May 2, 2011 / 4:54 p.m. CT (2154 GMT) Ask the astronaut: Richard "Dick" Gordon, who spacewalked outside Gemini 11 before piloting Apollo 12's Yankee Clipper from the Earth to the moon (and back), is the second space explorer to take part in the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's (ASF) Astro Chat series. Like Al Worden before him, Gordon will record video responses to questions submitted on collectSPACE's discussion forum, where the videos will be shared for all to watch afterwards. The deadline to ask questions is May 4 at 8 a.m. CDT.
May 4, 2011 / 6:52 a.m. CT (1152 GMT) First-day for Mercury postage stamps: 50 years after he became the first American to fly in space, the late Alan B. Shepard, Jr. is being remembered Wednesday with his own U.S. postage stamp. A first for any specific astronaut, the "Mercury Project" stamp shows Shepard in his silver spacesuit with his Redstone rocket launching to one side and his "Freedom 7" capsule above the Earth on the other. Part of a pair, or se-tenant, the adjoining stamp, "MESSENGER Mission," celebrates the first spacecraft to orbit the planet Mercury. NASA's MESSENGER achieved orbit around the first planet from the Sun this past March.
May 5, 2011 / 4:15 p.m. CT (2115 GMT) 50 years of U.S. manned spaceflight: The special for lunch on Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center's employee cafeteria was the "Shepard's Pie." A subtle nod to the 50 year anniversary of Alan Shepard's flight onboard Freedom 7, NASA paid a larger tribute to the man and his mission hosting a time-synchronized multimedia replay of the events of half of a century ago at the same launch pad from where it all began. The ceremony at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida reunited more than 100 Project Mercury workers and 20 members of Shepard's family.
May 6, 2011 / 8:05 a.m. CT (1305 GMT) Shepard's success ...Sold!I hereby certify that I was aboard the [vehicle] at the time it was launched from the earth's surface... So begins the "vehicle commander's report" as signed by first U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard for the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale, the world's governing body for astronautic records. The form was sold Thursday, 50 years to the day after Shepard's spaceflight, for almost $10,000 at Bonham's New York. The same sale offered and sold cosmonaut Alexei Leonov's Apollo-Soyuz flown spacesuit, which drew the highest bid of $242,000.
May 7, 2011 / 6:04 p.m. CT (2304 GMT) SBIRS sat's LEGO set: Saturday's Atlas V liftoff marked United Launch Alliance's 50th launch and the first for the Air Force Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) spacecraft, a constellation of four geosynchronous sats replacing the Defense Support Program satellites for early missile warning. To celebrate the launch, in addition to its usual assortment of patches, coins and decals, the USAF produced LEGO model sets of SBIRS and DSP satellites, which are available to the public online. The LEGO SBIRS includes 143 grey and black bricks, including its stand.
May 10, 2011 / 12:09 p.m. CT (1709 GMT) Bobko, Helms enter Hall of Fame: Shuttle commander Karol "Bo" Bobko and Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, a record-setting International Space Station spacewalker, were the latest two space explorers to be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. The two were celebrated on Saturday during an induction ceremony hosted by NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Chosen by a panel of previous Hall of Fame inductees, historians and journalists as organized by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, Bobko and Helms were 78th and 79th to enter the Hall and the 10th class of space shuttle astronauts.
May 13, 2011 / 2:14 p.m. CT (1914 GMT) Space Shuttle Tribute Wall: Located along the transfer aisle inside the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the Space Shuttle Program Tribute Wall has the signatures of employees who worked on the vehicle throughout the last 30 years. NASA on Friday introduced a virtual shuttle tribute wall on its website and has invited the public to "sign" it. The virtual wall is part of NASA's new website, "The Space Shuttle Experience."
May 20, 2011 / 9:31 a.m. CT (1914 GMT) Firsts of the last: On Friday, NASA set the launch date for its final space shuttle flight, targeting July 8 for Atlantis to lift off on the STS-135 mission. To support that date, the space agency began this week bringing the orbiter together with its external tank and twin solid rocket boosters, rolling Atlantis from its orbiter processing facility into the Vehicle Assembly Building where it was lifted and mated for a final time. These first of the last space shuttle launch events will be followed up on May 31 with the final rollout to the launch pad. Should schedules hold, it will be a double finale with space shuttle Endeavour landing from its final flight at the same time Atlantis arrives at the pad.
May 22, 2011 / 8:54 p.m. CT (0154 GMT May 23) Patch preview | Soyuz TMA-22: The patch that the Soyuz TMA-22 crew will wear when they liftoff to the International Space Station on Sept. 30 drew inspiration from a drawing submitted by five-year-old Maxim Baikalov from Abakan, Khakassia in Russia, according to a release issued Monday by Roscosmos. The circular patch depicts the Soyuz spacecraft set against a navigation grid and the Earth, the latter as drawn by Baikalov. Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoli Ivanishin, and astronaut Dan Burbank will join ISS Expedition 29 before leading Expedition 30.
May 22, 2011 / 9:29 p.m. CT (0229 GMT May 23) Patch preview | Mike Fossum: Expedition 28 flight engineer/Expedition 29 commander Mike Fossum posted to his Facebook page Saturday his personal mission patch for his soon-to-be-starting stay on the International Space Station. Declaring that he's "Living the Dream," the patch "captures the spirit of young boy sitting on a hillside looking up at the night sky while dreaming about someday exploring space," described Fossum. "There's a little bit of reality and a hefty dose of science fiction in the images."
May 23, 2011 / 4:16 p.m. CT (2116 GMT) The first last flight of Endeavour: Almost forty years before space shuttle Endeavour launched on its final flight, another ship with the same name launched for the moon. The pilot of that Endeavour, Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden has written (with co-author Francis French) "Falling to Earth," his memoirs to be released this July. To promote advance sales of the book, Worden has partnered with Farthest Reaches to offer copies signed by the authors and with a bonus surprise — a surprise that is, until now. In an exclusive, collectSPACE presents "Rising From Earth," a previously unpublished poem that Worden penned about the first last flight of the ship Endeavour.
May 25, 2011 / 3:05 a.m. CT (0805 GMT) Mars rover Spirit (2004-2010): NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is ending Wednesday its attempts to regain contact with the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, which fell silent on March 22, 2010. Originally expected to rove Mars for just three months, Spirit traveled 4.8 miles in six years before one of its six wheels stopped working, ending its mobile mission. Solar-powered, the golf cart size rover was starved of the Sun over the Martian winter, providing inadequate energy to run its survival heaters. Spirit's twin, Opportunity, continues to explore the red planet, traveling 18.5 miles to date, and currently rolling to its fourth crater, Endeavour, which it's expected to reach later this year.
May 25, 2011 / 12:57 p.m. CT (1757 GMT) Behind the moon: On the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's address to Congress, wherein he challenged the nation to land a man on the moon, his presidential library declassified and released a recording of a Sept. 18, 1963 conversation between JFK and NASA Administrator James Webb. During the discussion, which was held at The White House just over two years after he gave the speech that launched the moonshot (which itself was six years away), Kennedy revealed his concerns over waning public support for space. "I mean if the Russians do some tremendous feat, then it would stimulate interest again but right now space has lost a lot of its glamour," he told Webb. The recording, which has been divided into six parts, is available for download from the library's website.
May 25, 2011 / 7:30 p.m. CT (0030 GMT May 26) Stealing the moon: A woman attempting to sell a purported "moon rock" for $1.7 million was thwarted last Thursday when the buyer she met at a California restaurant turned out to be an undercover agent with NASA. The woman, whose identity is not yet known, was detained but not arrested, pending the space agency testing the rock to learn if it is indeed from the moon. According to NASA, no individual has ever been gifted with a moon rock to keep.
May 26, 2011 / 7:43 a.m. CT (1243 GMT) Patch previews | Mercurys at 50: The 50th anniversaries of Liberty Bell 7 and Aurora 7, the United States' second crewed suborbital and orbital missions respectively, have their own commemorative patches thanks to the design efforts of artists Tim Gagnon and Jorge Cartes. For Liberty Bell 7, which the late Virgil "Gus" Grissom flew on July 21, 1961, the astronaut's family authorized two logos; one celebrating the Mercury-Redstone 4 mission, and the other recognizing two other astronauts who hailed from the same Indiana county where Grissom called home. For the May 24, 2012, Aurora 7 50th anniversary, astronaut Scott Carpenter himself commissioned the production of a patch celebrating his Mercury-Atlas 7 flight. Limited to only 300, Carpenter will autograph 62 of the patches in a nod to the year he launched. Both flights' patches are available now.
May 26, 2011 / 8:26 a.m. CT (1326 GMT) Einstein ISS-bound: The European Space Agency announced Thursday that its fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle to launch cargo to the International Space Station has been christened after "the most famous scientist of all time." ATV-4, the Albert Einstein, as named by the Swiss delegation to ESA, follows crafts named after Jules Verne, Johannes Kepler (now at ISS) and Edoardo Amaldi (to be launched in February 2012). Liftoff of Albert Einstein to resupply the space station is expected in early 2013.
May 27, 2011 / 9:10 a.m. CT (1410 GMT) 'Floating on the shoulders of giants': Two astronauts Friday completed the last of 164 spacewalks to be performed by shuttle crew members. Mike Fincke and Greg Chamitoff conducted the 7 hour and 24 minute EVA to add the last U.S.-delivered component to the International Space Station — shuttle Endeavour's 50-foot robotic arm inspection boom — to extend the station arm's own reach. The first space shuttle-based spacewalk took place during the STS-6 mission in 1983. In the 28 years since, shuttle astronauts have spent 536 hours and 10 minutes working outside the orbiters to rescue and repair satellites, service the Hubble Space Telescope and build the space station.
May 28, 2011 / 2:53 p.m. CT (1953 GMT) Into the vertical: The crew assigned to fly the last space shuttle mission, STS-135, in July spent this past Tuesday training how to ingress the orbiter and be strapped into their seats, just as they will on launch day. "The Final Four," as they have dubbed themselves, climbed on board the Crew Compartment Trainer II, a mockup of the shuttle flight- and mid-decks, decked out in their "pumpkin suits," to train working in the same vertical orientation that space shuttle Atlantis will be poised on the launch pad.
May 29, 2011 / 11:10 p.m. CT (0410 GMT May 30) LEGO ISS, some assembly required: The space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station Sunday evening having completed assembly of the complex. Left behind however, was another station in need of assembly — a LEGO model of the orbital outpost delivered together with 29 other building brick sets as part of an educational outreach partnership between NASA and the LEGO Group. The station crew will piece together the sets as students do the same in classrooms on Earth.