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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