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Thursday, December 23, 2010

A total lunar eclipse is about to take place above space shuttle Discovery on the night of December 20, 2010.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... The images above and below show space shuttle Discovery just as a total lunar eclipse is about to take place above it on Monday night. Of course, I myself couldn't watch the eclipse...since I live in Southern California...and the rainstorm that started last Friday just ended yesterday. Oh well.

A total lunar eclipse is about to take place above space shuttle Discovery on the night of December 20, 2010.
NASA-KSC video

The pic below shows Discovery back inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center yesterday. Tests will be conducted on Discovery's external fuel tank before the shuttle rolls back to Launch Pad 39A by January 13...in preparation for its targeted February 2 (Pacific Time) launch.

Space shuttle Discovery arrives at the Vehicle Assembly Building on December 22, 2010...to undergo additional tests on its external fuel tank before its February 2, 2011 (Pacific Time) launch.
NASA / Frank Michaux

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying SpaceX's first fully operational Dragon vehicle launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on December 8, 2010.
NASA / Kevin O'Connell

THE DRAGON TAKES FLIGHT... At 7:43 AM, Pacific Standard Time today, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying SpaceX’s first fully operational Dragon vehicle was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This was the second launch of Falcon 9 since its maiden flight last June, while this was Dragon’s first voyage to Earth orbit before it finally begins ferrying cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) next year. At 11:02 AM, PST, the Dragon capsule safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean (500 miles off the coast of Mexico, to be exact) after re-entering Earth’s atmosphere...making this the first time a commercial company successfully brought a spacecraft back to the Earth’s surface from orbit. SpaceX deemed this flight a 100% success.

Today is a historic day for manned spaceflight...especially for the United States. With the space shuttle fleet retiring next year, the launch of Falcon 9 had to be a complete success and the on-orbit performance of Dragon completely flawless to vindicate President Obama’s decision earlier this year to cancel NASA’s Constellation program and rely on private companies to send cargo (and even astronauts) to low-Earth orbit. SpaceX was suppose to conduct one more "demo" flight of the Dragon spacecraft before it was to finally dock the capsule to the ISS for actual cargo operations. Here’s hoping NASA will have a change of plans and allow SpaceX to consolidate those two flights into one mission, thus allowing Falcon 9 and Dragon to immediately usher in the era of commercial spaceflight just as the space shuttle program is about to come to a close. That is all.

The Dragon spacecraft is about to splash down into the Pacific Ocean on December 8, 2010...following the completion of its maiden flight.
SpaceX / Michael Altenhofen

A close-up of the Dragon spacecraft just as it is about to splash down into the Pacific Ocean on December 8, 2010...following the completion of its maiden flight.
SpaceX / Michael Altenhofen

The Dragon spacecraft is about to splash down into the Pacific Ocean on December 8, 2010...following the completion of its maiden flight.
SpaceX / Michael Altenhofen

A recovery team works on the Dragon spacecraft after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean on December 8, 2010...following the completion of its maiden flight.
SpaceX / Michael Altenhofen

Sunday, November 14, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Astronaut Douglas Wheelock, currently residing onboard the International Space Station (ISS), took this great image of former crewmate Tracy Caldwell Dyson (who returned to Earth onboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in late September) inside the ISS' Cupola and posted it on his Twitpic page 49 days ago. Awesome pic... Obviously, there’s something very science fiction-ish (and um, sexy) about this photo. Then again, I pointed out earlier this year that the Cupola was something that you would see in Star Wars. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. (If you were a Star Wars fan you'd know who I was quoting with that line.) That is all.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson gazes through the Cupola window at Earth in late September of 2010.
NASA - Douglas Wheelock / Twitpic.com

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The International Space Station as seen by the STS-132 space shuttle crew on May 23, 2010.
NASA

IMAGE OF THE DAY... The illustration below is courtesy of Life's Little Mysteries...

An illustration comparing the International Space Station’s size to that of other notable man-made objects, both real and fictional.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The VSS Enterprise conducts its first manned glide flight above the Mojave Desert in Southern California, on October 10, 2010.
Mark Greenberg - Virgin Galactic / Scaled Composites

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... The VSS Enterprise, a.k.a. SpaceShipTwo, conducted its first solo flight above the Mojave Desert in Southern California today. Click here to read more. Now if only I had $200,000 to make this historic commercial spaceflight news relevant to me...

The VSS Enterprise is released from the VMS Eve to conduct its first manned glide flight above the Mojave Desert in Southern California, on October 10, 2010.
Clay Observatory - Virgin Galactic / Scaled Composites

The VSS Enterprise conducts its first manned glide flight above the Mojave Desert in Southern California, on October 10, 2010.
Mark Greenberg - Virgin Galactic / Scaled Composites

The VSS Enterprise lands at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California after successfully completing its first manned glide flight, on October 10, 2010.
Bill Deaver - Virgin Galactic / Scaled Composites

Thursday, October 7, 2010

An Autobot 'Wrecker' drives past the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Michael R. Brown / FLORIDA TODAY

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON... This will be the full title for Michael Bay’s third Giant Alien Robots movie when it gets released in theaters next July. Before folks here begin criticizing this new moniker for Transformers 3 (for syntax and otherwise), I found this interesting explanation for Dark of the Moon on this website:

"The Dark of the Moon is traditionally the last three days of the Lunar cycle, immediately preceding the New Moon, and the time when the night sky is notably absent the presence of the Moon."

If the rumors I’ve read for Transformers 3 since it started filming last Spring is any indication, then Dark of the Moon does make sense. (Apart from the fact Dark of the Moon has been a title used for several books and plays dating back over half a century; not to mention a term used in ancient Greek mythos.) TF3 will reportedly focus on the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union...and how the Transformers had an impact on the two nations’ famous race to send astronauts to the Moon in the 1960's. Also, humans will supposedly turn against the Autobots in TF3, with some prodding by the Decepticons, so it would make sense that Shockwave and Co. (and even Megatron before he ended up taking an Arctic ice nap) sneak onto Earth under a dark, Moon-less sky to wage war on the Autobots and mankind. That, and the Decepticons may have a secret base on the far side of the Moon, heh.

However, I DO think that another title—like Transformers: The Dark Moon—would’ve sounded better...but the last thing I need while watching TF3 is to think of a friggin' Twilight movie when I see this title. Anyways, here are a couple of pics of the Autobot cars and actor Tyrese Gibson at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...where Michael Bay was filming TF3 since last weekend:

The Autobot vehicles gather at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Courtesy of NASASpaceflight.com

A Kennedy Space Center security guard checks out a Wrecker.
Michael R. Brown / FLORIDA TODAY

Optimus Prime shows up at Kennedy Space Center.
Red Huber / ORLANDO SENTINEL

Actor/rapper Tyrese Gibson poses in front of space shuttle Discovery at Launch Complex 39A.
Courtesy of AceShowbiz.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Space shuttle DISCOVERY heads toward pad LC-39A on September 20, 2010, in preparation for her November launch on STS-133.
NASA

BACK AT THE PAD...for one last time. There are still 41 days left before she launches on her very last space shuttle flight, but Godspeed anyway, Discovery.

Space shuttle DISCOVERY heads toward pad LC-39A on September 20, 2010, in preparation for her November launch on STS-133.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Space shuttle DISCOVERY sits on her launcher platform at LC-39A on September 21, 2010...beginning preparations for her November mission, STS-133.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Below is a God's-eye view pic of the orbiter Endeavour being transported atop a modified Boeing 747, a.k.a. a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. An orbiter relies on this jumbo jet to ferry it back to KSC whenever it lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California after a shuttle mission. In Endeavour's case, the last time this will presumably happen again will be next February...when Endeavour launches on mission STS-134. Endeavour having one last homecoming in the Golden State will obviously depend on weather conditions, both in Florida and California, on landing day. That is all.

Space shuttle Endeavour is transported from Edwards Air Force Base in California to Kennedy Space Center in Florida...atop a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
NASA

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The orbiter DISCOVERY is rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for STS-133 launch preparations, on September 9, 2010.
NASA / Jack Pfaller

THE BEGINNING OF THE END...for Discovery, that is. Of course, I said the same thing about Atlantis when it launched on space shuttle flight STS-132 last May. But in Discovery’s case, today’s rollover to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida should indeed begin the final curtain call for NASA’s oldest orbiter. Discovery will be attached to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters later today in preparation for STS-133, scheduled for launch on November 1st. The space shuttle program, as of right now, is supposed to end after next February’s STS-134 mission with Endeavour. But if NASA includes an additional flight (STS-135) to launch next June as expected, then Atlantis will be assigned to that mission. That is all.

The orbiter DISCOVERY is rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for STS-133 launch preparations, on September 9, 2010.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Friday, June 4, 2010

SpaceX's FALCON 9 rocket launches on its maiden flight on June 4, 2010.
Matt Stroshane / Getty Images

KUDOS TO SPACEX for the successful maiden launch of its Falcon 9 rocket! Today’s historic liftoff oughta be a sign that the job of sending crew and cargo into low-Earth orbit by NASA can soon be handed over to commercial launch companies...and that NASA can focus on sending astronauts to asteroids by um, 2025...as envisioned by Obama. I’m still upset that he cancelled the Constellation moon program though.

The main engines on the FALCON 9 rocket ignite as it prepares to launch on its maiden flight on June 4, 2010.
Matt Stroshane / Getty Images

The FALCON 9 rocket leaves the pad on its maiden launch on June 4, 2010.
Matt Stroshane / Getty Images

The FALCON 9 rocket heads off into space on its maiden launch on June 4, 2010.
Matt Stroshane / Getty Images

The FALCON 9 rocket heads off into space on its maiden launch on June 4, 2010.
Matt Stroshane / Getty Images

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

After completing mission STS-132, space shuttle ATLANTIS lands at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 26, 2010.
NASA / Carl Winebarger

A CURTAIN CALL FOR ATLANTIS... At 5:48 AM, Pacific Daylight Time today, space shuttle Atlantis safely touched down at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The successful conclusion of her flight, STS-132, means that there are only two more missions (STS-133 and STS-134) that officially remain in the shuttle program before it comes to an end...and those pair will be flown by Atlantis’ sister ships Discovery and Endeavour, respectively. If Congress and NASA do not approve an additional flight (STS-135...which would be flown by Atlantis) that's been rumored online for a while, then today will officially be the day that the second youngest orbiter in the shuttle fleet made her swan song. Below are three cool images showing Atlantis docked to and orbiting near the International Space Station...for her 11th and final (scheduled) time.

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 17, 2010.
NASA

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the ISS on May 17, 2010.
NASA

With the Russian-built RASSVET Mini-Research Module in the foreground, space shuttle ATLANTIS floats near the ISS before finally departing the outpost on May 23, 2010.
NASA

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The actual WIDE FIELD AND PLANETARY CAMERA 2, which flew onboard the HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE from December 1993 to May 2009.

PARMAN’S PAGE Update... I’ve just added a new page devoted to this year’s Open House at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California. I went to the annual event last Saturday, and among the highlights of the trip (which would be my sixth visit to JPL since 1992) was seeing the Curiosity Mars Rover continuing to be built and prepared for its 2011 launch, a new venue devoted to the Juno mission to Jupiter (this spacecraft also launches next year) and seeing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) up close in person. WFPC2 was installed onboard the Hubble Space Telescope during the STS-61 shuttle flight in December of 1993, and was brought back to Earth during the STS-125 mission last year.

A cardboard marquee of the JUNO spacecraft, which launches to Jupiter in 2011.

Next year’s JPL Open House should be even more eventful...since along with the launches of Juno and Curiosity, the Dawn spacecraft will be arriving at asteroid Vesta in July of '11. I’m a total nerd...but you already knew that.

LINK: Photos I took at the 2010 JPL Open House

The CURIOSITY Mars Rover prototype, also known as SCARECROW.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 14, 2010.
NASA

THE BEGINNING OF THE END...for Atlantis, that is. The orbiter launched on space shuttle flight STS-132 more than half an hour ago...embarking on a mission that will be its 32nd and final (scheduled) journey into space. Atlantis was responsible for being the first U.S. orbiter to dock with the Russian space station Mir in 1995, and launching two successful interplanetary spacecraft over the course of her um, career (Isn’t it awesome when I anthropomorphize a $1 billion+ space vehicle?): Magellan—which studied Venus for four years after lifting off on May 4, 1989 (I watched this launch live on TV), and Galileo—which studied Jupiter for eight years after lifting off on October 18, 1989. Godspeed, Atlantis! Only two shuttle flights remain after she safely returns to Earth on May 26.

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the Russian space station MIR in 1995.
NASA / Russian Federal Space Agency

Space shuttle ATLANTIS deploys the MAGELLAN spacecraft on its flight to Venus and the GALILEO orbiter to Jupiter...in May and October of 1989, respectively.
NASA

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Robonaut 2 (R2) with its ominous-looking visor.

ANDROIDS... This September, NASA is planning to launch a 'special' crewmember up to the International Space Station (ISS) during the STS-133 shuttle flight. This crewmember, known as Robonaut 2—or "R2" for short—is designed to assist the ISS’ human crewmates by conducting daily chores such as setting up science experiments and wielding tools to conduct repairs. Click here for more details.

R2 pretending to train for the 'World's Strongest Man' competition.

Robonaut 2 won’t initially be given free run of the ISS...but eventually, NASA plans to have R2 use its hands to move about the orbital outpost the same way astronauts push and pull their way through the ship’s interior.

...

I expect Robonaut 2 to somehow take over the space station, HAL 9000-from-2001: A Space Odyssey-style, by this Christmas.


There's something disconcerting about the way these robots are holding those tools.  BLASTERS!

All images courtesy of NASA / General Motors

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A screenshot of the Hubble 'Google doodle'.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Hubble! Today marks two decades since the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was launched into orbit by space shuttle Discovery. HST has played such a pivotal role in presenting the cosmos to the world throughout the years that even Google is honoring the occasion (above)...

A Hubble Space Telescope image of the Carina Nebula...which is located 7,500 light-years from Earth.
NASA / ESA / M. Livio & Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

The photo above is of the Carina Nebula, which is located 7,500 light-years from Earth. The image was taken last February using HST’s Wide Field Camera 3...a new science instrument that was installed by space shuttle astronauts during flight STS-125 last year. Speaking of STS-125, don’t forget to check out that awesome IMAX film Hubble 3D (which focuses on NASA's final servicing mission to the space telescope) while it’s still in theaters. Check out the trailer below.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is prepped for launch at a Boeing Phantom Works facility in California.
U.S. Air Force

THIS EVENING, an Atlas V rocket carrying an experimental U.S. Air Force spaceplane is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Not much is known about its mission, but what is known is that the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) was originally the brainchild of NASA before it was taken over by the USAF in 2006 after NASA scrapped the program because of a lack of funding.

Artist concept of the OTV in Earth orbit, as originally envisioned by NASA.
Boeing Phantom Works

Other things that are known about the X-37B is that it is designed to stay in orbit for up to 270 days (or 9 months), receive electricity from a small solar array that will be unfurled from the vehicle once it is in space (as opposed to running on fuel cells like those used on NASA's space shuttle orbiters), test out surveillance and satellite-repair techniques and possibly carry special weapons, most likely nuclear, that it can deploy over targets in North Korea and Iran. Just kidding about that 'special weapons' part... Or am I?

Computer-generated image showing the OTV re-entering Earth's atmosphere.
NASA

At the end of its flight, the OTV will glide in for a touchdown at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California or the space shuttle’s back-up landing site at Edwards Air Force Base (also in California). What the USAF does next with the OTV remains to be seen. Actually, click here for more details on the X-37B's future.

Attached to a Scaled Composites' White Knight aircraft, the OTV undergoes a flight test in this NASA file photo.
NASA

The OTV undergoes launch preparations in this Boeing file photo.
Boeing Phantom Works

The OTV is shown inside its Atlas V payload fairing during encapsulation, ahead of its April 2010 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
USAF

The OTV is shown inside its Atlas V payload fairing during encapsulation, ahead of its April 2010 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
USAF

The OTV is shown inside its Atlas V payload fairing during encapsulation, ahead of its April 2010 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Boeing Phantom Works

The Atlas V rocket carrying the OTV rolls out to Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on April 21, 2010.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

A close-up of the X-37B's mission logo on the side of the Atlas V rocket's payload fairing.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V rocket carrying the OTV rolls out to Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on April 21, 2010.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V rocket arrives at SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on April 21, 2010.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

The OTV is seen on a runway during flight tests in this USAF file photo.
USAF