December 1, 2013 / 11:40 a.m. CT (1740 GMT) China's Chang'e-3 moon-bound: China on Sunday (Dec. 1) launched its first mission to land a robotic rover on the moon. Should the Chang'e-3 lander and six-wheel Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") rover safely touch down in the Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridum), China will be the third country to land a craft on the moon, and the first to do so since the former Soviet Union's Luna 24 mission in 1976. Chang'e-3 marks the second 'step' in China's robotic lunar exploration plans, leading to returning samples of the moon to Earth.
Apollo couture: Apollo astronaut Al Worden and attorney Steve Pidcock have introduced Still The Right Stuff, a company focused on replicating authentic aerospace garments for space history enthusiasts. Their first project is a faithful reproduction of the blue Apollo flight jacket, as was worn by Worden and his fellow astronauts while flying NASA's T-38 jets and training to voyage to the moon.
December 6, 2013 / 2:15 p.m. CT (2015 GMT) Gifts for the space geek: 'Tis the season to be spacey, so collectSPACE offers a list of five stellar gifts for space geeks. Whether it is spending the year in space, growing your rocket garden or accumulating dragons (and falcons), these gift ideas are decidedly out of this world.
December 9, 2013 / 8:00 a.m. CT (1400 GMT) Spaceship C.Gordon Fullerton: Continuing its tradition, Orbital Sciences has named its next space station-bound cargo freighter for a contributor to the company's success. Set to liftoff NET Dec. 18, Spaceship C. Gordon Fullerton will be the second Cygnus spacecraft to fly to the orbiting outpost and the first of eight under the Commercial Resupply Services contract for NASA. Fullerton, who died in August at 76, flew twice to space but also piloted the B-52 jet that carried Orbital's Pegasus air-launched rockets.
December 11, 2013 / 10:40 p.m. CT (0440 GMT Dec 12) ISS loses coolant loop: The pump module on one of the space station's critical cooling loops shut down Wednesday (Dec. 11) after detecting lower temperatures than its pre-set limits. Though at no time was the Expedition 38 crew or the station itself in any danger, the loss of Loop A resulted in the power down of non-critical systems in the Harmony Node 2, as well as inside the Columbus and Kibo laboratories. Ground controllers suspect that a flow control valve inside the pump module is at fault for the shutdown.
December 12, 2013 / 2:25 p.m. CT (2025 GMT) To go or not to go to the station: An issue with a valve located inside a pump mounted externally on the International Space Station may delay the launch of a commercial cargo ship to the orbiting outpost. Orbital Sciences is still marching toward a Wednesday (Dec. 18) liftoff of its Cygnus freighter, but the need to return the space station's cooling system to its working order has deferred the flight's go/no go decision until Monday, NASA officials said.
December 13, 2013 / 5:00 p.m. CT (2300 GMT) NASA selects SpaceX for Pad 39A: NASA has chosen Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to begin negotiations on a lease to use the historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 39A was originally designed to support the Apollo program and was later modified to launch space shuttles. Ninety-two rockets (12 Saturn V boosters and 80 shuttles) launched from 39A between 1967 and 2011. NASA selected SpaceX after the Government Accountability Office denied a protest filed by Blue Origin, the other company vying for use of the pad.
China's Chang'e-3 lands on the moon: On Saturday (Dec 14), China's Chang'e-3 probe landed on the moon, touching down in Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows. The feat, a first for any nation in 37 years, established China as the third country to achieve a moon landing. The lander will deploy the Yutu six-wheeled rover to explore and study the moon's surface and composition for three months.
December 14, 2013 / 6:05 p.m. CT (0005 GMT Dec 15) "Interstellar" lifts off: The first teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan's science fiction movie "Interstellar" uses archival NASA footage to hint at the 2014 film's space travel story. As actor Matthew McConaughey narrates, clips of Chuck Yeager, Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong and space shuttle Atlantis illustrate "that our destiny lies above us."
December 17, 2013 / 6:05 p.m. CT (0005 GMT Dec 18) Station spacewalks delay supplies: NASA managers have postponed Orbital Sciences' private resupply mission to the International Space Station to move forward with a series of spacewalks to replace a pump module on the space station. Orbital's Cygnus ship will now launch no earlier than Jan. 13 so astronauts can venture outside the space station Dec. 21, 23 and, if needed, Christmas day.
Space shuttle parking shuffle: The replica space shuttle Independence embarked on a short road trip Tuesday (Dec. 17), leaving its display location of more than a year outside Space Center Houston for a new spot in the center's parking lot. The mock shuttle's move made space for the arrival this March of NASA's historic Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, which ultimately will be topped by the orbiter.
December 18, 2013 / 5:00 p.m. CT (2300 GMT) LEGO sets 2014 rollout for rover: Fans of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity only have two more weeks to wait until LEGO releases the six-wheel science laboratory as a toy model set on New Year's Day. Created by Stephen Pakbaz, a mechanical engineer who had a hand in the real rover before its launch, the LEGO CUUSOO Curiosity has been in the works since soon after the spacecraft landed at Gale Crater in August 2012. The 295-piece toy brick set will be available through LEGO's online shop for $29.99.
December 19, 2013 / 2:05 p.m. CT (2005 GMT) Snorkels for spacewalkers: Though NASA does not expect a repeat of the leak that cut short a spacewalk in July, the team planning a series of three space station repair outings set to start Saturday (Dec. 21) have devised a pair of contingency tools for spacewalkers to use in case their helmet begins flooding with water. In addition to a pad that astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins will monitor for "squishiness," the two will have "MacGyver-ed" snorkels made out of a water-line vent tube and Velcro.
Evoking Earthrise 45 years later: Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders witnessed "Earthrise" for the first time 45 years ago on Christmas Eve. A new simulation from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio recreates the events that led up to that iconic sight, and in doing so, has revealed new details about how it was captured on film for the world to see. The video pairs the modern precise data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter with archival photographs from the December 1968 Apollo 8 mission.
December 21, 2013 / 1:45 p.m. CT (1945 GMT) - UPDATED Speedy spacewalkers: Spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins completed a 5 hour, 28 minute spacewalk Saturday (Dec. 21) to begin repair to the International Space Station's cooling system. Originally, the two astronauts were only expected to prepare a malfunctioning pump module for its removal during the next spacewalk on Tuesday, but as they worked ahead of schedule, they also removed and stowed the faulty unit before returning inside. Their work may rule out the need for a third spacewalk.
December 24, 2013 / 2:20 p.m. CT (2020 GMT) Eve EVA:'Twas the day before Christmas, and outside the station, two astronauts were making a new pump module donation. For a second time in three days, astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio spacewalked outside the International Space Station Tuesday (Dec. 24), finishing the replacement of a faulty cooling system pump module. It was only the second Christmas Eve spacewalk after a 1999 EVA to service the Hubble Space Telescope.
December 26, 2013 / 7:00 a.m. CT (1300 GMT) Space shuttle floral float: Los Angeles will feature space shuttle Endeavour, along with other local attractions, on its flower-covered float for the 125th Rose Parade. The florally-formed winged orbiter, representing the real Endeavour on display at the California Science Center, will take "flight at the front of the float" as it joins the 44 other parade platforms in Pasadena, Calif. on New Year's Day.
December 27, 2013 / 3:25 p.m. CT (2125 GMT) Record Russian EVA reverses work: Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy completed a Russian record eight hour and seven minute spacewalk on Friday (Dec. 27) to install and then uninstall two commercial Earth-viewing cameras set to offer the "first, near-live HD video platform of Earth." Canada-based UrtheCast intended the cameras to provide public and commercial imagery services, but an issue receiving data from the high- and medium-resolution cameras resulted in their being returned into the station.
December 30, 2013 / 12:55 p.m. CT (1855 GMT) 2013, the year in space artifacts: The past year made its fair share of space history but 2013 also marked milestones for spaceflight artifacts from decades prior. From recovered rocket engines to retired space shuttles, the year heralded a new start for more than a few space relics.
December 30, 2013 / 4:40 p.m. CT (2040 GMT) Beyoncé samples 51L audio for 'XO': Pop artist Beyoncé's decision to include an audio clip from the 1986 loss of the space shuttle Challenger in her new song "XO" has upset members of the NASA community, including the familes of the fallen STS-51L astronauts. June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of commander Dick Scobee, said that the song's inclusion of the "obviously a major malfunction" audio from mission control left her and the other members of the Challenger families disappointed. Beyoncé told ABC News that her "heart goes out to the families" and that the song was "to help heal those who have lost loved ones."