: International Space University will launch a charity auction on October 4, the 50th anniversary of the start of the Space Age, to raise scholarships to enable prospective students to attend ISU. The eBay-hosted ISU auction will include the opportunity to fly a one kilogram payload in space, a museum-quality replica of Sputnik 1, lunches with former astronauts, and astronaut-signed space art, coffee table books and more!
: NASA announced the crew Monday for Endeavour's STS-126 mission. Leading the September 2008 flight to bring supplies to the International Space Station will be commander Chris Ferguson and Eric Boe, pilot. Mission specialists Joan Higginbotham, Steve Bowen, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, and Shane Kimbrough will transfer supplies and equipment, including a treadmill and crew quarters, from a logistics module in the orbiter's cargo bay to enable the ISS to support a six-person crew.
Our 10-day countdown of the Top Ten Sputniks has entered the final stretch with only two Sputniks remaining to be revealed. Today's entry, "The Astronaut Son's Secret Sputnik" recounts the seldom told tale of a privately owned satellite. So hidden was the Sputnik, that the subject of our story had yet to share his find with his space-flown father. By doing so however, the son uncovered his dad's own history with the real Sputnik.
: The Central Bank of Russia has issued a commemorative coin honoring the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. Minted from sterling silver, the three ruble coin depicts the first satellite on one side and the insignia of the central bank on the other. Limited to 10,000 pieces, the coins went on sale Monday.
: Our countdown of the Top 10 Sputniks reached #1 on Thursday, coinciding with the start of the Space Age 50 years ago. The first man-made satellite left the Earth at 2:12 p.m. CDT (1912 GMT) in 1957, and remained in orbit for less than three months, re-entering the atmosphere on January 4, 1958. Sputnik's radio transmitter broadcasted 'beeps' for 22 days until its batteries were depleted. The 23-inch sphere with its four whisker antennae weighed in at 184 pounds before lifting off on an R-7 rocket. The trailblazing sphere disintegrated during its return, leaving only a single component behind.
: Autographs, patches, medals, and flown-in-space items are among the lots offered by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's 2007 semi-annual auction. The 30 lots, now open for bidding, were donated to the auction by astronauts including Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Ed Mitchell, Paul Weitz, and Eileen Collins to raise funds for college students excelling in the science or engineering field of their major. The sale ends Oct. 13 at Autographica with both on-line and live bidding.
: Tourists today who are familiar with pausing at airport Travelex counters to exchange their foreign money, will soon be able to do the same when they venture off the planet, at least from United Kingdom-based spaceports. Travelex, in partnership with the National Space Centre and University of Leicester, is planning to start offering the Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination or QUID, as a currency safe for spaceflight and "the extreme environment found in orbit." Void of the sharp edges typical of coins and bereft of magnetic strips that could be wiped clean by cosmic radiation, the QUID are valued from one to ten. One QUID would cost $12.50, 6.25 £, or 8.68 € (according to the current exchange rate).
: Though it is not quite the restart of Hallmark's prior line of space history themed Keepsakes, the Spaceman Snoopy ornament offered this year by the greeting card company does serve to honor NASA's past. As described by Hallmark, "Snoopy and his feathered friend Woodstock recreate the famous moment when man first walked on the moon in 1969." The tenth in the Spotlight on Snoopy series, the $10 ornament is also the latest connection between the Peanuts' character and the US space agency, dating back to the Apollo missions.
: The largest and longest running online stores for space collectibles, Countdown Creations and The Space Store, announced today a merger to unite inventories and streamline operations. The two websites will continue to be open for orders while their products and features are integrated. As partners in collectSPACE's buySPACE marketplace, the new Space Store Network will continue to offer the same high level of service our clients have experienced and come to expect.
: Last March, the Aerospace Legacy Foundation announced that it had taken custody of the first Apollo boilerplate command module that was built by North American Aviation in Downey, Ca. and then flown in Nov. 1963 in a test of its escape tower. Boilerplate #6 (BP-6) was to be restored and displayed at the site of its construction, where the Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center will open early next year. But BP-6 has been lost and in its place is BP-12, another Downey-born boilerplate, which lifted off on a Little Joe II from White Sands, NM. Confused? Perhaps this will help: the BP that touched down at Downey hasn't been moved.
: The first female to command the International Space Station, astronaut Peggy Whitson and her first crew member, flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko, lifted off on Soyuz TMA-11 at 8:22 a.m. CT Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. With them onboard was the first Malaysian angkasawan, spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor. The three will dock at the station on Friday, beginning the second, six-month stay on the ISS for Whitson and Malenchenko, who each served on prior expeditions. Shukor, together with ISS 15 crew mates Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, will return aboard Soyuz TMA-10 on October 21. Clayton Anderson, who launched to the ISS in June, will join Whitson's crew until the arrival of his replacement, Daniel Tani, on space shuttle Discovery, which is scheduled for later this month.
: Starting at 12 noon CDT on Thursday and continuing bidding on Friday, Regency-Superior will offer over 900 space artifacts and collectibles during an auction held at their Beverly Hills, Calif. gallery, as well as online through eBay Live Auctions. Featured lots include conignments from the estates of astronauts Deke Slayton and Theodore Freeman, and from the collections belonging to Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Bill Pogue.
: In 1982, before flying his first shuttle mission, Rick Hauck recruited Los Angeles jeweler Paul Dimitriu to design a pendant based on the STS-7 mission patch as a gift for his wife. Though not the first astronaut to hire Dimitriu (that honor goes to Scott Carpenter, 20 years earlier), Hauck was far from the last, starting a tradition that led to over 1,500 of Dimitriu's pieces having gone to space on more than 100 flights. Hauck recently related the story of The Astronaut Jeweler on Air & Space Smithsonian magazine's website.
Peggy Whitson waved hello to her home planet Friday as she floated into her new home for the next six months. The first woman to command the International Space Station docked at the orbiting outpost this morning with her Soyuz TMA-11 crewmates ISS 16 flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, the first Malaysian in space. No sooner did she transfer to the ISS for her second time in five years, did Whitson begin marking the station with her expedition's logo, starting with her crew, who donned baseball caps with the insignia. A ceremony set for next Friday will officially mark the crew's change of command.
: No sooner than International Space Station Expedition 16 arrives at the station, do we get our first look at the next mission's insignia. The ISS Expedition 17 crew patch features the flags of the United States and Russia waving above the station and the Earth below. Nineteen stars are dispersed across the circular design, with a 20th star topping a contrail that extends from the planet. The surnames of the crew curve around the ISS 17 patch's border (in one version): Volkov, Kononenko, Reisman, Chamitoff and Magnus. A different version omits the names but is otherwise the same patch.
: Which of the thousands of titles written about space exploration are the greatest sought? What creates the demand for these books? Is it that they are rare? Or is it because they're autographed by their authors and/or subjects? To answer these questions and to compile a top 20 list of collectors' "holy grails," speciality online dealer Boggs SpaceBooks has put together a survey to nominate the books that are most in demand, followed by a vote to rank the top picks.
: The STS-120 crew arrived in Florida on Friday afternoon in preparation for their launch to the International Space Station scheduled for Tuesday, October 23. At Pad 39A, the space shuttle Discovery sits ready for flight, its payloads stowed on-board including the Italian-built, U.S. Harmony multi-port node that will allow the addition of international science laboratories from Europe and Japan. Among the items now in Discovery's mid-deck lockers is the original lightsaber used by actor Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker for the 1986 movie, "Star Wars: Episode VI-Return of the Jedi." In celebration of the lightsaber's flight, Lucasfilm is collecting messages for the crew through StarWars.com for postflight delivery to the astronauts when they and the flown lightsaber return to Space Center Houston in Texas.
: NASA has named the crew for Discovery's STS-119 mission to bring the final solar array wings to the International Space Station in 2008. Led by commander Lee Archambault with Dominic "Tony" Antonelli as his pilot, STS-119's mission specialists include John Phillips, Steven Swanson, and two educator astronauts, Joe Acaba and Richard Arnold. JAXA astronaut and ISS flight engineer Koichi Wakata is expected to be Discovery's seventh crewmember for the ride to the station, switching places with Sandra Magnus, who will then return on STS-119. In addition to the pair of power-providing arrays, Discovery will carry the S6 truss segment, completing the outpost's 361 ft.-long backbone.
: The International Space Station's 15th Expedition came to its close early on Sunday as its commander, Fyodor Yurchikhin, and flight engineer, Oleg Kotov, landed on Earth inside Soyuz TMA-10 after spending more than six months living and working aboard the orbital outpost. Traveling with the two cosmonauts for the ride home was Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Malaysia's first angkasawan, who arrived at the ISS nine days earlier with the station's new residents. Expedition 15 overlapped the stay of two other crew members. Sunita Williams had been part of the ISS's previous crew when Yurchikhin and Kotov arrived. Her replacement, Clay Anderson began his stay in June and has remained aboard with Expedition 16. During Expedition 15, the ISS's truss was extended twice and a docking port was moved to enable future expansion.
: The crew of STS-120 will be the first to use a fish-eye camera in space that is capable of capturing an entire hemisphere of view in one shot. The Nikon camera and lens will take photos that when processed post-flight will produce circular images that are 4000 pixels across, specifically suited for projection on to the full-dome screens of planetariums. The crew received lessons in fish-eye photography from the production team at the Houston Museum of Natural Science's Burke Baker Planetarium. The full-dome images taken by the STS-120 astronauts will be shown at planetariums around the world.
: An Italian-built U.S. multi-port module dubbed Harmony is now orbiting the Earth inside Discovery's cargo bay, on the way to the International Space Station, where it will support the addition of two labs assembled by Europe and Japan. Space shuttle Discovery launched from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:38 a.m. CT with STS-120 Commander Pam Melroy and her six crew members on-board. The planned 14-day mission will also reposition a solar array wing and swap-out crewmates on the ISS. Tuesday's flight marked the 34th launch for Discovery and 120th in shuttle history.
: The Chinese National Space Administration launched China's first lunar mission Wednesday on a Long March 3A rocket. The Chang'e-1 probe, named for the Chinese goddess of the Moon, will map the lunar surface, measure the depth of its soil, study the distribution of chemicals within the regolith and record the space weather between Earth and the Moon. The mission marks the first step in China's plans to land robotic rovers by 2020 under their Lunar Exploration Programme (CLEP).
: STS-120's delivery of the Harmony module to the International Space Station achieves a milestone for assembly: U.S. core complete, or when the outpost is able to accommodate international partners' science laboratories. Prior to budget cuts made six years ago, core complete also included the launch of habitation and propulsion modules, a third Harmony-like node, and a crew return vehicle (CRV). The latter, the X-38 lifting body reentry spacecraft, was devised to transfer ISS residents home in the case of an emergency (a task now served by Russia's Soyuz capsules). The prototype X-38 CRVs that were built before the program was canceled are in storage but the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas has the next best thing for auction: a full scale replica. The 2,700 pound, 24 foot by 16 foot by 8 foot display was posted on the GSA Auction website for bids on Wednesday. Bidding for the X-38 (with base) ends 4:30 p.m. CT on October 31.
: Many know about the Star Wars lightsaber stashed on Discovery for the STS-120 mission (though they may not know of George Lucas' safety tip to the crew) but what of the other mementos that are packed in the Official Flight Kit (OFK), in the personal preference kits and flight data file slots? For example, do they know about the Panama Canal medals, Beethoven's sheet music or the baseball card for a boyhood hero? The crew of STS-120 spoke to collectSPACE about their own selections for the souvenirs they have for their supporters.
Orbital Technologies Corp., the Wisconsin company that developed the Astro Garden flown by teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan to grow basil on the space station, has been working with NASA since 2005 to develop lunar and Martian soil "simulants," fake Moon- and Mars-dust with similar qualities to the real dirt, for use by scientists and engineers designing equipment for the extraterrestrial surfaces. In response to requests by teachers, students and the public, ORBITEC is offering for the first time the Martian simulant for sale, with lunar simulant to follow in January. A two-pound (or less) sample of Mars similar to the Viking 1 landing site costs just $15, plus $7 shipping.
: In recognition of shuttle Discovery launching Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, Lucasfilm is collaborating with collectSPACE to gather questions via StarWars.com for the crews aboard the International Space Station. On Wednesday, the STS-120 and ISS Expedition 16 astronauts will take questions from the press and collectSPACE will choose from the submitted questions to ask the crew. The cutoff for queries is at 4:00 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, October 30.
: The Miami Dolphins football team will salute America's Heroes on November 11, Veteran's Day, at their game versus the Buffalo Bills. Among the honorees will be more than 400 NASA employees including Apollo astronauts Ed Mitchell and Al Worden. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF), in partnership with the Dolphins, is auctioning four VIP suite packages to fund the educations of the next generation of America's heroes. In addition to enjoying the game in the company of Mitchell and Worden, the auction tickets also offer pre-game access to the field and a night's hotel stay.
: Though shuttle Discovery is still in space on the STS-120 mission, the crew for its next flight to the International Space Station is readying for their launch. STS-124, scheduled for April, will carry the Pressurized Module and robotic arm of the Japanese Experiment Module, known as Kibo. The crew insignia for this mission, first seen publicly today, shows Discovery docked at the ISS with the station's robot arm grappling Kibo (represented by a module with the red and white flag of Japan across its side). The diamond-shape patch includes the astronauts' names along its border as well as the U.S. flag and STS-124 mission designation at its top, and the word Kibo in Japanese letters at its base.