: Over the past half century, NASA has been the inspiration for movies, music, technological innovation and many collectibles. It should be possible then to identify space history milestones by the memorabilia that was annually created as an outcome.
: Gas rates may be up and the stock market down, but at least on Tuesday, the price of a two-ounce bottle of brandy was just shy of $18,000. Of course, it wasn't just any old bottle of grape brandy; rather, it was part of Jim Lovell's Christmas dinner aboard Apollo 8. Lovell saved the Coronet Brandy as a memento from his 1968 mission, the first manned flight to circle the Moon. The brandy was among 236 space artifacts offered Tuesday by Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries. The sale recorded a total of more than $800,000, with the bids for astronauts' flown checklists and cue cards the highest.
: At the center of the Soyuz TMA-13 crew emblem is the number '100', which in turn, is itself the center of a debate. The three digits were meant by the designer, Soyuz TMA-13 commander Yuri Lonchakov, to mark a milestone: the 100th Soyuz to carry people. One problem: his flight may not be the hundredth.
: Unlike other early satellites such as Sputnik and Explorer, Vanguard I, launched 50 years ago, still exists. Orbiting 400 miles above Earth (at its closest), the fourth man-made moon is now the oldest in space, which makes Vanguard I pretty much the ultimate relic of the space race. Until such time that someone can retrieve the original though, curators and collectors will be left chasing the next best thing, which on Friday took the form of a full scale model made from Vanguard I's leftover parts. Regency-Superior Galleries recorded $18,000 as a high bid for the replica, surpassed only by Apollo artifacts.
: Saturday marks 40 years since the liftoff of the first manned Apollo mission, Apollo 7. To honor the anniversary and the other missions' to come, NASA has debuted a new series of animated comics celebrating the achievements of its first Moon program. Available on NASA's website, the Apollo comics are part of an interactive video and photo feature.
: To complement their 'Peanuts Celebrates NASA's 50 Years' ornament recently released, Hallmark Cards has produced at least two other collectibles featuring Charles Schulz' comic strip beagle as an astronaut. The products, including a 6-inch (seated) plush doll and ceramic salt and pepper shaker, are tagged as part of the set commemorating the U.S space program.
: The International Space Station's 18th Expedition got off to a start Sunday morning with the 2:01 a.m. CT launch of Soyuz TMA-13 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazahkstan. Flying on-board the 100th (maybe) Soyuz to carry a crew, cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov and astronaut Mike Fincke will stay on the ISS as the core of Expedition 18. Seated to their right, Richard Garriott will reside on the station for nine days as the sixth privately-funded spaceflight participant. The son of Skylab veteran Owen Garriott, Richard Garriott is the first, second generation American in space (and the first collectSPACE member to liftoff to orbit after joining this website in 2002!)
: 'Peter Pan' boarded the International Space Station at 3:26 a.m. CDT Tuesday, reporting home, "I can fly!". Better known as Richard Garriott, son of Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott and the sixth privately-funded spaceflight participant, Richard arrived on Soyuz TMA-13 with Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke and flight engineer Yuri Lonchakov. Over the next ten days, Garriott will conduct science and take part in activities reminiscent of his father's pioneering work on the United States' first station and on STS-9 / Spacelab-1.
: On Wednesday, Bonhams auction house sold a collection of rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun's papers for $132,000. The 35 diagrams, letters, and sketches guided the creation of illustrations that accompanied a series of magazine articles published under the headline "Man Will Conquer Space Soon!". The series, which ran in Collier's between 1952 and 1954, was noted for introducing von Braun's space exploration plans.
: Continuing their golden anniversary celebration, NASA Wednesday premiered the 90-minute documentary "50 Years of Exploration". Hosted by astronaut Neil Armstrong, the NASA TV production features film and video highlights of the agency's first half century. Included are interviews with figures from NASA's five decades including astronauts and mission managers.
: With the son of a Skylab astronaut currently orbiting the planet, the public is being re-exposed to the history of the United States' first space station thirty five years later. Soon two books about the outpost will make their long-awaited debut while offering the first firsthand published accounts about the men who lived and worked onboard. "Around the World in 84 Days" by David Shayler is the authorized biography of Skylab 4 commander Jerry Carr. "Homesteading Space" by David Hitt, Owen Garriott and Joseph Kerwin includes the diary written by Alan Bean in-flight. Garriott's son, Richard took with him to orbit several copies of Homesteading's cover.
: Neil Armstrong, Bill Anders, Wayne Newton, and both President W. and H. W. Bush were among those who relayed their congratulations to Walter Cunningham on the 40th anniversary of his 1968 Apollo 7 mission this past Friday at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, TX. Joining them, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin awarded the crew: Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Cunningham, with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
: India on Tuesday launched its first unmanned lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1 at 7:52 p.m. CDT. The 68th "Moon craft" (as its name means in ancient Sanskrit) in world history, Chandrayaan-1 carries five instruments for India, two for NASA, and one each from Britain, Sweden, Germany, and Bulgaria. After 17 days raising its orbit around the Earth, Chandrayaan-1 will enter lunar orbit to begin a two-year mapping mission.
: Endeavour's path to the space station took a lateral detour Thursday as the STS-126 launch vehicle moved three miles closer to lifting off on Nov. 14. Rolling from Pad 39B, where it was prepared as the emergency rescue orbiter for the now postponed STS-125 mission, Endeavour rolled around to 39A from where it will launch. The move marked the third time in history that the space shuttle has moved between pads (following STS-35 and STS-61), and the first-time trading from Pad 39B to A.
: After landing Thursday at 10:37 p.m. CDT on the steppes of Kazakhstan, Sergei Volkov and Richard Garriott called their dads. The first via satellite phone, the later in-person ("Hey Papa-san"), both had good reason beyond bolstering their father-son relationships: their fathers were spacemen too. The younger Volkov and Garriott, who returned with Oleg Kononenko on-board Soyuz TMA-12, are the first second generation space explorers. Alexander Volkov was a three time Russian cosmonaut; Owen Garriott flew twice as an American astronaut. Their sons shared ten days on-board the International Space Station before their return to earth.
: Beginning Monday, kids ordering meals from Chick-fil-A, the second biggest chicken-based U.S. fast-food chain, will find one of four parts to a snap-together space station toy with their chicken nuggets and waffle potato fries. The toys, which come with decals and space exploration-theme collectors' cards, include the station's living quarters, command module, telescope, and transport shuttle. Though the plastic outpost bears little to any relation to the actual International Space Station, their inclusion in Chick-fil-A's Kid's Meals (along with admission discount coupons) are designed to promote the real NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex in Titusville, Fla.
: The New Horizons spacecraft will encounter Pluto in July 2015 carrying nine mementos from Earth. One in particular, a 1991 stamp labeling the planet "not yet explored" served as a motivator for principal investigator Alan Stern and his team. Stern, who spoke with collectSPACE, plans to petition the US Postal Service to update the philatelic record by releasing a New Horizons stamp when they flyby Pluto. "I think it would be really something if on the day of the encounter, when the first image showing we made it gets back to the ground, if the post office would cancel that stamp," explained Stern.
: When Bob Thirsk flew to orbit for the first time in June 1996, he and his STS-78 crewmates turned to Tsimshian Indian artist Bill Helin for both his personal and the mission patch designs. Helin's insignia celebrated the flight while featuring the art and mythology of Canada's West Coast native cultures in recognition of Thirsk's nationality. Helin is now once again collaborating with Thirsk, this time in support of his spring 2009 mission aboard the International Space Station. Six months in the making, Helin's design for Thirsk's personal patch depicts the orbiting outpost as a mighty thunderbird.
: Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, announced recently the "Let's Design a Logo for Soyuz TMA-14 Crew" contest, soliciting children's drawings for the March 2009 flight to the International Space Station. Open to children ages 6 to 15 living around the world, the contest's winning design will be sewn on the spacesuits that will be worn by Gennady Padalka, Michael Barratt and Charles Simonyi. The top three winners will be invited to the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the crew's launch.
: "They are going to die when they die," says Dr. Steven Squyres of Spirit and Opportunity, the two Mars rovers under his control as principal investigator. "At this point, every day is a gift." The team behind Phoenix, who may have heard the last from their lander as the sun sets on the five month mission, knows that all too well. Squyres, who never expected his five years on Mars says even when the end is in sight, death on Mars comes on its own. "They do not have an off switch. If you build a piece of hardware with an off switch, you might hit that off switch when you don't mean to; you don't want to do that."