April 1, 2010 / 7:49 p.m. CT (0049 GMT Apr 2) Patch preview | STS-131 || WORF: When space shuttle Discovery launches April 5, it will have aboard a bit of Klingon. (No, this is not an April Fool's joke.) Packed inside the orbiter's bay, in the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module, is the Window Observational Research Facility, or WORF, an experiment rack that will enable the science window on the International Space Station's (ISS) Destiny lab to support both crewed and remotely-operated observations. Given its acronym's shared connection with Star Trek's Klingon security officer Lt. Commander Worf, NASA's WORF insignia includes the name in Klingon, too. The emblem, which adorns the space station-bound rack, was created in 2001 by Tony Boatright, then a member of WORF's development team, who checked with Star Trek producer Rick Berman's office to verify the proper syntax.
April 2, 2010 / 1:02 a.m. CT (0602 GMT) Soyuz TMA-18 lifts off: Second-generation cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov (his father briefly a member of the corps) commanded his first flight Friday morning, launching with Expedition 23 crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson aboard Soyuz TMA-18 at 10:04 a.m. local time (11:04 p.m. CDT April 1) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Following their arrival at the International Space Station on Sunday, the three will join Roscosmos' Oleg Kotov, NASA's T.J. Creamer and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA's) Soichi Noguchi already aboard the outpost as the expanded Expedition 23 crew before Svortskov takes command of Expedition 24.
April 5, 2010 / 7:59 a.m. CT (1259 GMT) Seven up: For the last time in history, a full crew of seven astronauts launched Monday aboard the space shuttle Discovery on a 13 day flight to the International Space Station. With NASA set to retire the shuttle later this year, the remaining three missions following STS-131 are planned to fly with six astronauts each. The first seven to fly were the STS-41G crew, 25 years ago. Only once did the shuttle lift off with more than seven astronauts, 61A in 1985, with a record eight crew members. Once docked at the station, Discovery's crew will help tie the record for the most people on one spacecraft (13), the most Japanese astronauts in orbit at one time (2), and the most women in space (4). The STS-131 crew also includes the last rookie astronauts to make their first spaceflight on the shuttle.
April 7, 2010 / 4:23 a.m. CT (0923 GMT) Klingon, cookies, and class project: The International Space Station's Expedition 23 crew welcomed Discovery's STS-131 seven astronauts aboard Wednesday after the two spacecraft were docked at 2:44 a.m. CDT. Like all good house guests, the shuttle crew did not come empty-handed. Packed among 17,000 pounds of science experiments, equipment and supplies, the astronauts also brought mementos and creature comforts to share a bit of home with the station residents. Discovery will also return with mementos to share the ISS with those on the ground.
April 7, 2010 / 2:48 p.m. CT (1948 GMT) Second man out, again: Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin's days as a TV dancer came to an end Tuesday evening: he was eliminated from ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" having been ranked the lowest by the judges three weeks straight. Aldrin was rescued from being the first to leave the reality show last week after space fans voted to bring him back but even they were unable to save him a second time. Aldrin, who danced the cha-cha-cha, foxtrot, and waltz while on the show, said that he "came onboard to take the challenge and take the risk" while saluting the nation's past success in space and promise for the future.
April 8, 2010 / 8:51 a.m. CT (1351 GMT) Patch preview | Soyuz TMA-19: The patch for the next Russian manned launch to the International Space Station was revealed on Wednesday by the director of the country's federal space agency Roscosmos, Anatoly Perminov. Representing the Soyuz TMA-19 crew including commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker, the insignia continues the recent Russian tradition to have children contribute design ideas by incorporating the artwork of a Mari 7-year old boy whose painting depicted a Soyuz on its final approach to a docking at the orbiting lab. The patch also draws from the Soyuz TMA-10 emblem -- Yurchikhin's prior mission -- and is set against a stylized Mount Olympus, his call sign.
April 10, 2010 / 2:14 a.m. CT (0714 GMT) Poyekhali! Yuri's Night, the annual party in commemoration of the first human in space and two decade later, the first launch of the space shuttle, officially kicks-off Saturday with celebrations scheduled in 63 countries and on all seven continents. New for this, the 10th year of Yuri's Night, is a 12-hour webcast featuring live video from parties around the world, as well as toasts by members of the space community, including astronauts, authors, and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. 2010 will also see the presentation of the first Spirit of Yuri's Night Award, made out of aerogel, to computer game pioneer and first second generation astronaut, Richard Garriott at the flagship party hosted by NASA Ames Research Center in California.
April 12, 2010 / 11:03 p.m. CT (0403 GMT Apr 13) Vitaly Sevastyanov, 1935-2010: Forty-nine years ago Monday, the first human to fly in space launched aboard a Vostok spacecraft designed in part by Vitaly Sevastyanov. A cosmonaut himself, Sevastyanov, 74, died April 5, after a long illness, missing Cosmonautics Day by just one week. A Soyuz flight engineer who helped set the stage for space station missions before living aboard one for 63 days, Sevastyanov twice set records for extended duration spaceflight, and was among the first to launch at night and play chess from orbit with someone on Earth.
April 13, 2010 / 4:07 p.m. CT (2107 GMT) Evoking NASA's successful failure: Four decades ago Tuesday, an explosion aboard Apollo 13 was announced as "a problem" by astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. Years later, they would have more to say when interviewed by historian Andrew Chaikin, who was struck by the surprises in their words. A surprise was also in store for Mission Control, who early Tuesday found they had a new problem, recalling thoughts of Apollo 13.
April 14, 2010 / 7:24 a.m. CT (1224 GMT) 450 C-notes for Apollo 13 crew notes: At Bonhams' Space History Sale in New York Tuesday, an emergency checklist used and notated by Jim Lovell and Fred Haise during the Apollo 13 emergency four decades ago (to the day) drew one of the highest bids, selling for more than $45,000. Other highlights included an Apollo 11 patch silkscreened on spacesuit fabric, signed by the crew, and flown to the Moon for $85,400; and an Apollo 11 flight plan page said to be inscribed by Neil Armstrong with his first words spoken on the lunar surface for $152,000. Not sold was a diamond-studded astronaut pin presented to original Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton by the widows of the late Apollo 1 crew and flown by Armstrong. Bonhams' estimate for the pin, prior to the auction, was $80,000 to $120,000.
April 14, 2010 / 2:34 p.m. CT (1934 GMT) Payload specialists, the next generation: When space shuttle Discovery (currently in orbit on its penultimate mission) lifted off on its first flight in 1984, onboard was the first industry payload specialist, Charles Walker, accompanying his company's science payload into space. A quarter of a century later, as NASA looks toward using commercial services to launch its own astronauts, a new effort has begun to select and train the next generation of payload specialists. Astronauts4Hire revealed Monday the members of its first astronaut class, four women and eight men chosen from industry and academia to be prepared to conduct science research on commercial spaceflights.
April 16, 2010 / 4:20 p.m. CT (2120 GMT) Making and making up space history: On Thursday, President Barack Obama made a bit of history becoming the first President to fly Air Force One to Kennedy Space Center and land on the Shuttle Landing Facility (he was the seventh sitting president to visit the Florida space center). Obama delivered a 25-minute speech that laid out his vision for the next 25 years, including sending the first crew to visit an asteroid in 2025 and circling Mars by the mid-2030s. His prepared address was rich with references to space history, from Sputnik to space shuttle Discovery orbiting overhead, but an off-the-cuff remark highlighted an historical myth about space spinoffs. "Right before I came out on stage somebody said, you know, it's more than just Tang," commented the President. "And I had to point out I actually really like Tang." Though it's popularly associated with the astronauts (by design, after General Foods' 1960s ads billed it as the choice of the Gemini crews), the sweet orange-flavored drink was invented the year prior to NASA being founded as the United States' space agency.
April 17, 2010 / 5:36 a.m. CT (1036 GMT) Mercury astronauts' Gemini spacesuit: A silver-color Gemini spacesuit, fitted for first American in space Alan Shepard, but with a pair of Mercury-style gloves sized for Virgil "Gus" Grissom and a display name tag for John Glenn, was sold Friday as part of Regency-Superior Galleries of Beverly Hills' space and aviation memorabilia auction for a reported $187,200. The almost-anachronistic, mix-and-match suit was originally assembled for a display at Mercury spacecraft contractor McDonnell Aircraft (later McDonnell Douglas) headquarters in St. Louis, MO, where it played the role of a Mercury spacesuit accompanying a mockup of Glenn's Friendship 7 capsule. One of the most complete early U.S. spacesuits offered at auction, it drew the highest bid by far among 560 lots (next highest was a U.S. flag flown to the Moon on Apollo 11 for $17,550.
April 17, 2010 / 10:46 p.m. CT (0346 GMT Apr 18) Commander's cap: A ship's bell rang from the International Space Station on Saturday signaling the departure of shuttle Discovery and the continuation of a naval tradition on orbit. The bell is one of several Navy rituals observed in space; another is manifested in the choice of head gear worn by Navy officers-turned-NASA astronauts visiting the orbiting outpost. Discovery's commander Navy Captain Alan Poindexter displayed his naval-ship inspired ball cap throughout the STS-131 mission, even presenting one to the station's cosmonaut commander Oleg Kotov.
April 20, 2010 / 12:56 p.m. CT (1756 GMT) Last second-to-last landing: The STS-131 mission came to an end Tuesday, as space shuttle Discovery landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:08 a.m. CT. The 33rd shuttle flight to visit the International Space Station, STS-131 was Discovery's 38th mission as well as its penultimate (second-to-last) spaceflight. With just three missions remaining in NASA's shuttle program, one set to launch on each of the three remaining orbiters, Discovery has been assigned the final scheduled flight, STS-133.
April 22, 2010 / 2:28 p.m. CT (1928 GMT) The 'first last flight' for Atlantis: Thursday morning's rollout of space shuttle Atlantis is planned to be its last. The STS-132 mission for which it is now poised to liftoff from Pad 39A in mid-May is slated to be Atlantis' final flight. Still, there is enough uncertainly about how NASA's shuttle program will come to its end that it necessitates a qualifier, e.g. "planned" or "scheduled" last flight. That has inspired the STS-132 astronauts to coin their own phrase: "We've come up with a tagline," commander Ken Ham told collectSPACE. "This is the first last flight of Atlantis."
April 24, 2010 / 12:22 p.m. CT (1722 GMT) Secret spaceplane's not so secret past: A NASA-turned-DARPA-turned-U.S. Air Force mini-shuttle, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-1), was launched Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Fla., atop an Atlas V rocket on a classified mission of unspecified duration. The country's first unmanned reentering space vehicle, the X-37B began development in 1999 as the X-37, a jointly-funded program by NASA, the Air Force and Boeing. Three years later, the X-37 became part of the Space Launch Initiative aimed at improving the cost and reliability of getting to space. The X-37 was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2004, and it was under their auspicies that the X-37 made its first drop tests carried by Scaled Composites' White Knight of SpaceShipOne fame. The Air Force announced development of the X-37B OTV two years later and originally scheduled its launch onboard NASA's space shuttle, but after the loss of Columbia, the X-37B was re-manifested first to Delta II and then Atlas V.
April 24, 2010 / 4:44 p.m. CT (2144 GMT) Hubble Telescope turns 20: Twenty years ago Sunday, the STS-31 crew deployed the Hubble Space Telescope from inside space shuttle Discovery's cargo bay, and the rest as they say is history. To celebrate its best recognized, longest lived and most prolific observatory (to date, Hubble has observed more than 30,000 targets and amassed over 500,000 pictures), NASA has released yet another new Hubble photo, a new book and a new website for educators. The agency has also invited Hubble fans to submit messages sharing how the telescope has affected them. The notes, which can be submitted through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and by cell phone text message, will be stored alongside the orbiting observatory's data archive.
April 26, 2010 / 4:47 p.m. CT (2147 GMT) Last in, last out: Space shuttle Endeavour, which was the last orbiter to join the fleet, is now scheduled to fly the last mission of the space shuttle program, NASA said Monday. The change -- Discovery's STS-133 mission had been holding that spot since last year -- comes after a redesign was ordered for Endeavour's STS-134 cargo: the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The state-of-the-art particle physics cosmic ray detector, which will examine the origin and structure of the universe, had just a two to three year lifespan if outfitted with a superconducting magnet, as had been planned. With the International Space Station's own use extended to 2020, the decision was made to configure the spectrometer with a longer-lasting, permanent magnet but in doing so, it delayed its launch to mid-November.
April 30, 2010 / 10:16 a.m. CT (1516 GMT) Roscosmos recruits two: Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, announced Wednesday two new cosmonaut candidates who'll report to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. Andrei Babkin, 41, and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov, 26, were both recruited as employees of RSC Energia, the primary contractor for the Russian manned space program. As a scientist, Babkin's experience is in life support systems, whereas propulsion (rocket engines) are engineer Kud-Sverchkov's specialty.