January 1, 2012 / 5:56 p.m. CT (2356 GMT) GRAIL-B around the moon: The second of NASA's twin gravity-mapping probes, GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) B arrived around the moon on New Year's Day. Following a similar approach as GRAIL-A on Saturday, GRAIL-B fired its thruster at 4:05 p.m. CST for a 39 minute lunar orbit insertion burn. Both probes will spend the next five weeks maneuvering into their tandem science orbit about 34 miles above the moon. The two GRAILs will also be renamed soon, the result of a student contest.
January 3, 2012 / 5:16 p.m. CT (2316 GMT) "Heritage, we (may) have a problem": The headline sale last November of Jim Lovell's Apollo 13 flown checklist for $388,375 has been halted because NASA is seeking proof of ownership. The space agency told Dallas, TX-based Heritage Auctions that it wants the provenance for the checklist, as well as for three other flown artifacts including Rusty Schweickart's Apollo 9 ID plate and hand controller. Heritage is holding the artifacts until the dispute between NASA and the retired astronauts is settled.
January 9, 2012 / 6:21 p.m. CT (0021 GMT Jan 10) Mr. Lovell goes to Washington: Apollo 13 commander James Lovell, together with his fellow Apollo astronauts Rusty Schweickart, Charlie Duke and Gene Cernan, travelled to Washington, DC on Monday to try to resolve what NASA Administrator Charles Bolden described as a "fundamental misunderstanding." At issue is the ownership and title to space-flown and mission-used equipment that the astronauts kept as mementos and in some cases have since sold. "We've committed to work together to find the right policy and legal paths forward," Bolden said.
January 10, 2012 / 11:29 a.m. CT (1729 GMT) First look at flight films: For the first time, the public now has access to digital high-res scans of the original film negatives flown on board NASA's Mercury and Gemini flights. A partnership between Johnson Space Center and Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, the "March to the Moon" website presents the photos that were taken by the United States' first one- and two-man crews using handheld cameras, including the first American manned views of Earth from space and imagery captured during the first U.S. spacewalk.
January 12, 2012 / 9:42 a.m. CT (1542 GMT) Patch preview | Soyuz TMA-04M: The next crew setting sail for the International Space Station (ISS) is slated to launch in March on board Russia's Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Roscosmos cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin will work aboard the station for five months as part of the Expedition 31 and 32 crews. To represent their journey to the ISS, the trio worked with artists to design a patch that would evoke "traveling in deep space," Padalka told collectSPACE.
January 15, 2012 / 7:46 p.m. CT (0146 GMT Jan 16) Failed and fallen: Russia's stranded-in-orbit Mars' moon sample return probe fell back to Earth Sunday, breaking apart and raining its debris over the Pacific ocean. Phobos-Grunt could have been the first mission to deliver soil (or "grunt" in Russian) from another planet's moon had its propulsion module not failed to fire soon after its Nov. 8 launch. Instead, the spacecraft got stuck circling the Earth until Sunday when it fell off the coast of South America.
January 17, 2012 / 12:13 p.m. CT (1813 GMT) Ebb & Flow: NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, spacecraft are now named "Ebb" and "Flow" thanks to the 28 students in Nina DiMauro's fourth grade class at Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Mont. The winners of NASA's naming contest for the tandem gravity-mapping probes now in orbit around the moon, the students won first pick of lunar targets to be photographed by Sally Ride Science's MoonKam cameras.
January 18, 2012 / 5:46 p.m. CT (2346 GMT) Breaking ground: NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex broke ground on the future home for the space shuttle Atlantis on Wednesday. The $100 million, 65,000 sq. ft. exhibit will provide guests a unique vantage point to view Atlantis up close, while telling the story of the 30-year space shuttle program. Set to open in the summer of 2013, the building's exterior was designed to evoke the shuttle returning from space, while visitors encounter a full size replica shuttle stack, launching them into the display.
January 20, 2012 / 5:04 p.m. CT (2304 GMT) Departure: NASA announced on Friday that astronaut Ellen Baker has left the agency. A veteran of three space shuttle flights, Baker logged more than 28 days in orbit serving as a mission specialist on Atlantis' STS-34 and STS-71 missions and STS-50 on Columbia. Her three trips to space included launching the Galileo probe to Jupiter, the first flight of the U.S. Microgravity Laboratory and the first shuttle docking with Russia's Mir space station. Baker first joined NASA as a medical officer in 1981, three years before being selected with the tenth group of astronauts.
January 22, 2012 / 1:59 p.m. CT (1959 GMT) Seattle's shuttle trainer: NASA turned over the "keys" – a "Remove Before Flight" pin – for its only full-length space shuttle trainer to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where this summer the 120-foot-long mockup will go on display. Used by all 355 astronauts who flew on board the shuttle, the wingless Full Fuselage Trainer will be flown to Seattle in sections using NASA's Super Guppy aircraft.
January 24, 2012 / 5:18 p.m. CT (2318 GMT) Astronaut Hall of Fame to add 3: The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in Florida will induct space shuttle veterans Franklin Chang-Diaz, Kevin Chilton and Charles Precourt this May as its 11th class of shuttle astronauts to be honored since 2001. Chang-Diaz, who tied the record for the most missions; Chilton, the military's highest ranking astronaut; and Precourt, a former chief astronaut, will bring the Hall of Fame's total inductees to 82. A public induction ceremony is set for May 5 at the Kennedy Space Center.
January 26, 2012 / 9:41 a.m. CT (1541 GMT) Freedom 7 on the move: After 13 years on display at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 Mercury capsule will be moving soon to Boston. Pending final arrangements with the Smithsonian, the first U.S. manned spacecraft will next be exhibited by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. But the craft's journey won't end there; the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington plans to display Freedom 7 beginning in 2016 as part of a new Apollo-themed gallery.
January 27, 2012 / 9:48 a.m. CT (1548 GMT) Departure: Jerry L. Ross, the first person to fly seven times to space, retired from NASA last Friday (Jan. 20). Ross spent more than 58 days in orbit and made nine spacewalks ranking him third among all space explorers for extravehicular activity time. Chosen to be an astronaut with NASA's 1980 class, Ross's first flight, STS-61B, was five years later. His seventh and final launch was on the STS-110 mission in 2002. Ross was a mission specialist on space shuttles Endeavour and Columbia once each and a record-setting five times on board shuttle Atlantis.
January 30, 2012 / 11:22 a.m. CT (1722 GMT) Shuttle Recordation: Last month, without a lot of fanfare, NASA premiered a new online repository for its 'Space Shuttle Recordation' efforts. Underway for two years, NASA has been collaborating with historic preservation offices in four states and the National Park Service to take laser-assisted measurements, panoramic photos and other multimedia products to record the engineering history of its now-retired space shuttles prior to their being delivered to museums for public display. The result of that work is now coming online and will be held by the Library of Congress.
January 31, 2012 / 3:02 p.m. CT (2102 GMT) Departure: Shannon Lucid, who more than three decades ago became one of the first women to join NASA's astronaut corps, has retired from the space agency. A veteran of five spaceflights, Lucid spent more than 223 days in space, and from August 1991 to June 2007, held the record for the most days in orbit by any woman in the world. The the only American woman to serve aboard the Russian Mir space station, Lucid was later named NASA's chief scientist and became a familiar voice as Capcom in Mission Control for numerous shuttle and station crews.