And Then There Were None

Welcome home Atlantis, a safe ending to the thirty year space shuttle program that saw the tragic loss of 40% of the fleet.

Ghostly Landing of Atlantis Closes America’s Space Shuttle Era Forever

Barely discernable in the pre-dawn twilight and appearing as an eerie, ghost like figure, Space Shuttle Atlantis and her four person crew swiftly glided to a triumphant landing at the Kennedy Space Center that closed out NASA’s three decade long Space Shuttle Era – in the wink of an eye it was all over.

Atlantis touched down almost invisibly on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility at 5:57 a.m. EDT and rolled to a stop moments later to conclude the history making 13 day flight to the International Space Station and back. During the STS-135 mission Atlantis orbited the Earth 200 times and journeyed 5,284,862 miles.

The all veteran crew of space flyers comprised of Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.

. . .

“Mission complete, Houston,” radioed Commander Ferguson. “After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history. It’s come to a final stop.”

See also:
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Grounding an exciting, perilous 30-year adventure

Yes, it’s sad that America’s manned space program is effectively grounded for the time being and that thousands of jobs will be lost. However, the space shuttle was arguably America’s most dangerous manned space vehicle, costing 14 lives over three decades.

/the shuttles are old, costly to fly and maintain and, in my opinion, it’s well past time for their retirement, they belong in museums, not in space, we need to move on to newer, safer, and more efficient space travel technology

Christmas Fail

India’s space program gets a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking.

Indian Rocket Explodes Seconds After Liftoff

An Indian space rocket carrying an advanced communications satellite exploded in smoke and fire just seconds after lifting off from a launch pad at the Sriharikota space center in Andhra Pradesh state, about 50 miles from the city of Chennai.

The Christmas Day launch of the satellite had originally been planned for December 20, but was delayed after engineers discovered a leak in one of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle’s (GSLV) engines, the United News of India reported.

The GSLV was carrying a GSAT-5P communication satellite into orbit when it strayed from its planned flight path, and was deliberately blown up by mission control 47 seconds after liftoff, according to state-owned Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K. Radhakrishnan.

Radhakrishnan said the GSLV developed an error shortly after takeoff, and then lost command, resulting in a higher angle in the flight.

“That caused a higher stress, breaking up the vehicle,” he said.

The GSLV exploded “at an altitude of 4.9 miles (8 km) and the debris have fallen in deep sea,” Radhakrishnan said.

See also:
Indian space rocket explodes soon after launchIndian rocket explodes after take-off
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GSLV failure sparks safety fears for 2016 manned space flight

Apparently, this isn’t the first time this particular type of rocket has failed.

/India might want to rethink their plans to use these rockets for manned flights

Better Luck This Time

After failing to remove a broken coolant pump last Sunday, NASA and two American spacewalkers regrouped, tried again, and were successful this time.

Space station spacewalk saga: faulty pump removed, more work ahead

Two crew members from the International Space Station took a major step toward replacing a critical piece of the orbiting laboratory’s cooling system today, following a failed attempt Sunday.

During a 7 hour, 26 minute spacewalk, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Army Col. Douglas Wheelock removed a coolant pump on the outside of the station, clearing the way for another spacewalk Monday to install an on-board spare.

The pump failed unexpectedly on July 31, cutting in half the station’s capacity to shed heat generated by its electrical systems, laboratory experiments, as well as six active astronauts.

The six crew members aboard the station were never in danger, NASA officials have emphasized. But the outage forced mission managers to significantly curtail research activities on the orbiting lab.

“Lots of smiles down here guys,” came the word from mission control as Dr. Caldwell Dyson and Colonel Wheelock sat in the air lock after the spacewalk.

A major fix-it project

Swapping the coolant pumps represents one of the 14 most difficult maintenance jobs station crews face. Spacewalks ordinarily take weeks to plan because they require detailed choreography. But the urgency of returning the station’s cooling system to full capacity prompted planners to accelerate the process for a repair job astronauts had trained for with only the broadest of brush strokes.

For instance, last night, engineers were still working on procedures governing the use of the station’s robotic arm for today’s effort. The broad-brush plan for removal of the pump that astronauts used in training had assumed that the arm wouldn’t be available.

Clamping an astronaut to the end of the robotic arm, then having him hold a 780-pound pump steady while a crew member inside the station moves the two to the spot where planners want to deposit the pump – that’s a procedure planners would rather not develop at the last minute, mission officials said.

But they did.

“There are so many facets to a major change out that you just don’t really get to tackle” in the planning stage “unless you train for it at a very detailed level, which we hadn’t done yet,” said Michael Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager, during a post-spacewalk briefing.

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Spacewalk Fail

Chalk one up for NASA ingenuity and our adaptable, seat of the pants spacewalking astronauts.

/let’s just hope installing the replacement pump goes more smoothly than removing the old one

Spacewalk Fail

This is not good.

Longest spacewalk in International Space Station’s history fails to fix fault

Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, two American astronauts, spent just over eight hours in the void outside the space station in an effort to repair the orbiting lab’s faulty cooling system, NASA said.

It was the longest spacewalk in the International Space Station’s history and the sixth longest ever.

“It was a tough one as spacewalks go,” an announcer from NASA’s mission control in Houston, Texas, conceded on a live video feed.

The pair had slept in an airlock beforehand to allow their bodies to adjust to different pressure conditions.

The walk was slightly delayed because of what NASA officials described as a “communication problem” inside Caldwell Dyson’s helmet, but the issue was resolved.

Experts had warned ahead of the spacewalk that the operation was challenging because the astronauts would be handling ammonia lines at full operating pressure, which makes them stiff.

A second spacewalk is planned for Wednesday when the astronauts will once again attempt to repair the system, which shut down on July 31.

See also:
Wrench Thrown Into Repair Work on Spacewalk
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Space station astronauts to make another attempt to mend cooling system

I sure hope they can figure out a way to fix this problem. it’d be a shame to have to abandon the ISS.

/on the bright side however, at least the astronauts didn’t lose an tools in space