Tag Archives: endeavour

Timber: 400 trees to be cut to make way for Endeavour flyby

Southern LA residents are already mourning the loss of 400 trees which were cut in order to make way for the Endeavour flyby.

Endeavour, the fifth and last space worthy space shuttle built by the US, will be given the retreat it deserves – in a museum, where it will be seen and admired by thousands of visitors (or more). The journey will include a two-day parade, and overnight stay, and almost certainly, some traffic jams.

Everybody was excited and eagerly awaiting the shuttle, until authorities announced they will have to cut down some 400 trees. Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen a space shuttle: they’re big. In order to pass by the street, they need some massive clearance, and this is why the trees are being cut, but the decision caused quite a stir, many people voicing out mixed opinions.

City work crews have already been on the job, cutting and chopping, clearing the final hurdles on Endeavour‘s path, which has made some people quite unhappy, especially given that some trees are quite old, and it will take a lifetime (literally) to grow others just as big. So, how do you feel about the situation? If it were up to you, would you have done it differently?

False colour image of Greeley Haven taken by Opportunity. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ

NASA parks Mars Opportunity Rover for the winter

False colour image of Greeley Haven taken by Opportunity. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ

False colour image of Greeley Haven taken by Opportunity. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ

There’s no bigger drag on a busy Monday morning than finding your car under a heap of snow in the driveway. Taking measures and parking it under some kind shelter, if possible, would be advised if you don’t plan on driving an ice truck. Take NASA for instance, which, like every year, has routed the precious Opportunity Rover, currently the only transmitting machinery left on Mars, to  sit out through out the Martian winter at the rim of the massive Endeavour crater. And, yes, if you were curious it does snow on Mars!

The place selected by NASA for the sitout is called Greeley Haven, in the memory of the  late scientist Ronald Greeley that passed away in October 2011. At the site, Opportunity will be positioned towards the sun-facing slope of the crater to catch the meagre rays of our star on its solar panels. This is the first winter that Opportunity has spent on a slope angling its panels for more collection of sunlight. However, now more than ever, the dust particles collected on top of its solar panels have amounted to a degree such that it makes it necessary for Opportunity to spend the winter there.

Naturally, there’s never a dull day for Opportunity. While parked, it will continue to study rocks near Greeley Haven, collecting and analyzing samples through out the rim of Endeavor. Opportunity, which landed on Mars eight years ago, has driven a total of 21 miles (34 kilometers), and it has taken it three years to reach the crater since it first set its course.

“Greeley Haven provides the proper tilt, as well as a rich variety of potential targets for imaging and compositional and mineralogic studies,” said Jim Bell, lead scientist for the Panoramic Camera (Pancam) on the rover.

“We’ve already found hints of gypsum in the bedrock in this formation, and we know from orbital data that there are clays nearby, too,” he stated.

Greeley Haven, he said, “looks to be a safe and special place that could yield exciting new discoveries about the watery past of Mars.”

image credit

This image taken from NASA television shows astronauts Andrew Feustel, top, and Mike Fincke exiting the hatch on the International Space Station at the start of the second spacewalk early Sunday May 22, 2011. (c) AP Photo/NASA

Big astronauts don’t cry on Endeavour’s last mission

This image taken from NASA television shows astronauts Andrew Feustel, top, and Mike Fincke exiting the hatch on the International Space Station at the start of the second spacewalk early Sunday May 22, 2011. (c) AP Photo/NASA

This image taken from NASA television shows astronauts Andrew Feustel, top, and Mike Fincke exiting the hatch on the International Space Station at the start of the second spacewalk early Sunday May 22, 2011. (c) AP Photo/NASA

This Wednesday morning, Andrew Feustel and Mike Fincke floated out on a spectacular 6 hour long spacewalk outside the International Space Station – the third spacewalk since Endeavour launched into space for its last mission before retirement.

“It’s great to be back outside. It’s the most beautiful planet in the universe,” said Fincke as he gazed down on Earth. “Nice view, isn’t it?” chipped in Feustel.

For this third jump, the two veteran astronauts completed a number of important tasks,  including hooking up cables to provide increased power redundancy to the orbiting outpost’s Russian segment. The two also made an upgrade to the Zarya module, after they installed a power and data grapple fixture, which will “allow the station’s robotic arm to ‘walk’ to the Russian segment, extending its reach by using that grapple fixture as a base”.

Around this part of the mission, however, something really strange happened – strange to the point that the astronauts nearly had to go back to base and cancel their spacewalk. Apparently, something got in Feustel’s eye and made it sting “like crazy”.

“Just as an FYI, my right eye is stinging like crazy right now. It’s watering a lot. Must have gotten something” in it, Feustel said.

“Sorry, buddy,” Fincke replied.

Eventually, Feustel managed to rub his eye against a strap in his helmet and said that helped, and the spacewalk continued as planned. What’s to learn from all this? Astronauts are unable to cry properly because there is no gravity and tears cannot flow properly as they would on Earth. It is possible to produce tears in space – but they would leave the eye and float around. Funny, isn’t it?

You can read the latest news from Endeavour from NASA’s official page, including the obligatory spacewalk stats:

This was the third of the four STS-134 spacewalks, for a mission total of 21 hours, 20 minutes. It was the 247th spacewalk conducted by US astronauts, the 117th from space station airlocks, and the 158th in support of space station assembly and maintenance, totaling 995 hours, 13 min. If all goes as planned, the 1,000th hour of space station assembly and maintenance will be logged Friday.

Spacewalker astronaut runs into trouble

Spacewalking isn’t all fun and games – things can go bad at any moment, and in the latest spacewalk, this is exactly what happened: Mike Fincke, one of NASA’s most experienced spacemen, reported that while they were lubricating a joint in the life-sustaining solar power system of the International Space Station, they lost one bolt and they got one washer stuck in a crevice.

Basically, the bolts which were holding down covers on the huge joint started popping off unexpectedly. His spacewalking partner, Andrew Feustel sums it up with just one word:

“Bummer,” he said.

You just gotta love this kind of sense of humour. However, they went into overtime, trying to fix whateved could be fixed, lubed the rest of the bolts and installed three covers. Thus, the spacewalk lasted 1 and 1/2 hours more than expected, becoming the sixth longest ever.

“You guys earned your pay for the day,” astronaut Gregory Chamitoff radioed from inside. The spacewalkers joked about getting paid, saying their reward was being outside watching the world spin by.

This was an extremely difficult mission, even for Fincke, who hadhis seventh spacewalk and Feustel, who had his fifth. They praised one another as they headed out the hatch. This is Endeavou’r second out of four planned pacewalks, afterwhich the space shuttle will go into a museum.

Endeavour’s last launch put on hold for at least a week

Space shuttle Endeavour was set to launch a few days ago, and everything seemd to go according to plan; however, technical difficulties are forcing the NASA engineers to delay the launch at least until the end of the week (probably more), which is bad news for everybody who had planned a visit to the launch site (including president Obama and his family).

Technicians need to replace a switch box in the engine compartment, NASA stated; astronauts and their families were still hoping for a launch today, but NASA was pretty direct in saying that this is not an option.

Endeavour is set to go on its last trip, in a mission that will be led by veteran Mark Kelly, who is probably also on his last mission. The space shuttle will make a two week visit to the International Space Station (ISS), and its goal is to deliver a highly sophisticated astrophysics device that will help in the search for particles, as well as the elusive dark matter. After this last mission, Endeavour will be retired, alongside Discovery, and will be joined later by the last active space orbiter, Atlantis. The retirement of Atlantis will mark the end of an era for NASA, as well as for space exploration.

NASA fuels Endeavour for one last round

As I was telling you a few days ago, after Discovery, Endeavour is also preparing for its last trip, led by space veteran Mark Kelly. The weird thing is that Endeavour, which will be retired after today’s last mission, is at the moment also NASA‘s youngest orbiter, which kind of speaks a lot about NASA’s capacity to modernize its fleet. The thunderstorm that took place last night provided some spectacular photos, but it probably won’t affect the launch in any way.

space shuttle Endeavour

Endeavour is set for launch today, April 29, at 3:47 p.m. EDT (1947 GMT) from the Kennedy space center, in what seems to be like good weather. However, if clouds or some other meteorological problem is present, the launch will be delayed, but not too much.

Endeavour space shuttle

The orbiter will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) for a two week visit. Its goal is to deliver a $2 billion astrophysics experiment designed to hunt for exotic subatomic particles.

The shuttle’s whole crew consists of six veterans, including pilot Gregory H. Johnson and mission specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel, and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori, will be led by commander Mark Kelly.

Endeavour’s launch has drawn an impressive amount of public to the site, and all in all 700.000 people are expected to watch the launch – even though it’s scheduled on the same day as the big royal wedding between between Prince William and Kate Middleton in England. President Barack Obama, his wife Michele, and his two daughters will also be present at the launch; it is only the second time in history that a president will be present at a shuttle launch, after Bill Clinton’s visit in 1998.

Another high profile visitor will be Kelly’s wife, wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was tragically wounded after a failed assasination attempt when a gunman opened fire on her and others outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store. This was tragic not only for Kelly, but for the whole crew, who always sticks together:

“The crew has just done a tremendous job of staying on focus and being trained and ready to go fly,” NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, said during a press conference last week. “It’s a testimony to the entire crew’s ability to stay focused, to compartmentalize and to do what they need to do.”

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (the astrophysics experiment I was telling you about) will be installed on the space station with the goal of keeping an eye out for cosmic ray particles that might shed light on cosmic mysteries such as the invisible dark matter which has puzzled researchers for so long.

“It’s the premier physics experiment; it’s probably the most expensive thing ever flown by the space shuttle,” Kelly said in a NASA interview.

In addition to the spectrometer, Endeavour will also be carrying 14,000 pounds (6,350 kg) of spare supplies to outfit the space station for the era after the shuttles stop flying. To help install some of the equipment, an ambitious four space walks are scheduled, which will be finished in 14 days, but NASA says they are fine with a few extra days as well. Even if everything goes according to plan, the victory will be bittersweet at best, because this doesn’t only mark the end of Endeavour, but it marks the end of an era.

“We know the end is coming and we’re dealing with it,” shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach said. “The emotional aspect is very, very real and it’s very difficult to put into words, but I think all of Kennedy Space Center got a big boost when we got the word that were going to be able to keep Atlantis.”

After Endeavour’s last flight, NASA plans one more shuttle flight, the June launch of Atlantis, and after that, the space shuttle program will come to an end. That’s it, no more Discovery, no more Endeavour, no more Atlantis; no more space orbiters for NASA. I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty emotional where I’m standing.

Endeavour’s last flight will also be Mark Kelly’s last

Endeavour will pretty soon begin its retirement, just like fellow space orbiter Discovery did just a while ago. However, Endeavour’s last flight will almost certainly be captain Mark Kelly’s last one too.

Kelly, 47, showed his flying skills with twin brother Scott, and signed up for the Navy, then became pilots, and finally, became astronauts; they are the world’s first and as up today, only ‘space siblings’. Unfortunately, his wife, who is a U.S. Congresswoman, was the target of an attempted assasination in January, which she barely survived, so it’s understandable that he wants to be as much as possible by her side. However, her recuperation was so swift, that he decided to do one last flight before retiring from his life as an active astronaut.

Captain Kelly has already been in space three times, just like his bother, and spent more than 38 days outside Earth’s atmosphere, traveling more than 38 million miles and going around the Earth 186 times. We would like to pay homage to the astronauts, as well as to the space ships, which have done so much during the years; it’s the change of a generation, for orbiters as well as for humans, and what a generation it was ! The past 50 years were NASA’s finest, transforming space travel from a child’s fantasy into a real possibility. For Endeavour, as well as Mark Kelly, there is only one thing we can still say: once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more !

Space ships retirement place announced, Houston snubbed

Everybody was eager to see where the four space ships who will soon be retired will go; the idea was to chose a museum which somehow has connections with the space program, and where a lot of people can see it. Well, what city has more connections with the space program than Houston ? It seems like a no-brainer. But this wasn’t the case, unfortunately for them, because NASA thought otherwise.

They chose Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, argueing that these are the places where the most people could see them. It came off quite as a surprise, especially to backers of the Houston bid.

“We are really disheartened,” said Richard Allen, president of Space Center Houston. “I don’t think the decision was based on the merits. Houston has a long association with the space shuttle program, of course. All flights were led out of Mission Control at Johnson Space Center, and astronauts who flew aboard the shuttles lived and trained in the community.”

Snubbing the heart of the space program to include the biggest and richest cities, that’s … well, something you would expect from NASA, lately. Even though I’m not connected with Houston in any way, I do believe it was only honest for them to get one of the shuttles, even though they aren’t the biggest city in the race. I think they deserved it, and this came out like a punch to the gut.

“We’re the ones who came up with the concept,” said George Abbey, a former director of Johnson Space Center from 1996 to 2001 who is now at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. “We designed it. We tested it. We operated it. Certainly Houston ought to be number one on the list. Houston wasn’t in the top four.”

It’s my opinion that the decision was also a political one, in which Texas lost, due to the current leaders of the White House and Congres, but NASA strongly denies this.

“I have felt no political pressure at all during this process. I’m apolitical. I’m here to do what is best for NASA,” said Dominguez, assistant administrator for NASA’s Office of Strategic Infrastructure.

But doing what’s best for NASA… that’s a statement that leaves room for interpretation. Either way, the Smithsonian was always going to get a shuttle, that’s easy to see for everybody. Shuttles are launched from Kennedy Space Center, so that makes a good argument too. But for the other ones, things aren’t so clear. They were involved in the space program, just not as much. Anyway, what’s important now is that the space ships are going to be put for display in the cities I told you about, and it would be a crying shame not to go see them if you get the chance.

NASA to announce home of retiring space ships

Tuesday will mark the 50th year since human space flight, since the day Yuri Gagarin left Russia and became the first man to go in outer space, as well as the 30th anniversary of the launch of the shuttle Discovery, the legendary but already retired space shuttle. This is the day when NASA will announce who will get to house the three other retiring space ships.

Moving, cleaning, and preparing the space ships is a thorough and costly operation, and it will rise up to $28 million apiece; the costs will be assured by whoever gets to keep them in exchange for… keeping them. The first criteria of selection is to be somehow related to NASA‘s space program, which is not unreasonable at all, giving the numerous appliants and the few shuttles. However, even so, there are only 3 shuttles and 21 elligibile locations.

So far, the decision process has been covered in mystery, and there’s no indication we will get a clue before tomorrow, when NASA will announce the retiring place of the shuttles. It is a difficult process, and it’s hard to keep the political out of it, but hopefully, wherever they go, they will be a standing testament to the efforts of so many brave men and women, and to the intelligence of humans, who can defeat so many things, including the gravitational pull.

Endeavour launch delayed due to Russian schedule

Endeavour was set to take of in a really short time, and everybody was ready for this, but in an attempt to avoid a scheduling conflict with a Russian supply ship headed for the International Space Station (ISS), the launch of Endeavour has been delayed until April 29. The Russian spaceship will be launched on April 27 and will reach the ISS two days later, on April 29.

Endeavour was set to go less than three weeks from now, on April 19, but NASA was forced to delay the launch due to these events. There have also been some fears expressed regarding the recent violent storms that hit Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday and Thursday. Officials found “only minor damage” and “evaluations indicate there was no damage to the spacecraft,” NASA said.

The mission will be the last one for Endeavour, which will be retired, just as fellow orbiter Discovery, which went on its last mission this year. It will be led by Commander Mark Kelly, whos brother is also an astronaut and returned only recently from the ISS – imagine the dinner conversations around that table.

Crew practices for Endeavour last mission

After Discovery, another legendary orbited is heading towards retirement – Endeavour is only one mission away from a lifetime of well deserved rest. But until that, the astronauts which will ride Endeavour on its last trip are preparing intensely for it; after all, they have to prepare a major astrophysics experiment, as well as deliver some supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

“My crew and I will get to strap in,” Endeavour commander Mark Kelly told reporters after arriving in Florida Monday. “We practice the launch countdown that day and I know these guys are excited to do this. TCDT, or the terminal countdown demonstration test, is when the processing and the training kind of comes together.”

“We like coming in to see the space shuttle,” Kelly said. “It’s always exciting, especially when you’re three weeks away from launch.”

I bet it is ! I can only imagine the thrill and the excitement that come with a mission such as this one, but for Endeavour, this is not really such a big deal. After all, after 24 missions, you kind of get used to it; after this mission, Endeavour will enter its retirement – hopefully, to be replaced by a more performant shuttle.

Amazing picture shows Endeavour waiting for its last mission

While aimlessly browsing the Internet, I found this amazing picture, showing Endeavour patiently awaiting its last mission before a well deserved retirement. After Discovery, Endeavour is the second legendary orbiter to be put in a museum. For NASA, it’s the end of an era – we’ll see how it goes from here.

Photo by NASA.