: A pair of unpiloted spacecraft linked up with their respective on orbit outposts Wednesday, marking a return for one and a first for the other. At 6:41 a.m. CDT, Russia's Progress M-13M docked with the International Space Station, delivering to the crew their first resupply since the the prior cargo craft was lost during launch in September. Then at 1:35 p.m. CDT, Shenzhou 8 connected with the Tiangong-1 lab module, accomplishing China's first docking and making the country the third after the United States and Russia to achieve the orbital feat.
: On Tuesday, President Barack Obama met with the crew of the final space shuttle mission inside the Oval Office at the White House. The four STS-135 astronauts, Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Rex Walheim, and Sandy Magnus, together with the director of flight crew operations Janet Kavandi presented the President with his own NASA flight jacket decorated with the final flight's and other missions' patches as well as an official name tag.
: China on Thursday celebrated its first ever docking in space by opening a post office. But this isn't like your local letter drop. Allocated its own zip code, the "China Post Space Office" has domain over Beijing Aerospace City — 213 miles over and above the city and the rest of the planet to be precise. The postmaster for this orbital office? A taikonaut, of course.
: Last week, the retired and current astronauts who flew onboard the first and last space shuttle missions came together at NASA's Johnson Space Center to pose for a series of historic photos. "Of all the thousands of pictures that we're going to walk out of this place with, this is really the only one I wanted," Chris Ferguson, STS-135 commander, said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. His three crewmates, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim joined with STS-1's John Young and Bob Crippen for the photo op.
Phobos-Grunt lifts off for Mars' moon but fails to leave Earth orbit
: Russia attempted Tuesday to launch its first planetary mission since failing to send a spacecraft to Mars 15 years ago. The Phobos-Grunt probe lifted off atop a Zenit-2SB booster for the larger of Mars' two moons Phobos, but after separating from the rocket the probe did not fire its engine required to place it on an interplanetary trajectory. Mission managers are now trying to assess the probe's health in hopes of restarting its departure. Aimed at returning to Earth a dust sample from the Martian moon, Phobos-Grunt was also to deploy a small Chinese satellite and fly a capsule filled with microbes to study the effects of the round-trip journey on terrestrial life forms.
: Three Expedition 29 crewmembers for the International Space Station took off from "Gagarin's Start" at the Baikonur Cosmodrome Sunday night. Flying through the falling snow, the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft soared to space with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin along with NASA astronaut Daniel Burbank and a little red "Angry Bird." The launch marked the first crewed flight since the loss of the Progress resupply craft in August and since the end of the last space shuttle mission in July. TMA-22 is also the last TMA-class capsule; it is being replaced by the TMA-M.
: Mark Kelly's "deeply personal account" of his wife's, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords', recovery after being shot last Jan. 8, "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope," hits bookstores' shelves on Tuesday accompanied by a number of TV interviews and magazine cover stories. The four-time space shuttle astronaut who in July landed Endeavour for the final time, appeared on ABC News' 20/20 on Monday night as Giffords gave her first TV interview since being injured. People magazine devotes its cover to the couple, and Kelly is on the cover of Esquire's December issue as one of the 20 "Americans of the Year."
: NASA is now recruiting for its 21st group of astronaut candidates. Between nine and 15 "ascans" will be selected for the 2013 class. The first astronauts chosen in the post-space shuttle era, the "right stuff" sought by NASA includes the ability to master a variety of space station skills, Russian language proficiency and the physical measurements to fit on board Russian Soyuz, commercial vehicles and NASA capsules.
: The first American to orbit the Earth and the crew of the first moon landing were awarded by Congress on Wednesday with its highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and John Glenn were each presented with the "New Frontier" medals, which featured their likenesses and scenes from their missions. The U.S. Mint is offering to the public bronze replicas of the medals awarded to the astronauts in 1.5-inch and 3-inch editions.
: NASA moved its 390 foot tall, 6.75 million pound mobile launcher (ML) Wednesday on its first trip to Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Originally built to support the now-canceled Ares crew launch vehicle, NASA plans to modify the ML for its heavy lift Space Launch System (SLS). Wednesday's rollout was staged to check the platform and tower for its compatibility with the recently "cleaned" launch pad. The ML will stay at 39B for two weeks and then will roll back the 4.2 miles to its worksite to undergo more evaluations and be modified.
: China's first spacecraft to achieve docking landed in Inner Mongolia Thursday morning, its 17 day mission complete. The Shenzhou 8 capsule flew unmanned but as was revealed after its touchdown, two spacesuited mannequins were strapped in for the ride. Also onboard were life science experiments for China and Germany and three postcards – the first mail to be delivered by China's new space post office established during the mission. China plans two more Shenzhou flights destined for the Tiangong-1 module, at least one crewed.
: NASA began this week taking apart a full-size mockup of the space shuttle in preparation for it being shipped to Seattle's The Museum of Flight. The Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT) at Johnson Space Center in Houston is now in three sections after 30 years being used as a test bed for shuttle upgrades and to train astronauts. The oldest and largest of NASA's shuttle trainers, the FFT will be the centerpiece of The Museum of Flight's "Spaceflight Academy" exhibit opening in 2012.
: After 167 days, 6 hours and 13 minutes off the Earth, Russia's Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft landed Monday with Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, NASA astronaut Michael Fossum and JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa. The three Expedition 29 crew mates, who undocked from the International Space Station three-and-a-half hours prior, touched down in frigid, snowy conditions on the steppe of Kazakhstan at 8:26 p.m. CST (8:26 a.m. Tuesday local time, 33 minutes before sunrise). The trio's departure from the ISS began Expedition 30 with NASA commander Daniel Burbank and Roscosmos flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin aboard.
: The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City was given title Tuesday to shuttle Enterprise. The NASA approach and landing test orbiter is now the property of the aircraft carrier turned museum. The Intrepid used the title transfer announcement to also reveal its plan to display Enterprise aboard its flight deck (under a protective covering) starting next summer. The public will be able to visit the shuttle on Intrepid as the museum works to build a more permanent exhibition and educational center to highlight the shuttle.
: A missing patch in the puzzle, the International Space Station's Expedition 33 crew insignia – seen here for the first time online – follows earlier emblem releases for Expeditions 34, 35 and 36. Expedition 33, which will start aboard the space station next September, is led by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and includes flight engineers Kevin Ford, Akihiko Hoshide, Yuri Malenchenko, Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin.
: Shoppers out looking for a toy version of "Curiosity," the rover flying on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission to the red planet, will find their only option is to build their own. That's what Stephen Pakbaz did. A mechanical engineer who was involved in some of the design and testing of the actual MSL spacecraft at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pakbaz built his scale Curiosity out of LEGO bricks and hopes the toy company considers producing it as one of their commercially-released sets.
: An Atlas V rocket lifted off on Saturday with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, beginning the spacecraft's and its Curiosity rover's 8.5 month, 352 million mile trip to the red planet. Targeted to land on Aug. 6, Curiosity was outfitted with the most advanced science gear ever flown to Mars to learn if conditions there can support microbial life. Of much lesser importance but also on board, Curiosity is decked out with its own autograph collection, including the President of the United States and the young girl who named it — and has the ability to "sign" its maker's signature on the surface.
: Work got underway Tuesday clearing a path at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida for the arrival of space shuttle Atlantis. First to go (by way of two large cranes and a ground transporter) are the two solid rocket boosters and external tank that were prominently exhibited in the center's Shuttle Plaza. Over the next few days, they'll be trucked, piece by piece, to KSC's transfer and disposal area to wait for their next destination to be determined. Ground breaking for the new Atlantis display is set for early 2012; the shuttle itself will arrive later that year and go on exhibit in July 2013.