April 2, 2011 / 3:32 p.m. CT (2032 GMT) Hubble at home: Earlier this week, Warner Bros. released on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, on demand, and download "Hubble 3D," the seventh film in the IMAX space series. Also still playing in museum theaters, Hubble 3D uses large-format film shot in space, together with state of the art computer graphics to tell the story of NASA's most famous space telescope, its 2010 final astronaut servicing mission, and the discoveries it's made about our universe. The DVD (in 2D) has been released wide; the Blu-ray (2D / 3D combo) is a Best Buy exclusive for a limited time.
April 4, 2011 / 4:40 p.m. CT (2140 GMT) Patch preview | Fragile Oasis: Ron Garan launched a website last July to explore new ways of using social media to share human space flight stories through the eyes of the astronauts while inspiring people to improve life on our planet. Now that he is again leaving the planet, this time to serve onboard the International Space Station, Garan worked with artists to design an emblem for the site that he could take with him to orbit. The patch depicts the 2008 spacewalk that ultimately inspired Garan to build the Fragile Oasis website. Writes Garan, "as I looked down at this indescribably beautiful, fragile oasis, this island that's been given to us and protected all life from the harshness of space, I couldn't help but to also think of all the inequity that exists on our fragile oasis..."
April 4, 2011 / 6:05 p.m. CT (2305 GMT) "Gagarin" orbits again: Lifting off from the same launch pad where just shy of 50 years ago the first human in space departed Earth for orbit, Russia's Soyuz TMA-21 took flight Monday at 5:18 p.m. CDT (Tuesday, local) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Given the celebratory designation "Gagarin," the Soyuz booster was emblazoned with the name and the likeness of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who on April 12, 1961 became the first to fly in space. Onboard the spacecraft, commander Alexander Samokutyaev and flight engineers Ron Garan and Andrey Borisenko began their two-day journey to the International Space Station, where they will join the Expedition 27 crew.
April 5, 2011 / 11:13 a.m. CT (1613 GMT) A boy, a dog and the space shuttle: Artist Brian Basset, whose daily comic strip "Red and Rover" often shows its title boy and dog dreaming of space travel, has paid tribute to the end of the space shuttle program in the form of a commemorative poster for NASA. Titled "What a Ride It's Been," the poster shows Red, with a model of the shuttle in his hand, together with Rover racing alongside a real shuttle to its last landing. NASA is offering the poster art as a free electronic version (PDF) through its website.
April 8, 2011 / 5:03 p.m. CT (2203 GMT) Merit badge on a mission: One hundred of the Boy Scouts of America's Robotics merit badges are set to fly on board space shuttle Endeavour on April 29, when it launches on its final mission, STS-134. The new badge, which will be formally announced Tuesday as part of the events marking National Robotics Week, features NASA's Mars Exploration Rover. The 100 flown merit badges aren't aboard Endeavour for the astronauts, despite their working with a number of robotics systems — including the space shuttle's and International Space Station's robotic arms — but instead will be distributed through an online contest.
April 8, 2011 / 11:09 a.m. CT (1609 GMT) Shuttle art auction: The Space Foundation has commissioned and is auctioning six art prints, each featuring one of NASA's space shuttle orbiters and the autographs of two of the astronauts who commanded them, in an effort to fund their educational programs and recognize the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle program. The limited edition 18- by 24-inch matted and framed prints, which are also available as posters and postcards, opened Tuesday for online bids. The sale will continue at the Foundation's 27th National Space Symposium, set to begin on Monday in Colorado Springs, Colo. Bidders can pursue each print separately or bid on the entire set, though to win the latter the bid must exceed the combined top bids on each of the six prints. The auction is scheduled to end on April 14.
April 12, 2011 / 12:35 p.m. CT (1735 GMT) Final flight plans: NASA revealed Tuesday where its retired space shuttles will be given for public display. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will exhibit OV-103, better known as Discovery. Orbiter Atlantis, OV-104, will remain in Florida, where it will be exhibited by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. NASA's fifth and youngest shuttle, Endeavour, OV-105, will be flown to Los Angeles and the California Science Center. Enterprise (OV-101), which never flew in space but was used for test landings, will also be given a new home, moving from the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (which will be where Discovery is displayed) to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a converted aircraft carrier, in New York.
April 15, 2011 / 3:35 p.m. CT (2035 GMT) Kraft's Control: Before Chris Kraft, no one knew what a mission control was. "A control center was a new idea. Whenever there was a picture of a control center somewhere, it was of ours. And now I don't think you can go into a building without people having a control center somewhere in it and by that I mean it looks like the control center we have today," observed Glynn Lunney, a former NASA flight director. And now, no one will be able to go in today's Mission Control without knowing who came up with the idea. On Thursday, NASA named its control center the Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center.
April 16, 2011 / 5:28 p.m. CT (2228 GMT) Spacecraft sale returns Vostok to Russia: More than a decade after arriving to tour the U.S. and more than fifty years after circling the Earth with a dog and a dummy, Vostok 3KA-2 entered orbit again Tuesday, albeit of a different type. The craft, which flew the final unmanned test flight just three weeks before cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lifted off to become the first man in space, was auctioned for $2,882,500 by Sotheby's New York. Believed to be the highest ever paid at a public sale for a space artifact (the previous record set by the 1996 sale of the Soyuz TM-10 capsule for $1.65 million, also by Sotheby's), the winning bid was by Evgeny Yurchenko, chairman of the AS Popov investment fund. He plans to return the Vostok 3KA-2 to his, and it's, homeland to "take its rightful place" in one of the museums devoted to the Russian space program.
April 16, 2011 / 9:20 p.m. CT (0220 GMT April 17) Patch preview | Expedition 35: Portraying the moonlit view of the Earth as seen from the International Space Station (ISS) at the moment of sunrise, the Expedition 35 patch shows the glowing bands of the atmosphere dispersing the sun's light into its primary colors. Revealed this week, the insignia represent's the space station's 35th crew, who will begin their expedition in March 2013. Chris Hadfield, from the Canadian Space Agency, will command NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy, and Roscomos flight engineers Roman Romanenko, Aleksandr Misurkin and Pavel Vinogradov for ISS Expedition 35.
April 17, 2011 / 12:05 p.m. CT (1705 GMT) Gagarin revisited: Three months to the day after becoming the first to fly in space, Yuri Gagarin arrived on July 12, 1961 in England for his first tour outside the Soviet bloc. Half a century later, footage taken that day, long thought to be lost and separated forever, is being restored and reunited thanks to the efforts of the San Diego Air and Museum in California. The film captures the cosmonaut's reception at Ringway (now Manchester) Airport, where his charismatic smile (and historic achievement) won over the otherwise Cold War adversaries who offered him a hero's welcome. The museum employed its new hi-definition film digitizer, capable of processing 16mm film, to digitize the fragile film and shared it on YouTube as a free educational opportunity to learn more about the historic meeting.
April 17, 2011 / 5:05 p.m. CT (2205 GMT) 108 minutes for download: "First Orbit", a film by director Chris Riley ("In the Shadow of the Moon") recreates first spaceman Yuri Gagarin's orbit of the Earth using footage of the planet captured by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli aboard the International Space Station (ISS). First released on YouTube on April 12, 50 years after Gagarin's first orbit, "First Orbit" can now be freely downloaded from collectSPACE, which partnered with Riley and Attic Room Productions to distribute the film. In addition to the station footage, "First Orbit" also incorporates Gagarin's Vostok 1 mission audio and a musical score by Philip Sheppard.
April 19, 2011 / 7:41 p.m. CT (0041 GMT April 20) Shuttle successors: NASA named Monday four companies being awarded between $22 and $92.3 million to advance their concepts for commercial crew transportation systems and mature the designs and development of elements of their systems including spacecraft and launch vehicles. The four selected: Blue Origin, Kent, Wash., $22 million; Sierra Nevada Corp., Louisville, Colo., $80 million; SpaceX, Hawthorne, Calif., $75 million; Boeing, Houston, $92.3 million. "The next American-flagged vehicle to carry our astronauts is going to be a U.S. commercial provider," said NASA commercial crew program manager Ed Mango.
April 20, 2011 / 8:20 a.m. CT (1320 GMT) Admiral, astronaut, ambassador: On April 28th NASA will posthumously honor Alan B. Shepard, Jr., the first American astronaut in space who later walked on the moon, as an Ambassador of Exploration. Bill Barry, chief historian, will present the award, which features an acrylic embedded moon rock, to Shepard's family members at the US Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Md., where the award will be placed on public display. A 1945 graduate of the Academy, Rear Admiral Shepard flew the May 5, 1961 Mercury-Redstone 3 suborbital flight and the January 1971 Apollo 14 lunar landing. NASA is giving its Ambassador of Exploration Award to its first generation of explorers in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs for realizing America's goal of going to the moon.
April 22, 2011 / 7:47 a.m. CT (1247 GMT) First family, third President: When space shuttle Endeavour launches on STS-134, its final mission, currently targeted for April 29, President Barack Obama and his family are expected to be at Kennedy Space Center to watch, a White House official said earlier this week. If all proceeds to plan, then Obama will become the third sitting U.S. president to view a manned launch. President Nixon was the first, in attendance for the Apollo 12 liftoff in 1969, followed by President Clinton, who saw John Glenn return to space onboard shuttle Discovery in 1998. Obama's visit will mark a first though; accompanied to the Cape by the First Lady and their two daughters, the Obamas will be the first First Family to together view a crewed space launch.
April 25, 2011 / 6:48 a.m. CT (1148 GMT) Richard Underwood 1927-2011: Known as the astronauts' photography coach, Richard Weeden "Dick" Underwood, assistant to the photo chief for Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo has died at age 83. The first person to view every photo from the Gemini missions through the first 23 space shuttle missions, he also provided technical training for every astronaut who flew in space during the twentieth century. Profiled in the 2006 book "Apollo Moon Missions, The Unsung Heroes," Underwood told author Billy Watkins that his favorite photograph was Buzz Aldrin's bootprint on the moon but that the most meaningful to him was a photo showing the American flag planted by Apollo 17. The best photo snapped in space, according to Underwood, was the first of the full Earth, known as the "Blue Marble shot."
April 26, 2011 / 9:12 a.m. CT (1412 GMT) Patch preview | Expedition 30: Starting in November, the International Space Station's 30th crew will take up residence, continuing more than a decade of habitation aboard the orbiting complex. The crew's mission patch, which NASA astronauts Dan Burbank and Don Pettit, ESA astronaut André Kuipers, and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and Oleg Kononenko will be wearing, shows the station orbiting Earth with the planet's night side and lit cities in view. A triple X marks the patch as symbolizing the space station's Expedition 30 crew.