Cool links

+ 0 - 5 | § The Onion Infographic: NASA Moon Mission


+ 1 - 2 | § Soviet Space Monkey Pants

(Link) | Oh, man, I want these.

+ 2 - 2 | § Robotic space penguin to hop across the Moon

Could be ready by 2009.


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30 September 2005

+ 4 - 1 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchShuttle program manager Wayne Hale has reiterated the possibility of a May launch for STS-121, followed by STS-115 in July. According to Hale, plans to fix the foam problems encountered during STS-114 would support that timetable, even accounting for hurricane-related delays.
The May launch window stretches from May 3-22, and the next window is from June 30-July 19.

+ 0 - 4 | § Expedition 12 Launch

Expedition 12The International Space Station Expedition 12 crew, along with space tourist Greg Olsen, will launch to ISS tonight at 10:42:44 p.m. CDT aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

29 September 2005

+ 1 - 3 | § Today In History


On this date in 1988, the space shuttle Discovery took on Return to Flight duties for the first time on the STS-26 mission, the first since the loss of Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

+ 0 - 4 | § No Ticket Home

Expedition 12It's now the day before he is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station as commander of the Expedition 12 crew, and Bill McArthur still doesn't have a seat lined up for a trip back to Earth.
The agreement with Russia to allow U.S. use of Soyuz taxi service is set to expire at the end of the year, while McArthur is still aboard ISS. Since there's still no firm date for the space shuttle's Return to Return to Flight, no one's entirely sure when or how McArthur will be returning home.
A leading contender for his return is that Congress would be willing to grant an exception to the Iran Nonproliferation Act allowing NASA to buy Russian space hardware and services, which would let the agency purchase at the market rate a return seat on the Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft on which McArthur will launch tomorrow. There had been hopes that this would be done by now, but, while there has been progress toward granting the exception, it hasn't happened yet.

+ 1 - 3 | § Electric Endeavour

EndeavourAfter being shut down for the better part of two years, Endeavour was powered up on Tuesday, signifying its return to flight status.

Since Dec. 2003, Endeavour has been undergoing modifications, some of which were regularly scheduled upgrades, while others were changes mandated in the wake of the loss of Columbia. Those modifications are now complete, and OV-105 is now ready for normal launch processing. (Though it will still be 10 to 11 months before the orbiter is actually ready to fly again.)

Among the changes are a new GPS system that would allow Endeavour to land on any runway in the world in the event of an emergency.

28 September 2005

+ 4 - 1 | § Not-Quite-Post-Mortem

Mike GriffinPer USA Today:
The space shuttle and International Space Station — nearly the whole of the U.S. manned space program for the past three decades — were mistakes, NASA chief Michael Griffin said Tuesday.

In a meeting with USA TODAY's editorial board, Griffin said NASA lost its way in the 1970s, when the agency ended the Apollo moon missions in favor of developing the shuttle and space station, which can only orbit Earth.

"It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path," Griffin said. "We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can."

27 September 2005

+ 2 - 1 | § GO To Orbit

Greg has an article about Greg Olsen, who will become the third paying space tourist to visit ISS, when he launches late on Friday aboard the Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft with the Expedition 12 crew.
Olsen will be conducting some research for his sensor company while in orbit, and will also be assisting with some ESA experiments.

26 September 2005

+ 1 - 2 | § Date For Shenzhou?

Shenzhou artworkThere are conflicting reports, the usual state media hype and large dollops of secrecy, but a launch date of Oct. 13 has been reported for China's next manned spaceflight, Shenzhou VI, which will carry a crew of two on a mission lasting several day during which they will make use of the spacecraft's orbital module for the first time.
(If the reported launch time is correct, in the U.S., the launch will actually take place on Oct. 12, at somewhere around 10 p.m. CDT. [I think, I get confused coverting during Daylight Savings Time.])

+ 1 - 1 | § Rita Update

RitaPer NASA:
This is the latest information about NASA facilities affected by hurricane Rita.

Johnson Space Flight Center:
# There were no injuries.
# Facility surveys show only minor building / ground damage. One minor roll-up door was blown off its tracks and a few trees were blown down.
# Facilities are on utility power.
# Potable water is restored.
# Air conditioning systems are being brought on line as needed.
# Employees are on admin leave until Tuesday since they may experience problems getting back into the Houston area.

Michoud Assembly Facility:
# Potable water issue is still being worked by MSFC. Facility won't have water from utility for some time.

22 September 2005

+ 2 - 1 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchDespite earlier rumors that the next shuttle launch may not come until October or later, the official target is May.

+ 1 - 2 | § Planet Plan

2003 UB313So it appears that, rather than coming up with a set, concrete definition for what exactly is or isn't a planet, the IAU may instead establish new sets of types of astronomical objects that will render the term "planet" no more meaningful than it is today, but in a studied, well-defined meaninglessness.

+ 2 - 1 | § Buying A Ride

SoyuzAstronaut Bill McArthur is one step closer to having a ride home.

McArthur, who is scheduled to launch next week to the International Space Station as commander of its Expedition 12 crew, will be on the Station at the end of the year, when the current agreement allowing U.S. use of Russian Soyuz vehicles expires. Without an agreement to allow him to use a Soyuz for his trip home, and with the next flight of the Space Shuttle possibly a year or more away, there are no concrete plans for McArthur's return to Earth.

Yesterday, though, the Senate voted to allow an exception to the Iran Nonproliferation Act, which would allow NASA to buy Russian hardware and services until 2012, which would clear the way to buy a return seat on the Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft he will ride to orbit. The measure still requires approval from the House, though, before it can move forward.

+ 2 - 1 | § Transfer Of Control

RitaPer NASA:
NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston closed at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday due to the threat posed to the Houston-Galveston area by Hurricane Rita.
Primary flight control of the [International Space Station] will transition to the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, outside Moscow. As usual, a group of NASA flight controllers is positioned at the Russian control center to assist with operations. Also, an advisory group of flight controllers will provide operations assistance from a remote location. All station systems are operating normally, and the crew has been informed of the plans for Johnson Space Center's closure.

20 September 2005

+ 2 - 0 | § The Future, Revealed

CEV in lunar orbitSo NASA announced the results of the ESAS study yesterday morning, revealing the plans for the return to the moon. (The feature at that link has not only a story about the plan, but also a Flash feature, complete with mission animation [for bonus fun, use your iTunes to find the best music to accompany the animation].)

The highlights:

19 September 2005

+ 2 - 0 | § Michoud Update

Recovery efforts at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are progressing better than originally anticipated, almost three weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck. Power has been restored to the entire complex where space shuttle external fuel tanks are made. Temporary repairs have been made to damaged buildings.

Due to the progress, the Space Shuttle program has decided to keep tank work at Michoud.
Preparations are also under way to ship two external tanks from Kennedy back to Michoud by barge. External tank #120 is expected to arrive at Michoud in early October. It will be examined and portions of it dissected to better understand why foam came off during Space Shuttle Discovery's launch last July. External tank #119 will be sent back to Michoud in late October.

NASA is still working to contact 76 of more than 2,000 Michoud employees.

+ 2 - 1 | § Ad Luna Update

NASA Exploration logoNASA administrator Mike Griffin will announce the results of the Exploration Systems Architecture Study on Monday, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. CDT in NASA Headquarters' James E. Webb Auditorium.

The news conference will be carried live on NASA Television and

16 September 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § Saving The Saturn

F1 enginesRestoration work on Huntsville's Saturn V is well underway and should be complete around the end of next month.

More funds are still needed to build a building to preserve the Saturn in its restored condition. As much as I support this project, right now I would say to give any money you want to donate to Katrina relief rather than the Saturn restoration, but, as those needs lessen in the future, this is a cause to remember.

+ 0 - 4 | § Ad Luna Update

NASA Exploration logoPer NASA Watch:
As promised, NASA has completed the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS). The ESAS study has accomplished the following tasks:

* Development of a reference Lunar exploration architecture concept to support sustained human and robotic Lunar exploration operations.

* Definition of top-level requirements and configurations for crew and cargo launch systems to support the Lunar and Mars exploration programs.

* Identification of key technologies required to enable and significantly enhance these reference exploration systems, and a re-prioritization of near-term and far-term technology investments.

* Complete assessment of the top-level Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) requirements and plans to enable the CEV to provide crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS) to reduce the gap between Shuttle retirement and initial development of CEV and the crew launch system (CLV).

We appreciate your patience over the last few months and would like to offer the opportunity to provide you with a briefing on the ESAS. On Monday, September 19th at 9:00 a.m., NASA will provide a 1 hour briefing on the ESAS results.

+ 2 - 1 | § Funding The Future

congress logoIt's still a good way from being official, but the Vision for Space Exploration won a victory yesterday when the Senate voted to almost fully fund NASA's FY06 budget request. While the allotment is smaller than that voted on in the House earlier (which actually exceeded NASA's request), the the Senate vote comes with the knowledge that a huge chunk of change will be needed for Katrina relief, which some had feared could mean a cut for NASA.
The two chambers will now agree to a jointly accepted version of the budget.

15 September 2005

+ 2 - 0 | § Ad Luna

NASA Exploration logoThe future, it appears, begins next week.

After reportedly being delayed by OMB concerns, NASA is expected to reveal its plan for implementing the Vision for Space Exploration next week, after receiving a go-ahead from the White House yesterday.

Under the plans, humans would again land on the Moon 50 years after they first orbited it, in 2018, when a four-person crew would begin the new era of lunar exploration with a one-week stay.

+ 1 - 2 | § Pick The Cosmonaut

ISSFrom SpaceDaily:
Malaysian citizens will reportedly be able to help choose their nation's first astronaut. Malaysia Science Minister Jamaluddin Jarjis said citizens will be able to choose from among a short list of candidates and then vote by text message, the BBC reported Wednesday.
The would-be astronaut candidates' profiles and their progress during training will be posted on the Internet. Citizens will then be allowed to vote and Malaysian space agency officials will take those votes into consideration when they make their selection, officials said.

If the contest proves popular and the government charges for the votes, it may even be able to cover the cost of its space program, the BBC reported.

13 September 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § Less Limited Power!

Shuttle docked at ISSWith the dwindling number of Shuttle flights that can be flown to the International Space Station before the fleet is retired, NASA is pursuing a way to increase the amount of time the Shuttle can spend at the Station without increasing the number of flights. Following up on an idea originally suggested by former astronaut Owen Garriott, NASA has contracted Boeing to develop a Station-Shuttle Power Transfer System, which will allow power to be transferred from the Station to the Shuttle, increasing the amount of time the Shuttle can spend docked to the Station. The news release says the change will increase duration limits from eight days to 12, and that it is scheduled to first be used on STS-119.

12 September 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchPer Aviation Week:
Administrator Michael D. Griffin says early estimates of a slip in the next flight from March to October 2006 were probably too pessimistic, but agency spaceflight managers need more information before setting even a planning date.

"I honestly don't have the data to talk to you intelligently about what the date would be," says William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for space operations.

Managers moved analysis of tank foam loss during the STS-114 mission to Marshall Space Flight Center, and planned to do non-destructive evaluation of key foam sites on the next tank to fly at Kennedy Space Center instead of at the Michoud tank facility in New Orleans.

+ 0 - 3 | § October Sky

Shenzhou assemblyContrary to reports that China's Shenzhou 6 second manned spaceflight could launch sometime this month, SpaceDaily published an article today saying the mission will not launch until sometime after 7 October (Shenzhou V launched on 15 October in 2003).

+ 1 - 1 | § In The Shadow Of 2003UB313

2003UB313Spaceflight Now has an article about two other interesting bodies recently discovered in our solar system that were overshadowed by the announcement of "10th planet" 2003UB313. The two new Kuiper Belt objects are both unusual in their own right, with one, nicknamed Santa, being a superfast-rotating cigar-shaped object.

One other note of interest from the article:
...while one IAU committee is taking its time deciding whether or not it is a planet, other committees have to wait until they know what it is before they can consider a name.

The fact that the IAU is taking its time with the decision, to me, is great news.

09 September 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § Armstrong Ate Here

JSC TrayOK, for anyone out there trying to qualify just what sort of space geek I am, here's another data point for you. I just ordered some cafeteria trays from the Johnson Space Center cafeteria.

The trays feature the NASA meatball in one corner, and have been used at JSC since the center's early days. They're now being replaced, so you can buy them for just $5 each. Here's your chance to get a genuine piece of space history that may have been used by someone like Neil Armstrong or John Glenn. Heck, you can even eat off your tray and pretend that it's one of the ones used by yours truly during one of the times I've eaten at the JSC cafeteria.

08 September 2005

+ 2 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchPer James Oberg, MSNBC:
HOUSTON — As NASA continues to assess the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the future of the shuttle program, at least one official is warning it could take up to a year before the next flight takes off.
... has obtained an “extremely preliminary” planning document written by Wayne Hale, NASA’s deputy shuttle program manager, in which he concludes: “Launch dates before the fall of 2006 may not be credible."

+ 0 - 3 | § Mysteries Of The Cosmos

Cosmos has an interesting article providing a post-mortem on Cosmos I, the Planetary-Society-developed solar sail demonstrator spacecraft, that posits a credible theory about the odd circumstances behind the death of Cosmos I, which the Russian launch team says never made it into space, but which the control team believe sent back signals upon arriving in space.

The Planetary Society has already decided to take another shot at building a solar-sail spacecraft, and is raising funds for the effort. I finally this weekend got around to joining the Planetary Society, not specifically because of Cosmos I, but more because of people I respect who are involved with the Society.

+ 1 - 1 | § World Ceres

CeresBased on new Hubble images of Ceres, an asteroid belt object that is the largest known asteroid, astronomers believe that the mini-world maycontain more fresh water than Earth, frozen as ice within its core.

On the downside, though, based on stuff like the fact that Ceres has a round shape apparently formed due to its own gravitational forces, some are now tossing around terms like mini-planet to describe the asteroid. I, for one, will be quite glad when the IAU finally makes a ruling on just what a planet is and isn't, and really hope it's sufficiently strict to put a rest to using even a variation of the term to describe asteroids and KBOs.

07 September 2005

+ 2 - 1 | § China's Return To Flight

Shenzhou assemblyAfter a gap between flights that in the U.S. occurs only after a major spaceflight disaster or a substantial shift in spaceflight programs, China may make is second manned spaceflight this month. Or it may not. (In addition to being slow, the Chinese space program is also shy; or rather, secretive, they do talk a lot about it without saying anything.)

I really do think it's great that the Chinese are pursuing a human spaceflight program, and hope that they inspire other nations to do likewise. But I really think the hype should be stepped down a notch until they are ready to pursue a program equivalent at least to what the U.S. was doing in the early 1960s. The technology is there, since other nations developed it, but the ambition and openness are absent.

+ 4 - 0 | § Small New Worlds

EnceladusSaturn's tiny moon, Enceladus, with a diameter about as wide as Mississippi is tall, is "without a doubt one of the most spectacular things Cassini has seen," according to a member of the spacecraft's science team.
In addition to indications of a history that seems to make no sense, the small moon has conditions, including the presence of simple organic materials, that they say make it a strong candidate for future searches for evidence of life.

06 September 2005

+ 1 - 1 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchPer Florida Today:
CAPE CANAVERAL - A six-month slip in NASA's next shuttle mission, coupled with hurricane damage to its external tank factory in New Orleans, is prompting the agency to move a lot of hardware around Kennedy Space Center.
The spaceship, which will be moved back to its processing hangar Tuesday, was connected to a 15-story external tank with attached solid rocket boosters. Technicians will begin disassembling the tank-booster set next week.
Atlantis' segmented boosters will be taken apart because they would have been stacked for 12 months in December, exceeding a time limit. A new set will be built up and the old segments will be shipped back to their Utah manufacturer.

The fuel tank for NASA's next mission, which is set for launch next March but faces likely delays, arrived back at KSC on Friday.

The barge carrying it was headed back to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, but reversed course to avoid Hurricane Katrina. The storm seriously damaged the factory.

02 September 2005

+ 0 - 2 | § All These Worlds

NeptuneThis multispectra Hubble "video" of the rotation of Neptune and the orbit of its moons is kinda cool in its own right, but in the context of the "video" of the MESSENGER flyby of Earth I posted earlier this week just goes to drive home how spectacular our homeworld truly is.

+ 1 - 1 | § Transitions

ISSFor what it's worth, here's an excerpt from Japanese newspaper The Daily Yomiuri:
Construction work on the International Space Station will be drastically scaled back and its use will be opened to the private sector in a plan set to be announced by U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration chief Michael Griffin, sources involved in U.S. space development programs said Tuesday.

The scaledown plan came as the postponement of the next launch of NASA's space shuttle has disrupted the schedule of delivering materials necessary for construction and maintenance work on the ISS.

And, in an only-semi-related bit of news from Aerospace Daily & Defense Report:
Changes to the Iran Nonproliferation Act to allow NASA to buy Russian space goods and services could see legislative action starting next week.

A House Science Committee spokesman told The DAILY that the congressional version of a Bush Administration proposal should be pushed through the House by the House Judiciary Committee in September, as part of a yet-identified bill. House and Senate science authorizers also plan to add the provision to their bill during a House-Senate conference on the fiscal 2006 NASA authorization.

01 September 2005

+ 3 - 1 | § Freeman On The Moon

Magnificent DesolationcollectSPACE has posted a list of the complete cast of the Magnficent Desolation 3D IMAX movie about the Apollo missions to the Moon.
Several space movie veterans will perform voice roles in the film, including a couple reprising roles from other performances.

I thought this part was interesting, though:

The other moonwalkers' dialogue was recorded by actors new to the astronaut role: Morgan Freeman as Neil Armstrong; Matthew McConaughey as Alan Bean; Matt Damon as Al Shepard; Paul Newman as Dave Scott; John Travolta as Jim Irwin;

Morgan Freeman as Armstrong? I love the Morgan Freeman, but he just seems sort of unlikely for the role; his voice is too distinctive in my opinion to be convincing as Neil.

For the complete cast list, visit collectSPACE.

Keywords: apollo,collectspace,history,movies,space

+ 0 - 3 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchSo now it may be May.

While damage at Michoud and Stennis could have been much, much worse, the damage at Michoud in particular could very well end up delaying the next Space Shuttle mission. Rumor has that some ET preparation work for the next flight will be moved to Florida, and that NASA will aim for the May 3-22 launch window for STS-121.

+ 2 - 1 | § Two-Gyro Hubble

HubblePer NASA:
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope entered a new era of science operations this week, when engineers shut down one of the three operational gyroscopes aboard the observatory. The two-gyro mode is expected to preserve the operating life of the third gyro and extend Hubble's science observations through mid-2008, an eight-month extension.
A decision on whether the Shuttle will fly a final Hubble servicing mission is on hold at least until after STS-121 is flown successfully.