Schweickart will speak to U.N. committee re. asteroid protection

In an article by Reuters where they appear confused whether to play it straight or sensationalize the story, they describe a presentation given by a group of astronauts, engineers and scientists. Rusty Schweickart, the former Apollo 9 astronaut and member of The Association of Space Explorers said, the group intends to host a series of high-level workshops this year to flesh out the plan and will make a formal proposal to the U.N. in 2009.

Out of the Cradle interviewed Rusty a year ago, if you missed that discussion you can catch it HERE.

Orion CEV mock-up rolled out for media

Orion CEV w/ lunar lander

In this artist’s concept, the Orion CEV docked to a lunar lander,
is depicted orbiting the moon. Credit: Lockheed-Martian

Associated Press reporter recounts his experiences as he tries out Lockheed-Martian’s mock-up of their Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, (CEV). Fresh off of receiving an $8 billion contract to build it, Lockheed-Martian gave media a chance to look over a rough mock-up of the capsule, said to have been built to “get a feel of the geometry” involved with the craft.

The article is posted on MSNBC’s news site.

Astronaut collapses at “Welcome Home” celebration

Heidemarie Piper

Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, an astronaut on the STS-115 mission, collapsed twice Friday, a day after she returned to Earth in the shuttle Atlantis, and officials attributed her wobbles to the adjustment from 12 days at zero gravity. Wobbly and light-headed, Stefanyshyn-Piper collapsed while speaking publicly at a welcome-home ceremony.

Fellow crew members caught her as her legs buckled under her, lowering her to the ground. She rested there for a few moments before rising back to her feet and attempted to centime.

Speaking again for less than a minute, gripping the podium tightly for support, she once again became dizzy and stopped speaking. Stefanyshyn-Piper was lowered to the floor. After resting a few moments again, she was helped to her feet and escorted out through a side door.

“She’s doing 100 percent well,” husband Glenn Piper said by phone from home later in the day. “Basically, she’s embarrassed.”

Smith Johnston, the crew’s flight surgeon, who was at Piper’s side when she fell, said astronauts typically lose 10 percent to 14 percent of their blood volume while in space, usually regaining it in a day or two. Hospitalization was not required and Stefanyshyn-Piper was allowed to go home a few hours later.

Piper, 43, of St. Paul, Minn., is a commander in the Navy and was a mission specialist and cosmic electrician aboard the shuttle. She carried out two of the spacewalks, joining an elite club of only six other U.S. women and a single Russian woman who have made spacewalks.

We wish her the best and a speedy recovery as she regains her “Land Legs”.

Teachers in Space

TIS Logo

Masten Space Systems announced today that it will be participating in a “Teachers In Space” (TIS) program, by offering a free sub-orbital ride to one of the winning educators. The ride on Masten’s vehicle, (still in development) is part of Space Frontier Foundation’s plan to fly around 100 teachers to space over the next few years.

“We want to democratize space,” stated Michael Mealling, Marketing VP of Masten Space Systems. “We want to encourage K-12 students to be in close proximity to the kind of science only NASA has been able to do until now. By flying their teachers we can create a direct connection to these kids in a way national space programs could never do. We can make it something they experience and can relate to in the form of someone they respect and work with everyday.”

Dallas-based Armadillo Aerospace, Oklahoma’s Rocketplane Limited, Inc. and California’s XCOR Aerospace, have already join the growing list of “New Space” companies involved with the TIS project.

Shuttle launch Ernesto’ed

Ernesto Storm

Leroy Cain, mission management team chairman, explained, “We pretty much did what we said we were going to do. We got together this morning and talked about it and didn’t see any significant change for the good.” This statement came during a news briefing, detailing the decision made by NASA mission managers to scrub Tuesday’s launch attempt.

Preparations are underway to roll Atlantis back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, but the actual decision to rollback will not be made until midday tomorrow (Tuesday). All of this is the result of the changing weather situation with Ernesto, (currently down-graded to a tropical storm) making a course change sending it directly to Florida Keys area. As of Monday morning Ernesto had lost some steam crossing the tip of Cuba, but is expected to regain hurricane strength before striking Southern Florida.

SMART-1 intends to leave its mark

SMART-1 thumbnailSpace Ref Daily had a recent post discussing the upcoming spectacular finish to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) SMART-1 mission. With plans to allow the orbiter to impact into the surface of the moon astronomers are hoping to catch a glimpse of the grand finale via telescope.

According to best available data, the impact of the SMART-1 is due to occur on 3 September 2006 at 05:41 UT. The exact time and location of the impact has many factors involved as is explained by the ESA SMART-1 website;

The expected impact time (07:41 CEST ) will be good for big telescopes in South and Northwest Americas and Hawaii and possibly Australia. But if SMART-1 hits a hill on its previous pass, around 02:37 CEST on 3 September, then it can be observed from the Canary Islands and South America. If SMART-1 hits a hill on the pass on 2 September at 21:33 CEST, then telescopes in Continental Europe and Africa will have the advantage.


With the hope South America has favorable viewing, the Lunar Section of the Rede de Astronomia Observacional REA – BRAZIL, has preparations in full swing to observe and chronicle the event. They also have a blog up and running at which you can follow their progress. You can also catch up on other tidbits such as the contrast between what they expect to see and the impact of an meteorite approximately 12 cm in size that was caught on video late last fall. That impact is estimated to left a crater around 3 meters in diameter, (still too small to be seen even with the Hubble telescope).

With both Spanish and Portuguese versions as well, the English version of the blog can be found HERE.

Charles Wood, creator of Lunar Photo of the Day

Running the popular website, Lunar Photo Of the Day, (LPOD) and writing a regular column on the moon that appears monthly in Sky & Telescope magazine, are the things Charles A. Wood is probably known for most. But, the interest of a 9 year-old in the sky went from backyard observations on a small telescope, to the University of Arizona, a stint in the Peace Corp and included working at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory cataloging Lunar craters.

LPOD sig

With a PhD in Planetary Geology under his belt, Chuck spent 5 years as a “Space Scientist” as NASA’s Experimental Planetology Branch followed by another 5 years as Chief of the Space Shuttle Earth Observations Office, both of those located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas. Currently he is Executive Director of the Center for Educational Technologies at Wheeling Jesuit University.

That just scratches the surface of an impressive resume and we were happy for the chance to ask Chuck a few questions.

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Continue reading

Space Adventures now offering a “Space Walk” option

No Hands Space Walk

On July 21st, Space Adventures Ltd., announced a feature to its line of services. These are the folks who have arranged for three tourists to visit the international space station, and now you can add a space walk to your tourist package.

The current duration of a Space Adventures’ orbital spaceflight mission is 10 days. Past orbital clients have paid $20 million (USD) for their spaceflight which includes six months of cosmonaut training. The addition of a spacewalk would lengthen the mission approximately six to eight days and the price for this option is $15 million (USD).

So for a total of $35 million in U.S. dollars, you can not only stay a week longer in orbit but you get to become one of the very few who have EVA’ed in space.

I have to admit, that would almost be worth the price.

Asteroid Itokawa an indepth look

Asteroid ItokawaDid they get the dust or didn’t they? The September issue of Sky & Telescope magazine explores that question in a cover article called Meet Asteroid Itokawa. A discussion of how the asteroid might have been formed, along with Japan’s spacecraft Hayabusa, (falcon) and its attempts to gather soil from the asteroid last year are included in this extensive look at Itokawa. If you don’t have a subscription you will certainly want to pick up a copy of the magazine at your newsstand.

Speaking of Sky & Telescope magazine, I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to interview a regular columnist with the publication, Charles A. Wood. Along with the monthly column, Chuck provides us with a website that features a Lunar Photo of the Day. With a PhD in Planetary Geology, stay tuned to find out what else Chuck is doing these days and our discussions of how he spent his wayward youth at Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, mapping the lunar surface and cataloging craters.

Space shuttle’s happy return

Shuttle Thumbnail picCongratulations to the STS-121 crew for a very successful mission
and a safe return.

In NASA’s launch schedule August 28th is the date set for the next shuttle launch.
Flying Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS-115 crew will deliver a truss and other key components during the Space Shuttle Program’s 19th mission to the International Space Station.

Genesis 1 photo available

Genesis 1 drawing

The graphic above is an artist’s concept of the Genesis 1 module after deployment.
Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace.
 
Genesis 1 in Orbit
 
This image (Available on Bigelow Aerospace’s website) shows the module, inflated and drifting along in low Earth orbit. I took the liberty of rotating the image 90 degrees clock-wise, for better comparison to the drawing.
Photo Credit: Bigelow Aerospace.

SpaceX provides update on activites

Elon posted a brief update on his company’s website not only promising some interesting data but covering news worthy developments on several fronts.

July 6, 2006 Update
My apologies for the long delay in providing an update. Between the Falcon 1 return to flight, Falcon 9 development and the NASA COTS program, this has been an inordinately busy period for SpaceX. I will post the findings of the DARPA/SpaceX Return to Flight Board on the SpaceX website in about two weeks. The final meeting of the board was last week and the results will be posted after the DARPA senior leadership is briefed. No major surprises were uncovered in the course of the investigation, so perhaps more interesting is the broader set of design & process improvements that constitute “Falcon 1.1”.

I will post whatever I can, excluding only proprietary or ITAR restricted information. At the end of July, I will post a detailed update on Falcon 9. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress on that front. Except for the fairing (nosecone), we are 90% done with all the manufacturing tooling and should have serial number 1 of the first stage built within three to four months. We are targeting a stage hold down, multi-engine firing in about six months. On the business front, SpaceX now has ten launches on manifest and is on track to be cash flow positive in 2006, our fourth full year of operation. –Elon

I for one am certainly looking forward to these new tid-bits.

STS-121 gains “Fourth of July” launch date

The Fourth of July in the United States, is always a time for picnics, parades and fireworks. Now we can add shuttle launches to that mix. Sunday’s scheduled launch of STS-121 was scrubbed for the second time in as many days.

The next launch attempt for Discovery’s STS-121 mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for Tuesday at 2:38 p.m. EDT.

Even the layman that I am, I understand the need for these delays, but is there anyone that still thinks they can get 17 launches off in the next four years? Added to that, we have the news media gleefully announcing each “scrub” costs over a million dollars extra.

With “happy”, “good news” coverage like this, NASA probably looks back longingly to the days when shuttle launches received less news air time than the local “Petunia Festival.”

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UPDATE:
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Space.com, posts a troublesome article detailing the news of insulation problems with Discovery. During a post-scrub inspection, “NASA inspectors have found a small crack in the foam insulation of the space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank, prompting mission managers to discuss whether to press ahead with Tuesday’s third launch attempt or stand down for repairs.”

Ariane 5 launches record payload

Crowing slightly, Arianespace announced today the successful launch of its Ariane 5 rocket and the subsequent deployment of two satellites. The payload of two communications satellites, (one from Mexico and the other from Thailand) made for a combined weight of 8,200 kg.

Despite the rainy conditions for today’s liftoff, Ariane 5’s ascent through lower cloud layers was clearly visible as the vehicle climbed out under the power of its cryogenic main engine and two solid rocket boosters. Satmex 6 was deployed first by Ariane 5, with its release occurring at 27 min. into the flight. It was followed five minutes later by the separation of Thaicom 5.

The latest flight marked the 23rd successful launch of the Ariane 5 system.

ESA’ s Venus Express slips into orbit

Launched on 9 November 2005, ESA’s Venus Express ended a 153-day and 400-million km cruise into the inner Solar System firing its main engine for a 50-minute burn, which brought it into orbit around Venus.

The orbit will be refined over the next four weeks to achieve the final operational polar-orbit of 66,000 kilometers. The orbiter will conduct an in-depth observation of the structure, chemistry and dynamics of the atmosphere of Venus for at least two Venusian days (486 Earth days).

“With the arrival of Venus Express, ESA is the only space agency to have science operations under way around four planets: Venus, the Moon, Mars and Saturn” underlines Professor David Southwood, the Director of ESA’s science programmes. “We are really proud to deliver such a capability to the international science community.”


The Venus Express mission mainly focusses on studying the peculiar atmosphere of Venus, with a precision never achieved before. In doing so, it will make the first ever use of the so called ‘infrared windows’, which are narrow bands in the atmospheric spectrum, discovered in the 1980s thanks to ground observations. Looking through these ‘windows’ Venus Express will be able to gather precious information about the lower layers of the atmosphere and even the surface. Both Photos, Credits: ESA – AOES Medialab

Add-on LRO payload is officially an “Impactor”


Image above: In this artist’s concept, the upper stage and a “sheparding spacecraft” (left) approach the moon before impacting at the south pole (right). Credit: NASA/John Frassanito and Associates.

Since the story broke several days ago the secondary payload that was said to be a lander turns out to be an add-on impactor mission. Granted, an impactor is still considered a lander, just that it “lands” a little bit harder than I was imagining.

The press conference held live on NASA TV announced an overview of the new portion of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project.

First, the craft will direct the upper stage used to leave Earth orbit to crash into a permanently-shadowed crater at the lunar south pole, creating a plume visible to Earth-based observatories. Next, the satellite will observe the plume and fly through it using several instruments to look for water. At the end of its mission, the satellite will itself become an impactor, creating a second plume visible to lunar-orbiting spacecraft and Earth-based observatories.

This is probably not a permanent link but HERE is the story on NASA’s website.

Space-Shot.Com offers space flight prize

Let the games begin. Space-Shot.com announces the release of the first $3 internet skill-game with a prize that will send you flying, a free trip on a sub-orbital flight

“I am proud to announce that space travel is now open to all people!” said SpaceShot founder Sam Dinkin. “This product will appeal to those who always wanted to go to space, but don’t have the deep pockets to buy their way.”

The number of participants will determine how often the prize trip will be offered, so the more players, the more winners.

I know our fearless leader here at Out of the Cradle, Rob Wilson is participating. I’m sure he will be along soon to fill us in.

Sam Dinkins, (seen in the photo above) participated in an interview with Rob a while back, which can be accessed HERE.

Lunar add-on payload announced

SpaceRef has very brief article announcing NASA’s plans to tag on a robotic lunar lander mission as a secondary payload to the 2008 launch of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Details however are scant at this time.

NASA managers, engineers, and scientists have been reviewing secondary spacecraft proposals that take advantage of the payload capability of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, the rocket that will launch the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in October 2008.

A briefing will be held live on NASA TV which will announce and discuss the winning proposal. The article also mentions that Raytheon has submitted a proposal for the lander. How many other proposals and who holds the winning design was not, however mentioned.

Hopefully information on the proposal will include things like location of landing site, sicence packages aboard the lander and other little tidbits of the like.

“Exploration Systems managers will brief news media at 2 p.m. EDT Monday, April 10, about plans to conduct high risk and high return research of the lunar surface using a new spacecraft. The press conference will be held in the NASA Headquarters auditorium, 300 E Street S.W., Washington.”

News “private citizen” astronaut announced

In a press release yesterday Space Adventures announced;

Space Adventures, Ltd., the world’s leading space-experiences company, announced today that Charles Simonyi, Ph.D. has signed a contract for a future orbital spaceflight.

This is the same company that brought about the visits to the International Space Station (ISS) by private citizens, Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen. However, take note that it says the contract was for a future orbital spaceflight, not a trip to the ISS.

They do promise…

“More details regarding Dr. Simonyi’s scheduled flight date, commencement of spaceflight training and specific mission objectives will be announced in the coming months.”

Things that are new and different are usually also interesting.

With the contract for an orbital flight and no mention of a ISS visit, this is at least new and different…I’m thinking “Interesting” will come along too.

New Horizons clean bill of health

The above graphic shows the current location of the New Horizon probe in relation to the inner planets. Updated hourly, the map and information on how it is created can be found at this NASA site. Credit: NASA

840 million kilometer check-up of 6 out of 7 instruments show no problems. Do to the highly-light sensitive nature of the spacecraft’s seventh instrument, the extremely sensitive Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) – must wait until the probe flies deeper into space where sunlight levels are lower before testing.

Space.Com provides more information.

Private group sponsors Mars development prize

The MarsDrive Consortium, has announced a contest for the development of a Mars sample return mission and in-situ rocket propellant manufacturing.

The cash prize is for a paper study. In addition to the cash award, first prize will include an all expenses paid trip to the 26th Annual International Space Development Conference where the author may present the winning design.

Solar eclipse puts on a show across the African continent

Oh by the way, there was a Solar Eclipse today. Yeah, I missed the boat too.

A view of the shadow passing as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

NASA TV provided live coverage of the event. Yeah I missed that too.

On their website they have video highlights and still images.

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