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Monthly archive November, 2010

Save the Dates: April 2011 is Global Astronomy Month

gam-awb-2011-smallApril 2011 will again be a busy month for
amateur and professional astronomers, educators and astronomy
enthusiasts as Global Astronomy Month (GAM) returns for its second
edition. The annual event, organized by Astronomers Without Borders,
celebrates the Universe in the spirit of the International Year of
Astronomy 2009 cornerstone project “100 Hours of Astronomy.”

Astronomy clubs, science centers, schools, educators, and other
astronomy enthusiasts worldwide are invited to reserve dates in April
2011 for public outreach, hands-on activities, observing sessions and
more while sharing the enthusiasm with others across the globe during
Global Astronomy Month. Everyone is invited either to join the global
programs or initiate their own activities during April 2011.

This is the second edition of GAM, after its launch last year, when
Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) coordinated seven global events
dedicated to remote observing, fighting light pollution, world peace,
observations of the sky and cultural manifestations, as well as
encouraging the organization of local events.

A growing list of global programs are scheduled for GAM 2011. The
month kicks off with the lord of the rings on April 2/3,
designated as Saturn Watch. With the planet at its
closest to Earth, it’s a perfect night to admire the unequaled beauty of
the ringed planet. On April 9 the Global Star
will unfold as darkness sweeps around the Earth. This is
the night to set up your telescopes and share the wonders of the sky
with others. From April 10 to 16 it’s Lunar
as our gaze turns toward Earth’s natural satellite. Just
as the Moon has captured our imagination for millennia, it never fails
to fascinate with close-up views of its craters and mare. Educational
and cultural events dedicated to the Moon are also planned. On April
we switch from night to day, dedicating ourselves to our
closest star on SunDay. The month closes on a high
point with a peak – of meteors. On April 21/22 get
comfortable in something warm and spend the night scanning the sky for
meteors caused by debris left behind by Comet Thatcher. An incredible
show awaits during Lyrids Watch.

More programs are to come as GAM grows with every group of people
that joins us in the celebration of the Universe. Among these are Remote
Observing Programs
and a Cosmic Concert.

If you need another reason to join us during Global Astronomy Month,
try these:

  • GAM lets your science center or astronomy club participate in an
    internationally recognized project;
  • GAM provides several events to attract visitors to your institution
    or astronomy club;
  • GAM allows you to connect with your local community, including
    public authorities and the media;
  • GAM gives you the chance to inspire young people to look up and
    wonder. Show your commitment to educating young people.

“There’s something for everyone”, says Mike Simmons, President of
Astronomers Without Borders. IYA2009 showed the way to involving more
people than ever,” and GAM is riding that wave of excitement in the
discovery of our Universe.”

Join the celebration in April 2011 as Global Astronomy Month brings
together thousands of passionate individuals and hundreds of
organizations worldwide to share their enthusiasm in innovative new
ways, connecting people through a great sense of sharing the Universe!
It’s a month of celebrating Astronomers Without Borders’ motto – One
People, One Sky!

Save the dates – April 2011 is Global Astronomy Month.


More information:

Astronomers Without Borders

Astronomers Without Borders is dedicated to fostering understanding
and goodwill across national and cultural boundaries by creating
relationships through the universal appeal of astronomy. Astronomers
Without Borders projects promote sharing, all through a common interest
in something basic and universal – sharing the sky.

For further information please contact:

Mike Simmons
President, Astronomers Without Borders
Chair, GAM2011 Working Group
+1 818 486 7633

Thilina Heenatigala
GAM2011 Coordinator
+94 716 245 545

Oana Sandu
GAM2011 Public Relations Coordinator
+40 724 024 625

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Remember the story about the boy who repeatedly cried wolf when there was no wolf, so when there was actually a wolf no one believed him? Well, the more I listen to people who know a lot more than I do about NASA, prior manned space programs, space technology and yesteryear budgets, the more this story comes to mind, though between all the pros, cons and possible futures I can’t decide is who is the boy, who is the wolf and who are the towns’ people.

Read the rest on Spacepirations – 


Happy 2010 birfday Jenny – LOLspace

This LOLspace celebrates today’s birthday of Space Tweep Society founder and soul @flyingjenny. I guess she’ll comment her birthday cake saying “light this candle!”.

flyingjenny dreaming n tweeting bout spaceflight

New to LOLspace? See: LOLspace, the space LOLcats.

Discovery: America’s Spacecraft of the Ages

space shuttle Discovery — a beautiful white dove and NASA’s work horse
for a quarter century — is just days away from the start of her
thirty-ninth and final voyage upon the ocean of space.

reporter has personally witnessed several of Discovery’s milestones,
including a beautiful low pass over Kelly AFB, Texas in 1989 as she
rode a top a Boeing 747 after her STS-29 mission; the launches of
several of her flights beginning with STS-53 from inside Kennedy Space
Center; and the beautiful IMAX high quality video as she sailed around
two different space stations.

her first flight was in 1984, one would need to go back to America’s
Bicentennial to witness the start of her construction at the Rockwell
plant in Palmdale, California.

after two traditional exploration ships of the early 1600’s and the
1770’s, Discovery has spent the last 26 years making discoveries of her
own in the way we see not just our earth but the space around us.

spares from the building of two previous orbiters were built in 1976.
These segments later began to form Discovery’s crew cabin once the
government gave NASA the funding to build a fourth orbiter in January

At this point
in time, three other orbiters were completed or neared completion.
Enterprise was already performing air flight drop tests, however it was
not space flight rated; Columbia was built and just weeks away from her
delivery to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center; and Challenger was under
construction at the Rockwell plant in Palmdale.

and her sister ship Atlantis were built when it was determined in 1978
that upgrading Enterprise for space flight could not happen due to the
way she was constructed.

Discovery’s wings were completed and were attached to her fuselage in the summer of 1982.

third space shuttle orbiter vehicle (OV-103) destined to soar through
space rolled out of Rockwell for delivery to America’s spaceport on
October 16, 1983.

arriving at Kennedy a few weeks later, Discovery was towed to her new
home in the orbiter processing facility for tests and inspections prior
to her first planned flight in June 1984.

maiden flight was to have been the sixteenth space shuttle mission
(STS-16), but cancelled missions moved it up as the twelfth flight
under a new designation, STS-41D.

was the fourth flight under the new payload identification system:
Space Transportation System (STS) and the 4 meant the fiscal year of
1984, the “1” stated it was a KSC launch (where “2” was to have been
the Vandenberg, AFB site); and “D” is the designation for the payload
flight of the year.

maiden flight was delayed one day to June 26th, but a dramatic shutdown
of two of her three main engines seconds before launch would keep the
craft earthbound another two months.

5 we have main engine start… (NTD states “cut-off”)… We have a
cut-off. We have an abort by the on board computers of the orbiter
Discovery,” NASA’s launch commentator stated as it happened.

launch control began reading all of their data. Engineers began safeing
both Discovery and her boosters as they scrubbed the launch. Launch
director Bob Seick and his team knew the entire stack would need to be
returned to her hanger to replace the three used engines.

Discovery would later return to her ocean side launch pad, and on August 30, 1984, set sail on her first flight:

2, 1. We have SRB ignition and we have lift-off! Lift-off of mission
STS-41D, the first flight of the orbiter Discovery, and the shuttle has
cleared the tower!”, the launch commentator exclaimed at 8:42 am as she
rose into the blue Florida sky.

“Zoo Crew” of six — commander Henry Hartsfield, pilot Mike Coats and
mission specialists Steve Hawley, Richard M. Mullane, Judith A. Resnik
and Charles Walker — spent six days in space deploying three
communications satellites; deploying a 102-foot solar sail mock-up; and
testing Discovery’s on board systems as this was her maiden flight.

Zoo Crew reference was an internal crew joke as Resnik kidded Mullane
and Hawley upon their meeting of actress Bo Derek who had just starred
in the movie remake of Tarzan. Judy would call Mullane “Tarzan” and
Hawley “Cheetah”. Mullane’s answer to Judy, “Well you must be Jane

When I worked
for Space Camp and Astronaut Hall of Fame, I became Mullane’s personal
guide during his two day visit in 1996. I asked him a lot about that
flight and he shared with me several great stories of 41D.

flew her second flight STS-51A two months later on an exciting mission
which saw two spacewalking astronauts go out and capture two wayward
satellites stranded in low earth orbit. The two satellites were
launched earlier in the year, and Discovery captured them and returned
them home to be repaired and relaunched.

orbiter would fly four times in 1985 on satellite delivery flights and
one classified military mission which earned the white dove the name
“Battlestar Discovery”.

1985, the space shuttle’s second launch site at Vandenberg, AFB was
being prepared for it’s first launch. Discovery was destined to become
the military orbiter and fly the first California shuttle flight in
March 1986 on mission STS-62A (6 for 1986, 2 for VAFB and A for the
first payload of the year).

fuel tank contamination issues at the launch site saw that the launch
would likely be delayed past the March target date.

came the loss of Challenger on January 28, 1986, loosing both Resnik,
school teacher Christa McAuliffe and five astronauts due to high upper
level winds placing stress on a frozen, frailed o-ring seal on the
shuttle’s right solid rocket booster. The failed seal allowed for a
small plume of fire to lick the external tank and causing the tank to
explode, causing Challenger to break apart.

spent the next thirty-two months adding a new capture feature to a
redesigned SRB; performing over 100 modifications and upgrades to the
three remaining orbiters; and learning how to fix how NASA conducts
flight safety.

Discovery was then selected to lift America back into space.

September 29, 1988, Discovery mission STS-26R carried a crew of five
and a new tracking and data satellite to replace the one lost on
Challenger’s flight.

spent the next few years carrying aloft space observatories and
spacecraft destined to observe the planets and galaxies.

the spring of 1990, Discovery and a crew of five launched the Edwin
Hubble Space Telescope into earth orbit. On her next flight in October,
the Ulysses spacecraft was deployed from the orbiter to begin an
unexpected nearly 19 year mission to understand
“the Global Structure of the Sun’s environment-the heliosphere“, according to NASA’s JPL.

became the first orbiter to rendezvous with a space station when in
February 1995, the craft began a station keeping flight next to Russia’s Mir
station. A few of us referred to this mission as the “Mir-go-round”

I still recall standing at the launch pad hours before her launch and thinking that this spacecraft will be flying in formation with a space station. There’s something truly special about that… I wanted it to inspire me.

the orbiter would dock only once during the nine shuttle-Mir docking
flights. In June 1998, her STS-91 flight performed the final Mir
docking as her crew picked up astronaut Andy Thomas from his multiple
month stay on the station.

few months later, Discovery’s 25th flight carried a crew of seven
including former Mercury astronaut John Glenn to space on a science
mission. On February 20, 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit
the earth and became a national hero. So much so that then President
John Kennedy denied Glenn’s return to space for fear of loosing him to
a tragic space flight accident later.

Discovery revisited Hubble twice in the late-90’s, and also flew the 100th space shuttle flight on October 2000.

2000’s are known at NASA as the construction years of the International
Space Station. It also became the start of America’s ten-plus years of
continuous living and working in space. Beginning on November 2, 2000
and thru today, at least one American has been in space.

2001, Discovery carried both the station’s Expedition two and
Expedition three crews to orbit to begin their three month stays aboard
earth’s orbital outpost in space.

2002, NASA was running at full steam. The space station was growing and
her crews were performing great science 220 miles above earth.

Then on February 1, 2003, America lost Columbia during her return to earth.

stood down and began to focus on how the physics of the loss of foam
insulation from the external tank can damage the belly of an orbiter
during launch. This is what doomed Columbia as insulation traveling at
a high speed slammed into the wing’s leading edge on the underside of
the orbiter. It punctured a hole and when Columbia completed her 16 day
flight, the hot gases and temperatures of reentry began to fill the
inside structure of the craft causing section after section to break
off over Texas.

Long hours were spent fixing the way the foam insulation was applied to the shuttle’s external tank.

On board the space station, NASA and Russia downsized the crew compliment from three to two until the shuttle program resumed.

in July 2005, Discovery’s 31st mission returned America to space once
again, however this time during her launch several insulation pieces
had broken off without damaging the craft. NASA stood down another year
to make more adjustments to the tank.

Independence Day launch in 2006 on a space station resupply flight gave
America a much needed lift, and helped resume the building of the

Since then,
Discovery has carried up to station the huge Port 5 and the Starboard 6
truss segments; the Japanese Kibo science module in 2008; and the
Leonardo multipurpose logistics module to resupply the complex.

as we witness Discovery’s final flight this month, her 39th mission
will again carry Leonardo, but this time her crew of six will leave the
Italian-built module docked to station permanently as a storage section.

shortest flight of 3 days, 93 minutes was a January 1985 Department of
Defense mission STS-51C. Her longest single flight occurred last April
when it flew a 15 day, 2 hour and 47 minute trip to resupply the
International Space Station.

Discovery breaks out of orbit in two weeks and returns home, she maybe
flying into the sunset of her storied career, but will pass the torch
on to the spacecraft of the future.

takes thousands of people to cleanup and turn each orbiter around for
her next flight. It’s great people like these here at Kennedy and
around the country who have kept Discovery flying safely and in great
shape for more that a quarter century.

Smithsonian Air and Space museum in Washington, DC wants Discovery to
be her next home beginning in early 2012. A formal announcement will be
made this spring.

Discovery has been a favorite of mine for the past 26 years, and I look forward to seeing her again in our nation’s capital.

Story: Charles Atkeison