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December 2, 2004 / 2:10 p.m. CT
Bottle (rocket) in a (space-) ship: The rules of the Ansari X Prize required that to be eligible a spacecraft had to carry three people or a single person and equivalent ballast of the missing two. For their prize- winning flights, Mojave Aerospace Ventures chose the latter for SpaceShipOne. To make up the weight, team members, at the direction of Burt Rutan, were invited to stow mementos onboard with the reported condition that they would not be offered for sale. Very few exceptions were made, leaving SS1-flown artifacts in high demand. Beginning tomorrow morning, collectors will have their first chance to bid on one of the rare permitted sales to benefit the Lindbergh Foundation. Through eBay, artist Erik Lindbergh, grandson to the aviator, will offer one of six Retro Bronze Mini Rockets to have flown in space.

December 2, 2004 / 2:31 p.m. CT
Miles and miles: Spacecraft Films, a publisher of DVDs on the history of space exploration, has now created new digital film-to-tape transfers of over a quarter- million feet of historical film documenting America's space history. As of December of 2004 the effort has resulted in the digital preservation of over 120 hours of material, primarily on NASA's manned space exploration history. As the first to distribute the Apollo moonwalks and onboard films on DVD, the Spacecraft Films line now constitutes the most complete record of space exploration video available to the general public.

December 3, 2004 / 9:59 a.m. CT
Last man from the Moon: The longest serving member of the active astronaut corps, and the only one to have walked on the Moon, is stepping down. John Young will retire from NASA this month, 42 years after having been selected as an astronaut. A veteran of six spaceflights including the first Gemini mission, the fifth Apollo moon landing (he was the ninth moonwalker) and the first launch of Space Shuttle Columbia, Young most recently served as NASA Johnson Space Center's Associate Director, Technical. A special celebration in Young's honor will be held next week in Washington, DC.

December 4, 2004 / 11:03 a.m. CT
T-10 months: Simon & Schuster, Inc. has set a launch date of October, 2005 for the release of James Hansen's First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. As described in their catalog, the 608-page authorized bio will include 16 pages of black-and-white photographs and will list for $28. In the hardcover, "Hansen addresses the rumors that have swirled around Armstrong for thirty-six years and provides a penetrating exploration of American hero worship - of astronauts and Armstrong in particular."

December 5, 2004 / 5:22 p.m. CT
Ramon theft: Thieves in Israel broke into the home of Rona Ramon Friday evening, taking items that belonged to her husband, STS-107 Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, reports the Jerusalem Post. A small Sony- brand silver laptop stolen with other personal effects was described by Mrs. Ramon as containing correspondance from NASA and "files and documents that Ilan wrote and composed for us." She told Israel Radio she did not think the culprits were aware of whose house they were in nor the value of the laptop. "The computer's financial value is meaningless when compared to the emotional value it has for the family," Ramon said. Police are investigating.

December 5, 2004 / 11:58 p.m. CT
Best. Apollo. Ever. Spaceflori introduced the Ultimate Apollo Poster today, a 20 by 25" presentation that has attached to it 11 flown artifact fragments - two stained with moondust - from each of the crewed Apollo missions. Also new are two additions to their popular line of 8 by 10" displays: Vostok 5 and Shuttle Columbia. All three are available now through buySPACE or Spaceflori.

December 7, 2004 / 9:53 a.m. CT
Tune-in tonight: This evening, beginning at 7pm CT, NASA will honor John Young upon the conclusion of his 42-year career at the agency. The tribute, to be hosted at the National Air and Space Museum but closed to the public, will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

December 8, 2004 / 12:01 a.m. CT
One day remaining: Based on our server referrer logs (the record of where visitors to this website click to arrive here), we know that there are readers who have accepted our Challenge and have been campaigning to drive traffic our way (in exchange of course, for prizes such as a membership in the Astronaut Autograph Club). You've done a great job so far but to be eligible, you now need to register your entries before midnight on Thursday.

December 8, 2004 / 12:21 p.m. CT
Anniversary edition: Universal Studios has announced plans to release a two-disc tenth anniversary edition of Apollo 13 on March 29, 2005. The new set will include the theatrical version, features and extras identical to the Collector's Edition DVD sold in 2002. The second disc will have the 24-minute shorter IMAX edition that was screened in large format theaters last year. The DVDs will ship in boxed digipaks and will list for $22.98.

December 8, 2004 / 4:16 p.m. CT
Robbins reference: Robbins medallions (named for the company that mints them) are created for, purchased by, and made available only to the astronauts. It was therefore quite the accomplishment when James Brown announced today he had completed his collection of Space Shuttle mission medallions, STS-1 through STS-107. Brown shares images of the 113 silver medallions on his website, as well as their background and numbers minted. (The final medallion he acquired, STS-58, will be added to the website once its received.)

December 8, 2004 / 6:16 p.m. CT
Virginia's other Air & Space: One million in federal funds has been budgeted for the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton to help renovate its space exhibits, reports the Daily Press today. Though the project has yet to be officially announced, the Air and Space (no relation to the Smithsonian's museum of the same name) plans to spend a total of $7.8 million in federal, state and private funds to overhaul its space gallery. The Hampton museum is the visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center. Among its exhibits is Apollo 12's Yankee Clipper.

December 9, 2004 / 2:17 p.m. CT
McCall's museum: Now that plans for the McCall Museum of Art at the Challenger Space Center in Peoria have fallen through due to the center's own financial problems, Robert McCall is searching for a place to exhibit his 400-piece, $3 million porfolio of space artwork, reports The Arizona Republic today. Candidates for the Smithsonian-affiliated McCall museum include locations in Scottsdale, Glendale and the former Champlin Fighter Aircraft Museum in Mesa, recently bought by the Seattle Museum of Flight. Currently, the collection is housed in the McCall's Paradise Valley home and he desires it stay in-state. McCall is best known for his large murals at the National Air and Space Museum and for his design of the film poster for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

December 10, 2004 / 2:05 a.m. CT
Go / No Go: Spacecraft Films' Apollo 17: End of the Beginning redefines marathon movie watching at 27 hours and counting. Divided across six DVDs is the complete mission, from training to the briefings post- flight and everything in-between. You can choose to fast forward through the film, but as columnist Rick Houston discovered, you'll be missing moments worth waiting for.

December 10, 2004 / 3:38 p.m. CT
Move over, moondust... and make way for Mars Space Sand, one of the hottest new holiday gift ideas for 2004, according to Live with Regis and Kelly and Family Fun magazine. The sand, which will also be featured on tomorrow's ABC Good Morning America broadcast, is hydrophobic; exposed to the vapors of a silicon compound called trimethylhyroxysilane, the sand does not bond to water. In other words, it can't get wet. According to the manufacturers, it is believed Mars' soil exhibits the same qualities, at least at first contact with water, hence the product's moniker - oh and its red, too.

December 11, 2004 / 9:29 a.m. CT
Forbes follows-up: Four years ago, the financial news bi-weekly Forbes Magazine introduced its readers to space collecting through an article by Ashlea Ebeling that focused on the results of a 1999 Christie's auction and the collecting interests of Jay Walker, then CEO and founder of Priceline.com. In the current issue, which includes their annual collecting guide, Forbes files a brief space memorabilia market update that attributes the rise of online stores and information sources (our site included) to the decline in astronomical auction results. Not that their forecast is entirely bleak; Ebeling points to the entrance of Aurora Galleries and Swann Galleries to the space auction arena as a sign of "a thriving market."

December 13, 2004 / 5:08 p.m. CT
O'Keefe resigns: Sean O'Keefe, NASA's tenth Adminstrator, resigned today after three years serving the space agency. In his resignation letter to the President, he wrote "I will continue until you have named a successor and in the hope the Senate will act on your nomination by February." O'Keefe cited his family's best interests as a reason for his departure. He is expected to accept a job as chancellor at Louisiana State University.

December 13, 2004 / 7:05 p.m. CT
Said the astronaut's son to the aviator's grandson... let's make a deal! Richard A. Garriott, online games pioneer and son of astronaut Owen Garriott, bid on eBay and won today the SpaceShipOne-flown bronze mini "retro rocket" sculpture offered by Erik R. Lindbergh, artist and grandson of the famed aviator. Garriott's bid of $15,540 will benefit in its entirety the non-profit Lindbergh Foundation. The rocket, one of six that flew to space, is the first item flown on SpaceShipOne to be publicly sold.

December 14, 2004 / 10:47 p.m. CT
Flag feud: What would your response be if a friend swiped your favorite sports team's flag from your home, insisted that he didn't have it, and refused to give it back? Would your reaction be any different if your friend took the flag halfway around the globe to begin a journey that would bring your banner in contact with famous world leaders, to the sites of world wonders, and stowed on no less than three Space Shuttle flights (as well as on-board the Mir and International space stations)? That's exactly what happened to Steve VanderArk's Green Bay Packers flag, which was "borrowed" in 1997 by fellow NASA JSC employee (and friend) John McBrine. The green and gold flag was finally returned last month, along with an album showing its travels, describes the JSC Features website.

December 15, 2004 / 10:20 a.m. CT
Beanie Babie One: The Rocket Boosters has begun the first of three eBay auctions of dolls flown on SpaceShipOne to benefit Mojave, California-area non-profits. Bidding is now open on a limited edition Ty Beanie Red Bearon donated by SS1 designer Burt Rutan and his wife, Boosters founder Tonya. Issued by Ty for the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight, the Bearon dons an aviator's cap, goggles, and white scarf as well a badge that pictures the Flyer. Two months ago, the bean bag doll flew with pilot Brian Binnie nearly 70 miles above the Earth on-board SpaceShipOne's $10 million X Prize- winning spaceflight. With the Beanie comes a certificate of authenticity signed by the Rutans and a SS1 postcard signed by Binnie and two other pilots. The auction, which ends in one week, began with a minimum bid of $50.

December 16, 2004 / 11:45 a.m. CT
Recovery pilot passes: Vice Adm. Donald S. Jones, 76, who developed the night and all-weather Apollo recovery procedures and piloted the No. 66 Sea King helicopter for Apollo 8 and 11, passed away on Monday, the Washington Post reports. In 1986, Jones was one of five Pentagon officials initially involved in the Iran-contra scandal. He is survived by his wife and their four children.

December 16, 2004 / 3:34 p.m. CT
Saturn sales drive: In their continuing bid to restore their Saturn V, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama has arranged for the sale of vanity license tags that feature the moon booster. Before even one plate can be struck however, the state requires 1000 pre-paid orders and to date, only about a third have been sold, reports The Huntsville Times. The remaining 700 or so plate orders must be received by January 31, 2005, or the state will cancel the campaign (at which time, $48.75 for each pre-sold tag will be paid to the Rocket Center to do with as they choose). For their part, center officials do not want to even think about not having a plate produced. "I mean, Huntsville and Madison County put men on the moon," told center spokesman Al Whitaker to the Times. "How embarrassing if we can't put a tag on a car." As an added incentive, anyone who reserves a tag up and until 1000 are sold will receive two free passes to the USSRC.

December 18, 2004 / 12:12 a.m. CT
Two terrains: Space Model Systems has taken its line of sculpted planetary terrains to the moons of Jupiter. Like its Martian surface models offered previously, SMS's Tohil Mons on Io and Ice Fields on Europa are hand-cast and painted interpretations of data relayed from exploratory spacecraft. These two new 8 by 8 inch terrains were created by modelmaker David Angus based on images captured by NASA's Galileo probe. Each are mounted on 9 by 12 inch plaques with brass name plates and retail for $64.95. According to their website, SMS will also soon offer a yet-to-be specified swath of Ganymede.

December 19, 2004 / 3:39 p.m. CT
Saturn soundtrack: James Cottle was 16 years old when, working for a radio station out of Clearwater, Florida, he recorded the launch of Apollo 11 on his Sony 350 tape recorder. Rather by accident, Jim's choice of where he stood at the press site that day captured an "exquisite balance" between the powerful rumbling of the Saturn V's engines and the announcements by Jack King over a nearby loudspeaker. Thirty-five years later, Cottle works for Dolby Laboratories, providing the opportunity to digitally remaster his recording to accurately recreate the sounds he heard on July 16, 1969. The audio archive of the Apollo 11 launch (T-3 hours through T+30 minutes) is now available on CD for $29.95 through Cottle's website. Next, Cottle wants to use the funds from the sale of the CDs to create an even higher-fidelity record of the event, in part by returning to the Cape to capture the true audio surround field of NASA's press site in DVD-Audio format.

December 20, 2004 / 7:51 p.m. CT
No mere model: With a 1:1 scale Apollo Command Module already to their credit, Gareths Design has begun construction of their next full-size spacecraft: a Mercury capsule. Their progress documented by a live webcam, Geraths' first interior-less replica to roll out of their studio will serve as the master for a mold before being shipped to MoonRocks Entertainment in New York. The Bedford museum then plans to offer the capsules to other museums and private collectors, with or without a custom-built cockpit. Fiberglass shingles are now being installed, with details and the retro-package still to come.

December 22, 2004 / 12:51 a.m. CT - UPDATED
4H vs IB: Tuesday's launch of the Delta 4 Heavy on an Air Force test flight inspired comparisons to the past and hopes for the future. Standing 23-stories tall, the Delta 4 lifted at 4:50pm ET from the same (though modified) pad (Complex 37, Pad B) as the Saturn IB that launched Apollo 5 nearly 37 years ago. Industry analysts viewed Tuesday's lift-off as the shape of things to come, while the public spoke of the similarities to the earlier IB. So how does the 4H stack up next to the last U.S. man- rated heavy booster? The D4H is about 10 feet taller, its first stage of three Rocketdyne RS-68 engines out thrust the Saturn's eight H-1s by about 200,000 pounds and its second stage has a greater specific impulse than the IB that first lifted the lunar module. Of course, compared to the IB's big brother, the 4H needs another 13 stories and 5.6 million pounds of more thrust to approach the Saturn V. Update: According to Spaceflight Now, what began as a breath-taking blastoff has ended with its payload falling short of its intended orbit, due to the lower-than-expected performance of the first stage two strap-on side boosters.

December 22, 2004 / 10:28 a.m. CT
Bean's badge: Before Alan Bean departed for the Moon, the town where he attended high school named him an honorary police officer. Aboard Apollo 12, Bean carried his Fort Worth, Texas, badge and other police credentials. According to today's FW Star-Telegram, Sgt. Jim Stout, now retired, will soon visit with Bean to collect the lunar orbit flown badge and other Fort Worth items for display in the town's planned police museum. During the 1969 mission, Stout provided security for Bean's parents at their Fort Worth home and was later assigned to Bean during the town's ticker-tape parade held in Bean's honor.

December 22, 2004 / 7:16 p.m. CT
Lunar camera: NASA selected today six instruments and associated investigations for its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the first spacecraft slated to be built as part of the Vision for Space Exploration. The LRO mission, launching in 2008, will obtain data necessary to selecting future robotic and human landing sites. Among the proposals accepted is the LRO Camera (LROC), that will acquire targeted images of the lunar surface capable of resolving small-scale features. According to Dr. Mark Robinson, the camera's principal investigator, depending on the orbit, "we will definitely be able to spot the [Apollo] LM descent stages and rovers." Other payloads selected include an altimeter, a neutron detector and a radiometer.

December 24, 2004 / 1:11 p.m. CT
Campaign winners: Congratulations to David Hitt and Cliff Lentz, our two winners in last month's Challenge: Campaign! We offered prizes, including a 2005 Astronaut Autograph Club membership, for publicity campaigns that best promoted cS. David won a Code 3 Collectibles' Apollo Astronaut replica for his numerous entries to his popular web log (blog) "All These Worlds". Our grand prize was awarded to Cliff Lentz, who shared his enthusiasm for cS with Philadelphia Eagles fans at their games and on the radio. Thanks to all who entered! Look for your next chance to win in early January 2005.

December 24, 2004 / 10:05 p.m. CT
Huygens away! After a seven year and two billion mile journey to Saturn attached to NASA's Cassini orbiter, ESA's Huygens probe separated this evening to continue alone toward Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Cut loose at 9:08pm, the probe will coast for the next 20 days before plunging into Titan's atmosphere on January 14, 2005. Carried along with the instruments designed to analyze the moon's composition, Music2Titan's musical compositions are on board and available through iTunes.

December 25, 2004 / 8:19 p.m. CT
Gennady Strekalov dies: A posting today to the site of Novosti Kosmonavtiki shares the unfortunate news that five-time Soyuz cosmonaut Gennady Strekalov died at age 64 of cancer. In addition to his 269 days in orbit, Strekalov held the distinction with Vladimir Titov of having survived a launch pad fire and abort in September 1983. His final flight to space was accompanied by Norm Thagard, the first American to launch on a Soyuz booster (and Strekalov returned from that mission on the shuttle).

December 27, 2004 / 10:49 a.m. CT - via SPACE.com
Rover refuse: NASA's Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover is examining a field of spacecraft litter, the remains of the heat shield hardware that was shed during its descent through the martian atmosphere last January. Pieces of the junked components can be clearly seen in the rover's photos. Engineers are eager to study how well the heat shield survived while scientists hope to learn more about martian soil, given the shield's high-speed impact. Collectors are waiting for the mission when the debris can be returned and encased in acrylic.

December 27, 2004 / 12:42 p.m. CT
Renaissance Weekend: Jim Lovell, Sen. Bill Nelson and Charlie Bolden are among the astronauts invited to this year's New Year's Renaissance Weekend, the "family retreat for innovative leaders from diverse fields" that convenes December 28 through January 1 in Charleston, South Carolina. The invite-only event brings together 1200 "movers-and-shakers" to exchange views during 400 planned lectures and seminars. Lovell, Bolden and four other invited astronauts will take part in a panel discussion on "Space Exploration." Per the rules set for the Weekend, which is now in its 24th year, proceedings are strictly "off-the-record" and attendees may only use their own remarks elsewhere. Past Weekends' attendees include Walt Cunningham, Guy Bluford and Steve Smith.

December 27, 2004 / 10:14 p.m. CT
Schmitt signing: At the beginning of this year, Dr. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the last of 12 moonwalkers and the only geologist by trade to survey the lunar surface, began returning items mailed to him by collectors citing "increased professional responsibilites" as limiting his availability to sign autographs. Outside the chance of an in-person encounter, those wanting his signature were left wondering if an opportunity would ever present itself. For Novaspace Galleries' mailing list members, the invite arrived today with the announcement that Schmitt would visit the Tuscon, AZ, dealer in February to sign a limited number of mailed-in items for the base fee of $125 (other charges may apply). If you are not yet a member of the Novaspace e-mail list, you can still join on their website.

December 28, 2004 / 11:39 p.m. CT
Relics for relief: Spaceflori.com proprietor Florian Noller was to leave on his vacation to Southeast Asia, an area of personal and fond memories for him, when the tragedies of the past week hit. Though he still plans to depart next week, his travel is now driven by his need and desire to personally deliver aid to those affected. To that end, Noller began a sale on his website that pledges all proceeds to local relief funds. As the money raised is needed before Noller leaves, the sale ends December 31.

December 29, 2004 / 7:10 p.m. CT
Robotic exploration: A 50-foot robot from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is set to thrill New Year's Day parade-goers at the 116th Tournament of the Roses. The "Family of Explorers" float honors the space missions managed by JPL for NASA. Models of Cassini, Stardust, Jason, Genesis, GALEX and Spitzer telescopes, as well as the GRACE satellites adorn the robot's arms and legs, while Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity form the robot's "skates". A webcam onboard will offer a view of its route.

December 29, 2004 / 9:48 p.m. CT
New year, new books: While many will anxiously await October and with it, James Hansen's First Man, the next year brings more than just one astronaut's biography. Four months into 2005, shuttle veterans Tom Jones and Winston Scott each share their unique experiences in print. Jones' Space Station Odyssey: The Making of an Astronaut (Smithsonian Books) "explains the professional and personal hardships faced ... in the aftermath of the tragedy." Scott also uses the loss of Columbia to frame Reflections From Earth Orbit (Apogee Books) though focuses on "vivid descriptions of life in space emphasizing the everyday aspects of living with which the average, everyday person ... can relate." The life of the third moonwalker as told by his widow is the story of Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad's Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond (New American Library), which hits store shelves in May. And mid-year, the "right stuff" gets real in The Real Space Cowboys (Apogee Books) by Ed Buckbee with Wally Schirra. More about each of these titles - and others - will be posted as 2005 progresses (and watch for news of signed edition offers).

December 30, 2004 / 7:57 p.m. CT
Bid now, deduct later: The U.S. Space Walk of Fame has listed on Astro-Auction several Space Shuttle and rocket models each autographed by multiple astronauts. Proceeds from their sale will go to support the non-profit's monument plans and programs. Needn't we remind you, tomorrow is the last day to claim charity deductions for 2004, so bid big, bid often, and bid soon!

December 30, 2004 / 11:45 p.m. CT
New year, even more new books: C.G. Publishing's Apogee Books has more than just astronaut biographies awaiting space history enthusiasts in 2005; the Canadian publishers also have a trio of titles that will focus on rocket development and preparing humans for spaceflight. Scheduled for release in March, Atlas: The Ultimate Weapon, By Those Who Built It delivers Chuck Walker's first-hand account of managing Convair's rocket through the stories of those who worked under his lead. Alan Lawrie spent two years researching Saturn, shipping in May, which traces every Saturn V booster stage from assembly through use, destruction or decommission. In June, Dr. Randall Chambers, who designed many of the earliest astronaut research programs, pens with his wife Getting Off The Planet: Training Astronauts, which takes the reader behind the scenes of spaceflight preparations.

December 31, 2004 / 2:22 p.m. CT
New year, new tank: The External Tank that will help launch Discovery on its next mission may not be glitzy like the crystal ball in Times Square, but its journey from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans marks something special for 2005: the year of Return to Flight. The orange tank, known as ET-120, was rolled out and loaded onto a covered barge this morning for the four to five day trip to Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

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