Thursday, January 31, 2013
Photos of the Day... Almost two years ago, I posted an entry about several albums I created featuring space articles that I found in the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers since I was in grade school. Just thought I'd post new pics showing the album (which is actually more of a scrapbook...but let's just refer to it as an album here) I created for 2012. Considering the fact that last year was a very action-packed one for manned and unmanned spaceflight [the retired space shuttle orbiters finally being sent to their museum homes, SpaceX's Dragon making its debut flight to the International Space Station (ISS) in the spring, several astronomical events such as last June's Venus transit taking place, and of course, the Curiosity rover's triumphant landing on Mars last August], I almost ran out of space (no pun intended) in the binder because of how thick the album grew. On the plus side though, I don't need to worry about this again till 2015...which is when I'll work on the next (and presumably final) Space Scrapbook. What's happening that year, you ask? The Dawn spacecraft arrives at dwarf planet Ceres, New Horizons makes its long-awaited flyby of dwarf planet Pluto and the first two-man crew is scheduled to launch to the ISS and spend a full year aboard the orbital outpost. Fun times, indeed.
Monday, January 28, 2013
27 Years Ago Today... The 7 astronauts of space shuttle Challenger lost their lives 73 seconds into flight on a frigid January day. 46 years ago yesterday, the 3 astronauts of Apollo 1 perished in a terrible fire during a ground launch rehearsal at Cape Canaveral, Florida. This Friday, it will be a decade since the crew of space shuttle Columbia was lost during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere over Texas. May all these explorers rest in peace. NASA's official Day of Remembrance will be on February 1st.
Monday, January 21, 2013
NASA / Carla Cioffi
Inauguration 2013... Here are a couple of photos taken of the full-size Orion spacecraft replica that was featured in today's Inaugural Parade that celebrated Barack Obama becoming the 44th President of the United States this morning. Also taking part in the festivities was a full-size model of the Curiosity Mars rover...along with some members from her mission team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California.
NASA / Carla Cioffi
NASA / Carla Cioffi
NASA / Bill Ingalls
NASA / Bill Ingalls
NASA / Bill Ingalls
Friday, January 18, 2013
ISS And Orion Updates... On the 10-year anniversary of STS-107's launch, NASA announced two major human spaceflight developments when it officially confirmed that Bigelow Aerospace will provide an inflatable module (launched via SpaceX's Dragon vehicle) for the International Space Station in 2015, and the European Space Agency (ESA) will build the Orion's Service Module (SM) for the Space Launch System's (SLS) inaugural flight in 2017. Whether ESA will build SMs for the remainder of the Orion program has not been disclosed.
Check out these two interesting videos showing the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module being attached to the ISS, and the SLS launching on Exploration Mission-1...the 2017 test flight where Orion and its SM will make their maiden trip to the Moon.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
STS-107: 10 Years Ago Today... At 7:39 AM, Pacific Standard Time on January 16, 2003, space shuttle Columbia launched on a 16-day flight to conduct various international scientific experiments in the SPACEHAB module inside her payload bay. What should've been a standard laboratory mission [and Columbia's last solo flight before she was to join Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour in continuing assembly on the International Space Station (ISS)] turned into a tragedy that, a decade later, resulted in the three remaining orbiters (mentioned above) now on display in museums after being retired more than a year ago, and NASA striving to make progress on the shuttle's successors, the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The loss of STS-107's 7-member crew was not in vain, as the ISS is now complete, the Space Shuttle Program safely and successfully came to an end after Discovery's Return to Flight on STS-114 almost eight years ago...and, if the funding for SLS and Orion holds true, astronauts will be venturing back to the Moon as early as 2021. Hail Columbia and her crew... Your memory will live on.
Friday, January 11, 2013
NASA, Bigelow Officials to Discuss Space Station Expandable Module (Press Release)
WASHINGTON -- NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a new addition to the International Space Station. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will demonstrate the benefits of this space habitat technology for future exploration and commercial space endeavors.
"The International Space Station is a unique laboratory that enables important discoveries that benefit humanity and vastly increase understanding of how humans can live and work in space for long periods," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. "This partnership agreement for the use of expandable habitats represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably, and heralds important progress in U.S. commercial space innovation."
Garver and Bigelow Aerospace Founder and President Robert Bigelow will discuss the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module program at a media availability at 1:30 p.m. EST (10:30 a.m. PST) Wednesday, Jan. 16, at Bigelow Aerospace facilities located at 1899 W. Brooks Ave. in North Las Vegas.
To attend, media representatives must contact Mike Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org by 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST) Jan. 15.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
SpaceShipTwo Update... Late last month, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2) finally underwent a glide test with its engine, known as RocketMotorTwo, as well as other components of its propulsion system attached to the vehicle. There are still two more unpowered flights planned for SS2 before Scaled Composites, the maker of this spacecraft as well as its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, completes this phase of the test program. Powered flights involving SS2 finally using its engine to launch the craft into suborbital altitude (60-plus miles above the Earth) will then ensue.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Photo of the Day... Taken on January 2, this pic shows Robonaut 2 being put through its paces as it operated on task board valves inside the International Space Station's (ISS) Destiny laboratory. What I want to know is, how do astronauts float inside this module (or any other segment aboard the ISS) without accidentally disconnecting any of the (potentially crucial) wires visible in this image? Spaceflight is indeed a hazardous business.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
A Big Year for SpaceX... 2013 looks to be a very productive year for the first commercial space company to ever send a privately-made vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX plans to conduct the second of twelve official cargo delivery flights [Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)-2] to the ISS on March 1 (according to Spaceflight Now), while CRS-3 will be flown to the orbital outpost on September 30. As shown above, the Falcon 9 booster and Dragon spacecraft that will soar on CRS-2 are already at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...awaiting launch processing. Also targeted for this year is the maiden flight of Falcon Heavy (which will be the largest rocket in the U.S. inventory until NASA's Space Launch System becomes operational as early as 2017) from SpaceX's new pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. As shown below, construction on the launch complex is all but complete. Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp, which are developing the CST-100 and Dream Chaser spacecraft courtesy of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, have ways to go before they make as much a mark on the future of American human spaceflight as SpaceX has. (I'm referring to the development of privately-made orbital vehicles, of course... Boeing has obviously made an impact on manned U.S. spaceflight by being the primary caretaker of NASA's space shuttles for so many years.)
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Paving The Way for the Future... Just thought I'd post this interesting article about NASA conducting research on space trash and how it could someday protect astronauts from harmful cosmic radiation when manned deep-space exploration becomes a reality. Personally speaking, I always recycle old newspapers, water bottles and soda cans after I'm obviously done using them. I'll be a lot prouder of my green efforts when I find out that used Dr. Pepper cans were utilized for the pressure hulls of future Orion spacecraft and/or components on the Space Launch System. Carry on.
Space Trash May Make Radiation Shields (Press Release - January 2)
Researchers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are evaluating small tiles made of space trash to find out whether they can be stored aboard spacecraft safely or even used for radiation shielding during a deep-space mission.
The circular tiles were produced at the agency's Ames Research Center in California, where engineers developed and built a compactor that melts trash but doesn't incinerate it. After compaction, a day's worth of garbage becomes an 8-inch diameter tile about half an inch thick. Plastic water bottles, clothing scraps, duct tape and foil drink pouches are left patched together in a single tile along with an amalgam of other materials left from a day of living in space.
"One of the ways these discs could be re-used is as a radiation shield because there's a lot of plastic packaging in the trash. The idea is to make these tiles, and, if the plastic components are high enough, they could actually shield radiation," said Mary Hummerick, a Qinetiq North America microbiologist at Kennedy working on the project.
Possible areas for increased radiation shielding include astronauts' sleeping quarters or perhaps a small area in the spacecraft that would be built up to serve as a storm shelter to protect crews from solar flare effects.
Hummerick and the team working in the Space Life Sciences Lab at Kennedy are trying to identify if the tiles -- which are made according to recipes based on trash from shuttle missions -- are free of microorganisms or at least safe enough for astronauts to come into contact with daily.
The compactor heats the trash for 3 1/2 hours to between 300 and 350 degrees F, which should be hot enough to kill any microorganisms. The mechanism also squeezes a pound of material into the compressed tile, a reduction of at least 10 times the original size.
"Hopefully we achieve sterilization within the tile," Hummerick said. "We're starting a series of tests with a certain process temperature and time. We just sent Ames six bundles of our special trash recipe. They'll compact it and send them back to us for analysis. If the time and temperature tests seem to be achieving what we want, we'll go to long-range storage testing."
The tiles are stored in an atmosphere identical to that of the International Space Station for the tests. The microbiologists take small samples from the tile and look for signs of microbial growth. They are also interested to see if the tiles will support the growth of fungi and other micro-organisms if left alone exposed in an environment like the one they would face inside a spacecraft.
"They are achieving sterilization for the most part," Hummerick said, explaining that test strips containing bacterial spores are embedded in the tiles to see if the heating and compaction process is effective in killing bacteria. "What we don't know is, can a few possible surviving bacteria go inert and then grow back."
Handling trash is an important consideration for NASA mission planners and astronauts for several reasons. First, no one wants a cramped spacecraft to become overrun with garbage. Second, resources will be extremely limited for a crew that will be expected to live in space for up to two years, the time it would take for a Mars mission.
Crews cannot simply jettison trash as they go through space because it could land on -- and possible contaminate -- a planet or moon. NASA policy dictates avoiding contaminating other worlds.
"We don't want to contaminate the surface of an asteroid or something just by throwing the trash out the door," said Richard Strayer, also a Kennedy-based microbiologist with Enterprise Advisory Services Inc. "If NASA doesn't do something about it, then the spacecraft will become like a landfill, with the astronauts adding trash to it every day."
Astronauts can pack their garbage from the International Space Station into Russian Progress supply ships, which burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Another primary goal of the process is to remove water from the trash so it can be re-used by the crew. Water is one of the densest life support materials upon which astronauts depend. Because water is so dense, it is very heavy to take into space, so efficiently processing it for re-use is seen as essential to a successful mission beyond low-Earth orbit.
"The mindset is, with limited resources, whatever you can use, you want to be able to repurpose that," Hummerick said. "Water is a very valuable commodity, so you want to recover all of that you can." In addition, the very low water content after compaction makes the tiles less likely to support any microbial growth.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Happy New Year, Everyone! I just found out earlier today that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, with a vote of 404 to 0, that would rename NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California to the Neil Armstrong Flight Research Center. A test range near Edwards AFB would be re-designated as the Dryden Aeronautical Test Range under the House measure.
While the Senate still needs to act on the proposed bill, this is great news. Although Armstrong has always given sole credit for his historic lunar landing in July of 1969 to the hundreds of thousands of people across the nation working on the Apollo program during the 1960s and early 70s, it's only fitting that one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century will have his name immortalized at a testing facility that has been the vanguard for many revolutionary aircraft and space vehicles. Armstrong, whether he wanted it or not, deserves this recognition.
NASA / Tony Landis