: It's not that the "air to ground" transcripts for historic missions like Apollo 13 and Mercury-Atlas 6 haven't been available before. Nor is it that they have not been converted to searchable formats in the past -- they have. Instead, what sets apart Spacelog as a new website offering searchable access to NASA mission transcripts is its presentation. An open-source project that encourages everyone to help, Spacelog adapts the NASA scanned hard copies of transcribed radio communications into visually striking, illustrated interactive documents that can be easily shared and referenced through linkable tags.
: Beginning on Wednesday, NASA is offering 7,000 space shuttle tiles to schools and universities that want to share the technology and a piece of space history with their students. The tiles, which protect the shuttles from the extreme temperatures generated during their reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, are being provided on a first come, first served basis (one per institution) for $23.40, to cover shipping and handling.
: The US Air Force's secretive X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle landed Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base after more than 220 days in space. Adapted from NASA's design for a mini-shuttle, the X-37B was managed by the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office as the development platform for advanced reusable space vehicle capabilities. The X-37B's landing was the first time that an unmanned U.S. spacecraft returned from orbit to a runway under autonomous control. (Russia's Buran shuttle was the first and only other vehicle to do so during its first and only spaceflight in November 1988.) The Air Force is preparing to launch its next X-37B, OTV-2, in Spring 2011.
: In the brief history of commercial launches sending spacecraft and satellites sailing into Earth's orbit, what went up, need not ever come down, at least not intact, until now. SpaceX will attempt on Wednesday to not only launch its first Dragon spacecraft but recover it two Earth orbits later after it safely splashes down in the ocean. If the mission is successful, SpaceX will have completed the first demonstration under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, and will match a feat only earlier achieved by the governments and space agencies of the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan, China and India. The flight will begin with the second ever launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, lifting off from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
On Wednesday, SpaceX made history with its Dragon capsule, becoming the first non- governmental entity to launch, orbit, reenter and recover a spacecraft. So, what is next for the not-so-little capsule that could? "You know, I hadn't really thought about that," Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and chief designer, told collectSPACE. "The first thing we are going to do obviously is examine the spacecraft very very closely. We're going to do deep forensics on it," he said. ¶ "Where it goes from there, I'm not sure. Certainly it would be a great honor to have anything in the Smithsonian. The National Air and Space Museum is my favorite museum in the world, it is super great. I can just sit in there for hours just staring at all the cool things in there," said Musk.
: Astronaut Alan Poindexter, who flew two space shuttles to the International Space Station in 2008 and 2010, has retired from NASA to be the dean of students and executive director of programs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. A captain in the U.S. Navy, Poindexter earned his masters in aeronautical engineering from the school in 1995. Chosen with NASA's 1998 astronaut class, Poindexter piloted STS-122 to bring the European Space Agency's Columbus lab to the station and commanded STS-131, delivering the station supplies.
: Pay no attention to the giant, crashed, alien spacecraft in the corner crater, what really stands out like an ugly robot thumb in the new announcement trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon is everything director Michael Bay got wrong about the first manned moon landing mission. collectSPACE nitpicks the teaser with a look at how Bay transformed Apollo history.
: This month's Wacky Pack Express — Sonic Drive-in's version of the Happy Meal — features a space shuttle and other space-themed toys in partnership with NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The toys, which are packaged with a coupon for entrance into the Florida spaceport's tourist attraction, link together to form the "Space Train" on which space-garbed tator tots (Astro Tot, Bot Tot and Space Ape Tot) can ride along. This is at least the second kid's meal that Kennedy has partnered on: in October 2008, Chick-fil-A offered four parts to a space station toy together with collector cards.
: Artist Chris Calle's 2.40 Priority Mail stamp issued to honor the 20th anniversary of the first moon landing in July 1989 is one of seven stamps chosen by the Smithsonian National Postal Museum staff as candidates to represent the U.S. in a new international collections exhibit. To select the one stamp to display for the nation in the new William H. Gross Stamp Gallery, the museum has asked the public to vote. The stamp with the most votes by Jan. 20, 2011 will be named the winner.
: A Russian cosmonaut, an American astronaut, and an Italian flying for the European Space Agency (ESA) are now on their way to live aboard the International Space Station. Dmitry "Dima" Kondratyev, Catherine "Cady" Coleman, and Paolo Nespoli lifted off on Soyuz TMA-20 at 1:09 p.m. CST on Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a Friday docking with the station. Once aboard, they will join the Expedition 26 crew until March, when they will transition to become the first three members of Expedition 27 (with Kondratyev as commander). Onboard the Soyuz, packed among their limited payload, Coleman has her flute and Nespoli has a stereo camera to capture their five month mission in 3D.
: Though NASA has yet to decide where it will exhibit its three space shuttles once they're retired next year, recent actions have clarified the paths to the Smithsonian Institution and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. As first reported by collectSPACE, the Smithsonian was missing the funds while the Florida spaceport tourist attraction was without a display plan. Now the two hurdles are being cleared, in the Smithsonian's case through congressional legislation.
: NASA filled the space shuttle Discovery's external tank on Friday in a test done to learn why two of its support beams cracked during Discovery's Nov. 5th launch attempt. This type of tanking test is a rarity for the space shuttle. NASA has conducted about a dozen fueling tests in the past three decades beginning with the very first mission, STS-1, in 1981. The first flight after the loss of Challenger, STS-26, also underwent a tanking test in 1988. A pair of missions plagued by hydrogen leaks — STS-35 and STS-38 — had six tests to troubleshoot the problems and verify the fixes in 1990. STS-91 debuted the new tank design and underwent a pre-flight checkout with its cryogenics loaded onboard in 1998. The first flight after the Columbia accident, STS-114, had two tanking tests in 2005. And last year, STS-127 was fueled to ensure that a gaseous hydrogen umbilical that had leaked was repaired.
: Space Center Houston, the visitors center for the Johnson Space Center in Texas, hosted Apollo flight director Gene Kranz Tuesday for the launch of its Walkway to the Stars commemorative brick program. Revealing the first 100 etched bricks lining the center's Grand Plaza, Kranz invited visitors to join him by reserving one of the $200 bricks to support the center's mission to educate the next generation of explorers. Other notables with inscribed bricks include flight director Gerry Griffin and astronauts Gene Cernan and Ellen Ochoa.
, first moving star we see tonight, wish we may, wave we might... For one week starting Dec. 24, people from around the world will look into the sky, wave at the International Space Station (ISS) and then share their wave by posting the details, photos, and video to Twitter. The around-the-world wave, to be tracked using the hashtag #ISSwave, is focused on raising public awareness about the space station and the fun associated with seeing it flyover. Organized by the director of science for the HMS Beagle Trust together with a biologist turned writer and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, ISS Wave also has the support of at least two astronauts, who may help organize a wave back from the station's crew.
: The patch for the next Soyuz to fly to the International Space Station was approved on Monday by Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos. Inspired in part by the artwork submitted by a 12-year-old French boy, the Soyuz TMA-21 emblem pays tribute to the anniversary of the first manned spaceflight. The patch borrows its shape from the outline of the Vostok spacecraft and depicts Yuri Gagarin in the clouds over Earth. TMA-21 is set to launch with Alexander Samokutyayev, Andrei Borisenko and Ron Garan from the same pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan that Vostok-1 used, less than a month before the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's historic orbital mission.
: Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin is suing trading cards company Topps Inc. over what he claims is the unauthorized use of his likeness in their American Heritage: American Heroes set of cards. The edition, which was released in 2009, features a subset of 25 "Heroes of Spaceflight," including Sally Ride, John Glenn and Aldrin. The cards' packaging also used an iconic photo of Aldrin taken on the moon. Correspondence between Topps' and Aldrin's attorneys, included in Aldrin's filing Monday, details that Topps considers its inclusion of Aldrin's likeness to fall under First Amendment protections as a "factual depiction of historic events." Aldrin, who has successfully defended the commercial use of his image in the past, claims the cards violate his "right of publicity" as protected under California state law. His lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages and to prohibit Topps from further selling the trading cards. In October, a similar case was brought against singer Dido by Bruce McCandless for the use of his photo spacewalking on an album cover.
: One of the first artists that NASA chose during the early 1960s to document its manned space flights, Paul Calle died Thursday, according to his son Chris. Perhaps best remembered for designing the U.S. Postal Service's "First Man on the Moon" 1969 10¢ stamp, Calle was also the only artist with the Apollo 11 astronauts on the morning of their launch. In 2009, his son published a book of Calle's art, "Celebrating Apollo 11: The Artwork of Paul Calle," including more than 40 of the sketches that Calle made of the Apollo 11 crew.