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+ 0 - 0 | § X Prize Cup 2006 Web site goes live

Cool, though XPC is still more potential than they would have had you believe at the S2 flight of SpaceShipOne.

+ 0 - 0 | § And the winner of the Most Forced Acronym Award...


+ 0 - 1 | § Does super-sweat let Superman fly?

And other scientific musings...


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31 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-125 Update

SpaceDev logoFor the Hubble-huggers in the ATW audience, has a look at the safety issues involved in HSM-4.

According to the article, Griffin has said no decision will be made until after the end of STS-115.

The one thing NASA could do that would give me some degree of confidence in a Hubble mission, and I realize there are reasons why this won't happen, would be to launch two station missions so that both are in space at the same time. (I realize flight rules say they can't both be docked at the same time, but even if one launched the day before the other was to land, there would be an overlap, and that would give the station crew a little bit of time to regroup.) Doing this successfully would prove that it would be possible to send a rescue crew up in the event of damage to an orbiter on the servicing mission. (Of course, truth be told, Hubble aside, I just would like to see them do this once before the shuttle's retired. Oh well.)

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchPer NASA:
Due to weather conditions, the scheduled roll out of Space Shuttle Atlantis to Launch Pad 39B was delayed. The new target time for first motion is set for no earlier than 10:00 p.m. EDT tonight.

The launch window for this mission to resume construction of the International Space Station opens Aug. 27. During their 11 days in space, the astronauts will install the integrated P3/P4 truss segment with its two large solar arrays that will provide one-fourth of the total power generation capability of the completed station.

OK, that's an argument against me trying to go see the launch. This delay, and the fact that the new launch date is the day before the anniversary of Katrina, might make one believe there's a chance there may be some weather issues for 115 as well. Who knows, though?

Of course, with a Sept. 1 deadline for the book, I may be otherwise occupied around that time anyway. (Though, really, I should have placed the manuscript in the mail by then, and be ready to celebrate.)

Addendum: OK, so now there's talk of a Saturday launch. Which would change things again. Hrm.

+ 0 - 0 | § Casting My Vote

SpaceDev logoOK, I just did something cool. (Well, to me, at least.)

For the first time, I just cast my proxy vote as a shareholder of a public corporation in preparation for SpaceDev, Inc.'s annual shareholder meeting next week.

Nothing major on the docket, and my shares have exactly zero sway, I realize, but even so it's somewhat exciting to be actually participating, in a very very very minor way, in the future of commercial spaceflight. To be honest, I bought SpaceDev in no small part because they were cheap, though their SpaceShipOne connection (and accompanying slight Huntsville connection) was certainly a factor, also.

Now, though, I'm somewhat partial to their plans for the Dream Chaser, and would love to see it become a reality.

28 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Aliens Among Us

Project P.R.O.V.E.It turns out, according to Project P.R.O.V.E. at least, that a UFO was spotted during the STS-121 mission. Not only that, but a self-luminous UFO the size of a small city that wasn't noticed from the ground, despite being at cloud level.

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchAs speculated, the STS-115 launch of Atlanis has been moved forward one day due to scheduling conflicts with the Expedition 14 crew's Soyuz launch.

The launch is now scheduled for August 27, at 4:29:47 p.m. EDT.

(I've said I wouldn't even consider trying to go to this launch unless it were moved, so this complicates things for me. Oh well.)

26 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Space Falls

Bill Pullman in SpaceballsPer The Baltimore Sun:
[Bill Pullman]'s in Baltimore to fine-tune Expedition 6, the play that he has written and is directing about three astronauts, two Americans and one Russian, who were stranded on the International Space Station in 2003. (The play still is being developed, but the public is invited to attend two open rehearsals this weekend.)
After the shuttle Columbia exploded on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven crew members, space missions were halted temporarily. Americans Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit and Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin were forced to spend an additional two months orbiting 240 miles above Earth.

When they did attempt re-entry in a tiny Russian Soyuz spacecraft in May 2003, the crew lost radio control with aeronautics officials for 90 minutes and landed nearly 290 miles off course, in the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Until Expedition 6, Pullman never had written a play, but he was captivated by the plight of the trio and their eventual rescue.

"This story never got the attention it deserved," he says. "On March 20, 2003, the war started, and for months afterward, everything else that happened in the world was sort of buried in the back of the paper."
Pullman instantly realized the potential of actors on trapezes for dramatizing a story about space exploration, and he and McCray Rincon joined forces. Expedition 6 incorporates excerpts from such sources as the Quran, newspaper interviews with the astronauts, speeches by Osama bin Laden and NASA reports, and it features recent graduates of the theater training program.

As Pullman read and wrote and thought, the rescue of the three explorers gradually formed into a metaphor. The two Americans and one Russian were alone, adrift and tremendously vulnerable. Their plight symbolized the fragility of the very notion of international brotherhood. Every time that year that Pullman picked up a newspaper, he was struck by the ease with which that ideal could be shattered.

"What we have in mind is to take Expedition 6 to 10 cities with connections with the aerospace industry," Pullman says. "We'd also like to have ancillary activities going on around it: lectures and panel discussions, a real Chautauqua kind of a thing," he says, referring to an educational movement that flourished throughout the United States in the early 20th century.

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

atlantis is mated with SRB/ET stack

25 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Saving Skylab

skylab mock-up interiorFinally, a much-needed effort is beginning to restore the deteriorating Skylab mock-up at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center here in Huntsville.

I'm very excited to see this project getting started; it's really a shame what has been allowed to happen to this relic.

(Not much to post at the moment -- though there are some of my pictures at that link -- I'm mainly just posting this as a heads-up because I'll almost certainly be following up as they get further in the project.)

+ 0 - 0 | § Enduring Spirit

SpiritThe Spirit rover on Mars has passed another milestone -- it's now operated for 10 times its nominal mission.

Originally planned with a 90-sol lifespan, Spirit recently marked its 900th sol on the Red Planet.

Keywords: mars,nasa,rovers,space

+ 0 - 0 | § Hundreds Of Worlds

exoplanet artworkPer USA Today:
In real life, science fiction turns into science with little fanfare, certainly a disappointment for fans of zap guns, teleportation and mini-skirted aliens. Take the discovery of planets circling nearby stars — a minor sensation a few years ago, but now almost humdrum. With little fanfare though, planet detectives have now found an astounding 200 planets orbiting nearby stars.

A little more than a decade ago, that number was zero. Since that time, planet detections have confirmed astronomers' suspicions stretching back centuries, along with many a space opera writer's plot outline.

24 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchAs of this morning, Atlantis is in the VAB, and the stacking process will begin today.

Rollout to Pad 39B is scheduled for one week from today.

According to the current schedule, launch is scheduled for one month, four days from today. And, here's a phrase that hasn't been applied to a shuttle launch for a while -- But it could be a little bit sooner.

21 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Naming CEV

Ares I with CEVSpace spoilsport Robert Pearlman may have taken away the excitement of the announcement of the name for NASA's new Crew Exploration Vehicle by finding what appears to be the name via a public document search.

According to collectSPACE, NASA has received a federal trademark for the use of the name Orion for the CEV.

Keywords: collectspace,constellation,nasa,orion,space

+ 0 - 0 | § Buy A Walk

Space AdventuresSpace Adventures has announced they've struck a deal to be able to sell spacewalks on their ISS tourism flights. Adding the spacewalk option would bump up the cost by another $15 million, bringing the total to $35 million.

I see the appeal, and it would be a very cool experience, but, man, it strikes me as a bad, bad idea, and a huge waste of station resources. (NASA was quoted this morning as saying they have not been contacted about the plans by any partner agency.)

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchPer Spaceflight Now:
Space shuttle Atlantis will move closer to its first flight in almost four years when the orbiter is hauled into Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building at sunrise Monday.

Perched atop the 76-wheel Orbiter Transporter System, the shuttle will driven a quarter-mile from its hangar to the VAB around 6 a.m. EDT (1000 GMT).
Rollout to launch pad 39B is expected on Monday, July 31, if all goes well.

Atlantis will resume construction of the International Space Station with delivery of the outpost's second set of power-generating solar arrays. Liftoff had been targeted for August 28. However, managers are looking at moving up the launch date to Sunday, August 27. The preferred launch time within the day's 10-minute window would 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT).

You know, it's still kind of hard to believe that everything is moving ahead on a regular schedule. Part of me keeps waiting for the announcement that there's going to be another major delay. I've worked at Marshall for almost four years now, during which time there have been five launches, three of which were in the first five months. It's going to be nice to work for a NASA that actually launches people into space regularly. (And here's hoping CEV development is funded adequately, and proceeds quickly. By the time the shuttle fleet is retired, it will mean regular flights were made regularly for about half of my eight years here, if I'm still around [which I'd hope to be]. A good delay for CEV, and being grounded would once again be the rule, rather than the exception.)

20 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Also Today In History

viking 2 on marsToday marks the 30th anniversary of the Viking I landing on Mars.

Arguably the first successful Mars lander mission, NASA's Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander, became the first space probes to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface; characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface; and conduct on-the-spot biological tests for life on another planet (the results of which, 30 years later, are still the subject of some controversy).

This bit amused me: "Originally designed to function for 90 days, the Viking spacecraft continued collecting data for more than six years." Was that 90 days established using the same technique used to predict the 90-day lifespan of Spirit and Opportunity? Or, perhaps, the conversation went something like, "So, how long do you think these rovers will last on Mars?" "I think they should be able to last as long as Viking did." "Oh, so 90 days, then?"

+ 0 - 0 | § Today In History

buzz aldrin on the moon

Celebrate the occasion by playing the lunar lander game I commissioned a couple of years back.

19 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Returned To Flight

STS-115 mission patchPer AFP:
With Discovery and its crew of six safely back on Earth, NASA set its eyes on next month's scheduled launch that should mark the resumption of regular shuttle flights.

Monday's conclusion of Discovery's near-flawless 13-day mission marked a milestone for the US space program that has been plagued by continuing problems and safety concerns since Columbia broke apart in a fiery reentry on February 1, 2003.

"It was an enormously successful flight ... we're back on track," said NASA chief Michael Griffin after Discovery's smooth touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center on Florida's Atlantic Coast.

And, per the AP:
NASA faces 16 more shuttle flights to complete the space station and, hopefully, repair the popular Hubble Space Telescope before the shuttle fleet is grounded in 2010. A decision is expected by fall on whether to send a shuttle to Hubble one final time to extend the observatory's life.

18 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Blowing Up In Space Update

Genesis IPer
Turns out that Genesis-1 is toting a NASA payload – a shoeboX-Sized experiment dubbed “GeneBox” – a miniature laboratory that includes sensors and optical systems that can detect proteins and specific genetic activity.

The plan is to activate the GeneBox in a few weeks time with the micro-lab’s data relayed to the ground for further analysis. This trial run of hardware onboard Genesis-1 is a forerunner of tiny spacecraft called GeneSats being pursued by NASA Ames Research Center specialists.
Also onboard the Genesis-1, lots of personal items from Bigelow Aerospace employees. The space firm released footage from one of six interior cameras viewing the “Fly Your Stuff” payload supplied by Bigelow Aerospace employees. The objects are seen fluttering around within the module due to internal fans.

17 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Blowing Up In Space Update

Genesis I
Yeah, so it's a two-big-pictures-on-the-same-day day. Sorry.

Anyway, the picture above is the first image of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis I module inflated in orbit.

That, folks, is the future of space tourism.

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchNASA and Roskosmos are discussing potential changes to the shuttle and Soyuz launch schedules since there is a potential conflict between the flight of STS-115 and the launch of the ISS Expedition 14 crew on Soyuz.

Unfortunately, the thing they're trying to avoid -- which is against mission rules -- would be kinda cool if they would do it. Under the current schedule, it sets up the possibility that both Soyuz would arrive for the crew change-out while Atlantis was still at ISS. That would mean there would be three crewed spacecraft docked with ISS simultaneously (in addition to, I believe, a Progress or two) and a record twelve people woudl be aboard. However, as neat as that may be, it turns out its a bad idea.

The agencies are reportedly leaning towards shortening the STS-115 window and pushing the Expedition 14 launch back a few days. There's also talk of opening the 115 window a little bit earlier (which would move it into the weekend. Hmmmm...)

If Atlantis misses the August/September window, there's a three-day window in late October, which, if used, would allow STS-116 to stay on schedule for Dec. 14.

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-121 Final Update

STS-121 mission patch'Wheels stop."

The STS-121 crew and the space shuttle Discovery have returned safely to Earth after a successful 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

It is currently one month, 11 days until the scheduled STS-115 launch of Atlantis. (The countdown box in the lefthand sidebar has been reset.)

16 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Lazy Sunday

I went to the Third Annual Apollo/Saturn V Reunion at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center last night, but, since my photos and notes are already posted at collectSPACE, rather than reposting it here, I'm just going to direct you there.

Keywords: collectspace,history,huntsville,saturn,ussrc

14 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Sidebar Update Update

ATW logoHaving found some more information that supports and clarifies some of the stuff I wasn't sure about, I've gone back into the left-hand sidebar and made a few more additions to the launch schedule info. While tentative, this means the shuttle launch schedule is now complete.

In fact, it's arguably more than complete, since the missions I added include STS-125, which would be the final Hubble servicing mission, but which I do not believe is officially go at this point.

+ 0 - 0 | § Shuttle Sighting Update

shuttle docked to stationThe Discovery thing has started packing things up to leave the station tomorrow at 6:08 a.m. and begin the two-day trip home.

During the return trip, there may be opportunities to see the two spacecraft following each other through robit. You can visit Skywatch to see when or whether they'll pass over your location.

13 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Picture Of The Day

ISS planned complete

At the U.S. Space & Rocket Center last week, I made the comment to someone that their outdated -- and overly ambitious -- artwork of what the International Space Station would look like when finished needed a little footnote: "*NOTE: Actual Space Station may vary from model pictured here."
The picture above, though, is the current planned complete version of ISS, and, assuming the shuttle is actually ready to start flying regularly again, seems to be an attainable goal.
In contrast, here's the station's configuration prior to Discovery's arrival.
More images of the planned complete status can be found here.

+ 0 - 0 | § Blowing Up In Space Update

Bigelow AerospacePer
Robert Bigelow, head of Bigelow Aerospace has confirmed that the Genesis-1 spacecraft has successfully expanded. “We have also confirmed that all of the solar arrays have been deployed,” he noted.

At the firm’s mission control center in Las Vegas, Nevada, information has been acquired from Genesis-1. “The ISC Kosmotras Dnepr rocket has flawlessly delivered the Genesis-1 into the target orbit of 550 kilometers altitude at 64 degrees inclination,” Bigelow said.
“It’s going better than we would have anticipated,” added Mike Gold, corporate counsel for Bigelow Aerospace in Washington, D.C. Both he and Pierson, and other Bigelow Aerospace personnel were on hand for the Dnepr liftoff that placed Genesis-1 into Earth orbit.

12 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Career Options


+ 0 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchPer Spaceflight Now:
The Discovery astronauts, working through a relatively relaxed day of space station equipment and supply transfers, say the shuttle's trouble-free launch and lack of significant impact damage show NASA is finally ready to put the Columbia tragedy behind it.

"My brother put it very well," pilot Mark Kelly, whose twin brother, Scott, is also an astronaut, told The Associated Press. "I spoke to him on what's called the IP phone, which is an internet phone, and he said 'we're back, baby!'"

11 July 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Sidebar Update

ATW logoEven though it is a complete exercise in futility, I've finally, after way too long, gotten around to updating the Aerospace Events box in the left-hand sidebar, making the assumption that with the success, so far, of STS-121, the shuttle may be able to resume flying something like a regular schedule.

That said, all of the dates listed are extremely subject to change.

I've also updated several of the individual mission pages, and added a few more of those. Those, too, are very subject to change.

+ 0 - 0 | § Blowing Up In Space

Bigelow AerospaceRussia has had some problems with launch vehicles in the last few years (as India did yesterday), but if the payload of a rocket scheduled for launch tomorrow blows up in orbit, then things will have gone perfectly.

According to Cosmic Log, Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis 1 inflatable space module is scheduled for launch tomorrow on a Russian rocket. As CL puts it, "If Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis 1 inflatable space module lifts off successfully, the test mission could mark a significant step toward an era of hotels and even sports complexes in space."

In my mind, Bigelow's work is possibly the most important step in the development of orbital space tourism, providing a destination in space where people would actually want to go. Sure, just being in orbit would be great, but to really enjoy it, you need space to float around, and volume is going to be a huge limitation for developers of early generations of commercial orbital vehicles. Bigelow provides a solution -- spacecraft builders can focus on developing an efficient (read: small and cheap) launch spacecraft, with the real experience for tourists being on his facility.

Even so, those vehicles are still years away. But knowing a major step towards that destination could come tomorrow makes the future seem that much closer.

+ 0 - 0 | § The Fix Is In

EvA picThanks to yesterday's spacewalk, the International Space Station's robot arm mobile transporter platform is once again mobile.

The repair means that station assembly can resume with the STS-115 mission, currently scheduled for next month. Per Phil Engelauf, chief of NASA's flight directors office: "It's great to be focused on how well everything's going on 121. But we have a huge amount of work coming ahead and the success of this mission so far, I think, is a good indicator that we're heading towards another launch in the August time frame unless anything new comes up."

+ 0 - 0 | § Today In History

time Skylab cover

On this date in 1979, Skylab returned to Earth, somewhat the worse for wear.

Keywords: history,nasa,skylab,space

10 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § New View

Discovery launchAmong the changes made for STS-121 was the opportunity to see launch as never before.

Discovery's two solid rocket boosters each carried three cameras that filmed the launch. Now that the SRBs have been recovered, the video they took is available online, and provides a perspective on take off very different even from the snippets of the ET cam that were shown during launch.

(Jordan -- I think you were the one I talked with about the covers on the RCS thrusters on the nose of the orbiter, and how the thrusters were uncovered. The covers can be seen falling off in this footage.)

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

DiscoveryDiscovery looks good.

After days of examining imagery of the orbiter's heat shield, NASA managers have concluded that there was no significant damage during launch, and have cleared the shuttle to come home one week from today.

John Shannon, chairman of NASA's Mission Management Team, said he remains optimistic NASA will resolve the few problems that have cropped up during Discovery's flight in time to launch the shuttle Atlantis Aug. 28 on a space station assembly mission, the first shuttle construction flight since Columbia went down in 2003.

In fact, it appears right now that the scheduling of the next flight depends not on anything related to the shuttle, but on the currently on-going spacewalk to repair the station's robot arm mobile platform.

NASA's official launch schedule currently shows STS-115 as NET Aug. 28.

Addendum: Launch is apparently scheduled for 4:04 p.m. EDT, but I can't find a site to confirm that yet.

08 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

DiscoveryPer Spaceflight Now:
NASA's Mission Management Team today officially approved a one-day mission extension for shuttle Discovery's crew, allowing the astronauts to stage a third spacewalk next week to test wing leading edge repair techniques.
With spacewalk preparations in high gear, engineers are still assessing the health of two leading edge panels on Discovery's right wing, along with a protruding gap filler just in front of a propellant feedline access door on the orbiter's belly. Mission Management Team Chairman John Shannon said today it might take another day or two before engineers can either give Discovery a clean bill of health or show the "regions of interest" represent potentially serious problems. While many engineers are optimistic - Discovery appears to be one of the "cleanest" shuttles ever launched - Shannon said he would not speculate on the possible outcome of the ongoing engineering analysis.
Likewise, engineers are still examining two RCC panels on Discovery's right wing - RCC panels 5R and 9R - that show apparent discoloration or other unexpected markings. Engineers are hopeful analysis of data from earlier laser scans and high-resolution imagery shot by the crew today will show no cracks or other serious defects exist. But given the high stakes involved, the RCC community is taking a thorough look at both panels.

07 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Changes In Altitude

This may be fixed by the time you see it (I kinda hope it is), but Fox News has revealed that this space shuttle mission is orbiting much higher than previous flights (Check the caption on the second picture).

+ 0 - 0 | § Ares Notes

Ares V launch with Ares program logoA few things I learned at a presentation yesterday:

06 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

DiscoveryDiscovery is now safely docked with the International Space Station. Prior to the docking, the shuttle posed for the station crew to take additional images to check for damage. So far, with launch imagery, inspection boom imagery and the station's imagery, Discovery appears to be in excellent shape, though inspection of the pictures is still ongoing. (It has been discovered that a bird pooped on the shuttle, possibly in revenge for last year. [As a friend of mine put it, "Hello. My name is Inigo the bird. You killed my father. Prepare to be pooped on!"[)

+ 0 - 0 | § Shuttle Sighting Update

shuttle docked to stationI tried to watch the shuttle and station passes last night, but was unable to do so because it was overcast.

Boy, what are the odds I would be in the right place at the right time to see the shuttle fly, but miss out on it because of clouds?

Anyway, after today's docking, you won't be able to see the two spacecraft individually, but they combined vehicles should be brighter than the two individiually. You can visit Skywatch to see when they'll pass over your location.

Also, after the undocking, there may be more opportunities to see the vehicles separately again.

05 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Shuttle Sighting

The shuttle docks with the ISS tomorrow. I don't have any official word, but frequently before docking, it's possible to see the shuttle chasing the station at night.

I ran locations of a few ATW readers, and there will be station sightings for them tonight, which means it may be possible to see both spacecraft.

In Birmingham, the sighting begins at 9:00:53 tonight and will last for about two and a half minutes. The station will appear almost due north at about 20 degrees off the horizon, and will head toward almost due east.

In Jackson, the sighting begins a few seconds before 9, and last three minutes. The same north to east pattern will apply, but the station will be lower in the sky, around 10 degrees off the horizon.

In Memphis, the sighting begins a few seconds after 9, and lasts over three minutes. Ditto on the north to east, and it will appear around 20 degrees from the horizon.

In Huntsville, the sighting starts at a few seconds after 9:01. Same north to east, about 25 degrees of the horizon.

To find more sighting info, visit SkyWatch.

Addendum: I ran some of those locations again for shuttle, with mixed results. In Huntsville, Discovery will appear about three minutes after ISS disappears, for about a minute and a half. In Memphis, though, she won't be visible.

+ 0 - 0 | § Our Adventure

us watching the shuttleI had promised a report on the trip, although, as I get ready to write it, I realize there's not really a whole lot to say.

We left Orlando for Titusville Saturday morning, arriving about four hours before launch was scheduled. Jordan found an ideal location on a pier. We had excellent visibility -- there was nothing to block the line of sight between us and the VAB and the pads. You couldn’t make out a lot of detail on the pads with the naked eye (though, when it was particularly clear, you could see the segments of the doors on the VAB), but with binoculars you could see the tops of the ET and SRBs (the orbiter was behind the pad from our vantage point). With Jordan’s telescope, you could clearly make out the clearly make out the ridged intertank area on the ET.

There was a pretty big crowd where we were; our pier was packed. Surrounding us were a group of college co-ops from Johnson Space Center. I had my old police-band scanner from my reporter days with me, and was able to pick up a ham-repeater of the launch control center audio feed. I’d considered getting rid of the thing a while back, and am very glad I didn’t -- it was the only way we knew what was going on (or when the launch was scrubbed). Between my scanner and Jordan’s telescope, we were information central on our pier.

Obviously, we would have preferred to see it launch, but, if you’re going to have to be there for a scrub, it was a great one. It went down to almost the last minute -- the weather switched back-and-forth between Go and No Go the whole time. At the end, when it was time to come out of the T-9 hold, they waited as long as possible to see if the weather would clear before finally making the decision to scrub.

If there had been any doubt that there had been a large crowd there for the launch, that would have been allayed on the way out of town. It took about two hours just to get from one side of Titusville to the other so we could get on the highway, and then quite a while to get back to Orlando.

The crowd had thinned considerably when we returned the next day; no idea how much of that was because of people only having time or dedication to try it once and how much of it was because the likelihood of a scrub was at 70 percent when we got there. Sunday was the opposite of Saturday -- no excitement at all. When the scrub was finally announced well before launch time, it was almost a relief. We carried our stuff back to the car in the rain and got back on the road. No traffic to fight this time.

We came back to Huntsville on Monday -- to make a very long story very short. The only space-related bit of the adventure was that I got a very bad signal phone call about the ET foam crack and the foam found on the pad, which left us uncertain whether there was even a possibility of a launch before the close of the window.

We did watch the launch, on my television at home yesterday; the second time in less than a year that I’ve been down there to watch a launch only to end up seeing it on TV at my house the day after I get home. But that just means I’m improving my odds for next time, right?

That said, a big-screen TV is not a bad way to watch a launch; it’s nice being able to see the detail that you wouldn’t get in person. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I am very glad, though, that our road-trip party all got to watch the launch together; it provided some closure for the trip.

Now I’m just trying to figure out when I can go back.

+ 0 - 0 | § Ares

ares graphicDuring a recent visit to Marshall, NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale mentioned that the agency needed a better name than "CaLV" for its planned heavy lift vehicle if it wanted to inspire the public. (She also noted that the names used internally at MSFC for the booster -- "Big Daddy" and "Kong" -- probably weren't quite right either.)

I'll be honest, the newly announced names for the new boosters, Ares I (the smaller crew launch vehicle) and Ares V (the most powerful booster ever), didn't really grab me at first, though I had no problems with them. Basically, Ares seems questionable for a rocket designed initially for the moon (even if plans are for it to support later Mars missions).

I do like, though, the planetary name continuing from earlier boosters. (Von Braun's team created Redstone variants named Juno and Jupiter. When it came time to name the rockets for the Apollo program, Saturn was selected because it came after Jupiter. Following that trend, the new rockets should have been Uranus, but Ares is probably a much better option.)

I also really like the I and V designations, a reference to the rockets' Saturn analogs.

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchMy favorite thing about the STS-121 mission so far? The shuttle is in space, launch video review is well underway, and the crew is carrying on inspections of the orbiter -- and the next shuttle launch is still scheduled for next month. That could change, of course, but, at this point, there's no indication that it will. And that's very nice, indeed.

+ 0 - 0 | § Saturn Apollo Reunion

Saturn V artworkThe third annual Saturn Apollo Reunion will be held in Huntsville next weekend on July 15 at the Space and Rocket Center. Featured guests will be astronaut Dick Gordon (of Gemini XI and Apollo 12) and George Mueller, who was the head of manned spaceflight at NASA during Apollo.

Last year, there were quite a few members of the original Saturn team at the event as well.

+ 0 - 0 | § Space iPods

fake space iPod adThis has been discussed for a while, but I've finally seen confirmation at collectSPACE -- the there are iPods in space. The STS-121 crew carried their music on iPods, as did Thomas Reiter, meaning his will be in space during his entire long-duration mission.

Keywords: apple,collectspace,international_space_station,ipod,space,space_shuttle,sts_121

+ 0 - 0 | § T-Space

Superman returnsThe teaser trailer for the Transformers movie is now online, and it makes pretty liberal use of NASA stock footage (and plays pretty fast and loose with facts considering it deals with an event in the pretty recent past, but the average viewer probably won't realize that).

My favorite part, though, is that -- and I guess this is appropriate, given what movie this is -- a rocket transforms from one booster to another in mid-flight.

+ 0 - 0 | § The View

foam sheddingI am so far behind on just about everything in life and work right now that it'll be a while before I'm able to really catch up on our experiences over the past few days. Suffice it to say, we did see the STS-121 launch -- on my TV at home yesterday.

One thing that really struck me though -- Back in '61, there was some discussion about how to let Alan Shepard's launch be covered. The month before, the Soviet Union, in true Soviet style, had conducted Gagarin's launch in secret, announcing it only after it was successful. There were those who argued that the U.S. should handle its first spaceflight the same way. Ultimately, though, it was decided that if we couldn't be the first into space, and weren't even making an orbital flight yet, the one thing we could outdo the Soviets on was letting the public watch while it happened. If it went horribly wrong, the world would be watching.

Yesterday's launch shows that the same attitude is still very much alive and well at NASA. I haven't yet gone back and compared the times to confirm that what we were pretty sure we saw shedding during launch was in fact some of the foam that fell off. This is only the third launch, though, to carry an ET-mounted camera watching the launch. It would have been very easy to limit the broadcast of the launch to the ground-based views that the public has had on the other 112 launches. But instead NASA decided to take the approach of showing the ET camera view, and if that means the public sees foam shedding during launch, then so be it.

I'm very pleased that it appears that the shedding was not a problem, but I have much respect for those in the agency who made the decision to conduct the launch openly.

01 July 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Our Day

Click here for pic file.

We'll try again tomorrow.