May 1, 2009 / 2:28 p.m. CT (1928 GMT) Joseph Algranti (1925-2009): The first test pilot to fly NASA's lunar landing trainer, Joe Algranti passed away on Wednesday at 84. On December 8, 1968, two months after his maiden checkout flight of the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, Algranti took off in LLTV No. 1 for a final run before it was to be released for astronaut training. Just four minutes into the flight however, the trainer plummeted to the ground and Algranti ejected only one second prior to impact. He went on to fly many more NASA aircraft as the chief of operations and chief test pilot, including the Super Guppy, the KC-135 'Vomit Comet' and the Shuttle Training Aircraft. Algranti retired in 1992 after 30 years with NASA.
May 3, 2009 / 10:31 p.m. CT (0331 GMT May 4) New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal: Between the four of them, astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and John Glenn have been awarded, practically, with every medal of honor that is bestowed upon American astronauts, from the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. So, when several US Senators desired to again honor the first American in orbit and first lunar landing crew, they needed something the four, nor for that matter any astronaut, had won. If authorized, the "New Frontier" Congressional Gold Medal will be conferred this July in conjunction with Apollo 11's 40th anniversary - "the first lunar landing by humans."
May 8, 2009 / 10:46 a.m. CT (1546 GMT) Moon on the Mount: Scott Parazynski will become the first astronaut to summit Mount Everest when he reaches the peak over the next few days. He'll also be the first to bring part of the Moon to the 'roof of the world'. In celebration of Apollo 11's 40th anniversary, NASA allowed Parazynski to borrow moon rock fragments collected from Tranquility Base by Neil Armstrong. While this may be the first off-Earth rock to reach Everest, the mountain has had parts go the other direction in the form of stones launched aboard (at least) two shuttle missions. Parazynski may be able to bridge Earth and space by way of a satellite phone call connecting Mt. Everest's summit to the space station.
May 10, 2009 / 8:33 p.m. CT (0133 GMT May 11) Parting shot: The longest-running optical camera on the Hubble Telescope, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) will be removed and replaced during the STS-125 servicing mission set to launch on Monday. To celebrate the soon-to-be decommissioned WFPC2, its final "pretty picture" was issued Sunday, an image of the planetary nebula Kohoutek 4-55 (K 4-55). First installed in 1993 during the first Hubble servicing mission, WFPC2 is best-remembered for its photos of the "Pillars of Creation" within the Eagle Nebula; the impact of Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 with Jupiter; and the 1995 Hubble Deep Field, the longest and deepest Hubble optical image of its time. The Wide Field Camera 3 will take WFPC2's place on Hubble.
May 11, 2009 / 4:36 p.m. CT (2136 GMT) Hubble-bound: Space shuttle Atlantis with its STS-125 crew launched at 1:01:56 p.m. CDT Monday on the final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. STS-125 will include five spacewalks to refurbish Hubble with science instruments designed to improve the scope's capabilities by 70 times while extending its life through at least 2014. This is the 126th space shuttle flight, the 30th for Atlantis and the 5th to service the orbiting observatory.
May 13, 2009 / 10:41 a.m. CT (1541 GMT) Astronaut artifact acrylics: Following their success raising funds for students with the "Astronaut Autograph Club", the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has announced the "Space Artifact Series", a new membership program that offers acrylic-encased, space-flown artifacts. Limited to 200 sets, the 2009 series includes an insulation segment removed from the Apollo 9 lunar module, Spider; couch material taken from the Apollo 13 command module Odyssey; and a chunk of a space shuttle tire used to land STS-27 and STS-28. The artifacts, which are only offered together as a set for $699, are each authenticated with the autograph of an astronaut associated with the item's flight.
May 13, 2009 / 2:14 p.m. CT (1914 GMT) Canada announces astronauts: Nearly 25 years after the first Canadian astronaut flew and only weeks before two Canadians liftoff for the ISS, the Canadian Space Agency on Wednesday named two new astronauts, the first to be added to the corps since 1992. Jeremy Hansen, 33, and David St-Jacques, 39, have become the 11th and 12th Canadian astronauts. Their training begins in August when they are to report to NASA's Johnson Space Center.
May 13, 2009 / 11:04 p.m. CT (0404 GMT May 14) A view through the past: The thumbnail to the left may not look like much, but it made -- and was made by -- history. The view, the base of the Hubble Space Telescope, came through as the observatory was moved into Atlantis' payload bay, marking the first connection with the telescope since March 2002 and the start of its last space shuttle servicing mission. The television camera capturing that view previously flew to space on the flight deck of the first shuttle, Columbia to capture the scene aboard STS-1, the first mission. Bridging 28 years, the two views showed the promise -- and product -- of the space shuttle program.
May 15, 2009 / 9:13 p.m. CT (0213 GMT May 16) Atlantis' last flight: Space shuttle Atlantis, currently in orbit flying the STS-125 Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, will fly its final mission, STS-132, in 2010 with six veteran astronauts on-board (assuming the current manifest holds). The space agency announced on Thursday that Kenneth Ham will command STS-132, with Tony Antonelli as his pilot. Joining them on Atlantis will be mission specialists Steven Bowen, Karen Nyberg, Garrett Reisman and Piers Sellers. Together, they will deliver the Russian Mini Research Module to the International Space Station and then retire the space shuttle OV-104, Atlantis.
May 16, 2009 / 10:21 p.m. CT (0321 GMT May 17) Mike Collins' Cape: Michael Collins is best known for his role as command module pilot aboard Apollo 11, the first moon landing. He also flew a Gemini mission and after retiring from NASA, made a name for himself as an accomplished author. In more recent years, he has picked up painting watercolors. Rarely does he paint space topics as he prefers nature scenes, but a recent visit to the Cape and Kennedy Space Center, as well as the upcoming 40th anniversary of his lunar mission inspired him. The result is Collins' series "Forty Years Later," which depicts past and present launch pads. The watercolors can be seen and for the high bid, bought from Novaspace's Astro-Auction.com.
May 19, 2009 / 10:23 p.m. CT (0323 GMT May 20) Top of the world, without a rocket: Scott Parazynski became the first person to fly to space and then reach the top of the planet, as of 5:15 p.m. CDT on Tuesday. A former NASA astronaut and veteran of five shuttle flights, Parazynski summited Mount Everest's 29,000 feet carrying several tributes to space history, among them, a patch for fellow astronaut Karl Henize, who was tragically lost while attempting the same feat. Parazynski also toted to the top flags in memory of astronauts and cosmonauts who gave their lives pursuing space exploration and moon rocks to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11.
May 19, 2009 / 11:24 p.m. CT (0424 GMT May 20) Hubble 3D: When IMAX debuted "Destiny In Space" in 1995, the large format (2D) film included footage of the Hubble Telescope being released into orbit for the first time. In their 2010 film "Hubble 3D", IMAX hopes to feature a similar scene, this time in three-dimensions: the final time that the observatory parted ways with a manned spacecraft. The STS-125 crew filmed that event Tuesday morning, but it won't be until the reel returns to the ground with space shuttle Atlantis will director Toni Myers know if the 30-second pivotal shoot was captured as she planned.
May 20, 2009 / 1:37 p.m. CT (0637 GMT) Stafford signing: Forty years ago, Thomas Stafford commanded Apollo 10, the "dress rehearsal" mission for the first U.S. manned moon landing. To mark the anniversary and raise funds for both students and the space museum that bears his name, Stafford will participate in a charity private autograph session hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Enthusiasts are invited to send in their space memorabilia by July 2 for Stafford's autograph.
May 20, 2009 / 11:38 a.m. CT (1638 GMT) ESA recruits six astronauts: Two Italians, one German, one Frenchman, and the first British and Danish trainees were named on Tuesday as the six newest members of the European Space Agency's Astronaut Corps. Germany's Alexander Gerst, Timothy Peake of the United Kingdom, France's Thomas Pesquet, Andreas Mogensen from Denmark, and both Samantha Cristoforetti and Luca Parmitano from Italy will report to the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany for basic training prior to being considered for International Space Station crews.
May 23, 2009 / 10:55 a.m. CT (1555 GMT) NASA nominations: Nineteen years after piloting the space shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope, Gen. Charles F. Bolden, Jr. (USMC, retired) was named on Saturday as President Obama's nominee to lead NASA. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate (including by his former STS-61C crewmate, Sen. Bill Nelson), Bolden will be the second astronaut (following Richard Truly) and first African American to be NASA Administrator. NASA's former Associate Administrator for Policy and Plans, Lori Garver was also named today to be Deputy Administrator.
May 24, 2009 / 1:12 p.m. CT (0612 GMT) "A great ride..." "It was a thrill from start to finish," said Scott Altman on Saturday, just moments after landing Atlantis in California. Commander of the fifth and final mission to the Hubble Telescope, STS-125, Altman led his six crew members to a safe touchdown, following their 13-day, five spacewalk flight. The landing marked the 53rd time that a shuttle arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, the completion of Atlantis' 30th flight, and the end of the 126th mission in shuttle history. The crew of STS-125 traveled a total of 5,276,000 miles (or 197 orbits) before their landing.
May 27, 2009 / 8:14 a.m. CT (1314 GMT) TMA-15 takes off: Soyuz TMA-15 lifted off at 5:34 a.m. CDT Wednesday from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with the 2nd second-generation cosmonaut, the first Canadian Space Agency long-duration crew member, and the first European to take command of the International Space Station. Roman Romanenko, Bob Thirsk and Frank De Winne together with the crew already on-board the outpost will form Expedition 20, the first ISS six-member crew. Their arrival on Friday will also mark the first time that crew mates from all five ISS partners (U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and ESA) will be together on-orbit.
May 27, 2009 / 2:03 p.m. CT (0703 GMT) Clara's car-size Curiosity: NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, scheduled for launch in 2011, has a new name, the space agency announced on Wednesday. Twelve-year-old Clara Ma suggested the chosen Mars rover moniker, "Curiosity," explaining that it was curiosity that "drives us through our everyday lives." As her reward, Ma has won a trip to the Jet Propulsion Lab, where she will be invited to sign her name onto the rover as it is assembled.
May 28, 2009 / 11:03 a.m. CT (1603 GMT) Space monkey meal: Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the first animals to survive a trip to space and back. Monkeys Able and Baker achieved an altitude of 360 miles in the nose cone of a Jupiter missile before splashing down safely in the South Atlantic. Baker, a squirrel monkey, lived for 25 years more; her crewmate, the rhesus monkey Able, lived only a few days post-flight. Her body preserved and exhibited at the National Air and Space Museum, Able comes back to life in the film "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (albeit, played by a capuchin). To promote the movie, McDonald's has a Happy Meal that offers an "Able: The Space Monkey" toy.
May 29, 2009 / 9:30 p.m. CT (0230 GMT May 30) Paul Haney (1928 - 2009): As NASA's first news director, Paul Haney not only led how the public learned of the Mercury missions but in the process set the standard for all of the space agency's subsequent information efforts. Moving to the Manned Spacecraft Center in 1963, Haney became the "Voice of Mission Control", offering the public commentary that accompanied each Gemini space flight and the first three Apollo missions. After leaving the program in 1969, he served as the head of public relations for the Astrodome in Houston. He passed away at age 80.