Forty nine years to the day that the first Russian satellite re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and disintegrated, another Russian re-entry made news for what may have survived. A spent rocket stage that launched a French planet-finding probe last month fell back to this planet this morning over the skies of Colorado and Wyoming, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed. The fiery trail was witnessed from the ground and the sky thanks to a network TV traffic helicopter that was filming when the rocket re-entered. There are reports of debris being found but no pieces have been confirmed.
: Very thin, almost-pure gold threads made for the ill-fated Astro-E X-ray astronomy satellite are up for auction to benefit the Wisconsin space center that was responsible for building the refrigerator for one of the satellite's X-ray detectors. The 8-millimeter, 99.99 percent pure gold strands that together weigh .857 pounds (389 grams or 13.72 ounces) were left over scrap from the 1600 gold wires strung inside the 'salt pill' made by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center which would've reached orbit had the Japanese rocket it was aboard hadn't failed. The gold threads are being offered through the university's Surplus With A Purpose (SWAP) website for a minimum of $8500, which is roughly based on the gold's value of $625/ounce.
: Self-taught British filmmaker David Sington will debut a new documentary about the Apollo program at the Sundance Film Festival next week in Utah. In In the Shadow of the Moon, all the surviving crew members of the U.S. lunar missions share their story "in their own words" interwoven with NASA film footage. Entered in the world documentary competition, In the Shadow of the Moon is 100 minutes, in color and b&w.
: Russia kicks-off a year of major space anniversaries Friday with ceremonies marking the 100th birthday of Sergei Korolyov, founder of the Soviet space program and quite possibly the man most responsible for sparking the space race. September brings the 150th year after the birth of pioneering space flight theoretician Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. And the year's biggest celebrations center on October 4, 2007, the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first satellite, Sputnik — arguably the greatest achievement by the Chief Designer.
: A blue ribbon committee has selected three space shuttle veterans to be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame this May. Michael Coats, Steven Hawley and Jeffrey Hoffman will join the ranks of 63 of their peers as they're honored for their contributions to the U.S. space program. Three of the "Thirty-Five New Guys" in 1978, Coats and Hawley made their first flight together while Hoffman and Hawley serviced the Hubble Space Telescope, though on separate flights. Coats flew three missions, twice as the commander; Hawley and Hoffman flew five space flights.
: Teacher in Space back-up turned full-time educator astronaut Barbara Morgan shared with students and the media today details about her planned June STS-118 mission to the International Space Station. In addition to operating the robot arm and taking part in educational "downlink" sessions, Morgan is flying millions of basil seeds and a plant growth chamber for the station to 'plant the seed' that she hopes will begin students thinking about our future on the Moon and Mars.
: • Gemini, Apollo and shuttle veteran John Young has completed writing a first draft of his forthcoming memoirs (via Novaspace); • NASA will use its Apollo-era Operations and Checkout Building (O&C) high bay to process Orion; • Several child-built spacecraft models, including a 7-foot Saturn V, are finalists for voting in the K'NEXpert Search; • India's Space Research Organization recovered its first unmanned orbital capsule, SRE-1, on Monday, marking a major step toward the development of crewed spacecraft.
: Each year, NASA sets aside a day to remember fallen crews. On Monday, Jan. 29, NASA will observe a Day of Remembrance with activities for the public and its employees. Before then, the Astronaut Memorial Foundation and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education will host events for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire and 20 year anniversary of the Challenger Centers, which were begun in honor of the STS-51L Challenger crew. The Day of Remembrance also commemorates the 4-year anniversary of Columbia's loss.
: London-based retailer Habitat, which is owned by the same company as IKEA, is expanding its celebrity-designed VIP collection of home furnishings with a new selection for kids to be introduced on February 20. VIP for Kids features a wooden trunk styled by actress Kate Winslet, a cubed futon by Daniel "Harry Potter" Radcliffe, a dresser mirror by muppet Miss Piggy, and "Moonbuzz," a pendant lamp designed by astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The giant resin hanging lantern was inspired by Aldrin's desire to engage kids to explore, moving the Moon from outside the window to the middle of the room.
: Forty years ago today, Stephen Clemmons was assigned to Launch Complex 34, Cape Canaveral, Fla. The events that would unfold in 1967 would forever alter the direction of the U.S. space program and Clemmons' life. In memory of Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Edward H. White, II and Roger B. Chaffee, who made the ultimate sacrifice for exploration and the nation.
: In the Shadow of the Moon, director David Sington's new film covering the Apollo manned lunar landings, was presented the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival on Saturday evening. Shadow, which made its debut at the festival, combines new interviews with at least one astronaut from each lunar mission with footage taken from NASA's archvies. If you couldn't be in Utah to catch one of the screenings, Shadowwill be coming to a theater and/or television set near you. ThinkFilm acquired the North American theatrical rights, while the Discovery Channel did the same for broadcast. Both companies are aiming to release In the Shadow of the Moon later in 2007.
: On Monday, NASA named the STS-123 crew, who will deliver both the first component of the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo and the Canadian Dextre robotics system to the International Space Station. Dom Gorie will command Endeavour with Greg "Box" Johnson as pilot. Mission speciaists Richard Linnehan, Robert Behnken, Michael Foreman and Takao Doi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will be joined by an as-yet-to-be-named station crew member for launch, targeted for December 2007. Foreman was earlier assigned to STS-120; Stephanie Wilson will take his seat on that ISS mission, currently planned for this September.
The 'other' soon to be released Apollo documentary, The Wonder Of It Allwas previewed for Johnson Space Center employees and NASA managers on Monday evening at Space Center Houston. Produced and directed by Jeff Roth, the film includes new interviews with seven of the nine surviving moonwalkers. Wonder focuses on their personal experiences rather than the technical details of each Apollo mission, including the effect that the moon landings had on their post-lunar lives.
: In Warner Bros' The Astronaut Farmer, Billy Bob Thornton plays the role of Charles Farmer, a former NASA astronaut who never flew in space but who pursues his life-long dream of flying in orbit by building his own rocket. To do so, Farmer draws from designs of the past, basing his spacecraft on the historic Mercury-Atlas that launched the first Americans to orbit in the '60s. The Astronaut Farmer opens Feb. 23, 45 years (and three days) after John Glenn rode his Mercury-Atlas.
: A colonial-era luggage tag will be on-board shuttle Atlantis in March when it carries the crew of STS-117 to the space station. The small lead marker was unearthed last year at Jamestown, the location of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Its flight, along with two sets of Jamestown commemorative coins, as a tribute to early American pioneers by NASA. After its trip, the metal tag will have logged more than 4 million miles over 400 years.