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Sunday, September 27, 2009

ONE MONTH FROM NOW, the Ares I-X rocket will be launched on a flight test from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I don’t care what the naysayers say, I’m stoked.

An artist's concept of the Ares I-X rocket at Launch Pad 39B in Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Courtesy of nasa1fan/MSFC

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The International Space Station, as of September 8, 2009.
NASA

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... With the scheduled retirement of the space shuttle taking place less than a year from now, just thought I’d share pics of the vehicles that will be taking up the slack of transporting crews and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) once the shuttle is gone. Now in operation are Russia’s Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (or ATV) and Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (or HTV). The images of the spacecraft are in the order that they are listed above:

A manned Russian Soyuz spacecraft, as seen by a crewmember onboard the International Space Station.
NASA

An unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft, as seen by a crewmember onboard the International Space Station.
NASA

A European ATV spacecraft, as seen by a crewmember onboard the International Space Station.
NASA

A Japanese HTV spacecraft (lower left), as seen by a crewmember onboard the International Space Station.
NASA

Future spacecraft that will ferry crews and cargo to the ISS are SpaceX’s Dragon vehicle, Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus cargo ship and NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Dragon and Cygnus are set to make their maiden flights sometime next year, while Orion won’t be operational till at least 2017. Better late than never.

An artist's concept of the Dragon spacecraft in Earth orbit.
SpaceX

An artist's concept of the Cygnus spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.
Orbital Sciences Corporation

An artist's concept of the Orion spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.
NASA

Thursday, September 17, 2009

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... Buzz Lightyear is back on terra firma after his 468-day stay onboard the International Space Station. He returned to Earth onboard the space shuttle Discovery last Friday...and will now be given a ticker-tape parade at Walt Disney World in Florida on October 2. I'm serious. Lucky lil’ plastic dude.

Buzz Lightyear poses proudly in front of the space shuttle Discovery, which took him home on September 11, 2009.

Buzz Lightyear gazes at the spacecraft that took him home on September 11, 2009.

Both images courtesy of NASA

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Space shuttle Discovery lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on September 11, 2009.
Danny Moloshok / Reuters

YESTERDAY, one of my coworkers and I went down to Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert to watch the landing of space shuttle Discovery (which concluded mission STS-128). Overlooking the fact we were like, 5 miles from the runway and didn’t actually see the shuttle touch down because it was obscured by hills by the time it reached the ground, the viewing was awesome. On the other hand, this made me realize that I totally need to replace my piece of s*** digital camera because it just couldn’t zoom in enough to get a decent shot of the homebound orbiter. At least my coworker got better shots (and videos) of Discovery...but that’s because his camera is 8 megapixels (mine is 7.3 megapixels) and has a good optical zoom.

A photo I took of space shuttle Endeavour landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on May 16, 1992.

This was the second time I watched a space shuttle landing in person. The first time was in May of 1992, when Endeavour touched down at Edwards (above) after concluding its maiden flight, STS-49. As you can see from the pic I posted, I had a much better vantage point of Endeavour’s arrival than I did for Discovery. That’s an understatement when all I captured was a friggin’ black dot in the sky (below). This makes me want to go to another shuttle landing in the Mojave Desert...just to view it from the same spot I was at 17 years ago, and to take pictures with a much better camera. I have till September of next year (which is when the shuttle is currently scheduled to retire; that may be pushed back to 2011) to do so.

A photo I took of, um, space shuttle Discovery landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on September 11, 2009.

One last thing... I guess I should be very fond of Discovery. I saw it on the launch pad (back in February of this year), saw it up in the night sky (while it was in space for mission STS-119), and saw it land. How many people get the opportunity to see a space shuttle in all three phases of flight (though seeing it on the pad doesn't really count...unless I actually saw it launch)? Apart from the astronauts and other die-hard space nerds, that is.

Posing for a pic after space shuttle Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on September 11, 2009.