: Ever since Pete Conrad and his Skylab I (SL-2) crew made a trio of spacewalks to save the United States' first space station (damaged during its launch in 1973) astronauts have been donning space suits to succeed when their missions have gone awry. On Saturday, STS-120 mission specialists Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock may do just that on a daring repair of the International Space Station's torn solar array. Not only will they not have trained for such a fix, but they will also employ a method never before tried: using a 50-foot boom designed for the shuttle in combination with the ISS's own 50-foot robotic arm. Their success however may hinge on just six cufflinks devised on the ground and built in space.
: Saturday's spacewalk to repair the International Space Station's torn solar array using six five handcrafted "cuff links" was successful: the power-providing wing is now fully deployed and tracking the sun. Spacewalkers Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock were outside the outpost for seven hours and 19 minutes, ranking Parazynski as the fifth in the world in cumulative spacewalk time (spread over seven EVAs). His trophy for the effort was a small segment of frayed wire that he was instructed to trim from the array's hinge. "It will look good in a shadow box someday," he radioed to flight controllers as he stowed the clippings in a trash bag. After returning inside, Parazynski showed off his souvenir via video sent down to earth. His memento may be momentarily his own though, as station engineers are likely to need it for study.
: HBO released on Tuesday on DVD "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon," director Mark Cowen's 2005 IMAX movie produced, co-written and narrated by Tom Hanks. The widescreen home version of the 40 min., 3-D large format film is limited to two-dimensions but includes a bonus: an interactive "Lunar Exploration Command Center" focusing on all of the Apollo flights with photographs, CGI and live- action renditions of the lunar missions, as well as a video diary, a trivia game and maps of the moon. The DVD also features voiceover accounts from astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, as well as input from celebrities John Travolta, Matt Damon, Paul Newman and more. Priced at $19.98, the DVD is coded for Region 1 (U.S. and Canada).
: The 120th space shuttle mission came to an end today in Florida as STS-120 commander Pam Melroy brought Discovery to a safe touchdown at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility at 12:01:16 p.m. CST. Flying for a total of 15 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes and 55 seconds, the STS-120 mission is the 9th longest shuttle flight in the program's history, the 66th to land in Florida, 51st to land at KSC during the day and the 23rd shuttle mission to have gone to the International Space Station. The landing was also the first since 2003 to reenter from orbit on a path that took Discovery directly over the United States. During their time aloft, the crew of STS-120 crew attached the Harmony multi-port module to the station, repositioned a truss segment to its permanent berth and repaired a solar array during a daring spacewalk.
: In the same spirit as Scott's souvenir, George "Zambo" Zamka also brought home a memento from his 15 day flight aboard space shuttle Discovery. Speaking at his and his crewmates' Texas homecoming on Thursday, the STS-120 pilot revealed a cufflink tab like those he and Peggy Whitson crafted and were then installed by spacewalker Scott Parazynski to repair a torn solar array. Zamka said he was keeping this memento as a reminder of his NASA coworkers support.
: Orbiting the Moon just 62 miles above its surface, JAXA's Kaguya probe has been sending back the first high definition images of our natural satellite. On Tuesday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency revealed the first HDTV views of the Earth rising above (and setting below) the Moon's horizon, evoking an earlier set of photos captured nearly 39 years ago in 1968 by the crew of Apollo 8. Through a partnership with JAXA and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation NHK, Discovery Canada will debut on Wednesday Kaguya's high definition footage to North American audiences during a scheduled 30-minute special "Return to the Moon: The First Images" to air on the network's Discovery HD channel. Among the special's guests who will comment on the imagery, will be Alan Bean, who in 1969 became the fourth person on the Moon. Roberta Bondar, another astronaut, will be featured during a Discovery Channel pre-show to air before the HD.
: It isn't known how many of the discs were made though it's a fair estimate that including the one dropped on the Moon, there may be fewer than two dozen in existence. Thus, the one recently added to Tahir Rahman's collection was rare but that was about all he could learn about it in books. So he wrote his own; in "We Came In Peace For All Mankind: The Untold Story Of The Apollo 11 Silicon Disc," Rahman reveals the disc, both its history and its goodwill messages' contents.
: NASA today confirmed earlier reports that astronaut Joan Higginbotham has left the agency to accept a position in the private sector. A mission specialist on Discovery's STS-116 flight last December, Higginbotham had been set to return to the International Space Station in September 2008 on Endeavour with the STS-126 crew. Filling her seat will be Donald Pettit, who five years ago lived for five-months on the space station.
: "When we think about Thanksgiving, we think about the Pilgrims coming to the New World, expanding their knowledge of their universe," radioed U.S. astronaut Dan Tani from aboard the space station earlier this week. We also think about food... as Tani and his commander, Peggy Whitson, demonstrated with space food examples from their Thanksgiving menu.
: Kenneth Kleinknecht, manager of NASA's Mercury Project Office from 1962 to 1963, passed away November 20 in Colorado. A 22 year veteran of the space program, Kleinknecht went on to oversee NASA's advanced manned programs, working as Gemini deputy manager; Apollo's manager of the command and service modules; and Skylab Program manager. Before departing from NASA to work for Martin Marietta in 1981, Kleinknecht led Spacelab development as Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Flight, and oversaw Columbia readied for launch as vehicle manager.
: The STS-122 crew may give new meaning to the phrase "space race" when they launch aboard the shuttle Atlantis next month. In addition to their primary cargo, ESA's new Columbus laboratory, the astronauts will also have three green flags commemorating NASCAR's 50th run of the Daytona 500 and NASA's 50th anniversary. Two of the flags are to be presented to the winner of the race and to the Speedway. NASA is keeping the third flag for its 50 year celebration.
: Although they were designed to protect the hands of humankind's first moonwalkers, the gloves worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission are now threatened by the passage of time. The pressure gloves' neoprene rubber is known to disintegrate faster than most materials found in other space hardware. Displayed at the Kansas Cosmosphere since June 1999, the two sets of gloves will be returned to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum by year's end to be kept for preservation in their vaults. Per the Cosmosphere, the final day for the public to see the gloves is December 10.
: NASA will honor Gene Kranz on December 6 for his service to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The former Flight Director will be presented with NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award, which features an acrylic-encased sample of Apollo moon rock. Kranz will bestow the award for public display to his high school, Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio.