: Two TV documentaries promise to shine fresh light on space history. Debuting February 12 on NOVA, "Astrospies" profiles American and former Soviet cosmonauts describing their nation's 1960s-70s military plans for space stations. The one-hour program includes archival film of the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory training mockup and footage shot in a grounded Russian Almaz station. Airing in June but revealed this week by the Discovery Channel, "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" is the focal point of their partnership with NASA to celebrate the agency's 50 year anniversary. The six-part, high-definition special will cover astronauts' adventures from Mercury to the shuttle.
: Last we saw Alvin Drew, he was strolling down Main Street USA at Walt Disney World, where he and his crew mates were honorary grand marshals of a midday parade. Only barely back from his two weeks in space, his adventures were just beginning. Take, for example, where he will appear next: in a Willie Nelson music video premiering Saturday, Feb. 9 on MTV.
: The only U.S. standard car license plate to include a spacecraft as part of its artwork is now up for public vote for a possible redesign. Since 2000, Texas has issued a tag that includes a shuttle on its upper right corner. Seven stars, representing the fallen STS-107 Columbia crew, were added above the orbiter in late 2005. Beginning this week, the Texas Department of Transportation is polling their website's visitors to choose from four new designs for their 2009 plate. Not one of the four include the shuttle or any other symbols to represent NASA's role in Texas (Johnson Space Center in Houston hosts Mission Control and is home to the astronauts) but the public may choose to vote to retain the current design.
: Space Shuttle Atlantis launched Thursday afternoon, carrying the European Space Agency's Columbus lab. Commanded by Steve Frick, the crew of the planned 11-day STS-122 mission also includes German and French astronauts as well as four Americans, one of whom has become the 300th from the United States to reach space. The lift-off began NASA's first shuttle mission of 2008 and 24th to fly to the space station. It was the 29th flight for orbiter Atlantis, and the 121st mission for the space shuttle since STS-1 in 1981.
NASA's Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) is a space observatory that will study some of the most energetic events in the universe. As such, the space agency believes that it deserves a proper name, one that can better convey the purpose of its mission. To find their new moniker, NASA has asked the public to Name That Satellite! by offering suggestions through the project's website. Suitable ideas may include acronyms or names of deceased scientists. NASA will announce the chosen name approximately 60 days after GLAST launches on a Delta 2 rocket this May.
: Rex Walheim, with substitute spacewalker Stan Love (who is filling in for a reportedly-ill Hans Schlegel), performed work outside the space shuttle Atlantis Monday to configure the European Space Agency's Columbus module for its docking to the International Space Station. Prior to launching, Walheim likened his and his crew's insignia shape to the compass used by the laboratory's Genoan namesake when he set sail 500 years earlier. The spacewalker and his six crew mates spoke to collectSPACE.com about the mementos they packed for their own 'voyage of discovery' in space.
: NASA released on Monday the names of the astronauts who will fly the STS-127 and ISS Expedition 19 missions. STS-127 will move the third and final component of JAXA's Kibo lab to the International Space Station. Expedition 19 will double the size of the resident crew of the complex, expanding it to six people. Mark Polansky will helm shuttle Endeavour in 2009. His STS-127 crewmates will include pilot Douglas Hurley and mission specialists Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, David Wolf and Canadian Julie Payette. ISS Expedition 19 commander Gennady Padalka will oversee NASA astronauts Michael Barratt, Tim Kopra and Nicole Stott, cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov, ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, and the Canadian Space Agency's Bob Thirsk.
: David Sington's theatrically-released 2007 documentary on the Apollo missions, "In the Shadow of the Moon" was planned to be released on DVD Tuesday and some retailers did indeed put copies out for sale. But others, including online bookseller Amazon.com, have listed month-long delays. Reports by video industry publications attribute the supply problem to Image Entertainment and a failed merger, which left their ability to distribute the DVD in question. However, a court ruling announced today gave Image the ability to proceed with offering the disc, which includes an hour of extended and deleted scenes, audio commentary tracks, and a new intro by Ron Howard, who 'presented' the film for theaters.
: What is red, white and blue and comes in pairs every seven years? Why, space station star-spangled socks, of course! The US flag-like footwear was donned on Tuesday by space station commander Peggy Whitson before entering the outpost's newly-installed science lab, ESA's Columbus module. A similar style (if not identical) set of socks was chosen by the STS-98 crew for their own mission's lab opening, the US Destiny module, seven years ago this week. Peggy's pair was a gift from capcom Shannon Lucid. "Hey, I just wanted to thank you for the socks," Whitson radioed this morning to Lucid, adding that she loved their color. "They look very good on you," Lucid said from Mission Control.
: The decision by the US military to shoot down a failing, falling reconnaissance satellite is the result of the lessons learned from the debris of space shuttle Columbia, according to NASA and Pentagon officials. Both spacecraft share common fuel tanks to hold hydrazine, a chemical that can be deadly if long exposed. Columbia's tanks survived its break apart and were recovered within a sparsely populated area. Its fuel reserves were also low, having been lost just before landing. The tank aboard NRO L-21 (also known as USA 193) should also be empty but a communications failure soon after its 2006 launch left the satellite without control from the ground. The Navy will attempt to intercept L-21 with a sea-deployed missile to vent its fuel before reentry.
: On Friday, the Disney World Resort reopened Spaceship Earth, the iconic centerpiece of Epcot, after a seven month refurbishment. Guests riding the relaunched attraction will discover new and refined animatronic dioramas depicting how "each generation of mankind has invented the future for the next generation." Among new scenes that portray the evolution of personal computers, space exploration is represented by a family watching television of astronauts walking on the Moon. The living room setting trades Walt Disney, who previously appeared on the TV, with another 'Walt', anchor Walter Cronkite, who in turn was a previous narrator for Spaceship Earth (now served by Judi Dench).
: Two astronauts celebrated birthdays during the still on-going STS-122 shuttle mission: ISS 16 commander Peggy Whitson turned 48 on Feb. 9, the same day Atlantis docked at the station, and mission specialist Leland Melvin had his 44th on Friday. In a nod to both, the two were greeted by a birthday banner strung across one of the station's modules. The two shared their birthday gifts and parties in a live call with collectSPACE.
: With Endeavour set to rollout to the launch pad for STS-123 early Monday morning, the crew who will fly the orbiter's following mission has rolled out the design for their insignia. Targeted for an October 16 launch, Endeavour's STS-126 flight to the ISS will deliver equipment that will enable the station's crew to double in size. The STS-126 patch depicts the orbiter and outpost orbiting over Earth. Mars and the Moon are joined with the constellation Orion in the sky hinting at the future direction of exploration. The crew's names create a border around the emblem, which shape resembles their payload container, the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module "Leonardo."
: The space shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center Wednesday morning at 8:07 a.m. CST. At the helm was STS-122 commander Steve Frick, bringing his and his five crew mates' two week mission to the International Space Station to a successful end. Also on-board Atlantis was ISS 16 flight engineer Dan Tani, bringing to close his own 120 days in space. Atlantis' crew delivered ESA's Columbus science laboratory, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts to the ISS. Returning from space with a record 2040 pounds of equipment packed in the middeck, Atlantis and the STS-122 crew logged 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, orbiting the Earth 202 times.
: A network of land-, air-, sea- and spaced-based sensors confirmed Wednesday night that a modified US Navy missile hit a failed spy satellite that was in its final orbits before falling into the Earth's atmosphere. At about 9:30 p.m. CST, the USS Lake Erie fired an adapted Standard Missile-3 to intercept the toxic fuel-filled satellite as it was flying 133 nautical miles over the Pacific Ocean. Military and NASA officials had earlier attributed the need for today's action to the risk posed by the NROL-21 satellite's frozen hydrazine and its potential to reach the ground intact, based on surviving tanks from the Feb 2003 reentry and loss of space shuttle Columbia.
: The STS-122 crew returned home to Houston Thursday, where they were met by their NASA support team members, friends, and families at Ellington Field. Addressing the crowd, the astronauts offered their gratitude for their colleagues and loved ones, who they credited the success of their 13 day flight to the International Space Station to install the European Space Agency's Columbus science lab. They also spoke of their spaceflight adventures and the effects of gravity on Earth.
: Five years after its loss, the space shuttle Columbia is now providing a powerful message to the NASA community about why safety matters every day. A new traveling exhibit employs debris from the orbiter to stress how space program workers' are important to flight safety. The display, which began at the Kennedy Space Center and, starting next week, will be at Johnson Space Center, will visit 13 more NASA locations over the course of the year. Debris chosen for the display includes a window, a hand controller, and heat shield tiles.
: A new publication by Weltraum Philatelie, an organization for German space stamp and cover collectors, provides a visual guide to every space and astronomy-related stamp issued through the end of 2007 by European and Russian postal authorities. The 450-page, full-color catalog is the first of its kind, and will soon be repeated: future volumes are planned documenting other continents' astrophilatelic history. The European edition sells for 55 euro (~$80 US).
: Former five-time space shuttle mission specialist Steven Hawley released Wednesday he is leaving NASA to join the faculty at his alma mater. Currently director for astromaterials research and exploration science at Johnson Space Center, Hawley is responsible for overseeing NASA's collection of moon rocks, Martian meteorites, and other extra-terrestrial samples. Beginning this fall at the University of Kansas, he will teach physics and astronomy, as well as promote science education to younger students statewide. Among his achievements in space, Hawley and his fellow crewmates launched two of NASA's four 'Great Observatories': the Hubble Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which contributed to his induction in 2007 in to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.
: Six Flags' parks in New Jersey and Texas will offer visitors this spring the experience of landing on the Moon with the characters from a 3D movie opening in U.S. theaters this summer. "Fly Me To The Moon" follows three teenaged house-flies that stow away on the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Set to premiere on August 22, featuring the voices of Kelly Ripa, Christopher Lloyd and a cameo by real moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, nWave Pictures' full-length 3D film is previewed in Six Flags' new ride simulation, Fly Me To The Moon - 3D.
Dafydd "Dave" Williams, who made his second and last shuttle flight on Endeavour's Aug. 2007 STS-118 flight, is retiring from the Canadian astronaut corps, effective Saturday, March 1. According to the Canadian Space Agency, Dr. Williams and his family will be moving to Ontario, where he'll explore his various career options. His first launch was made ten years ago aboard Columbia's STS-90 Neurolab mission, which was focused on studying the effects microgravity has on the nervous system. In total, Williams spent over 28 days in orbit, including 17 hours and 47 minutes during STS-118 performing a trio of spacewalks, a Canadian EVA record.