: Space shuttle Discovery is set to lift off on its final flight this week, concluding a nearly 30-year legacy as NASA's most historic orbiter. The oldest flying and most-flown shuttle among NASA's fleet, Discovery's future fate is less certain. With funding a concern and decisions being tabled, Discovery's long-expected last landing at the Smithsonian is still up in the air, sources tell collectSPACE in this exclusive report.
: On Nov. 2, 2000 at 4:23 a.m. CST, the hatch leading into the Zvezda module opened, signifying the start of continuous human occupancy of the International Space Station (ISS). In the decade since, 196 individuals from more than 15 countries have lived and worked on the outpost, many leaving small tokens of themselves onboard. A retrospective gallery...
: Two men who helped define the shape of the Apollo moon landing program -- literally and figuratively -- passed away Sunday. Theodore Sorensen, 82, was top aide and speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy and advised him, among many other matters, on the decision to challenge the nation to send a man to the Moon. Joseph Gavin, 90, directed development of the Apollo Lunar Module at the Grumman Corporation, making Kennedy's goal of a manned moon landing possible.
: Packed aboard space shuttle Discovery for its final flight is a LEGO brick shuttle, launching a partnership between the toy company and NASA. The pre-built small shuttle will be followed-up next year with the delivery of several LEGO building sets to the International Space Station, where crew members will use the bricks to build a larger shuttle, satellites and a model of the orbiting lab itself (to be released in 2011 as part of the LEGO City line). NASA hopes the hands-on activities will inspire kids to become the next generation of space explorers.
: The committee that advises the U.S. Treasury on the design of U.S. coins and medals endorsed on Oct. 26 the artwork for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring Mercury astronaut John Glenn and Apollo 11 crewmates Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. Authorized by Congress last year, the "New Frontier" medal will depict the four astronauts on the front (obverse) and their respective spacecraft and destinations on the reverse. According to Coin World, the medal's front design was preferred by the astronauts, while the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) "dissented from the requested reverse," recommending another design.
: Inspired by the looming retirement of the space shuttle and created together with astronaut Buzz Aldrin "to keep space travel alive," the "New Destinations" exhibition by artist Romero Britto reflects on the achievements of NASA and the global future of space exploration. Debuting Thursday night at POP International Galleries in New York, Britto's "Destinations" is presented as 18 new works of art on canvas and new limited editions that will be offered for sale to support the USO.
: JAXA is preparing to launch a "special delivery" to the International Space Station in January, carried there by a "white stork." On Thursday, Japan's space agency announced its second H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) will be nicknamed "Kounotori," or "white stork," in reference to the unmanned cargo spacecraft's mission to deliver essential supplies to the station much like the bird conveys in popular imagery "an important thing (a baby, happiness, and other joyful things)." JAXA received more than 17,000 suggestions for the name through a contest.
: Etsy's contest for handmade 2D and 3D art inspired by the space shuttle, the aptly-titled Space Craft Contest, entered its semifinals Friday as voting began on 50 selected entries in each of three categories. Among the 2D original, 2D reproduction and 3D pieces are several by friends of this site, including cS member Dave Ginsberg's "Voyages of Discovery" digital space art and a "Galaxies and Rockets" western shirt created by Melissa Meek for her husband Jon, also a member. Etsy members can vote for their faves until Nov. 19. The top 20 in each category will enter the finals, which will be judged by Etsy and NASA representatives. In addition to possibly winning Etsy shopping sprees and a trip to a space shuttle launch, winners may see their artistic creations flown in space.
: The identity of one of two Chinese women recruited in May to be China's first female taikonaut in space was confirmed Sunday by a researcher who has been tracking China's efforts to select a female for its space program since 2004. Citing sources in China, Tony Quine identified People's Liberation Army Air Force transport pilot Captain Wang Yaping, 32, as training for a future spaceflight -- perhaps as soon as late 2012 -- at the Chinese Astronaut Training Centre near Beijing. The name of Wang's fellow female trainee and the identities of the five men training with them remain undisclosed.
: In celebration of Geography Awareness Week, astronaut Scott Kelly is holding a contest to find him, or more precisely, find where he is flying over. Onboard the International Space Station, Kelly will tweet from orbit photographs he takes of places on Earth. The first person to reply (via Twitter) with the correct location will win a print of that very same photo autographed by Kelly once he has returned to Earth. Kelly plans to continue the game for the duration of his flight.
: Last April, while still in space, Clay Anderson approved the design for an ornament showing him spacewalking during the then-ongoing STS-131 mission. Created by fellow Nebraska-native Gene Roncka as the second ornament in a series showcasing local history, the first also included the space shuttle as a tribute to the STS-117 flight that launched Anderson to the International Space Station. The endorsed-from-orbit artwork now ready as a 24-karat-gold-over-mirrored-brass sculpted ornament, Anderson will be signing his miniature self at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland on Saturday morning.
: Six candidates reported to Star City earlier this week for 18 months of training as prospective cosmonauts. Andrei Babkin and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov, chosen together in April, joined fellow RSC Energia trainees Svyatoslav Morozov and Ivan Vagner, along with Alexei Khomenchuk and Denis Matveyev representing the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, as selected last month. According to Roscosmos, the six will train through July 2012, enrolled in courses ranging from cosmonautics theory to aircraft piloting to the fundamentals of spaceship testing. They'll also acquire technical skills to analyze the results of experiments and to perform biological missions.
: The designs for the first two space-themed stamps to be released by the U.S. Postal Service in more than a decade were revealed last week with the publication of the USPS's annual report. The pair -- or "se-tenant" -- shows first American astronaut Alan Shepard wearing his Project Mercury spacesuit and NASA's MESSENGER probe orbiting the planet Mercury.
Expedition 25 crew members Doug Wheelock, Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin returned to Earth on Thursday evening, marking the end of their 163 days in space, of which 161 were spent aboard the International Space Station. The trio undocked Soyuz TMA-19 from the orbiting lab at 7:23 p.m. CST and landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 10:46 p.m. (10:46 a.m. Friday Kazakhstan time). Their departure marked the start of Expedition 26, led by commander Scott Kelly and flight engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka.