Saturday, May 26, 2012

First private spacecraft docks to space station

May 24, 2012 NASA / SpaceX news conference to update Dragon.

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Astronauts aboard the International Space Station spent Saturday unloading fresh supplies from the newly arrived commercial spacecraft Dragon.

Constructed and launched by the private company Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, Dragon arrived at the orbiting complex on Friday loaded with nearly 1200 pounds of clothes, food, water and a computer for the crew.

Flight engineer Don Pettit, who used the station's 57-foot robotic arm to pluck Dragon from space and berth it to Harmony, and two astronauts will begin on Monday unloading the craft.

The trio will then reload Dragon with station experiments, trash and equipment for it's return to earth.

Dragon will stay berthed to the station's Harmony node until Thursday.
"May 31st is our planned departure day," NASA lead flight director Holly Ridings explained to this aerospace reporter. "We've got a couple of days after that to work with, and then the Dragon if needed could stay after that."

The station's crew have bagged up most of what will be loaded and returned to earth.
"We're gonna have plenty of time to get Dragon unloaded and loaded back up," Pettit answered when I asked him about the short timeline.

 "There's about as much stuff in (Dragon) as I can put in the back of my pick-up truck, and I don't think there will be any issue with the three of us working and getting this thing unloaded over the next few days."

The final Dragon mission objective will come with the safe recovery of the payloads the craft returns from the orbital outpost.

Dragon is expected to splashdown in the Pacific waters at about 10:45 a.m. EDT, some 250 miles off the coast of southern California nearly five hours after leaving the space station.

(Charles Atkeison reports on science & technology for Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Legendary astronaut criticizes NASA and it's future

ATLANTA, Ga. -- A six time space shuttle astronaut spoke out on the way NASA is operating today and shared his personal feelings on commercial space travel's involvement.

"The whole thing is chaos and a cop out. The whole thing is a Washington failure," former NASA astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave said in a firm voice during a on-on-one interview at the Tellus Science Museum near Atlanta over the weekend.

"When I say Washington, I mean administration, the legislation, congress and NASA, that's what I call Washington," Dr. Musgrave continued. "It's in total failure when it comes to a space program of which COTS is apart of that failure."

The Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS program is an agreement with several U.S. companies to build and launch spacecraft for earth orbital voyages, including to the International Space Station.

"COTS is a default program which spun out of failure," he added.

COTS program member Space X is moving toward a Saturday launch of their Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon spacecraft atop bound for earth orbit. Two days later, Dragon is expected to rendezvous with the space station 245 miles above earth.

The station's robotic arm will then snag the cargo craft and dock it to earth's orbital outpost in space. It will become the first private spacecraft to dock with a government craft.

Musgrave, now 76, was selected by NASA in 1967 as America's Apollo moon program began. He and fellow astronauts and engineers looked toward leaders within NASA such as rocket pioneer Dr. Wernher Von Braun to lead the space program through a series of goals for landing on the moon before 1970.

Musgrave feels the space agency has no true goals or focus today.

This aerospace reporter asked what is the vision of NASA over the next decade.

"What is the space vision today? Where is the visionary? We're not going anywhere... there is no where, there is no what, and there is no when," Musgrave began. "Tell me where... there is no where."

He then firmly stated NASA has no official human moon program nor a Mars program in place for the near future.

Dr. Musgrave also wants to see a great project management team in place to make true goals for returning America back to the moon and later Mars.

"Sir, there is no Mars program, none. There is also no moon program. There is no asteroid program," Dr. Musgrave firmly stated. "There's no what we're gonna do and no when we're gonna do it. I want a what, a when and a where, and then I want a project management and make that what, when and where happen -- on cost, on schedule and meet the performance you laid down."

Musgrave said that NASA had a series of goals with the construction of the Hubble Space Telescope.

He spent eighteen years helping to design and prepare Hubble for it's launch in 1990. He then flew up to the great observatory to fix a design flaw with it's optical lens and repair twelve other issues three years later.

My story:  Legendary astronaut criticizes NASA 

 (Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy.)
copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.