Monday, May 30, 2011

STS134: Endeavour headed home.

Departing Shuttle from ISS Camera.

Endeavour undocked from the ISS about 11:55 p.m. MDT Sunday night. It slowly moved away and around the station. Then came the encore! The shuttle approached the station again, on a practice docking maneuver, in order to test a new sensor installed on the station. The new sensor will help future docking attempts by spacecraft carrying supplies and crew to the ISS.

Endeavour's mission will end late tomorrow night when the orbiter touches down in darkness at the Kennedy Space Center. Landing is scheduled for about 12:35 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

STS134: Time to go home.

Endeavour cockpit.

Well, the time has come and gone. It was time for the crew of STS134 to say goodbye to the crew of new Expedition 29 on the ISS. After loading items onto the shuttle that needed to be returned from ISS for study, the crews met together for the last time for a farewell ceremony.

STS134 and Expedition 28 crews.

After a brief conference the crew of Endeavour headed down into their spacecraft and hatches were secured at about 7:20 a.m. EDT. Time to power up the old gal for one last ride through the bumpy atmosphere. Undocking is scheduled for 11: 50 something EDT tonight.

View of Endeavour, and Earth below. Time to go home.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

STS134: The Mundane Stuff?

Endeavour's crew gather for a crew picture.

With the 4th and last spacewalk complete, what does the shuttle crew do now? The picture above gives one clue. They are assembled in the Japanese science module KIBO for a picture. Lots of photos get taken in the ISS. This is amazing technology, and the crew is on an exciting adventure. These pictures get placed in newsppapers, magazines, the internet, and books. The publicity efforts of the astronauts inspire kids and adults alike to pay more attention to science and technological developments going on in orbit overhead. It helps promote the goals of not only NASA, but also the National Science Foundation, corporation interests like Boeing, medical companies and technology companies. NAd more.

Today the astronauts are helping the current 3-man crew of the ISS to maintain the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly, which is essential for keeping the life support system functional and making for living, breathing astronauts. Actually, this makes me chuckle, because as a flight director for the CMSEC simulator Magellan, I often cause the CO-2 scrubbers to malfunction to see how a crew responds to that emergency. Shades of Apollo 13.

The crew is also making a number of public appearances through the communications network, talking with reporters from television stations from Michigan and Ohio today.

And last but not least, there is still plenty of cargo to move from the shuttle to the ISS, and placing important garbage and items from the station into the shuttle for return to Earth. Not everything is burnt up in the atmosphere, some of it goes back to NASA for scientists to examine for scientific research.

All in a day's work for six guys who get TO FLY AROUND IN ZERO-G. Geesh. They look like it's so much fun!

Friday, May 27, 2011

STS134: Final Shuttle Spacewalk


Astronauts Chamitoff and Fincke completed the 4th and last spacewalk for the STS134 mission last night. Even as Early as I get up, the walk was already over and the suits were being stored as I quickly turned on NASA TV. Thanks to NASA TV, I'll be able to watch the highlights of the EVA later today. With no spacewalks planned during STS135, this concludes shuttle program EVAs for the ISS.

The spacewalkers stowed away the boom extension for the CanadArm2, and placed another grapple and power fixture point on the station so the arm can have greater reach along the truss. Once several other smaller procedures were completed, they headed for the airlock.

According to NASA figures, the astronauts reached a special milestone during the EVA. There have now been over 1,000 hours of EVA spent building and maintaining the International Space Station, shared between the United States and Russia primarily. It was the 118th time astronauts have used the ISS airlocks. No doubt there will be many more as the shuttles end their trips to ISS and will not be able to bring up supplies and crews.

Today also marks a special notice for astronaut Mike Fincke, who now stands at nine spacewalks and 48 hours in EVA. Today he will pass the 377 day record of time in space set by Peggy Whitson. Go Mike!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

STS134: Third spacewalk complete

247th US spacewalk.

During the third spacewalk of the STS134 mission, mission specialists Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke completed a series of modifications to the station that will allow the ISS to perform more efficiently when the shuttles are retired.

Modifications were made to the Russian Zarya module so that a bcakup solar power system is available, and a new base was created for attaching the station's CanadArm-2 to the module, thus extending its reach. The two astronauts also completed some communications maintenance on the exterior of the station.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

50 YA - Kennedy Promises the Moon

The President before Congress.

Has it really been fifty years?

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy arrived at the Capitol to address Congress about the most momentous decision he would make so far in his presidency. Broadcast on television, radio and printed in the newspapers, the president declared in bold terms that we were going to the Moon.

"First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

America was behind in the Space Race with the Soviet Union. The Russians were boldly proclaiming the superiority of their technology and their communist agenda alongside their successes in launching the first satellite, the first dog, and then the first man into space. The Cold War was in full swing and many worried about the advance of communism across the globe. Kennedy felt that America could compete against the Soviets and win the propaganda fight, but he needed a project he felt America could beat them with. The space program became his chosen sword.

Kennedy and Von Braun.

With the recent success of launching Alan Shepard into a 15-minute suborbital flight, Kennedy selected this moment to do something dramatic. His advisors counseled him that because the Russians had a rocket more capable of heavy lift, they would remain in the lead for a time. Kennedy wanted to know how we could beat them. He was advised that nothing would be more dramatic than a man planting the American Flag on the Moon, and we could probably get there before the Soviets. The President made his decision.

"No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more
important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or
expensive to accomplish."

At NASA the administrators, engineers, technicians and astronauts listened to the radio with rapt attention. This was it. The operation was GO. Apollo would be the program to get us there.
We were going to the Moon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Expedition 27: The Voyage Home

TMA-20 Soyuz docked at the Rassvet module.

At 3:35 p.m. MDT the Last crew of Expedition 27 to the ISS undocked from the station, LEaving the Rassvet module in their SOyuz TMA-20 spacecraft, they backed away from the docking port at about 1/10 meter per second. When safely away from the station, they used thrusters to maneuver the craft to perform a special duty this time.

Backing away from the hatch.

This is the first time that a Soyuz undocked from the ISS while a shuttle was parked there, and this is Endeavour's last trip into space. Russian planners therefore agreed to have the departing Expedition 27 crew make a fly-around of the station and shuttle complex for a special photo shoot!

TMA-20 on left, Endeavour on right.

Once the craft was some 600 feet away, cosmonaut Paulo Nespoli then opened the interior hatch of the Soyuz to move into the cargo module to take the pictures and video. The station rotated about 130 degrees to give him the best views possible.

Undocking view from Soyuz.

Because of the nature of the camera equipment, the crew won't be able to transmit the images to Earth. They will have to wait until they get safely on the ground when engineers will rush to get the views on line and distributed to the agencies involved.

Passing through Endeavour's shadow.

The crew will perform a deorbit burn at about 9:36 EDT and head for home. Estimated arrival time is 10:26 p.m. in Kazakhstan.

Another view of the two spacecraft.

Soyuz Camera view of ISS in orbit. A rare view of a shuttle parked at the station.

TMA-20 reaches camera position. Soon it''s back to Earth for them.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Expedition 27: Change of Command

Kondratyev hands over command to Borisenko (right).

Expedition 27 will officially end Monday when Soyuz TMA-20 undocks from the ISS and heads for Earth. Dmitry Konratyev, Paulo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman have finished their stay aboard the station and will return back to their boring lives on the surface. If it were me I'd head straight to a Pizza restaurant.

For the first time, the Soyuz has been permitted to make a special fly around the ISS in order to get a last opportunity photo of space shuttle Endeavour docked with the ISS.

With the Soyuz undocking, command of ISS goes to Andrey Borisenko, who leads Expedition 27 continuing with astronaut Ronald Garen and cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev. New Expedition 28 crewmembers will arrive June 9th in another Soyuz crew capsule.

STS134: Heat shield OK'ed for landing

Small chunk missing from tiles under the orbiter.

NASA engineers have examined the photos of Endeavour's heat shield and determined there is no danger for the orbiter to re-enter the atmosphere on it's last return to Earth. The damage was probably cause by a piece of falling insulation from the External Tank during liftoff. It was larger damage than this that caused shuttle Columbia to lose integrity during re-entry and its destruction.

Expedition 27: Chess in Space!

Greg Chamitoff and the ISS chess board.

It's Greg vs. Greg in a space chess match on the ISS. STS134 astronauts Greg Chamitoff and Greg Johnson are competing. Their space moves are being covered on Twitter, which you can follow on!/chessmagnet. The game will be played in between the busy schedule of the astronauts during Endeavour's 14-day stay at the ISS. You can join the game yourself! Go to the United States Chess Federation website at and suggest moves to the players!

STS134: Spacewalk 2: Check

Placing a container back in the airlock.

Astronauts on Sunday completed a record-making spacewalk. SPacewalk 2 of the STS134 mission, this walk lasted eight hours and twenty minutes! According to NASA, it was also the 246th spacewalk completed by American astronauts, as well as the 116th made from the ISS airlocks. There have now been 157 spacewalks made in order to build or maintain the ISS. Astronauts Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke performed the duties this time. They refueled cooing loops for the station with a new supply of ammonia and lubricated the joints for one of the huge solar panel arrays.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

STS134: First Spacewalk done, Important Call

ISS Airlock module.

Early Friday astronauts on board the ISS completed the first spacewalk of the mission, replacing a couple of experiments and performing maintenance. On Saturday, astronauts made a closer inspection of possible damage to the heat tiles underneath the shuttle Endeavour. Ground experts will examine the new pictures.

STS134 crew (dark blue) and ISS Expedition 27 crew.

Both crews gathered together for a space first: Pope Benedict XVI called the crews on a special call to praise them for their hard work and important missions performed on behalf of the people of Earth.

The next spacewalk is scheduled for Sunday.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

STS134: Here's Your AMS...

Artist version of AMS being removed from cargo bay.

Using the CanadArm on the shuttle and the CanadArm2 on the ISS, astronauts removed the Alpha Magentic Spectrometer 2 from the cargo bay of Endeavour and attached it to its new home on the ISS. The AMS is designed to detect and bend cosmic rays using a powerful magnet to search for evidence of dark matter. The AMS was built in Europe and is the culmination of efforts from 60 countries! Oh, and it cost about $2 billion. In my opinion, if it doesn't detect some dark matter than that is a serious matter... Ahem.

Computer image showing new location for AMS.

Computer image credits from NASA TV as usual. Currently, the astronauts are preparing for the first spacewalk of the mission, which should start about 1:16 am Friday and last about six and a half hours. Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff will perform the first spacewalk to retrieve two experiments, set out two more, and perform maintenance on the station. Three other spacewalks are planned for this mission after this one.

Astronauts prepare the EVA suits.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

STS-134: Endeavor Docks w/ISS

Endeavour Prepares for the RPM.

The shuttle Endeavoour has successfully docked early this morning at the International Space Station. Efforts are already beginning to prepare the offloading of the Alpha SPectrometer and other supplies. Several spacewalks are planned to prepare the station for a lack of visits by the shuttle teams.

Robotic CanadArm prepares to inspect shuttle bottom.

Yesterday the crew used the robotic arm to move a camera around the underside of the shuttle, inspecting the protective tiles needed for re-entry at the end of the mission. Today, after the arrival of the shuttle at the station, Commander Kelly flew the shuttle in the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver. Basically the shuttle flipped over onto its back and upright again so the ISS crew could photograph the entire shuttle exterior. Engineers on the ground will examine the data and determine if it is safe for the astronauts to return Endeavour to the Earth at the end of the mission.

Monday, May 16, 2011

STS-134: Blast off success for Endeavor!

Endeavor lifts off Pad 39A.

After a frustrating series of delays and repairs, Endeavor has finally been launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is Endeavor's last mission to space, and you couldn't ask for a more perfect launch this morning.

Closest permitted viewing area on hold at 9 minutes.

I remember being at a previous shuttle launch (which for me ended in a delay-arrg!). No doubt today there were thousands and thousands of spectators lining the roads and approaches to the space center waiting for this particular launch. The orbiter Endeavor has held a special place in American's hearts as it was the shuttle built to replace the loss of Challenger in the 80's. The shuttle was named in honor of HMS Endeavor, the ship made famous by the travels of Captain Cook in the Pacific and his crew's discoveries of many islands.

Camera view from the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Testing the swivel of the main engines before liftoff.

Removing the ET gas collector cap.

Activating ignition of the main engines.

Blast-off! The power of the SRBs is quite evident in this standard camera angle.

SRB separation after burn out. Main Engines continue to provide thrust.

ET separation. The External Tank will break up during re-entry over the Indian Ocean and sink to the bottom of the sea.

Mission Flight Control in Houston.

STS-134 marks the 25th mission for the shuttle Endeavor. The shuttle is now on the way to correcting its attitude and orbit in preparation for docking with the ISS in a couple of days.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

STS-134: Endeavor set for launch May 16

Endeavor prepared for launch.

The LCA-2 was removed from the shuttle Endeavor is being replaced. This unit fed power to the fuel line heaters and malfunctioned, endangering the liftoff. With the problem resolved and the repairs underway, NASA has given a green light to start the countdown again for the last launch of Endeavor on Mission STS-134. Blastoff is now scheduled for May 16th, Monday, at 6:56 am MDT.

Load Control Assembly-2. Bad thingy.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

50 YA: Freedom 7 Launches First American

Freedom 7 lifts off of Pad 5.

Congratulations, America, you've had astronauts in space for fifty years!

On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard donned his spacesuit for a second attempt at launching into a suborbital flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Once placed in his spacecraft, there was another long hold while NASA worked to clear the flight for blast off. The long wait was excruciating for a man who'd had perhaps too many cups of coffee before putting on the suit. After all, the flight was only supposed to last 15 minutes. Finally the GO was given, the countdown resumed, and the rocket blasted off. Many thousands of onlookers watched from the roads around Cape Canaveral, and Americans and people around the world watched on television. The highest point of the launch reached an altitude of 116 miles. During the flight, Shepard was able to test the attitude controls and make observations of Earth. Coming back through re-entry, Shepard had to endure over 11 G's of force as the capsule plunged to Earth. The parachutes deployed, and the craft landed in the ocean near the Bahamas islands. The US Navy was ready to pick up Shepard and the capsule. Later inspection showed the craft is in remarkably good shape and actually could have been used again. Today, the capsule is on display at the Naval Academy. Shepard later was awarded the Distinguished Cross by President John F. Kennedy at the White House.

Suit preparation.

Entering the Cleanroom.

Preparing to board.

View of Shepard in the capsule.

Dr. Von Braun (left) and Gordon Cooper (CAPCOM) in the launch blockhouse at LC-5.
As Capsule Communicator, Cooper had direct communications link to Shepard.

Blast Off! Freedom 7 is on its way!

Shepard during the flight.

View from the capsule.

Carrier USS Lake Champlain awaiting splashdown.

SHepard hoisted aboard the rescue helicopter. Capsule below.

2nd Helicopter recovers the capsule.

Shepard on deck of the carrier.

During the quick voyage back to the Cape.

Huntsville, Alabama celebrates. The rockets were built in Huntsville.

White House celebration. Shepard receives the Distinguished Cross from President Kennedy.