Friday, July 31, 2009

Crew Departs Shuttle after "Fantastic Mission"

Hailing the newly concluded flight of space shuttle Endeavour as a "fantastic mission", the crew departed the orbiter and made a few comments after the traditional walk around of their craft.

"It's a great day to be here at the Kennedy Space Center!" mission commander Mark Polansky shouted out to those on runway 15 as the entire crew stood near the resting orbiter.

"What a fantastic mission!", Polansky continued to say. "What can we say but thanks to everybody at the Kennedy Space Center for working so hard on Endeavour. It's a beautiful vehicle and we enjoyed every minute of it. Hopefully we brought it back in good shape."

Six of the seven members of the crew of Endeavour - Commander Polansky, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Julie Payette (Canada), Christopher Cassidy, David Wolf, Tom Mashburn - were able to get out and make the walk around inspection one hour after landing.

Only returning space station astronaut Koichi Wakata of the Japanese Space Agency stayed in a special chair in the astronaut transporter as he readapts to gravity following over four months in space.

SLN VIDEO: Endeavour Lands in Florida

Endeavour lands at 10:48 am EDT, at KSC.

Endeavour Lands at Kennedy Space Center

The space shuttle Endeavour left earth orbit this morning for a free fall journey back home to a beautiful landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The orbiter's main gear hit the space center's runway hot and fast at 10:48:08 am EDT, concluding 15 days, 16 hours and 46 minutes in space, and the final mission to complete the Japanese Kibo segment aboard the international space station.

NASA's 29th space shuttle mission to help construct the massive space station flew 6.52 million miles and was docked to the orbital complex for 12

"Congratulations on a superb mission from beginning to end. Very well done," CAPCOM Alan Poindexter radioed the crew of Endeavour from back in Mission Control after the spacecraft came to a complete stop.

Coming home on the day before his 46th birthday, Japan's first long duration space traveler,
Koichi Wakata, landed in a space chair on the middeck of the orbiter.

On hand to greet the crew is new NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden, who began his first day at work in Washington, D.C. days after Endeavour launched on her 23rd flight.

The next space shuttle launch is targeted for no earlier than August 23rd, by Discovery. Discovery is set to head to her ocean side launch pad on Monday morning.

Endeavour "GO" for DeOrbit Burn; Landing Today

Mission Control in Houston just gave the seven member crew of the space shuttle Endeavour a "Go" for the burn which will slow the ship down and drop it out of earth orbit.

The deorbit burn, in which Endeavour fires her breaking engines for nearly three minutes, will slow the spacecraft down and begin her free fall back to earth. The twin small engines will ignite at 9:41 am EDT.

Landing at the Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 10:48 am, as the main gear hits runway 15 after nearly 16 days in space.

Weather Improves for Endeavour's Landing

The summer weather here along the Florida Space Coast has improved this morning in support of a 10:48 am EDT landing by space shuttle Endeavour following 16 successful days on orbit.

Endeavour's crew closed and latched her payload bay doors at 7 am, and later began software updates to prepare turning their ship from space craft to an atmospheric glider.

When Mission Control clears the weather this morning, Endeavour's commander Mark Polansky will fire the ship's twin orbital maneuvering engines for nearly 3 minutes at 9:41 am EDT, to begin their decent and drop out of orbit. The deorbit burn will slow the orbiter's speed by 207 miles per hour to allow for it to drop out of orbit.

Landing is currently planned for the Kennedy Space Center's runway 15 with a main gear touchdown at 10:48 am.

Endeavour's crew includes commander Polansky, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Julie Payette (Canada), Christopher Cassidy, David Wolf, Tom Mashburn and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata who is coming home after four months aboard the international space station.

One hour prior to the deorbit burn, the seven member crew will begin drinking fluids to keep from dehydrating & in support of their fluid shifts during the reentry. They will "consume 8 ounces of water or artificially sweetened drink with two salt tablets, or 8 ounces of Chicken Consommé every 15 minutes".


CDR (Polansky) 40 oz - Chicken Consommé
PLT (Hurley) 40 oz - Orange Drink w/ A/S
MS1 (Cassidy) 40 oz - Water
MS2 (Payette) 24 oz - Chicken Consommé 8 oz - Lemon-Lime Ade
MS3 (Marshburn) 16 oz - Water 8 oz - Tropical Punch w/ A/S 8 oz - Chicken Consommé
MS4 (Wolf) 40 oz - Water 10
MS5 (Wakata) 32 oz - Water 8

One hour following landing, the crew will leave Endeavour, and except for Wakata, will perform the walk around inspection of the ship as it rests on the runway after traveling over 6 million miles.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

UPDATE: DRAGONSat Deployed from Endeavour

The DRAGONSat student satellites deployed successfully from Endeavour this morning at 8:35 am EDT, streaking up and over the orbiter as they begin their multiyear mission to study automatic dockings in space.

We captured a NASA-TV image of DRAGONSat several meters above the orbiter, seconds following the deployment.

Deployment came as the orbiter flew some 218 miles over central South America.

Endeavour Steers Tword Friday Landing

The space shuttle Endeavour is in great shape and ready for its return back home to the Kennedy Space Center tomorrow morning following 16 days in earth orbit.

Currently, landing here at KSC's shuttle landing facility will be at 10:48 am EDT, on runway 15.

Endeavour's commander Mark Polansky and pilot Doug Hurley will burn the ship's small twin engines at 9:45 am EDT on Friday to begin its free fall back to earth. About twenty minutes later, Endeavour will begin feeling the effects of earth's upper atmosphere as reentry begins.

Landing will come on the mission's 248th orbit of the earth, as the orbiter tracks from the central Pacific Ocean and northeast as it flys over central America, over the Caribbean Sea and up over Cuba as it heads to Kennedy.

Endeavour, which launched on July 15th, is expected to see generally good weather during her mid-morning approach to the Florida Space Coast.

Weather is forecast to be partly cloudy with an air tempertaure of 82 degrees just prior to the 10:48 am landing time. Thunderstorms, which could occur later in the afternoon, will not be an issue.

Endeavour Spends Final Day on Orbit

The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour checked out the ship's rudder and speed brakes early this morning, and will deploy two small satellites as they prepare for tomorrow's landing here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Endeavour's commander Mark "Roman" Polansky and Pilot Doug Hurley will power up one of three power units which provide power to enable the spacecrafts aerodynamic's to perform when the orbiter drops through earth's atmosphere during landing.

The pair also tested the reaction control system thruster jets which will be needed early in the landing phase to drop Endeavour out of orbit. At 7:25 am EDT, Endeavour performed a series of burns in support of positioning the orbiter's altitude in support of two satellite deployments.

"Endeavour, Houston. Good burn... Good job gettings those burns off in short order," commented mission control's CAPCOM Alan Poindexter.

This morning, at 8:33 am EDT, the first of two small satellites will be deployed from the orbiter's payload bay as it flies 218 miles high.

The payload known as the Dual RF Astrodynamic GPS Orbital Navigator Satellite, or DRAGONSat, uses two picosatellites to study the way spacecraft dock automatically in space using the GPS system. DRAGONSat was design by students at the University of Texas and at Texas A&M.

DRAGONSat is comprised of two aluminium boxes which measure 5 inches by 5 inches, and are covered by solar cells to provide power to the internal radio receivers.

This afternoon, another satellite known as ANDE-2 or Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment, consists of two 19-inch spherical satellites and will orbit earth at 210 miles up and study the makeup of our atmosphere as scientists study how low earth orbit creates drag on orbital crafts.

ANDE-2 is set for deployment at 1:22 pm EDT today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NASA prepares Discovery for August Launch

Running a few weeks behind schedule due to the delays of the recent Endeavour mission, the space shuttle Discovery is expected to depart the Kennedy Space Center's vehicle assembly building for her launch pad on Monday.

Riding a top a huge mobile launcher platform, the STS-128 space shuttle stack is expected to begin its first motion just after midnight on August 3. Approximately eight hours later, the transport is expected to be at Launch Pad 39-A as crews prepare Discovery for her late-August flight.

Moving at just 1 mph the entire three and one-half miles, the space shuttle crawls so slow so that vibration from speed does not cause the stack to move. As the crawler approaches the ramp up to the pad, the flat top of the platform remains level as hydraulic jacks rise and lower to keep the space shuttle level at her base.

Two days following roll out, the seven member crew of Discovery's STS-128 mission will arrive here at Kennedy for three days of launch pad drills and safety checks. Crew arrival is expected this Wednesday afternoon.

Launch of Discovery is expected for no earlier than August 25th -- a few days shy of the 25th anniversary of her first flight into space on STS-41D.

Inside the orbiter's payload bay will be the Leonardo Module, which will host a wealth of supplies, food, fuel and more for the six-person crew aboard the international space station.

Also inside Leonardo (one of two reusable Italian-built supply modules) will be the COLBERT or Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill. The COLBERT was named for the Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, and will be built and used aboard the station for crew exercise.

Russian Cargo Craft Docks with Space Station

A Russian launched resupply craft successfully docked to the international space station this morning, filled with food and fuel for the current and future crews of six.

The Progress M-67 (34) craft docked to the station's Russian Zvezda module's aft port at 7:12 am EDT, as the two spacecraft flew 220 miles over western Russia.

However, about ten minutes prior to docking, the Progress' automatic docking system failed to place the craft in proper alignment with station. Russian cosmonaut and space station commander Gennady Padalka then took over and manually docked the cargo ship a few minutes earlier than planned.

This is the 34th Progress supply ship carries within it just over two tons of food, fuel, oxygen and spare parts for the Expedition 20 crew, of which most of the supplies will last into this October's arrival of the 21 crew.

"Gennady is top of the line on manual modes," stated co-station resident Michael Baratt minutes after the docking.

Launched last Friday, the Progress was placed in a holding pattern as Endeavour finished up work to complete the Japanese Kibo module. The docking occurred just 18 hours after shuttle Endeavour's undocking on Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Endeavour Soars in the Ocean of Space

The newly undocked space shuttle Endeavour continues this afternoon to move away from its home for the last 12 days, the international space station, following work to complete the construction of the Japanese Kibo science module.

Moments following undocking, Endeavour flew around the station, and then performed two separation burn to begin the orbiter's track back home for a Friday morning landing at the Kennedy Space Center.

At 3:18 pm, Endeavour was 13,200 feet away from the space station, as it moves out to a distance of about 46 miles below and ahead.

Meanwhile, there will be two great sighting opportunities of the newly seperated shuttle and station from most sections of the United States both tonight and on Wednesday evening after sunset.

For example, on Wednesday night in the north Atlanta, Georgia area, Endeavour will travel across the night sky for three minutes beginning at 9:04 pm EDT, followed minutes later by the space station at 9:06 pm. They will travel from west toward southeast as two bright stars in the blackness of space. At Cape Canaveral tomorrow, the space duo will fly over starting at 9:05 pm.

Click Here for the link of a complete updated listing to find your city and the times and directions the two will fly over.

Station Crew Captures Endeavour Departure

Two of a series of high def images taken from aboard the international space station moments ago as the space shuttle Endeavour made her fly around of the orbital complex.

This was the 29th space shuttle docking with the space station since 1998, and completed the three mission construction of the Japanese section of the station, Kibo.

Endeavour Departs Space Station

The space shuttle Endeavour departed from her port-of-call early this afternoon as she and her crew of seven left a newly supplied international crew of six aboard the space station.

Undocking by Endeavour occurred on time at 1:26 pm EDT, as the orbital duo flew high over the Indian Ocean on the 203 orbit of Endeavour's STS-127 mission. "We have physical separation," shuttle skipper Mark "Roman" Polansky stated as bolts opened on the two docking ports.

As the two spacecraft tracked from the central Pacific Ocean, over Mexico and through central Texas and later Arkansas, the orbiter performed a fly around of the station in an orbital ballet 217 miles up.

Endeavour's pilot Doug Hurley moved the ship out to 610 feet from the orbital outpost in space and began a 360 degree fly around. During the station-go-round, Endeavour's astronauts photographed and surveyed the new look of the space station,

Endeavour docked to the station complex on July 17th, and since installed an experiment platform of the Japanese Kibo module, performed five spacewalks, and transferred food, fuel and oxygen to the station while docked.

Endeavour Prepares for Station Undocking

Flying high on the heels of a NASA-termed successful mission, the space shuttle Endeavour is just hours away from undocking with the international space station following nearly 12 days of docked operations.

The combined thirteen humans will say their goodbyes as the seven member crew of Endeavour boards the orbiter and the two ships close and lock their hatches at 10:23 am EDT. Endeavour's crew of commander Mark "Roman" Polansky, pilot Douglas Hurley, and mission specialists Chris Cassidy, David Wolf, Tomas Marshburn, Julie Payette (Canada) and former space station crewmember Koichi Wakata (Japan).

Wakata is returning home to earth following a four month stay aboard station as a member of the Expedition 18, 19 and 20 crews. He is being replaced on station by former Endeavour-launched astronaut Tim Kopra. Kopra will live aboard station through the end of August when Discovery arrives on the STS-128 resupply mission.

Undocking is planned for 1:26 pm today, as the two crafts fly through orbital darkness over Russia. Endeavour will be half-way through her 203 earth orbit of the mission.

Endeavour's pilot Hurley will move the ship out to 600 feet from the orbital outpost in space and begin a 360 degree fly around. During the station-go-round, Endeavour's astronauts will use cameras and survey the new look of the space station, which now includes the newly installed Japanese Experiment Platform on the Kibo module.

Endeavour's crew awoke this morning to the great music of Lee Greenwood's, Proud to Be an American, in hour of Chris Cassidy who performed three spacewalks on this STS-127 mission.

This was the first time in human history which saw thirteen people together in one spacecraft work and live together - and it will not be the last.

On Wednesday, a recently launched Russian cargo craft will move in and dock with the space station. The Progress M-67, carrying food, water, oxygen, supplies and fuel is scheduled to dock at 7:16 am EDT.

Endeavour is set to return home on Friday morning back here here at the Kennedy Space Center with a touchdown time of 10:47 am.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Discovery Prepares for Rollout to Pad 39-A

As the space shuttle Endeavour soars 220 miles above earth, her sister ship, Discovery, was hoisted into position and attached to its external fuel tank and rocket boosters in preparation for launch in late-August.

In high bay one of the Vehicle Assembly Building here at the Kennedy Space Center, Discovery was vertically lifted by crane to a high point over its large fuel tank on Sunday. Later, engineers slowly lowered her down so that the orbiter's tank attachment points were aligned for mating.

During this week, technicians will ensure the orbiter is securely attached to the rust-colored fuel tank prior as the STS-128 space shuttle stack awaits its rollout to launch pad 39-A early next week.

Discovery is scheduled to launch in late-August on a resupply mission to the international space station as she carries the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module full of experiments, food, and fuel.

If Discovery meets the late-August launch date, it would come exactly 25 years after her madien voyage of STS-41D - NASA's 12th space shuttle flight.

Fifth Endeavour Spacewalk Underway

The fifth and final spacewalk of space shuttle Endeavour's mission to the international space station is underway as two astronauts complete tasks at the Japanese module.

Endeavour astronauts Chris Cassidy and Thomas Marshburn began the 130th spacewalk in support of space station construction since 1998. This is also the pair'sthird spacewalk each.

Today's orbital walk in space began nearly one hour early at 7:33 am EDT, as the shuttle-station passed over the central Atlantic Ocean.

Addressing questions about today's spacewalk during a news conference on Sunday, Endeavour's commander Mark "Roman" Polansky summed up his thoughts on the orbital walk today, "I have all the confidence in the world in the EVA team and all the folks back in Houston and everywhere else who have planned what we're going to do. We're all keenly aware that EVAs carry some risk to them and so we're going to be very, very deliberate and careful about the last EVA... So EVA-5 should be our final one and we're hoping it's going to go real well."

Cassidy and Marshburn will set up two video cameras on the Japanese Exposed Facility this morning. The cameras will help astronauts in the Japanese Kibo module to inspect science experiments which are exposed to the vacumm of space; and to assist with the future dockings of the new H-2 transfer cargo crafts which will be launched from Japan beginning this September 10.

Between now and through 2016, America, Russia, Japa and Europe will launch their own unmanned crafts to space station, filled with fuel, oxygen, food, experiments and astronaut personal items.

The spacewalk is expected to last 6 hours.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Japanese Experiment Carrier returned to Shuttle

The Canadian robotic arm aboard the international space station has just transfered the Japanese experiment platform over to the space shuttle Endeavour's robotic arm as crews near the completion of its transfer back to the shuttle's payload bay.

Operated by shuttle pilot Doug Hurley, Endeavour's Canadian-built fifty-foot robotic arm captured the platform at 8:52 am EDT. He then informed the space station's robitic arm operator Tim Kopra, inside the Destiny lab, that he can ungrapple the station's arm from the empty white platform.

As a cresent Moon hung in the blackness of space, the two space crafts worked well together as they transfered the Japanese reusable experiment carrier using three arms this morning.

On Tuesday, Endeavour is set to undock from the space station and prepare for her Friday morning landing back here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Also this morning, another space shuttle was on the move back here on earth.

Discovery was moved during the 7AM EDT hour from her processing facility to around the corner to inside the massive vehicle assembly building. There, Discovery will be hoisted later today into the verticle position for mating to her external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters for her lat-August STS-128 mission.

Currently, launch of the next space shuttle flight is set for around August 25th at the earliest. An official target launch date will be announced in a week.

Robotics to Return Platform to Endeavour

A Japanese payload carrier is currently being moved from the Kibo module on the international space station back to space shuttle Endeavour's payload bay for a return trip back to earth following it's delivery of several science experiments.

Endeavour astronaut Julie Payette, working in the Japanese Kibo module, powered up the Japanese robotic arm and grappled the Japanese exposed platform at this morning (above), to prepare for it's move back toward Endeavour. At 8:05 am EDT, Payette began moving the platform away from Kibo.

Meanwhile, standing by in the American Destiny module, ready to grapple the platform with the station's Canadian arm is Expedition 20 flight engineer Tim Kopra. Kopra will grapple the empty experiment platform from Payette, and then move to postion it within arms reach of Endeavour's robotic arm so that it can grapple it.

Endeavour's robotic arm is expected to grapple it, with the shuttle's commander Mark Polansky at the controls, at about 8:45 am EDT.

Later today, both crews of the station and shuttle will gather together to hold an in flight news conference beginning at 2:28 pm EDT. will provide LIVE coverage of the event.

On Monday, two of Endeavour's astronauts will perform the fifth and final spacewalk of this STS-127 mission. Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn will perform their third spacewalk of the flight beginning at 8:28 am tomorrow. The orbital walk is expected to last 6 1/2-hours and will focus, in part, on the installation of two video camera's which will be mounted on Japan's Kibo module.

The cameras will assist in the docking of the unmanned Japanese cargo craft - the H-2 Transfer vehicle. The first H-2 cargo craft is scheduled to launch from Japan bound for the station on September 10.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Station Spacewalk Ends on Successful Note

The fourth spacewalk during space shuttle Endeavour's docked time to the international space station ended with success as two astronauts wrapped up the longest orbital walk of the STS-127 flight.

Endeavour astronauts Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn (left, today), both making their second spacewalk, switched their space suits to internal power at 9:54 am EDT, to begin the 7 hour, 12 minute orbital walk in space.

The replacement of the final four batteries, which help move the solar arrays attached to the Port 6 truss segment, completed another of the major tasks of this shuttle flight.

Up next for Endeavour, the crew will have the entire day off on Saturday. On Sunday, the station and Endeavour crews will prepare for Monday's final spacewalk of the mission.

Hubble Telescope Records Jupiter Damage

The Hubble Space Telescope, fresh from a major overhaul in May, recorded a very colorful deep red image of the July 19 asteroid impact on our solar system's largest planet, Jupiter.

The Hubble image was taken in high resolution on Thursday (July 23rd) with its Wide Field Camera 3, which was brought up and installed during the May space shuttle Atlantis flight.

Jupiter, now some 360 million miles from earth when the image was taken, was discovered by a lone Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on July 20th, who took the first images.

According to NASA early this morning, the size of the impacting object was no smaller than 300 yards across when it slammed into the atmosphere of Jupiter's southern hemisphere.

"This is just one example of what Hubble's new, state-of-the-art camera can do, thanks to the STS-125 astronauts and the entire Hubble team," stated Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington on Thursday. Weiler is known around NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the father of Hubble, and he also added, "the best is yet to come."

The impact last week raises fears by most of just how likely an errant asteroid or comet could find its way toward earth.

Long Spacewalk ahead for Endeavour Crew

Two astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavour will leave the airlock of the international space station this morning for a long and very busy spacewalk to install six new batteries and two video cameras on the orbital outpost.

Endeavour astronauts Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn (above, this morning), both making their second spacewalk, are set to switch their space suits to internal power at about 9:50 am EDT, to begin a 7 1/2-hours orbital walk in space.

The bulk of today's fourth spacewalk is aimed at the continued replacement of the final four batteries which help move the solar arrays attached to the Port 6 truss segment. The spacewalkers will also install two new Japanese video camera's on the Kibo module.

The cameras will assist in the docking of the unmanned Japanese cargo craft - the H-2 Transfer vehicle
. The first H-2 cargo craft is scheduled to launch from Japan bound for the station on September 10.

Due to Wednesday's shortened spacewalk due to Cassidy's carbon dioxide levels in his suit, Mission Control in southern Houston, will remind the pair to not get to excited about the spacewalk starting out so that their CO2 output is not to overwhelming for their suits CO2 scrubbers.

Wednesday's shortened work day allowed for the installation of only two of the four planned battery change outs. A total of six batteries, weighing 375 pounds each, will be changed out by the end of today's spacewalk.

On Thursday, the space station control room told Cassidy and Marshburn, "that it's important that they don't go out really excited and really fast like you normally would on your first spacewalk," space station Flight Director Holly Ridings stated last night. "They understand they need to take it slow at the beginning and let the LIOH (lithium hydroxide) can do its thing and then it will work efficiently for the duration."

Each spacesuit is like a mini spacecraft, and it supports oxygen, water and the measures to clean the small 10.2 PSI atmosphere in the space suit for the astronaut.

The crews of both the space station and Endeavour were awoken at 5:03 am EDT, this morning to the music of Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd, for lead spacewalker David Wolf. Wolf is sitting out this spacewalk having performed in the first three of the five planned from this STS-127 mission.

Russian Cargo Craft Launches to Station

A Russian cargo craft full of supplies from the expanded permanent crew of six aboard the international space station lifted-off this morning for a late-July docking.

Today's launch of a Progress M-67 (34) craft aboard a Soyuz-U rocket occurred at 6:56:56 am EDT, or 4:56 pm local time, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, in western Russia.

The launch occurred from (Yuri) Gagarin's Pad 1, the same pad the first human left from in April 1961 on mankind's first flight into space.

The Progress supply ship would dock about 48 hours following launch to the space station, however with space shuttle Endeavour continuing its docked operations the craft will be placed in a holding pattern until after the orbiter undocks on July 28th.

Progress should dock with the station's Russian Zvezda module this Wednesday, July 29, at about 6:16 am EDT.

Progress M-67 is the 34th cargo craft aimed for the space station, and has over two tons of fuel, food and supplies for the station's current Expedition 20 crew. The supplies should carry the crew into this Fall's arrival of the Expedition 21 crew.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Spacesuit Issue ends Spacewalk Early

Mission control in Houston began seeing unusually high amounts of carbon dioxide in the spacesuit of Endeavour astronaut Chris Cassidy this afternoon, forcing the two back in the airlock after cutting short their planned work.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) can effect the human body in several ways. From being nausea, having headaches to even moving slower than normal. What mission control saw was slightly higher CO2 amounts due to an issue with the air scrubber in Cassidy's suit, and he was in no real danger.

"At no time was the crew in danger. The CO2 levels we saw inside the spacesuit were below what we manage to on the International Space Station and the space shuttle," stated space station Flight Director Holly Ridings this evening. "The crew is doing just great and they are ready to go out on the next EVA."

Today's spacewalk, the third of five planned on this STS-127 mission, began at 10:32 am EDT, as the space station flew 221 miles over Europe.

Rookie spacewalker Cassidy and now seven-timer David Wolf went to work as they removed a bit of insulation from the Japanese Kibo module and prepared the Japanese Exsposed Facility for several experiments. At the time of the CO2 alarm, they had replaced only two of four planned batteries which control the movement of the Port 6 solar array drive system.

The 216th American spacewalk concluded at 4:31 pm. As of this evening, the total space station asssembly spacewalk time stands at 798 hours and 30 minutes.

Spacewalk Today to Focus on Battery Replacement

Two of space shuttle Endeavour's astronauts, David Wolf and Chris Cassidy, will venture outside of the international space station today, to replace a few old batteries which help control movement of a solar array.

The pair are to begin their stroll in space this morning at 11AM EDT, will spend the entire time outside replacing four of the six batteries on the Port 6 solar array power channel. This will be Wolf's seventh spacewalk, and rookie Cassidy's, a former Navy SEAL's first.

Today's the third spacewalk of the the STS-127 mission is expected to wrap up at about 5:30 pm. On Friday, the fourth of the five spacewalks is planned.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Endeavour's Booster's Record Dynamic Launch

NASA today released dynamic launch video recorded via small cameras located on the top and bottom of the solid rocket boosters from the recent space shuttle Endeavour's ascent.

Endeavour, which launched on July 15th following recent delays due to weather, rose through the Space Coast's atmosphere and into space as shown through six cameras on the boosters. A view looking upward and behind the orbiter's wing gives the viewer a "ride aboard the shuttle prospective" as we watched blue sky turn to black, and the blue of the earth's limb develop below.

One interesting video section is when Endeavour passed through MAX-Q, or the period of dynamic pressure (right), showing the moisture and air flow buildup around the orbiter, here at T+:53 seconds.

The rocket boosters ignite at zero, unlike the main engines of the orbiter which fire up six seconds before launch. At 124 seconds into the launch, the boosters are separated from the sides of the external tank, and are later recovered from the Atlantic waters east of the Cape. The boosters are then towed back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station so they can be refurbished in Utah and sent back to the Kennedy Space Center fueled up.

Also of interest in the dynamic sounds recoded from the mid-section of the boosters. You can really hear the sounds the boosters gives off as it continues to vent propellant, and from the deployment of the parachutes. Even as it bobs in the Atlantic ocean awaiting their visitors, Liberty Star and Freedom Star.

Camera's were added to the boosters beginning with the firs
t flight following the loss of Columbia in 2005. The booster cameras are pointed to look for any evidence of falling foam or ice from the external tank which, no matter how large, tends to fall of the tank during the first minutes of the flight.

The left Booster is seen from the right SRB's camera after separation.

The Japanese Experiments Module Handoff

The Japanese Experiment Logistics Module was transferred from shuttle Endeavour's robotic arm to the space station's arm at 9:45 am EDT this morning.

Robotic Arms transfering Payloads in Space

Two robotic arms will transfer a key platform which support an array of scientific experiments from space shuttle Endeavour to the international space station for attachment to the Japanese module known as Kibo.

At 8:27 am EDT, Canadian space agency astronaut Julie Payette used Endeavour's 50-foot arm to snare an attached pin on the Japanese Experiment Logistics Module (JEL); and minutes later, began slowly lifting it out of the ship's payload bay.

Soaring 220 miles above earth, the two Canadian-built robotic arms - one aboard shuttle and one aboard station - will hand off to one another the 5400-pound JEL this morning at about 9:43 am.

As the robotic transfer were underway, two astronauts, David Wolf and Chris Cassidy, were checking out their spacesuits and tools which they will use during Wednesday's third spacewalk of the STS-127 mission.

The crew of Endeavour will spend this afternoon in an "off duty" period as NASA rests the crew before the start this week of three more spacewalks, equipment and supply transfers, and more robotics in space.

Endeavour is set to undock from the space station on July 28th at about 1:26 pm EDT.

Also today, at 3PM, NASA-TV will air the newly recovered solid rocket boosters video camera's views from Endeavour's July 15th evening launch. A beautiful "along for the ride" presentation.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11-era Collectables bring History Home

There were a few iconic images from the Apollo 11 flight which occurred forty years ago this week. We have included a few rare internal images, as well as Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong's hometown newspaper's front page dated July 21, 1969.

Apollo collectibles are a great way to recapture the history surrounding the first moon landing flights of humanity. We suggest visiting flea markets or Goodwill centers for older National Geographics or other newspapers from the era.

Snoopy the dog from the Peanuts comic strip became a sort of internal mascot of a few of the Apollo missions. His exploits with the Red Baron in the newspaper
allowed him to gain his astro wings on Apollo 10 as the lunar module was named for him.

Another collectible I have is a complete reprint of the Apollo 11 press kit from 1994. The book contains complete details and timelines highlighting the flight. Printed weeks before the 1969 flight, this 25th anniversary reprint outlines crew bios, meals, experiments and more in 250 pages. A great book for any library.

Another thing one can do is pickup rare NASA Apollo crew recordings from the missions via's iTunes.

For .99 cents to $2.oo each, you can download and save both video and audio to your computer's hard drive and iPod or iPhone.

James holds an actual Snoopy stuffed dog which the author's father gave to Charles in Christmas 1969.

Astronauts begin Spacewalk as America Celebrates Apollo 11 Anniversary

On the fortieth anniversary of America's greatest spacewalk on the lunar surface, two of space shuttle Endeavour's astronauts have begun the second walk in space in support of space station construction.

Running thirty minutes ahead, spacewalk two of Endeavour's STS-127 mission began at 11:27 am EDT, as astronauts David A. Wolf and Tom Marshburn switched their spacesuits to internal power in the station's Quest airlock. The airlock hatch opened at 11:26 am, as the station-shuttle complex flew 222 miles above Kazakhstan, over Russia's western side, as they moved into an orbital sunset.

This is Wolf's sixth spacewalk and Marshburn's first. The pair will perform several tasks including transfer and secure of spare parts to a stowage platform on the port side of the main truss segment for later flights. Several parts include a pump module and an antenna. The pair will also install a video camera for the experiments on the forward end of the newly installed Japanese Exposed Facility.

In celebration of forty years to the day of America's most famous spacewalk, Mission Control in Houston wore white oxfords with black ties - a tradion from the Apollo-era. Mission Control flight director Pat Dye also sent a morning message to the crews of Endeavour and space station:
"Good Morning Endeavour! To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing, your STS-127 flight control teams have taken a look at an opportunity later today to send you all to the moon! Ref MSG044 (message 44) for the burn pad and associated procedures and have a safe trip!"

"About once every 10 days the Moon moves through the ISS orbit plane. This Zero Moon Beta (ZMB) condition affords the opportunity to target a minimal-propellant transfer departing from the ISS orbit several days earlier. During STS-127/2JA, a ZMB occurs (this Sunday), and the crew should see the last quarter Moon rising and setting near the Vbar in this timeframe. A hypothetical Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) burn has been targeted from the Shuttle/ISS vicinity with TIG at 201/15:53:30 GMT (4/17:50 MET) on the southbound leg of Shuttle Orbit (ISS Orbit 1122). Posigrade (PEG-7 DVX) velocity change is 10,188.1 ft/s (3105.3 m/s).
This impulse could hypothetically place the stack on a free-return cislunar trajectory. Closest approach to the Moon, or pericynthion, would occur at 204/13:24:36 GMT (7/15:21 MET) at a height 100 km (54 nm) above the Moon's farside."
All of this was for fun since Endeavour does not have enough fuel to make it to the moon, much less a return trip.

An hour prior to the start of today's spacewalk, Apollo 8 & Apollo 13 astronaut James A. Lovell had a few words as he spoke of the space station as a "White Elephant", a reference he has used before. He said the station has not really done much in scientific service and, "I think the space station has a long way to go."

NASA will celebrate Apollo 11 with several functions throughout today.

40 Years Later: Mankind's First Lunar Landing

Forty years ago today, two NASA astronauts brought a golden spacecraft down upon the Moon's surface, and stepped onto another world as America walked upon the lunar surface for the first time.

Launched on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was commanded by Neil A. Armstrong. Command module pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Lunar Module Pilot Michael Collins rounded out the crew. This was the second space flight by each astronaut.

After traveling for a few days, the trio reached lunar orbit; and it was time for Neil and Buzz to leave Collins in the command module Columbia, and take the lunar module Eagle down to the surface.

With only sixty seconds of fuel left to keep them aloft, Armstrong, steered their tiny lunar lander away from a boulder field in which the craft's computer was sending them to land in. Alarms then began to go off in the cabin alerting them. The alarms, Mission Control in Houston would later state, was telling them that the computer was not able to process all the data coming in.

"30 seconds," called CAPCOM Charlie Duke in Houston to the Apollo 11 lander, Eagle, warning of how much time Armstrong and Aldrin had left in order to land or abort the entire landing.

Then suddenly, as millions of Americans watched their televisions, mankind began to realize that it happened by the words Armstrong used, "Contact Light. O.K., engines stop..."

Then at 4:18 pm EDT, the words humankind had waited to hear and what helped define America ever since, "Houston, Tranquillity Base here, the Eagle has landed!"

"Roger, Tranquillity. We copy you on the ground," radioed Duke back to the moon from the control center. "We've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again, thanks a lot."

Duke's reference that the 4:17 pm minute was very much a "hold your breath" and a "hope Neil gets that lander down in time" moment in mission control.

Next up for the Neil and Buzz was the moonwalk.

After resting and grabbing a quick meal, the pair dressed into their lunar tuxedos and opened the hatch to the Eagle.

At 10:56 pm EDT, Armstong arrived on the last step of the ladder a foot from the surface. He looked around and noted to Mission Control that the surface was grey and like a "fine powder", and then paused as he stepped of the ladder.

"That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."

Eight years following then-president John F. Kennedy's national commitment "to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth" before the end of the decade had happened -- with a moon walk to boot!

At 11:16 pm, Aldrin came down the ladder and became the second human to walk on the moon. In all, NASA's first moonwalk lasted two 1/2 hours and the pair was able to collect several pounds of moon rocks and set up a few science experiments.

After sleeping for a few hours on the moon inside the small cabin of Eagle, the two astronauts prepared on July 21st for the first lunar liftoff.

At the time, this was a very unknown element of the flight. Eagle was a two part spacecraft with the living quarters at the top and the lander section below. Under the crew quarters was a engine and nozzle to support the lunar launch. The lander section acted as a launch pad...

...and so at 1:54 pm EDT, Neil and Buzz punched the ignition switch and successfully fired the engine which gave the two a nice ride back into lunar orbit. Hours later, they rejoined Collins and left the moon for their return home.

Less than four months later, America left once again for our second landing upon the moon's surface.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cargo Carrier moved from Endeavour

Crews aboard the space shuttle Endeavour grappled a platform full of experiments and lifted it from its payload bay for attachment to the international space station later today.

The 8300-pound Integrated Cargo Carrier – Vertical Light Deployable supports a whole host of science experiments which will all be off loaded from the carrier and onto the newly installed Japanese Experiment Facility. The JEF was attached to the Kibo module last night, and it will act as a host to a series of experiments which need to be exposed to the vacuum of space.

The 13-foot long ICC-VLD was removed from Endeavour this morning and will be handed off to the station's robot arm at about 11:05 am.

A Busy Sunday Aboard Space Station

Crews aboard the international space station will pluck an experiment rack from the payload bay of space shuttle Endeavour this morning for attachment to the newly installed exposed facility on the Japanese Kibo module.

The crews awoke this morning at 6:33 am EDT, to the music Learning to Fly by Tom Petty for Endeavour astronaut Chris Cassidy, earth's 500th human to make a spaceflight.

The thirteen humans which make of the crews of both the space station and Endeavour will work through today to grapple and move the Integrated Cargo Carrier - Vertical Light Deployable from the shuttle's aft section of the payload bay over to the station’s mobile transporter for Monday's spacewalk.

Last night, following the attachment of the Japanese Exposed Facility to the Kibo module, Japan's space agency tested the new platform and they reported to the crews this morning that it checks out great.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Japanese Exposed Facility Installed on Station

The Exposed Facility is moved for attachment to Kibo.

A huge platform which will host a variety of science experiments exposed to the vacuum of space was successfully installed to the Japanese Kibo module late today, expanding the mass of the international space station.

The Japanese Exposed Facility was officially latched to the end of Kibo, or Hope in Japanese, at 7:29 pm EDT. Several robotic arm hand-offs, beginning with the space shuttle Endeavour's, guided the JEF from the payload by of the orbiter to Kibo during the afternoon.

Meanwhile, two of Endeavour's astronauts ventured outside of the space station to perform the first of five spacewalks to help install the exposed facility and perform a few station house keeping chores.

Astronauts David Wolf and new space station resident Tim Kopra began their spacewalk at 12:19 pm EDT. This was Wolf's fifth walk in space and Kopra's first.

During the 126th spacewalk dedicated to station construction, the pair completed the setup of a cargo carrier on the port 3 truss segment which was delivered earlier this year on STS-119. The carrier is rides on rails along the backbone truss and will store and move equipment from one side to another.

Today's spacewalk concluded at 5:51 pm.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite Passes away into the Ages

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of America's first Moon landing this week, one iconic voice from those television broadcasts was silenced this evening, forever to be remembered as the most trusted man.

Television newsman Walter Cronkite passed away at 7:42 pm EDT, at his home in Manhattan, New York. He was 92.

Cronkite served as lead anchor for the CBS Evening News between 1962 thru1981, a time which saw America transition from innocence and into a very stormy 1960's. His live on the air breaking news reports of President John F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King's assassinations; his interest in America's steps toward the Moon as human space flight began; and his field reporting from a war torn Viet'nam helped changed most American's view of the failing conflict.

Cronkite loved what he did, getting as close to the news and telling Mr. and Mrs. America in simple plain speak what he knows. That was Walter.

On July 20, 1969, following word that "The Eagle Has landed" on the Moon and that astronaut Neil Armstrong got the lunar lander down, Walter Cronkite was speechless. He was anchoring the CBS coverage with astronaut Wally Schiera, and told Schiera to "Say something. I'm speechless", as he removed his glasses and grinned at what had just happed along with the rest of the world.

In 1998, "Uncle Walter" returned to the space beat as he joined CNN to broadcast the launch of John Glenn's return to space aboard Discovery. He was a avid watcher of then-CNN space anchor John Holliman, and he wanted to join Holliman's team. However, Holliman did not live to see the launch. Click Here to view our SpaceLaunch News STS-95 Issue from 1998, and my story on Cronkite.

"And, that's the way it is...", his famous closing line concluded his thirty minutes each night as he told America the way it was. His story telling will echo in our minds forever. Thank-you, sir.

Endeavour Docks with a Beautiful Space Station

The seven-member crew of the space shuttle Endeavour docked with the six-person crewed international space station this afternoon, creating the largest space city in humanities' history.

Docking occurred eight minutes early today at 1:47:11 pm EDT, as the two spacecraft flew 218 miles high over the waters north of the Australian coastline.

Minutes following docking, Endeavour's commander Mark Polansky text messaged, "Docked successfully with ISS a few minutes ago. It will take awhile before we can open the hatches, but it’s great to be here".

After the hatches are opened at around 3:50 pm, it will be a very crowded city in space as for the first time in earth's history, 13 humans will share a single spacecraft as they live and work in space. This is our destiny. This is our future happening before our eyes.

Today's docking occurred forty years to the day of America's Apollo 11 flight to the first moon landing; and 34 years to the day of the first American & Russian link-up in space, when Apollo 18 docked with the Soyuz module in earth orbit.

NASA's new Administrator Reports to Work

Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA's newest administrator, reported for his first day at work this morning as the space agency spends this month celebrating great achievements from the past as they work into the future.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's 12th administrator, Bolden is a former NASA astronaut who entered the headquarters building this morning ready to begin work as the agency enters it sixth decade.

(NASA image)

Endeavour to Dock with Space Station Today

The seven member crew of the space shuttle Endeavour will fly up to and dock with the international space station today, joining its six astronauts aboard and creating the largest space population inside one spacecraft.

Docking is planned for 1:55 pm EDT, this afternoon as the pair enter an orbital sunrise over Asia. The hatches between the two spacecrafts are scheduled to open at about 3:40 pm.

To place Endeavour in proper attitude with the station, it must perform a series of engine burns this morning. One burn, known as the TI burn, is scheduled for 11:17 am. The orbiter will be in position at 12:50 pm to perform a back flip so that crew members aboard the station can photograph the orbiter's black belly tiles for detailed analysis of any damage to the underside.

Endeavour's crew awoke this morning at 7:03 am, to the Beatle's song, Here Comes the Sun, for mission commander Mark "Roman" Polansky. The other crew member include pilot Douglas G. Hurley, and mission specialists Christopher J. Cassidy, Thomas H. Marshburn, David A. Wolf and Julie Payette (Canada).

This will be Polansky's third visit to the space station. In 2001, he served as pilot of Atlantis on the STS-98 mission which carried up and installed the Destiny U.S. Laboratory. And, in December 2006, he served as commander of Discovery on the STS-116 mission which delivered the Port 5 truss segment.

This will be Payette and Wolf's second visits to the space station as well.

Payette flew aboard Discovery in 1999 on the first shuttle - station docking flight. Meanwhile, Dave Wolf (above, on Thursday) flew aboard Atlantis in October 2002, in which he performed three spacewalks. The mission carried up the S1 integrated truss segment.

Also this morning, NORAD and NASA are tracking "Object 84180", a piece of space junk. It's closest approach to the shuttle & station complex will be on Saturday at 5:11 am EDT. Endeavour might reboost the complex tonight at 8:30 pm to avoid a possible collision.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crew inspects Endeavour's Thermal Surfaces

The crew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour is spending today using a laser radar and camera to slowly inspect the thermal tiles and blankets which protect the ship from the 3000 degrees heat of reentry.

A standard practice by every crew since the 2005 return to flight following the Columbia tragedy, Endeavour's crew this morning began using the ship's 50-foot robotic arm to grapple an extension boom which rests on the right side of the payload bay. The crew then used the boom extension to survey Endeavour's heat protective tiles and thermal blankets for any nicks or damage caused by debris impacts, beginning with the orbiter's sides and wings.

Following a short break at 3:15 pm EDT, the crew returned to their radar inspections at 3:51 pm to begin surveying the port side of the nose section.

Meanwhile, Endeavour continues to gain ground on her port-of-call - the huge international space station. At 3:13 pm today, the orbiter trailed the station by 7,500 miles, closing the distance by 700 miles each 90 minute orbit. Endeavour is set to dock with the orbiting outpost at 1:55 pm on Friday.

Two hours prior to docking, Endeavour will begin an orbital ballet in which it will perform a fly around of the station. Then fifty minutes before docking, Endeavour will perfom a back flip so that station crew members Mike Barratt and Koichi Wakata can use high def cameras with 800 mm and 400 mm lens' to photograph the belly section of the orbiter.

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