Things have been busy in my life as well as the world of spaceflight, so there’s a lot to catch up on! Highlights of the last two weeks are the death of Neil Armstrong, Curiosity rover on the move, problems during an EVA on ISS, more Kepler discoveries, and launch of NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes.
Neil Armstrong died last Saturday. Of course, everyone has been talking about it. I’m not really sure there is anything I can add. I saw (but did not meet) Neil Armstrong at the Apollo 11 40th anniversary celebration here in Houston in July 2009. I really hoped the crew would be around for the 50th, but that is not to be.
The AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) is starting a Neil Armstrong Scholarship Fund to honor his legacy.
When I say everyone has been talking about Neil Armstrong, I mean it. Even Clear Channel billboards and Oreo cookies (make sure to click the tweet to look at the picture).
Former NASA administrator Dan Goldin wrote an article for the Washington Post about Apollo 11’s impact on America.
CollectSpace has an excellent image gallery of Armstrong.
Down to Earth
The Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster recovery ship has been turned over to another government agency.
In similar news, one of the Space Shuttle trainers that was used at JSC for decades was flown to the USAF museum in Ohio.
The reboost problem I wrote about two weeks ago was resolved and the ISS did a double reboost with the ATV engines last week. The reboosts went fine and raised the space station to a new record altitude.
Also at the ISS, two Russian cosmonauts did a spacewalk. They did some un-interesting maintenance but also deployed a scary looking silver ball satellite that will be used in a space junk tracking experiment.
Speaking of EVAs, there was an EVA from the US segment airlock yesterday (Thursday, August 30). One of the main objectives was to remove and replace a faulty Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU). My colleague Stephanie has a nice summary at here blog. Unfortunately, the astronauts (Sunita Williams and Aki Hoshide) encountered some troublesome bolts and the new MBSU did not get completely installed. For details, here is the post-spacewalk press briefing (44 minutes).
The ISS is not in a great configuration without the MBSU. Many core systems are jumpered to different power sources and some other hardware remains powered down. The team will be working towards figuring out how we can fix the problem on a future spacewalk. I expect a spacewalk to be planned relatively soon. I will be on some evening shifts over the next week and might get to help with that plan in my small way!
For an astronaut’s view of what has been going on at ISS you should definitely be reading the blogs at Fragile Oasis. I’ll just leave you some links to some recent posts. Williams likes to write a lot. So enjoy!
NASA successfully launched the Radiation Belt Storm Probes.
Around the Solar System
From Mars, our rovers have been busy. Here’s an interesting self portrait from Curiosity.
Here’s a video update about Curiosity from last week. They cover the first use of the ChemCam laser, the first wheel motion commands (followed by the first drive), the deployment of the arm, and the naming of the landing site after the late Ray Bradbury.
On the other side of Mars, Opportunity is working hard trying to find “phylosillicates” (or clays) before Curiosity can make that discovery itself. Opportunity recently passed 35 kilometers on her odometer. Of course, Opportunity will never take any pictures as stunning as this.
Next week the Dawn spacecraft will leave asteroid Vesta and start on her way to Ceres!
Kepler has discovered a new planetary system around binary star Kepler-47 with 2 planets, one in the habitable zone. This is the type of discovery I have been waiting for ever since Kepler launched in 2009. We are now over 3 years into the mission so it is possible to have seen planets with a ~300 day orbit transit their star three times… the required number to confirm a discovery. Awesome.
Because it’s cool
I liked this picture of an F-22.
Hurricane Isaac from space.