January 4, 2011 / 1:38 p.m. CT (1938 GMT) Patch preview | Satoshi Furukawa: JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa used Twitter on Tuesday to offer a first look at the patch for his upcoming stay onboard the International Space Station. From May to November this year, Furukawa will serve as a flight engineer with the ISS Expedition 28 and Expedition 29 crews. JAXA's patch for Furukawa's flight symbolizes the science he is to perform inside Japan's Kibo lab. It also celebrates the cooperation between Asian countries in the spirit of the space station.
January 4, 2011 / 4:39 p.m. CT (2239 GMT) Departure: Five-time space shuttle mission specialist Marsha Ivins retired Dec. 31 from NASA, the agency announced Tuesday. An astronaut since 1984, Ivins joined NASA 10 years earlier as an engineer, working on the shuttle's control systems and serving as a flight engineer for the shuttle training aircraft. She spent more than 1,300 hours in space during five shuttle flights: STS-32 in 1990, STS-46 in 1992, STS-62 in 1994, STS-81 in 1997, and on STS-98 in 2001. Before her departure, Ivins supported the space shuttle, space station and Constellation programs.
January 8, 2011 / 3:45 p.m. CT (2145 GMT) Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot: Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the prior chair and ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee for space and aeronautics, was shot Saturday outside a grocery store in northwest Tucson. According to local authorities, Jared Loughner, 22, opened fire at Rep. Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" constituent outreach event, wounding the congresswoman and 11 others, and killing at least five, including her aide, a federal judge and a nine-year-old child. Giffords was described as being in critical condition after surgery, but her doctors were "very optimistic" for her recovery. Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly is scheduled to command the final mission of space shuttle Endeavour in April. His twin brother Scott is currently commander of the International Space Station.
January 9, 2011 / 7:35 p.m. CT (0135 GMT Jan 10) Subway's (Air and) Space sack: Sandwich shop Subway has kicked off a "Fresh Fit for Kids" meal featuring National Air and Space Museum-themed reusable bags and activity cards. The Smithsonian sacks are designed with air and space scenes including "Balloons," "Jets" and "Pioneers of Flight." Other bags include "Constellations," "Solar System" and "Space," the latter displaying a suited astronaut and a space shuttle model kit activity card. This kids meal is not the first crossover between the restaurant and museum: when the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened in Chantilly, Va., in December 2003, Subway provided the concessions.
January 10, 2011 / 7:44 a.m. CT (1344 GMT) Astronaut Hall of Fame adding two: Karol "Bo" Bobko and Susan Helms, both veteran space shuttle fliers, will be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame this May at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Bobko, a shuttle commander who flew two orbiters' first flights, and Helms, a spacewalker who set a world record outside the International Space Station, will become the 78th and 79th astronauts to be enshrined in the Hall. A public ceremony will be held May 7, two days after the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. crewed spaceflight by the late Alan Shepard, who was among the Hall's first inductees in May 1990.
January 13, 2011 / 10:19 p.m. CT (0419 GMT Jan 14) Suited for Space (Store): Colorado-based online retailer The Space Store announced Thursday their exclusive sale of new replica space shuttle spacesuits designed for them by Hollywood wardrobe and special effects veterans. The replica of the launch and entry worn, orange Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES), affectionally dubbed the "pumpkin suit," was created to maximize authenticity, durability and affordability. The suit, which retails for $935, features an aluminum neck ring, operational pockets, and velcro attach points for mission patches. (Disclosure: The Space Store supplies collectSPACE's buySPACE store.)
January 14, 2011 / 6:07 p.m. CT (0007 GMT Jan 15) Departure: Astronaut Jose Hernandez, who on his first and only spaceflight in 2009 flew aboard space shuttle Discovery to resupply the International Space Station, has retired from NASA to join MEI Technologies as its executive director for strategic operations. Hernandez was selected to be an astronaut in 2004, three years after first going to work at the Johnson Space Center as a materials research engineer and branch chief. During his 14 days on STS-128, Hernandez managed the transfer of more than 18,000 pounds of supplies and equipment and served as a flight engineer for Discovery's launch and landing.
January 15, 2011 / 10:27 p.m. CT (0427 GMT Jan 16) Shuttle crew status: The final crews for the shuttles Discovery and Endeavour, both set to fly within the next few months, are facing possible changes. Spacewalker Tim Kopra, scheduled to launch Feb. 24 on Discovery's STS-133 mission, was injured Saturday in a bike accident that, according to NASA, could "impact" his duties on the flight. Kopra, who also serves as flight engineer for launch and entry, has no backup trained to fly in his place so his ability to heal will affect when Discovery flies (and if he is aboard when it does). ¶ Endeavour's STS-134 commander Mark Kelly was also without a backup when his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was critically injured in the Tucson, Az. shootings Jan. 8. Though he is "very hopeful" that he'll be able to rejoin his crew for their launch Apr. 18, Kelly asked for a backup to be assigned. Deputy chief astronaut Rick Sturckow will begin training with the 134 crew this week.
January 17, 2011 / 3:18 p.m. CT (2118 GMT) O Canadarm: A new stamp issued Monday by the Canada Post displays the Canadarm space shuttle remote manipulator as one of the novel places the Canadian flag appears. Released with four other Maple Leaf-theme stamps as part of the "Canadian Pride" series, the robotic arm is depicted such that its "Canada" inscription and the red and white flag emblazoned on its side appear front and center on the stamp. Circling both is a stylized, white "O," referencing the anthem, "O Canada." The four other flags highlighted along with the Canadarm's own on the stamps include a hot air balloon, a traveller's backpack and both a soldier's and a search and rescue expert's uniforms.
January 20, 2011 / 7:34 a.m. CT (1334 GMT) Crew change: For the eighth time in space shuttle history, NASA has had to replace an astronaut assigned to a crew as a result of medical issues. STS-133 mission specialist Tim Kopra, who last Saturday was injured in a bike accident, has been replaced by Steven Bowen less than six weeks before shuttle Discovery's targeted launch. Bowen, whose most recent flight was last year's STS-132 mission, will be the first U.S. astronaut to fly back-to-back flights. He will undergo an abbreviated training schedule to perform two spacewalks originally planned for Kopra. The late change -- this is the closest to a shuttle launch NASA has replaced an astronaut -- may limit the space agency's ability to swap out the crew clothing, food choices and the other logistics usually customized for each crew member. Bowen's name may also not make it on to a revised crew insignia. "The patch may not work, we'll see," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. "Obviously, we are going to prioritize the training first, and then the hardware necessary to do the mission and then we'll get as much of the rest of those things that we can after that."
January 21, 2011 / 8:02 a.m. CT (1402 GMT) Left coast's largest launch: On Thursday, the first West Coast Delta IV Heavy rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex-6. Towering at 235 feet tall, the rocket was the largest to lift off from the left coast of the U.S. The launch, which put into orbit a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NROL-49), occurred after a multi-year construction effort to upgrade SLC-6, the same pad from where the Air Force and NASA had once prepared to fly space shuttles prior to the loss of Challenger 25 years ago this month.
January 21, 2011 / 10:50 a.m. CT (1650 GMT) And then there were three: NASA formally added a third and final mission to its space shuttle manifest on Thursday, beginning the process to ready Atlantis to fly the STS-135 mission in June. The 135th and final shuttle mission will see Atlantis carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module to deliver supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station (ISS). STS-135 will also fly a system to investigate the potential for robotically refueling spacecraft and return a failed coolant pump to help NASA better understand why it failed. While NASA has baselined the flight as directed by Congress, legislators still need to appropriate the mission's budget before STS-135 can fly.
January 21, 2011 / 6:18 p.m. CT (0018 GMT Jan 22) Moon rock heist co-opted for movie: Ben Mezrich, whose 2009 book about Facebook "The Accidental Billionaires" served as the basis for "The Social Network," has again teamed with the movie's producers to adapt his upcoming book, "Sex on the Moon" for Sony Pictures. The book, which will be released in July, spins the real life tale of an Apollo moon rock heist into an "Ocean's Eleven style... Hollywood thrill ride." The co-op coordinated caper, which collectSPACE covered as it happened in 2002, was the brainchild of a student employee who, with three of his friends, stole a moon rock-filled safe from NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The four were busted by undercover agents when they went to sell the moon rocks.
January 21, 2011 / 9:27 p.m. CT (0327 GMT Jan 22) Patch preview | The Chumps: They're not quite full-fledged astronauts just yet (they're set to complete their basic training later this year) but the astronaut candidates (ascans) selected by NASA, JAXA and the Canadian Space Agency in 2009 now have their own patch. The 14 ascans who will soon graduate as NASA's 20th astronaut class -- otherwise known by their nickname "The Chumps" - continued tradition by designing an emblem representing their group's background and future in the astronaut corps. The patch includes illustrations of the International Space Station, the moon and Mars, as well as the 14-star-formed constellation of Orion. A capsule returning to Earth is also included on the badge, replacing the space shuttle as was commonly depicted on previous astronaut class patches.
January 22, 2011 / 8:09 a.m. CT (1409 GMT) One small stamp, one giant lead: A 1989 postage stamp issued to commemorate the first moon landing has won the public's vote to represent the U.S. in the National Postal Museum's new international-themed gallery. Designed by Chris Calle, whose father designed the 1969 Man on the Moon stamp, the $2.40 "Moon Landing" stamp won the month-long online poll, receiving 50% of the more than 13,000 votes cast. The next closest candidate, a 22¢ "Flag With Fireworks" stamp issued in 1987, received just 17% of the ballots. Calle's moon stamp will go on display next year with the opening of the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery's International Collections Exhibit in Washington.
January 22, 2011 / 12:08 p.m. CT (1808 GMT) JAXA's Kounotori takes flight: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its second H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) to the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:37:57 p.m. JST (12:37:57 a.m. CST) on Saturday from the Tanegashima Space Center. The uncrewed cargo craft, nicknamed "Kounotori," or "white stork," will bring its 'special delivery' of food, supplies, experiments and spare parts to a berth on Thursday, when it is to be grappled by the station's robotic arm and attached to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module. Kounotori will stay at the ISS through March as its unpressurized pallet and pressurized payload are offloaded by the ISS Expedition 26 crew.
January 22, 2011 / 6:28 p.m. CT (0028 GMT Jan 23) Patch preview | STS-135: NASA this week baselined the STS-135 mission as its 135th and final flight of the space shuttle program. The mission's four astronauts, who up until now have been training as a rescue crew for shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission, will now prepare to fly shuttle Atlantis on a supply mission to the International Space Station. Their mission patch, seen here for the first time, depicts Atlantis embarking on its final flight centered over elements of NASA's insignia and the last letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega, recognizing STS-135 as the final mission for the space agency's 30-year shuttle program.
January 27, 2011 / 12:26 a.m. CT (0626 GMT) National Day of Remembrance: NASA on Thursday observes a Day of Remembrance honoring the fallen crews of Apollo 1, space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, and all of those who have lost their lives in the cause of exploration. The agency-wide commemoration includes wreath layings at Arlington National Cemetery, the Space Mirror Memorial at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the Astronaut Memorial Tree Grove at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Tributes will continue on Friday with events marking 25 years since Challenger was lost.
January 30, 2011 / 11:43 p.m. CT (0543 GMT Jan 31) Pioneer-packed Progress: The 41st cargo spacecraft that Russia has launched to the International Space Station (ISS), Progress M-09M arrived autonomously at the outpost on Saturday. In addition to its usual payload comprising two-and-a-half-tons of food, supplies and spare parts for the station's crew, the unpiloted vehicle was also packed with tributes to two Soviet space pioneers. Sergey Samburov provided books written by his grandfather, "the father of Russian cosmonautics," Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Also aboard the Progress, an amateur radio satellite to be deployed during a spacewalk. ARISSat-1, once activated, will operate under the call sign "Kedr," the same sign used by first-man-in-space Yuri Gagarin 50 years ago this April.
January 31, 2011 / 6:00 a.m. CT (1200 GMT) To display debris: Two plaques -- one with an American flag that was recovered among the debris after the 1986 loss of Challenger, and the other displaying a patch found with the remnants of Columbia in 2003 -- can be found on exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The pair acknowledge the two tragedies, serving as understated memorials, but due to their nature, do little to teach museum visitors about the history behind the losses. To address that lacking, and to properly fit the fallen vehicles into the broader scope of the space shuttle program, the curator of their exhibit is now considering the display of Challenger and Columbia debris -- but only if the crews' families and NASA agree with the museum's plans.