: While NASA has shared high resolution imagery for shuttle missions launched since 2000, the space agency's website only offers lower quality scans for the earlier years of the program. Private image archivists JL Pickering and Ed Hengeveld have sought to address this inequility by introducing the first four photo CDs in a new series dedicated to sharing hundreds of high resolution images per mission, starting with STS-1 through STS-4. Each disc offers somewhere between 275 and 850 color-corrected and repaired scans, for sale between $20 and $30. Pickering and Hengeveld plan future releases covering the remaining shuttle flights as well as the early programs of Mercury through Apollo.
: While museums bid for retired space shuttle orbiters, the real prize may be the spacewalking spacesuits, at least if NASA's plans for them hold true. The now-reusable extravehicular mobility units (EMUs) are soon to become disposable, allowed to disintegrate as they reenter the Earth's atmosphere inside spent cargo ships. collectSPACE has the exclusive story.
Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off at 6:38 p.m. CDT this evening from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. NASA's 118th shuttle flight, the 21st to the international space station and 28th launch of Atlantis, STS-117 is also the 250th manned mission to reach orbit and among its seven person crew is the 460th individual to fly in space. During the planned 11-day flight, four crewmembers will make three spacewalks to install a new truss segment and deploy a set of solar arrays. Two days and one spacewalk may be added if difficulties arise when another solar array is stowed. Atlantis also brings a new crewmember to the ISS and will take another back to Earth after a six month stay that sets the female duration world record at greater than 188 days. Rick 'CJ' Sturckow, commander, and pilot Lee Archambault are flying with Pat Forrester, Steven Swanson, Danny Olivas and Jim Reilly, all mission specialists. Clay Anderson, ISS Expedition 15 flight engineer had the seventh seat during launch; Sunita Williams, ISS 14/15, will take his seat for the return home.
: STS-117 mission specialist Jim "JR" Reilly brought an Irish flag with him to space, the same banner from his paternal grandparents' country of origin as he flew in 2001 on-board STS-104. The orange, white, and green cloth is just one of many mementos stowed in either the crew's personal preference kits or the STS-117 Official Flight Kit (OFK). Some souvenirs though, can't be brought to space: they have to be created in orbit. Reilly, who identifies among his pastimes the art of photography, told collectSPACE he has a particular shot that he would like to get while on one of his two spacewalks. One of the shots that I really want to get and I got on 104 but I didn't get quite the way I liked it, it was just to get a photograph past my feet with the limb of the Earth in the background and the land underneath, to get a real feel for what it's like to actually be in space," he said. "That is one of the most remarkable views there is, to realize that you are just kind of there as a human satellite," Reilly said of his memento.
: Apollo and Skylab-era flight director Philip C. Shaffer passed away this morning after suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder. Assuming the Purple team for the first time for Apollo 16, Shaffer joined NASA in 1964 as a Flight Dynamics Officer (FDO), working the first lunar orbit mission (Apollo 8) and the first lunar landing (Apollo 11), and the missions between them. As flight director, Shaffer led the launch, rendezvous, and reentry for all three Skylab crewed missions as well as an on-orbit shift for each. He departed NASA in 1978, having managed shuttle flight techniques and payload integration.
: At 12:47 a.m. CT this morning, astronaut Suni Williams set the record for the longest-duration single spaceflight by a woman. Previously held by Shannon Lucid, who spent 188 days and four hours on the Mir Space Station, Williams' six month stay came as she served as flight engineer for expeditions 14 and 15 on the International Space Station. She will return to Earth next week with the STS-117 crew on shuttle Atlantis. Williams' record came 44 years to the day since Vostok 5 lifted off with cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly in space. Her mission lasted just 2 days and 22 hours.
: Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 36 was demolished today as dynamite was used to topple its historic twin mobile launch towers. Erected in 1961 as a single launch pad complex supporting the development of the Atlas/Centaur rocket, the second pad was added in 1964. Occupied by NASA until the late 1980's, the site was used to send Surveyors to the Moon, Mariners to Mars and Pioneers to Jupiter and Saturn. The pads were transferred in 1989 for military and commercial space operations to the Air Force and General Dynamics. In all, there were 68 major launches from Pad 36A and 77 from Pad 36B. The last Atlas launch from LC 36 came on Feb. 3, 2005, lofting a classified reconnaissance satellite.
: It is the classic traveler's predicament: you've come to the end of a long trip, you've got to pack to go home, and you just can't find the room for any souvenirs. So instead, you choose to take a few shirts as your memento. At least, that is what Suni Williams has chosen to do as she prepares to return to Earth for the first time in six months. Williams, along with her shuttle commander for the ride home, Rick "CJ" Sturckow, spoke with collectSPACE about shirts, space and the future of exploration from orbit on-board the ISS.
: The only yearly space memorabilia show conducted by a NASA center has announced its first two special guest speakers for its 2007 show. Flight controller Sy Liebergot and Andrew Chaikin, author of "A Man on the Moon," will speak and autograph copies of their books at the 3rd annual Glenn Research Center and collectSPACE Space Memorabilia Show to be held September 15 in Cleveland, Ohio. Also announced this week were the first list of exhibitors and dealers including Nick Proach Models and new this year, Fisher Space Pen. More guests and more exhibitors will be named as the show nears along with some surprises!
: A letter sent to museum members and volunteers this week explained the current situation at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, where a rising underground water table has caused flooding and forced the closure of "virtually all the museum to guests." Though none of the Cosmosphere's space artifacts suffered damage, the water has destroyed carpets and tiling, requiring their replacement and a need for two relief wells to pump water away from the museum. According to Ann Brown, Cosmosphere Foundation chair, the repair costs are estimated at $50,000 to $75,000. The museum has begun a fundraising drive for the restoration.
STS-117 commander Rick Sturckow piloted Atlantis to a touchdown at 2:49 p.m. CT on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. With a duration of nearly 14 days, STS-117 marks the longest mission flown by Atlantis, the 51st landing at Edwards Air Force Base by an orbiter and the 95th daytime touchdown for the shuttle program. Sturckow and his crew along with returning space station resident Sunita Williams will come home to Houston on Saturday, where a celebration will be waiting their arrival at Ellington Field. Atlantis will return to Florida for processing for its next launch, STS-122 set for this December. STS-117, launched on June 8, delivered a new truss segment, solar arrays and crew member to the International Space Station. The mission was the 118th in shuttle history, and the 250th manned space flight in orbit.
: Space Center Houston, the official visitor's center for Johnson Space Center, has begun this month an effort to incorporate NASA's next generation spacecraft Orion and exploration program Constellation into their exhibits and facility tours. The new and revised attractions dramatically combine the history of NASA's earlier projects with the promise of the future. Apollo moonwalkers, active shuttle astronauts and even a space station resident recorded from on-orbit lend their voices to new audio tours of the displays and NASA buildings, narrating how the center's current work will lead America back to the Moon. Visitors to the center can also try their hand at landing NASA's proposed lunar lander via four new simulators that effectively blends the audio from Apollo 11, the first U.S. manned moon landing, with three dimensional renderings of the new craft and lunar surface. Space Center Houston has more Constellation exhibits in development, including a full scale Orion capsule mockup.
: Japan's space agency JAXA announced on Wednesday their approval of 29 Japanese dishes for their astronauts to choose for their "bonus packs" while living aboard the International Space Station. The food - including ramen noodles, simmered mackerel, rice balls and green tea - was developed with companies such as Nissin Food Products to have a shelf life of at least a year, be nutritionally rich, and easy to consume in zero-g. The food will be available on orbit beginning in early 2008. The companies that worked with the space agency will be able to market their creations to the public with an official JAXA label verifying the dishes as Japanese Space Food.
: The widow of Apollo 1 astronaut Roger Chaffee will meet the president of Purdue University at the 50 yard line of Ross-Ade Stadium where she'll gift the school with her late husband's lunar rock-embedded NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award. The half-time ceremony, scheduled during the Purdue vs. Ohio State football game on October 6, will also include a "Moon Show" by the West Lafayette, Indiana university's marching band. After the game, the moon rock award will be displayed in the atrium of Purdue's Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering together with a year-long tribute to Chaffee.
: THINKFilm has announced that filmmaker Ron Howard will attach his name to the promotion of the upcoming cinema release of In the Shadow of the Moon, David Sington's documentary about the Apollo lunar program opening on Sept. 7 in New York and Los Angeles. The "Ron Howard Presents" credit will appear on all prints and in paid advertising for the film and Howard will participate in both the theatrical and DVD releases. Howard, who previously directed Apollo 13, said he was thrilled to lend his support "to remind Americans... about what a truly incredible accomplishment going to the moon was." Following its theater run, In the Shadow of theMoon will air on the Discovery Channel and Discovery HD.