July 5, 2007 / 10:46 a.m. CT (1546 GMT) Saving Skylab:One year after the efforts began by volunteers to restore the Skylab trainer at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and six months after their work was halted due to liability concerns, the status of the space station mock-up remains at risk. Moved outside in 2000 to make way for traveling exhibits, weathering and rodent infestation quickly caused errosion and damage to the nearly 40 year old artifact. For six months, a group of volunteers worked on weekends to arrest the degradation until, according to museum officials, it was no longer safe for them to continue. The Space & Rocket Center said it would pick up where volunteers left off with a professional restoration but other projects, including the restoration of their Saturn V and the lack of a large enough space have kept the Skylab outside, subject to the same problems as before. According to The Huntsville Times, rocket center managers plan to move the Skylab back inside after other artifacts are moved to a building erected for the Saturn V. Skylab's restoration and transfer will cost about $1 million.
July 6, 2007 / 1:11 a.m. CT (0611 GMT) The fever of 2007: As the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik and the start of the space race approaches, publishers and film producers are readying for their own race to shelves and screens with their own Sputnik histories and documentaries. Bridging the mediums, Paul Dickson, whose book, Sputnik: The Shock of the Century was first published in 2001, shares writing credits on The Fever of '57, a new docu-movie by David Hoffman, set for release on October 4. The film, which blends file footage, newly conducted interviews and actor reenactments, tells the story of how Americans reacted to the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite, and in particular, how "a secret agreement between two former generals (Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev) played a major role in preventing the possible outbreak of global thermonuclear war." A 'traditional' filmmaker, Hoffman was the executive producer for Turner Broadcasting's miniseries Moon Shot.
July 10, 2007 / 6:37 a.m. CT (1137 GMT) Rolling rockets: Space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to embark on the 3.4-mile trek to the launch pad tonight to be prepared for STS-118. The mission will deliver the third starboard truss segment to the international space station and will include the first educator astronaut, Barbara Morgan. Endeavour's 1 mph trip to Pad 39A isn't the only spacecraft making the move on Tuesday. Seven hundred miles to the northwest, the Saturn V booster that has sat outside on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will begin its roll, stage by stage, into the new Davidson Center designed to house it. The move, dubbed "Rocket Roll," is expected to take four days. First motion for the Saturn V is set for 9:30 a.m., at which time local officials and astronaut Owen Garriott will "launch" the 363-foot, 40-year old rocket accompanied by pyrotechnics. STS-118 is scheduled to start on August 7; the Davidson Saturn V Center will open January 31, 2008.
July 11, 2007 / 10:43 a.m. CT (1543 GMT) Endeavo(u)ring to launch: Space shuttle Endeavour reached the launch pad earlier this morning, having made the 3.4 mile trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building. The orbiter, which entered service in 1991 was the fifth shuttle built and replaced Challenger, which was lost with teacher Christa McAuliffe and the STS-51L crew on January 28, 1986. In 2002, after 18 flights, Endeavour entered a "major modification period," receiving upgrades including a global positioning system and a glass cockpit. Named after 18th century British explorer James Cook's sailing ship as the result of a student contest, Endeavour arrived at Pad 39A today to launch STS-118 on August 7. The mission's seven-person crew includes first Educator Mission Specialist Barbara Morgan, who was McAuliffe's back-up 21 years ago. Despite all of its ties to education, Endeavour's rollout could've still used the assistance of a teacher; the banner hung by NASA at the pad's perimeter misspelled the name of the arriving orbiter: 'Go Endeavor!'
July 12, 2007 / 12:18 a.m. CT (0518 GMT) Monumental evening: To raise the funds needed to complete the construction of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame's Project Apollo Monument, filmmaker Jeff Roth will host a benefit reception, screening and auction at Space Center Houston on August 30. The evening event will include astronauts Eileen Collins, Fred Haise, Walter Cunningham, Joe Kerwin and John Young, among others soon to be announced. collectSPACE will host the online silent auction, which will have its finale at the benefit. All proceeds raised during the evening will go directly to fund the Apollo Monument to be installed in Titusville, Florida.
July 13, 2007 / 7:14 p.m. CT (0014 GMT Jul 14) Departures: NASA announced Friday that shuttle commander Michael Bloomfield and former astronaut Scott Horowitz are retiring from the agency. Bloomfield's first mission was aboard STS-86, flying as Atlantis' pilot when it docked with space station Mir in September 1997. Bloomfield flew twice to the international space station on assembly missions, including the delivery of its first truss segment. Since 2006, he served as the deputy director of flight crew operations. Horowitz retired from the astronaut corps in 2004 but returned to NASA in September 2005 to lead the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and the development of NASA's next generation spacecraft, Orion and Ares. Horowitz, who is a veteran of four space flights, said his departure was to spend more time with his family.
July 14, 2007 / 2:01 a.m. CT (0701 GMT) Never-before-seen space coins: The U.S. Mint on Friday revealed plans to exhibit 12 22-karat flown in space coins never before seen by the public. The dozen dollar value Sacagawea gold coins flew on-board space shuttle Columbia on STS-93 in 1999, commemorating the first female astronaut to command a U.S. space mission, Eileen Collins. Since 2001, the gold coins have been held within Fort Knox. Next month, the 12 flown dollars will be shown at the American Numismatic Association's World's Fair of Money, the largest coin show in the United States.
July 16, 2007 / 9:37 p.m. CT (0237 GMT Jul 17) Ares' Apollo engine:Thirty eight years to the day after six J-2 engines helped lift the first manned lunar landing mission into orbit and headed towards its destination, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne signed a contract with NASA for design, development, testing and evaluation of the next generation J-2 that will launch astronauts back to the Moon. The J-2X is an evolved version of two historic predecessors: the J-2 engine that propelled the Apollo-era Saturn IB and Saturn V, and the J-2S, a simplified engine that was developed in the 1970s. The upgraded J-2X will meet the higher requirements of the Ares I and V rockets. The $1.2 billion contract underwrites ground and test flight engines; J-2Xs for future missions will be sold separately.
July 18, 2007 / 5:02 p.m. CT (2202 GMT) Choose your crew: Since 2003, Astronaut Autograph Club members have each month received through the mail an autograph and letter from a Hall of Fame or Space Shuttle astronaut (the latter during 2007). For 2008, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is seeking ideas for the theme by which astronauts for the club will be chosen for autographs. The Foundation is offering three astronaut signed photos for the idea(s) they use for next year's club.
July 20, 2007 / 6:55 p.m. CT (2355 GMT) Rocket's ribbon cutting: Despite it being the most powerful rocket the United States has ever built, the Saturn V was no match for Houston humidity. Within five years of arriving in 1977 at NASA's Johnson Space Center, the rocket started to deteriorate. After nearly 30 years of exposure to the outdoors, the 363-foot Saturn V was close to succumbing to the local flora and fauna that had infiltrated its once flight-worthy stages. Recognizing its importance to history, the Smithsonian began an effort in 1999 to repair and preserve the Saturn V, the result of which was celebrated today with the grand opening of the climate-controlled, tourist-friendly facility built to protect it.
July 23, 2007 / 11:06 a.m. CT (1606 GMT) To space and (maybe) back: Four hours and 14 minutes into today's scheduled 6.5 hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station, astronaut Clay Anderson tossed a refridgerator-size coolant reservoir overboard, finishing the second of two planned jettisons. The 1,400 pound Early Ammonia Servicer was originally slated to return with a shuttle mission but the decision to retire the fleet in 2010 resulted in a lack of room on the remaining 14 flights. The container was no longer needed and taking up space on the ISS. Given its mass, NASA expects that some of the EAS will hit the ground when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere in about 300 days. The other item discarded today, a 212 pound brace that was used for a camera, should disintegrate during its re-entry.
July 24, 2007 / 12:30 a.m. CT (0530 GMT) Patches in progress: On Monday, NASA hosted a press conference with the crew of International Space Station Expedition 16, who will be the next to take up residence in orbit. While their increment logo has been finalized since February, other patches related to ISS 16 are still in different stages of development. In an interview with collectSPACE, the commander of the Soyuz that will launch the expedition's core crew (including the ISS's first female commander, Peggy Whitson), described his flight emblem as a work in progress. "I am working on it," said Yuri Malenchenko, who will command Soyuz TMA-11 and serve as ISS 16 flight engineer, "but I haven't completed the design yet. Now that I am going back to Russia, I will work on it more actively." Unlike Malenchenko, whose October launch is nearing, European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts still has some time until he joins the ISS Expedition 16 crew in December. As has become custom, ESA will give his mission its own name and logo, but as Eyharts explained, the moniker is still maturing. "This has not been decided yet, but there will be a name for the mission I'm sure," he told collectSPACE. Also at the press conference was Malenchenko's and Whitson's TMA-11 crewmate, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor. Though not a member of ISS 16 (he'll return to Earth with the prior crew), Shukor will be the first Angkasawan from Malaysia, chosen to represent his nation out of a pool of 11,000 candidates. The patch for his mission debuted on July 11, but the embroidered version remains a prototype.
July 24, 2007 / 10:08 a.m. CT (1508 GMT) Paolo's patch: When Paolo Nespoli leaves Earth with the crew on-board Discovery in October, he will wear two mission patches: the STS-120 emblem donned by all seven astronauts flying that day, and the insignia for the European Space Agency's "Esperia" mission, for which he is the only crewman. ESA and the Italian Space Agency revealed the name and logo today. Esperia was named such after the Ancient Greek name for the Italian peninsula, reflecting the Italian-built "Harmony" module's role as the primary payload for the ISS-bound flight. The patch was created by designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and his ItalDesign SpA company, depicting Nespoli's mission as key to finishing the station and moving exploration ahead.
July 25, 2007 / 8:45 p.m. CT (0145 GMT Jul 26) Zero-G egg rolls: If space sushi is not to your taste, perhaps you'll prefer taikonaut take-out. Less than one month after JAXA said it would allow Japanese companies to sell their space food creations, China has announced it will stock supermarkets with its Shenzhou specials. By the end of the year, shoppers will be able to choose from space flight-ready cantaloupe chips and taro stuffed mooncake as well as roast pork and stewed duck.
July 27, 2007 / 4:45 p.m. CT (2145 GMT) Sputnik stamp: The Russian Post isn't the only one planning a special stamp honoring the 50th anniversary of Sputnik. CNES, the French Space Agency, has announced that La Poste will offer a commemorative stamp entitled '1957-2007, la conquête de l'espace' featuring the first satellite, U.S. Apollo spacecraft, French SPOT 5 and Ariane 5 and Soyuz launchers. On October 4, the French Post will offer the stamp through four temporary offices in each of the towns CNES has a facility (followed by a wide release the next day). The stamp's value will be 0,85 euro.
July 28, 2007 / 11:26 a.m. CT (1626 GMT) via NASASpaceflight.com Securing the Saturn V: Spacecraft model enthusiast Scott Lowther relates concerns about the results of a recent inspection by NASA's Export Control Office at one of his Kennedy Space Center contact's offices in Florida. Lowther, posting to at least two message forums, shared that commercially-acquired (aka gift shop bought) posters depicting the Saturn V rocket's insides were now covered by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The offending images were, according to Lowther, required to be removed and were ultimately shredded. He was made aware of the situation after being contacted by a "General Dynamics Export Control Compliance guy" in regards to a page on his website where he sells drawings of spacecraft, including the Saturn, to space history fans.
July 30, 2007 / 11:44 a.m. CT (1644 GMT) Roving Mars@home: Disney's big screen Mars exploration documentary Roving Mars lands on DVD and Blu-ray disc on July 31. The film, released to IMAX theaters in '06, follows the design, development, and liftoff of NASA's twin exploration rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Narrated by actor Paul Newman, Roving Mars' star, other than the two robotic explorers, is project scientist Steven Squyres. In addition to full- and wide-screen formats, the DVD includes two bonuses: a 25-minute "making of" film, Mars: Past, Present, and Future and a 50-minute episode of the Disneyland TV show, Mars and Beyond, from 1957.