March 17, 2013

Quickies — 17 March, 2013


Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford of NASA and Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan at about 11:08 p.m. EDT Friday, March 15. Ford, Novitsky and Tarelkin spent 144 days in orbit aboard the International Space Station and travelled approximately 61 million miles. Photo: courtesy NASA TV

Watch video of the Soyuz undocking

Read coverage of the landing recovery operations


Spring begins in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere at 11:02 UT (7:02 am EDT) when the Sun climbs north of the celestial equator for the first time since September of last year.

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December 14, 2012

Track Santa’s Flight and be alert for Reindeer UFOs Christmas Eve


Astronomers have reported unusual UFOs with flying reindeer and a pilot wearing a jolly red suit the past few years on the night of December 24th. Will this UFO appear again Christmas Eve?

Track Santa’s flight with the North American Air Defense Command- NORAD. NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa – radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets.

Track the skies as NORAD Tracks Santa

Learn how you can connect and give back to those men, women, and children who selflessly serve and support our nation to ensure the future of our country’s freedom visit Operation Goodwill

Note: some posts may not appear on some devices. Current items include “Jupiter/Moon conjunction”, “Solstice Season” and others. Click “Archive/December 2012″ at right to view all. Thanks!

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June 10, 2011

Watch the ISS anytime you like….almost!

Near the northern summer solstice most, if not all night ISS passes are visible because of the high sun angle here in the northern hemisphere. Here are some of the best during the coming week.


Louisville and southeastern USA

24 Jul 06:06:57  SW>NE

Chicago-Dallas midwest

24 Jul 05:07:36 SSW > ENE

26 Jul 04:48:00 SW > ENE


24 Jul 05:06:30 30 S > ENE

26 Jul 04:48:00 72 NE > NE


27 Jul 04:24:47 SSW > 68 ENE


26 Jul 04:20:18 80 S > NE

Seattle/Pacific Northwest

31 Jul 04:19:00 WSW >> 87 ENE

Above sightings are for locales as noted and all times are local daylight time. For any other location click the Heavens-Above link at the right.

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May 3, 2011

Endeavour launch no earlier than May 10th

NASA space shuttle and International Space Station managers met Monday and determined that Tuesday, May 10 is the earliest Endeavour could be launched on the STS-134 mission. That date is success oriented based on preliminary schedules to replace a faulty Load Control Assembly (LCA) box in the orbiter’s aft compartment.


Image left: At NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A, a technician makes his way across a platform in space shuttle Endeavour’s aft section as work begins to remove and replace the aft load control assembly-2 (ALCA-2). Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Learn more here

There will be a nice very visible pass of the International Space Station over Louisville, Ky on Wednesday evening, May 4th at 9:30 pm. ISS will rise out of the north-north west, peak about 60 degrees off the northeast horizon and disappear to the southeast.

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Freedom 7’s 50th Anniversary

Thursday, May 5th will mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom 7 the first American manned sub-orbital space flight  with Astronaut Alan Shepard aboard.


Coming only 23 days after Yuri Gagarin’s 88 minute 3 orbital flight, Shepard’s flight was, nevertheless, history making. Gagarin was merely a passenger in his capsule while Shepard had the ability to manuever his Freedom 7 capsule. The Russian mission was conducted in secrecy, Freedom 7’s flight was witnessed as it happened on radio and television. I vividly recall bringing a portable transistor radio to school in order that I would be able to follow the mission.

After the success of Freedom 7 Shepard became Chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, was grounded for several years with an inner ear problem but he regained flight status in the spring of 1969 following surgery to repair the problem.

 In 1970 Deke Slayton, Chief of Flight Crew Operations for NASA designated Shepard as Commander of the Apollo 14 mission to the Moon. Along with lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell and command module pilot Stuart Roosa, Shepard made his second and final spaceflight in January, 1971. One of the last things Shepard did while on the lunar surface at Fra Mauro was to tee off two golf balls. The first was a chip shot which landed in a nearby crater. The second traveled “miles and miles” according to Shepard.

Learn more here or watch this video

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April 29, 2011

STS-134 launch scrubbed until at least Monday, May 2nd

Shuttle Endeavour’s STS-134 launch to the International Space Station was scrubbed on Friday afternoon as the crew was enroute to launch pad 39A. During pre-launch tests heater thermostats on Auxiliary Power Unit 1 failed to turn on. The APU’s provide hydraulic pressure which drives the Shuttle’s “aero control surfaces” during launch and landing phases.

Mission Management Team Chair and Shuttle Launch Integration Manager, Mike Moses explained the importance of the APU heaters that keep the hydrazine fuel from freezing in orbit. There are two heaters on APU 1 and both are required for operations. “It was pretty straight-forward scrub today,” said Moses. “The team made a very good call.”

The next launch opportunity will be no earlier than 2:33 pm EDT, Monday, May 2nd.

Learn more here

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April 28, 2011

Endeavour, STS-134 and AMS-02

The primary payload on the Endeavour,  STS-134 mission to ISS is a wonderous experiment called AMS-02, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. I’ve been vaguely, remotely aware of this particle physics detector for about 18 months. I recall learning that launch of the AMS-02 payload was being bumped back due to an issue with the magnets and sensors on the device.

365820main_ams-021.jpg Image left: AMS-02 during preparation for launch aboard Shuttle Endeavour

I seem to recall learning of this experiment in late 2009. In the intervening months the international team lead by Nobel laureate Dr. Samuel Ting, of MIT has completely redesigned and re-engineered the spectrometer replacing what had been super cooled electro magnets with a “simpler” permanent magnet configuration.

I’ve seen, heard or read several interviews with Ting recently and have come to learn and somewhat comprehend the implications that the science we may gather from AMS-02’s cluster of sensors may utterly reshape our understanding of the Universe.

AMS-02 is a state of the art particle physics detector. Once installed on the zenith side of ISS port truss, AMS-02 will strive to “advance knowledge of the universe and lead to the understanding of the universe’s origin by searching for antimatter, dark matter and measuring cosmic rays”

When it’s powered up it will begin collecting data and operate 24/7/365 gathering data at an incredible 7GB per secon

I believe the forthcoming discoveries AMS-02 will rival HST in terms of their profound impact on our understanding of physics and the nature of the Universe. Stay tuned

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November 4, 2010

STS-133 Launch blog Wednesday, November 3rd


Brian @DeepSpacer didn’t send any blogs on NASA Tweetup activities on Wednesday. I believe Wednesday was an “off day” for the Tweetup attendees with no planned activities due to the additional launch delay. He did post some images from the Tweetup visit to launch pad 39A on Tuesday. Here are a few of them.

Hopefully Brian and the Tweetup attendees will see Discovery launch this afternoon at 3:29pm EDT. The weather forecast is not good. Click on any image to enlarge



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May 26, 2008

Phoenix Succesfully Lands on Mars

From NASA releases

May 25, 2008: NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft landed in the northern polar region of Mars at 7:38 PM EDT, Sunday, 25 May to begin three months of examining a site chosen for its likelihood of having frozen water within reach of the lander’s robotic arm.

Radio signals received at 4:53:44 p.m. Pacific Time (7:53:44 p.m. Eastern Time) confirmed the Phoenix Mars Lander had survived its difficult final descent and touchdown 15 minutes earlier. The signals took that long to travel from Mars to Earth at the speed of light.

230122main_false_color_postcard_edr.jpgThis is an approximate-color image taken shortly after landing by the spacecraft’s Surface Stereo Imager, inferred from two color filters, a violet, 450-nanometer filter and an infrared, 750-nanometer filter.

 Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Among those in the JPL control room was NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who noted this was the first successful Mars landing without airbags since Viking 2 in 1976.

“For the first time in 32 years, and only the third time in history, a JPL team has carried out a soft landing on Mars,” Griffin said. “I couldn’t be happier to be here to witness this incredible achievement.”

230070main_phoenixlandingfirstestimatenogrid.jpgThe center of the red circle on this map shows where NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander eased down to the surface of Mars, at approximately 68 degrees north latitude, 234 degrees east longitude. Before Phoenix landed, engineers had predicted it would land within the blue ellipse.

The map shows a color-coded interpretation of geomorphic units — categories based on the surface textures and contours. The geomorphic mapping is overlaid on a shaded relief map based on data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor orbiter.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Washington Univ. St. Louis/JHU APL/Univ. of Arizona

During its 422-million-mile flight from Earth to Mars after launching on Aug. 4, 2007, Phoenix relied on electricity from solar panels. The cruise stage with those solar panels was jettisoned seven minutes before the lander, encased in a protective shell, entered the Martian atmosphere. Batteries will now provide electricity until the lander’s own pair of solar arrays spread open.

“What a thrilling landing! But the team is waiting impatiently for the next set of signals that will verify a healthy spacecraft,” said Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, principal investigator for the Phoenix mission. “I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. The first landed images of the Martian polar terrain will set the stage for our mission.”


This view of one of the footpads of NASA’s three-legged Phoenix Mars Lander shows a solid surface at the spacecraft’s landing site. As the legs touched down on the surface of Mars, they kicked up some loose material on top of the footpad, but overall, the surface is unperturbed.

Each footpad is about the size of a large dinner plate, measuring 11.5 inches from rim to rim. The base of the footpad is shaped like the bottom of a shallow bowl to provide stability.

This image was taken by the spacecraft’s Surface Stereo Imager shortly after landing, at 17:07 local time on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona 

230102main_s_000eff_cyltsr10c70_r111m1_001_001.jpgShown here is one of the first images taken by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander of one of the octagonal solar panels, which opened like two handheld, collapsible fans on either side of the spacecraft. Beyond this view is a small slice of the north polar terrain of Mars.

The successfully deployed solar panels are critical to the success of the 90-day mission, as they are the spacecraft’s only means of replenishing its power. Even before these images reached Earth, power readings from the spacecraft indicated to engineers that the solar panels were already at work recharging the spacecraft’s batteries. Before deploying the Surface Stereo Imager to take these images, the lander waited about 15 minutes for the dust to settle.

This image was taken by the spacecraft’s Surface Stereo Imager on Sol, or Martian day, 0 (May 25, 2008). This image has been geometrically corrected. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of  Arizona

Another critical deployment will be the first use of the 7.7-foot-long robotic arm on Phoenix, which will not be attempted for at least two days. Researchers will use the arm during future weeks to get samples of soil and ice into laboratory instruments on the lander deck.

The signal confirming that Phoenix had survived touchdown was relayed via Mars Odyssey and received on Earth at the Goldstone, Calif., antenna station of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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March 22, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke on Cassini shortly before his death

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