December 4, 2008 / 11:53 a.m. CT (1753 GMT) Departure: Astronaut Carl Walz, a veteran of four space shuttle missions and a record setting space station expedition, is leaving NASA to take a job in the private sector. An astronaut since 1990, Walz flew on flew on STS-51 in 1993, STS-65 in 1994 and STS-79 in 1996. His final shuttle launch, STS-108 in 2001, delivered him to the International Space Station as part of Expedition 4, where together with Dan Bursch, Walz spent 196 days in orbit, a U.S. endurance record held until 2007. Walz most recently led NASA's division for exploration advanced capabilities.
December 4, 2008 / 3:58 p.m. CT (2158 GMT) Replica rover tires: NASA Glenn Research Center, working with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, has replicated a dozen of the Apollo lunar rover's wire-mesh tires that Goodyear developed in the 1960s. The tires were recreated based on the examination of an original on display at the National Air and Space Museum, along with the advice of two retired members of the Apollo LRV team who each had a tire as a souvenir for their work. Goodyear and NASA intend to use the newly assembled tires to find future applications for the non-pneumatic tires' technology.
December 5, 2008 / 3:24 p.m. CT (2124 GMT) Patch preview | STS-128: Bathed in blue and yellow, the national colors of one of its crew members, the STS-128 insignia will adorn the spacesuits of shuttle Discovery's astronauts when they launch in Aug. 2009. The emblem, which depicts Discovery with the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module in its payload bay, shows the mission's destination, the International Space Station, opposite the Earth, orbiting around the astronaut symbol. American and Swedish flags representing the shuttle crew tie together top and bottom ribbons listing the astronauts.
December 5, 2008 / 5:59 p.m. CT (2359 GMT) STS-130, 131 assigned: NASA announced Friday the crew members for space shuttle missions STS-130 and 131. George Zamka will helm Endeavour for STS-130 to deliver the International Space Station's third node and a seven-windowed cupola. The STS-131 mission, led by Alan Poindexter will bring science equipment and crew supplies to the ISS during Atlantis' final flight (as currently planned). Joining the two commanders on their respective missions are Terry Virts, Bob Behnken, Nick Patrick, Kay Hire, and Steve Robinson (STS-130); James Dutton, Rick Mastracchio, Clay Anderson, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, and from JAXA Naoko Yamazaki (131).
December 7, 2008 / 7:32 p.m. CT (0132 GMT Dec 8) Sergei Gaydukov (1936-2008): Selected to train as a cosmonaut on May 7, 1967 as a member of the 4th Soviet Air Force class of candidates, Sergei Nikolayevich Gaydukov passed away on December 5 at his home in Star City, Russia. Though he never flew in space, leaving the program on December 4, 1978 after suffering an injury during parachute training, Gaydukov was trained on Soyuz and Almaz systems. He also served in mission control for multiple Soyuz and Salyut flights between 1969 and 1974.
December 9, 2008 / 1:36 p.m. CT (1936 GMT) Yuri Glazkov (1939-2008): Ten years ago, as part of an oral history interview, veteran cosmonaut Yuri Glazkov described his first and only space mission, Soyuz 24 in 1977, and the "atmosphere replacement" test he and Viktor Gorbatko performed on-board Salyut 5. "For a space flight, loss of atmosphere is a bad situation but we had to do it voluntarily," he recalled. "But that experiment went very well." Glazkov, who went on to train other crews including the first NASA astronaut to fly to the Mir station aboard a Soyuz, died at age 69, according to Roscosmos.
December 12, 2008 / 11:12 a.m. CT (1712 GMT) Patch preview | ISS 20: The International Space Station's first six member crew now has an insignia to symbolize their mission. ISS Expedition 20, which will begin with the May 2009 arrival of Soyuz TMA-15, will be represented by a circular emblem that depicts the station, six gold stars (for the six crew members) and hints at the focus of their work: reaching the Moon, Mars and beyond.
December 12, 2008 / 3:09 p.m. CT (2109 GMT) Sotheby's Soviet space sale: One of only about four original copies of Yuri Gagarin's post-Vostok 1 report documenting his flight while becoming the first man in space was listed for sale by Sotheby's in New York on Thursday for its owner, the Ross Perot Foundation. If the lot, the venue, and the owner seem familiar, it is because they have crossed paths before. Perot first purchased the document at Sotheby's in 1993, along with the nine other Soviet space manuscripts offered in yesterday's sale, and other artifacts that he loaned and are currently on display within the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. Unlike Sotheby's auction 15 years ago however, only two lots sold, neither of which were the original Gagarin paper.
December 12, 2008 / 5:26 p.m. CT (2326 GMT) Ferry flight finished: Endeavour touched down in Florida on Friday, 11 days after it flew the STS-126 mission to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Carried atop NASA's modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, the orbiter left Edwards Air Force Base in California on Wednesday. Its cross country trip included stops in both El Paso and Fort Worth, Texas, followed by Shreveport, Louisiana, with a special flyover of Johnson Space Center in Houston along the way. Now returned to the Kennedy Space Center, Endeavour will be readied for the STS-127 mission, targeted for launch in Spring 2009.
December 13, 2008 / 12:05 p.m. CT (1805 GMT) Space monkey milestone: Fifty years ago Saturday, a squirrel monkey named "Gordo" (also known as "Old Reliable") launched on top of a Jupiter Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile on the first Bioflight mission. Gordo survived ascent and reentry but was lost after splashdown due to a parachute failure. The medical data from his flight provided evidence that a human could survive the journey. To commemorate the 50 years since Gordo's mission, the U.S. Postal Service through its Cape Canaveral office has introduced a pictorial cancel featuring the squirrel monkey.
December 16, 2008 / 8:20 p.m. CT (0220 GMT Dec 17) Altair and the Apollo astronauts: NASA began on Tuesday the process of sharing with contractors their requirements for the design and construction of the Altair lunar lander vehicle, part of the space agency's Constellation program to return humans to the Moon late during the next decade. Before revealing their plans to the aerospace industry, NASA hosted four uniquely-qualified men to tour their mock-ups of the Moon lander. The first and last astronauts to command Apollo lunar modules to safe landings, Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, together with Apollo 16's commander John Young and Apollo 17's geologist Harrison Schmitt, shared opinions of the design.
December 17, 2008 / 9:50 p.m. CT (0350 GMT Dec 18) Displaying Discovery: NASA has offered the Discovery orbiter to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum for display after the space shuttle flies its last mission. The oldest orbiter among the fleet of three, Discovery will join the national aerospace collection if the Smithsonian can afford its preparation and transfer, which NASA estimates could cost as much as $42 million (and that doesn't include the space shuttle main engines). The same fee applies to other museums desiring Atlantis and Endeavour, according to a NASA Request for Information.
December 18, 2008 / 5:07 p.m. CT (2307 GMT) Aviation Hall honors astronauts: The first American to spacewalk and the first female U.S. spacecraft commander are among the pilots to be inducted in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in July 2009. Edward H. White II, who made the first U.S. extravehicular activity (EVA) in 1965 aboard Gemini 4, and Eileen M. Collins, who in 1995 became the first American female space shuttle pilot, and who most recently in 2005 led NASA's return to flight after the loss of Columbia, are to be enshrined in Dayton, Ohio. The Hall of Fame also announced Wednesday it will honor the Apollo Astronaut Crews with the Milton Caniff "Spirit of Flight" Award on the occasion of 40 years since they flew.
December 22, 2008 / 12:56 a.m. CT (0656 GMT) The not-so-little engine that couldn't: An engine that almost flew on the first manned mission to the Moon but instead was used for a storage longevity test has been found again just in time for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 8. Space history enthusiast Mike Jetzer and author Alan Lawrie share how they ID'd the F-1 lost in plain sight.
December 22, 2008 / 9:01 p.m. CT (0301 GMT Dec 23) Patch previews | ISS 21 and ISS 22: Two six member crews, who will fly as the 21st and 22nd long duration expeditions aboard the International Space Station in late 2009 through mid-2010, have decided on the art that will represent their missions. The insignias, linked by the two astronaut's and cosmonaut's names that they and their expeditions share, differ noticeably in style. ISS 21's crew designed a patch rich with imagery symbolizing their spacecraft, their spirit of cooperation and the future goals behind their work. Expedition 22's emblem depicts a solar array reflecting the Sun above the Earth, Moon, and stars.
December 23, 2008 / 12:45 a.m. CT (0645 GMT) Looking back, looking forward: Andrew Chaikin, author of "A Man on the Moon" and "A Passion for Mars" looks back at the first lunar Earthrise viewed by humans 40 years ago this week and contrasts it with the view of Earth rising over Mars as relayed by robotic eyes in his guest essay about the legacy of Apollo 8: "Leaving Home"
December 23, 2008 / 7:04 p.m. CT (0104 GMT Dec 24) Station suppliers: NASA has awarded two contracts for commercial resupply services for the International Space Station. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences will separately launch 20 metric tons each to the ISS before 2017 over the course of 20 flights. Eight of the deliveries will be made by Orbital's Cygnus spacecraft, launched atop their Taurus booster. SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will carry the dozen other flights lofted by their Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
December 24, 2008 / 6:03 p.m. CT (0003 GMT Dec 25) Floating frostings: As the holidays pass aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition 18 crew will celebrate with gifts from their families and Christmas cookies, courtesy the recent delivery by a Progress unmanned supply spacecraft. The cinnamon, shortbread, and butter cookies will be particularly festive, thanks to a request by flight engineer Sandy Magnus. She asked that red, green, yellow, blue, and white icing be included with her care package so that she could decorate the cookies.
December 26, 2008 / 1:06 a.m. CT (0706 GMT) Life-size leap: To commemorate the 40th anniversary of man's first steps on another world, FirstMoonStep.com is offering a life size print of a lunar bootprint as recreated by Paul Calle. Limited to 250 artist-signed Giclées, the 17 by 22 inch prints are offered for pre-order priced at $125 each. One of the first members of NASA's Art Program, Calle was with the Apollo 11 astronauts as they suited for their launch, and later commemorated their flight, designing the "First Man on the Moon" U.S. stamp.
December 29, 2008 / 5:12 p.m. CT (2312 GMT) Patch preview | Soyuz TMA-14: Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos held a ceremony at their Mission Control Monday, celebrating the winners of an international contest to design an insignia for the Soyuz TMA-14 crew. Anna Chibiskova's painting showing Earth being supported by two hands was chosen by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and astronaut Michael Barratt as their patch's central element. The 12-year-old girl from Moscow along with second and third place winners from New York and Uglegorsk won a trip to see TMA-14 launch in March.
December 30, 2008 / 12:02 a.m. CT (0602 GMT) Annual Astronautics: The Space History Committee of the American Astronautical Society hasagain compiled a bibliography listing the space exploration-related books published during the past year. Among the more than 70 titles, were books written by collectSPACE members and contributors including: Colin Burgess, Chris Gainor, Rex Hall, Ed Hengeveld, David Hitt, Alan Lawrie, Robert Poole, David Woods, et al. Which have you read?
December 30, 2008 / 12:28 p.m. CT (1828 GMT) Columbia crew survival report: NASA on Tuesday issued the first in-depth study into the crew survival of a space flight accident. The 400-page paper details the findings and recommendations of the investigation team commissioned by NASA after the 2003 loss of the crew of STS-107 and the space shuttle Columbia. The final report includes 30 recommendations to improve crew safety and spacecraft design, including insights into crew training and seat restraints. The agency has implemented some of the report's recommendations under its Constellation program.
December 31, 2008 / 9:03 a.m. CT (1503 GMT) The rose more travelled: One of the roses that will be aboard Bayer Advanced's Rose Parade float on New Year's Day has already spent considerable time floating. The dried, two-toned pink rose flew for 13 days aboard space shuttle Atlantis last February. Carried by astronaut Rex Walheim to orbit, the flown flower was provided by his brother Lance, author of "Roses for Dummies" and Bayer Advanced garden expert. The space rose will be cared for by Glinda, the Good Witch of the North on the Bayer float, which theme honors "The Wizard of Oz" 70th anniversary.