: One of Canada's original space explorers who flew on STS-85 as a payload specialist, Bjarni Tryggvason is retiring this June after nearly 25 years with his nation's space agency. Tryggvason will continue at the University of Western Ontario, where he's presently a visiting professor. Following his first and only spaceflight, he completed training with NASA as a mission specialist, but took a leave of absence to pursue work in the private sector before returning to the Canadian Space Agency in 2004. During his astronaut career, Tryggvason developed vibration isolation mounts for experiments flown on-board the U.S. shuttle, Mir, and the International Space Station.
: Chosen for the cosmonaut corps in December 1978 Vladimir Gevorkyan, 55, died on April 13 of brain cancer, reports the Russian-language website astronaut.ru. Though he was never to fly, Gevorkyan trained to serve as an engineer onboard the then-secret Almaz military space stations built by the Mashinostroyeniya bureau. He retired from the program in April 1987, and went on to direct the "Terra" science corp.
: ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" will be revealing Monday that its panel of experts have selected NASA's Saturn V rocket as one of the '7 Wonders of America'. Built to launch a crew of three astronauts to the Moon in the late 1960s, the 363-foot tall booster will join the ranks of other U.S.-based wonders including the Grand Canyon and the National Mall in Washington, DC. ABC will broadcast live from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama, where one of the three remaining Saturn V rockets is on display.
: NASA's new Artifact Loan Opportunities Program, designed to reach "untraditional" audiences through the loan of space-flown hardware, hit the road this week with its first offer of space shuttle main gear tires collected from 50 different missions dating back to 1986. Unlike the agency's earlier artifact loan programs, some of the requirements for the preservation of the tires have been waived to permit their use as art, furniture or building structures. Developed to reach beyond just museums, proposals (due by June 11) will be considered from civic groups, schools, and others.
: Astronomer turned astronaut Ron Parise, who flew as a payload specialist aboard NASA's only two astronomy-dedicated shuttle missions died May 9 of a brain tumor after fighting cancer for three years. On his first flight in 1990, he became one of the first three astronomers to use a telescope in space and the first to operate packet ham radio, both as a result of payloads that he developed. In total, over the course of STS-35 and 67, he flew over 25 days and 10 million miles.
: Both NASA and Velcro USA are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, although it is only a coincidence; contrary to the popular misconception, the hook-and-loop fasteners were not a spinoff from the space program. Trademarked in the U.S. on May 13, 1958, Velcro-brand products have however, played a role in NASA history as the astronaut-preferred means to tether equipment from floating away in space. Red, white, and blue Velcro swatches doubled on-board Moon-bound Apollo missions as both attach points and color-codes for crewman-specific supplies. Velcro is still used today with blue and yellow squares flying on the shuttle and the ISS.
: Scott Parazynski is expected to depart base camp on Saturday morning to begin his climb to the summit of Mount Everest. A NASA astronaut with five flights and seven spacewalks to his record, Parazynski will don an outfit for his climb that isn't too far removed from the spacesuit he wore on orbit, including an oxygen supply, bulky gloves and mission patches. Of the latter, Parazynski will wear the same U.S. flag he wore on his most recent spacewalk last November. He also has a patch honoring the American astronauts lost in the pursuit of exploration as well as a pair of banners he will leave at the summit for the Apollo 1, Soyuz 1, Soyuz 11, STS-51L and STS-107 fallen crews. Parazynski will also deliver an emblem in the memory of the first astronaut to attempt to climb Mt. Everest, Karl Henize, who died in October 1993.
: Built in 1965 to support the early Surveyor missions to the Moon, the Apollo and deep space tracking station on the British island of Ascension in the Atlantic Ocean was selected by NASA for its proximity to the launch sites. In recognition of their history, Ascension Island will issue on Friday a set of six stamps honoring NASA's 50th anniversary. Organized by decade, the stamps' subjects include X-Planes, the moon landings, space shuttle, Hubble space telescope and ISS.
: Artist Al Stevens' name may not be well known but some of his art ranks among the most famous designs in history. Stevens created four of the Apollo mission patches and had his hand in many others. Fourteen years after his death, an eBay sale has led to new appreciation for his work -- both those designs that flew to the Moon and those of his rarely seen before.
: Astronaut James Reilly has left NASA after more than 13 years serving the space agency. A veteran of three missions aboard the space shuttle, he most recently flew on STS-117 in June 2007, making two out of his five career spacewalks. In total, he logged over one month in orbit. Photo Stencil, a provider of tooling for the surface mount technology industry, announced earlier this month they had hired Reilly as vice president of R&D.
: Although Greg Chamitoff will launch next week as a flight engineer for the Expedition 17 crew, his six month stay aboard the International Space Station will also make him the first among Expedition 18's crew to arrive on the outpost. His ISS 18 commander Michael Fincke and Yuri Lonchakov, his fellow flight engineer, will launch in the fall, to later be accompanied by Sandra Magnus and Koichi Wakata (in succession, replacing each other starting with Chamitoff). Their patch, first seen here, illustrates the crew's origins and their common destination, orbiting beneath the stars.
: When U.S. astronauts make the next small steps and giant leaps on the Moon, they may do so at the 'Neil A. Armstrong Lunar Outpost', should a section of new legislation become law. The NASA Authorization Act of 2008, which the U.S. House subcommittee on space and aeronautics approved Tuesday, calls for work toward establishing a man-tended moonbase and to name it after the first moonwalker. The bill also mandates the addition of a space shuttle mission to the current manifest to launch the previously-grounded Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and authorizes $1 billion to accelerate the progress of NASA's exploration spacecraft.
: On Friday night, the Wings Over The Rockies Air and Space Museum opened an exhibit honoring the 20 percent of U.S. astronauts who share ties with Colorado, showcasing their "personal reflections, memorabilia and artifacts." To launch the new gallery, the museum was host to NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award ceremony celebrating the life of Denver-born, Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert. The moon rock-embedded award will remain on exhibit in Wings' new "Colorado's Astronauts: In Their Own Words".
: Though it will take less than ten minutes ('seven minutes of terror'), the entry, descent and landing on Mars for NASA's Phoenix spacecraft is packed with separations, jettisons, thruster firings, and other critical mission events that must go right for a safe touchdown. And given the time it takes for transmissions between Earth and Mars (approximately 20 minutes), the lander will need to execute those steps autonomously as controllers watch for it to signal its success. "Everyone's role will be of watching and waiting," explained Phoenix's flight systems engineer Chris Lewicki in an interview with collectSPACE. Though they have faith the landing will go well ("I'm as confident as I can be," said Lewicki), they're also not above turning towards tradition for luck. Thus, at Phoenix mission control, managers will pass out peanuts, harking back to the 1960's Ranger moon missions, when the nuts were jokingly given credit for a safe landing after six failures. This time, the lucky legumes will be joined by "lucky blueberries," a nod to the Opportunity Mars rover's discovery of iron-rich sphericals, nicknamed after the fruit.
: Considered Werhner von Braun's right-hand man, Ernst Stuhlinger, 94, passed away on Sunday in Huntsville, Alabama. One of 126 scientists who came to the U.S. as part of Operation Paperclip, Stuhlinger developed designs for solar-powered spacecraft, in the process contributing to the invention of ion propulsion. Named director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center's space science lab in 1960, Stuhlinger was appointed as the center's associate director for science in 1968. Retiring from NASA in 1975, he became an adjunct professor and sen. research scientist at Univ. of Alabama.
: NASA's Phoenix spacecraft has become the sixth lander to safely touch down on Mars and the first to land using powered descent since the twin Vikings in 1976. Flight controllers received the signal that Phoenix had successfully parachuted and then fired thrusters to a soft landing near Mars' north pole at 6:53 p.m. CDT. Equipped with a robot arm, Phoenix is capable of digging a half-meter down to collect and study samples of Martian dirt and ice. The spacecraft was built using components from the canceled Mars Surveyor 2001 and instruments from the unsuccessful Mars Polar lander.
: NASA's Phoenix lander has been found on Mars, courtesy NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Finding the Phoenix on Earth may prove more difficult. Although each of five previous successful Mars landers have inspired toy versions, Phoenix landed without even an 'expression of interest' by model makers.
: The first United States' space flight to include a spacewalk was also the last to fly without an emblem designed by its crew. "Ed White and I used the American flag on our shoulders as our patch," said Gemini IV commander James McDivitt in the book "All We Did Was Fly to the Moon" by Dick Lattimer. The crew did however, fly medals on the mission showing their spacecraft and a bald eagle, the latter a reference to the name ("American Eagle") they had wanted to give the capsule. The art for the coins has now been adapted as a patch with McDivitt's approval. "Ed would've liked it, too," said Jim. Novaspace Galleries is now selling the patches.
: Since 1985, the "Toys in Space" program has launched sports balls, yo-yos and other playthings to demonstrate science and math principles to children. In two days, NASA will launch its next toy, er, space ranger to engage a new generation of kids with the help of Disney. A 12-inch Buzz Lightyear action figure will fly with the STS-124 crew aboard shuttle Discovery when they liftoff for the International Space Station. There, he'll participate in a science experiment and film a promotional video for a new NASA series of Disney-developed games.
NASA began its 123rd space shuttle flight, mission STS-124, with the launch of Discovery at 4:02:12 p.m. CT Saturday. Onboard the orbiter is the largest payload (by dimension) for the International Space Station, the Japanese Kibo science lab. The crew, led by commander Mark Kelly, will spend 14 days in orbit working to install and configure the tour bus-sized module and its robotic arm, as well as transferring supplies and a new crew member to the station. This mission is the 35th flight for Discovery and the 26th shuttle launch to the ISS.