August 1, 2012 / 12:01 a.m. CT (0501 GMT) Hot Wheels on Mars: Scheduled to land on Mars next week, NASA's car-sized Curiosity rover will touch down on toy store shelves a month later thanks to Mattel. The toymaker will release a 1:64 scale version of the Mars Science Laboratory rover as part of its line of Hot Wheels die-cast vehicles. The real six-wheeled rover is set to land on Aug. 6 at 12:31 a.m. CDT after a seven minute descent assisted by thrusters, a parachute, retro rockets and a sky crane. If all goes to plan, the nuclear-powered Curiosity will explore Mars for evidence of past or present habitability.
August 1, 2012 / 9:41 p.m. CT (0241 GMT Aug 2) Same-day delivery: Russia on Wednesday upgraded its cargo and supply service to the International Space Station from 2nd-day to same-day delivery. The unmanned Progress M-16M spacecraft lifted off at 2:35 p.m. and docked to the orbiting complex after circling Earth just four times at 8:18 p.m. CT. The previous 47 Progress vehicles that delivered cargo to the space station took two days to arrive. This was the first test of an "expedited rendezvous" for the station but "old technology," explained NASA's ISS flight director Chris Edelen in a recent press briefing. "Our first ground-up rendezvous on the Gemini program was a Flight Day 1 rendezvous, and the Russians have done this before, so it is sort of a back to the future."
August 2, 2012 / 9:49 a.m. CT (1449 GMT) Spaceport Street View: Google Street View can now navigate from neighborhood streets to NASA's Florida facilities, thanks to a new partnership with Kennedy Space Center. By dragging Google Maps' "pegman" over KSC, users can go for a virtual walk through the transfer aisle of the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building, stand at the top of Launch Pad 39A, tour the flight consoles in the Launch Control Center, and take a stroll alongside a Saturn V. The 360-degree digital tours were produced as part of Kennedy Space Center's 50th anniversary commemoration.
August 3, 2012 / 9:35 a.m. CT (1435 GMT) Next steps to space: NASA on Friday took the next steps in its effort to help develop a commercial crew launch capability, awarding $1.1 billion to three U.S. companies. NASA chose Sierra Nevada Corp's Dream Chaser to receive $212.5 million, SpaceX's Dragon for $440 million and Boeing's CST-100 capsule for $460 million to advance the space agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. The goal, says NASA, is to enable the launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.
August 5, 2012 / 9:27 a.m. CT (1427 GMT) Landing on Mars? Pass the peanuts: Just about an hour before NASA's Curiosity rover attempts to land on Mars Sunday night (the touchdown is scheduled for 12:31 a.m. CDT Monday), its mission manager will take part in a long-standing tradition at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.: he will eat some peanuts. The "lucky" legumes, labeled in part "dare mighty things," date back to the Ranger 7 moon mission in 1964, and have since been present at every important planetary probe event at JPL.
August 6, 2012 / 1:22 a.m. CT (0622 GMT) Curiosity lands on Mars: NASA's car-sized Curiosity rover touched down safely on Mars Monday at 12:31:45 a.m. CDT (0531 GMT), landing within the 96-mile wide Gale Crater. Outfitted with a robotic arm, a drill, sample scoop, cutting edge instruments and a number of cameras – including a laser-equipped, spectrum-reading camera for detecting the chemical make-up of target rocks, Curiosity is the most advanced unmanned lander to ever be sent to the surface of another planet. Its two year primary mission is to investigate whether its Gale Crater landing area has ever had conditions that are favorable for microbial life.
August 8, 2012 / 11:45 a.m. CT (1645 GMT) Big Endeavour: Why did the space shuttle cross the LA Freeway? To get to the other side. NASA's space shuttle Endeavour will do exactly that, as it slowly makes its way from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to the California Science Center on Oct. 12-13. The road trip, which has been named by the CSC "Mission 26: The Big Endeavour," will take place two weeks after the shuttle lands in LA on Sept. 20, weather permitting. The flight plan and road trip were revealed on Wednesday by the CSC.
August 10, 2012 / 11:52 a.m. CT (1652 GMT) DIY LEGO Curiosity: Eight months ago, as NASA's Mars Science Laboratory was about to lift off, MSL mechanical engineer Stephen Pakbaz launched his own attempt at landing the Curiosity rover... in LEGO's product line. Now that the real rover has successfully touched down on the Red Planet, Pakbaz's 1:20 scale toy version has yet to be released, but that hasn't stopped it from landing in living rooms. Pakbaz has shared the step-by-step instructions to build his LEGO Curiosity. All that's needed are the bricks.
August 13, 2012 / 12:02 p.m. CT (1702 GMT) NASA's new Chief Astronaut: NASA's 13th Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson has rejoined the ranks of American astronauts eligible for a future flight into space. The first woman to lead the U.S. Astronaut Corps, Whitson has been succeeded as Chief Astronaut by Robert Behnken, a veteran of two missions on space shuttle Endeavour. The Chief of the Astronaut Office hands out crew assignments, as well as manages training schedules and technical roles.
August 15, 2012 / 12:03 p.m. CT (1703 GMT) Setting SAIL for history: Did you know that Houston already has a full-size, fully-'flyable' space shuttle? And that orbiter vehicle (OV) flew all 135 missions of the 30-year shuttle program before its sister ships lifted off into space on each? Houston's hidden shuttle, OV-095, is now set to SAIL into view as the latest public tour attraction.
August 16, 2012 / 11:48 a.m. CT (1648 GMT) Trading spaces: For what is expected to be the final time in history, two space shuttles crossed paths Thursday, pausing shortly as they met nose-to-nose. Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis traded places, moving between the 52-story tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the last active orbiter processing facility as they inched closer to their retirement as museum displays. Endeavour's next stop will be the California Science Center, while Atlantis is destined for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
August 19, 2012 / 12:01 a.m. CT (0501 GMT) CUUSOO Curiosity: How do you top seeing a rover you helped build land on Mars? How about having 10,000 fans cast their support for your model of that same rover to become an official LEGO toy? That's what happened for Stephen Pakbaz, who applied his experience helping to build NASA's Curiosity Mars rover toward designing a 1:20 scale version that LEGO will now review for production.
August 20, 2012 / 4:35 p.m. CT (2135 GMT) InSight to probe into Mars: NASA selected on Monday a new Discovery-class mission, set to launch in 2016, that will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars to learn why the Red Planet developed so differently from Earth as a rocky planet. Named InSight, the mission will use a spacecraft and lander design based on the 2008 Phoenix mission equipped with three instruments to take measurements of Mars' "vital stats:" "pulse" (seismology), "temperature" (a heat flow probe), and "reflexes" (precision tracking). InSight will also be outfitted with two black and white cameras to help guide its instruments to the ground.
August 21, 2012 / 8:31 p.m. CT (0131 GMT Aug. 22) From rockets to the real world: NASA and the Maritime Administration agreed Tuesday to transfer the agency's solid rocket booster recovery ship, "Liberty Star," to the National Defense Reserve Fleet for use as a training vessel at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. During the 30-year space shuttle program, Liberty Star and its sister ship, Freedom Star, retrieved the side-mounted rockets to be refurbished and reused after they landed in the Atlantic Ocean. Liberty Star also towed shuttle external tanks from New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center, took part in Orion crew module recovery tests and helped track the launch of the first commercial spacecraft to fly to the space station.
August 22, 2012 / 3:23 p.m. CT (2023 GMT) Curiosity's coded signature: NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Wednesday began driving from its landing site, which has been named "Bradbury Landing" after the late author Ray Bradbury. Making its first movement on the Martian surface, Curiosity's test drive positioned the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago. It also left behind its first set of tracks, which in between zigzags, included the coded mark of its maker.
August 23, 2012 / 12:08 p.m. CT (1708 GMT) USAF lands shuttle trainer: NASA's Super Guppy flew into Dayton, Ohio Wednesday to deliver CCT-1, the space agency's first crew compartment trainer used during the shuttle program, to the National Museum of the US Air Force. Used for more than 30 years at Johnson Space Center to train crew members, including more than 75 Air Force pilots, CCT-1 will first be displayed in the museum's Cold War Gallery before moving in 2013 into an interactive exhibit featuring a mockup of the shuttle's payload bay.
August 24, 2012 / 2:26 p.m. CT (1926 GMT) Endeavour's entourage: On Saturday, two NASA jets will fly over Los Angeles to scout photo ops for the September arrival of space shuttle Endeavour. The youngest of NASA's retired shuttles, Endeavour will leave Florida for a final time on Sept. 17 and arrive in Los Angeles three days later. The public can now stake out their own spot to see and photograph the departure. On Friday, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex began offering tickets to bid the shuttle Endeavour farewell with four days of activities.
August 25, 2012 / 2:51 p.m. CT (1951 GMT) Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012: Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, who in 1969 became the first man to walk on the moon, died Saturday. He was 82. Selected with NASA's second group of astronauts in 1962, Armstrong first flew in space as command pilot of Gemini 8 before commanding the first lunar landing mission, Apollo 11. He died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
August 27, 2012 / 9:05 a.m. CT (1405 GMT) Neil Armstrong's photo legacy: The death of Neil Armstrong on Saturday likely inspired many in the public to recall the photographs they saw of him becoming the first person to step foot on the moon. But as space history enthusiasts are well aware, there's only one full-body photo of Armstrong on the lunar surface, and in it, his back is to the camera. So for photos of the late astronaut, one must look beyond the moon. Retro Space Images has done just that, sharing photos from Neil Armstrong's NASA legacy.
August 28, 2012 / 5:49 p.m. CT (2249 GMT) Rover radio: In a first for music and space history, a song has been broadcast back to Earth from the surface of another planet. On Tuesday, students gathered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to hear "Reach for the Stars" by musician will.i.am after it was transmitted by the Curiosity rover on Mars. A well-known advocate of science education, will.i.am told collectSPACE he hoped the song would encourage and remind them just how important their involvement in the sciences is to the future.
August 29, 2012 / 1:38 p.m. CT (1838 GMT) Passing and preservation: The suggestion by Neil Armstrong's family to remember him by winking at the moon, has inspired some to turn an eye towards preserving the site of his 1969 lunar landing. A recently drafted bill by a California congressman is among the efforts aimed at protecting the 106 artifacts that Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left behind during Apollo 11's time at Tranquility Base.
August 29, 2012 / 11:47 p.m. CT (0447 GMT Aug 30) Rocket roll-in: Two twin space shuttle solid rocket boosters rolled up to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Wednesday, after spending two weeks on a cross-country road trip from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The 149-foot boosters will remain in storage at Dryden until the California Science Center is ready to display them with space shuttle Endeavour. They'll be part of a future launch pad like exhibit that will display the space shuttle vertically inside the CSC's Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.
August 31, 2012 / 7:09 a.m. CT (1209 GMT) Once in a blue moon: Friday's full moon is the second for the month, otherwise known as a "blue moon." There's a poetic nature to the moon being 'blue' on the same day Neil Armstrong's family and NASA hold memorial services for the first man to walk on the lunar surface. To honor Armstrong, his family has suggested the public think of him and wink at the moon, but has also set up memorial scholarship funds and a children's health initiative in Ohio.