April 2, 2009 / 11:59 a.m. CT (1659 GMT) Shuttle outpaces the Moon: At an auction held Wednesday in Dallas, where most of the lots listed were leftover from the Apollo Program, including pieces that had been on the Moon's surface, it was a set of patches worn during the first space shuttle mission that topped the bids. Heritage Galleries sold Apollo 16 moonwalker John Young's STS-1 badges for nearly $57,000, almost $10,000 more than the next highest performing items: Apollo 13's lunar module ID plate and an Apollo 8 checklist, both from the collection of Jim Lovell ($47,800 each). This was the first time that Young, who commanded Columbia 28 years ago this month, auctioned artifacts from his own archives.
April 2, 2009 / 4:28 p.m. CT (2128 GMT) Moon landing lighter: Becoming impatient while waiting for flight controllers to give the go for his launch, Alan Shepard asked "why don't you just fix your little problem and light this candle?" Of course, launching a rocket requires more than the flick of a Zippo lighter, but that was what America's first astronaut received on-board the Navy ship that recovered him after splashdown. Ever since then Zippo has had a history of issuing lighters to celebrate the United States' achievements in space. Their latest release honors the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
April 4, 2009 / 1:42 p.m. CT (1842 GMT) Lost Found Moon: A week after his almost Apollo 13 crewmate Ken Mattingly received his, astronaut Jim Lovell was bestowed with his own piece of the Moon as NASA's latest Ambassador of Exploration. Awarded at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, near where Lovell and some 30 other astronauts became test pilots and where it will remain on public display, the Apollo 16-recovered rock will serve to inspire the next generation of pilots. "Perhaps having this lunar sample... would give them the inspiration perhaps to follow a career in the Navy or as naval aviators ...perhaps even going into space as I did," noted Lovell on Friday, recalling his own four flights on Gemini and Apollo.
April 6, 2009 / 2:22 p.m. CT (1922 GMT) Space of Cakes: As mission control for the Hubble Space Telescope, Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland has many detailed models of the orbiting observatory. Its most recent, unveiled on Saturday may not be as accurate as the others, but it is by far the sweetest. Made by Charm City, the Baltimore-based bakery that serves as the focus for Food Network's "Ace of Cakes", the Hubble cake was installed for the center's Yuri's Night celebration, suspended on display for visitors to see and salivate over.
April 7, 2009 / 8:44 p.m. CT (0144 GMT) Apollo Avcoat anew: NASA announced on Tuesday that its next generation spacecraft Orion will use the same heat shield material as was used by Apollo command modules. Made from a fiberglas honeycomb filled with epoxy resin, Avcoat attaches directly onto the heat shield substructure as one piece. It was selected over a phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA), which is fabricated in blocks, as was used by the Stardust comet sample return capsule in 2006. Avcoat will shield Orions entering Earth's atmosphere by eroding or "ablating" in a controlled fashion as the modules return from the space station or the Moon.
April 8, 2009 / 3:38 a.m. CT (0838 GMT) Soyuz TMA-13 lands with three: After six months in orbit, Soyuz TMA-13 returned to Earth Wednesday morning, touching down with the first three crew members to make their second Soyuz landing after departing the International Space Station. Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke and flight engineer Yuri Lonchakov logged a total of 178 days and 14 minutes during this flight. Charles Simonyi spent $35 million for his nearly 13 days in space, making him the first spaceflight participant to return to the space station after first flying there in 2007. Originally set for Tuesday, TMA-13's landing was delayed by one day to move the target touchdown away from water-soaked land.
April 9, 2009 / 5:08 p.m. CT (2208 GMT) The 'right stuff' revisited: Fifty years ago Thursday, NASA announced its first seven astronauts. Almost immediately, the group rocketed into history as heroes, two years before any of them would leave the ground for space. A half-century later, the space agency is again recruiting "astronaut volunteers", now for its 20th class of candidates. As original astronaut Scott Carpenter shared and NASA's Duane Ross confirmed for collectSPACE, the group may not have 'the right stuff', nor may they need it.
April 10, 2009 / 2:05 p.m. CT (1905 GMT) Astronauts' auction: Fifty years after their announcement as two of the seven original Mercury astronauts, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter put themselves up on the auction block to raise money for students. Both are offering high bidders a chance to share a memorable meal as part of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's artifacts and experiences semi-annual auction. Less than two days into the bidding, and both astronauts' "dine-with" dates are into the thousands of dollars, as are Apollo astronaut Alan Bean's art tour and Al Worden's diving adventure. Artifacts are also commanding bids, including the autographs of the Apollo 11 crew and Apollo 16 netting layered in lunar dust.
April 12, 2009 / 12:01 a.m. CT (0501 GMT) Poyekhali! On Sunday, revelers across the planet will celebrate Easter Yuri's Night, the annual commemoration of humanity's space flight achievements. Timed to coincide with the ascension of the world's first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and, 20 years later to the day, the first space shuttle, Yuri's Night parties began this year on April 4, and ran through April 12, the anniversary of both launches. Per party organizers, 207 gatherings were set for 46 countries. Cadbury cosmonauts and eggstronauts were not included.
April 12, 2009 / 12:11 p.m. CT (1711 GMT) NASA nomenclature: ISS astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams will be a guest Tuesday on Comedy Central's The Colbert Show, where she will announce NASA's chosen name for the space station's newest module, Node 3. During an online poll soliciting suggestions for the module, members of the "Colbert Nation" topped the vote with their preferred moniker, "Colbert". The poll however, was only a means of collecting ideas, said NASA, not a contest. This isn't the first time the space agency has caused confusion when naming spacecraft, as astronaut Bill Pogue recalled.
April 14, 2009 / 8:16 p.m. CT (0116 GMT Apr 15) Houston, Tranquility node here: NASA on Tuesday named its third space station node "Tranquility", in celebration of the first moon landing's 40th anniversary. Astronaut Sunita Williams appeared on The Colbert Report to make the announcement as a result of "Colbert" topping a NASA opinion poll to name the node ("Tranquility" came in eighth). As a consolation, the agency chose a name fit for its new ISS exercise hardware, the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill or COLBERT.
April 20, 2009 / 12:44 p.m. CT (1744 GMT) Two shuttles on two pads, one last time: Doors were swung shut on history Monday morning, as engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center rotated service structures on pads 39A and 39B, ending the rare view of two space shuttles poised for launch. The double shuttles were both in support of Hubble: Atlantis on 39A will fly to the telescope in May for a fifth and final servicing mission while Endeavour on 39B will be readied as a rescue ship. The simultaneous sight, which began Saturday, was only the fourth known time that such a view was possible, and the 19th time that two space shuttles occupied both pads.
April 22, 2009 / 5:00 p.m. CT (2200 GMT) Plant a (Moon) tree: NASA celebrated both Earth Day and 40 years since Apollo 11 by planting a tree at the National Arboretum on Wednesday. Not just a random sapling, the Sycamore was a descendent of the original "Moon Trees" grown from seeds flown to the Moon aboard Apollo 14 by astronaut and Forest Service smoke jumper Stuart Roosa. Moon Trees were planted across the nation; second generation trees, such as the one now growing at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC, continue to be available to the public to plant in their own neighborhoods.
April 23, 2009 / 12:04 p.m. CT (1704 GMT) Patch preview | De Winne's OasISS: ESA unveiled Thursday the logo representing its second long-duration mission and first crew member to assume command on-board the International Space Station. ESA astronaut Frank De Winne's "OasISS" mission, which is set to begin with his May 27 launch on Soyuz TMA-15, is depicted on the patch using the theme of water as the basis for life as we know it. Earth is shown as a drop of water, resembling the planet as seen by the astronauts on the ISS. Water is further emphasized by a tree that grows out of the arms of a man rooted in the station and its scientific utilization. A single white star is included, representing how exploration will ultimately lead mankind to the oases on other planets.
April 24, 2009 / 8:37 p.m. CT (0137 GMT Apr 25) Revell's "Rocket Hero" reissues: In 1969, while the real Eagle was on the Moon and Columbia orbited above, enthusiasts of all ages staged their own scale lunar landings, assembling Revell's spacecraft model kits. Forty years later, in celebration of Apollo 11's anniversary, Revell is reissuing a 1:144 Saturn V, 1:32 Command and Service Module, and 1:48 diorama kit of Tranquility Base, this time under the endorsement of astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The 'Rocket Hero' models come with a replica of the gold olive branch placed on the Moon by Aldrin and Armstrong.
April 25, 2009 / 3:26 p.m. CT (2026 GMT) Saturn V soars again: The largest model rocket to fly in history, a 1:10 scale, 1,600 pound replica of the Saturn V, lifted off on Saturday from a farm in Maryland. Built by Steve Eves, an auto body repairman, over the past two years at his cost of $30,000, the 36-foot tall model rode the thrust from nine motors rather than the five engines that powered the real Saturn V off the pad. Eves launched the rocket to honor Apollo 11's 40th anniversary.