Today is the 10th anniversary of the Columbia accident. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade, though I guess it should seem more real now that the Shuttle is retired. I’ve written about Columbia and her astronauts here and here. It doesn’t get any easier writing about Columbia or Challenger or Apollo 1, but we still remember.
Yesterday there was a celebration for the 40th anniversary of Skylab, with eight of the nine Skylab astronauts at the Explorers Ball at the Space and Rocket Center. Five of the Skylab astronauts came out to Marshall to talk to the employees – Paul Weitz and Joseph Kerwin of Skylab 2, Gerald Carr, Bill Pogue, and Ed Gibson of Skylab 4.
Left to right, astronauts Ed Gibson, Paul Weitz, Bill Pogue, Gerry Carr and Joseph Kerwin
Marshall posted a Flickr album of Skylab pics. I liked this one:
That’s Jack Lousma. I dig the older spacesuit.
The best part of this celebration was finding out that the Skylab mockup has been restored and now has a permanent home in the museum. I remember seeing the mockup when I first toured the Space and Rocket Center in 1985. The mockup was moved outside and left to the rain and the raccoons for years. A group of volunteers started the restoration in 2006, and I’m very happy to see it finished. I’ll be at the museum tomorrow, and I promise to bring my camera.
Researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are evaluating small tiles made of space trash to find out whether they can be stored aboard spacecraft safely or even used for radiation shielding during a deep-space mission.
The circular tiles were produced at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California, where engineers developed and built a compactor that melts trash but doesn’t incinerate it. After compaction, a day’s worth of garbage becomes an 8-inch diameter tile about half an inch thick. Plastic water bottles, clothing scraps, duct tape and foil drink pouches are left patched together in a single tile along with an amalgam of other materials left from a day of living in space.
“One of the ways these discs could be re-used is as a radiation shield because there’s a lot of plastic packaging in the trash. The idea is to make these tiles, and, if the plastic components are high enough, they could actually shield radiation,” said Mary Hummerick, a Qinetiq North America microbiologist at Kennedy working on the project.
via NASA – Space Trash May Make Radiation Shields.
Might as well make something useful out of the trash on a long trip. BFI won’t make that kind of a pickup.
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, new towers are being constructed for the Antenna Test Bed Array for the Ka-Band Objects Observation and Monitoring, or Ka-BOOM system. Workers soon will begin construction on the 40-foot-diameter dish antenna arrays and their associated utilities, and prepare the site for the operations command center facility. The Ka-BOOM project is one of the final steps in developing the techniques to build a high power, high resolution radar system capable of becoming a Near Earth Object Early Warning System.
I’ve worked on some programs with lousy acronyms, funny acronyms, acronyms within acronyms, but someone gets an attaboy for Ka-BOOM.
h/t @NASAKennedy on Twitter
Chris Hadfield is one of only nine Canadian astronauts and has many records for Canada under his belt. First Canadian astronaut to spacewalk. CAPCOM for 25 Space Shuttle missions. Tied with Marc Garneau for number of trips to space. In March, when the Expedition 34 crew departs for Earth, Hadfield will become the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.
Before the Expedition 35 crew launch, the Globe and Mail published this article by Hadfield’s son Evan. Most kids don’t think twice about Dad getting in the car to drive to work, but strapping into a Soyuz? Another matter entirely. I’m sure our readers with military parents can identify with that fear. Reading that article reminded me of the family scenes in “Apollo 13″, as well as nearly getting into a fistfight in college after the Challenger accident. (Someone who should have known better told the joke, “What does NASA stand for? Need Another Seven Astronauts” within earshot.)
Anyway, the Soyuz launched safely, and the crew has been busy on ISS. Hadfield’s Twitter is @Cmdr_Hadfield. Yesterday, he responded to a twitter from fellow Canuck William Shatner. (thanks, XBrad, for the link.)
This morning he continued his good humor with this one.
Hahahahaha. Godspeed, sir.
After World War II, during which his family lived in Switzerland, von Puttkamer studied mechanical engineering at Konstanz and the Technische Hochschule (RWTH Aachen) in Aachen, graduating with a university degree. In 1962 he left Germany for the United States, where he joined Wernher von Braun’s rocket team at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as an engineer during the Apollo Program.
via NASA's Jesco von Puttkamer Has Died | SpaceRef – Your Space Reference.
He had already moved to NASA Headquarters when I joined NASA, but somewhere I have a picture of Jesco von Puttkamer and Gene Roddenberry on the set of the first Star Trek movie. von Puttkamer was one of several German engineers who were not part of Operation Paperclip but came to the United States later to join von Braun’s team.
h/t reader Bill.
Update: Found the photo in “The Making of Star Trek” by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry.
von Puttkamer was technical advisor for Star Trek-The Motion Picture, providing comments on warp drive, black holes, wormholes, matter implosion theory, and script continuity (at no cost to the taxpayer, I might add).
Star Trek particularly interested him because it showed a regard for true science, and because it gave people a vision of what the realities of space could be. In fact, he feels that Star Trek did this in some ways that NASA could not. For example, NASA’s own Apollo moon shots never gave the impression of great speed in spite of the fact that they traveled thousands of miles an hour. Jesco was impressed with the initial Enterprise fly-by in the television show opening, which gave a feeling of the tremendous speeds the ship can reach. This was just the sort of thing NASA needed to get the interest and support of the general public.
The space shuttle and museum on Manhattan’s west side sustained damage during the late October hurricane, and while the museum isn’t fully operational quite yet, the damage to the space shuttle was minimal, however dramatic looking, officials said.
The tip of Enterprise’s vertical stabilizer, the back tail resembling a whale’s dorsal fin, tore off when the inflatable pavilion fell down around it. However, it broke on a seam, making it a relatively simple repair, said Intrepid’s president, Susan Marenoff-Zausner.
via Intrepid Museum, Home of Shuttle Enterprise, Reopens after Hurricane Sandy Closure | Space.com.
In all the massive trauma caused by Hurricane Sandy, I missed that Enterprise was damaged. They did prepare for the hurricane by raising the generators that maintained the inflatable structure around the test shuttle. The generators still were hit by a six-foot wave of flood water, which shorted them out.
Merry Christmas and many blessings to all our wonderful readers, my fellow co-bloggers, and our fine host, XBradTC.
(This is the Saturn I in the “rocket park” at work. Photo credit to the best photographer I know, Emmett Given.)
This one from Cassini has been making the rounds. The sun was behind Saturn on October 17 of this year, allowing for the wide-field camera to be used on settings that aren’t possible in sunlight. All the scientists studying the rings and the atmosphere got an early Christmas present. Enceladus and Tethys are the white dots on the lower left. (click to embiggen)
The asteroid 4179 Toutatis recently passed within about 4.3 million miles from Earth. The Deep Space Network in Goldstone, CA captured a series of radar images Wednesday and Thursday (Dec. 12 and 13), which someone kindly turned into a video. The asteroid is about 2.8 by 1.5 by 1.2 miles and is tumbling “like a badly thrown football”, spinning about its long axis every 5.4 days.
The Chinese lunar probe Chang’e 2 flew by the asteroid Dec. 13, but no images have been released yet.
FYI, Toutatis was a Celtic god.
via Huge Asteroid's Earth Flyby Caught on Video | Space.com.
Today is the planned demolition of the F-1 engine test stand at Marshall Space Flight Center.
The demolition company will leave the foundation intact in case there is a future need for it, but the rest of it is coming down.
Don’t be upset that this is going away. This test stand has not been used since 1969 because there is a nearby larger test stand designed for multiple engine testing. Also, most of the engine testing has been moved to Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It was time to either spend a lot of money that we don’t have on maintenance or tear it down.
I’ll update with the video when it’s available.
Well, JPL is still holding onto whatever news was supposed to be earthshaking. In the meantime, Cinesaurus made this cute parody:
(Aww, Curiosity killed the cat – look out Sox!)
If you don’t get the joke, this is the original. Public service announcement with an earworm of a song.
Australia got a total eclipse earlier this month. They were wishing for clear skies, but the clouds add an ethereal touch.
More images here.
Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford talks about what he and cosmonauts Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy will have (have had?) for their Thanksgiving dinner. It doesn’t look like the Russians mind celebrating an American holiday.
I find it odd that we are down to just a three-man crew for a month after maintaining a six-man crew for a while. Usually the replacement crews arrive a little sooner.
Last Tuesday, a meteor broke up and landed south of here, near the town of Cullman. Dr. Bill Cooke of Marshall’s Meteoroid Environment Office called it a true fireball. It was large enough that it generated a shockwave on a seismograph in Huntsville.
The meteorite hunters are here in force, looking for fragments. Some are from Marshall, some are professional meteorite hunters. Good luck to them.
At least no one was hurt this time, unlike in Sylacauga in 1954, when a meteor hit Mrs. Elizabeth Hodges.
The post title song was written in 1934, inspired by the 1833 Leonid meteor shower.
You knew I had to post the song, right?
Space shuttle Atlantis was moved to her new home at the Kennedy Visitor Center yesterday.
She was escorted by about 30 astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin, Scott Carpenter, Eileen Collins, Gene Cernan, and Jim Voss.
I like this one with the reflection in the water. Glad they had good weather for the move.
Still sad to see, but I guess I’ve moved into the acceptance phase.
Yesterday morning a Soyuz rocket carrying astronaut Kevin Ford and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin launched successfully from Baikonur. They will join Sunita Williams, Akihiko Hoshide, and Yuri Malenchenko as part of Expedition 33 when they dock with the International Space Station on Thursday. Ford will become commander of Expedition 34 when Williams, Hoshide, and Malenchenko return to Earth next month.
The Dragon commercial resupply capsule will undock and return to Earth on Sunday October 28.
Hubble, eat your heart out. One of seven mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope has been completed – a 27.5-foot diameter monstrosity cast from 20 tons of glass and polished to 19 nanometers precision. They were aiming for 25 nanometers or better, or 1/20th of the wavelength of visible light. The optics I usually deal with are 1/10th wave precise and a lot smaller, so I’m impressed.
The Giant Magellan Telescope is being constructed in northern Chile, high in the Andes and away from light pollution. It will be part of the Las Campanas Observatory in the Atacama Desert. The seven segments form a 82-foot diameter mirror.
University of Arizona
hopes to cast the second segment mirror in January and hopes to cast the third segment next year. (corrected)
Mr. RFH says it’s a UH-60M. I just know that’s some serious planking.
The Earth is passing through the debris stream left behind by Halley’s Comet. Look for the Orionids tonight, especially in the wee hours of the morning, off Orion’s lifted arm.
Hans Nyberg has stitched together the Apollo mission photos taken with a Hasselblad EDC camera into 360o interactive panoramas. Go full screen, turn on the sound, and enjoy.
Thank you for all your kind words on the “RIP” post.
I have hope for the next generation. To make a long story short, three of my nephews, the oldest 22, the youngest 19, organized themselves on their own and showed up at the funeral on time, in suits and reasonably groomed. (Two clean-shaven, one in an Amish-style beard which I can’t decide if I like or not. It beats the mohawk trend that seems to be coming back.) None have any military background (because, granted, 18-year-old soldiers can have their act together), it was the first time I’ve interacted with two of them without their parents around, and I started seeing them as adults.
Best caption of this picture goes to Dave in Texas. “Hold my beer.”
Baumgartner set the altitude record for a manned balloon flight, parachute jump from the highest altitude (128,000 ft), and greatest free fall velocity (833.9 mph or Mach 1.24). He did this on the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s breaking the sound barrier.
Speaking of Chuck Yeager, he broke the sound barrier again Sunday with a flight in an F-15 Eagle over the Mojave Desert. Capt. David Vincent of the 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis piloted the F-15. This made me wonder if Yeager at 89 is the oldest to break the sound barrier.
Endeavour is now at her new home after a 12-mile trip through Los Angeles. She was moving so slow, I was a little afraid someone was going to spray a tag on her. (Right, Craig?)
This video needs this song for a soundtrack.
I’m ready for XBradTC to be back on duty, aren’t you?
Filed under Personal, space
One of the contractors has been helping me organize 30 years’ worth of flight hardware. I’ve enjoyed it because he worked in a different area for 20+ years, so I can tell all my stories because he hasn’t heard them before (dagnabbit). So the other morning, when I said, “Oh, here is my favorite sample!”, he laughed and asked, “How can you have a favorite sample?” There are at least a couple thousand samples, what makes this one so special?
Well, it flew on LDEF (see yesterday’s post), so it was one of the first flight samples I ever analyzed. It was a sample of the coating used on the Hubble Space Telescope handrails (Chemglaze Z-853, if you must know). Hubble was sitting in another clean room at the Kennedy Space Center, waiting for its April 1990 launch. And this little one-inch diameter sample shows just what the space environment can do.
This is a “half-moon” sample, where only the left side of the sample was exposed to space. Atomic oxygen has eroded away the polyurethane binder, leaving a diffuse surface of fine yellow pigment dust. On the right side, you can see how glossy the paint is supposed to be. This was located 38 degrees from the ram direction (velocity vector), so there’s little bits at the corners of the half-moon where there was UV radiation but it was shadowed from atomic oxygen, so there’s UV darkening of the remaining binder. Finally, the little black circle on the upper left is a meteoroid/space debris impact. AO, UV, MMOD, all on one sample.
Yes, I know I’m a nerd, but it’s still neat.
The Voyager spacecraft are like the Energizer bunny, stilllllll going. Voyager 2 passed Pioneer 6 as the oldest working satellite earlier this year, on August 13. Now data from 35-year-old Voyager 1 indicates after traveling more than 11 billion miles, that it is now past the boundary of our solar system. It’s not an official press release from JPL/CalTech, but the Houston Chronicle makes a pretty good case.
Nick Suntzeff, a Texas A&M astronomer (waves at Aggie and TiFW), pointed out the increase in cosmic rays back in June.
“This probably means that Voyager 1 has left the solar system officially, in that it is no longer protected by the solar magnetic field, and is now totally open to whatever space throws at it.
A few more months of data on the high energy particles, and there is a definite increase.
At the same time, the bottom dropped out for solar protons.
No word on the magnetometer data, which in theory should show a change in the direction of the magnetic field, but two out of three ain’t bad. I’d say Voyager 1 is in interstellar space.
If billions and billions made you think of Carl Sagan, you might enjoy this video.
Engine 1 seems to have suffered a “rapid unscheduled dis-assembly” — i.e., it blew up. The other 8 engines burned longer than planned to put Dragon into orbit. The anomaly occurred at 1 minute and 20 seconds into the flight.
via Did One of Falcon 9′s Engines Explode? Video Shows Debris at Parabolic Arc.
I had to link this for the “rapid unscheduled dis-assembly” bit alone. This happened at close to max Q, or maximum dynamic pressure, though the call of max Q was six seconds after the engine explosion. The D version of the Merlin 1 engine addresses this problem by adding throttle capability from 70% to 100%. The vacuum version of the Merlin 1C already has throttle capability.
This makes me glad for robust designs.
Zoomed in and slowed down view of the engine destruction at the link, normal launch video here:
So does this count as ‘splodey?
In 1963, Aerojet General was given a $3 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to build a manufacturing and testing site for rockets that would send astronauts to the moon. The plant was constructed in the center of Florida’s Everglades in the town of Homestead. Beneath a large metal shed, a 150-foot deep silo housed the largest solid-fuel rocket motor ever built. The rocket was tested three times between 1965 and 1967.
>via A Giant, Un-Used NASA Rocket Has Been Sitting Underground For 50 Years – Mandatory.
A nice photoessay – we abandoned the solids for liquid-fuel engines to go to the moon. Thanks to reader Trevor for the linky.
SpaceX had a successful engine test firing last week and is looking forward to launching its resupply mission to the International Space Station at 8:35PM ET on Sunday, October 7.
The Space Shuttle Endeavour has been demated from its 747 carrier and moved to a modified overland transporter. It’s the same transporter that moved the shuttles from the factory in Palmdale to Dryden for ferrying to KSC. Endeavour‘s currently sitting in a United Airlines hangar, getting prepped for the 12-mile move to the California Science Center.
Tomorrow marks the 55th anniversary of Sputnik. We had no idea back then that we’d be cooperating with the Russians in space, much less relying on them for our manned spaceflight. Grumpf.
The Radiation Belt Storm Probes have recorded “earthsong”, which is radio waves between 0 and 10 kHz. Ham radio operators have heard this before, the sound of plasma waves in the radiation belt, but instead of catching the radio waves on the ground, the probes are flying right through the belts, sampling the sound at the same rate as a music CD. There’s a long and kind of tedious explanation at this link, but this is what it sounds like.
Sort of reminds me of frogs in the summer or some kind of strange bird.