: A Data Acquisition Camera (DAC) that was flown to the moon's surface with Apollo 14 in 1971 is now the focus of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. government against astronaut Edgar Mitchell. The sixth man to walk on the moon, Mitchell tried to auction the camera last month, 40 years after he saved it from being destroyed on the lunar surface. The government alleges the DAC is still government property and is requesting that a federal court declare it as such and order Mitchell to return the camera.
: Astronaut Steve Lindsey, who in February led space shuttle Discovery's final flight, has joined Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to oversee flight testing, operations, and crew training for the company's Dream Chaser orbital space transportation system. A former chief astronaut and veteran of five shuttle missions — including NASA's second "return to flight" after the loss of Columbia — Lindsey became an astronaut in 1995. At SNC, Lindsey will work with another former astronaut, James Voss, who serves as vice president of space exploration systems.
: Before the STS-135 crew decided on the design for their mission patch, the emblem that would represent NASA's final space shuttle flight, commander Chris Ferguson returned to his alma mater to seek design ideas. Five upperclassman art students at Drexel University in Philadelphia accepted the challenge, and ultimately two designs were selected. They just weren't chosen for the mission's patch. The crew went another way but Ferguson liked Jen Choy's "Spaceswan" and Jeremy Bloom's "Waves" designs so much, that he is flying both patches to the International Space Station.
: "...just that one last thing that they would like to fly on a space shuttle," described commander Chris Ferguson of the requests by "everybody" to have him and his three STS-135 crewmates fly mementos and souvenirs aboard the final space shuttle mission. Ultimately, they settled upon a list — a list which collectSPACE has obtained, illustrated and published. The last Official Flight Kit of the shuttle program includes over 900 various U.S., military, and country flags, nearly 2,000 assorted space shuttle mission patches, and over 20,000 small American flags. The four astronauts also have some secret souvenirs onboard Atlantis, but for those you'll just need to watch the mission once they launch and see...
: NASA's plan to pay tribute to its 30-year shuttle program by adding commemorative 'nose art' to its final space shuttle's external tank recently had to be overturned... literally. While attempting to install it, technicians discovered that the painted access door had had its emblem applied uʍop ǝpısdn. Attempts to attach the hatch so its logo was displayed upright were unsuccessful. A plain black door was installed instead.
: Fisher Space Pen, whose pressurized writing tools have flown on every space shuttle mission, from STS-1 in 1981 to STS-135 in 2011, are paying tribute to the 30-year shuttle program with the introduction of a new keepsake. Available through Fisher's website, the "Space Shuttle Commemorative Pen and Coin Set" features a space pen similar to the version used by the shuttle astronauts etched with NASA's official commemorative shuttle program logo. The same emblem, rendered in full color, also appears on the set's engraved coin, which features the names of all five shuttle orbiters.
: Celebrating their 30 years aboard the space shuttle and commemorating the July 8 liftoff of STS-135 — the final launch of the shuttle program — Mars Chocolates North America gifted NASA's flight control teams and the astronauts with custom M&M's decorated with shuttle images and phrases about their launch. The red, blue and silver "candy-coated chocolates" (as NASA has referred to M&M's since flying them aboard STS-1 in 1981) were among a handful of pop culture and corporate tributes to the shuttle last flight.
: NASA is supporting a challenge by the apparel store Threadless for artists to design T-shirts that commemorate the final space shuttle flight and the shuttle program's three decades of contributions to space exploration. Threadless will produce the T-shirt that receives the most votes and the winner will receive $500 cash, a $500 Threadless gift certificate, and a space shuttle-flown patch from his or her home country.
: Space shuttle Atlantis' STS-135 crew, having reached the midpoint of their mission, will have half their day off Thursday, during which they plan to share a special meal marking the end of the shuttle program. This "All-American Meal" includes grilled chicken, baked beans, Southwestern corn, and even apple pie (of the Hostess Fruit Pie variety). Not wanting them to eat alone, NASA has invited everyone to join in, preparing the meal themselves by downloading the "formulations."
: A statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was unveiled Thursday outside the London (UK) headquarters of the British Council to mark 50 years since the first crewed space flight and the half-century that has passed since the cosmonaut made his first visit to England. The statue's arrival on The Mall was also meant to reinforce the cultural and scientific ties between the UK and Russia. The 12-foot statue (sans its pedestal), a gift from the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos to the British Council, will stand in The Mall for one year. It was unveiled exactly fifty years to the day that Gagarin met with the Queen as part of his UK visit.
: President Obama revealed Friday that a flag flown on the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, was flown on the last, STS-135, to be left on the ISS as a "capture the flag moment" for a commercial company launching the first astronauts to the International Space Station. The flag's inclusion aboard shuttle Atlantis had been held a secret by the STS-135 crew, who earlier Friday told collectSPACE they were waiting for their space station farewell ceremony to debut the twice-flown flag.
: NASA's Dawn spacecraft became Saturday the first probe in history to orbit around an object located in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study the asteroid, named Vesta, for a year before departing for a second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in July 2012. Dawn's observations will help scientists better understand the earliest chapter of our solar system and pave the way for manned missions.
: Sesame Street's furry red (ticklish) monster, Elmo toured NASA's Kennedy Space Center to learn about space exploration and see the final launch of the space shuttle. Just before shuttle Atlantis lifted off, Elmo took a few moments to talk with collectSPACE about meeting astronauts, flying to the moon, and exploring NASA. collectSPACE also gifted him with a couple of patches to start him on collecting space.
: Before separating into their respective vehicles and closing the hatches between them, the final crew of the space shuttle and the Expedition 28 space station crew members met for one last time in the station's Harmony Node 2 to bid each other farewell. During the traditional ceremony, the four STS-135 astronauts presented the station crew with two gifts: a flag flown on the first and last shuttle missions and a model of the shuttle signed by the "modern day titans" of the shuttle program. The model is meant to stay onboard the ISS as a monument the shuttle and its workforce. The flag's stay on the station is temporary: it will return to Earth with the next crew to launch from U.S. soil, only to launch again with the next U.S. mission to journey beyond low Earth orbit.
: Prior to leaving Tuesday the International Space Station ("Alpha") the astronauts flying STS-135, the final mission for space shuttle Atlantis and NASA's space shuttle program completed a tradition begun more than 30 shuttle missions earlier. Affixing stickers and hanging embroidered patches, the crew left their mission's emblem on the station, signifying the end of their time and work on board the station. The STS-135 insignia uses the Greek letter omega to symbolize its own flight's finality.
: After three decades and 135 missions, 21,152 orbits of the Earth and 542,398,878 miles traveled, flying 355 crew members and 3.5 million pounds of payload, NASA's Space Shuttle Program came to its end Thursday morning with the safe landing of Atlantis and its STS-135 astronauts. "Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour, and our ship, Atlantis," commander Chris Ferguson radioed after the shuttle came to a stop.
: Sized to fit over the center computer display on Atlantis' flight deck, the plaque left behind by the final space shuttle crew pays tribute to the workers who for 30 years kept the dream alive. The blue, white and gold sign is inscribed in part: "Your passion for these amazing space ships will always stand as proof of what this country can do when it dares to be bold!" The plaque was not the first time that astronauts have placed a parting message on board their spacecraft. In fact, it wasn't even the "first, last" time one was left aboard shuttle Atlantis...
"And the clock is running." And with that, radioed by David Scott at 9:34 a.m. EDT on July 26, 1971, the Apollo 15 mission began. Scott was referring to the command module Endeavour's Mission Event Timer (MET) but strapped to his, James Irwin's and Al Worden's wrists were another clock: the Omega Speedmaster. To mark the 40th anniversary of Apollo 15 and commemorate the first "used car" on the moon, Omega has introduced the Speedmaster Moonwatch "Apollo 15" 40th Anniversary model. Limited to 1,971 pieces, the watch features blue, white and red rings, mimicking the Apollo 15 crew patch, and a caseback with the embossed image of the Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV).
: NASA held Thursday a ceremony to close the Merritt Island Launch Annex (MILA) spaceflight tracking and data network station at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Established in 1966 by the Goddard Space Flight Center as among the 17 tracking stations for the Apollo program, MILA continued service into the space shuttle program. The station's pair of 30-foot steerable dish antennas tracked all 135 shuttle missions through the first 7-1/2 minutes of flight and relayed communications for the last 13 minutes of the 78 missions that landed in Florida.