July 1, 2012 / 5:43 a.m. CT (1043 GMT) TMA-03M touches down: After more than six months on board the International Space Station, ISS Expedition 31 commander Oleg Kononenko and flight engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers landed on the steppe of Kazakhstan on board their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft at 3:14 a.m. CDT Sunday. TMA-03M, under the command of Kononenko, undocked from the station at 11:47 p.m. CDT Saturday. A deorbit burn at 2:19 a.m. slowed the capsule to begin its descent back to Earth. Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers logged 193 days in space, 191 aboard the station.
July 1, 2012 / 6:39 a.m. CT (1139 GMT) Super shuttle: On Saturday, NASA's Super Guppy cargo plane landed in Seattle with a space shuttle trainer's crew compartment for The Museum of Flight. About the same size as the observation deck on Seattle's Space Needle, the crew cabin from Johnson Space Center's Full Fuselage Trainer was used to prepare every astronaut who ever flew on the space shuttle. The Super Guppy's arrival drew thousands of spectators, including Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire. "The lesson learned here is when we come together in Washington state, we can land the big whale right behind me," Governor Gregoire said.
July 2, 2012 / 3:20 a.m. CT (0820 GMT) Alan Poindexter, 1961-2012: Former NASA astronaut Alan G. "Dex" Poindexter died on Sunday from the injuries he sustained during a tragic water sports accident in Pensacola, Fla., NASA confirmed. Poindexter, 50, had been out jet skiing with his sons when he was struck by one of the watercraft. Selected to be an astronaut in 1998, Poindexter served as pilot for space shuttle Atlantis' 2008 STS-122 mission that installed ESA's Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. Two years later, he led the penultimate mission of shuttle Discovery, commanding the STS-131 crew on a resupply mission to the station.
July 2, 2012 / 2:59 p.m. CT (1959 GMT) Looks like the future: The welded shell for NASA's first space-bound Orion capsule has arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where in 2014 it will fly on an unmanned test flight. The space agency, joined by industry and congressional leaders, hailed the arrival on Monday as an important milestone for the future of space exploration, although there remains considerable work before the Orion will be ready for launch. Orion is NASA's first crew vehicle to undergo final construction at Kennedy Space Center.
July 3, 2012 / 1:51 p.m. CT (1851 GMT) Departure: The only astronaut to have ever spacewalked under a space shuttle has left NASA to a lead research into human-vehicle interaction. Stephen Robinson, who became an astronaut in 1995 and served aboard four space shuttle missions (STS-85 in 1997, STS-95 in 1998, STS-114 in 2005 and STS-130 in 2010) will begin work this fall as a professor at the University of California, Davis. He will take lead for the Center for Human-Vehicle Integration and Performance at UC Davis, focusing on how machines enhance human performance in hazardous environments including spaceflight and robotic surgery.
July 4, 2012 / 12:02 p.m. CT (1702 GMT) Spacefest for a space shuttle: The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City has announced it will host a "Spacefest" to celebrate its Space Shuttle Pavilion's grand opening on July 19. The four-day free public festival will run from July 18 to July 22 and feature over 40 interactive displays, activities and exhibitions. Center to it all will be the ribbon cutting for Intrepid's display of NASA's space shuttle Enterprise, which will give visitors a chance to see the prototype orbiter from above and below.
July 5, 2012 / 12:49 p.m. CT (1749 GMT) Where last we landed: The final landing of NASA's 30-year space shuttle program took place almost a year ago on July 21, 2011. A plaque marking where space shuttle Atlantis rolled to its final stop has now been installed alongside the Florida runway where it returned from space one last time. The black granite plaque is the last of three that was installed to mark the final "wheels stop" for each of NASA's now-retired space shuttle orbiters.
July 9, 2012 / 12:56 p.m. CT (1756 GMT) T+365 days and counting: Sunday marked the one year anniversary since the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the 135th and final mission of NASA's shuttle program. The last of NASA's reusable winged orbiters to fly in space, Atlantis spent the day inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida awaiting its final preparation as a museum exhibit. Like Atlantis, the team that flew its final mission, STS-135, has moved over the past year into new roles and missions as well.
July 11, 2012 / 10:01 a.m. CT (1501 GMT) Endeavors for Endeavour: Preparations at the California Science Center to receive the space shuttle Endeavour this September are in full swing, the center's president and CEO told collectSPACE. In addition to raising the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion on site, an airline's hangar has been secured to temporarily house the orbiter at Los Angeles International Airport. The CSC has also received one of Endeavour's large payloads for display alongside Endeavour, and decided to forgo an external tank artifact in favor of fabricating a replica for its future vertical launch pad-like display of the space shuttle.
July 11, 2012 / 5:36 p.m. CT (2236 GMT) Departure: NASA astronaut Mark Polansky, who flew three space shuttle missions to the International Space Station, has retired from the space agency as of June 30. The former shuttle commander helped to deliver the US Destiny laboratory on his first mission, STS-98, in 2001; a truss segment on STS-116 in 2006; and the final exposed components for the Kibo Japanese experiment module. He ends his NASA career with more than 41 days in space.
July 12, 2012 / 10:01 a.m. CT (1501 GMT) Launch (i)Pad for 3D spacecraft: NASA on Wednesday released Spacecraft 3D, an app for Apple iPads and iPhones, that brings the agency's robotic spacecraft to life. By using "augmented reality," Spacecraft 3D overlays three dimensional models of NASA probes, including Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity" and the GRAIL twins "Ebb" and "Flow," onto a target that the user prints and places in view of the device's camera. "It is a great way to study the 3-D nature of NASA spacecraft," Kevin Hussey, manager of visualization technology at NASA JPL, said. Future 3D models may include Cassini and the Voyager probes.
July 12, 2012 / 6:24 p.m. CT (2324 GMT) Original mockup moved: A full size model of the space shuttle that was built in 1972 to help North American Rockwell win the bid to build NASA's fleet of orbiters was moved on Thursday to be placed on outdoor display in Downey, Calif. The mockup, in several parts, is now under an open-ended tent erected near the Columbia Memorial Space Center, where a permanent display building for the shuttle is being planned. The mockup's move was to make room for the building of a new $500 million marketplace.
July 14, 2012 / 9:49 p.m. CT (0249 GMT Jul 15) Soyuz TMA-05M launches: Russia's Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft lifted off Saturday with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, Suni Williams of NASA, and JAXA's Aki Hoshide. The 30th Soyuz spacecraft to depart for the International Space Station, the launch coincided with the 37th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first international space mission in 1975. The Soyuz TMA-05M crew will join the space station's Expedition 32 when they dock and enter the outpost for their five month stay.
July 16, 2012 / 2:47 p.m. CT (1947 GMT) Kinect with Curiosity: On Monday, NASA's Curiosity rover was 20 days from its planned landing on Mars. The rocket, parachute, and sky-crane-assisted, unprecedented descent, dubbed the "seven minutes of terror," will be attempted under autonomous control. But as demonstrated by Danielle Roosa, the granddaughter of Apollo pilot Stuart Roosa, Xbox users can now try their hands (and bodies) at landing Curiosity with the Microsoft video game console's Kinect system. "Mars Rover Landing" for Xbox 360 is now available as a free downloaded from Xbox LIVE.
July 17, 2012 / 1:29 a.m. CT (0629 GMT) Orbital handshake: Russia's 30th Soyuz to fly to the International Station Station (ISS), Soyuz TMA-05M, docked Monday night with the station's Rassvet module, 37 years after the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project achieved the first international docking between US and Soviet vehicles. The "perfect" station docking delivered Yuri Malenchenko, Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide to begin a five month stay spanning the outpost's 32nd and 33rd expeditions.
July 19, 2012 / 4:16 p.m. CT (2116 GMT) - UPDATED Enterprise on exhibit: The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City debuted Thursday its display for Enterprise, NASA's prototype space shuttle, with the opening of its Space Shuttle Pavilion to the public. The exhibit, which offers the chance to walk under, around, and above the approach and landing test orbiter, presents the Enterprise suspended in space, elevated 10 feet above the converted aircraft carrier's flight deck. Prior to the opening ceremony and ribbon cutting, collectSPACE previewed the Enterprise exhibit to produce this 'first look' photo gallery.
July 20, 2012 / 2:22 p.m. CT (1922 GMT) Next stop, Pad 39A: For the first time in its 50 year history, Kennedy Space Center on Friday began offering public tours of one of the launch pads from which Apollo Saturn V moon rockets and space shuttles left Earth. The KSC Up-Close: Launch Pad Tour, the latest to open of three 50th anniversary "rare access" tours, takes visitors inside the perimeter of NASA's Pad 39A in Florida.
July 20, 2012 / 9:13 p.m. CT (0213 GMT July 21) Station-bound stork: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched its 3rd H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), nicknamed the "Kountouri-3" (or "White Stork-3"), on Friday night. The unmanned spacecraft lifted off on top of an H-IIB rocket at 9:06 p.m. CDT from Tanegashima Space Center. Scheduled to be berthed at the International Space Station on July 27, the HTV carries an aquatic hab experiment and an Earth observation camera with its 7,000 pounds of equipment and supplies for the station's crew.
July 23, 2012 / 8:19 a.m. CT (1319 GMT) Portal 2 space: An anonymous NASA tech, who apparently plays Valve Software's video game "Portal 2," shared his fandom by laser engraving one of the game's characters onto a panel launched to the International Space Station. The image of the orb-shaped robot "Wheatley" is now on board JAXA's HTV-3, which will berth at the station Friday. "NASA in no way officially endorses secretly laser engraving characters from Portal onto their spacecraft," a blog entry posted on Valve's website disclosed.
July 23, 2012 / 11:31 p.m. CT (0431 GMT July 24) Sally Ride, 1951-2012: The first US woman to fly in space, astronaut Sally Ride died on Monday. Her company, Sally Ride Science, announced the passing on its website: "Ride died peacefully after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer." She was 61. Chosen to be an astronaut with NASA's first group of female candidates, Ride made history on June 18, 1983, launching on space shuttle Challenger to become the first American woman in space. She flew to orbit once more before leaving NASA in 1987 but continued to serve the nation's space program as a leading advocate for science and math education.
July 24, 2012 / 2:33 p.m. CT (1933 GMT) Godspeed, Sally: The news of Sally Ride's death on Monday caught the attention of the world, so much so that her name topped the trending lists on social networks like Twitter. Among those tweeting, were many of Ride's fellow astronauts, including women whose own spaceflight records came as a result of Ride trailblazing the way. Their notes, together with crewmates', have been collected here.
July 25, 2012 / 9:24 a.m. CT (1424 GMT) Ask the astronaut: At the recent opening of space shuttle Enterprise's new exhibit at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City, the media had the chance to ask Fred Haise about his experience piloting the prototype orbiter. Now it's your turn! Haise is taking your questions as part of Astro Chat, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's video Q&A series. Haise will record replies to questions shared on Facebook and collectSPACE's forum, where the videos will be shared for all to watch afterwards. The deadline to post questions about flying Enterprise, and Apollo 13 too, is 9 a.m. CDT (1400 GMT) on July 31.
July 27, 2012 / 7:00 a.m. CT (1200 GMT) Launching the Olympics: On only the third mission to the International Space Station in May 2000, space shuttle Atlantis launched a small package tied to the Summer Olympics — not the 2000 Games in Sydney but rather the 2012 Olympics beginning on Friday. Twelve years later the contents of that payload are now an unusual example of Olympics-related memorabilia and a reminder of how the Summer Games and NASA could have shared space.
July 29, 2012 / 12:01 a.m. CT (0501 GMT) The shadow knows: 41 years ago Monday, Apollo 15 landed on the moon and the fourth of ultimately six American flags was planted on the lunar surface. Those flags have been exposed to intense ultraviolet (UV) light and temperatures over the past four decades, leading many to question if the nylon stars and stripes still existed or if the star-spangled banners had degraded in the direct sunlight. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has now confirmed the famous flags' fate beyond a 'shadow' of a doubt.
July 30, 2012 / 8:42 p.m. CT (0142 GMT July 31) Memento markup: H.R. 4158, introduced in March, will be marked up by the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space and Technology this Thursday. A bill "to confirm full ownership rights for certain United States astronauts to artifacts from the astronauts' space missions," the legislation is co-sponsored by 32 of the committee's 36 members. The bill, if passed into law, will resolve what NASA chief Charles Bolden described as "fundamental misunderstandings and unclear policies" with regard to the mementos saved by the astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and ASTP programs.
July 31, 2012 / 10:37 p.m. CT (0337 GMT Aug 1) Sally Ride biography: Sally Ride was more than just the first American woman in space and a new book announced on Tuesday will aim to tell that story. Simon & Schuster will publish the untitled biography, which veteran journalist Lynn Sherr will write for release next year. Sherr will have the cooperation of Ride's family and friends, her crewmates and other women in her astronaut class.
July 31, 2012 / 11:02 p.m. CT (0402 GMT Aug 1) Patch preview | Soyuz TMA-07M: The last Russian Soyuz that will launch this year, the TMA-07M spacecraft, now has a crew patch to symbolize its mission to the International Space Station. "Our crew Soyuz patch just came out," Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote on Twitter. "We love it!" Scheduled to lift off Dec. 5, Hadfield will be joined on TMA-07M by cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn.