September 2, 2011 / 9:10 a.m. CT (1410 GMT) Canadarm is Canada-bound: Now that the space shuttle program is over and NASA is working to ready the retired orbiters for their hand over to museums, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has announced it is preparing for its own handout, or rather 'arm-out' as the case may be. Originally rumored as destined for the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, a Canadarm — one of the three remaining Canadian-developed 50-ft robotic arms that was used to move payloads and inspect the shuttles in flight — will be put on public display at CSA's headquarters in Saint Hubert, Quebec. After it arrives "in the next few months," CSA plans to refurbish the 905 lb. appendage before public tours begin to view the Canadarm. The other two arms will remain with the space shuttle orbiters on which they flew.
September 2, 2011 / 2:52 p.m. CT (1952 GMT) Valeri I Rozhdestvensky, 1939-2011: Valeri Rozhdestvensky, who as a cosmonaut flew aboard the first Soviet mission to end with a splashdown, died Wednesday at age 72. His only spaceflight, Soyuz 23, lifted off in 1976 on what was planned as a month-long mission onboard the Salyut 5 space station. A guidance system failure resulted in the docking being aborted and Rozhdestvensky, with his commander Vyacheslav Zudov, returning to Earth during a snowstorm, landing in the dark in the middle of an icy lake. Rozhdestvensky later served a flight controller and deputy chief at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.
September 2, 2011 / 9:02 p.m. CT (0202 GMT Sept 3) Apollo 18's real-life flight director: "Apollo 18" opened in movie theaters on Friday, 41 years to the day after Apollo 18, the manned moon landing mission, was canceled due to NASA budget cuts. Other than their sharing names, the movie and the mission have at least one more thing in common: Gerry Griffin. A NASA flight director who would have helped lead the real mission, Griffin served as technical advisor to the film, making sure that the fictional "Apollo 18" looked and felt a lot like the factual Apollo 18.
September 6, 2011 / 12:49 p.m. CT (1749 GMT) Apollo's small steps in sharper view: The sharpest images ever taken from orbit of the Apollo landing sites were released by NASA Tuesday. The photos, which show the twists and turns of the paths blazed by astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean (Apollo 12), Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14), and Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17), were captured by the space agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) as it briefly dipped to just 13 miles above the moon's surface (LRO returns to its usual attitude of 31 miles starting today). The new images better resolve features first shown by LRO two years ago, including the lunar module descent stages, the lunar rover deployed by Apollo 17, and the experiments left behind.
September 7, 2011 / 10:54 a.m. CT (1554 GMT) Patch previews | Expedition 31: The thirty first expedition crew aboard the International Space Station is scheduled to begin work in March 2012. Several recently revealed crew patches will represent them. The first three crew members, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, European Space Agency astronaut André Kuipers and Don Pettit from NASA, will arrive at the space station onboard Soyuz TMA-03M. Continuing a tradition, their emblem was based off of a child's drawing. Kuipers also has a patch of his own, symbolizing ESA's PromISSe mission as part of ISS Expedition 31. And together with Joe Acaba, Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, the six ISS crew members will share the galaxy-shape Expedition 31 official insignia.
September 7, 2011 / 3:18 p.m. CT (2018 GMT) NASA needs more astronauts: The current size of NASA's astronaut corps is too small, which is posing a risk to the United States' human spaceflight capabilities, the National Research Council reported Wednesday. The projected staffing requirements for the International Space Station, coupled with astronauts leaving due to the end of the space shuttle program or medical disqualification has resulted in an increased need for NASA to keep a mission ready fleet of trained crew members. The report also calls for NASA to maintain ground facilities, including its T-38N Talon two-seat jet aircraft used for training astronauts.
September 7, 2011 / 7:26 p.m. CT (0026 GMT Sept 8) Mission (back) to Planet Earth: The first of NASA's major satellites deployed as part of its "Mission to Planet Earth" program is now on a more literal mission back to the planet. Deployed in 1991 by the STS-48 mission on space shuttle Discovery, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is now expected to fall back to Earth in late September or early October, almost six years after the end of its productive scientific life. Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere and debris could land in inhabited areas.
September 9, 2011 / 6:00 a.m. CT (1100 GMT) Remembering 9/11 in space, on Mars: On Sunday, the nation will mark ten years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Over the past decade, NASA has flown mementos for the families of the victims, carried flags into space as memorials to the fallen first responders and used metal from the site of the World Trade Center to outfit twin Mars rovers. Astronauts have also delivered tributes from space, beginning with Frank Culbertson, the only American aboard the International Space Station on Sept. 11, 2001.
September 10, 2011 / 8:18 a.m. CT (1318 GMT) GRAIL lifts off for the moon: NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, spacecraft launched to the moon on Saturday on a nine-month tandem flight to study the structure of the lunar interior from crust to core. The two probes, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, are scheduled to arrive at the moon on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, respectively. Their launch on top a United Launch Alliance Delta II marked the last scheduled use of the Delta II from Florida after 22 years and 110 launches.
September 12, 2011 / 3:15 p.m. CT (2015 GMT) Where UARS won't fall: NASA released an update Monday honing when it expects its 6 ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite to fall back to Earth. Now slated to plunge into the atmosphere during the last week of this month, it is still too early to say where UARS will fall, other than between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south. The space agency predicts that 26 pieces of UARS will survive reentry and impact the surface of the planet. NASA cannot say yet where exactly they will fall, but it's clear where the satellite's debris will not be found: for sale on eBay.
September 13, 2011 / 7:30 a.m. CT (1230 GMT) Space food for schools: NASA on Monday began offering schools space food samples, expanding on the effort it started last year to preserve space shuttle program history and inspire the next generation of explorers. The "Space Food for Schools" program builds off the "Tiles for Teachers" program that to date has given out 4,000 shuttle heat shield tiles with another 3,000 still for the asking. The space agency is offering about 350 space food samples to eligible U.S. schools on a first come, first served basis.
September 14, 2011 / 10:13 a.m. CT (1513 GMT) Space Launch System: NASA revealed on Wednesday the design of its Space Launch System, a heavy-lift launch vehicle to take astronauts beyond Earth orbit. Topped by an Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, a capsule already under development, the SLS will use fuel tank and engine systems based on space shuttle program hardware including RS-25D/E shuttle main engines and an external tank core. An Apollo-derived J2X engine is planned for use for the upper stage. There will be a competition to develop the SLS's two side-mounted boosters, though the first test flights targeted to begin in 2017 may use the shuttle's solid rocket motors to accomplish early exploration objectives.
September 15, 2011 / 11:52 p.m. CT (0452 GMT Sept 16) TMA-21 touches down: Expedition 28 crew members Andrey Borisenko, Ron Garan and Alexander Samokutyaev are back on Earth, having made a silent but safe landing on the southern region steppe of Kazakhstan. Their return after 164 days in space proceeded as expected and scheduled, though Russian flight controllers were unable to hear the crew for most of their descent aboard the Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft. The Soyuz undocked from the ISS at 7:38 p.m. CDT and was on Earth at 10:59:39 p.m. (9:59:39 a.m. Friday Kazakhstan time). The trio's departure marked the beginning of Expedition 29, led by commander Michael Fossum with Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa.
September 16, 2011 / 2:30 p.m. CT (1930 GMT) 'Clean' pad: More than two years after their "deconstruction" began, the historic gantries that supported 53 space shuttle launches on Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., are no more. Demolition crews told the space agency Wednesday that their work tearing down the fixed and rotating service structures was complete; 39B is now a 'clean' pad. Future rockets will arrive at the pad with their own mobile support structures. The torn-down towers, which were built in part from an Apollo launch gantry, were first used for shuttle Challenger's ill-fated STS-51L flight in 1986. Their last liftoff was the 2009 Ares I-X test flight.
September 18, 2011 / 6:00 p.m. CT (2300 GMT) Spying the spy satellites: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center was host on Saturday to examples of two U.S. spy satellite systems coinciding with their declassification and the National Reconnaissance Office's (NRO) 50th anniversary. The KH-7 GAMBIT, KH-8 GAMBIT 3 and KH-9 HEXAGON spy satellites were used, sometimes in tandem, during the Cold War to photograph both the former Soviet Union and China from space. In addition to the exhibit, the NRO also released documents about the formerly secret programs.
September 19, 2011 / 2:20 p.m. CT (1920 GMT) Houston, we've turned 50: Johnson Space Center director Michael Coats joined Apollo moonwalker Charlie Duke for a cake cutting ceremony Monday to celebrate the 50 years since Houston, Texas was selected to host NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (renamed for President Johnson in 1973). Built on land donatedleased sold to the government by Rice University, the center became host to Mission Control and the Astronaut Corps, starting with the third Gemini flight (GT-5) in 1965 through Apollo, the space shuttle and the International Space Station programs.
September 20, 2011 / 2:30 a.m. CT (0730 GMT) Searching for "Snoopy": Okay kids, here's your homework: using robotically-controlled telescopes, search the sky for the only U.S. once-manned moon craft to still be in space: the Apollo 10 lunar module "Snoopy." If that sounds like a challenge, it is because it is. Acknowledging the difficulty, the Faulkes Telescope Project still hopes to enlist hundreds of UK schools to find the spent stage more than four decades after it was left to circle the Sun. Along the way, the astronomers hope to locate other rocket parts as well as perhaps discover new asteroids and comets.
September 21, 2011 / 6:23 p.m. CT (2323 GMT) Arkansas' little (moon) rock: A 'lost' moon rock that was presented as a goodwill gift to Arkansas in 1976 was found on Wednesday among former President Bill Clinton's papers archived by the state. An archivist identified the acrylic-button-encased Apollo 17 lunar sample after he learned about the search for the missing moon rock in the local newspaper. Officials say the rock will now likely "end up" in a museum. The state's other lunar sample, returned onboard Apollo 11, is on display at the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, Little Rock. Nine out of the 50 states are still searching for their Apollo 17 goodwill moon rock displays.
September 23, 2011 / 12:35 p.m. CT (1735 GMT) Not "UARS" to keep: NASA's six-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, is expected to fall back to Earth late Friday or early Saturday, scattering debris over a 500 mile wide swath of the planet. Should the 26 parts of the spacecraft scientists predict will survive land where the public can find them, finders will not be keepers. NASA is warning the public to stay away from the debris out of concern for public safety and international law.
September 24, 2011 / 3:26 a.m. CT (0826 GMT) UARS falls to Earth: NASA's six-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell back to Earth sometime between late Friday and early Saturday, the space agency said. Launched aboard space shuttle Discovery's STS-48 mission as the first major flight element of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, UARS re-entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. Exactly when and where it fell, as well as the fate of any debris that may have made it all the way to the ground, was not yet known. UARS spent 7,316 days in space. It was the largest U.S. spacecraft to return uncontrolled since NASA's Pegasus 2 in November 1979.
September 24, 2011 / 6:23 p.m. CT (2323 GMT) UARS likely made a splash, but where? It was the largest U.S. satellite to fall to Earth uncontrolled in more than three decades but the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite's (UARS) final (watery?) resting place remains unknown. NASA believes the six-ton spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean sometime between late Friday night and early Saturday morning, but without any credible eyewitness accounts or discovery of debris, where UARS ultimately impacted the Earth may never be learned.
September 27, 2011 / 12:16 p.m. CT (1716 GMT) Departures: Charles "Scorch" Hobaugh and Robert "Bobby" Satcher, who two years ago flew together as STS-129's commander and mission specialist on space shuttle Atlantis, have left NASA to pursue other careers. The space agency announced Monday that Hobaugh's last day was last Friday (Sept. 23) and Satcher's was Sept. 9. The STS-129 mission was Satcher's only flight and Hobaugh's third since being selected as astronauts in 2004 and 1996 respectively. An orthopedic surgeon, Satcher tweeted he's "moving on to the next phase – treating cancer patients."
September 27, 2011 / 3:30 p.m. CT (2030 GMT) NASA: UARS sank in remote Pacific: Just three days after saying we may never know where its 6-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) fell to Earth, NASA stated Tuesday it knew exactly the time and place where the spacecraft re-entered. As earlier thought, UARS did go down in the Pacific, but it was far farther away from North America than previously postulated. The satellite hit the atmosphere in the Southern Hemisphere over a remote region of the Pacific and its debris sank where no one was around to see.
September 29, 2011 / 3:35 p.m. CT (2035 GMT) China's launches its first space lab: China launched Tiangong-1, a 34-foot long, 8.5 ton unmanned module on Thursday, initiating its efforts to establish its own space station by 2020. Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace," will serve as a target for a series of three Shenzhou unmanned and manned flights that will test rendezvous and docking technologies. Packed in Tiangong-1 were experiments and 300 International Astronautical Federation flags that earlier flew to and from the International Space Station on board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and U.S. space shuttle.
September 30, 2011 / 1:43 p.m. CT (1843 GMT) Patch previews | Expeditions 32, 36: Two upcoming crews for the International Space Station now have patches representing their missions. ISS Expedition 32, which starts in May 2012, and Expedition 36, beginning one year later, each have emblems depicting the space station orbiting the Earth, the earlier offering a head-on view of the complex, the latter using a much more stylized, side view. (ISS Expedition 36 includes the first flight for a member of the European Space Agency's 2009 astronaut class, which six members just officially adopted a patch of their own.)