: Former Air Force pilot Craig Russell has an idea to mark the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's Mercury flight, the first US astronaut in orbit: recreate the mission. Russell established Americans in Orbit-50 Years, a non-profit organization to raise funds to build a new Friendship 7, choose a pilot and launch them atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2012. According to the Huntsville Times, Russell estimates he needs $35 million for the booster and $10 million for the capsule. To advise the effort, Russell has recruited a panel of space program veterans, including T.J. O'Malley, who served as the test conductor for the original Friendship 7 spaceflight in 1962.
: How many NASA engineers does it take to sway the Saturn V? The world may never know, but thanks to the surfacing of a short film clip from 1966, we know they succeeded. That said, as all rocket scientists know, for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, when that rocket's rockin', the launch escape tower will come knockin' down.
: Space shuttle commanders John Blaha, Robert Cabana, Bryan O'Connor and Loren Shriver are to be added into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame this spring. The 2008 class are the seventh group of shuttle astronauts to be enshrined and brings the total count of inductees to 70. The four were chosen from among their fellow NASA astronauts who first flew in orbit no later than 1991 and who left NASA's corps at least five years ago. They will be celebrated by their peers during a May 3 public ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center, FL.
: For only the second time and nearly a third of a century following the first, a spacecraft will soar over the surface of planet Mercury. Just a few minutes after 1:00 p.m. CT (1900 GMT) Monday, NASA's MESSENGER (or MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft will pass a mere 124 miles (200 km) above the terrain of our Sun's nearest planet, on its way to becoming the first to orbit Mercury in 2011. Today, during the first of its three fly-bys skimming over the cratered, rocky surface, MESSENGER will snap more than 1200 images as it approaches, encounters and departs the planet. Mercury's first visitor, Mariner 10, only surveyed a hemisphere; thereby many of MESSENGER's close-up photographs will be of never-before-seen terrains.
: NASA has debuted a book that brings majestic images taken by its Great Observatories to the fingertips of the blind. At a ceremony held Tuesday, the agency released "Touch the Invisible Sky", 60-pages of color images of nebulae, stars, galaxies and some of the telescopes that captured the original photos, including the Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer observatories. Each image is embossed with lines, bumps and textures that translate colors, shapes and other intricate details of the cosmic objects, allowing the visually impaired to 'see' them. Braille and large-print captions accompany each of the space images, making them accessible to all readers.
: Tuesday's press conference with the next expedition crew slated to launch to the International Space Station also included South Korean spaceflight participant San Ko, who will fly with Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineer Oleg Kononenko to the ISS for a nine-day stay. Together with his back-up, Soyeon Yi, San Ko attended the media briefing wearing a flight suit adorned by South Korea's flag, a name tag and a mission emblem with the words 'Challenge 2008 Space Korea'. According to Yi, a self-professed designer, the patch was produced for the upcoming flight through a commercial contract with their agency. Not that the patch is for sale: Ko explained that only two of the insignias were produced for them to wear and that it is not (yet?) for souvenir sale in South Korea.
: To mark the 10th year assembling the International Space Station and its own 50 years as an agency, NASA has released a calendar for 2008 that highlights the milestones for the past decade of ISS operations and half century of space exploration. NASA has already delivered almost 100,000 copies of the colorful calendar to classrooms throughout the United States and, as of Thursday, made it available via its website for the public to download, print and enjoy.
: The US Air Force Space and Missile Museum, which today stands at the launch site of the first American satellite, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Juno 1/Explorer 1 flight with a space memorabilia show on Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Travis Park Community Center in Cocoa, Florida. The museum's foundation will offer a variety of patches, pins and t-shirts commemorating the anniversary, while local collectors and merchants will display their space artifacts for barter, sale or just to be admired. Later, on the day of the milestone, the museum will recreate the launch from Complex 26 with 50 Juno/Explorer 1 scale model rockets.
: The youngest among Wernher von Braun's Peenemünde rocket team and the last, in 2006, to retire from NASA, Werner K. Dahm died Jan. 17. Responsible for early aerodynamic testing that led toward the development of the A9/A10 rocket, a winged V2, Dahm also worked on the Wasserfall missile. Brought to the U.S. as part of Operation Paperclip, Dahm was initially involved in tests using V2 rockets. After the launch of Sputnik, he transferred from the Army to NASA, where he made contributions to the Saturn V booster. He led the aerophysics division at Marshall Space Flight Ctr. when, in 1992, he became MSFC's Chief Aerodynamicist.
: To mark (both literally and figuratively) the half-centennial since Explorer 1, the Cape Canaveral Post Office will use a commemorative cancel to postmark mail dated for the anniversary on January 31. The ink cancellation, which was designed by collectSPACE member Joel Katzowitz, shows the United States' first satellite with the words "50 Years of America in Space". The SpaceCoast Cover Service plans to apply the marker to Explorer 1 stamps with affixed pad artifacts.
: Although the first of the crew-designed mission emblems was worn in space on Gemini 5, the first of the two-man missions did have a design for their own. Gemini 3 commander Virgil 'Gus' Grissom had a handful of his 'Molly Brown' patches made for his and John Young's mission after they returned from space. To commemorate their flight, patch collector John Berry commissioned AB Emblem, NASA's patch supplier, to make a modern replica of the GT-3 Molly Brown badge. Berry will donate the profits from the insignias' sale to the Spring Mill State Park's Grissom Memorial in Mitchell, IN.
: The Smithsonian every year invites the international air and space museum community to gather together to discuss topics of common concern. Earlier seminars have included subjects such as the availability of space shuttle hardware as the program ends in 2010 and how to apply conservation standards to large scale projects such as Saturn V rockets. The 2008 Mutual Concerns of Air and Space Museums Conference will be hosted in Washington, DC from March 29 through April 1. For the first time, a panel session will be devoted to the issues shared among space museums and space collectors. The panelists, who include curators and hobby representatives, will speak to how both communities are reacting to the public's response to modern space history.
: If Japanese researchers and origami enthusiasts have their way, a paper air spaceplane may fly where no air spaceplane has flown before. Scientists at the University of Tokyo have teamed with the Japan Origami Airplane Association to make a paper plane that can be launched from the International Space Station and survive reentry. New Scientist reports that a scale prototype of the silicon-injected paper aircraft was successfully tested inside a Tokyo wind tunnel at Mach 7 and 392°F (200°C). Though its launch date has not been set, researchers hope the plane can carry a message of peace for whoever recovers the space-flown, folded flyer.
: Wednesday, Virgin Galactic unveiled the design of their space launch system based on the X Prize winning technology of SpaceShipOne. The White Knight Two aircraft, under assembly at Scaled Composites, was said to be nearing completion while SpaceShipTwo is 60% ready. To date, reservations have exceeded 200 paying passengers, six of whom with two pilots will launch at a time. According to Virgin, WK2 test flights are set to start this summer, with SS2 making its first spaceflight in 2009. Seats are priced at $200,000.
: Japanese astronaut Takao Doi will take a boomerang with him to the International Space Station where he will test its ability to return to his hand when thrown. Doi, who is set to fly in March as a mission specialist aboard STS-123, chose to carry the throwing stick as a result of being contacted by 36-year old Yasuhiro Togai, a world boomerang champion who later trained Doi and made his two boomerangs (one for practice, one for flight) from paper. The Mainichi Daily News reported that it is not known if gravity is needed for the boomerang to fly as expected. Its test flight will take place during a break from attaching Japan's Kibo logistics module and Canada's Dextre robotics system to the ISS.
: Space art, autographs and artifacts dealer Novaspace Galleries is conducting its first live space memorabilia auction Saturday at the Arizona Challenger Space Center in Peoria. The 600+ lot sale, which expands upon Novaspace's Astro-Auction website, includes artifacts from astronauts Gene Cernan, Michael Collins and James McDivitt as well as space art by Paul Calle and Robert McCall. Bidding begins at 8:00 a.m. PT.
: A spy satellite that is believed to be the size of a small bus is to reenter the Earth's atmosphere and may hit ground in late February or early March, the Associated Press reports U.S. government officials as saying. Amateur satellite trackers suspect the wayward craft to be the National Reconnaissance Office's L-21, which was launched in 2006 and declared a loss by the NRO soon thereafter. Photos of L-21 in orbit taken by hobbyists appeared to reveal that its solar panels had not deployed leaving the spacecraft without power to function.
: Rich Jurek's portfolio of $2 bills span space and time travel, each having been flown to orbit and beyond by astronauts and cosmonauts from different eras. His new blog site, "The Jefferson-In-Space Museum" highlights the space history behind six of the notes representing each of the currently known missions aboard which Thomas Jefferson became "a sort of honorary accidental astronaut". The earliest bill, issued by the U.S. Treasury in 1917, was also the first to fly, launching with Gordon Cooper onboard the last of the Mercury missions in 1963. At the opposite end of the bills time line is a 2003 note that flew twice on SpaceShipOne.
: Bathed only in moon- light since June 6, 2006, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's vertical-standing replica of the 363-foot Saturn V rocket will be relit on Monday evening as a kick off to a week of activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. satellite and the opening of the center's new Davidson Center for Space Exploration. That a re-lighting ceremony is even needed is the result of the latter, which required that the spotlights be moved to make way for its construction. The replica today serves as the centerpiece to a courtyard leading to the Davidson Center, which was built to house one of three existing, real Saturn V rockets.
: Although the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, disintegrated during its reentry 12 years and two months after its launch 50 years ago Thursday, the remnants from its historic liftoff can be still found circling the planet. Small "X"-shaped fragments cut from the support gantry have been distributed for decades through the U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Museum that stands at Cape Canaveral Pad 26 where Explorer I began.
: The US Space and Rocket Center officially opens on Thursday evening the home for its recently-restored Saturn V rocket, the new Davidson Center for Space Exploration. The 68,200 sq. foot facility displays the Saturn stages that were used to test the moon booster and its support equipment but were not designed to fly in space. The Saturn's command module and escape tower were replaced in the exhibit with a test article from NASA's nearby Marshall Space Flight Center that was used twice for Pad Abort and Little Joe II flights.