built over time through 1996 with additional modules, each with a specific purpose. Mir remained operational until it was abandoned in 1998 just eight days shy of its tenth year. Several Space Shuttle missions ferried crew and supplies during its lifespan. It deorbited gracefully in March of 2001.

By that time, both nations were working on future space stations. The Soviet Union was working on Mir 2 and the United States was designing Space Station Freedom to become their permanent presence in space.

In June of 1992, American President George H. W. Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin made an agreement to cooperate in space exploration. Assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) began in November of 1998 and the first crew, Expedition 1, arrived in November of 2000.

In addition to Russia and the United States; Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency are involved in this global project.

This question, however, comes from the story of Skylab's deorbit. Due to increased solar flares (ironically the same ones it was studying), the drag on the Skylab increased bringing it into the atmosphere early and the station broke up on July 11th, 1979 over Perth, Western Australia.

Which of the following bits about the debris did NOT occur:

  1. A small, bullet-sized piece struck a 43 year old man in the leg while he was working on his lawn and due to the proximity to a major artery, doctors didn't want to remove it and he lived with it until he died in 2001 [2]
  2. Debris landed on the Shire of Esperance which fined the U.S. $400 for littering which went unpaid for 30 years until a radio show host gathered donations and paid on their behalf [9]
  3. A 17 year old boy claimed a $10,000 reward offered by the San Francisco Examiner for the first person to bring debris from Australia to their San Francisco office [6]
  4. A piece of the debris was displayed on the stage of the Miss Universe pageant in Perth just a few days later [3]

14. The inspiration for this cache was the recent launch and landing of STS-133 which marked the final flight of the Shuttle Discovery. The commander of this mission was USAF Colonel Steven Wayne Lindsey. He served on five shuttle flights for a total of 62 days, 22 hours and 33 minutes in space.

Additionally, Lindsey served as the "Chief of the Astronaut Office" from September 2006 to October 2009. This purpose of this job is to control and schedule astronaut training, select crew assignments, and plan missions. The position was first created in 1963 with Alan Sheppard first named to the post.

Lindsey stepped down to begin training for STS-133, one of the last U.S. Shuttle missions. He was replaced by Peggy Whitson who is the first woman to hold this post.

What other first does Whitson bring to this role:

  1. She is the first non-military person to hold the post [2]
  2. She is the first non-pilot to hold the post [4]
  3. She is the first person not born in America to hold the post [0]
  4. She is the first person to hold the post without flying in space [8]

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Chmmyr: Jvxvcrqvn vf zl sevraq.
Svany: Crry onpx Gur Bavba

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



67 Logged Visits

Found it 42     Didn't find it 5     Write note 7     Temporarily Disable Listing 3     Enable Listing 3     Publish Listing 1     Needs Maintenance 2     Owner Maintenance 3     Update Coordinates 1     

View Logbook | View the Image Gallery

**Warning! Spoilers may be included in the descriptions or links.

Current Time:
Last Updated: on 3/24/2015 8:11:23 PM Pacific Daylight Time (3:11 AM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum