March 2, 2006 / 2:40 a.m. CT (0840 GMT) Raising a glass in tribute: Last night, the Kansas Cosmosphere officially unveiled a tribute to the 17 NASA astronauts who lost their lives in the Apollo 1 fire and the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia accidents. The stained glass artwork, created by Rayer's Bearden of Wichita, includes three embedded artifacts: tiles flown on earlier Columbia and Challenger missions and a part from Pad 34. The glass is etched with the Kansas state motto: "Ad Astra per Aspera," or "To the stars through difficulty."
March 2, 2006 / 2:58 p.m. CT (2058 GMT) Flying sauces: The H.J. Heinz Company released today that its single servings of Barbeque and Seafood Cocktail sauces as supplied by travel-size supply wholesaler Minimus.biz, were chosen as "bonus food items" by the ISS Expedition 13 crew and will launch to the station this spring. These two condiments are joining Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Mustard and Mild Taco Sauce, all of which already fly in the standard U.S. condiment kit that goes to the ISS. Sample packages of Heinz condiments will be featured in space food displays arranged for schools and conferences by collectSPACE.
March 3, 2006 / 1:38 a.m. CT (0738 GMT) - SPOILERS! Lose two, win one: After two consecutive weeks losing immunity and voting off tribe mates, astronaut castaway Dan Barry and his La Mina teammates found themselves the victors this week on Survivor Panama: Exile Island. In the wake of their last Tribal Council that sent Ruth Marie home — a vote that went against Dan's word and advice — La Mina's 'spared' Sally floundered in the Reward Challenge, repeatedly failing to catch a slimy fish tossed by Dan, costing her team the bounty. Facing the Immunity Challenge weakened by illness and Terry's absence (once again on Exile Island), La Mina rallied as Dan, Nick and Terry dove to the ocean floor to free coffin buried skull puzzle pieces. Back on the beach, Sally and Austin assembled a skull pyramid before competing tribe Casaya, winning immunity and another week on the show.
March 5, 2006 / 10:57 p.m. CT (0457 GMT Mar 6) Secret spaceplane: For 16 years, Aviation Week & Space Technology has researched a myriad of sightings of a two-stage-to-orbit system capable of placing a small military spaceplane in orbit. Now facing the chance that this "Blackstar" system may have been shelved, the editors of AW&ST have elected to publish what they have learned about it, rather than let it vanish into "black world" history. Designed in the 80s for reconnaissance, satellite- insertion and, possibly, weapons delivery, the two-vehicle Blackstar carrier/orbiter system may have been declared operational during the 1990s. Now, it could be a victim of shrinking federal budgets strained by war costs, or it may not have met its goals, writes William B. Scott in AW&ST.
March 7, 2006 / 4:57 p.m. CT (2257 GMT) Panel discussion: On Saturday March 25 collectSPACE will proudly present a panel discussion in Houston with reporter/author Billy Watkins and four of the contributors to his new book, Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes. Participating will be Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise, who wrote the book's foreword; the widow of Apollo 14 Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, Joan and daughter Rosemary; Gemini/Apollo spacesuit technician Joe Schmitt; and mission planner Rodney Rose. After the lecture, the panel will sign copies of The Unsung Heroes for those who attend and for those who have pre-ordered through buySPACE beginning today. The event, which is presented in cooperation with Countdown Creations, will begin at 2:00 p.m. CST at the Freeman Memorial Library.
March 9, 2006 / 8:30 p.m. CT (0230 GMT Mar 10) The Web of Space: The honorees for this year's National Air and Space Museum Trophy include the team behind the design, construction and deployment of two robotic rovers and the scientist whose instruments were onboard Explorer 1, the United States' first satellite. The awards, which were presented at a private ceremony held at the museum today, were made to NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers team for Current Achievement and to Dr. James Van Allen for Lifetime Achievement (Allen, 91, did not attend and was represented by his daughter). The trophy, which is the highest honor the museum bestows, is a miniature version of the sculpture The Web of Space.March 10, 2006 / 2:48 a.m. CT (0848 GMT) - SPOILERS! Swashbuckling spacewalker: Entering his 14th day as a castaway on the CBS reality TV show, Survivor Panama: Exile Island, astronaut-turned-tribesman Dan Barry was feeling pretty good about his situation. "I've been within 200 miles of this spot many times... vertical," he said while pointing straight up. Little did the three-time shuttle veteran know, his day was about to take a turn for the worse. "It's incredible how fast things turn," said Dan.
March 10, 2006 / 5:51 p.m. CT (2351 GMT) Spy captured: NASA has added a fourth spacecraft to the flotilla around Mars with today's successful insertion of their Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) into orbit. MRO is the most technologically advanced spacecraft ever sent to the Red Planet. It will send back up to 10 times as much data per minute as any previous Mars mission. That won't begin until November however; MRO will spend the next half-year aerobraking to shrink and shape its orbit to better suit its six on-board science instruments. By some counts, MRO is the 15th probe to successfully reach Mars, out of 36 launched since 1960.
March 13, 2006 / 12:24 a.m. CT (0624 GMT) Google Mars: Arizona State University's team behind the imaging system on-board NASA's Mars Odyssey has partnered with Google to create Google Mars. Using the same approach as Google's popular Earth and, to a lesser extent, Moon mapping websites, Google Mars has at its heart a mosaic image comprised of over 17,000 individual infrared photos taken by the spacecraft. In addition, embedded within Mars is the most detailed image ever made of Valles Marineris, the Martian 'Grand Canyon'. Built from over 500 separate photos, it reveals landscape features only 330 feet across. The site, which made its debut on Sunday, offers three data "views" — elevation, visible and infrared — and can be searched for surface features and NASA, ESA and Soviet spacecraft.
March 13, 2006 / 3:58 a.m. CT (0958 GMT) Survivor training: Just one day after he was voted off Survivor, Dan Barry spoke with collectSPACE about his 15 days on the island and how it compared to his 30 days in space. Though he admits it was a "hoot and a half," Barry sees the show's potential to be more than just a game. "I think it's a reasonable model for looking at group dynamics in long duration space flight."
March 15, 2006 / 9:32 a.m. CT (1532 GMT) Mercury dime: With hopes of funding the final restoration of Gus Grissom's boyhood home as a museum, the Virgil I. Grissom Memorial is auctioning on eBay one of the "Mercury head" dimes that were stowed on the astronaut's sub-orbital first flight. The coin, which was recovered in 1999 with the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft from the ocean floor, is one of at least 52 dimes that engineers secretly stashed as souvenirs. Two such ten cent pieces were donated to the Memorial with the intent that one was displayed and the other sold as a fundraiser. The 10-day eBay auction began today with an starting bid of $10,000.
March 16, 2006 / 4:47 p.m. CT (2247 GMT) MARVELous moon rock: When Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin presents his lunar rock-embedded Ambassador of Exploration Award to the California Science Center on March 25, security for the rare sample will not be a concern. For joining him at the Los Angeles, Ca. museum's 8th annual Discovery Ball will be Marvel super heroes Spider-Man and The Hulk. The Ball, which follows an earlier ceremony where NASA will bestow the honor to Aldrin, also celebrates the launch of CSC's Marvel Super Heroes Science Exhibition, hence the comic crusaders in attendance (or their closest costumed proxy). The award will be placed on public display in the Sketch Foundation Gallery: Air & Space Exhibits at the Calif. Science Center.
March 18, 2006 / 1:54 a.m. CT (0754 GMT) Space season: Spring may not start until Monday, but today marks the beginning of the 'space' season. At 2:00 p.m. EST, the first of no less than three auction houses will begin their annual space memorabilia auction, launching a month-long frenzy for thousands of artifacts that will be once, twice, sold! to the high bidder. Swann Galleries begins this afternoon in New York (and on eBay) with 415 lots, a majority having been astronaut- consigned. Two weeks later, Aurora Auctions will hold a two-day space sale on April 1-2; their catalog making its debut on their website on Monday. Ending the season is Regency-Superior on April 22; their catalog now available.
March 20, 2006 / 10:41 p.m. CT (0441 GMT Mar 21) Swann results: Swann Galleries of New York has posted the preliminary results of its fourth annual Space Exploration sale held this past Saturday. Of the 413 artifact lots offered, 357 were sold. A navigational chart that was carried to the lunar surface by Apollo 11, and which was consigned to the auction by Buzz Aldrin, topped the bids at $28,000 (excluding Buyer's Premium). Other top hammer prices were recorded for a beta cloth patch also flown on the first lunar landing ($15,000); a pin used to secure lunar surface experiments on Apollo 16 ($12,000); and a U.S. flag that was carried by Fred Haise on the real Apollo 13 ($10,000). Bidding was available in- person, by proxy, via the phone and eBay Live Auctions.
March 24, 2006 / 8:32 a.m. CT (1432 GMT) Public blast: Stennis Space Center is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its first rocket engine static test-firing by allowing the public to witness a space shuttle main engine test on Friday, April 21. A limited number of free vehicle passes will be available beginning tomorrow at various outlets and community events near Stennis. On April 23, 1966, the Mississippi Test Facility (as it was then called) first tested the second stage of a Saturn V rocket on its A-2 Test Stand. Since then, every space shuttle main engine has been test fired at Stennis.
March 24, 2006 / 11:52 p.m. CT (1652 GMT) Soichi's story: JAXA spacewalker Soichi Noguchi published his autobiography on Thursday in Japan. Only One (Shinchosha, ISBN 4103021012) follows Noguchi from childhood through his July 2005 first space flight, STS-114. Noguchi told reporters yesterday, "I had trouble deciding how to describe the blues of the Earth, because they were changing every hour." The 207 page, Japanese-language hardcover Only One lists for ¥ 1365.
March 27, 2006 / 11:23 a.m. CT (1723 GMT) The museum that collectors built: The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum is in serious danger of closing if financial help does not come forward soon. Located in Titusville, Florida, the museum is the result of space program workers and their families donating the artifacts and memorabilia they saved from their careers with NASA. The displays range from autographed photos and documents to a room-sized interactive map of Cape Canaveral to the shredded hatch of Mercury 1 recovered from the scrap yard. Pleas made to Florida politicians for assistance have fallen on deaf ears, though more letters are urged by supporters. Faced with rising rent expenses, the museum is now scheduled to close its doors in June.
March 28, 2006 / 10:21 p.m. CT (0420 GMT Mar 29) Poker pieces: Neil Davis' Rockets Over Alaska: The Genesis of Poker Flat tells of his days at the world's only major rocket range privately operated since 1969. The Western Hemisphere's primary high latitude range for launching scientific rockets, Poker Flat was created as a result of the crash of an H-Bomb laden B-52 bomber in Thule, Greenland. Boggs SpaceBooks is now taking pre-orders for author-signed Rockets Over Alaska with a bonus: Davis has included bookmarks cut from the parachute of a Poker Flat-launched, space-flown booster.
March 29, 2006 / 5:49 p.m. CT (2349 GMT) Pontes' PPK: First Brazilian astronaut and soon to be 440th in orbit, Marcos Pontes is taking with him to space items intended to celebrate his home nation. "I am taking the Brazilian flag, the most important thing that I am taking," Pontes told reporters. "Actually, I am going with the flag, not the flag going with me." The deep green banner with a yellow diamond enclosing a night-blue star- studded Southern Hemisphere sky will travel with Pontes on his nine day round-trip to the space station. In addition to the flag, Pontes is flying a soccer jersey for his nation, which has won the quadrennial international championship five times. "To commemorate the six times champions of the world that the Brazilian [soccer] team will become this year, I'm taking the [jersey]," Pontes optimistically stated.
March 29, 2006 / 8:23 p.m. CT (0223 GMT Mar 30) Canceling history: To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight, STS-1, the U.S. Postal Service will offer a special pictorial stamp cancellation. The orbiter-adorned marker will be applied during an anniversary presentation held at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH on Saturday, April 15. Or for those unable to attend, requests may be mailed in.
March 29, 2006 / 9:24 p.m. CT (0324 GMT Mar 30) 100th to orbit: Less than an hour ago, at 8:39 p.m. CT, Soyuz TMA-8 reached orbit, marking the 100th Russian crewed vehicle to do so since Yuri Gagarin became the first, 45 years ago this April. Tonight's lift- off began a six month mission for ISS Expedition 13 crew members Pavel Vinogradov and Jeff Williams, as well as the nine-day adventure of first Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes. TMA-8 was, in fact, Russia's 102nd attempt at putting men in orbit but two earlier flights ended in aborts.
March 30, 2006 / 12:34 a.m. CT (0634 GMT) Aurora, astronauts and bears (oh my!): Amidst the more than 1,600 lots of space memorabilia being offered this weekend by Aurora Auctions, including flown artifacts and rare models, are a squadron of aviator teddy bears signed by Apollo astronauts or flight director Gene Kranz. The goggle-wearing, leather jacket-donning, scarf-wrapped dolls 'bear' the autographs of such rarities as the complete Apollo 8 crew (Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders), Apollo 11's Buzz Aldrin, Fred Haise of Apollo 13 fame and Apollo 16 moonwalker-turned-shuttle commander John Young. Most importantly, 100% of the proceeds from the bears' bids will go to Corporate Angel Network, which arranges free air transportation for cancer patients, bone marrow donors and bone marrow recipients traveling to treatment in vacant seats on corporate jets.
March 31, 2006 / 5:24 p.m. CT (2324 GMT) Pontes' PPK, Part II: In addition to the aforementioned soccer jersey and flag, first Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes is also flying examples of commemorative medals and stamps that will be issued in his honor by his nation on Monday. The three coins and six stamps that will reach the ISS along with Pontes later tonight will be donated upon their return to government agencies and institutions, less one stamp that will be auctioned to fund Fome Zero, a three-year campaign to end hunger in Brazil.