Cool links

+ 0 - 1 | § Huntsville is Rocket City again

"NASA is unfolding its road map for the United States' return to the moon --- and once again, the road runs through Huntsville, where Wernher von Braun and his team of German scientists helped build the mighty rockets that first put the men on the moon."

+ 0 - 1 | § Stennis completes 1,000th test of shuttle engine

Per The Clarion-Ledger.

+ 1 - 0 | § Voyager 1 Hits 100 AU Marker

Congrats to humanity's vanguard.


The opinions expressed on this page are those of the author, and very likely no one else.

Privacy Policy


01 Aug - 31 Aug 2004
01 Sep - 30 Sep 2004
01 Oct - 31 Oct 2004
01 Nov - 30 Nov 2004
01 Dec - 31 Dec 2004
01 Jan - 31 Jan 2005
01 Feb - 28 Feb 2005
01 Mar - 31 Mar 2005
01 Apr - 30 Apr 2005
01 May - 31 May 2005
01 Jun - 30 Jun 2005
01 Jul - 31 Jul 2005
01 Aug - 31 Aug 2005
01 Sep - 30 Sep 2005
01 Oct - 31 Oct 2005
01 Nov - 30 Nov 2005
01 Dec - 31 Dec 2005
01 Jan - 31 Jan 2006
01 Feb - 28 Feb 2006
01 Mar - 31 Mar 2006
01 Apr - 30 Apr 2006
01 May - 31 May 2006
01 Jun - 30 Jun 2006
01 Jul - 31 Jul 2006
01 Aug - 31 Aug 2006
01 Sep - 30 Sep 2006
01 Oct - 31 Oct 2006
01 Nov - 30 Nov 2006
01 Dec - 31 Dec 2006
01 Jan - 31 Jan 2007
01 Feb - 28 Feb 2007
01 Mar - 31 Mar 2007
01 Apr - 30 Apr 2007
01 May - 31 May 2007
01 Jun - 30 Jun 2007

Older Archives

1 Aug.-18 Aug. 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
1 Apr.-16 Apr. 2003
30 Mar.-5 Apr. 2003
17 Mar.-29 Mar. 2003
10 Mar.-16 Mar. 2003
9 Mar.-15 Mar. 2003
2 Mar.-8 Mar. 2003
23 Feb.-1 Mar. 2003
19 Feb.-22 Feb. 2003



Powered by Pivot - 1.40.1: 'Dreadwind' 
XML: RSS Feed 
XML: Atom Feed 

Listed on Blogwise

Blog Flux Directory

Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Countdown Creations, your space superstore!

eXTReMe Tracker Science Blogs - Blog Top Sites

My Profile

Name: David Hitt
About Me: Inspiring the next generation of explorers...
See my complete profile

Last Referrers


Time remaining until the STS-117 launch of Atlantis:


The "All These Worlds" Space Blog is maintained by David Hitt. Be sure to check out the full blog.

Last Comments

David (Puddles On Mars): So, about those puddles? …
David (Forward The Futur…): Now here’s hoping the fun…
David (STS-117 Update): Oh, very nice! I’m jealou…
Nancy (Forward The Futur…): Well, it seems like NASA…
shirley (STS-117 Update): early sunday watched both…
David (World's Largest T…): Yeah, I’ve gotten a bette…
Joe (World's Largest T…): It’s the robots that are …
David (World's Largest T…): Nah, that would be just t…
Joe (World's Largest T…): They’re going to shut dow…
Tutor (World's Largest T…): Wouldn’t it be cool if NA…

Space Blogs

Why Homeschool
Space Politics
Cosmic Log
Auxiliary Umbilicus

Aerospace Events


NET 6/8 -- STS-117 launch
6/20 -- Dawn launch
Late June -- Genesis II launch

July or August

? -- SpaceShipTwo Unveiling


8/3 -- Mars Phoenix launch
NET 8/9 -- STS-118 launch


10/6 -- Exp. 16 Soyuz launch
NET 10/20 -- STS-120 launch


Mid-month -- Jules Verne ATV launch


NET 12/6 -- STS-122 launch


NET 2/14 -- STS-123 launch


NET 4/24 -- STS-124 launch


NET 7/10 -- STS-119 launch


? -- Dragon I launch

NET 9/10 -- STS-125 launch


10/9 -- STS-126 launch

? -- LRO launch

Unknown 2008

? -- SpaceShipTwo test flight


NET 1/15 -- STS-127 launch


? -- Japanese HTV-1 launch


? -- Ares I-X launch
NET 4/9 -- STS-128 launch


NET 7/9 -- STS-129 launch


NET 9/30 -- STS-130 launch


? -- Silver Dart orbital test flight

Unknown 2009

Mid-year -- Silver Dart flight
Fall -- Mars Science Lab launch
? -- DreamChaser suborbital flight
? -- Rocketplane XP first flight


NET 4/1 -- STS-132 launch


? -- Ares I-Y launch

Other Missions
STS-131STS-133Shenzhou VIIShenzhou IXShenzhou X
All dates subject to change.


Space News

Spaceflight Now
Martian Soil
Space Buffs
Space Daily
Saturn V Renovation

Think Different

In honor of the STS-107 crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia

Microsoft: Embrace Mediocrity

Hatbag button

Hatbag Productions logo


More Space Blogs

| ATW Full Blog | About David | Contact | ATW Theme Song | |

31 August 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchYou'll notice that the countdown clock in the upper left is running again.

Sept. 6 is now official. 12:28:49 p.m. EDT.

There will be three chances to launch -- five minutes each on Wednesday, Thurday and Friday.

+ 1 - 0 | § Orion Update

Orion CSMPer NASA:
In what amounts to one of the most significant NASA procurements in more than 30 years, two industry teams have spent the past 13 months refining concepts, analyzing requirements and sketching designs for Orion. On Thursday, managers of NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate will reveal which of the two teams has been chosen to build it.

The two competitors are a Northrop Grumman/Boeing team and a Lockheed Martin team. The announcement will be made at a 3 p.m. CDT press conference, which will be aired on TV and the Web via NASA TV.

+ 0 - 1 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchStill technically no official launch date, but they're working towards Sept. 6, weather allowing. The window has been extended through Sept. 8, meaning there will be three launch opportunities. After that, who knows?

30 August 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Martian Party Line

martian landscapeSo that whole 90-day lifetime thing for the two Mars rovers -- they didn't really believe that, did they?

As that initial estimate has proved so far to be over an order of magnitude off, people have asked how that number was derived, and whether it wasn't an intentionally ridiculously low figure.

Regardless of how confident they were in exactly 90 days, it appears they really didn't beleive there was a chance the rovers would last this long -- it turns out the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was built using a spare transmitter from Spirit. What that means is that the two use the exact same frequency, and, thus, if they transmit at the same time, basically talk over each other. The move was seen as a reasonable way to save money and time, and nobody thought that Spirit would still be alive when MRO started transmitting.

The problem can be worked out, but is a testament to the surprising durability of the rovers. (And, hopefully, a lesson learned for future Mars exploration -- one would hope that next year's Phoenix lander will have its own dedicated frequency.)

+ 1 - 1 | § Regular Richie Feature -- Special Space Edition

RichieAmong the search strings that have brought people to ATW in the past couple of days:For the lay readers out there, NASA will be announcing on Thursday whether the Grumman/Boeing team or the Lockheed Martin team will be getting the contract to develop the Crew Exploration Vehicle, and apparently there's a fair bit of interest in who's going to get it. Some of the recent searches on that topic have been from people that work in the involved companies.
Folks, they're gonna announce it Thursday. You're not going to find out their decision on some space blog. I have no clue.
(Well, actually, I have heard a rumor, and I'd say I'm about 50 percent confident it's right.)

Also in the last 20 search strings: Sorry, folks -- it's not a planet. Well, I've been saying that the whole time, but it's officially not a planet now. Go on with your lives.

Non-space searches in the last 20:

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchSo, maybe a week from today. If not the 6th, the window closes on the 7th, though NASA is reportedly trying to negotiate with the Russians to get maybe an extra day or so.

If that doesn't happen, right now the next window would open in late October. That brief window, and another short one in November, would make it possible to still keep STS-116 on schedule for Dec. 14. However, another option would be to change the lighting requirements for this launch. Allowing a night launch would create several new possibilities. (Plans are currently for STS-116 to be a night launch, so it would only be dropping the lighting requirements one flight earlier than planned.)

29 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchRollback should be underway right now.

There is currently not a scheduled launch date for STS-115.

More as it develops.

As mentioned the other day, this one should be interesting, folks.

28 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Iron Supplements

Food service worker displays packaged mealsIn The Houston Chronicle, the headline for a story was "Variety adds a little spice to meals on the shuttle"

In the daily NASA News Summary, though, they titled it "Space Food Includes New Items, Old Staples"

Uh, ow... And you thought that old astronaut ice cream was bad.

+ 0 - 1 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchPer NASA:
NASA mission managers Monday morning decided to scrub Tuesday's scheduled launch attempt of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Preliminary preparations are also under way to roll the orbiter back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, although no final decision has been made to allow for possible changes in Tropical Storm Ernesto's track. That decision is expected by midday Tuesday.

NASA's lighted launch window extends to Sept. 13, but mission managers are hoping to launch by Sept. 7 to avoid a conflict with a Russian Soyuz rocket also bound for the International Space Station. Officials are talking with our Russian partners about the issue.

I really don't know what exactly is going on, but this one could end up having an unusual solution, such as possibly a back-to-back roll-back and roll-out to avoid the storm and sill meet the window. Also talk of trying to get the Soyuz up ahead of schedule so that they can get up and back down to let Atlantis launch before the max window deadline without the two overlappping at station.

Stay tuned.

27 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Orion Update

So it turns out that the Orion logo that I'm not terribly keen on was created by Mike Okuda.
Which may explain the current state of Trek.

26 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Mike Brown, Destroyer of Worlds

artwork showing planetsMy thoughts about astronomer Mike Brown have been greatly influenced by his Huntsville origins.

When he discovered 2003 UB313, he was a hero, and I was proud to see someone from my hometown accomplish something like that.

On the flip side, while living here, he attended Grissom High School (named, natch, for Gus Grissom), which, for me at least, was my alma mater Huntsville High School's biggest rival. So when he tried to call that small ice ball a planet, my reaction was along the lines that it was typical arrogance of a Grissom alum.

This week, though, I'm once more proud to call him a Huntsvillian. I really admire the stand he's taken that Pluto, and thus the other KBOs, should not be planets. By standing up for his convictions, he may well have cost himself a place in the history books as the discoverer of perhaps multiple planets. With a different definition, he could perhaps have been the most significant astronomer, with respect to our solar system, since Galileo. But he fought against that for what he felt was right.

The Huntsville Times had a great story yesterday about him, but it was a combination of AP and local reporting, so its neither on the wire nor on the HT Web site, with some great quotes from both Brown ("It's all my fault. I may go down in history as the guy who killed Pluto.") and his mom, but I can't post it here.

I can, though, post The Times' story today about Pluto, with a lead I was less than impressed with: "For years, Davina Mann, a Madison County Elementary School teacher, has collected three-dimensional models of the solar system showing Pluto hovering at the edge of the galaxy."

Well, I mean, yeah, I guess it's kinda near the edge of the galaxy, but, um, not so much relatively speaking compared to the rest of the solar system. (In fact, I guess sometimes less so than the rest of the solar system, as it reaches the part of its orbit opposite the galactic rim.)

+ 0 - 1 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchSCRUB!

On the good news front, though, they did manage to get my STS-115 stories online Friday, before the launch. (Barely. [Hopefully.]) So that's something.

24 August 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § SoaLM


I would so watch that.

+ 0 - 1 | § Our Eight Planets!!

artwork showing planetsOK, I'll admit it, now that it's done, there's a part of me that has a sort of sentimental melancholy about Pluto's demotion. Yeah, it's gonna be tough getting used to the idea that it's not a planet anymore. And it's kind of sad that our solar system no longer has that cool thing where which planet is the ninth changes from time to time.

That said, I'm am very pleased that the IAU has done the right thing, and made what had to be a difficult decision.

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchMeant to post this a while back, but lost it.

Per The AP:
Atlantis’ six astronauts were supposed to fly to the international space station more than three years ago.

But the Columbia disaster in early 2003 and problems with the three remaining shuttles kept them on the ground.

Through it all, the six astronauts stuck together, and their 4½ years of training set a record.

Just a reminder -- the official countdown begins today at 5 p.m. CDT.

23 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Our Eight(?) Planets

artwork showing planetsAccording to The New York Times, it's looking increasingly like the 12-planet-plus proposal is going to be nixed, and Pluto will lose its planetary status.

Which makes me happy.

Nothing personal, Pluto.

+ 0 - 1 | § Orion Is Official

Orion spacecraftPer NASA:
NASA announced Tuesday that its new crew exploration vehicle will be named Orion.

Orion is the vehicle NASA’s Constellation Program is developing to carry a new generation of explorers back to the moon and later to Mars. Orion will succeed the space shuttle as NASA's primary vehicle for human space exploration.

Orion's first flight with astronauts onboard is planned for no later than 2014 to the International Space Station. Its first flight to the moon is planned for no later than 2020.

Orion is named for one of the brightest, most familiar and easily identifiable constellations.

So, thoughts about the name?

22 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Our Dozen Eight Planets?

artwork showing planetsStephen Colbert and Neil De Grasse Tyson trash talk the "planets."

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchThe official countdown for STS-115 will begin Thursday at 5 p.m. CDT, at T -43 hours.

+ 0 - 0 | § Heart Of The Matter

dark matter"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible..."

As a rule, scientists seek certainty. So it's rather unusual that for more than 70 years, many astronomers have wagered the universe is primarily made of dark matter -- a mysterious and unproven substance.

It's a bet that finally paid off, because a team of scientists working with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has found direct evidence that dark matter is as real as the rings around Saturn.

The discovery cements dark matter's status as the biggest building block in the universe, while also putting to rest the nagging worries of many astronomers that they gambled wrong.

21 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Official Announcement

Silent Sea coverMost ATW readers already know this, I'm sure, but here's the official word, from collectSPACE:
Outward Odyssey
A History of Human Space Exploration

To be published by the University of Nebraska Press

Information release by series editor Colin Burgess, Sydney, Australia

I am pleased to announce the imminent release of the first books in a major undertaking by the University of Nebraska Press, which will detail the social history (human, rather than technical) of space exploration. This series of important books will be released under the series title of Outward Odyssey.

Many of the series' writers, carefully selected over the past three years, are first-time book authors, but all are long-time space enthusiasts ...

The first two books, to be titled Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era 1961-1965 and In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility 1965-1969 will be released in the spring and summer of 2007. These two books, which I have co-authored with Francis French, include forewords by Paul Haney and Walt Cunningham respectively. They tell the story of human space flight from Yuri Gagarin to the day that Apollo 11 set down on the moon. Being a social history of that enterprise, they contain the stories of the men and women involved in the Space Race between the United States and what was then the Soviet Union. The personal stories of the cosmonauts and astronauts are told through their words, and those of colleagues and friends who knew them well. What were the motivations and inspirations in their lives that led them to wanting to ride rockets into the silent sea of space?
The Skylab book has been written by David Hitt, together with Skylab astronauts Owen Garriott and Joe Kerwin, and features original contributions from other Skylab astronauts, including an important section based on the personal in-flight diary of Alan Bean. The foreword has already been written by Homer Hickam.
There will also be two books on the social history of the space shuttle program. The first will discuss the origins and early days of the shuttle program, and will cover the period up to and including the Challenger tragedy. This book will be written by David Hitt, in his second book of the series.
There will be a large function held to launch the space book series in the summer of 2007, and I will release details once full details of the dates and venue have been determined.

Each of the books is designed to stand alone, but also to be an integral part of the entire space book series.

Further details will be announced as they become known.

Keywords: books,collectspace,history,outward_odyssey,skylab,space_shuttle

+ 1 - 0 | § Our Eight Planets?

artwork showing planetsThere appears to be strong support for an alternate proposal brought before the IAU that would demote Pluto from "real" planet status, labelling it instead as a "dwarf planet."

Reports coming from the IAU meeting indicate that it's going to be a close decision, with the participants about evenly split on whether or not Pluto should remain a planet. (Even with Pluto supporters, though, the term "pluton" is apparently proving unpopular.)

So, perhaps there's hope yet.

+ 0 - 1 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchAtlantis' KU antenna bolts have been replaced, and everything is on track for launch at 4:29:55 EDT Sunday.

If everything continues to progress on schedule, one week from now, Atlantis will be on her way to the ISS.

This bolt situation, while relatively minor news, is an excellent example of one of NASA's greatest strengths.

The discussion basically went like this:

"If there's a problem with those bolts, there's no way to fix it on the pad."

"Well, there is a problem with the bolts, but we need to fix it on the pad."

"OK, done."

There are similar stories throughout the Skylab book. The station suffered failures of its attitude control gyroscopes. And each time, before it happened, it was understood that if one failed, they couldn't control the station. And it would fail, and the CMG people would come back and say, OK, here's how you handle it.

For all the criticism NASA gets about its faults, people often overlook the agency's continued ability to do the undoable.

+ 0 - 1 | § COTS In The Act Update

k-1 orbital vehicleSpaceX orbital vehiclePer NASA:
NASA is making an unprecedented investment in commercial space transportation services with the hope of creating a competitive market for supply flights to the International Space Station (ISS).

Two industry partners will receive a combined total of approximately $500 million to help fund the development of reliable, cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit. The agency is using its Space Act authority to facilitate the demonstration of these new capabilities. NASA signed Space Agreements Aug. 18 with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of El Segundo, Calif., and Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) of Oklahoma City to develop and demonstrate the vehicles, systems, and operations needed to support a human facility such as ISS. Once the space shuttle is retired, NASA hopes to become just one of many customers for a new, out-of-this-world parcel service.
The demonstrations are scheduled to begin as early as 2008 and continue through 2010 or later. COTS will be carried out in two phases. Phase 1, unveiled Aug. 18, will include safe disposal or return of spacecraft that successfully dock at ISS and deliver cargo. A follow-on option to demonstrate crew transportation also is planned. Once demonstrated, NASA plans to purchase transportation services competitively in Phase 2.

Obviously, I'm a little disappointed that SpaceDev, which I've invested in, was not one of the teams selected, but it looks like NASA has picked two good proposals. (And I have a soft spot for the Rocketplane-Kistler team, since the management includes George Mueller, who, as the head of manned spaceflight at NASA in the '60s was extremely integral to the development of Skylab.)

Most of all, though, it's just incredible to think that, regardless of who got picked, NASA had that many strong options for commercial launch services. Things really are changing. Exciting times.

18 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Ares I

I've been meaning to post this, but keep forgetting -- This week, Marshall Space Flight Center had on display a 25-foot-tall mock-up of the Ares I, the new crew launch vehicle currently under development. Some pictures of the display have been posted at collectSPACE.

Keywords: ares,collectspace,constellation,marshall_space_flight_center

+ 0 - 1 | § COTS In The Act

dream chaserNASA today will announce contracts for commercial delivery services to the International Space Station, in which NASA will hire private spacecraft to deliver cargo to the ISS. Six finalists are in the running: Andrews Space, Rocketplane Kistler, SpaceDev, Spacehab, SpaceX and T/Space.

(I mentioned earlier in the week that after hoping for a jump in the value of my Apple stock from WWDC it ended up being a disappointing week or so. I fear I may be looking at the same situation with my SpaceDev stock today. Regardless, though, there are some strong teams with great proposals, and it will be exciting to see what comes of this.)

+ 1 - 0 | § Planetary Schism

artwork showing has an article about the fact that astronomers are divided on the proposed guideline for what constitutes a planet.

My favorite part: "It is ironic that we are left with more, not fewer objects for which we are uncertain of their 'planetary' status," Charbonneau told "Perhaps astronomy will undergo a schism, with sects of astronomers proclaiming different numbers of planets."

16 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchLaunch is now officially scheduled for August 27, with a caveat or two.

Details will be here, but haven't been posted as of this writing.

The ATW Countdown is now showing 10 days, 23 hours and 31 minutes.

+ 1 - 1 | § Our Dozen Planets

artwork showing planetsPer NASA:
The International Astronomical Union, currently meeting in Prague, is expected to vote on the definition of a planet. The organization, which has named planets and moons since it was founded in 1919, is debating a plan to establish that our solar system has 12 planets.

The designated dozen would include eight of the traditional nine -- Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune -- plus Ceres, the largest known asteroid. Pluto would still be a planet, but in a category to be called "plutons." It would be joined in that category by two other planetary newcomers: Charon, formerly known as Pluto's moon, and the recently-discovered 2003 UB313. The International Astronomical Union says a dozen additional objects are under consideration for planethood, and even more may be added later on.

I am unimpressed.

What a cop-out.

Faced with a very difficult problem, the IAU is apparently planning to respond with a non-answer. Rather than creating a precise delineation of what is and isn't a planet, this rule comes up with the broadest possible definition -- "round things that go around stars." (And, while answering the planet question for things like Pluto and 2003 UB313, it leaves issues on the other end of the spectrum, which will have to be dealt with as we discover more extrasolar worlds: a planet has to orbit a star, but not be a star. As we find bodies that hug the line between gas giant and brown dwarf, how do we decide what's a planet and what's a star? Easy -- planets are the ones that aren't stars. Oh, thanks for that.)

Regardless of size, Ceres has more in common with asteroids than with planets. Regardless of size and shape, Pluto and UB313 have more in common with KBOs than with planets. Rather than create these artificial delineations, we should create definitions that group like objects together. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are like each other. They are rocky planets. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are like each other. They are gaseous planets. While those two groups are diferent, I have no problem with both being grouped under the term planet, nor with that term being applied to extrasolar bodies that fit within those two categories. Asteroids are asteroids. KBOs are KBOs. Comets are comets. It's that simple. (Well, almost that simple -- extrasolar KBOs aren't KBOs unless you define Kuiper Belt in a way that could apply to other stellar systems.)

The one thing I do like? Even though it's wrong, wrong, wrong, I do think the idea of having a double planet system in our solar system is kinda cool.

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchSpaceflight Now has a good update on the status of the STS-115 Flight Readiness Review and the KU antenna bolt situation, which, if judged to be a problem, has the potential to delay the launch (with a window that's already short).

14 August 2006

+ 0 - 1 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchPer Spaceflight Now:
Engineers are trying to determine whether critical bolts holding the shuttle Atlantis' KU-band antenna box in place are securely threaded, a potentially serious issue that could require tricky repairs before the ship's Aug. 27 launch, sources said Sunday.

A two-day flight readiness review to assess Atlantis' ground processing, to resolve open issues and to set an official launch date begins Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch window for the 116th shuttle mission opens Aug. 27 at 4:30 p.m. and closes Sept. 7.

The KU-band antenna bolt issue will be discussed Monday, but it's not yet clear whether the issue can be resolved before the flight readiness review begins or whether additional work will be needed to determine what, if anything, needs to be done.

11 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Art For Orion

The collectSPACE Web site, which was the first to report that NASA is expected to name the CEV project Orion, is now reporting that the agency has designed a logo for the program.

Personally, I'm hoping the version there is just a rough draft or something -- it doesn't really seem consistent with the other Vision-related logos.

Keywords: collectspace,constellation,design,nasa,orion,space

+ 0 - 1 | § Celestial Demotion

Pluto systemCan a fictional character unseat a god?

For 75 years, Pluto has enjoyed a position -- some, including this blog, would say undeserved -- as the ninth planet in our solar system.

Then came 2003 UB313, known affectionately by some -- although not including this blog -- as Xena.

The discovery of another Kuiper Belt Object larger than Pluto sent waves through the astronomy community. Its discoverers immediately declared that it was a planet, but those who would make that decision officially had some questions.

The problem is, if 2003 UB313 isn't a planet, what does that mean for the smaller KBO Pluto?

The IAU is expected to make a ruling possibly as soon as next month about what exactly constitutes a planet. is reporting a rumor that Pluto will indeed be demoted to a new classification, such as a "dwarf planet."

So perhaps Xena will succeed in casting the mighty Pluto from his vaunted place in the heavens.

Addendum: NPR is reporting the same news with basically the opposite slant: "An international panel has unanimously recommended that Pluto retain its title as a planet, and it may be joined by other undersized objects that revolve around the sun. Some astronomers had lobbied for reclassifying Pluto because it is so tiny. And at least one major museum has excluded Pluto from its planetary display. But sources tell NPR that under a proposal to be presented at a big meeting of astronomers in Prague next week for a vote, Pluto would become part of a new class of small planets."

10 August 2006

+ 0 - 1 | § Saving Skylab Update

Skylab trainer being movedThe Oranage County Register has a new story about the effort to restore the Skylab trainer at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. (My favorite part of the new story: "The trainer is basically part a former Saturn rocket. It's shaped like a enormous beer can." I think we may have a new title for our book -- "Skylab: Enormous Beer Can IN SPACE!")

The restoration project made the front page of yesterday, which is very very cool.

We have our first work session Saturday morning. I'm looking forward to getting my hands dirty with this.

+ 0 - 1 | § James Van Allen, RIP

James Van Allen et al hold Explorer 1Per NASA:
NASA is remembering pioneering astrophysicist James Van Allen, who died Aug. 9 at the age of 91.

"James Van Allen was one of the greatest and most accomplished American space scientists of our time and few researchers had such wide range of expertise in so many scientific disciplines," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. "NASA's path of space exploration is far more advanced today because of Dr. Van Allen's ground breaking work."

Van Allen's most widely known contribution was the 1958 discovery of radiation belts, now called Van Allen belts, encircling the Earth. He also is credited with discovery of a new moon of Saturn in 1979, as well as radiation belts around that planet.

Though the NASA article doesn't mention it, Van Allen was also an outspoken critic of human spaceflight, advocating instead increased robotic exploration.

Addendum: More on that last point.

09 August 2006

+ 0 - 1 | § Constellation Notes

It's been a slow news day today, so I thought I'd share some of my notes from the Exploration Systems media day I attended last week. (more)

08 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § German Record

thomas reiter on EVAPer
Germany has a new spaceflight champion in Thomas Reiter, who is now setting a daily record aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for the most time spent in space by a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut.

Now more than one month into his 175-day mission aboard the ISS, Reiter has passed the 212-day mark of career spaceflight time while orbiting the Earth as a flight engineer with the station’s Expedition 13 crew. The milestone pushed Reiter ahead of former ESA spaceflight record-holder Jean-Pierre Haigneré, of France, who spent 209 days, 12 hours, 25 minutes and 11 seconds in space.

“At the end of your mission, you will have spent [nearly] one year in space,” Jean-Jacques Dordain, director-general for the ESA, told Reiter in a congratulatory message. “With this outstanding expertise and experience you – as our ‘highest flying’ colleague – symbolize Europe’s commitment to space “We are extremely proud of your achievements and wish you the best of luck in your remaining time up there.”

At the end of his mission, Reiter will not have enough total time in space to crack the top ten list -- currently all Russian cosmonauts -- but he will have more cumulative days than any NASA astronaut save one -- British-born Mike Foale. We're the world leader in a lot of areas of spaceflight, but actually living in space is not one of them.

07 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § Saving Skylab Update

skylab trainerI went to the first meeting of the Skylab Trainer Restoration project on Friday, and am eager to get started on it. The task will be challenging, but seems very do-able. (By and large, there will be a few long tent-poles.)

There's now a homepage for the project, and the AP released an article about it yesterday.

+ 0 - 1 | § Today In History

mars meteorite10 years ago today:
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
August 7, 1996


The South Lawn
1:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I'm glad to be joined by my science and technology adviser, Dr. Jack Gibbons, to make a few comments about today's announcement by NASA.

This is the product of years of exploration and months of intensive study by some of the world's most distinguished scientists. Like all discoveries, this one will and should continue to be reviewed, examined and scrutinized. It must be confirmed by other scientists. But clearly, the fact that something of this magnitude is being explored is another vindication of America's space program and our continuing support for it, even in these tough financial times. I am determined that the American space program will put it's full intellectual power and technological prowess behind the search for further evidence of life on Mars.

First, I have asked Administrator Goldin to ensure that this finding is subject to a methodical process of further peer review and validation. Second, I have asked the Vice President to convene at the White House before the end of the year a bipartisan space summit on the future of America's space program. A significant purpose of this summit will be to discuss how America should pursue answers to the scientific questions raised by this finding. Third, we are committed to the aggressive plan we have put in place for robotic exploration of Mars. America's next unmanned mission to Mars is scheduled to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in November. It will be followed by a second mission in December. I should tell you that the first mission is scheduled to land on Mars on July the 4th, 1997 -- Independence Day.

It is well worth contemplating how we reached this moment of discovery. More than 4 billion years ago this piece of rock was formed as a part of the original crust of Mars. After billions of years it broke from the surface and began a 16 million year journey through space that would end here on Earth. It arrived in a meteor shower 13,000 years ago. And in 1984 an American scientist on an annual U.S. government mission to search for meteors on Antarctica picked it up and took it to be studied. Appropriately, it was the first rock to be picked up that year -- rock number 84001.

Today, rock 84001 speaks to us across all those billions of years and millions of miles. It speaks of the possibility of life. If this discovery is confirmed, it will surely be one of the most stunning insights into our universe that science has ever uncovered. Its implications are as far-reaching and awe-inspiring as can be imagined. Even as it promises answers to some of our oldest questions, it poses still others even more fundamental.

We will continue to listen closely to what it has to say as we continue the search for answers and for knowledge that is as old as humanity itself but essential to our people's future.

Thank you.

04 August 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchSaturday's out.

The launch dates stays at NET Aug. 27.

As of this writing, 23 days, five hours, 26 minutes. And counting.

02 August 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § NASA Goes Digital

shuttle launch photoPer Popular Photography:
For decades now NASA has been a huge fan of film. Would Ed Aldrin's 1969 moonwalk, shot by Neil Armstrong with a Hasselblad 500EL, look as crisp in digital? Houston's Mission Control thought not, and kept the Hasselblad operational for years. But then came the disintegration of the shuttle Columbia in 2003, and Houston realized it needed to thoroughly examine an orbiter before it returned to earth.

For its new camera NASA chose the Kodak DCS 760, a 6MP digital SLR built around a Nikon F5 chassis. The 760's primary mission is to conduct a painstaking search for launch damage as small as one inch from a distance of 600 feet. The images are downlinked via the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System for closer inspection. All 760s are off-the-shelf save for a special lubricant, to prevent it from evaporating in the vacuum of space.

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

atlantis on the mobile platform
Atlantis is on the pad.

01 August 2006

+ 0 - 1 | § Marching Orders

In a move aimed squarely at countering what critics say is a broad move by NASA away from its scientific mandate to explore the solar system, House appropriators have included $15 million in the agency's fiscal 2007 appropriations bill for a robotic landing mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

Considered by many scientists to be the premier chance of finding life elsewhere in the solar system because of its Earth-like seas, a mission to Europa was declared a top priority of the National Academy of Sciences Solar System Decadal Survey of planetary scientists in 2002.

Such declarations have historically been viewed as mandates for action by the agency and acted upon accordingly. But some on Capitol Hill and in the planetary science community argue that a mission to explore Europa has fallen by the wayside as the agency moves away from the type of explorations that defined NASA throughout its history and focuses on President Bush's goal of a manned mission to Mars.

OK, $15 million is pocket change when you're talking about interplanetary missions, but I really do want to see this mission happen.

Keywords: space

+ 1 - 0 | § STS-115 Update

STS-115 mission patchRoll-out's been delayed again, due to weather. The new target time is tomorrow at 1 a.m. CDT. Don't know that I'll watch this time. (Though the pictures should be pretty, especially if they get some good ones around sunrise.)

+ 1 - 0 | § The Greatest Adventure

Woz HummerIf there are two things this blog loves, it's Apple and spaceflight.

Given that, this is possibly the coolest ATW post fodder of all time:

Steve Wozniak and Buzz Aldrin are going to drive a hydrogen-powered Hummer to the South Pole.

Let me repeat that one: Woz and Buzz are driving a Hummer to the South Pole together.

Man, what would I give to go along on that trip? Wow!

I was going to say, what could possibly be cooler than that, but actually, that's easy -- The duo being challenged to a race to the pole by Steve Jobs and Neil Armstrong in a rocket-powered Zamboni.