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+ 1 - 1 | § Estes Simian Space Transport Rocket Kit - 2121

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+ 0 - 2 | § A Force Field for Astronauts?

KSC researchers say it could protect from radiation.


No wonder they're acting like it disappeared!

+ 1 - 1 | § NASA Artist Program To End?

Which may not be a bad thing.

+ 2 - 1 | § How To Move The Earth

You know, just in case you ever needed to.


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30 June 2005

+ 2 - 0 | § RTF Update

STS-114T -13 days, 8 minutes.

And counting.

+ 2 - 0 | § Today In History

Soyuz 11 crewOn this date in 1971, cosmonauts Viktor Patsayev, Georgi Dobrovolsky and Vladislav Volkov died during the return to Earth in their Soyuz 11 vehicle after leaving the Salyut 1 space station, due to decompression of the Soyuz spacecraft during descent.

+ 0 - 2 | § Impact Astronomy

Deep ImpactFor any skywatchers in the audience, here's some info on watching the Deep Impact comet collision Monday.

+ 1 - 1 | § RTF Update

STS-114Today's the day.

NASA senior managers are currently winding down the two-day Flight Readiness Review for the STS-114 Return to Flight mission, during which they will decide if and when Discovery will be ready to launch.

An announcement of an official launch date could come as early as 11:30 a.m. CDT.

Addendum: Make that no earlier than 1:30 p.m. CDT.

29 June 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § The Last Planet

Pluto anniversary logoYou can send your name to Pluto on NASA's New Horizons mission.

+ 1 - 1 | § Today In History

Atlantis and Mir

On this date 10 years ago, the Space Shuttle docked with Mir for the first time, on the STS-71 mission of Atlantis (roughly 20 years after the previous international space docking).

+ 1 - 1 | § Fly Buy

SoyuzWith the issue of U.S. access to ISS nearing a crisis point, the White House is petitioning Congress for relief. After earlier remarks indicating it would not reach this point, the administration has asked Congress to amend the Iran Nonproliferation Act to allow NASA to purchase Soyuz seats from Russia. Without the amendment or some other agreement, NASA would no longer be able to use the Russian vehicles starting next spring. While the agency would be able to use the Shuttle to carry astronauts to and from the Station, they would not be able to stay for long duration missions without a lifeboat to assure a safe return to Earth in the event of a problem.

+ 1 - 1 | § RTF Update

STS-114All the pieces appear to be on the table, and NASA's senior managers are meeting today and tomorrow for the Flight Readiness Review that will determine officially the launch date for STS-114.
Administrator Mike Griffin said that, barring the unforeseen, the agency will most likely emerge from the FRR ready to go.

According to the currect schedule, today is two weeks until launch.

28 June 2005

+ 2 - 0 | § RTF Update

STS-114Given the mainstream media coverage of NASA, it's no wonder a lot of people have the opinions they do. Yesterday, the independent Return To Flight Task Group announced that, while it agreed that NASA had met 12 of the CAIB recommendations, it believes agency had failed to meet three others.
I saw the first official report on the Netscape home page last night, which had a headline along the lines of "NASA slammed on safety."
Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. Here are some quotes from yesterday's hearing:
"I would not have a concern about flying," [board chair and former astronaut Dick Covey] said.
Said board member Joe Cuzzupoli: "We feel it is a safe vehicle to fly, based on their inputs."

While the mainstream headlines have backed off a bit from yesterday, they still strike me as a bit more negative than the facts warrant.

The article I linked to also indicates that NASA senior managers plan to give a "go" for launch next month at this week's Flight Readiness Review.

In other RTF news, loading of hypergolic propellants began last Wednesday, and will be completed this week, another sign that the agency appears to be serious about launching soon.

As of this writing, we are at T -15 days, 5 hours, 37 minutes. And counting.

27 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § RTF Update

At a meeting Friday, NASA managers decided Discovery is still go for a July launch. Another meeting will be held late this week for a final decision on whether to go ahead with the scheduled July 13 launch date (now 16 days away, more than a week closer than it's ever been).

Should the launch be delayed beyond the next window, which extends until the end of July, the next available opportunity will begin in September (STS-121 is currently scheduled for launch during that window, with a date now set for NET Sept. 9).
When the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost on January 28, 1986, the next launch was not until two years and eight months later, on Sept. 29, 1988.
It has now been two years and almost five months since the loss of Columbia. If STS-114 launches either in July or September, the RTF delay this time will be less than the last; this hiatus would not pass the post-51-L gap until October 3.

FYI, the year-or-more pauses in American spaceflight have been:

Addendum: The launch date announcement will be Thursday.

23 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Eye In The Sky

Debris ring around star

Despite a press release stating that the above image is a picture of a dust ring around a star that gives evidence for the discovery of a new planet, it's pretty clear that the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered Sauron.

+ 1 - 1 | § Lost Spacecraft Update

Cosmos 1Despite what appeared to be weak telemetry data yesterday morning, the solar sail spacecraft Cosmos 1 appears to have been lost.

22 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Conjunction Junction

planetsFor the skygazers in the audience, Mercury, Venus and Saturn are going to be doing some cool stuff this weekend.

+ 1 - 1 | § Today In History

Pluto and CharonOn this date in 1978, Pluto's moon, Charon, was discovered by astronomer James Christy.
Also on this date, in 1973, the first crew of Skylab returned to Earth after their record-setting stay in space.

+ 0 - 2 | § Lost Spacecraft

Cosmos 1Cosmos 1, the Planetary Society's solar sail spacecraft, disappeared yesterday after its launch on a Russian booster. After ground stations did not receive any signals from the spacecraft, there were reports from Russia that the booster had malfunctioned in a way that caused it to fail to place the spacecraft in orbit. Now, however, mission controllers have announced that they have received what appears to be telemetry from the spacecraft, indicating that it may well be in some sort of orbit.

A technology testbed for Cosmos 1 was lost in 2001 due to the failure of its Russian Volna launch vehicle.

21 June 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § Partners?

Exploration logoThe issue of international cooperation in the Vision for Space Exploration has been something of a touchy one. While Bush and former NASA administrator O'Keefe both said from the beginning that the Vision would involve the participation of other nations, other nations have pointed out that none have actually been asked to participate.
If this report on is true, that apparently is changing:
The Russian Federal Space Agency is considering a US proposal to participate in its Moon program.

"We have received an official invitation from NASA to join the Moon program and are now considering it," Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov told a news conference at the Interfax main office on Tuesday.

Perminov said the matter will be discussed in greater detail in autumn. Missions to other planets and the Moon "are only in NASA plans."

Such serious programs can be carried out only through international partnership, he said. "The safety and reliability of flights requires international cooperation," he said.

Addendum: Meanwhile, Japan is making plans to, by 2025, establish a Moonbase -- for robots!

+ 0 - 2 | § KSNN RTF

STS-114Another NASA site for kids and educators about Return to Flight is now online, and it features a bit more of my work than the last one did.

+ 1 - 1 | § RTF Update

Discovery cargo bayAfter being moved back to the pad, Discovery is now a step closer to being ready to launch than it got before the rollback -- the payload for the STS-114 mission has been loaded in its cargo bay.
Florida Today reports that NASA officials are confident that the RTF mission will fly in July.

+ 1 - 1 | § Today In History

Earth from SS1
On year ago today, SpaceShipOne became the first private manned vehicle to enter space.

Of course, today, one year after the era of private spaceflight began, said era has been on hiatus for well over half a year. SpaceShipOne was effectively mothballed after its second October X Prize flight, and despite all the talk of future vehicles, none has set a launch date yet.

Still, while, unlike a year ago today, it would be no more possible today for someone to fly into space on a private spacecraft than it was two years ago, things are changing. Though no one has a working vehicle today, many are in development, and, while it's quieter than other space races have been, the stakes for the companies trying to be the first to put a passenger into space are very real.

+ 2 - 0 | § Sail Away

Cosmos 1The Planetary Society's Cosmos I spacecraft will launch today at 2:26 p.m. CDT. The Earth orbiter will test a solar-sail propulsion technology demonstrator system, beginning with the deployment of its sails on Sunday.

Addendum: While the Planetary Society's site seems (understandably) slow today, Spaceref has an article about how you can spot Cosmos 1 flying overhead.

20 June 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § RTF Update

STS-114I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else, so I could be wrong, but if my math is correct (and, knowing me, that's a big if), the countdown to the launch of STS-114 is now at the lowest point it's ever reached, at 23 days.

+ 2 - 0 | § Trailer On The Moon

Magnificent DesolationcollectSPACE has the teaser trailer for Magnificent Desolation, the 3D IMAX movie coming out in September about the Apollo missions to the Moon. I loved the Space Station 3D movie, and am really looking forward to seeing this one.

Keywords: 3_d,apollo,collectspace,history,moon,movies,space

+ 1 - 1 | § Manual Progress

ProgressFrom Spaceflight Now:
Space station commander Sergei Krikalev took over manual control of an approaching Russian supply ship this evening and remotely guided the robotic craft to a picture-perfect docking after problems prevented an automatic linkup.

The unmanned Progress supply craft, launched Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was poised for final approach when a problem on the ground prevented Russian flight controllers from sending commands to initiate the procedure.

16 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Today In History

On this date in 1963, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on Vostok 6.

15 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Can I Get A Witness!

PhillipsISS Expedition 11 Science Officer John Phillips became the first person to testify before Congress from space yesterday.
Thus bringing the nation one step closer to a space-based State of the Union address.

+ 2 - 1 | § Rollout II

Discovery rollout

Rollout of Discovery back to the launch pad began at 12:58 a.m. CDT today, and is apparently ongoing as of this writing.
T -28 days. And counting.

14 June 2005

+ 3 - 0 | § Saturn Live

F1sThe U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville has set up a new Web site where you can watch the refurbishment of the Saturn V live. Work is scheduled to begin this week.

+ 1 - 1 | § Rollout Update

DiscoveryDiscovery's second rollout is now scheduled for tonight at 12:01 a.m. EDT (11:01 p.m. CDT) -- the exact same time that Batman Begins will be premiering on the East coast! Coincidence?

+ 2 - 0 | § Under Construction

ISSThere's been a good bit of speculation for a while, but NASA administrator Mike Griffin recently confirmed it: the Space Shuttle will not be able to fly the 28 missions needed to "complete" the International Space Station before the fleet is retired in 2010. Griffin said he will be meeting with the heads of agency partners to decide how best to carry out assembly of the ISS given the resources available.

+ 0 - 2 | § Familiar New Worlds

Extrasolar worldSo, it's not exactly a Class-M planet -- an orbital radius so close to its star that it's "year" is under two days would make it pretty inhospitable to life as we know it -- but it's the closest thing ever discovered.
Astronomers yesterday announced the discovery of a planet less than eight times the mass of Earth, orbiting a star much like our Sun. The planet is believed to be rocky, like those in our inner solar system. The planet is part of a stellar system with at least two other, Jupiter-class, worlds.

13 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § RTF Update

STS-114As of today, the Return to Flight STS-114 launch of Discovery is one month away. (Again.)
Rollout is scheduled for tonight. (Again.)

+ 0 - 2 | § RTF Kids

RTF Kids Banner

After a lot of time and a lot of work, NASA's Return to Flight Web site for Kids went online Friday.
Along with many others, I was part of the team that contributed to putting this site together (and even got to help design it), so I had to show it off here.

09 June 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § RTF TG Update

STS-114Per The Orlando Sentinel:
With five weeks remaining before space shuttle Discovery's planned launch, NASA moved closer Wednesday to meeting 15 key recommendations for safely returning to flight.

An advisory group led by former astronauts Thomas Stafford and Richard Covey found the space agency had satisfied four more recommendations made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, bringing the total to 12.

Three key items remain open, but those may be wrapped up after a NASA review of launch-debris hazards scheduled for June 24.
"There is nothing out there where we have grave concern," Covey said during a public meeting in Houston on Wednesday. "We don't see anything out there that we have big questions about that are not the same questions that the [shuttle] program is looking at."

08 June 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § Today In History

X-15 on ground

On this date in 1959, Scott Crossfield piloted the X-15 on its first (nonpowered) free flight.

+ 0 - 2 | § Reorg

A massive reorganization has begun at NASA. NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has begun the process by sending out formal notices to more than 50 senior NASA managers aprising them of pending changes in their job titles.

One person has already resigned. Associate Administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Adm. Craig Steidle, tendered his resignation today effective 24 June 2005.

+ 1 - 1 | § Stacking Up

Discovery with new stack

Discovery is being remated to a new ET and SRB stack in the VAB in preparation for a second rollout on Monday, one month before the scheduled Return to Flight launch date.

07 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § RTF Update

STS-114Wow... this is the first RTF Update on ATW in almost a month. Per Spaceflight Now:
NASA managers today ruled out a third tanking test for the shuttle Discovery, keeping launch of the first post-Columbia mission on target for July 13. The launch window extends to July 31 and as of this writing, engineers have five days of contingency time in the launch processing schedule to handle unexpected problems between now and the opening of the window.
Assuming no show stoppers emerge during the meetings later this month, commander Eileen Collins and her crew will fly to Kennedy July 9 for the start of the countdown to blastoff of the 114th shuttle mission. Liftoff July 13 is targeted for 3:51 p.m. EDT (1951 GMT).

06 June 2005

+ 2 - 1 | § The Future Of Shuttle

SDHLVThe Shuttle is dead. Long live the Shuttle.

While the Space Shuttle system is still scheduled for retirement by 2010, it's looking more and more like there may be a future for some elements of the Shuttle, or at least some of the STS concepts, as the foundation for the heavy-lift vehicle for exploration.

New administrator Mike Griffin had advocated such a system even before returning to the agency. The biggest challenges to a Shuttle-derived heavy launch vehicle, though, could come not from NASA, but from the Air Force, via the White House. The administration a while back tasked NASA and USAF to work together in developing an HLV concept, at the time a seemingly positive move showing that the White House was supportive of the creation of the most powerful American booster in decades. Given the Air Force's reliance on third-party EELV rockets like the Delta and Atlas, it seems likely that agency would be more likely to endorse adapting one of those for the HLV, creating a potential deadlock.

+ 2 - 1 | § Free Opportunity

roverAfter spending a month trapped in a bit of tricky martian regolith, Opportunity is now free! Weeks of careful and deliberate work to free the rover after it got dug in have finally paid off, and safeguards are being put into place to make sure it doesn't happen again.

(I do feel like I have to point out, though, that, in my mind, this is yet another example of the importance of human exploration. Yes, the rovers are doing incredible work on Mars, but Opportunity just lost an entire month to a problem that astronauts on the scene could have solved in a day, and this isn't the first time something like this has happened [the pebble caught in Opportunity's rock abrasion tool comes quickly to mind].)

03 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Today In History

Ed White EVA
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first U.S. spacewalk, made by astronaut Ed White on the Gemini 4 mission.

+ 1 - 1 | § No Life?

Mars landscapePer
The methane in Mars's atmosphere could easily be produced by mineral chemistry, rather than life. That's the claim from a pair of geologists whose calculations suggest that some experts have been too quick to assume a bacterial source for the gas.

+ 1 - 1 | § Griffin At MSFC

GriffinNew NASA Administrator Mike Griffin will be here at Marshall today. I'm hoping to hear him speak this afternoon.

+ 2 - 0 | § Martian Phoenix

PhoenixWith the Mars Exploration Rovers launched almost two years ago still roaming the planet (in the case of Opportunity, very, very slowly) and the "Mr. O" orbiter itself only a couple of months from launch, NASA has started moving ahead with the Mars spacecraft that will launch at the next opposition in 2007. The Phoenix stationary lander will touch down on the icy northern planes, examining the ice there and looking for signs of past or present life.

02 June 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Favor Request

Help me do a favor for a friend and go cast high votes for this picture in's new contest. Thanks.

+ 0 - 2 | § Today In History

Soyuz launchToday's history moment is brought to you by Chris Tutor, who pointed out to me a space anniversary I didn't know about:
On this date 50 years ago, the Baikonur cosmodrome was established.

+ 1 - 1 | § The Planet Core!

JupiterSo with the JIMO Jovian moon mission apparently off the books for the forseeable future, NASA yesterday announced it is moving ahead with another mission to Jupiter, Juno.
On the cool side, the mission will attempt to confirm the existence of a solid core within the planet. Unfortunately, it appears that, unlike JIMO, exploration of the Jovian moons will not be a major part of the Juno mission.

+ 1 - 1 | § GO To Orbit Again

OlsenBusinessman Greg Olsen is once again in line to become the world's third paying space tourist, having overcome the unnamed medical consideration that removed him from potential flight status last year. His flight is being tentatively planned for this fall, but that, of course, is subject to change based on a variety of factors, including notably the Shuttle launch schedule.

01 June 2005

+ 2 - 1 | § One Small Clip

ArmstrongPer The AP:
CINCINNATI - The first man to walk on the moon used to come into Marx's Barber Shop in Lebanon about every month for a trim. That stopped when Neil Armstrong learned that owner Marx Sizemore picked up some of the former astronaut's hair from the floor of his shop and sold it for $3,000 to a Connecticut collector.

+ 1 - 0 | § Today In History

Soyuz 9 crewOn this date 35 years ago, the Soviet Soyuz 9 mission made the first night launch of a manned spacecraft.

+ 0 - 1 | § MESSENGER Shoots

Earth and Moon

The image above is a family portrait of the Earth and the Moon, taken by NASA MESSENGER Mercury probe as it approaches its home planet for a slingshot gravity boost in about three months.