October 1, 2010 / 1:33 a.m. CT (0633 GMT) Congress authorizes shuttle displays: On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved the Senate's version of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, including criteria for how the space agency should dispose of its fleet of space shuttles once they are retired next year. The bill directs that "priority consideration" be provided to eligible locations that have had "historical relationships" to the launch, flight operations, or processing of the orbiters, or otherwise the retrieval of NASA manned space vehicles or significant contributions to human space flight. NASA's Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told collectSPACE that the same provisions were "already in the criteria" that the agency has been using to select the homes for Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, so she did not anticipate the bill "would change NASA's plans." What it may still change is when NASA can award the orbiters. The bill authorizes an additional shuttle mission, which if approved, would delay the shuttles' availability to museums. While Garver stated there is no specific timetable for NASA deciding where the vehicles will go, she said it "should happen this year."
October 1, 2010 / 9:04 a.m. CT (1404 GMT) China's Chang'e-II: Chang'e-II, China's 2nd unmanned lunar probe was launched Friday atop a Long March 3C carrier rocket to orbit the moon. Lifting off from the No. 2 tower at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 5:59 a.m. CDT (6:59 p.m. local), Chang'e-II was inserted into a trans-lunar orbit without first circling Earth, marking a first for China's space program. Chang'e II will take about five days to arrive at the moon, where it will orbit 62 miles (100 km) above the surface for six months, collecting data and imagery to support a planned soft-landing by Chang'e III.
October 2, 2010 / 12:57 p.m. CT (1757 GMT) Astronaut sues pop singer: Former NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless filed a lawsuit Thursday against pop singer Dido and Sony Music for what he claims was unauthorized use of his image for an album cover. Dido's 2008 "Safe Trip Home" featured a 1984 photo showing the astronaut testing the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) jet backpack in 1984, establishing McCandless as the first to float free (i.e. without tethers) of his spacecraft. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, McCandless does not allege copyright infringement, "only infringement of his persona." NASA's usage policy stipulates that if a photo includes an identifiable person, then use of that image for commercial purposes may infringe that person's rights, and permission should be obtained from the person. McCandless says he never gave permission and as he remains the only person to free float at a far distance, the photo is uniquely of him.
October 7, 2010 / 7:16 p.m. CT (0016 GMT Oct 8) Digital Soyuz uploaded to station: Soyuz TMA-01M, the first in a new line of Russian spacecraft upgraded with a digital telemetry system and digital flight computer, lifted off Thursday to the International Space Station with Alexander Kaleri, Oleg Skripochka and Scott Kelly on board. Having launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:10 p.m. CDT, Soyuz TMA-01M with its crew will dock to the station Saturday. Kaleri, Skripochka and Kelly will join Expedition 25 before leading Expedition 26 starting in late November. During their five months on orbit, the TMA-01M crewmates will oversee the docking of multiple nations' spacecraft, including Russian Soyuz and Progress, ESA's ATV, JAXA's HTV, and NASA shuttles -- the latter including a flight led by Kelly's twin brother Mark.
October 8, 2010 / 11:23 a.m. CT (1623 GMT) Patch preview | MagISStra: Paolo Nespoli will fly to the International Space Station in December to serve as a flight engineer with the Expedition 26 and 27 crews, becoming the third European Space Agency astronaut to take up residency aboard the outpost. On Friday, ESA announced the name and revealed the patch for Nespoli's mission, dubbed "MagISStra." The moniker combines the Latin word for female teacher, magistra, with the acronym for the orbiting laboratory, evoking education, which is one of the three dimensions of Nespoli's flight. These '3Ds' are reflected in the patch in the form of a book for knowledge, gears for technology and a plant for science. 3D is also a reference to the ESA-developed 3D camera that Nespoli will use to film his experiences on the orbital complex.
October 9, 2010 / 6:36 p.m. CT (2336 GMT) Scratch and sniff the moon: Charlie Duke, Apollo 16's lunar module pilot, described the moon -- or rather the moondust he and John Young tracked back inside the lander -- as having "the smell of gunpowder." Using that description (which other Apollo moonwalkers recounted as well), flavorist Steven Pearce at Omega Ingredients in the UK developed a chemical scent "Moondust Natural R342." Now, artists have taken the lunar aroma to its logical end: scratch and sniff. Unveiled in September at Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, "MOON, Scratch and Sniff" by Hagen Betzwieser and Sue Corke is a limited edition print of 300 imprinted with the smell of the moon. The forerunner for a new installation planned for next year, the prints are being made available for sale now through galleries in England.
October 10, 2010 / 2:02 p.m. CT (1902 GMT) Patch preview | Expedition 29: The HMS Endeavour sets sail again on the Expedition 29 patch, symbolizing how the International Space Station (ISS) and its crew continues the exploration mission epitomized by Capt. James Cook's research vessel. ISS Expedition 29, led by commander Mike Fossum, starts in September 2011, with Roscosmos' Sergei Volkov, Anatoly Ivanishin, and Anton Shkaplerov, NASA's Dan Burbank, and Satoshi Furukawa from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
October 10, 2010 / 7:22 p.m. CT (0022 GMT Oct 11) Free Enterprise: Virgin Galactic on Sunday conducted the first piloted free flight glide of SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Enterprise. Lofted to an altitude of 45,000 feet under its carrier VMS Eve, the suborbital passenger spacecraft dropped from the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft and, piloted by Pete Siebold with co-pilot Mike Alsbury, glided back to Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The flight lasted 11 minutes. Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, commented that it was "one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin," beginning the process of "pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself."
October 12, 2010 / 3:43 p.m. CT (2043 GMT) Space craft contest: Etsy, the marketplace for homemade goods, began on Tuesday a contest with NASA to honor the best artistic handmade item inspired by the soon-ending space shuttle program or space exploration. The 2010 Space Craft Contest will reward the artist of the best 2D or 3D creation between today and Nov. 2 with an Etsy shopping spree and an all-expenses paid trip to see one of the last space shuttle launches. According to Etsy, the winning designs in each category (2D original art, 2D art reproduction, and 3D art) may be flown on the shuttle.
October 14, 2010 / 12:27 p.m. CT (1727 GMT) Find a moon rock, win a prize: NASA has populated the Gowalla location-based social networking service with information and four virtual items -- moon rocks, a NASA patch, a spacesuit and a space shuttle -- that can be found at agency-related venues. Users who check-in at these museums, science centers and planetariums using their smart phones can collect these items, either to trade or keep. Those who find at least three of the virtual NASA artifacts will receive a special pin, or icon for their Gowalla Passport. In addition, the first 100 to collect three NASA items will win a real-world prize: a NASA+Gowalla Map: Search for the Moon Rocks by JESS3, a creative agency that specializes in data visualization.
October 16, 2010 / 1:24 p.m. CT (1824 GMT) Fire destroys Outpost: The former Outpost Tavern building, which once had walls lined with space memorabilia and autographs that were contributed by its astronaut patrons, is no more, the outcome of a fire that engulfed the Air Force barrack-turned-bar on Friday night. Closed in January after its property owner sold the land where it sat since 1965, much of the memorabilia had been moved out before the fire could destroy it. The Webster (Texas) Fire Department is investigating the cause of the blaze, citing the lack of electricity running to the shuttered building.
October 22, 2010 / 3:14 p.m. CT (2014 GMT) Checking in from orbit: ISS Expedition 25 commander Douglas Wheelock widened the reach on Friday of the location-based social networking service Foursquare by becoming the first to log in to the website from space. The on-orbit "check-in" not only unlocked the new "NASA Explorer" virtual badge (earning Wheelock "a free scoop of astronaut ice cream") but also launched a new partnership between Foursquare and NASA. Of course, not everyone can make it to the station orbiting 220 miles above Earth, so Wheelock will (virtually) bring it back with him so more can add it to their (virtual) collections. There's no word yet whether Wheelock will check-in again so he becomes the Foursquare "mayor" of the International Space Station...
October 29, 2010 / 3:37 p.m. CT (2037 GMT) The write stuff: Following their 2008 line of limited edition, high-end timepieces studded with space-flown metal, Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome announced on Tuesday the MoonFighter, a moon-dust-impregnated pen with the shape of a futuristic space plane. Issued as three limited-to-888-piece editions in "black metal, vintage" and "heavy metal," each MoonFighter is made in part from the company's proprietary "MOON SILVERRJ," a silver alloy comprised of authentic lunar material and fragments from the Apollo 11 spacecraft flown on the first moon landing.