: In January, NASA revised its schedule to hand over to museums its retired space shuttles to begin six months earlier than first planned, and in doing so also advanced when the museums would learn they'd been selected to receive an orbiter. The announcement, anticipated for July, never came. Instead, NASA found itself facing delays to its final two flights and Congress becoming involved, creating competing priorities for the selection of shuttle-worthy sites. Although no new date has been set, museums nationwide are continuing in their plans to land a retired space shuttle for display.
: At a party celebrating their 30 years as the first commercial space company, Arianespace on Friday presented Doobie Brothers' band member and guitarist for Steely Dan, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter a truly unique guitar sculpted from a piece of an Ariane 5 rocket. Wondering what's the connection? Arianespace chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall explained: "At the time [the company began in 1980], some critics thought the Ariane program... was, to quote [Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan singer] Michael McDonald, 'What a fool believes.' Today we are the most successful launch services company in existence." And Baxter? Today, he's a recognized expert on missile defense and anti-terrorism. Rocket on...
: To commemorate 40 years of on-orbit operations, Northrop Grumman has configured a full-scale model of its Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite for display at the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The 35 foot long model is the only full-size replica of the early warning system satellite, built from the Structural Test Model and Infrared Sensor Trailblazer without associated electronics. Twenty-three (23) DSP satellites were launched between 1970 and 2007, including one onboard the space shuttle.
: Ten years after humans took up residency onboard the International Space Station, a humanoid will move in. Set to launch on shuttle Discovery with the STS-133 crew on November 1, the 300-pound Robonaut 2 (R2) consists of a head and torso with two arms and two hands. Although its primary job for now is to teach engineers how dexterous robots behave in space, the hope is that through upgrades it could one day venture outside the station to assist spacewalkers making repairs and additions or perform scientific work. Prior to it being packed inside its SLEEPR (Structural Enclosure to Effectively Protect Robonaut) to be shipped to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, R2 met with the media, including collectSPACE, at the Johnson Space Center in Texas.
: Expedition 24 astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson set an International Space Station (ISS) record on Saturday, making the longest spacewalk by an expedition crew. At eight hours and three minutes, their extravehicular activity -- the first of at least two devoted to replacing a failed ammonia coolant pump -- surpassed the earlier record set on Jan. 31, 2007 by eight minutes. The spacewalk's duration also placed it sixth on the all-time list. Wheelock and Caldwell Dyson planned for only a seven hour excursion but a stuck, ammonia-leaking umbilical line resulted in their needing more time outside.
: Sean O'Keefe, who led NASA from 2001 to 2005, survived a fatal plane crash in Alaska late Monday that claimed the life of former senator Ted Stevens and four others. Both O'Keefe and his son Kevin -- who was also onboard the de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter aircraft when it went down near Dillingham, southwest of Anchorage -- were said to be "rather banged up," by a family source who spoke with the website NASA Watch. As Administrator, O'Keefe led NASA through the 2003 loss of shuttle Columbia and the 2004 landings by twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
: ShopNASA.com, Johnson Space Center's online employee gift shop, began accepting pre-orders Wednesday for "Wings In Orbit," NASA's upcoming official history of the space shuttle program. Edited by former program chief Wayne Hale and written by more than 100 NASA employees and contractors who designed, built and operated the vehicles, the book focuses on "the rich history of the program and the shuttle as an historic icon in U.S. history." The contributors to "Wings In Orbit" also include over 30 astronauts (STS-1's John Young and Bob Crippen wrote the foreword), presidents, Nobel Prize winners, scientists, managers, NASA administrators, and flight directors. Hard- and soft-cover editions are available.
: If the crew insignia for the International Space Station's 27th expedition seems familiar, it's because you have seen part of it before. The orbiting laboratory's depiction is "borrowed" from the Expedition 26 insignia to represent the continuity between the crews. Not that the Expedition 27 patch does not also have its own unique features; the badge-shaped emblem's five stars form the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross, which is a rarity on mission patches when compared with Orion, for example. Expedition 27 will start in March, when crew mates Dmitri Kondratyev, Catherine Coleman, Paolo Nespoli, Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev, and Ron Garan will don the patch identifying their increment.
: The U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Museum opened Saturday its new History Center outside the south gate to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, making it easier for visitors to learn about the history of the Florida launch site. The new 3,200 square foot facility, which unlike the main museum does not require the public be bussed in, hosts an exhibit telling the story of the historic launch pads and a gift shop. Open six days a week, admission to the History Center is free.
: The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. will host Aug. 20 the 2010 Space Camp Hall of Fame inductions, honoring four including Francis French, the director of education for the San Diego Air & Space Museum and co-author of the first two volumes in "Outward Odyssey," the space flight social history series by University of Nebraska Press. The ceremony, which will include entertainment by Max Q, the all-astronaut band, will also feature a 40+ lot silent auction aimed at raising funds for Space Camp scholarships. For the first time this year, ten of the lots have been listed on eBay for online bids, including two shuttle-flown shirts and astronaut Hoot Gibson's blue flight suit with his patches.
: The first American astronaut in space will be the first astronaut memorialized on a U.S. postage stamp, the U.S. Postal Service announced on Aug. 12. Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard will feature opposite another Mercury-themed stamp commemorating NASA's MESSENGER probe, the first spacecraft to orbit planet Mercury. The se-tenant stamps are preliminarily set for release in spring 2011, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Shepard's Mercury-Redstone 3 mission and MESSENGER's March 18, 2011 arrival at Mercury.
: Former NASA contract employee Calvin Dale Smith pleaded guilty Tuesday of stealing a training flight suit worn by the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, as well as other space shuttle equipment. Charged first by criminal complaint and formally indicted in May 2010, Smith faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000 at his sentencing, which has been scheduled for Nov. 2. The flight suit and other artifacts he admitted to taking recovered, Smith has been permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
: Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 14, where the U.S. staged its first orbital manned missions, may soon be restored and revived as an engineering classroom for the next generation of rocket builders. "Project Mercury Rising," as conceived by space shuttle technician Jennifer Scheer, would not only use the launch pad's history to inspire students but hire soon-to-be out-of-work shuttle veterans to serve as the teachers.
: Earlier this year before STS-132 launched on "the first last flight" of space shuttle Atlantis, a wall display paying tribute to NASA's fourth orbiter was hung in Firing Room 4 in the Launch Control Center (LCC) at Kennedy Space Center. On Aug. 3, four more of the three-dimensional collages joined the one for Atlantis, honoring Columbia, Challenger, Discovery and Endeavour. Each of these large montages incorporate photographs of the vehicle they celebrate, as well as the crew emblems representing each of the missions that the orbiter flew.
: Former NASA astronaut William "Bill" Lenoir died on Aug. 26 after suffering serious injuries in a biking accident, according to sources close to his family. Selected with NASA's second group of "scientist-astronauts" in Aug. 1967, Lenoir flew his first and only spaceflight 15 years later aboard STS-5, the first operational mission of the space shuttle program. In 1989, five years after he left the astronaut corps, Lenoir returned to the space agency as Associate Administrator of Space Flight, managing the flights between STS-28 and STS-49.
: In an effort to increase access to and provide a means for the general public to share what they know about NASA's historical imagery, the space agency has collaborated with its partners at the Internet Archive to begin adding photos to Flickr's The Commons, a collaborative repository for the world's public photo archives managed by Yahoo. Visitors to "NASA on The Commons" can help tell the photos' stories by adding tags to the images to identify objects and people. Viewers can also post comments. The first of NASA's photo sets added -- Launch and Takeoff, Building NASA, and Center Namesakes -- share a common theme: NASA beginnings.
: NASA, together with its contractor ATK, conducted on Tuesday its second test firing of a space shuttle-derived 154-foot, five-segment solid rocket motor in support of developing the next generation of U.S. launch vehicles. The 125.6 second static burn, which produced internal temperatures of over 5,600° F and more than 3.5 million pounds of thrust, differed from last year's similar test. This time, the motor was first cooled to 40° F to verify the performance of new materials and certify the booster to fly at temperature between 40° and 90° F. The test collected 764 channels of data to accomplish 53 test objectives, which was most data ever collected in a static fire test. The solid rocket motor, dubbed DM-2, for the test was assembled from parts flown on 59 prior shuttle flights.
: Two veteran shuttle astronauts who flew four space flights each announced Tuesday their departure from NASA. Scott Altman, who piloted STS-90 and 106 before commanding STS-109 and 125, the last two servicing missions to the Hubble Telescope, is leaving to join ASRC Research and Technology Solutions (ARTS) as their vice president of strategic planning. Linda Godwin is retiring after flying more than 38 days in space serving on missions to launch and deploy the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (STS-37), radar map the Earth (STS-59), and deliver equipment and crew members to the Mir (STS-76) and International space stations (STS-108). Most recently Godwin served as assistant to the director for exploration for flight crew operations, while Altman served as chief of the exploration branch in the Astronaut Office.