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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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

With a space shuttle main engine and an Orion capsule mock-up behind him, President Obama makes a speech about his plans for NASA at Kennedy Space Center, on April 15, 2010.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

OBAMA VISITS THE SPACE COAST... Earlier today, the President flew down to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to make a speech about his new plans for NASA. In his speech, Obama talked about how he wanted U.S. astronauts to visit an asteroid by 2025, finally get to Mars by the 2030s, continue to promote private companies like SpaceX to launch cargo and crew to the International Space Station (ISS), convert the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle into an ISS lifeboat instead (rather than canceling Orion as previously planned), and authorizing NASA to finalize a new design for a heavy-lift launch vehicle (HLV) by 2015.

...

2015. What I find funny about this is that Obama wants NASA to finalize the design of the HLV a little more than one year before the President would complete a 2nd term in the Oval Office (assuming he got one). So even if NASA does design a new rocket that would efficiently and cheaply take astronauts out of low Earth orbit again, the space agency would be at the mercy of yet another White House administration that would make even more drastic (RE: crappy) changes to the U.S. space program by early 2017...and scrap the HLV and any other thing NASA will try to get done once the space shuttle program ends this year.

Awesome.

During Obama's visit, Air Force One is parked at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, on April 15, 2010.
NASA / Jack Pfaller

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A surreal shot of space shuttle Discovery docked to the International Space Station (ISS), on April 13, 2010.

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... These four pics were taken by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who is currently part of the 6-person crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS). If you want to see more awesome images taken by Noguchi in orbit (using the newly-installed Cupola viewport), visit his Twitter page.

The ISS flies over an aurora while orbiting the dark side of the Earth, on April 6, 2010.  The Moon looms in the background.

The photo at the top of this entry (taken yesterday) shows a surreal shot of space shuttle Discovery docked to the ISS. The pic directly above (taken on April 6) shows the ISS passing over an aurora while orbiting the dark side of the Earth...with the Moon looming in the background. The shot below (taken on April 2) shows the ISS flying from an aurora a few days before. The two capsules seen are Russian-made Progress and Soyuz spacecraft. The final image (taken on April 5) shows the ISS flying away from another aurora the day before. The Progress spacecraft is visible.

With Russian-made Progress and Soyuz vehicles in the foreground, the ISS flies away from an aurora, on April 2, 2010.

With a Russian-made Progress vehicle in the foreground, the ISS flies away from an aurora, on April 5, 2010.

All images courtesy of Soichi Noguchi / Twitter.com