The meteorites are vanishing and if something isn't done soon, most of Earth's rare space rocks could be gone in a lifetime or so says the University of Arizona's Southwest Meteorite Center, a newly founded organization created to combat what a UA scientist and a private meteorite collector identify as part of the problem: collectors. Samples that have fallen over millions of years are being found and collected over just a few decades. Dealers are buying meteorites at prices the scientific community cannot match and cutting them into small pieces for sale to bidders in a flooded market. In an attempt to save the space stones from becoming slivers, the SWMC will offer collectors, dealers and enthusiasts a fair price to obtain part of the vanishing meteorite legacy. Anyone who collects or owns the space rocks can bring them to the Tucson center for identification, classification and possible sale. The goal is to develop the center as a world-class meteorite repository that will house one of the world's largest archives for research and public education.
: Exile Island, the latest entry in CBS's Survivor series debuted last night with retired astronaut Dan Barry among the castaways. Separated into gender and age grouped teams, Barry's older men La Mina camp got off to a strong start, finishing the first challenge before the other three teams. Between the initial contest and immunity challenge, Barry and fellow castaway Terry Deitz bonded as Dan shared he was an astronaut, which remains a secret to everyone else. The older men ended the episode by coming in second, earning their immunity.
: Whereas flown U.S. spacesuits are a common sight at space museums (on loan from the Smithsonian), the same can't be said for their Russian counterparts. As a result of how they were designed, Russian vehicles do not possess the capability or capacity to land the bulky mass of an EVA outfit. As such, only one Orlan spacesuit now resides on Earth, courtesy the U.S. Space Shuttle (DMA-18 on STS-79). The chances of more being recovered may become even more slim today as Orlan-M no. 14 makes the giant leap from spacesuit to satellite, a SuitSat. Depending on its success, the future of Russian space-wear may be destined not for the museum, nor the junkyard but as short-lived, signal sending shooting stars.
: ISS 12's William McArthur and Valery Tokarev said goodbye to a fellow spacewalker today as they gave an empty spacesuit a good push into orbit, starting its new, short life as a satellite. At 5:02 p.m. CT, Tokarev tossed the expired Russian Orlan- M to become SuitSat, a radio transmitter that broadcasts audio and images to those listening on Earth. "Goodbye, Mr. Smith," bid Tokarev as he shoved the suit away from the ISS. Cameras caught the sci-fi reminiscent scene as SuitSat tumbled toward its entry into Earth's atmosphere.
: What do desperate housewife Edie Britt, appliance store owner Carol Tranior,Dr. Frank N. Furter, and Dr. Victor Ehrlich share in common with Buzz Aldrin? They, or more appropriately, actors Nicollette Sheridan, Adrienne Barbeau, Tim Curry and Ed Begley, Jr. lend their voices to a new 3-D animated movie about the Apollo 11 moon landing. Fly Me To The Moon (nWave Pictures) centers on three tween-aged houseflies that stow aboard Columbia and then inside the helmets of Neil Armstrong and Aldrin while on the lunar surface. The film closes with a live-action cameo by Aldrin, who shoos away the notion that any insects were present on the real mission, all the while "swatting at flies buzzing around my head," said the moonwalker to the Houston Chronicle. In production now, To The Moon will buzz into theaters in 07.
: Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of their only space flight, Apollo 14 moonwalker Edgar Mitchell and the late Stuart Roosa are being honored by NASA this week with the Ambassadors of Exploration Award. Yesterday, Mitchell was present at a ceremony held by the South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach where his award, a small piece of rock that he and Alan Shepard returned from the Moon, will be left on public display. During the event, a taped message conveyed the congratulations of the ISS 12 crew. Roosa will be honored posthumously on Thursday also in Florida at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. His family will attend the event to accept the moon rock from Jeffrey Jezierski, NASA's Deputy Chief of Staff, and Jim Kennedy, Director of Kennedy Space Center. Roosa's rock, which was also returned by Apollo 14, will remain at the Hall for all to see.
: NASA permitted a different type of orbiter to liftoff today from the Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. Virgin Atlantic Airways GlobalFlyer used more than 13,000 of the 15,000 foot runway before taking to the sky at 6:22 a.m. CST. Pilot Steve Fossett will attempt to fly GlobalFlyer 26,084 miles in approximately 80 hours setting a new world record for the longest flight made by any aircraft. Fossett hopes to land at Kent International Airport, near London, where our own on-the-site contributor Paul Bramley will be reporting.
Four tribes became two as the castaways faced a schoolyard pick at the start of last night's episode of Survivor Panama: Exile Island. Astronaut Dan Barry was second to the last man to be selected but ultimately returned to the La Mina team from whence he came. In an attempt to expand their alliance, Dan and Terry reached out to new team members Nick and Austin, but the two "younger men" hadn't yet time to decide their strategy. Terry and Dan wrangled the award (fishing gear) for their tribe by finding the last two wooden snakes in the first challenge. During the second, La Mina was pulled by Terry to an early lead, securing their, and Dan's immunity.
: After two years of basic training, NASA's 19th group of 'ascans' are graduating. At a private Houston ceremony to be held this evening, the 11 candidates and their 3 JAXA classmates will be pinned with silver badges distinguishing them as astronauts. The silver pin will be replaced by a gold version after their first spaceflight. Before then, the new astronauts will undergo advanced training and be assigned technical assignments across the human spaceflight program. Selected in 2004, Group XIX includes two pilots and 12 mission specialists.
: Two Mercury astronauts will be the next to be honored by NASA with moon rock awards. On the occasion of the 44th anniversary of his U.S. record setting flight, February 20, John Glenn will be recognized as an Ambassador of Exploration at the public policy and public service Ohio institute that bears his name. His late fellow 'original' Donald "Deke" Slayton will be awarded two days later at the Wisconsin space and bike museum that highlights his life and career. Slayton's Apollo Soyuz Test Project crewmate (and recent moon rock honoree) Vance Brand will present the award for NASA at the public event.
: PBS's popular series, the Antiques Roadshow will devote part of its third hour filmed in Houston for a "field trip" to discuss collecting space. The segment, which debuts tonight at 7:00 p.m. CST, will use autographs, patches and artifacts loaned by collectSPACE set against the backdrop of Space Center Houston's spacecraft and spacesuits. Space memorabilia has been appraised on the Roadshow before (including in 2001, a segment profiling an astronaut autographed book) but this is the first time the series has featured the hobby.
: Realistic space toys were again in short number this year at the American International Toy Fair held in New York City. Companies such as Action Products and Odyssey Toys, known for their NASA-themed lines, were exhibiting but were not introducing any new space sets (instead focusing on their other products). In fact, only two manufacturers out of the 1,500 in attendance had new space history-inspired items and both drew from commercial or private space projects.
: Veteran CBS anchor Walter Cronkite will be the first non-astronaut and only non-NASA individual to be honored by NASA with an Ambassador of Exploration Award at a February 28 ceremony at KLRU TV in Austin, Texas. Cronkite will present the moon rock- studded award to the Center for American History at the University of Texas, where it will remain on public display near where his papers are archived. Cronkite was chosen for the award in recognition of his coverage of the historic progression of missions from the early Mercury launches, through the Gemini flights, to the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The La Mina camp shelter, where retired astronaut Dan Barry resides on Survivor Panama: Exile Island, became a whole lot roomier this week, as the tribe won "home improvement" supplies but was also forced to vote out one of their own. By catching five slingshot-launched balls before the other team, Dan's La Mina castaways claimed victory in the Reward Challenge, taking home a kerosene lantern, blankets, pillows, water canisters, rope and a tarp. Using the latter to fortify their roof, Dan could not have been happier with the tarp. "We have a nice domed interior as opposed to [one] slumping so there's lots of space inside," he said. Victory turned to defeat however during the Immunity Challenge, where the tribes wrestled each other for the right to stay. Facing the Tribal Council for the first time since arriving, Dan and the members of his self-started alliance voted as an all-male block, eliminating Misty Giles, a "smart as hell" engineer.
Before it can retire to a museum, Space Shuttle Atlantis will serve NASA as a supply closet for spare parts, Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale told NASA employees on Friday. According to CBS reporter William Harwood, Hale spoke of grounding Atlantis in 2008, ahead of its required maintenance period that under normal circumstances could take at least one year. Instead, NASA plans to fly the last half-dozen or so shuttle missions leading up to 2010 with Endeavour and Discovery, while trying "to keep [Atlantis] in as near flight ready condition... so we can use those parts," said Hale. "Quite frankly, people are already calling us and asking [if they can] display one of our orbiters," said Hale, "I'm not giving anybody anything until we're all agreed the [space] station is complete and the shuttle's job is done." Atlantis is (as of now) planned to fly five more times prior to 2008.
: Last month, a federal judge approved the defendant's request to push back the sentencing date for former Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center director Max Ary from Jan. 19 to Feb. 16. But last week's date didn't work, either. On Tuesday, the hearing was reset for May 15 at 8:30 a.m. before District Judge J. Thomas Marten. Ary was convicted of stealing and selling space artifacts that belonged to the museum and were on loan by NASA. He faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for each of five counts of mail and wire fraud. Other charges could add 10 years more and a $250,000 fine, The Hutchinson News reports.
: Astronaut castaway Dan Barry lost more than his footing during the 4th episode of Survivor Panama: Exile Island on CBS. His La Mina tribe lost both Reward and Immunity challenges, the latter due in part to Dan falling off a balance beam as he raced to finish a bucket brigade. Facing his second consecutive tribal council, Dan found himself balancing the desires of his self-started all-male alliance — to vote off Ruth Marie — with his own pledge to protect her, which he offered at the start of Thursday's show. In the end, Dan honored his word but could not convince the others to act accordingly. Meanwhile, La Mina's leader and the first person Dan told he was an astronaut, Terry followed the clues to the only Immunity Idol hidden away on the title-drawn Exile Island.
: Later this year, in a move that harks back 35 years to the lunar surface, a spacesuited cosmonaut will exit the ISS to hit a "small white pellet" with a golf club for the first shot to circle the planet. Organized by Element 21 (E21) Golf Company, makers of Scandium Metal Alloy drivers and shafts, the spacewalk slice will be made with a gold-plated E21 club and E21 balls that have been on the station since September 2005. After the EVA the club will be brought home to contribute to a charitable cause. E21 also plans to offer 321 replica space clubs for sale. The ball will tracked in its orbit via GPS transmitters.
: The National Archives and Google have launched a pilot program to make the motion picture holdings of the Archives available for free online. Amongst the movies, documentaries and other films now on Google Video are 19 NASA "Headquarters Films" that represent a series of over 250 titles collected by the space agency's Office of Public Affairs between 1962 and 1981. Covering such significant events as Dr. Goddard's early rocket designs, John Glenn's first orbital spaceflight and the Apollo 11 lunar mission, they were produced with footage from the various NASA research facilities/centers around the country. As well as expanding their online film collection, Google may host the Archives textual holdings.
: Veteran actor and film and TV icon, Don Knotts died yesterday at 81. His credits include the 1967 movie The Reluctant Astronaut in which he played the title role of a fearful janitor who poses as a famous spaceman. Early in his TV career, he was one of the original cast members of "The Steve Allen Show." He was one of a group of comics backing Allen that included another reluctant astronaut, Bill Dana, aka Jose Jimenez.
: Why did the safari guide cross the Zambian jungle? To get to the outhouse of course. No joke and you would too if that washroom's roof was made from the skin of a flown Saturn V stage. The true tale of the journey and discovery by the Sheppard family is retold by Brad Thomas in JSC's Space Center Roundup publication.
: Swann Galleries' annual space exploration auction will be held this year on March 18 in New York City. Their print catalog for the 415 lot sale is mailing now to registered bidders. The listings are also posted to Swann's website. The auction offers flown items and memorabilia from the properties of astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Walt Cunningham, Charles Duke, Fred Haise, Ed Mitchell, Thomas Stafford and Paul Weitz, as well as Karl Henize's estate and the collection of Faye Stafford. A lot exhibition begins March 11 at the Galleries' Manhattan office and runs through auction day.