Sunday, May 31, 2009

ISS UPdates

It's been busy for the last couple of weeks, you'll have to forgive me for not keeping up with my postings. The remainder of STS-125 went off well, with only some minor glitches during the remaining spacewalks. On the last spacewalk, an astronaut bumped one of Hubble's communications antennae with his backpack, and you could tell by his tone he was really ticked off. Everything was well, however, and after a few adjustments the Hubble was ready for release back into Orbit. Reminds of of fishing catch-and-release. Anyway, the anti-climatic end to the mission was the two-day delays in landing due to poor weather at the Florida landing strip. Eventually , Atlantis landed safely and perfectly at Edwards Air Force Base in California. A mission for the recordbooks.

Just recently, three more astronauts left the Russian spaceport in a Soyuz rocket to renezvous with the ISS. The crew of Expedition 20 is now up to 6. YIPPEE! Finally, we have a full team of explorers to make the most of the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka has the position of station commander. According to NASA, this is the first time all 5 international station partners have a representative on the crew. Those partners are: NASA, Russia, Japan, Europe, and Canada. One wonders whether China will eventually join the partnership. 

On the unusual side of things, NASA Astronaut Michael Barratt was able to watch the movie "Star Trek" on his laptop when it was beamed digitally to the station. There is also a collection of DVDs on the station. Greg Chamitoff, of a previous expedition, told that he and his crewmates managed to watch the entire Star Trek series during their off times on the station or during exercise periods. My faith in the space program has been strengthened!

The ISS remains in orbit about 220 miles up.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dangerous Spacewalks in Progress

So far, so good. The Hubble repair mission of STS-125 on board Shuttle Atlantis has proceeded well. The astronauts have so far completed a difficult rendezvous and docking sequence with the telescope and have performed two excellent spacewalk missions to replace an important camera assembly and gyroscopes repair. Today on the third of five spacewalks the astronauts are installing the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and repair work on the Advanced Camera for Surveys. 

Many people are unaware of some of the dangers faced during these spacewalks. Sure, it's a dangerous space environment, but the very nature of the process involved in the repair work is also a bit of a problem. Many of the repair procedures were never planned on, and there are many sharp edges and pieces inside the Hubble assembly. These could pose a risk of cutting and opening the gloves and arms of the spacesuits worn by the astronauts. Previous repair efforts demonstrated not only abrasions but also small cuts in the suits. Astronauts have been carefully trained over the last couple of years on how to avoid these accidents as much as possible. Good luck to 'em.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Atlantis ready to Launch!

Shuttle Atlantis is ready to launch for mission STS-125. Atlantis will fly the last mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, where the crew will make the last modifications and repairs to the venerable old scope. Launch is scheduled for 2:01 Eastern time tomorrow. Weather forecast shows good weather for the launch. Good Luck Atlantis!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spaceport America launch!

Up Aerospace successfully launched their SpaceLoftXL sounding rocket from SpacePort America. The payload consisted of educational experiments from students in New Mexico. This is the first successful launch from Spaceport America, and signals the start of real operations from the country's first commercial spaceport. I love to see this stuff coming together!

Monday, May 4, 2009

3 Astronauts Inducted in Hall of Fame

Three shuttle-era astronauts were inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame over the weekend. They also happen to be three of my favorite shuttle-era astronauts. AND, it just so happens, they all have been in IMAX movies!

George Nelson appears in the pre--Challenger IMAX movie "The Dream is Alive." He is seen preparing for a mission and then performing the actual spacewalk. Bill Shepherd is seen in the IMAX movie "Space Station" as the commander of ISS Expedition 1. Also seen briefly in "SpaceStation" is Jim Wetherbee, the commander of shuttle mission STS-102, bringing Expedition 2 to the ISS.

Interesting note on Wetherbee: of the three, he is the only one to fly on all the post-Challenger shuttles over 6 missions!