Saturday, November 28, 2009

Atlantis lands on Friday

Deploying the drag chute

Shuttle Atlantis rolled to a stop early Friday morning while millions of shoppers began Black Friday madness. With the end of STS-129, there are five scheduled shuttle flights remaining to be completed in 2010 before the shuttle series ends.

Notable for this mission was the sheer volume of supplies and spare parts delivered to ISS and stored for future use. Also, during the mission astronaut Randy Bresnik became father to a baby girl born just after his spacewalk. Astronaut Nicolle Stott returned from a three month stay on the ISS. She will be the last ISS astronaut to be transported to/from the ISS on the shuttle, from now on ISS crew will exclusively use the Russian Soyuz spacecraft until someone invents a new American system.

Whether NASA or a private company gets there first is anyone's guess at this point.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day in SPace

The Atlantis crew explains dinner in space. From NASA.

The shuttle crew will spend the day performing routine vehicle checks and making sure all is ready for landing at the Kennedy Space Center tomorrow at 7:44 am MST. They will take time to celebrate Thanksgiving with some special meal packets loaded before launch.

BTW, here's the first official Thanksgiving proclamation in our new country given by our first Commander-in-chief:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Atlantis undocks from ISS

Atlantis reveals its now-empty cargo bay.

It was a very busy day before Thanksgiving, and many errands needed to be completed before the feasts of the big day. It was finally growing dark before 6 pm MST as I drove up the final few blocks to home, when I barely noticed two new bright stars in the northern sky. That triggered my subconscious red flag alarms, as I knew there were no stars THAT bright in that part of the sky... and... they were moving. I quickly parked into my driveway and jumped out in time to watch the two objects move silently and steadily across the darkening sky. Atlantis was the slightly dimmer object and trailed the ISS, the enormously bright object. Eventually the pair of bright objects disappeared behind the peaks of Mt. Timpanogos.

Atlantis is due to land on Friday, completing mission STS-129. It is scheduled for only one more flight to the ISS.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Spacewalks Successful; Atlantis prepares to Depart

STS-129 and Expedition 21 in group photo.

All the supplies have been transfered, and all spacewalking objectives were met. In addition, astronaut Bresnik announced Sunday that a new baby daughter was born into his family in Houston! The crew of Atlantis entered the shuttle and closed the hatches in preparation for undocking which takes place Wednesday. Along for the ride is ISS astronaut Nicole Stott, who is returning home after a lengthy stay on the station.

ISS Commander Frank DeWinne handed over command of the station to astronaut Jeff Williams. Dewinne and two flight engineers are due to depart the ISS on November 30, returning home in a Soyuz currently docked to the station.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Atlantis Docks with ISS; First Spacewalk Complete

Atlantis on initial approach.

Shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station on Wednesday, right on time at 11:53 am MST. the screen capture above, you can make out some of the equipment in the shuttle's open cargo bay that will be transfered to the ISS.

Atlantis does a backflip.

Prior to docking, Shuttle Atlantis performed the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver, exposing the heat shield tiles on the bottom of the orbiter. This permitted the ISS crew to photographically inspect the tiles for any potential danger during the re-entry phase of the mission. NASA engineers will review the inspection carefully, but so far no problems have been noted.

NASA Computer graphic of Atlantis docked with ISS.

With docking complete, preparations were made for unloading some of the equipment in the cargo bay. Using the robotic arm, astronauts began moving some of the equipment to storage locations on various places on the ISS. Preparations also began for Thursday's spacewalk.

Spacewalk in progress.

Astronauts Mike Foreman and Robert Satcher completed a 6-hour-37 minute spacewalk to move and secure items from the cargo bay to the station truss and other locations. They actually got ahead of schedule and completed the installation of the Payload Attach System which would have first on the next walk.

Of course, what they were completely unaware of is that down here in Utah we poor space enthusiasts would find huge crowds assembling at the two new In-and-Out-Burger franchises which opened today. No way to get past that crowd. Burgers later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Space Shuttle on the way to ISS

View from Atlantis: SRB separation

Mission STS-129 started with a beautiful launch of Shuttle Atlantis in very good weather. This is an important supply mission, as there are only several shuttle flights left and NASA has to make sure certain spare parts are brought to the station. The crew will perform three spacewalks during the mission, moving the spare parts (such as a station gyroscope) onto strategic locations on the ISS.

Atlantis only carries six astronauts on the way up. They will be bringing home astronaut Nicole Stott, who has been on ISS since August. Interestingly, this is the 31st shuttle flight to the ISS AND it also happens to be Atlantis' 31st flight to space!

NASA managed to make 5 shuttle flights this year, which is a very aggressive schedule. The Space Shuttle program has been scheduled to end in 2010, although there is a chance it will extend to 2011. Atlantis is scheduled to only fly one more mission, STS-132, and then it will be retired. Enjoy its performance while you can! The shuttle is scheduled to dock with ISS today at 9:53 am MST.