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NET 6/8 -- STS-117 launch
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31 August 2005

+ 1 - 0 | § What A Wonderful World

Earth from MESSENGERNASA's MESSENGER Mercury probe passed by Earth about a month ago for a gravity-assist flyby, and did an incredible job capturing our world spinning in space. The images taken by the spacecraft were combined into an awesome movie. (I saw the video first, and had to go track down the info to make sure it wasn't CG.)

+ 0 - 1 | § Run It Up The Flagpole

Space FlagMichael Huang has decided to post his idea for a 'Space Flag' on a Web site to se who salutes. While I'm not sure about a flag, per se, I could be sold on the idea of some sort of space-support symbol or logo.

That said, this particular design just doesn't scream "spaceflight" to me.

30 August 2005

+ 1 - 0 | § Storm Update

MichoudFrom Spaceflight Now:
Lockheed Martin's Michoud Assembly Facility, the sprawling New Orleans plant where space shuttle external tanks are built, may have escaped catastrophic damage from Hurricane Katrina. The status of NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., is not yet known.

Addendum: Per
The ride out crew at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi reports there are no injuries from the storm. Some buildings were damaged, but the extent of the damage isn't know yet. Hundreds of people including employees, their families and members of the public took shelter in the center's six buildings and will stay overnight because of flooding in the surrounding area. The center remains closed until a complete damage assessment can be done.

29 August 2005

+ 1 - 0 | § Space Van

Space VanI want one of these!

+ 0 - 2 | § One Of These Days...

MoonFrom the I'll-believe-it-when-I see-it category, Malaysia, which is looking forward to seeing one of its citizens fly into space for the first time in two years when he hitches a ride on a Russian ISS taxi flight, says it could send people to the Moon by 2020.

On the one hand, I think it's cool that there's a growing interest in so many countries in human spaceflight, and I'm very supportive of the growing international agreement that the Moon is the place to go, but these claims by Malaysia and India and Japan and ESA will be more believable when they actually manage to send people into space on their own. Which is not saying I don't believe they can do it, it just means I really would love to see them get serious about it and start putting people in orbit.

+ 0 - 2 | § The Coming Storm

MichoudOnce again, Return to Flight is threatened by a hurricane.
Lockheed Martin's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans is in the path of Katrina.
There are currently seven basically finished Space Shuttle External Tanks at Michoud, with eight to 10 more under construction. The tank that it was reported last week was leaving KSC to return to Michoud was held up before arriving due to the weather.

Though less relevant for RTF, NASA's Stennis Space Center is also in the path of potential damage.

26 August 2005

+ 1 - 0 | § Failure II Reminder

History Channel logoJust a reminder that the History Channel will air Beyond The Moon: Failure Is Not An Option II on Sunday night.

24 August 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Supersonic For The People

Japanese supersonic jetPer
Japan's space agency plans to launch an arrow-shaped airplane at twice the speed of sound high over the Australian outback as early as next month in a crucial test of the country's push to develop a supersonic successor to the retired Concorde.

The test follows a three-year hiatus since the first experimental flight of the unmanned aircraft, dubbed the next-generation supersonic transport, prematurely separated from its booster rocket and crashed into the desert.

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

ET on truck for transportOne of the three External Tanks currently at Kennedy Space Center is on its way back to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans for further research into what caused the foam shedding on Discovery's STS-114 mission and what can be done to correct the problem.

23 August 2005

+ 1 - 2 | § SpaceShipThree

SS1Per Flight International:
Orbital vehicle SpaceShipThree (SS3) will be developed by space tourism company Virgin Galactic and Mojave-based SpaceShipTwo (SS2)-developer Scaled Composites, if the planned SS2 suborbital service is successful, says Virgin Galactic president Will White­horn.

SpaceShipThree is planned for Scaled’s tier 2 manned space programme, while the nine-person SpaceShipTwo is part of the current tier 1b programme.
The company [will] buy five nine-seater SS2 vehicles and two White Knight 2 (WK2) carrier aircraft ... from the UK’s Virgin Group and Scaled Composites joint venture The Spaceship Company.

+ 0 - 1 | § Liwei To The Moon

Yang LiwieNow here's an intriguing development in spaceflight -- a joining of forces of the world's two greatest government spaceflight hype machines. Apparently Roskosmos has invited Yang Liwei to fly to the Moon on a spacecraft that doesn't yet exist. Not to be outdone, the first taikonaut said that he went, he would want to fly as both pilots of the craft.

On a more serious note, Russia apparently really is interested in space cooperation with China, including in human spaceflight. As much as people like to blab about China become a major space power and beating us to the Moon, they're not going to do it the way they're going. This, though, is where they really present the possibility of becoming an important player -- by changing the landscape of international cooperation.

22 August 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Space Hilton

SS1Per The Independent:
Among the 30,000 wannabe astronauts who have already signed up, or handed over $200,000 for the inaugural flight, are Paris Hilton, Dallas's Victoria Principal, ad man Trevor Beattie, and Morgan Freeman, who was quoted recently as saying he couldn't wait to "get up there in Branson's rocket".

The idea of spaceflight being associated with Paris Hilton does little for me (Though it is kind of ironic to think there will finally be there will finally be a Hilton in space), but I have to say that I do like the idea Morgan Freeman flying. I didn't know that he was interested in spaceflight, and it would be cool to see him be a bit more vocal about it.

+ 0 - 1 | § Homecoming

Discovery on ferry jetAlmost a month after its launch, Discovery is finally back home.

The Orbiter will now be prepared for its next flight, no sooner than March 2006.

19 August 2005

+ 0 - 1 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchSo, yeah, March.

Six and a half months from now. Window opens March 4, and extends until March 19.

Anybody want to go?

18 August 2005

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

Orbiter prepared for ferry flightNASA is expected to hold a press conference today to give an update on plans for the next launch, but rumors are that Discovery will once again take over for Atlantis for the next flight, and the March date is being more commonly cited.

+ 1 - 2 | § Day Of The Comets

SOHO cometsThe contest to guess when SOHO will find its 1,000th comet has ended, and though I feared my guess would be well after the discovery was made, I actually missed it by only two days. Oh well.

+ 2 - 0 | § Launch Date

KliperAccording to UPI, Russia has set a goal of making an unmanned flight of its planned Kliper spacecraft in 2011, with a manned flight the following year. The Kliper (or Klipper or Clipper, depending on which transliteration you like) would carry a six-person crew.

17 August 2005

+ 1 - 0 | § Flying Car Update

JetsonsPer Inside Line:
Hoping to tap into the ingenuity of folks tinkering around in their garages, NASA said it is funding the "Personal Air Vehicle Challenge."

The biggest reward — $150,000 — will go to the creator of a flying car with two to six seats that has a 300-mile range and decent fuel economy.

+ 0 - 1 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchThis is the second time I've seen an article saying that a March launch window is likely the soonest the next Shuttle will fly. The first time I ignored it as just general background speculation of the sort that's pretty common, but the repeat reference made me wonder where it's coming from.

I know there's a November window, albeit a short one. It's possible that they've now decided that they can't make that one, either, but I haven't heard that. Also, before the fleet was grounded again, STS-115 had been scheduled to fly in mid-February, and I don't see why that launch window wouldn't still be available.

Oh well. More as it develops.

16 August 2005

+ 0 - 1 | § It's Been Years

Sergie KrikalevFrom SpaceDaily:
Veteran Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyov broke the record Tuesday for the longest total time in space -- and still has two months left before returning to Earth.

Krikalyov, who has been aboard the International Space Station (ISS) since April 15, passed the record previously held by fellow-Russian Sergei Avdeyev, who spent a career total of 747 days, 14 hours, 14 minutes and 11 seconds in space, a spokeswoman for Russian ground control told AFP.

Congrats and kudos, Commander Krikalev!

+ 0 - 1 | § 114 Notes

STS-114A couple of wrap-up notes on STS-114:

Discover will begin the trip to Florida tomorrow atop a Boeing 747. Haven't been able to find a ground track yet, but will let you know if I do.

During the mission, Steve Robinson recorded what some are calling the first podcast from space, which, while cool, probably depends on how you define the term.

15 August 2005

+ 0 - 1 | § Hurrah!

Wally SchirraThe only Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronaut, Wally Schirra, will be making a couple of appearances in Huntsville towards the end of the month.
Schirra will be giving a free talk on Friday, Aug. 26, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and then will be the special guest on Saturday for Huntsville's second annual Saturn-Apollo Reunion event at the USSRC. Tickets for that event are $25, but benefit the Save the Saturn campaign.

On an unrelated note, if anybody plans to be in town for the reunion, but not the von Braun forum event on Friday, local improv troupe Face2Face will be performing two shows that Friday night.

12 August 2005

+ 0 - 1 | § DOD SDLV OK

In-line SDHLVsingle-stick SDLVNASA's plans to build the next generation of human and heavy launch vehicles using Shuttle components moved another step forward recently when the Department of Defense signed off on the plan. The White House had ordered that NASA and DOD work together on putting together a joint plan fro the development of a heavy lift vehicle, causing concern that a DOD-preference for a HLV based on current expendable launch vehicle technology would make it difficult to find common interested in a Shuttle-derived plan.

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchLooks like it'll now be November at the earliest for the launch of STS-121.

+ 0 - 1 | § Go MRO!

MRO launchPer Spaceflight Now:
A Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket boosted NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter into space today, kicking off a $720 million mission to sniff out underground ice deposits, to map the red planet's geology with unprecedented clarity and to monitor its tenuous, dusty atmosphere in an ongoing scientific assault.

The 4,800-pound solar-powered satellite, equipped with a 10-foot-wide antenna to beam a torrent of data back to Earth, also will serve as a communications satellite, relaying measurements and observations from current and future Mars landers while using its own ultra-high-resolution camera and other instruments to identify possible landing sites.

After being at KSC at around 5:30 a.m. EDT yesterday to watch from the Causeway as the launch was scrubbed around three minutes before launch, I watched the actual launch this morning on NASA TV.

09 August 2005

+ 0 - 1 | § Omega And Alpha

STS-114Now we have successfully returned to flight.

Now the future begins.

(On a personal note, they would have to land on the other side of the country, wouldn't they?)

08 August 2005

+ 1 - 0 | § Another Day

STS-114For those of you who, unlike me, didn't get up twice during the wee hours of the morning to watch, iffy weather led to Discovery's landing being delayed, first until later this morning and then until tomorrow.

On the one hand, this means that I could actually be in the greater-KSC area when the Shuttle lands, though I doubt that would afford me any better opportunity for watching than any of you have. I fear that it's also a bad sign for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter actually launching while I'm down there on Wednesday.

05 August 2005

+ 0 - 1 | § STS-114 Update

STS-114In case you haven't heard, NASA has decided there is no need for a fourth EVA to address the thermal blanket issue.

Discovery is scheduled to land at 3:46 a.m. CDT on Monday.

04 August 2005

+ 1 - 0 | § Origins Of The Future

artworkThe interesting thing about this cool site that lists first usages and origins of science-fiction words is how many words created for science fiction later went on to be commonly used in non-fictional science.

+ 1 - 0 | § Failure II

Gene KranzA couple of years ago, the History Channel aired an interesting documentary, "Failure Is Not An Option," based on the book by Gene Kranz. It was a fascinating look at the history of spaceflight through the end of Apollo, told from a different perspective from the one most take.

Now, they've put together a sequel, which will be airing on August 28, and which will cover the post-Apollo-17 era. Sounds like it will be worth checking out.

+ 1 - 1 | § To Blog, Or Not To Blog

damaged thermal blanked on DiscoverySee, here's the problem I've been running into with this blog.

Over the last two and a half years of blogging, I've gradually shifted the content a little, away from the "here's something cool about space" -type stuff that I did when I was just starting out towards space blogging that is either a little less mainstream or that I have something to say about.

So, for example, my inclination these days is to pass on something like the fact that a fourth EVA is being considered to address a damaged thermal blanket near Discovery's flight deck, figuring that my readers either already know this, in which case they don't need me to point it out, or don't care, in which case they, um, don't care.

Anyway, no real point to this, just a peek behind the curtain on a slow news day.

03 August 2005

+ 0 - 1 | § Apropos Of Nothing

STS-114This is apropos of nothing, but right before I was about to post it on another board, I realized it had absolutely nothing to do with the previous comments in the thread. Too curmudgeonly to pass up an opportunity to gripe, I'm posting it here instead:

I have to take issue with the idea that STS-114 is somehow a failure because of the effort that has been made to examine the Orbiter for problems and fix any potential ones. All of the original mission goals regarding ISS are being met; it's just that the main media focus has been on the unusual aspects of this mission, which are unusual because they are unprecedented.

This isn't the first time these problems have occurred, it's just the first time NASA has had this depth of knowledge about them and taken action to fix them while on orbit.

Odds are good that, had STS-114 simply followed its original flight plan from March 2003, without the additional inspection, imaging and repair, it would have made it home safely, just as numerous other missions with "minor" problems did. The difference is that this time, NASA didn't take that chance.

If STS-107 had unfolded the way STS-114 had -- with a problem identified, understood and fixed on orbit, would it also have been considered a failure?

+ 1 - 0 | § Astronauts Visit The Gap

astronaut on EVABoth protruding gap fillers have now been successfully removed from Discovery's underbelly.

02 August 2005

+ 0 - 1 | § Couldn't Planet This Way has an interesting article about the debate as to whether 2003UB313 should be considered a planet (I'm loathe to use the other informal name of the world that's been being bandied around, and will likely be the last to do so).
The article acknowledges that much of the debate is based on cultural factors, but that ultimately a scientific decision must be made (though that decision want be final until a year from now).

+ 0 - 2 | § The Dark Underside Of The Shuttle

Shuttle undersidePer Spaceflight Now:
"Then we examined our options to set our minds at rest and to make sure we didn't stay up late nights worrying about bad things happening, the EVA (spacewalk) team has ... put together a very simple plan, with good safety precautions and mitigations of many hazards that will allow the crew member to go out and remove those two gap fillers. And so when we looked at the unknown versus what we do know about EVA, it was a very easy decision to add the task to EVA number three, to go remove the two little gap fillers."

01 August 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § Two Years And Counting

Sergie KrikalevPer collectSPACE (on Friday):
Today is the first day of cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev's third year in space. When Krikalev arrived at the International Space Station as Expedition 11 commander, he had logged more than 1 year, 5 months and 10 days in space over two flights to the Mir space station, two Space Shuttle missions and a prior stay on the ISS during Expedition 1. In August, he will surpass the record of 748 days for cumulative time in space set by Sergei Avdeyev. At the end of this mission, Krikalev will have lived more than 800 days above Earth.

Keywords: collectspace,international_space_station,roskosmos,space

+ 1 - 0 | § Hubble Trouble Again?

HubbleMaybe I'm just overlooking it, but it's suprised me that I haven't yet seen any speculation over what the issues Discovery has encountered on this mission will mean for the future of the Hubble Space Telescope. (Surely this apparent lack of thought about the issue doesn't mean that the deep interest the media and public demonstrated for Hubble over the last couple of years wasn't genuine.)

When he became NASA administrator, Griffin said that, unlike his predecessor, he was open to the idea of sending another Shuttle mission to service Hubble, but that the decision would be made after the STS-114 mission was completed successfully. While Griffin has said just recently he still would like to fly this mission, I'm curious whether that could change before this mission is over and its aftermath is fully felt. According to results, the foam shedding during launch had the potential to have disastrous consequences, and could potentially have led to the Orbiter being unfit to return to Earth. In that event, the Station would be used to house the crew until they could be rescued, a possibility that wouldn't be an option on a Hubble servicing mission. If an incident such as the one that could have occurred during this mission happened during a Hubble mission, options for rescuing the crew would be much more limited.

To be sure, Mike has said the Shuttle won't fly until those problems are resolved, which would make the issue moot, but only if you assume that there's no chance of more unforeseen, and thus uncorrected, issues. Which, after all, is exactly what happened on this flight.

+ 0 - 1 | § ET Sequel

SDHLVNot only does this NASA Watch article have some interesting information about the studies that led NASA to believe that Shuttle-derived vehicles are the way to go for future launch vehicles, but it has a ton of pictures that I, at least, thought were pretty cool.