Aug 25, 2009
The launch of space shuttle Discovery, planned for early this morning, was called off deep into the countdown due to inclement weather at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA will try again in the wee hours of Wednesday, weather permitting. The launch time is set for 1:10 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time)—which would provide sky-watchers another chance to see the orbiter climbing in the night sky—and the space agency forecasts a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions.
This is hardly the first time, of course, that a launch has been postponed in Florida's mercurial climate. Last month's STS-127 mission of space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station was pushed back three times due to weather, before the skies finally cleared. At that time, we checked in with space historian Roger Launius of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to find out why NASA shoots all their rockets for manned missions from such a stormy place—you can read our Q&A with Launius here.
Aug 24, 2009
With each nighttime space shuttle launch, residents of the U.S.'s eastern seaboard have a chance, weather permitting, to see the orbiter climbing into the sky. The launch of space shuttle Discovery, scheduled for 1:36 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) Tuesday, is no exception and may provide the last such opportunity before the space shuttle program is terminated.
Over at SPACE.com, Joe Rao of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City has viewing tips for various regions of the coast in the seconds and minutes after liftoff. SPACE.com also has a map of the areas from which the shuttle should be visible during ascent, assuming clear skies and an unobstructed vantage point.
Apr 15, 2009 | 3
Stephen Colbert did not get his name emblazoned on a new node for the International Space Station (ISS)—but he did get an ISS treadmill named in his honor.
Astronaut and ISS veteran Sunita Williams appeared last night on the Colbert Report to unveil the name selected by NASA for the forthcoming ISS Node 3, a module that will house life-support equipment, a viewing cupola and a control station for a robotic arm. NASA decided not to go with "Colbert," the winner of an online poll the space agency conducted to help select a name for the node. (Colbert had urged viewers to write in his name, inciting a surge of votes that vaulted him into the top slot.)
Mar 25, 2009
The space shuttle Discovery will detach from the International Space Station (ISS) today at 3:53 P.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) and head back to Earth. It's scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday afternoon.
After undocking, the shuttle will perform a fly-around of the ISS so the Discovery crew can photograph the station with its full complement of solar arrays. The mission delivered the final pieces of the ISS's solar backbone in anticipation of the crew size expanding from three to six in the coming months. Once the shuttle distances itself from the ISS, the shuttle's crew will conduct a final inspection of Discovery's thermal shield with the orbiter's boom-mounted sensor. A similar inspection was performed before docking.
Mar 24, 2009
In space, no one can hear you scream, as the old saw goes. Does the same hold true for yelps of frustration at maintenance tasks gone awry? No doubt the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has the answer after its recent spate of glitches and repair woes.
The third and final spacewalk of the Discovery shuttle mission to the ISS hit a snag yesterday, as a cargo carrier refused to swing out. The platform, one of two intended to store spare parts on future missions, was also the center of a snafu in the second spacewalk Saturday, when astronauts apparently installed a pin in the assembly upside down. ISS flight director Kwatsi Alibaruho told Reuters, however, that the pin was not to blame for the stuck platform. "We thought initially that the incorrect installation of the pin was the reason we were not able to rotate the (mechanism) down to its proper configuration," he said. "We now believe that (it is) just much, much stiffer than expected."
Mar 17, 2009
The space shuttle Discovery is moving closer to the International Space Station (ISS) as it prepares for a planned docking to the ISS at 5:12:46 P.M. (Eastern Daylight Time). According to NASA, the shuttle was 1,310 miles (2,100 kilometers) out as of 11:54 A.M. and was gaining on the ISS by about 600 miles (965 kilometers) with every 90-minute orbit. A series of maneuvers and thruster firings will ease Discovery into position for rendezvous.
Discovery launched without event Sunday after myriad delays stemming first from concerns about gaseous hydrogen valves aboard the orbiter and then from an unrelated hydrogen leak at the launch pad. A further wrinkle arose yesterday when a wayward piece of space junk headed toward the ISS had NASA considering an avoidance maneuver for the station. But the space agency later determined that the object would sail safely past. (It did indeed pass without incident early this morning.) The shuttle mission is delivering materials, including a replacement unit for a urine-to-water recycling system and additional solar arrays, to double the station's crew capacity from three to six.
Jan 26, 2009 | 1
Space travel is a dangerous business—everyone knows that. But even those astronauts who return to Earth safely may not be in the clear. A new study of International Space Station (ISS) veterans reveals a significant loss of bone strength, potentially upping their risk for injury later in life.
Scientists have long known that extended residency in microgravity can wreak havoc on bone density; the new study, published online by the journal Bone, adds to the dossier by quantifying how that decrease in density affects bone strength. The 13 astronauts studied, who had spent anywhere from 4.3 to 6.5 months aboard the ISS, showed an average loss of 14 percent in strength of the femur, or thighbone. (The researchers note that bone strength appeared to decline even more precipitously than bone density.)
Oct 27, 2008
Many of us once dreamed of becoming astronauts. But faced with the prospect of attaining an advanced aeronautics degree, enduring g-force training, and, um, drinking recycled urine, most of us opted for more mundane careers.
There is one activity, however, that Earthbound Americans can do just like the space jockeys: vote. NASA astronauts E. Michael Fincke and Gregory Chamitoff broadcast a video message today from the International Space Station (ISS) encouraging all U.S. citizens to vote in the November 4 election and vowing to do the same from the ISS, more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) above the nearest polling place.
“We’re exercising our Constitutional right and privilege in casting our ballot this Election Day,” Fincke said. “Voting is the most important statement Americans can make.” Fincke and Chamitoff will benefit from a Texas measure signed into law in 1997 by then Gov. George W. Bush that permits voters registered in the state to cast ballots from space.
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