Saturday, March 28, 2009

After completing mission STS-119, space shuttle DISCOVERY lands at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 28, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

BACK ON EARTH... I was gonna post a lengthy entry about how the International Space Station (ISS) now resembles artists’ renderings of the outpost when it was first conceived in 1984 (as Space Station Freedom), but I don’t wanna. Instead, here’s a pic of Discovery touching down at Kennedy Space Center in Florida today...and another of the ISS in all its (81% completed) glory...

The International Space Station, as of March 28, 2009.

UPDATE (March 29): This photo is now my desktop wallpaper...

The International Space Station, with orbital sunset behind it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

THANKS to a last-second heads-up by one of my friends yesterday, I was able to spot the International Space Station (ISS) and space shuttle Discovery as they passed over Southern California at different times last night. The ISS appeared first...passing around 225 miles (in a southwest-to-east direction) above SoCal between 7:18 and 7:21 PM, and Discovery orbiting around 150 miles overhead (in a southwest-to-northeast direction) between 7:37 and 7:41 PM (all times Pacific). Discovery is set to dock with the ISS today at 2:13 PM, PDT.

In my enthusiasm, I decided to post two pics I took of the ISS...despite the fact these will probably be the crappiest space-related images you'll ever see. I used a 7.3 megapixel digital camera, without a telescope to attach it to, if you must know.

(The sky was already too dark for me to get a shot of Discovery once it flew overhead.)

Two photos I took of the International Space Station when it flew over Southern California on March 16, 2009.

If you want to know when the ISS and shuttle will pass over your area, click here to look up the next sighting opportunity.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Space shuttle DISCOVERY is launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 15, 2009.
NASA / Tony Gray, Tom Farrar

DISCOVERY LAUNCHES... At 4:43 PM, Pacific Time today, space shuttle Discovery took off on a 13-day mission to continue assembly on the International Space Station (ISS). By next Sunday, the ISS will finally have the appearance that artists and engineers envisioned since the space station was first proposed during the Reagan era more than 20 years ago (below). The reason for this: Astronauts will install and deploy the final set of solar wings that will bring the outpost to full electrical power once it is attached during a series of spacewalks this week. On a side note, with today’s flawless launch since the original attempt was scrubbed last Wednesday, nice to know that NASA proved me wrong.

An artist's concept of the International Space Station.

On a personal note, it’s pretty cool that the vehicle I saw in person last month is finally up in space. With all the delays that STS-119 dealt with over the past month or so, I grew used to seeing the photos I took of Discovery as it stood at Launch Complex 39A with that protective gantry (a.k.a. the Rotating Service Structure) concealing it. Will I go back to Kennedy Space Center to actually witness a shuttle launch before it’s retired next year? As I said above, with the amount of delays a launch can unexpectedly face when you think all is going well, plus the fact I almost spent a grand going on that 4-day Florida trip last month, plus the 2010 shuttle deadline, probably not. Would I go to a launch once the Ares rockets come online (hopefully) late next decade? What do you think?

LINK: Photos I took at Kennedy Space Center

Posing with space shuttle Discovery behind me, on February 8, 2009.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

BETTER LUCK ON SUNDAY... Or should I say, April 7? If space shuttle Discovery doesn’t get off the ground by this Tuesday (March 17), then it will have to wait till the first week of April for another launch attempt. The reason for this is because Russia is planning to launch a Soyuz spacecraft carrying a new crew (Expedition 19) to the International Space Station on March 26. Here’s hoping that NASA is able to resolve what caused today’s launch scrub (a hydrogen gas leak during the fueling of the shuttle’s external tank) and have a successful lift-off this weekend.

Of course, knowing NASA’s luck since the STS-114 "Return To Flight" mission in 2005 [Shuttle launches have been delayed due to problems with foam still coming off of external tanks, issues with the tanks’ engine cut-off (ECO) fuel sensors, a freak hailstorm, the threat of an incoming hurricane, equipment failure onboard the Hubble Space Telescope and concerns over damaged 'flow control valves'. PLEASE don’t make me link to the individual shuttle missions these incidents refer to], that will most likely not be the case. But hey— Prove me wrong NASA. Prove me wrong.

A full moon shines above space shuttle DISCOVERY at Launch Complex 39A, during the early morning hours of March 11, 2009.
NASA / Bill Ingalls