: The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, a non-profit raising funds for exceptional college students, will conclude its first public art exhibit over the next seven days by auctioning 22 of its 35 uniquely-decorated space shuttle statues. The eight foot orbiters were displayed near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida since last year as part of the "Shuttles Orbiting the Space Coast" tour. Now together at NASA's visitor center, online bidding kicks off Thursday at 8 a.m. CDT leading to the Foundation's "Final Destination Reception" to be held one week from today. Astronauts will oversee the auction and have added their autographs to some of the statues.
: On the same day that moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and astronaut Mike Fincke were set to take part in a ticker tape parade for Buzz Lightyear following his return from the International Space Station, NASA and Disney announced a contest for kids to design the mission patch for the record-setting space ranger. The winning design will fly to space and the winning child and up to four family members will receive a vacation at Walt Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
: The patch for the next Russian spacecraft to launch a crew to the International Space Station was revealed last Tuesday during the run-up to the most recent Soyuz to do the same. Like the crews of all three capsules now docked with the ISS, TMA-17 commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineers T.J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi chose the art for the basis of their Soyuz patch from designs submitted by children. For the first time though, two kids' entries were selected: Oleg Golovin from Russia and Dong Yue from China. Their art, the second and third place choices for Soyuz TMA-16, will fly as merged on one insignia on TMA-17 in December.
: A member of NASA's largest class of astronauts and the first of Argentinean descent to be chosen to fly in space, Fernando "Frank" Caldeiro died Saturday, October 3, after a two and a half year battle with brain cancer. Caldeiro never flew in space but as an astronaut, helped prepare modules for launch to the International Space Station and high-altitude research experiments for flights on-board NASA's WB-57 aircraft.
: NASA's first flight test under the Constellation Program intended to replace the space shuttle and launch crews beyond Earth orbit, Ares I-X is scheduled to fly unmanned on October 27, but NASA has opened an opportunity whereby you and all who desire can stowaway for the ride. The space agency is collecting 60 second (or less) digital videos that complete the phrase "Space exploration is important because..." to be recorded on a DVD and then flown aboard the Ares I-X flight. NASA has also debuted an "augmented reality" feature, where on the same myexploration site set-up for video uploads, you can manipulate a virtual model of Ares I-X in your hands.
: Just two months into their two years of training, NASA's 2009 class of astronaut candidates, including five trainees from Canada and Japan, are continuing the traditions started by the 19 "ascan" groups that came before them. Their class nickname assigned by the previous class (as is customary) and their class photo taken (but not yet released), the 14 candidates are also in the final stages of creating their class patch. "We started working on [the] insignia via email before all of us arrived in Houston," shared ascan Mark Vande Hei in an e-mail to collectSPACE. "We are waiting for [its] final approval."
: NASA's Lunar CRater Observing & Sensing Satellite impacted the Moon this morning in hopes of kicking up evidence of water ice at the lunar south pole. Though the impacts -- a Centaur rocket body struck the surface as LCROSS collected data prior to its own impact about four minutes later -- seem to have proceeded as planned, the expected flash and plume weren't immediately apparent from on-board camera views nor by ground observations. Early data analysis however, confirmed the Centaur's impact and its resulting crater.
: A watch that was flown to the Moon, a misprinted U.S. space stamp and an eight-foot orbiter signed by 21 astronauts each topped the bids at one of a trio of auctions, each offering space-related memorabilia and artifacts, held this past week. The Rolex GMT-Master Chronometer from the personal collection of the late Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans sold for $131,450 during Heritage Auction Galleries' Thursday sale in Dallas. The double-hologram 2000 "Landing on the Moon" United States stamp sold on Wednesday for $7,605 at Regency- Superior Galleries in Beverly Hills. And the shuttle statue painted by artist Josh Di Rocco titled "Skies of Tomorrow" led the fleet of Shuttles Orbiting the Space Coast with its sale for $8,050 at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's charity auction held last night at Kennedy Space Center.
: Six months and two weeks after launching to the space station, Soyuz TMA-14 returned to Earth on Saturday evening, landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan. On-board were ISS Expedition 20 commander Gennady Padalka and flight engineer Mike Barratt, as well as first Canadian space flight participant Guy Laliberté, the former acrobat co-founder of Cirque du Soleil and the One Drop Foundation. Padalka, making his third return from space, now ranks sixth worldwide for time orbiting the Earth at 586 days. Before departing, Padalka transferred command of the International Space Station to Frank De Winne, the first European astronaut to lead.
NASA's Johnson Space Center director Mike Coats was at Rice University's stadium Saturday, where 47 years ago U.S. President John F. Kennedy challenged the country to "choose the Moon". "Today, that challenge has come full circle, for the Ambassador of Exploration Award that I present to Rice University today is the same one which was awarded posthumously to President Kennedy, and contains a piece of the Moon, which would not be here to honor today were it not for his visionary leadership," remarked Coats during the Rice vs. Navy halftime ceremony. Rice will display the award with its embedded lunar sample at Fondren Library.
: Two men who struggled to keep the Apollo 13 spacecraft's control systems alive recently lost their own lives to illnesses. Briggs "Buck" Willoughby and Gary Coen, who died Sep. 8 and Oct. 6 respectively, served as Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) officers in NASA's Houston Mission Control. Coen went on to become a flight director ("Gray Flight") and led as chief of the Flight Director Office before retiring from NASA in the early 1990s. After Apollo, Willoughby moved to Alaska, where he led a successful career with the FAA.
: The first of NASA's data relay satellites is set to be decommissioned before the end of the month, having served for more than 25 years. Launched April 4, 1983 onboard STS-6, the maiden mission of shuttle Challenger, Tracking and Data Relay Satellite -1 (TDRS-1) almost didn't make it into geosynchronous orbit when its upper stage didn't fire after being deployed from the orbiter. TDRS-1 was saved by using its tiny one-pound thrusters to nudge it over the course of several months. In the years since, communication equipment failures have hobbled TDRS-1's ability to relay data back to the ground, leading engineers to the decision to park the satellite in a higher orbit after shutting down its systems. TDRS-1 was the first to enable communications with spacecraft orbiting over the Indian Ocean, which in turn permitted for the first medical video conference to be held from the South Pole.
: Astronaut mission mementos and personal equipment are the focus of the latest online guide by space memorabilia collector Chris Spain, whose previous sites have served to illustrate crew patches and autopen autographs. This new effort, which is a work in progress, seeks to document the (primarily) Apollo-era flown artifacts that were later sold at auction, offering well-documented examples that have not been cross-referenced until now. Among the memorabilia that Spain's site tracks are the astronauts' cutlery, writing instruments, tool kits, sunglasses, and OFK/PPK items.
: Sunday's Atlas V launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California marked the first use of that rocket from the west coast for the U.S. Air Force; the first launch since the September 9, 2009 50th anniversary of the first Atlas to liftoff from VAFB; and the 600th mission for the Atlas rocket since its first flight as a missile in 1957. This most recent launch was in support of the Air Force's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program but the Atlas family of rockets may be best known for the Mercury astronauts' orbital launches during the 1960s, and for lofting probes including Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
: Sweden has honored its first astronaut in space, Christer Fuglesang, with the release of five postage stamps depicting scenes from his 2006 first trip to orbit onboard STS-116. The triangular stamps, which were released September 24 in conjunction with their National Stamp Day, were designed using NASA photos of Fuglesang taken as he was working outside the International Space Station. For his part, Fuglesang gave feedback as to the stamps' design and contributed to their packaging. "They come in a folder with text explanations," he told collectSPACE in August, "and I wrote that text."
: Four small soil samples collected 40 years ago by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin have been lying for the past 32 years in a landfill, discarded accidentally, according to research done by Cleo Luff, a graduate student at the University of Phoenix. Studying under former NASA Office of Inspector General special agent Joseph Gutheinz, Ms. Luff was assigned to find the Apollo 11 lunar sample display gifted to Ireland by the U.S. in 1970. Tracking the acrylic button-encased and plaque-mounted presentation to the Dunsink Observatory near the city of Dublin, Luff learned that a fire in Oct. 1977 had destroyed the room where the lunar samples were on display and subsequently, they were tossed with the other rubble. "It's in the Finglas dump," former broadcaster RTÉ space correspondent Leo Enright wrote in a message that was forwarded to Luff by Matthew Parkes at the National Museum of Ireland, where the country's similar Apollo 17 goodwill moon rock is displayed. "Only moon rock I know of to end up in a municipal tiphead," added Enright.
: For the first time in more than a quarter century, a new vehicle is sitting at Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Ares I-X flight test vehicle arrived at the pad atop an Apollo-era crawler-transporter at about 6:45 a.m. CDT Tuesday. At 327 feet, Ares I-X is the third tallest rocket in history (after the U.S. Saturn V and Soviet N-1) and is the largest in use today. Scheduled to launch at 7 a.m. CDT October 27. the Ares I-X test launch will provide NASA an early opportunity to prove hardware, models, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I crew vehicle.
: Famed aviator Amelia Earhart's personal photographer had originally been slated to accompany her on her 1937 attempt to become the first female pilot to fly around the world. Instead, Albert Bresnik's photographs would be among the last taken of Earhart before her disappearance over the Pacific Ocean. Bresnik's astronaut grandson has chosen to pay tribute to his grandfather in a way that also honors Earhart's legacy.
A biopic based on the 2005 authorized biography of astronaut Neil Armstrong is moving forward, a source tells collectSPACE. Renewing its option to adapt historian James Hansen's biography of the "First Man," Universal Studios has assigned screenwriter Mike Rich ("Finding Forrester", "The Rookie", "Radio") to rework Nicole Perlman's completed screenplay. Producer Wyck Godfrey and his company Temple Hill Productions ("Twilight", "New Moon") were said to now be attached to the film. Hansen has also been named as a co-producer.
: Though Ares I-X has no crew onboard, nor an official payload (other than the 700+ sensors recording data during the 28-mile high suborbital flight) that has not stopped NASA and ATK, the prime contractor, from making room for a few commemoratives. Stowed in three shoebox-size packages are mementos for the team who made possible NASA's first test flight of the Constellation program, while both the inside and outside of the rocket is adorned by markings celebrating their work.
: Space shuttle astronauts Janice Voss and Roy Bridges on Wednesday gave over their personal papers and memorabilia to their alma mater Purdue University to be added to the school's flight archives. Bridges' log books, flight notes and photographs together with Voss' childhood report cards and scrapbooks will join the personal archives from fellow astronaut-alumni Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, and Eugene Cernan, the most recent person to do so. Purdue, which has had 23 of its students later become astronauts, will maintain Voss' and Bridges' papers for study through its Libraries Division of Archives and Special Collections.
: Prolific author, journalist and comic strip artist Wes Oleszewski realized quickly that he had some work to do as he watched NASA's Ares I-X rocket rollout to the launch pad October 20. A week later, by the time he attended the Ares I-X launch, his flying Ares I-X model rocket kit had been corrected. Pre-flight illustrations had shown the words "United States" stenciled in black along the length of the Ares I-X first stage; in reality, the letters "USA" appeared in red. Oleszewski's kit -- the only one to replicate Ares I-X, flying or not, is now available for those who desire to carry out their own test flight or who wish to display an Ares I-X model in the configuration that it flew.