: Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan and Wally Schirra have started a website to collect donations and letters of support for Max Ary, the former director of the Kansas Cosmosphere who was found guilty in November of stealing and selling space artifacts from the museum, reports The Hutchinson News. Per a message on the site, Ary and his wife Jan have incurred more than $500,000 in legal and other expenses and his planned appeal of the convictions will add to that. Walter Hammert, an accountant overseeing the donations, said that in addition to the trio of the site's astronaut founders, Alan Bean and the family of the late Jim Irwin have made donations. Ary is scheduled to be sentenced January 18.
: Space memorabilia enthusiast and Apple Computer user Ray Katz has released a Dashboard Widget to search collectSPACE. Widgets are small applications within Mac OS X.4 Tiger that let users perform common tasks and supply fast access to information with only a single click of a mouse. Katz's widget provides a search box that displays the results in your favorite web browser. The widget is a free download.
: After nearly 62,000 orbits and 13 years studying Earth's oceans, the NASA/CNES Topex/ Poseidon mission ended on Thursday. The satellite's pitch reaction wheel, which held its orientation in orbit, stalled October 9, leading its U.S. and French controllers to terminate operations this week. Launched in 1992 to make precise measurements of the ocean surface, Topex/Poseidon's most notable work was to determine the patterns of ocean circulation, but it was also the first to map global tides and the first mission to demonstrate that the Global Positioning System could be used to determine a spacecraft's exact location and track it in orbit. Topex/Poseidon remains in an orbit 830 miles (1336 km) above the Earth, posing no threat to the planet.
: The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, which was used as a forward viewing spot for many of the early missile and rocket launches (not to mention being mistaken as the rocket by the occasional tourist) may soon be seeing more visitors. Presently off- limits to the public but through tours run by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the landmark is the focus of a new agreement between the Air Force, which rules the land where the tower stands, and the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation, which desires to run more tours and improve the site. Among their plans, reports Florida Today, are recreating 19th century buildings that stood in the lighthouse compound and operating a souvenir store.
Dan Barry, who flew on three space shuttle missions including two flights to the International Space Station, has joined a 16-member crew for a different type of frontier mission. Barry was named to the 12th season cast of the CBS reality show Survivor. Based in Panama, the aptly-titled Survivor Panama: Exile Island will debut on Thursday, February 2. Like previous seasons' castaways, Barry will try to "outwit, outplay and outlast" through challenges to win the $1 million top prize.
: Filling a (smaller) hole since Code 3 Collectibles Mars Exploration Rover sold out, Sun Star Models upcoming 1:18 scale die-cast model packs a whole lot of detail into a small space. Measuring only 5 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall, the mini MER's pancam, antenna, and robotic arm are moveable. The rover's base is modeled after the lander structure and deflated airbags. This rover replica will start shipping in the US in February.
: NASA will honor former astronaut Vance Brand for his involvement in the Apollo program with the presentation of the Ambassador of Exploration Award on January 20 in his Colorado hometown. The award is a small sample of moon rock, encased in acrylic and mounted for public display. Although presented in his name, Brand will not own the lunar material; rather he will donate the stone to the Longmont Museum & Cultural Ctr. In 1975, Brand made history as command module pilot on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first US-Russian flight.
: Police in Virginia are looking for the thief (or thieves) who on Tuesday forcibly broke into a vehicle and stole a silver briefcase containing samples of Apollo-recovered moon rocks. The lunar specimens, each weighing between ½ and 1 gram, were encapsulated in acrylic discs for educational display and study. The stolen discs were labeled on their center with the words "meteorite samples" and "lunar samples." The suspect(s) also took a projector. Anyone with information regarding this crime is encouraged to call Virginia Beach Crime Solvers at 1-888-562-5887. If the information leads to an arrest, the caller may be eligible for a $1000 reward.
: NASA's Stardust spacecraft returned to Earth Sunday as its capsule carrying cometary and interstellar particles touched down at 4:10 a.m. CT on the salt flats of the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range. Stardust traveled 2.88 billion miles during its seven-year round-trip, having come within 150 miles of Comet Wild 2. Its reentry today set a new record for the fastest return speed by a spacecraft at 29,000 miles per hour. The Stardust mission is noted by NASA as its first "solid" sample return mission since 1972 when Apollo 17 astronauts brought home 244 pounds of moon rocks. The specimens on-board Stardust are tiny in comparison but are the first from beyond the Moon to be returned to Earth.
: Originally scheduled for Thursday, the sentencing for Max Ary, former head of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, who was convicted on 12 federal charges in November, has been delayed until February 16, The Hutchinson News reports. At next month's sentencing, Ary faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of mail and wire fraud, while for his other charges, including theft of government property, money laundering and interstate transportation of stolen property, he could land a 10-year stint in prison and a $250,000 fine. A jury found Ary guilty of stealing and selling Cosmosphere and NASA artifacts.
: NASA's first probe to the planet Pluto got off to a quick start today with its 1:00 p.m. CT launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The liftoff set a speed record, with New Horizons expected to reach lunar orbit distance in 9 hours and to pass Jupiter just 13 months later. Arrival at Pluto will occur in July 2015, when the piano-sized probe will use its seven on-board instruments to study the ninth planet and its moons' surface properties and atmosphere.
: After Apollo moonwalker John Young told sportswriter Billy Watkins in 1999 that "nobody knows anything about the people who helped make those [Apollo] flights so successful," Watkins made it his mission to find the unsung heroes and share their stories. The result of Watkins' work is Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes, a collection of profiles that includes the likes of Julian Scheer, the NASA publicist who argued for and won the inclusion of a TV camera on Apollo 11; Hugh Brown, who helped monitor for Russian submarines trying to jam NASA communication during launches; and Joan Roosa, widow of the Apollo 14 Command Module Pilot. In total, Watkins devotes chapters to 14 individuals through whose work, without fanfare, 12 men walked on the moon.
: The US Navy will name its new combat ship the USS Alan Shepard in honor of America's first man in space, the New Hampshire Congressional delegation announced on Friday. The 1000-ft. support vessel will be built in California by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company for delivery to the Navy's fleet by March 2007. The USS Shepard's primary mission will be to deliver supplies, transfer cargo and supply logistic help to Navy ships within a single carrier strike group. Part of the T-AKE Class of auxiliary support ships, the Shepard will span 689 feet long and clock a top speed of 20 knots.
: When the next astronauts walk on the Moon, they may be taken there in spacecraft with the names Antares, Artemis and Ares, sources close to NASA tell collectSPACE. Unlike during Apollo, when crews gave mission-unique monikers to the command and lunar modules (e.g. Columbia and Eagle), NASA's new spaceships would retain their titles between flights, advancing only by number (e.g. Ares-1, Ares-2). Citing mission planning documents internal to the space agency, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) would adopt 'rival to Mars' Antares as its title while the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM) will be Artemis, the Greek's twin sister of Apollo, goddess of the Moon. NASA's heavy-lift rocket will be Ares, the Greek's take on the Roman Mars.
: The twin crawler transporters (casually known as Hans and Franz by early space program workers) are celebrating this month 40 years of carrying spacecraft to the launch pad. To mark the anniversary the crawlers and their Apollo-era drivers were reunited for a tour and ride on January 13. collectSPACE was there too, to record their slow path back to the Moon.
NASA announced today its next two Ambassadors of Exploration to be honored with moon rock awards. Apollo 14 moonwalker Edgar Mitchell will dedicate his lunar sample to the South Florida Science Museum on February 5. Four days later, Columbia's pilot Michael Collins' award will be donated on his behalf to the Cradle of Aviation in New York (Collins will not attend the ceremony). Mitchell's and Collins' rocks will be the eighth and ninth to be awarded out of the 38 NASA is presenting.
: Noah Bradley may resist being labeled an expert but there's no denying his passion for collecting space. In an effort to inspire those new to the hobby, Bradley has designed a website around the scenario that (a) you are fresh to space collecting, and (b) you have $1,000 to spend. The result is an introduction to space memorabilia that even the most seasoned collector can enjoy, or as Bradley invites, prompt a list of your own.
: They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, then NASA has paid collectSPACE the greatest of compliments. The space agency's latest employee giveaway is a decal that displays the parody ad got space? Its not yet known where NASA got the idea for the bumper sticker but maybe it was from our 2002 World Space Congress booth, where, among the apparel we offered for sale, you would have found our got space?t-shirt. If not then and there, perhaps the idea was sent from above, via the International Space Station. The catalyst aside, we're glad to be sharing space with NASA.
: Today is NASA's annual Day of Remembrance, recognizing those who gave their lives for the cause of exploration and discovery. Michael Griffin, NASA's Adminstrator, said Thursday that "the losses we commemorate are a strong and poignant reminder of the sternness of the challenge" of spaceflight.
: With NASA's comet catcher back on terra firma and its precious particle payload in the laboratory, what's to become of the Stardust spacecraft? That's the question John McGauley posed to Tom Duxbury, Stardust's Project Manager, on collectSPACE's behalf. As for the "basic sample return capsule," Duxbury said, "the original plan was that after we study the effects of space and the effects of the Earth return, was to have that go to the Air and Space Museum." A similar future is hoped for the name-filled microchip that Stardust carried from and to Earth, though its desired that a computer able to display its contents accompany its exhibit. Duxbury's design for Stardust's main structure is more ambitious; he would like to use it for a visit to Comet Tempel 1, which was the goal of Deep Impact on July 4, 2005. "When they flew by," said Duxbury of Deep Impact and its controllers, "they did not get to see the last part of crater formation." Duxbury believes that it would be scientifically valuable to return, several years after Deep Impact, to see the final results of the cratering process and to examine the comet with a different suite of instruments. "[Stardust's] heritage is still potentially out there in the future," foretold Duxbury.
: On Jan. 22, Robin McKie, science editor for the British paper The Guardian wrote an article that ran with the headline: "Shuttle a deathtrap, says astronaut". McKie attributed the "outburst" to Mike Mullane, who flew three Space Shuttle missions and whose newly released autobiographyRiding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut has attracted the attention of the media for its frankness. The problem — Mullane neither said nor wrote any such thing. In a post to Space.com's message boards (reprinted on collectSPACE and other sites) on Sunday, Mullane wrote "I've NEVER said the shuttle is a deathtrap. EVER." His response continues by sharing what he did write in Riding Rockets and in what context he thought the space shuttle was 'the most dangerous spacecraft ever flown' by NASA.