The Source for Space History and Artifacts
: Marking its first remodeling since the end of the shuttle program in 2011, the International Space Station's Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) "Leonardo" was moved from the Unity node to Tranquility on Wednesday (May 27) to free a port for cargo freighters and make way for future Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew spacecraft to dock at the outpost. The PMM, which serves as a storage closet, was first installed during STS-133, the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery, four years ago.
Google Doodles for Sally Ride
: Coinciding with what would have been her 64th birthday on Tuesday (May 26), Sally Ride is featured in five new Google Doodles that highlight her achievements as an astronaut and educator. The Doodles, created by animator Olivia Huynh, show the first American woman in space floating onboard the shuttle and inspiring a new generation of scientists and explorers.
X-37B, LightSail lift off
: A clandestine mini-space shuttle and a citizen-funded prototype solar sailing satellite lifted off on Wednesday (May 20) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch began the 4th mission for the U.S. Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), which this time is carrying an experimental thruster and a NASA materials study. The Planetary Society's first LightSail, one of ten CubeSats that hitched a ride atop the Atlas V, will demonstrate deploying the large reflective sail that will tack into the solar wind on its primary mission.
Chuck Norris and the Shuttle-747
: Actors, astronauts and Houston's high society came out on Friday (May 15) to attend the "Galaxy Gala" fundraiser for Space Center Houston's display of the original Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and replica orbiter Independence. The evening's attendees included veteran astronauts Gene Cernan, Mark Kelly, and Ellen Ochoa; actor Gary Sinise, who closed out the event with his Lt. Dan Band; and Chuck Norris, who delivered a punch of support for the $12 million landmark attraction.
Centimeter of sail
: Bill Nye, as CEO of The Planetary Society, has started a Kickstarter campaign for the LightSail, a "citizen-funded flight by light" launching in fall 2016. Already beyond the Society's initial goal of $200,000, the crowdfunding campaign is now aiming for $1 million, in part by offering a "centimeter of sail," symbolic squares of the solar sailing cubesat's Mylar material, to supporters.
What is Pluto?
Astronaut Mark Kelly traded his flight stick for a buzzer on Tuesday (May 12) as he faced Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and investor Kevin O'Leary of "Shark Tank" on Celebrity Jeopardy! Playing for a Houston hospital, Kelly fielded questions in "Traveling Amongst the Stars" and "'N' Deavour," but it was a clue in "Physical Sciences" that led to his most notable reply.
: Terry Virts, Samantha Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov had been scheduled to depart the International Space Station on Wednesday (May 13), but instead will wait until at least early June. The delay, which has also put off the next crewed launch to late July, comes as a result of the loss of Russia's Progress M-27M cargo spacecraft and the investigation into that failure.
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Shuttle arm reaches out
: The public touring NASA's Kennedy Space Center can now get up-close with a historic space shuttle launch pad artifact, but its exhibit is temporary. The orbiter access arm and white room from Pad 39A was recently relocated to outside the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building to wait its next indoor housing. The arm was used by 82 space shuttle crews from 1981 to 2011.
Space Cups for all!
IRPI, the Oregon-based R&D company behind the specially-designed space coffee cups on board the International Space Station, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to make the Space Cups available to all aspiring barista-nauts. Perks (get it?) include mission patches, 3D-printed cup keychains and of course, the cups themselves, in glass and 3D-printed plastic as is on orbit.
Progress plunges to Earth
: Nine days after it spun out of control on its way to resupply the International Space Station, the Russian Progress M-27M spacecraft plunged back to Earth on Thursday night (May 7). The cargo craft broke apart and burned up as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, though some debris may have made it to the surface. An investigation is ongoing as to what caused the Progress M-27M and its three tons of supplies to be lost.
55 years of pad abort tests
: SpaceX is set to fire the first "big test" of its Crew Dragon, its capsule designed to deliver astronauts to the space station. The pad abort test, which will push (rather than pull) the capsule from a ground-based mount representing the company's Falcon 9 rocket, is the latest in a 55-year history of launch escape system trials that began with NASA's Mercury program.
: Samantha Cristoforetti quoted a Star Trek captain on Sunday (May 3) while sipping from the first cup of coffee brewed in orbit. "Coffee: The finest organic suspension ever devised," she tweeted. Cristoforetti and crewmate Scott Kelly installed the ISSpresso machine on board the International Space Station. In addition to adding espresso to the crew's drink choices, the coffee maker and a set of zero-g cups are adding to fluid dynamics studies.
Auction offers rare look at Orion
: The first lot in the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's annual spring auction offers a rare chance to see NASA's historic Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) capsule inside its processing facility in Florida. One of five experiences and 27 artifacts up for bid through Saturday evening (May 2), the Orion tour will be led by a Lockheed Martin representative and Hugh Harris, the "voice of NASA" for more than 100 launches.
End of MESSENGER
: The first-ever craft to orbit Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, slammed into the surface on Thursday (April 30) after an almost 11 year mission. NASA's MESSENGER mission mapped Mercury and provided compelling evidence for abundant water and other volatile materials in the shadowed polar craters. At its end, MESSENGER added a 50-foot-wide crater to the planet.
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