: Topping their "Moon Shots" astronaut autographed insert cards released two years ago, Topps introduced last month their second series of "American Heritage" trading cards that include not just astronaut autographs, but also embroidered space patches and real space artifacts. Mounted to trading cards and inserted into card packs randomly, the swatches include space shuttle payload bay liners and thermal blankets from each of the orbiters, and Moon-flown material from Apollo 11 and 15.
: Designed to validate computer models of the rocket's reaction to launch loads and vibrations, "modal survey testing" of the Ares I-X 327-foot tall vehicle was performed this past weekend inside the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building. The test, which involved gently swaying the rocket using both mechanical shakers and manual (read: two men) pushers, proceeded smoothly. The last time NASA attempted such tests with a rocket only slightly taller, the Apollo Saturn V, tennis shoes and tug-of-war were involved and the results were not exactly what NASA's engineers had planned.
: Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang demonstrated just how sweet space flight can be during a special broadcast early on Monday morning with Swedish officials. Together with fellow European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Frank De Winne from Belgium, Fuglesang let loose space shuttle-shaped candies that were produced for his STS-128 mission. The marshmallow-like but more chewy gummy shuttles were a special version of Ahlgren's bilar, car-shaped candies that are popular in Sweden. The shuttle edition was limited to only 100 bags, of which 33 were packaged for Fuglesang.
: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on Tuesday the surprise appointment of a new astronaut candidate, Norishige Kanai, who'll join ascans Kimiya Yui and Takuya Ohnishi who were selected last March. A doctor with the Maritime Self Defense Force serving at a Hiroshima training facility, Lt. Kanai, 32, was chosen from among the 963 Japanese citizens who applied for the space program last year. Like Yui and Ohnishi, Kanai will report for training at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and then will be eligible for future expeditions to the International Space Station.
: As if it was not enough that Buzz Lightyear made a real spaceflight, flying on-board the International Space Station since June 2008, he'll set a record on his return, says the Walt Disney Company. With one year, three months and (at least) ten days to his credit, Buzz will have flown the longest space mission by a space explorer of any nationality, surpassing by a month the 437-day record established by cosmonaut Valery Polyakov in 1995. And as any returning hero of his (12 inch tall) stature should receive, Disney is planning to celebrate his triumphant flight with a ticker-tape parade in early October at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
: Wednesday's triple 9's on the calendar (09/09/09) (and, as the time stamp of this post shows, on the clock, too) inspired weddings, lottery picks and at least two music-related releases for The Beatles. For space enthusiasts though, 09-09-09 marked the 40th anniversary of a very popular dated stamp. On September 9, 1969, the U.S. Postal Department released the 10-cent "First Man on the Moon" airmail stamp, and in seeking a souvenir from the event that the postage commemorated, almost 9 million people from around the world requested first day of issue covers. Forty years later, collectSPACE spoke with the artist behind the stamp, Paul Calle, and his son Chris, who collects the covers canceled on 09-09-69.
: Japan's first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-1) was successfully launched on Thursday atop the nation's first H-2B rocket, Japan's largest-ever booster at 186 feet tall, at 12:01:46 p.m. CDT (2:01:46 a.m. Japan Standard Time, Friday). The unmanned cargo craft carrying both pressurized and unpressurized supplies (a first for an uncrewed space vehicle) will be attached to the International Space Station (ISS) one week from today using the Canadarm2 robot arm. The launch, Japan's first headed to a space station, will also be the first unmanned vehicle to be docked on the United States' segment of the ISS. HTV-1 delivers 7,400 pounds of science experiments and supplies, much of it intended for JAXA's Kibo module.
: ATK Space Systems, as the prime contractor for NASA's Ares I first stage, lit up the Utah sky on Thursday, with the first full scale, full duration test firing of their five segment development motor. The DM-1 test generated 3.6 million pounds of thrust, the heat from which (more than 3300 degrees F) turned the sand in its path to glass. The motor cases used for the test were previously collectively flown on 48 previous space shuttle missions including STS-1. In addition to the fifth segment, the Ares motor differs from shuttle boosters by its larger nozzle throat, upgraded insulation and inclusion of another fin, or slot in the propellant, which results in greater thrust.
: The Hubble Space Telescope, which is usually focusing light to reveal stars, will have the spotlight turned on it as the star of "Hubble 3D", an IMAX and Warner Bros Pictures production, opening March 19, 2010. The announcement of the debut date came during the same week that NASA revealed the telescope's first photos since being repaired and upgraded by the crew of STS-125 in May. Some of the new images will appear in the large-format film, according to astronaut- turned-cinematographer Greg "Ray J" Johnson, as will the footage he directed on the mission. "[Of] the 8 minutes we shot on orbit," he told collectSPACE, "I think all but one image [director Toni Myers] plans to use, so I felt pretty good about that because it was easy to not shoot a good image. I think everybody will be wowed when they see the images from the movie." The release is timed to be out in theaters on the 20th anniversary of Hubble's 1990 launch.
: NASA began this month the formidable task of choosing where thousands of space shuttle artifacts will ultimately come to reside after its three orbiters are retired. NASA revealed Monday the website it created in partnership with the Government Services Administration to provide other federal agencies, the Smithsonian, public museums, and state-sponsored schools the chance to prescreen and express interest in obtaining artifacts as they become available. Although the full list of items is only available to eligible recipients, the site's slideshow preview included a full-scale shuttle crew cabin simulator, space food, spacesuits and the modified Airstream "Astrovan" that crews ride in to the launch pad.
: Now that space shuttle Discovery is back on Earth, having returned from the STS-128 mission, its next visit to the International Space Station and penultimate flight will be STS-131, targeted for March 2010. Like its recent mission, Discovery will fly the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module packed with science and research equipment, new crew quarters, and supplies for the orbiting outpost. The crew of STS-131, led by commander Alan Poindexter, have created an insignia (seen here for the first time online) that features Discovery and Leonardo on their mission to the station above Earth.
: The first Japanese astronaut to spacewalk, Takao Doi departed from NASA on June 30, 2009 and separated from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) last Sunday to begin a two-year term as the first astronaut of any nationality to serve in the United Nations' Office of Outer State Affairs in Vienna, Austria. Doi, who tested techniques for assembly of the International Space Station during two extravehicular activities (EVAs) during his first mission, STS-87, in 1997, visited the outpost as an STS-123 crew member in March 2008 to install the first component of Japan's Kibo laboratory. Over the course of his two NASA flights and 24 years with JAXA, Doi logged over a month in space, including 13 hours spacewalking.
: NASA announced Friday the crew of STS-133, the last scheduled space shuttle flight, targeted for September 2010. Leading the mission will be Steve Lindsey, who is a veteran of four space flights and is currently Chief of the Astronaut Office. Joining him aboard Discovery will be pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Al Drew, Tim Kopra, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. Barratt and Stott, who are presently working on the International Space Station, are believed to be the first astronauts to learn of their next assignment while in space. As Lindsey transitions to training with his crew in October, astronaut Peggy Whitson will become NASA's 13th Chief Astronaut.
: The view out the Cupola window as depicted on the STS-130 crew patch (seen here, as was released by NASA), is the first photo taken of the Earth from the Moon by Lunar Orbiter I on August 23, 1966. Its presence on an emblem meant to represent the penultimate flight of space shuttle Endeavour is, per NASA, to symbolically show the Moon as "a past and a future destination for explorers from the planet Earth." As for the present, the Cupola, which also provides the shape for the patch itself, is together with Node 3 Tranquility set to launch on STS-130 to be attached to the International Space Station. The mission is targeted for February 2010.
: A review presently underway of the "essential knowledge and skills" to be taught to Texas fifth graders has recommended the removal from textbooks of astronaut Neil Armstrong. Their reasoning? "He was not a scientist," spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe told the Houston Chronicle. A vote on the social studies proposal won't occur until January, but the suggestion alone has prompted strong responses. "I find your reported decision... totally ridiculous and unjustified," began a letter to the Texas Board of Education by James Hansen, author of Neil Armstrong's authorized biography.
: A swatch of spacesuit-material flown to the Moon's orbit, a segment of a data card that landed on the lunar surface, and a heatshield tile that flew with the first four missions of space shuttle Discovery will comprise the three acrylic-embedded relics offered during the 2010 Space Artifact Series, the second year of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's fundraiser. Each of flown fragments are certified by an astronaut who accompanied its flight: Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14), Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) and Don Williams (STS-51D). Members of the 2009 subscription series can now renew and retain their same serial number before new memberships begin.
: For the past three months, Barbara Barrett has trained alongside Canadian spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté as his back-up for the Soyuz TMA-16 mission. A former U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Barrett may never have her own mission, but she does have her own space mission patch. Depicting the female gender symbol floating above the Earth, Soyuz and International Space Station, the insignia was designed by noted space artist (and Barrett-family friend) Robert McCall, whose previous patches include the first space shuttle and last moon landing missions.
: At 2:14 a.m. CDT Wednesday, Soyuz TMA-16 launched towards a rendezvous with the International Space Station. Aboard the rocket as it lifted off from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan were three cosmonauts, nine red clown noses and one toy lion. Maxim Suraev, Jeffrey Williams and Guy Laliberté will reach the outpost in two days, where Suraev and Williams will join the 21st resident crew and Laliberté will perform his nine-day "Poetic Social Mission" prior to his returning to Earth with Soyuz TMA-14 on October 11.
: Selected in 1967 as a member of the Soviet Air Force's fourth class of cosmonaut trainees, Nikolai Stepanovich Porvatkin died Monday having never flown in space. He was 77. Recruited for the Almaz program, the military versions of the Soyuz and Salyut, Porvatkin remained with the cosmonaut corps until April 20, 1983. He later went to work at NPO Energia.
: The first to be chosen for the Soviet Union's original 20 cosmonauts and the sixth man to orbit the Earth, Pavel Romanovich Popovich died on Wednesday, only five days before his 79th birthday. Initially a finalist for the world's first space flight, Popovich flew twice to space: on Vostok 4, when he was one-half of the first tandem space mission; and on Soyuz 14, as the commander of the first classified military space station. Popovich also spent two years training to land on the Moon until the Soviet's answer to the United States' Apollo program was disbanded. After his two flights were over, Popovich served as the deputy chief for the same cosmonaut training center where he was the first to report.
: Moonwalker Neil Armstrong's sliderule, Eugene Cernan's lunar toothbrush, Jerry Ross' flown common wheat seeds and Don Williams' wind-up pop over mouse are now online as part of a new companion website to "Purdue's Place in Space: From the Midwest to the Moon," the popular 136-item exhibit hosted since July at the Indiana university's Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives & Special Collections Research Center. The new digital display, which also includes artifacts and personal papers from Purdue astronaut alumni Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, Roy Bridges and Janice Voss, highlights the role the school has had in graduating 22 U.S. space explorers.