July 1, 2006 / 7:00 a.m. CT (1200 GMT) Popular pennant: NASA's Office of Space Flight Awareness has since Tuesday been distributing to agency employees STS-121 small flags in celebration of today's launch. At Kennedy Space Center's Press Site, the nylon banners have been popular with the media, as they have quickly been claimed from the small piles set out by Boeing representatives. The blue flags feature the flight's patch, NASA/SFA logos and "STS-121 Launch" in yellow.
July 1, 2006 / 3:57 p.m. CT (2057 GMT) All dressed up and no where to go: Anvil clouds threatening thunderstorms near the abort landing site at Kennedy Space Center forced NASA to scrub today's planned start to mission STS-121. During the countdown, mission managers worked and cleared a problem with one of Discovery's six vernier thrusters. The decision to scrub came only seven minutes before the planned launch time with the clock stopped at T-9 minutes and holding. NASA will try to launch tomorrow at 2:26 p.m. CDT however, the weather remains a problem with just a 40% chance of 'go'.
July 2, 2006 / 12:44 p.m. CT (1744 GMT) Weather 2, shuttle 0: Once again, stormy weather at Kennedy Space Center has put an end to NASA's attempt to launch space shuttle Discovery on STS-121. NASA will now stand down for 48 hours to service the orbiter's fuel cells and then try again on Tuesday, July 4. Independence Day's weather is predicted to improve over recent conditions with a 60% chance of being acceptable. STS-121's revised targeted launch time is 1:38 p.m. CDT.
July 3, 2006 / 12:06 p.m. CT (1206 GMT) Foam found: A fragment of External Tank foam reportedly found below Discovery on the Mobile Launch Platform fell off the tank from a location where a 5" crack had been previously photographed, an animation put together by collectSPACE reveals. Using photos internal to NASA first published by the newspapers Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel, collectSPACE was able to show a perfect match between the crack and piece, which at the time was being reported by the press as separate issues. Further, collectSPACE has learned that NASA managers plan to meet again later tonight before deciding to launch Discovery on STS-121, presently scheduled for tomorrow.
July 3, 2006 / 2:47 p.m. CT (1947 GMT) - UPDATED Foam found: A 3-inch segment of external tank foam that fell off a bracket connecting the liquid oxygen feedline to the tank has caused NASA to reconsider if it can launch shuttle Discovery tomorrow as planned. At issue is whether the loss, caused by ice forming and then pinching the foam, is a single occurrence or if additional damage is there and cannot, as of yet be seen. Concerns also exist for further ice formation during tanking and then heating of that area during ascent. NASA is continuing to ready the shuttle for a July 4 lift-off while the bracket area is studied further. A decision whether to proceed Tuesday with the launch will be made tonight by mission managers.
July 3, 2006 / 8:55 p.m. CT (0155 GMT Jul 4) Go for launch! NASA will proceed with its plans to launch space shuttle Discovery on Tuesday, having concluded that the loss of foam from a fuel line bracket earlier today will not pose a threat to the vehicle or crew. Mission managers met on Monday evening to review the issue and found that the missing 3-inch piece of external tank did not create a risk for increased ice formation that could impact the orbiter during launch or for heating of the underlying metal during ascent. Further inspections using a mounted boroscope camera revealed that the remaining foam on the bracket was left undamaged. All that remains now between Discovery and an Independence Day launch is the 40% chance that the weather will not be acceptable.
July 4, 2006 / 4:17 a.m. CT (0917 GMT) First on the 4th: If Discovery launches on mission STS-121 today (at 1:38 p.m. CDT, as planned), it will mark the United States' first human spaceflight to lift-off on July 4, Independence Day. And though the shuttle has landed on this date (Columbia on STS-4 in 1982), the launch of Discovery will be only the third rocket to depart U.S. soil and arrive in Earth orbit today in history (both of the prior launches were on Delta rockets: the first in 1968 carrying the radio astronomy satellite, Explorer 38; and in 1991, a Navstar Global Positioning System satellite). The U.S. has also made contact with two astronomical bodies on past July fourths: Mars Pathfinder with rover Sojourner landed on the Red Planet on Independence Day 1997 and fireworks flew on this day last year when Comet Tempel 1 met the Deep Impact probe. July 4, 1976 was also set for the original Martian landing of Viking 1 but was postponed.
July 4, 2006 / 2:02 p.m. CT (1902 GMT) Rocket's red glare: NASA's 115th shuttle mission got off to spectacular start today with Discovery's on-time launch from Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center. On-board, the seven-member, STS-121 crew, led by Commander Steven Lindsey, began their 12-day mission to the International Space Station. The mission carries a new crew member and over 5,000 pounds of supplies for the orbiting outpost, as well as repair hardware that will be used during two spacewalks. The STS-121 crew will also test techniques for improving shuttle safety developed in the wake of the Columbia accident in 2003. Along with its other payloads, Discovery is flying the crew's mementos and 6,000 'gifts' for NASA employees, partners and VIPs.
July 5, 2006 / 12:02 p.m. CT (1702 GMT) Armstrong's suit aboard? A story in the Rockford Register Star today claims that a spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong to train for Apollo 11 was aboard shuttle Discovery yesterday when it launched the STS-121 crew to space. According to the article, Wayne Lensing acquired the suit in June for his museum in Roscoe, IL, Historic Auto Attractions. He reportedly then shipped the artifact to NASA Johnson Space Center for repair, where they "offered to include it on the Discovery mission." No such item is listed on the manifest of memorabilia for the flight (nor would the spacesuit meet the size and weight requirements for inclusion in the Official Flight Kit), so a call to the space agency was in order. According to JSC spokesperson James Hartsfield, he wasn't aware of the Armstrong spacesuit being flown. "If you don't hear back from me," Hartsfield told collectSPACE "then it didn't fly."
July 6, 2006 / 10:11 a.m. CT (1511 GMT) Recovery recovered: The only copy of the 16mm film showing the ocean splashdown and recovery of Apollo 12 has been located by a helicopter pilot who was there in 1969. As reported by NBCSanDiego.com, the film was found at the bottom of an old box and was then sent to the USS Hornet, Apollo 12's prime recovery ship that is now a museum. The film captures an airborne view of the Command Module Yankee Clipper in the Pacific, followed by the crew's arrival and transfer to the quarantine facility. Copies of the footage will be given to NASA and the crew.
July 6, 2006 / 8:28 p.m. CT (0128 GMT Jul 7) Edited emblems: Newly-delivered ISS 13 crew member Thomas Reiter is no stranger to seeing his name added to, and then later removed from mission patches. While the European Space Agency astronaut trained for his current mission, his name either appeared or had a space reserved on at least four different crews' insignias as the result of his ride to space, Discovery and STS-121 being delayed. "It's kind of a strange feeling," Reiter told collectSPACE. "[The different crews] design a patch and they always [included] me, as in 'what do you think of this design?' I somehow get a bad feeling then, when finally I [was] dropping out of this expedition." Today however, his name was being added, rather than deleted, from the ISS Expedition 13 patch when Reiter officially joined the crew as his Soyuz seat liner was transferred from the orbiter to the International Space Station. Of course, Reiter isn't the only astronaut to play musical patches: the crewmates on STS-116 and 117 lately had their names shuffle emblems.
July 7, 2006 / 10:54 a.m. CT (1554 GMT) Recovery re-recovered:Thursday's story from NBCSanDiego.com regarding the lost then found Apollo 12 recovery footage was incorrect: the film in question was not only not missing but has been restored and sold to the public with a 2005 DVD set. Mark Gray, founder of Spacecraft Films, writes: "All of the footage is on our set, released a year and a half ago." Gray also observed that the "original" 16mm film sent to the USS Hornet Museum is in fact a compilation of different views. "And it is a poor transfer that shows a good deal of pink fade," wrote Gray.
July 9, 2006 / 1:26 p.m. CT (1826 GMT) School spirit in space: Before the launch of STS-121, mission specialists Stephanie Wilson and Michael Fossum made several mentions of their plans to take memorabilia from their alma maters to space. Wilson, a graduate student from the University of Texas, shared her school's good-natured rivalry with Fossum, a Texas A&M alumni. "I think the pictures on orbit will be interesting as we bring out the various memorabilia," Wilson said before the mission. Today during their in-flight press conference, collectSPACE asked Wilson if her and Fossum's school spirit was showing. "The wars between the Longhorns and Aggies has been long-standing, and began, I guess, when I was assigned to this crew," replied Wilson with a smile. "And yes there are Longhorns on both the shuttle and the station." Seconds later, Fossum chimed in, "Aggies, too!"
July 11, 2006 / 9:57 a.m. CT (1457 GMT) Down-load: One of the main objectives of the STS-121 mission is the transfer to and from the space station of equipment and supplies, which were carried to orbit inside Leonardo, a multi-purpose logistics module that launched inside Discovey's payload bay. The moving van "can" brought to the ISS more than 7,400 pounds of items that the STS-121 crew has been busy over the last few days hauling onto and stowing in the outpost. They're also moving 4,300 pounds of science experiment results, unneeded items and trash back into Leonardo for the ride down to Earth. Among the latter, are the personal effects belonging to two previous ISS crews. Having themselves returned home aboard Russian Soyuz craft, Expedition 11 crew members Sergei Krikalev and John Phillips, as well as Expedition 12 crewmates William McArthur and Valery Tokarev, didn't have the 'space' to take their stuff. Hence, Discovery will land with 160 pounds of the crews' clothing and personal preference kits, as well as the Official Flight Kit for Expedition 12, mementos for VIPs and employees.
July 12, 2006 / 7:13 p.m. CT (0013 GMT Jul 13) Lost in space: Today, during their third (of three) spacewalks, STS-121's Piers Sellers and Mike Fossum lost a 14-inch long metal spatula as it flew overboard, off the side of Discovery's payload bay. The $2,000 putty knife, one of six aboard, was tasked to spread NOAX, an experimental goo on simulated wing leading edge damage to test a potential repair technique. Astronauts inside the orbiter and ground controllers tracked the wayward "CRM scraper" with video cameras and decided it was harmless to the space station or shuttle. Sellers is far from the first to lose control of an item during a spacewalk. As far back as the first U.S. EVA, fugitive supplies have escaped the grasp of astronauts. For Edward White II on Gemini IV, it was an overglove that flew the coop. Much more recently, a small piece of a foot restraint became unrestrained as it floated away from ISS 13 commander Pavel Vinogradov. Then of course, there are the items purposely tossed out, such as the Orlan spacesuit-turned-SuitSat last February. Still, no astronaut likes to lose their "favorite spatch" and Sellers mourned the loss, "I think it's gone, gone, gone..."
July 14, 2006 / 8:13 a.m. CT (1313 GMT) Apollo-Soyuz redux: They may not have docked nor were they in orbit at the time, but a real first generation Soyuz vehicle is now sharing 'space' with an Apollo capsule that flew in 1966. The two met on the deck of the USS Hornet Museum on Wednesday, where Apollo Command Module-011A has been on display since 2004 and Soyuz 7K-0K arrived on loan from the Chabot Space & Science Center. The Russian spacecraft exhibit debuts to the public tomorrow, coinciding with the anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, 31 years ago on Saturday.
July 14, 2006 / 4:34 p.m. CT (2134 GMT) Enomoto's emblems: Space- tourist flight participant Daisuke "Dice-K" Enomoto, who is scheduled to launch to the space station with two of the Expedition 14 crewmembers in September, was seen yesterday wearing both his upcoming Soyuz TMA-9 mission insignia and, for those quick enough to catch it, the personal emblem that he will also stitch to his suit. "This is TMA-9," Dice-K told collectSPACE as he pointed to the embroidered patch on his shirt. The Japanese internet entrepreneur has plans to also wear his own logo. "You can just access my website at Dice-K.com and you will see the D mark. I am going to stitch it to my spacesuit also," described Enomoto, as he held up his custom wristwatch to show his patch's design.
July 16, 2006 / 12:35 a.m. CT (0535 GMT) Bus stop started: During their third annual Saturn/Apollo Reunion held yesterday, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama broke ground for a new building to house their recently restored Saturn V and its adjacent intermodal bus transportation facility. Among the ceremonial shovelers were Apollo astronauts Richard Gordon and Walt Cunningham as well as George Mueller, former NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight. The Saturn V building will stand next to the vertical replica of the moon rocket. The bus terminal will become the new point of entry for USSRC visitors. The 43,200 sq. foot Saturn V complex is scheduled to open next summer.
July 17, 2006 / 8:52 a.m. CT (1352 GMT) Welcome back Discovery! The STS-121 crew (less newly delivered station resident Thomas Reiter) are back on Earth, having successfully completed a 12 day, 18 hour mission to the International Space Station. Space shuttle Discoverytouched down on Runway 15 at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility at 8:14 a.m. CDT this morning. The landing marked the shuttle's 51st in Florida, and the 32nd overall for orbiter Discovery.
July 19, 2006 / 1:55 p.m. CT (1855 GMT) Aggies and Armstrong: A crowd several hundred deep came out to welcome home the crew of STS-121 yesterday at Ellington Field in Houston. The six-person crew led by Cdr. Steve Lindsey thanked their NASA training teams for making the mission a success. Among the attendees were maroon-clad Texas A&M Aggies who gave a 'Whoop!' for their first alum in orbit, Mike Fossum. Also in the audience were several of the Discovery crew's fellow astronauts, including the first and last men to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Harrison Schmitt. After sharing a few comments each, the crew joined the crowd, where they posed for photographs and signed autographs.
July 20, 2006 / 1:34 p.m. CT (1834 GMT) Columbus' crew: Astronaut Stephen Frick will command the crew of STS-122 to bring Columbus, the European Space Agency's module, to the International Space Station, NASA announced today. Sitting to the right of Frick on Discovery's flight deck will be Alan Poindexter making his first flight as pilot. Mission specialists for the 2007 targetted flight will include Rex Walheim, Stan Love, Leland Melvin and representing ESA, Hans Schlegel. The mission is expected to also fly with a seventh crew mate who will remain on the station (his predecessor taking his seat for the ride home), but that astronaut was not named.
July 20, 2006 / 7:34 p.m. CT (0034 GMT Jul 21) Project Orion: Tipped off by a trademark search, collectSPACE has learned that the intended new name of NASA's lunar-bound Crew Exploration Vehicle is expected to be Orion. The moniker, like Apollo before it, is also meant to serve as the project name. The selection of Orion follows last month's announcement by NASA that the rocket to launch the new crew vehicle is called Ares I.
July 22, 2006 / 12:07 a.m. CT (0507 GMT) Collins Q&A: Encouraged by the results of their first session with Apollo 9 commander Jim McDivitt, Novaspace Galleries is again inviting their clients to submit questions for their next scheduled custom signing guest, Michael Collins. The Apollo 11 command module pilot will be filmed as he replies to the chosen submissions. Video clips will be posted to Novaspace's website and the entire session will be saved to CD (available for $10). Questions can be sent to Novaspace with signature orders or posted to collectSPACE Messages but must be made by Sep. 1.
July 25, 2006 / 8:37 a.m. CT (1337 GMT) Saving Skylab: The Alabama/Mississippi section of the AIAA is seeking volunteers and donations to support the restoration of the full-scale mock-up of Skylab that was used to train astronauts at Marshall Space Flight Center in the early 1970s. Previously on display in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's museum, the simulator was moved outside several years ago, to make room for other exhibits. Unfortunately, its weather coverings failed and the Skylab is nearing a point where, if not restored, it will be beyond repair. The AIAA hopes to start work soon.
July 26, 2006 / 1:58 p.m. CT (1858 GMT) Aldrin's archives: Today, collectSPACE proudly announces the debut of the Buzz Aldrin Archives Sale, featuring memorabilia from the personal collection of the Gemini pilot and Apollo moonwalker. The artifacts listed today comprise the first catalog of several that are planned over the next few months, including flown items, autographs, personal files and correspondence. Some of the items in this debut sale are canceled checks, vintage telegrams, and Col. Aldrin's U.S. Air Force officer record.
July 27, 2006 / 1:18 p.m. CT (1818 GMT) Charles Brady (1951-2006): Capt. Charles E. Brady, Jr. (USN), who flew as a mission specialist on STS-78, has died. According to an article posted to the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) website, Brady, 54, passed away on July 23. A physician, Brady retired from NASA in 2002 after serving as chief for station astronaut training. Prior to joining the space agency, Brady was the flight surgeon for the Navy's "Blue Angels" demonstration squadron from 1988 to 1990. A private service is planned.
July 29, 2006 / 4:54 p.m. CT (2154 GMT) Journey with Jim: Earlier this month, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, IL opened A Journey with Jim Lovell,the first gallery of their new exhibition Shoot for the Moon. A permanent addition, Journey tells the story of Lovell's life and career using artifacts from his personal collection. The fully-restored Gemini 12 spacecraft serves as the multimedia show's centerpiece. Among the nearly 30 artifacts on display are Lovell's rejection letter from the Mercury Program and his handwritten training notes from Gemini. The grand opening of the full, Shoot for the Moon gallery is Nov. 11, 40 years after the launch of Gemini 12.
July 30, 2006 / 10:12 p.m. CT (0312 GMT Jul 31) Apollo 15 Omega: Thirty-five years ago Sunday, Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin made the fourth manned lunar landing as Alfred Worden orbited the Moon above. To celebrate the anniversary, Omega is offering a special edition of the watch that all three Apollo 15 crewmates wore on their flight. Omega's Apollo 15 Speedmaster Professional timepiece features gold highlights on its three recessed counters and push buttons. Its sapphire crystal case back is etched with the Apollo 15 insignia and is engraved with the words "Apollo 15" and "35th anniversary". The edition is limited to 1,971 watches, in honor of the year the Apollo 15 mission flew.
July 31, 2006 / 9:46 a.m. CT (1446 GMT) Claim your space: Registration has begun for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's silent auction of astronaut experiences and artifacts, hosted by collectSPACE. Sign-up now to preview the catalog on Friday and to bid when the five-day sale starts next Monday. More than 30 former astronauts have given items from their personal collections or plan to join bidders on tours and adventures.
July 31, 2006 / 8:21 p.m. CT (0121 GMT Aug 1) Apollo archive: In an effort to make lunar exploration history more easily accessible to its employees and researchers, Marshall Space Flight Center's Space Environments and Effects Program has introduced a new DVD with a searchable archive of more than 1,000 Apollo Program-related reports. The Lunar e-Library, available for free, presents the complete Apollo mission, science, and experience reports, Saturn rocket evaluations, lunar rover documents, and data from the Surveyor, Clementine, and Lunar Prospector robotic probes. Marshall also conducted 16 focused interviews for the project with lunar historians.