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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Space shuttle Atlantis at Launch Complex 39A, on June 17, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

IT’S OFFICIAL... During today’s Flight Readiness Review at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, space shuttle program managers unanimously gave the approval to launch Atlantis on flight STS-135 on July 8. So a week from this Friday, assuming the weather will cooperate that morning, NASA’s last remaining operational orbiter will blast off from Florida at 8:26 AM, Pacific Daylight Time, and head for the International Space Station (ISS) on a 12-day mission. While Atlantis will be up at the ISS, delivering a year’s worth of supplies to the orbiting outpost’s 6-member crew, work will continue on Atlantis’ now-retired sister ships Discovery and Endeavour at KSC as NASA readies them for display at their respective museums (the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia for Discovery, and the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles for Endeavour) next year. Visit Spaceflight Now to read about the progress being made on decommissioning Discovery before she replaces Enterprise, the prototype orbiter that is currently on exhibit at the Udvar-Hazy Center, in 2012. Enterprise will eventually be relocated to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

On June 28, 2011, space shuttle program managers and engineers conduct a Flight Readiness Review at Kennedy Space Center in Florida that confirms Atlantis’ launch date of July 8, 2011 on flight STS-135.
Jim Grossmann

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The mission logo for STS-135.

SHOWN BELOW are the last four astronauts who'll ever get to fly on the space shuttle before it retires next month. Godspeed to the crew of flight STS-135...

STS-135 crew members: Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus; Pilot Doug Hurley and Commander Chris Ferguson.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Monday, June 20, 2011

'Autobot' vehicles drive along the Crawlerway towards Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.
Paramount Pictures

JUST THOUGHT I’D SHARE two screenshots from a recent TV ad for the upcoming film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon...which gets released in theaters nationwide on June 29. The screenshots are of space shuttle Discovery when she sat at Launch Pad 39A last October (when she was filmed by the Transformers 3 production crew when it visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida), prior to her November launch attempt on STS-133. As of right now, it remains to be seen on whether or not the now-retired orbiter will transform into a giant alien robot in Dark of the Moon. We’ll find out next week.

The Autobots enter Launch Complex 39A and approach space shuttle Discovery in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.
Paramount Pictures

Here’s the commercial from which the screenshots came:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Space shuttle Atlantis is ready to receive her cargo for flight STS-135 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on June 16, 2011.
NASA / Frank Michaux

IMAGES OF THE DAY... Earlier this morning, a payload canister carrying the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) was transported to Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The MPLM will be placed inside LC-39A’s payload changeout room before finally being installed inside the cargo bay of space shuttle Atlantis on Monday. This is the last time the payload canister will be driven over to a launch pad to deliver cargo to an orbiter waiting to lift off into Earth orbit...though the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) from which the canister came will continue to be used to prepare International Space Station (ISS)-bound cargo for years to come. Instead of being driven to KSC’s launch pads, the cargo will be brought over to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where it will be installed inside SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft...which is the first of many commercially-made orbital vehicles that will begin venturing to the ISS over the next decade or so.

(The SSPF also processes cargo that is flown overseas to other launch sites such as the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan...where the payload is prepped and delivered to the ISS via Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicles.)

The payload canister carrying space shuttle Atlantis' STS-135 cargo is transported to Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on June 17, 2011.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

The payload canister carrying space shuttle Atlantis' STS-135 cargo is transported to Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on June 17, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An artist's concept of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) in orbit above Earth.
NASA

MPCV Update...

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NASA Spacecraft to Make Cross Country Voyage (Press Release)

WASHINGTON -- NASA is inviting the public to view a test version of the agency's next spacecraft that will carry humans into deep space.

The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which NASA announced last month would be the agency’s deep space crew module based on the original work on the Orion capsule, will make three stops as it travels by truck from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The planned stops are June 15-16 at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz.; June 19-20 at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas; and June 24-25 at the Tallahassee Challenger Learning Center in Florida. The module also will be on display June 29-July 4 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

During a test flight in New Mexico last year, a new launch abort system propelled the spacecraft off the launch pad to a speed of almost 445 mph in three seconds. The spacecraft then parachuted to the desert floor.

The test module eventually will be moved to Kennedy's Operations and Checkout Facility for further study. The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle’s propulsion, life support, thermal protection and avionics systems ultimately will enable astronauts to travel for extended deep space missions and return safely to Earth.

Reporters interested in seeing the test spacecraft or scheduling interviews should contact Dan Huot at daniel.g.huot@nasa.gov or call the Johnson Space Center newsroom at 281-483-5111.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The MPCV arrives at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
NASA

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The International Space Station (ISS) with space shuttle Endeavour docked to it, as seen from a Russian Soyuz vehicle after it undocked from the ISS on May 23, 2011.
Roscosmos / ESA / NASA

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... These historic images were taken by European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli...who headed back to Earth along with two of his fellow Expedition 27 crewmembers onboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on May 23. Before the Soyuz was to begin deorbit operations that would lead to its safe touchdown in Kazakhstan later that day, it remained in a stationary position 600 feet away from the orbiter Endeavour and the International Space Station (ISS) for about 30 minutes when Nespoli took these amazing snapshots.

The International Space Station (ISS) with space shuttle Endeavour docked to it, as seen from a Russian Soyuz vehicle after it undocked from the ISS on May 23, 2011.
Roscosmos / ESA / NASA

Photos of the shuttle docked to the ISS were originally supposed to be taken during Discovery’s mission on STS-133 last February. However, the Soyuz that would’ve conducted a so-called flyabout maneuver of the outpost on that flight was an updated and untested version of the spacecraft...making officials at the Russian Federal Space Agency hesitant about conducting the maneuver at that time. NASA ultimately cancelled it for STS-133, and considered postponing the photo session till STS-135 when the opportunity presented itself on STS-134...after Endeavour’s liftoff was delayed for about two weeks following her original launch attempt on April 29. The timing allowed Endeavour to be at the ISS when another Soyuz vehicle (which was an older, more reliable version) was to undock from the space station to head home...thus leading to these historic portraits of two of the largest manned vehicles ever to be built for human spaceflight. To view more awesome images like these, go to this NASA gallery page.

The International Space Station (ISS) with space shuttle Endeavour docked to it, as seen from a Russian Soyuz vehicle after it undocked from the ISS on May 23, 2011.
Roscosmos / ESA / NASA

EDIT: Here's the HD video that Paolo Nespoli also shot of the ISS/shuttle stack on May 23...