Endeavour Launch Week

November 9, 2008

The space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to lift off from the Florida coastline on Friday, November 14th at 7.55pm EST to the International Space Station. The equipment includes new crew quarters, a galley, oxygen generator and wastewater recycling device. The equipment will allow the station to double its crew to six next year.

You can follow the mission at the shuttle mission page and if there are any special events, we’ll talk about them here. Locally, we have the Community Media Center to thank, as they broadcast NASA-TV on local cable channel 24 (Livewire). The GRAAA sponsors NASA-TV locally. Godspeed Endeavour, and good luck.


NASA Hits the Big Five-Oh

October 1, 2008

Well, technically NASA is a little older than that, but as they “started business” on October 1, 1958 we’re calling it their fiftieth anniversary. In actuality it was July 29, 1958 that President Eisenhower who signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act which created NASA.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) basically took over the operations of NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics)to be the “official” agency of exploration of space and aviation. The first administrator of NASA was T. Kenneth Glennan, who served in that capacity from August 19, 1968 until January 20, 1961. The current administrator is Michael Griffin.

It would be hard to list the many varied and vast achievments that have happened over the past fifty years, or the leaps in technology that have been brought to the mainstream populace due to the ingenuity, courage, and intelligence of the people who have worked for NASA over the years. Suffice it to say the world would be a vastly different place without their efforts.

If you head over to the main NASA site, they have a wide variety of images and stories regarding their anniversary.


Discovery Channel Salutes NASA

June 7, 2008

If you have The Discovery Channel on your cable or satellite system, and you are a fan of the space program (which you probably are, if you’re reading this) you should check out a great six-part program that begins on Sunday evening, June 8th.

Titled “When We Left Earth,” this miniseries gives an overview of the fifty years of NASA, using footage seen and also footage previously not seen by the public in many years. And what is even more incredible, NASA worked with the Discovery Channel in converting all those old film and video reels into high definition format, for a stunning visual feast.

Spanning the timeline from the choice of the original Mercury Seven astronauts to the mission of the International Space Station, “When We Left Earth” is a must-see for any space enthusiast, or anyone who has ever gazed up in the night sky in wonder, wishing they could experience what’s out there.

The Discovery Channel website has an extensive area devoted to this program, with interactive timelines, information, and games. Please check it out.

And after you have seen this breakthrough miniseries, you can pick it up on DVD (regular and the spectacular Blu-Ray editions) on July 10th.

So “check your local listings” as to when this program will be seen in your area.


Phoenix Arrives at Mars

May 25, 2008

Update @ 7.54pm!!!
Phoenix has successfully landed on Mars!!!!!

Later Sunday evening, the Phoenix mission will arrive at Mars, entering the atmosphere for a scheduled landing near the north pole of the Red Planet.

The Phoenix mission launched from Cape Canaveral last August. It’s mission is the search for water ice under the surface of Mars, and to study the geology of the polar regions. All of this will be of great assistance in understanding the makeup of the Martian environment, as a prelude to eventual manned missions to Mars.

Mission managers call the EDL phase (Entry, Decent and Landing) the “Seven Minutes of Terror” as they wait for the signals announcing the successful landing on the surface. So many things have to go right for the craft to land: thrusters have to finre on time, parachutes must deploy correctly, etc. Any one thing going wrong will spell disaster which, unfortunately, has happened in the past. Of all the missions to Mars, 55% of them have ended in failure. But hopefully Phoenix will succeed, where some of its predecessors have failed.

Here are some times of interest on Landing Day (all times Eastern)…

Entry into Martian atmosphere: 7.46pm
Parachute Deploy: 7.50pm (legs 40 seconds later)
Touchdown: 7.53pm (40 seconds after thrusters fire)

Unfortunately we will not get confirmation for a while afterwards, which includes the first images. Spacecraft orbiting Mars, including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express, and Mars Odyssey will all be sending their own data back to Earth about the landing, including possible images.

The first images from Phoenix will be nearly two hours later. These first views will be of the solar arrays, to assure proper deployment. Then, if all reads well, the mission will begin.

You can find out more about Phoenix at several sites, including the University of Arizona, where the mission is being led from, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

You can watch the landing events unfold on NASA television. Locally NASA TV is on Comcast Channel 24 (Livewire), but unfortunately will not be available during landing due to previous other transmission commitments. However, NASA TV is available online.