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.

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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.


Space Station Flyovers

May 24, 2008

Has anyone been out in the evening to watch the International Space Station fly overhead? If not, you still have a chance. In fact, several each night for the next few weeks.

The reason is that, due to the station’s orbit around the Earth, and Earth’s orbit around the sun, the station is almost in constant sunlight at this time. So the normal morning or evening visible passes are doubled, or even tripled, in some instances.

As was written back in August of last year, there are reasons why the station varies in brightness, and also where you see it in the sky. An excellent place to find out when it will be visible is Heavens-Above.com, were all you have to do is input your location (you can do it via city, or latitude and longitude) and the site will generate predictions for your location (it also shows when other satellites, and the space shuttle – when flying – are visible). As a courtesy, we have included a link for Grand Rapids predictions in the right sidebar.

Friday evening’s flyover was extremely bright. The only objects in the night sky brighter than ISS are the moon and the planet Venus.

In the photograph above (click on the pic for a larger version), the space station is shown flying over the James C. Veen Observatory on the evening of May 23rd. The station is approximately 200 miles above the Earth, orbiting at just over 17,000 miles per hour. In the image, the station traveled almost 100 miles in the short time it took to make the exposure.

The predicted passes for the next week do not have the space station as bright, but it will still be unmistakable in the evening (and nighttime) skies. And as an added bonus, the flyovers at the beginning of June will also feature the space shuttle Discovery, which lifts off May 31 on a mission to deliver a new module to the space station.

So if you have clear skies, go out some evening and look up to see the space station fly over your town. Wave if you wish – the astronauts can’t see you, but they will appreciate the support. And make sure you get your kids to see this.


Messages to Space

December 15, 2007

Have you seen the International Space Station (ISS) flying over during the (rare) clear evenings? Did you wave to them? Did you wish them Happy Holidays?

Well, if you didn’t do the third one, here is your chance. NASA has set up a page on their site so you can send your greetings to the crew of the ISS.

Simply go to NASA’s website and click on Send Holiday Greetings to the Station Crew.

Then, the next time you see ISS going overhead, you can be assured that the crew knows the people on earth are thinking about them.


SpaceShip Sightings!

December 5, 2007

On Thursday, December 6th Friday, December 7th Sunday, December 9th the space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral on an 11-day mission to add a new module to the International Space Station.

Currently the International Space Station (ISS) is making evening passes over West Michigan, and is easily visible in the twilight sky (after launch, the shuttle will be visible in the sky as well). I will repeat below the post I made last August about this…

There are several times in which to see ISS, and they vary in brightness, time of night, and height over the horizon. The station’s orbit is inclined near 52° from the equator and, as the Earth rotates underneath it, the station appears to shift it’s orbit to the west as it goes overhead every (approximately) ninety minutes. So one pass it might rise in the WSW at 9.30pm, and travel 56° and disappear in the NE sky, and 90 minutes later it might just show up low in the NW sky.

This orbital dance is also what causes the differences in brightness. The reason we see the station – and all satellite – is that they are reflecting the sunlight. The ISS has huge reflective solar panels that give the station power, but they also reflect the sunlight striking them as well. If the sunlight gets reflected toward Earth, and you happen to be in the right place, you will see the station fly over.

There is a site on the internet that gives times when ISS, as well as other satellites, and even the shuttle when it is flying, is visible from your area. It is called “Heaven’s Above” and can be found at Heavens-Above.com.

All you have to do is input your location, and the site will generate timings for your area. For those of you in Grand Rapids, here is the address for you:

Heavens-Above.com – Grand Rapids

(If you don’t live in Grand Rapids, or want to get more precise sighting times, you can input your latitude and longitude and get timings for your own house.)

Once you get there, just read the information available to find the information you want. Then, if it’s clear, go outside and watch an actual spacecraft travel over your head.

And go ahead and wave if you want to. The astronauts won’t see you, but they will appreciate the support.


Endeavour Touches Down

August 21, 2007

The space shuttle Endeavour landed at 12.32 pm EDT today at the Kennedy Space Center, ending a 13 day mission to the International Space Station. The mission was cut short by one day due to the possibility of Hurricane Dean causing problems with NASA centers in Texas. They added a truss segment to the station, and brought up supplies and items for future missions.

This mission featured Barbara Morgan, who was Christa McAuliffe’s backup in the “Teacher in Space” program in the 1980’s. She had since been trained as an actual astronaut, and has finally fulfilled the mission that her and other teachers have dreamt about for decades.

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.


See the Space Station!

August 3, 2007

With the next mission of the shuttle ready to launch next week, circumstances have again allowed people to see the International Space Station (ISS) in the evening sky.

Normally, as the station orbits above the earth, it is visible in either the morning or evening sky, but during shuttle missions the station conveniently travels over the heads of the people of Michigan in the evening.

There are several times in which to see ISS, and they vary in brightness, time of night, and height over the horizon. The station’s orbit is inclined near 52° from the equator and, as the Earth rotates underneath it, the station appears to shift it’s orbit to the west as it goes overhead every (approximately) ninety minutes. So one pass it might rise in the WSW at 9.30pm, and travel 56° and disappear in the NE sky, and 90 minutes later it might just show up low in the NW sky.

This orbital dance is also what causes the differences in brightness. The reason we see the station – and all satellite – is that they are reflecting the sunlight. The ISS has huge reflective solar panels that give the station power, but they also reflect the sunlight striking them as well. If the sunlight gets reflected toward Earth, and you happen to be in the right place, you will see the station fly over.

There is a site on the internet that gives times when ISS, as well as other satellites, and even the shuttle when it is flying, is visible from your area. It is called “Heaven’s Above” and can be found at Heavens-Above.com.

All you have to do is input your location, and the site will generate timings for your area. For those of you in Grand Rapids, here is the address for you:

Heavens-Above.com – Grand Rapids

(If you don’t live in Grand Rapids, or want to get more precise sighting times, you can input your latitude and longitude and get timings for your own house.)

Once you get there, just read the information available to find the information you want. Then, if it’s clear, go outside and watch an actual spacecraft travel over your head.

And go ahead and wave if you want to. The astronauts won’t see you, but they will appreciate the support.