Abandon Ship!

What’s I say? This is what happens when you put all your eggs in the Russian technology basket and the basket falls apart.

Space station could be abandoned in November

Astronauts may need to temporarily withdraw from the International Space Station before the end of this year if Russia is unable to resume manned flights of its Soyuz rocket after a failed cargo launch last week, according to the NASA official in charge of the outpost.

Despite a delivery of important logistics by the final space shuttle mission in July, safety concerns with landing Soyuz capsules in the middle of winter could force the space station to fly unmanned beginning in November, according to Michael Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager.

“Logistically, we can support [operations] almost forever, but eventually if we don’t see the Soyuz spacecraft, we’ll probably going to unmanned ops before the end of the year,” Suffredini said in an interview Thursday, one day after Russia lost a Soyuz rocket with an automated Progress resupply ship bound for the space station.

See also:
Will the Space Station be Abandoned?
International Space Station might be abandoned in November
Cargo Craft Loss Prompts ISS Concerns
NASA Sets Space Station Status Update Briefing for Monday
Roscosmos smarting after Progress loss
ISS crew safe despite supply failure: Russia, US
Matt Reed: After Russian crash, turn to the F-150 of American rockets
Progress Fails To Make Progress

Okay, so the Russian rockets are turning out to be piles of junk. Why can’t we launch the Progress cargo ship or the manned Soyuz capsule on top of the highly successful, dependable workhorse, Delta IV or Atlas V rockets? Where’s that old fashioned American ingenuity?

/and what about SpaceX, they’re already planning a rendezvous mission to dock with the ISS later this year, why can’t resources be poured into that and the schedule moved up?

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:
‘Mission complete, Houston’
Atlantis’ triumphant swan song ends NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program
Space shuttle Atlantis in final dawn touchdown to end 30 year programme
Space shuttle era ends with touchdown of Atlantis
Crowd Welcomes Home, Thanks Final Shuttle Crew
Atlantis makes perfect final landing
Final Space Shuttle Crew Leaves Plaque on Atlantis
Shuttle photographers capture last landing of Atlantis
Space shuttle Atlantis’s final flight in pictures
A bittersweet end to the space shuttle program
After shuttle lands, Mission Control to go quiet
Lights go dim at Mission Control
Space Shuttle’s End Prompts Doubts About NASA’s Future
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

Twenty Five Years Later

See also:
Capt. Michael Smith and Challenger Crew Remembered
Editorial: Challenger 7 deserve our honor, thanks
Students honor McAuliffe legacy with science fair
There, but for the grace of God
25 years later, Mississippians still live with the Challenger tragedy</a
Challenger, 25 Years Later
Today Is the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger Accident: Where Were You When You Heard the News?
Challenger recalled

Boy, I sure wish we weren’t still flying these relics. Hopefully we can get through the last three flights without any more loss of life.

/the space shuttles belong in museums, not on a launch pad

Going Nowhere Not So Fast

I think the old girl is trying to tell NASA something, she doesn’t want to fly.

Space shuttle Discovery’s mission delayed again

Space shuttle Discovery’s final flight keeps getting delayed.

The space station delivery mission is now off until the end of February. NASA had been aiming for an early February liftoff, but managers decided Thursday to take more time to complete repairs to Discovery’s external fuel tank.

Following a failed launch attempt in early November, cracks were found in metal struts of the massive tank. More cracks were discovered last week, after the shuttle was returned to its hangar. NASA is considering reinforcing all 108 struts on the central part of the tank for extra safety, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Friday.

The initial cracks were so big that the insulating foam on top of the damaged struts, or so-called stringers, split open. That’s NASA’s main concern: Cracking could cause foam to break away during liftoff and slam into Discovery. Columbia ended up being destroyed in 2003 after a slab of foam gouged a wing.

See also:
Discovery To Miss Early February Launch
Repairs Delay Discovery Launch as Shuttle Program Winds Down
Shuttle Discovery’s launch delayed for further repairs
US Shuttle Launch Delayed Again
Safety probe delays space shuttle launch until late February
NASA Pushes Space Shuttle Discovery Launch to Late February
NASA Rules Out Early February Launch for Discovery
Fuel tank woes delay space shuttle launch again
More delay for space shuttle Discovery launch
Shuttle Discovery’s launch postponed
Discovery launch delayed
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery
STS-133 Mission Information
STS-133

Discovery is more than 25 years old and even when these space shuttles are in perfect shape they’re the most inherently unsafe manned spacecraft the U.S. has ever flown. Personally, I say pull the plug now, Discovery belongs in a museum, not on a launch pad. She obviously doesn’t want to fly, why tempt fate?

/is it really worth risking another shuttle crew to deliver some equipment to a space station that’s probably going to be abandoned within ten years anyway?

32nd Time’s A Charm?

So far, so good, Atlantis is less than twelve days, reentry, and a touchdown away from a well deserved retirement after two and a half decades of service.

Shuttle Atlantis streaks into orbit on final planned flight

The shuttle Atlantis blasted off on its 32nd and final planned mission Friday, closing out 25 years of service with a 12-day flight to deliver a Russian docking module and critical spare parts to the International Space Station.

With its three hydrogen-fueled main engines roaring at full thrust, the shuttle’s twin solid-fuel boosters ignited on time at 2:20 p.m. EDT, instantly pushing the fully fueled 4.5-million-pound spacecraft away from pad 39A.

Accelerating through 100 mph–straight up–in just eight seconds, Atlantis wheeled about its long axis and lined up on a trajectory paralleling the East Coast. Liftoff was timed for roughly the moment Earth’s rotation carried the launch pad into the plane of the space station’s orbit, the first step in a two-day rendezvous procedure.

Atlantis quickly arced away to the northeast, putting on a spectacular afternoon sky show for area residents and tourists who gathered along Florida’s “Space Coast” to witness the shuttle’s final planned flight.

Commander Kenneth Ham, pilot Dominic Antonelli, and flight engineer Michael Good monitored the shuttle’s computer-controlled ascent, joined by Stephen Bowen, a former submariner, Piers Sellers, and Garrett Reisman, who spent three months aboard the space station in 2008.

“We’re going to take her on her 32nd flight and if you don’t mind, we’ll take her out of the barn and make a few more laps around the planet,” Ham radioed launch director Mike Leinbach a few minutes before takeoff.

The shuttle’s ascent appeared normal with no obvious impacts from external tank foam insulation. Video from a camera mounted on the side of the tank showed a few bits of insulation separating and falling away, but by that point the shuttle was out of the dense lower atmosphere where debris impacts pose a more significant threat.

See also:
Space shuttle Atlantis soars on final voyage
Space Shuttle Atlantis Blasts Off on Final Mission
Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off for Final Planned Flight
Shuttle Atlantis launches on its last mission
Space shuttle Atlantis soars on final voyage
Space Shuttle Atlantis: A View from the Launch
View of Atlantis launch from over 22,000 miles up
No rookies allowed on Atlantis’ last flight‎
Space Shuttle Atlantis: 25 years of service
STS-132 Begins On-Orbit Operations
STS-132 Mission Information
STS-132
Atlantis
Atlantis (OV-104)
Space Shuttle Atlantis

Godspeed Atlantis, perform your last mission flawlessly and bring your crew home safely.

/and then there will be only two shuttle flights remaining before the United States manned spaceflight program is grounded indefinitely on Obama’s orders

A Bad Idea

The Space Shuttle is by far the most dangerous spaceflight program in U.S. history. Is it really a good idea to keep pushing our luck?

NASA: Space Shuttles Could Fly Longer With Extra Funds

The chief of NASA’s space shuttle program said Tuesday that the agency could technically continue to fly its three aging orbiters beyond their planned 2010 retirement if ordered to do so by President Barack Obama and lawmakers. All it would take would be the extra funding needed to pay for it.

Space shuttle program manager John Shannon said NASA spends about $200 million a month on its space shuttle program. That’s about $2.4 billion a year that would be required to keep the shuttle flying beyond their 2010 retirement date, he said.

NASA currently plans to retire the space shuttle fleet in the fall after flying the last of four final shuttle missions remaining for this year. The next shuttle to fly is Discovery, which is poised to blast off on April 5 to deliver vital supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station.

The fleet’s retirement would end more than 29 years of U.S. space shuttle flights and leave NASA without a dedicated American spacecraft for launching astronauts into orbit.

Some U.S. senators and members of Congress have expressed support for extending the shuttle program, with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) filing a bill last week formally seeking a reprieve for NASA’s space shuttle fleet.

See also:
Congress tries to alter Obama’s plans for NASA
NASA: Money key to more space shuttle flights
Senate Bill Proposes Extending The Shuttle Program By Another Two Years
Senator’s Bill Would Expand Shuttle Program
After 50 years of NASA, we must not leave space
Senator Proposes Shuttle-Extension Hail Mary
NASA space shuttle gearing up for big phase out
Criticism mounts against Obama’s plans to change NASA strategy
President to Defend NASA Aim
Space Shuttle

It’s a shame that Obama wants to cancel the follow on Constellation/Orion program, but extending the life of the Space Shuttle program is not an acceptable alternative.

/the orbiters are past their design life, we’ve already lost 40% of the fleet and 14 astronauts, retire them before we lose another one

Obama Adds Astronauts To The No Fly List

No Shuttle plus no Constellation program equals U.S. manned space flight grounded.

White House won’t fund NASA moon program

NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon are dead. So are the rockets being designed to take them there, if President Obama gets his way.

When the White House releases its budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was to return humans to the moon by 2020. The Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to return to the moon. There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases.

“We certainly don’t need to go back to the moon,” one administration official said.

Instead, according to White House insiders, agency officials, industry executives and congressional sources familiar with Obama’s plans, NASA will look at developing a “heavy-lift” rocket that one day will take humans and robots to explore beyond low-Earth orbit. That day will be years away.

The White House will direct NASA to concentrate on Earth-science projects — principally, researching and monitoring climate change — and on a new technology research and development program designed to someday enable human exploration of asteroids and the inner solar system.

See also:
Obama aims to ax moon mission
Obama to End NASA Constellation Program
US plan to return to moon ‘is dead’: administration advisor
White House killing NASA’s moon mission, reports say
President Obama to Propose Abandoning NASA’s Moon Plan
Obama to suggest end of NASA moon program
Speculation about NASA’s future swirls in advance of Obama’s budget request
Battle brewing over Obama’s NASA plan
NASA Workers Anxious About Obama’s Commitment to Space
Rebel Engineers Sit With NASA to Chart Future of Manned Space
Good Night Moon
Obama Says, No Moon For You!

To put things in perspective, Obama and the Democrats are now talking about wasting another $80-200 billion on another unnecessary, worthless “stimulus” after already wasting $1 trillion on the first worthless “stimulus”. Just yesterday, Obama announced that he was passing out $8 billion for unprofitable choo choo trains!

NASA’s annual budget is less than $20 billion, yet these out of control, tax and spend peons can’t dig in our taxpayer pockets for a few measly billion dollars more to fund something worthwhile, U.S. manned space flight. I guess they can’t figure out how funding space exploration translates into buying Democrat votes.

/the moral of this story is, if any of your children are dreaming of growing up to be an astronaut, they’d better learn how to speak Chinese and/or Russian

Launch It Quick, Before Obama Cancels It

NASA’s Ares 1-X Rocket: Space Shuttle Replacement?
Or Rocket to Nowhere? NASA Preps for Test, Though Obama Could Cancel Program

This isn’t your daddy’s space ship — but it is something your grandfather might recognize. The Ares 1-X rocket sitting on the launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center is ready to go, scheduled for launch Tuesday morning, if the weather holds.

It won’t go far on this trip, but NASA hopes it will eventually take astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and — someday — on to Mars.

This launch follows a less-than-wholehearted endorsement by the Augustine Commission, the presidential panel that spent this past year reviewing the future of the U.S. space program.

The Ares is supposed to replace the 30-year-old space shuttle, which is scheduled to quit flying by the end of 2011 after six more missions. Ares, the commission concluded, will cost too much and take too long to really be a practical replacement. The plan was to have it ready to fly by 2015, but 2017 is more realistic. NASA’s only option, meanwhile, to get astronauts to the space station is to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz.

Augustine Commission: NASA’s Plans ‘Unsustainable’

To get to the moon and then eventually go on to Mars will take much more money and technology than the U.S. space program has now, according to a report released today by an independent panel convened, at White House request, under former aerospace executive Norman Augustine.

The Augustine Commission made several recommendations today for NASA:

. . .

The panel said it might be an option to scrap the Ares 1 booster, and use other rockets instead.

See also:
Ares I-X Liftoff Set for Tomorrow Morning
Ares 1-X test flight cleared for launch Tuesday morning
NASA Unveils Ares 1-X Rocket for Historic Test Flight
The NASA Ares 1-X rocket is set for launch — but watch those clouds!
Will Weather Ground Ares 1-X Rocket Test Launch?
Nasa unveils Ares 1-X rocket amid doubts over future funding
Ares 1-X Rocket Scheduled To Launch
Obama Considering Ares Cancellation, Orion Scale Back
Obama May Cancel Space Shuttle Replacement
Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee
Ares I-X

So, we’ve got six more shuttle flights to go and Obama’s thinking of cancelling the replacement program. Priorities, Obama can spend a trillion dollars on Democrat pet projects and call it “stimulus”, but he can’t seem to finde a few billion dollars for NASA.

/be sure and watch tomorrow’s launch, future American space flight could become a rarity

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Five More Times

UPDATE:

NASA suspends shuttle flights pending probe

NASA will suspend flights of its space shuttle fleet until it understands why strips of insulating foam peeled off the fuel tank used by shuttle Endeavour during Wednesday’s launch, officials said.

“We’re not worried about this one, but we need to understand what’s going on for the next flight,” said shuttle program manager John Shannon said on Thursday.

/not good

After five delays for one reason or another, Endeavour, STS-127 finally got off the ground.

Endeavour, STS-127 Crew Begin Complex Mission

Space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of seven astronauts are in orbit after an on-time launch at 6:03 p.m. EDT from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Following a smooth countdown with no technical issues and weather that steadily improved throughout the afternoon, the shuttle lifted off from Launch Pad 39A and began its orbital chase of the International Space Station.

“It was a testimony for this entire launch and flight control team,” Launch Director Pete Nickolenko said of the countdown and successful liftoff, which came on the sixth launch attempt after technical issues and weather concerns prevented the first five tries. “It was an outstanding effort, and it made the complex look really easy. It really was a case of persistence.”

Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, also commended the launch effort, but cautioned that the mission to come is “very challenging,” with five spacewalks and robotic activities scheduled. “The teams are fully prepared — they’re ready to go do what they need to go do, and we look forward to the exciting activities as we install the Exposed Facility out on the Kibo module.”

Whether it got off the ground safely or not is still under review.

Debris Strikes Endeavour During Liftoff

As the space shuttle Endeavour lifted off into orbit Wednesday evening, several pieces of debris fell off the external fuel tank, and at least one hit the orbiter.

Astronauts in space and engineers on the ground will spend the next few days examining and analyzing the damage to see if it might pose a danger to the shuttle on re-entry.

See also:
Space shuttle blasts off after month’s delay
NASA Finally Launches Endeavour Space Shuttle on 6th Try
Space Shuttle Endeavour finally lifts off
Shuttle Endeavour blasts off; debris strikes mulled
Space shuttle suffered ‘minor’ damage at launch
NASA Eyes Debris Hits to Shuttle Heat Shield
STS-127 Mission Information
International Space Station
Kibo Japanese Experiment Module
JAXA Kibo Web Site

It’s obviously not the first time this has happened, but I sure hope this debris strike turns out to be nothing and Endeavour and crew return to Earth safely. These space shuttles are inherently dangerous to fly as witnessed by the fact that we’ve already lost 40% of the entire fleet, with the loss of 14 astronauts.

And why do we keep taking the risk of flying to the ISS and continue it’s construction anyway?

NASA to De-Orbit International Space Station In 2016

Despite nearing completion after more than a decade of construction, and recently announcing some upcoming improvements to accompany its full crew of six astronauts, NASA plans to de-orbit the International Space Station in 2016. Meaning the station will have spent more time under construction than completed.

The fact that the ISS has already had $100 billion dumped into it over the years is reason for criticism over the proposed de-orbiting. Proponents of the extra-terrestrial shelter feel 2016 would be too soon to let the 700,000 pound craft crash into the Pacific Ocean. Critics against it say it wastes too much money with few tangible outcomes.

Many of the station’s research programs have already been cut and the US Space Shuttle program is ending in 2010, which leaves few big-ticket programs left on the agenda (save for the station’s yet-to-be-installed Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which searchers for dark- and anti-matter).

See also:
International Space Station, still under construction, may be debris by 2016
Space Station Is Near Completion, Maybe the End
ISS To Go Bye-Bye in 2016?

We haven’t even finished building the damn thing yet and we’re already planning to splash it into the ocean a few years later? What’s the point of further risking lives on dangerous shuttle flights for that?

/if we can’t afford the ISS then, we can’t afford it now

Hubble, Hubble, Toil And Trouble

NASA shuttle blasts off on Hubble life-saving mission

While the Hubble Space Telescope was making some pre-shutdown observations today, the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off on a repair mission to the 19-year-old orbiter.

At precisely 2:01 p.m. ET, the shuttle lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (see video) amid a plume of fire and smoke.

The seven-astronaut crew this afternoon began its 11-day mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble telescope, which is orbiting about 350 miles above Earth. The shuttle mission — the last one going to the Hubble — is expected to give the orbiter at least another five years of life, according to the space agency.

About nine minutes after liftoff, Atlantis’ three main engines were cut off as the space shuttle entered orbit. Its external fuel tank was jettisoned.

The shuttle is scheduled to rendezvous with Hubble on Wednesday, when mission specialist Mike Massimino will use the shuttle’s robotic arm to reach out and grab the orbiter and pull it into the shuttle’s payload bay. On Thursday, two astronauts will make the first of the mission’s five spacewalks.

The shuttle is carrying 22,500 pounds of equipment for the telescope, including new grapple hooks and a platform that can be used in case future missions go up to service the telescope. This will be the shuttle’s last trip to Hubble though, since the NASA space shuttles are scheduled to be retired next year.

This week’s mission includes plans to install new gyroscopes, circuit boards and critical camera systems. The NASA astronauts are also bringing up a new backup computer system to replace an onboard backup system that had to be put into use last fall when the main system failed, leaving the Hubble unable to do much of its scientific work. NASA engineers made the remote switchover to a backup system from a room in the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., while the telescope hurtled along its orbit around Earth at 17,500 mph.

See also:
Shuttle blasts off to repair Hubble Telescope
Shuttle blasts off on Hubble mission
Hubble mission “brain surgery” in space
STS-125: Final Shuttle Mission to Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
NASA TV
STS125 (sts125) on Twitter

This is easily the most complex and dangerous shuttle mission ever attempted. So dangerous that, for the first time ever, NASA took the precaution of having another shuttle, Endeavor/STS-127, on the pad, ready to luanch in case of trouble.

Set for launch today, Atlantis has plans to skirt debris

Conditions appear favorable for Atlantis to begin its mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope today — a journey that is expected to include several measures to ensure that the space shuttle avoids any collision with dangerous space debris.

On Sunday NASA officials declared the vehicle ready to go, and predicted just a 10 percent chance of weather conditions precluding a launch.

“We’re not tracking any issues and Atlantis is ready to fly,” said NASA Test Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson.

NASA technicians filled Atlantis’ fuel tanks early this morning in preparation for a 1:01 p.m. launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

Once they’re in orbit, the seven-member crew will carry out a carefully crafted evasive maneuver to cut the risk of collision space debris during the 11-day flight.

The debris has been sown by a surprise satellite collision in February, a Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007, and decades of deteriorating space hardware.

The estimated 19,000 pieces of orbiting debris from damaged and destroyed space vehicles could inflict catastrophic damage on a spacecraft.

Nicholas Johnson, NASA’s chief scientist for orbital debris at Johnson Space Center, says collisions with space debris are “not something you really need to lose sleep over but it is something that we need to be pro-active about.” In this case, pro-active will mean the shuttle will drop from the altitude of the Hubble some 350 miles above the Earth to a safer orbit 160 miles above the Earth as soon the five spacewalks are completed for the Hubble phase of the mission.

In addition, the shuttle is packing twice the normal 12-day supply of provisions to sustain the crew in the event that the orbiter is damaged, forcing the crew to shelter within a crippled spacecraft.

And in an unprecedented move, NASA has positioned shuttle Endeavor on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center to serve as a rescue vehicle in the event of problems.

See also:
Hubble mission especially dangerous
Nasa launches ‘most dangerous shuttle mission yet’ to fix Hubble telescope
Top Gun pilot leads Hubble ‘mission impossible’
Debris Collision Risk for Atlantis ‘Within Limits’
Space Junk Forcing More Evasive Maneuvers

And, keep in mind that Hubble was never designed to be repaired or serviced in the first place, let alone in space, and the shuttle astronauts have to dodge space debris while they’re attempting the repairs! Not only is it like trying to conduct delicate brain surgery in a pressurized space suit, it’s like trying to conduct delicate brain surgery in a pressurized space suit, while tethered to a fast moving car, traveling the wrong direction on a busy freeway!

/good luck STS-125 and Godspeed!