August 3, 2009 / 7:48 a.m. CT (1248 GMT) Patch preview | STS-128 || C. Fuglesang: Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who will serve as an STS-128 mission specialist aboard space shuttle Discovery when it lifts off to the International Space Station in late August, now has a name and logo for his European Space Agency mission: Alissé. Adapted from alizé, the famous trade wind that 15th century explorers used to navigate to the New World following Christopher Columbus, the name emphasizes Fuglesang's launch to Columbus -- the space station's European-built laboratory. The Alissé patch uses the wing of a bird and a series of horizontal lines to evoke the mission's goals, destination and spacewalking tasks.
August 3, 2009 / 6:53 p.m. CT (2353 GMT) Toolbag tracked to its fiery end: A crew lock bag that held about $100,000 worth of tools finally returned to Earth Monday, nine months after it came loose and escaped the grasp of astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper during the first spacewalk of the STS-126 mission. The bag, which weighed about 30 pounds and was the same size as a small backpack, re-entered the atmosphere and disintegrated, according to the U.S. Air Force Joint Space Operations Center, where it was tracked from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The bag, which held grease guns, trash bags, and a scraper tool, was also a popular target for amateur satellite trackers as it orbited the Earth.
August 3, 2009 / 7:21 p.m. CT (0021 GMT Aug 4) Sold out space patch: If you were waiting for the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT) to launch to the International Space Station before buying a COLBERT patch, you may have missed your opportunity. The STS-128 mission that will deliver the astronaut exercise device named after the host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" won't be lifting off on space shuttle Discovery until late August, but the patch is now nearly sold out and its production halted.
August 6, 2009 / 10:38 a.m. CT (1538 GMT) Astronauts' auction and autographs: The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) on Thursday revealed the catalog for their next auction of astronaut memorabilia, including artifacts flown to the Moon and on-board the United States' first space station, Skylab. The auction is the latest of a series of collectible-related releases by the Foundation, which also in recent weeks unveiled a limited edition Apollo 11 anniversary 'Moontage' autographed print and announced the first custom signing with Skylab and space shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott. The proceeds from these sales and signatures go to awarding scholarships to outstanding science and engineering college students.
August 10, 2009 / 8:37 p.m. CT (0137 GMT Aug 11) Haney's history: The foreword to "Into That Silent Sea", the 2007 early space era book by Colin Burgess and Francis French newly available in softcover, was crafted from a collection of anecdotes recalled by NASA's first news director and original "Voice of Mission Control", Paul Haney. Unfortunately, Haney passed away of cancer two months ago, before he and French could finish editing the stories that did not make it into the foreword. To honor his memory and offer his history for future researchers, Haney's previously unpublished anecdotes were collected and provided by French to collectSPACE for presentation.
August 11, 2009 / 2:36 p.m. CT (1936 GMT) Assignments: NASA released Tuesday the astronauts assigned to the STS-134 shuttle mission, while also announcing a change to the STS-132 crew. Mark Kelly will serve as STS-134 commander, leading the mission's delivery of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer cosmic ray particle detector to the International Space Station. Greg "Box" H. Johnson will fly as pilot, with mission specialists Mike Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori. NASA originally planned STS-134 as the last space shuttle mission but it may fly before STS-133, which is still without a crew. The last scheduled mission of shuttle Atlantis meanwhile, will fly without one of Kelly's former crewmates. Karen Nyberg has been replaced as an STS-132 mission specialist by Michael Good due to a "temporary medical condition".
August 14, 2009 / 5:12 p.m. CT (2212 GMT) Ares I-X assembled: Standing 327 feet tall, the Ares I-X flight test vehicle, targeted for launch on Oct. 31, is now the tallest rocket erected by NASA since the Saturn V that launched Skylab in 1973. Assembly of the space shuttle-like solid rocket booster with its simulated fifth segment and upper stage was capped Thursday by the addition of a boilerplate crew module and launch abort system, offering a first look at the finished rocket and its distinctive shape. Equipped with more than 700 sensors, the two-and-a-half minute flight of the Ares I-X will collect data pertaining to the integration of the Orion capsule and Ares I, components of NASA's Constellation architecture.
August 17, 2009 / 1:51 p.m. CT (1851 GMT) Last launch "into the wild blue yonder": The U.S. Air Force launched on Monday its last Global Positioning Satellite to soar into space on-board a Delta II, completing its 20 year and 48th successful use of the booster that it helped to develop to launch payloads after the 1986 loss of space shuttle Challenger. Moving forward, the Air Force plans to use the more powerful Delta IV and Atlas 5 while the Delta II continues to fly in the service of NASA and commercial customers for (at least) seven launches. Today's launch was also the final planned use of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Pad 17A; the remaining two Delta II rockets will depart from the neighboring Pad 17B.
August 18, 2009 / 11:19 a.m. CT (1619 GMT) Secret Soviet spacecraft sold: A formerly classified Soviet-era military spacecraft that formed the basis for the International Space Station's 'Zarya' and 'Zvezda' modules was announced Tuesday as the backbone for a new U.S./Russian commercial orbital space flight venture. Excalibur Almaz Ltd., working with NPOM of Russia and with the help of the United Space Alliance, EADS Astrium and Japan Manned Space Systems, plans to adapt Almaz space stations and reentry vehicles to conduct crew and cargo flights for privately-funded individuals, corporations, academic institutions and governments. EA aims to begin flight tests by 2012 and enter operations as early as 2013.
August 18, 2009 / 9:48 p.m. CT (0248 GMT Aug 19) Debris or detritus: Auto mechanic Jim Tull was boating in the Bahamas when he came across a chunk of misshapen metal that he believed was debris from the January 1986 loss of space shuttle Challenger. According to reports by WOKV and WJXT in Jacksonville, Fla., Tull contacted NASA, who explained that if it was a part of the fallen orbiter, it was illegal for him to own. As he waits for the agency's verdict based on photos of the part, Tull said that he hopes to be able to "go ahead and teach with it."
August 19, 2009 / 10:27 p.m. CT (0327 GMT Aug 20) Learning to land Gemini again: Aimed at launching two private astronauts on the first man-rated SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exactly one half-century after John Glenn's Mercury flight, the non-profit Americans in Orbit - 50 Years has acquired an original Gemini boilerplate to learn how to land the two-seater model for their new spacecraft. Rather than a splashdown though, their plans call for their Gemini IR (Improved-Reusable) to glide to a touchdown. The plans for such a landing system have existed since the 60s but more tests are desired. AIO-50 is offering the boilerplate to a university interested in doing the research.
August 20, 2009 / 1:10 p.m. CT (1810 GMT) Closing in on Cone Crater: Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell missed peering over the rim of the 1,115 foot diameter Cone Crater, the goal for their second moonwalk during the Apollo 14 mission, by just 100 feet, as was confirmed this week using an image taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Captured from still within its commissioning orbit, a higher vantage point than from where LRO will commence in late August its mission of mapping the lunar surface, the image of the Fra Mauro landing site reveals the path the astronauts traversed and the equipment they left there. Equipped with only a poor map to lead their way, Shepard and Mitchell hiked up the side of Cone Crater dragging with them a tool cart, but ran out of time before they could reach the nearby crater rim.
August 24, 2009 / 3:05 p.m. CT (2005 GMT) A tale of two patches: Two souvenir space patches produced to celebrate the STS-128 mission to the International Space Station are now limited collectibles due to problems with their designs. One patch, the mission's official insignia, was discovered to be missing a module -- Europe's Columbus laboratory -- from its depiction of the International Space Station, a particular problem given the presence of a European astronaut on-board. Though fixed for the crew, patches with the mistake are still being sold while supplies last. In comparison, the now sold out space patch for the COLBERT treadmill, featuring the likeness of comedian Stephen Colbert, has rocketed in value from its original retail price of $5 to bids of nearly $200 on eBay.
August 27, 2009 / 2:08 p.m. CT (1908 GMT) Mistaken moon: The Netherlands, like 134 other nations, was gifted in the early 1970s with two samples of U.S. astronaut-returned moon rock: four fragments retrieved by the Apollo 11 moonwalkers and one 1.142-gram chip off Apollo 17's "goodwill" moon rock. Both samples, each encased in acrylic spheres and mounted to plaques with flown Dutch flags, are today safely archived at the National Museum of the History of Science and Medicine in Leiden. Another sample from the last Apollo mission is loaned by NASA to the Noordwijk Space Expo. But then what is the "moon rock" on exhibit at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam? Believed to be a private gift from former U.S. ambassador J. William Middendorf to the now-late former prime minister Willem Drees, it was confirmed recently to just be petrified wood, according to the Associated Press.
August 30, 2009 / 9:56 p.m. CT (0256 GMT Aug 31) Spanning space and time: Space shuttle Discovery, currently flying its 37th mission, docked with the International Space Station Sunday, just over half a day and a quarter century after its first launch. The oldest and most flown orbiter in NASA's current fleet, Discovery test flew the precursor to the space station's solar array panels on its first voyage in 1984. The STS-41D crew shared with collectSPACE their thoughts about the maiden mission's 25th anniversary as they watch "their" shuttle fly again.