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Monthly archive January, 2011

Talk with Astros, Play with Moon Rocks, Be at SpaceUp Houston

Talk with Astros, Play with Moon Rocks, Be at SpaceUp Houston

I will be at SpaceUp Houston and I think you should come too. SpaceUp Houston is an “unconference” that makes sessions from the awesome conversations people have in the hallways and informal gatherings at regular conferences. In essence YOU are the conversation.

My personal experience with this event started from a tweet by @txflygirl on Twitter. I met @txflygirl during the STS-132 JSC Mission Tweetup, it was an amazing experience for me and I have stayed in touch with many people from the tweetup. The @txflygirl tweet explored the possibility of a SpaceUp event in Houston and asked for people who would like to help and I thought, “why not”. I had heard about SpaceUp DC but I didn’t find out enough about it before the event to attend and since I still wanted to go to this type of event I thought I could put my programming/computer science skills to good use. In addition, having my interest in space exploration rekindled after attending the NASA Tweetup I thought I would have to be crazy to let this opportunity pass me by. Once the SpaceUp Houston’s team started to form, I helped out @harbingeralpha (Dennis Bonilla) with the website and technical set-up for SpaceUp Houston. I helped find a web host along with setting up a domain and Dennis and I set up the site despite being several states apart. I did a lot of the fighting with the website customization and have learned many things through this process. I’ve now worked with the WordPress blogging environment, and integrated various social media sources such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn into a powerful communications platform. I will be responsible for managing the scheduling software once the event gets under way so that attendees are aware of what events are happening in which room at the Lunar and Planetary Institute during the event. As the event gets closer I am becoming more and more excited about being a part of an event that includes speakers such as Boeing, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), Sierra Nevada, and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) which will be part of a commercial space panel, and hear from Astronaut Clay Anderson on Saturday, February 12.

How will you be getting there? I’m personally driving a little over 1,100 miles each way to be at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX on February 12-13 (hopefully my professors don’t mind me missing a day or two of class), below you will find links to get more information and to purchase tickets so that you won’t miss out on this opportunity to meet some cool people and engage in productive conversation. I am also looking forward to hearing what many people think is next for NASA and the future of Human Space Flight in general. I hope to see you there!

Official website: http://www.spaceuphouston.org
Tickets: http://spaceuphou.eventbrite.com/

Our official press release:

Grassroots Space Conference Announces Houston Dates: Astronaut and Others to Attend February Event

SpaceUp Houston Opens Registration and Invites the Public to Play With Moon Rocks and Telescopes, and Mingle with Fellow Science and Science Fiction Fans

Houston, TX – January 15, 2010 – SpaceUp Houston has announced availability of tickets for its February 12-13 “unconference” to be held at The Lunar & Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, TX. Tickets are available at http://spaceuphou.eventbrite.com. The third conference of its kind, SpaceUp Houston will include spontaneous sessions created by attendees as well as telescope viewing of the night sky, costumed Star Wars characters courtesy of the 501st Legion, and a Saturday evening presentation by Astronaut Clay Anderson. Other sessions at the two-day event will include a commercial spaceflight panel and a space show-and-tell. Lunch will be provided with every ticket to the event.

Attendees have previously arrived from across the country with ages ranging from seven to seventy years old. SpaceUp Houston, as described on the unconference’s website, “will nurture new and radical concepts, will help develop partnerships, and is meant for you to create a future worth living in.” Previous attendees had this to say about SpaceUp events:
“SpaceUp was about the people.”
“The conversations people care about by the people who care about them.”

Space unconferences have been held in San Diego, CA as well as Washington, DC to promote discussions on cutting edge technologies, space outreach, and the future of the space industry in the United States. This will be the first SpaceUp event in Houston; it has been planned and promoted by members of the Houston tech industry as well as space enthusiasts from across the country. Major sponsors for SpaceUp Houston include The Boeing Company, United Launch Alliance, and Telestream’s Wirecast software. The event will be livestreamed on February 12-13 at http://spaceuphouston.org.


A SpaceUp is a space unconference, also known as a user-generated conference or a BarCamp. Participants will decide the topics, schedule, and structure of the event.

SpaceUp, founded in 2010, has successfully been held in San Diego and Washington D.C. SpaceUp Houston will build upon their success by involving the Houston-Clear Lake community in sharing and discussing the possibilities for space exploration covering NASA programs, hobbyist projects, start-up companies, research, and the arts. SpaceUp strives to include children, university students, and anyone who has a passion for space exploration. There are no spectators at SpaceUp Houston, only participants. All attendees are expected to give a demo, present a talk, or participate in a panel or roundtable. Above all, SpaceUp events are designed as catalysts for future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics development.

SpaceUp Houston has partnered with the Clear Lake Area National Space Society (CLANSS) which has 501(c)(3) status.

The official SpaceUp Houston Twitter stream can be found at http://twitter.com/spaceuphou

For more information visit the SpaceUp Houston website at http://spaceuphouston.org or call Dennis Bonilla at (202) 670-4740 or email SpaceUp Houston at press@spaceuphouston.org

Apollo 14 at Forty: Shepard, crew return America to the moon

Apollo 14 at Forty: Shepard, crew return America to the moon

America’s first man in space, Alan B. Shepard, stood on the dusty soil of the moon. His white space suit made it hard to move freely as he hopped across the plains at Fra Mauro, the landing site for Shepard and fellow moon walker Edgar Mitchell.

As the lunar journey neared its end, Shepard took his handle from a rock collection tool and fastened a six iron wedge at the end of it, dropped a small white ball onto the dry soil and made the first golf shot on another celestial surface.

The ball shot into a nearby crater, and he thought to himself, “A hole in one.”

Shepard then perfected his back swing for the second and last golf ball. “There it goes… miles and miles and miles!” he exclaimed as the second ball soared and arced out into the solid black sky.

It had been a long journey for America’s fifth human to reach the moon. As NASA worked to return America back to space following the Apollo One fire, the space agency’s senior astronaut was loosing his hearing in his left ear and his balance. His equilibrium was gone by autumn of 1968.

A secret ear operation suggested by fellow astronaut Tom Stafford was then performed by a Los Angeles doctor which allowed the astronaut to return to flight status a year later.

He was ready to now aim for a moon flight, particularly Apollo 13 and the Fra Mauro region.

However, crew rotation by chief astronaut Deke Slayton put Shepard on board Apollo 14, and when the preceding flight aborted it’s lunar landing due to a blown oxygen tank, Fourteen set it’s mission sights on Fra Mauro.

Apollo 14 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on January 31, 1971, at 4:03:02 pm EST, forty minutes late due to rain over launch pad 39-A, to begin a nine day voyage upon the ocean of space.

Once the crew reached space and left earth orbit for the moon, they ran into a problem with the docking latches which connect the lunar module Antares with their command module Kitty Hawk.

For one hour, Kitty Hawk’s pilot Stuart Roosa brought the command module in slowly to dock it perfectly on four tries, however the capture latches would not latch. Kitty Hawk’s fuel was running lower than had been planned at this point in the flight as well.

If the latches could not dock the two craft together, the mission would have to be aborted.

As the crafts moved past a distance of 20,000 miles away from earth, the idea was discussed to go in at a faster rate to awake those latches and dock the module. It worked and the crew sped on toward lunar orbit.

The three day journey to lunar orbit was quiet.

Antares trip down to the lunar surface was not.

Software issues with the lunar module’s landing computer, and later with the landing radar caused big concerns for both the crew and in mission control.

Once the control center sent up new commands to the computer, they were given a go for landing.

Antares single engine fired to bring the craft down and land. It was human kinds third landing upon the moon.

Landing at Fra Mauro on the eastern edge of the Ocean of Storms occurred on February 5 at 4:18:11 a.m., just 130 feet shy from the target site.

“Okay, we made a good landing,” the 47-year-old Shepard said upon landing Antares.

Hours later, he became the fifth human to set foot upon the moon and radioed to mission control on what it took for him to reach this point, “Al is on the surface. It’s been a long way, but we’re here.”

To which Slayton replied, “Not bad for an old man.” Shepard would be the only Mercury astronaut to reach the moon.

Shepard and Mitchell collected nearly ninety-three pounds of lunar rocks during their nearly five hour set of two moon walks.

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of Shepard and his crew’s flight aboard Apollo 14, the mission which returned America to the moon following the odyssey of the Apollo 13 flight the following spring.

In October 1995, I enjoyed a candid conversation with Alan Shepard on his thoughts about the space program of the time. And, although it has been fifteen years, his words echo true in 2011 as it did then.

Charles Atkeison: How does the space program today differ from what you experienced during the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s? Do we still have a focus for what we want to do at NASA?

Alan Shepard: I think as far as NASA’s concerned, yes. The difference as far as the general public’s concerned is that the pure excitement of the early days is gone because, “so we’ve done that. What do we do tomorrow?”, kind of routine. The fact that the public in general is excited about exploration made the lunar mission a very well recognized, well appreciated phase.

The folks that are flying today are just as dedicated as we were even knowing ahead of time that they are not going to receive the same kind of appreciation and recognition that those of us did in the early days.

Charles: Do you consider yourself the Christopher Columbus of the modern age?

Alan: I really don’t. I consider myself very fortunate to have been allowed to make a couple of space flights for the United States. I recognize a few of us get a lot of attention, but literally hundreds of our close associates are the ones that did all the work. I remember saying in May of 1961 at the White House, when I received a medal from President Kennedy acknowledging that these hundreds, yes thousands of dedicated individuals on the ground are the ones to whom the accolades of the day should go. And I still feel that very strongly.

Charles: I remember the scene, Kennedy drops your medal during the presentation. What went through your head right then?

Alan: Well, we almost banged heads ’cause both of us (Shepard laughs) … it was kind of cute. ‘Cause Jack said, “Here,” and Jackie (Kennedy) said, “No. No, Jack, pin it on.” So then he recovered and pinned it on. So we had a lot of fun with that.

Charles: Thank you.

During a visit to the Kennedy Space Center’s Saturn V center, guests can walk up to and study the moon craft, Kitty Hawk.

Commander Shepard passed away while at his home in California following a two year bout with leukemia in July 1998. Crew mate Roosa passed away three years earlier due to an inflammation of the pancreas. Ed Mitchell is now eighty and lives near West Palm Beach, Florida.

In May, America will once again recall the Christopher Columbus of the space age in Shepard, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of America’s first trip into space, Freedom 7.

Story by
Charles Atkeison

Putting Challenger Back in Orbit Using Starry Night

Putting Challenger Back in Orbit Using Starry Night

For any who use the desktop planetarium program Starry Night, I’ve collected an image and two-line orbital element set needed for putting Challenger back in orbit, using an approximation of the planned orbit-1 for 51-L. This is something I’ve been doing for years — my own personal remembrance of Challenger and her crew. At the time of liftoff each Jan. 28, 11:38:00 AM, EST (16:38:00 UT), I set up Starry Night to hover near Challenger and hit the time-forward button and let it play for the next 90 minutes or so.

You’ll find the information and files you need here

For those who don’t have Starry Night, there’s a YouTube video at the bottom of the page showing what it looks like (although, on my Mac, it’s full screen).

Jim Cook

Challenger’s Enduring Mission: 25 years strong

Challenger's Enduring Mission: 25 years strong

The loss of the space shuttle Challenger and her crew of seven a quarter century ago this Friday marked not just a significant place in American history, but helped capture the imagination of the country and it’s youth.

As Challenger sat poised to begin the twenty-fifth space shuttle mission, students around the United States and select countries around the world tuned in to CNN to watch the launch as it happened. Cable News Network was the only network to carry the launch live. In fact, the White House staff was tuned to the Atlanta-based network to watch the lift-off.

This flight attracted both the youth of the nation and their teachers. After all, one of their own was on board — Teachernaut Sharon Christa McAuliffe.

McAuliffe, along with Barbara Morgan as her back-up, were chosen by NASA in July 1985 for the Teacher in Space project, and it was McAuliffe’s excitement for science and space which created a media likeness toward her.

As the launch neared on that January morning, television sets clicked on in classrooms and student halls.

This aerospace reporter was one of those students, and my school’s choral room was one of those rooms.

Challenger’s crew of seven included commander Richard Dick Scobee, pilot Michael Smith, mission specialists Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair and payload specialists McAuliffe and Gregory Jarvis.

As an early-teen, I developed a strong respect for several astronauts in the corps. including Dr. Resnik. During 1985, I was able to place several phone calls to her office, including a few letters. She offered a lot of information about training, strength and the choices you make in your life.

A beautiful, personally signed portrait and a few items from Dr. Resnik remains in my possession to this day.

Tuesday, January 28, 1986 was extremely cold. Ice coated the launch tower where Challenger waited passively following a one day delay due to a stuck hatch handle.

I can recall the days leading up to the launch as if it occurred only twenty-five months ago.

Challenger’s STS-51L mission, or STS-33 as the technicians handling Challenger’s prelaunch payloads knew it, was originally targeted for Jan. 24 at 3:43 pm. The delays of the launch of Columbia weeks earlier forced a three day delay.

Much of America watched the Chicago Bears win in Super Bowl XX, but for the crew of Challenger and the launch support teams it was bedtime before halftime of the game the night before launch.

Recalling that morning before school, I had CNN on watching the smiles on the crew as they left the Operations and Checkout building. I remember thinking, “there (Dr. Resnik) goes.”

The freezing temperatures forecast for launch morning did cause concern with key managers and their support personal, however almost everyone concluded late into the night that it would be safe fly.

The concern was the rubber O-ring seals on the solid rocket boosters which help trap hot gases from leaking out of the several sections which stack up the booster.

Recalling that morning before school, I had CNN on watching the crew walk out and their smiles as they left the Operations and Checkout building. I remember thinking, “there (Dr. Resnik) goes.”

The space shuttle Challenger lifted-off into the blue skies over Cape Canaveral following a delay to allow for outside temperatures to warm up at 11:38:00 am EST.

“And, lift-off. Lift-off of the twenty-fifth space shuttle mission, and it has cleared the tower,” launch commentator Hugh Harris announced.

It was the first space shuttle launch from pad 39-B.

It was to be an exciting mission as McAulliffe planned to make two 15 minute lessons from space from her classroom on the middeck; and collect data on the other space news of the month, comet Halley’s return.

A science satellite called Spartan-Halley would be deployed by Dr. Resnik using the ship’s robotic arm for forty hours of comet Halley observations. Experiments on Spartan would look into the ultraviolet regions of the comet.

Two seconds after the boosters ignited and Challenger began to rise, around eight puffs of black smoke shot out of the right hand booster and then stopped.

The tenth mission of Challenger was underway, and her crew of seven soared toward super sonic speeds.

In classrooms, teachers and school children cheered the space shuttle as it sailed out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Then it was over in a flash.

As Challenger passed through a region of strong winds, pressures from Challenger’s speed and the crosswinds from a recent jet stream forced the same o-ring seal which had puffed smoke earlier to allow flame to burn through the seal and lick the lower back section of the external fuel tank.

The flame burned the booster’s lower attach point to the tank, causing the forward nose of the booster to veer into the upper section of the external tank and puncture it.

The entire vehicle disintegrated. The orbiter itself did not explode. The force of the disintegration broke apart Challenger.

Challenger’s crew cabin was thrown free and traveled upward for a few seconds prior to falling into the ocean.

It’s hard for most to put into words their memories of that day. I never have wanted to write about this for fear of… I guess I want to keep my memories to myself, many I will not write about here.

Moments after the tragedy, I finished a math exam and literally ran to the school’s front office to call my mother.

I went home and mourned for weeks. Not just for the space program and the crew, but for an innocence lost. I grew up a bit and I vowed to improve myself and aim high.

I think a lot of students of all ages learned from the loss of Challenger, and made personal commitments to achieve higher goals.

In the years that followed, the families of the crew began the Challenger Center for space science education. Today, there are 48 learning centers across America, Canada and the United Kingdom teaching the science involved here on earth and in space. They’re making math and science fun for young students, and that’s important.

We all have our heroes, those who inspire us deep down to stay strong and strive further to meet our dreams. My father who taught me to fly planes, fish and work a computer at an early age, and Dr. Resnik are sincerely those two heroes who have reached out and ‘touched the face of God.’

God bless.

Violinist and Basketball, Astronaut and Bicycle

If you’ve been tracking the delay ridden STS-133 mission you already know that the patch, crew photo and other press materials need updating.

In my new post on Spacepirations, http://www.spacepirations.com/2011/01/violinist-and-basketball-astronaut-and.html, I draw parallel lines with what happened to a violinist friend of mine about 20 years ago.

Valid parallelism? You be the judge, especially if you’re both a violinist and an astronaut…

The Ties the Bind, Part 2: Memories of Tucson in the Aftermath of Tragedy

I lived in the Tucson area for a number of years, long ago. Too long. I still miss it terribly. Back then, residents often thought of it as America’s largest small town. I guess it still is. Two thousand miles distant and decades later (give or take), the awful events of this past weekend, beyond the sadness and heartbreak we’ve all shared, have come with so many reminders of my time there, ties that personalize this tragedy for me in so many ways. Watching the reporting on TV, I can’t help think and feel “I know these places, these people; they’re a part of me.”

It happens that the very area where the shootings occurred has, ironically, had a very special place in my heart. My telescope (a vintage 1978 Celestron 8″) had its “first light” there — in a good friend’s backyard less than two miles almost due north of the Safeway where the shootings occurred. I (along with my telescope) would pass through Safeway’s intersection at Ina and Oracle roads many times on my way there. Before this event, if you’d asked me what comes to mind about that area of Tucson, I’d have said, “That’s where I first saw Saturn’s rings and the Ring Nebula!”

That friend was, at the time, the baseball coach at Canyon Del Oro high school. I went to some of their games. I just read 9 year-old victim Christina Taylor Green was in the Canyon Del Oro little league. I wonder if she ever played on that same field or attended any of their games, too?

Federal Judge John Roll, also killed in the attack, was in law school at the University of Arizona while I was starting as an undergraduate. He later taught there, so our years there may have overlapped quite a bit. I can’t help wonder if we ever crossed paths on campus, at the student union, or the library, or a football game, perhaps even a class? Perhaps we shook hands at Mass? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

For a two-year span during my time as a student at the U of A, the first thing I would see when I opened my door was University Medical Center (UMC), just a block away, separated only by, what was then, a dirt parking lot. At first, seeing it so often both haunted and yet tugged at me. I had spent some rather painful times as a child as a long-term patient in hospitals in New York. I was reminded of them each time I looked over at UMC. I couldn’t help wonder if there was anyone there, especially kids, going through what I went through. So, I gave in — I wound up becoming a volunteer there, in Peds (pediatrics). I was happy helping treat the one sickness I was actually qualified to treat, despite not having any formal medical training: hospital-induced homesickness.Seeing this same hospital on the news these past few days has brought back dozens of memories of some very special people and moments there I’d long forgotten — patients, nurses, staff. I remember feeding a young girl, perhaps seven years old. She spoke Spanish; I didn’t. She was blindfolded by bandages and couldn’t see.How could I tell her the cream of wheat I was about to feed her was hot? I pressed her finger against the bowl.She nodded. Now, each time I see Dr. Peter Rhee and the staff briefing the media on the condition of Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims, I can’t help but feel some pride that I was once part of the UMC family, however minor and briefly.

Sunday night, flipping from one news program to another, I happened upon Katie Couric introducing a segment involving an interview with someone from the U of A. I was thinking “can’t be anyone I’d know.” It’s a big school, and many years had passed. But as this face appeared on screen, I could feel areas of my brain, long dormant, sputtering to life, then flaring with a sense of recognition. Seconds before the voice-over introduced him or any caption appeared, I smiled and blurted out loud, “That’s Tom Volgy!,” recognizing the face of an old friend again, right there on my TV. He was one of my government professors. During one semester, perhaps my favorite class, we did a simulation of international relations, where the class played different roles. He played God — I was Jerry Ford.

Speaking of Jerry Ford, I read this morning about President Obama traveling to Tucson. Even that news brought back a memory, this one of opening my door one morning (again facing UMC), looking to the northwest horizon and seeing a 707 slowly transform into Air Force One as it got closer — the first time I’d ever seen Air Force One — on approach to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base … with the real Gerald Ford on board. The color and paint scheme, with the presidential seal, all sostately and dignified,the engines roaring — I still remember the chills it gave me. I can’t watch or read the coverage of this horrible event without some fond memory firing up.

No, I don’t actually know any of the victims in the Tucson shooting. Like most of you, I knew Congresswoman Giffords only as @ShuttleCDRKelly’s wife (which, I regret to admit I had to be reminded of — a genuine “OMG” moment). But I sure feel like I know these people. Tucson does that to you.As the husband of one victim at today’s medical briefing said, “That’s Tucson.” In fact, seeing so much of it on TV these past few days, I feel like I just left. They are good people, they did not deserve this, and they have all my love, respect, and prayers. I’m proud to say I was once one of them. If I’m lucky, perhaps, someday, maybe I’ll be again.

Go Cats!

Making the delayed trip of Discovery family friendly

Imagine you are a member of the crew of the next space shuttle flight who are taking a family trip into earth orbit.

arrive at the Kennedy Space Center to review the itinerary for your
twelve day trip to your “hotel in space”, the International Space


 One sunny morning, you and your family of six astronauts head out and board your vehicle known as the space shuttle Discovery.

last bags are loaded, the family is strapped in and at the last minute,
Uncle Mike Massimino remembers to return the family video camera he
used on his last vacation.

The family is excited to be going. For several, they haven’t left the planet in a year or more.

However, there is a problem.

neighbor three miles down the gravel road in a white long
trailer-styled home next to a garage can tell that gaseous hydrogen is
leaking from the vehicle’s tank.

needs to be repaired,” the father thinks, and tells the family to go
back inside the house for a few days as the mechanics make a service
call to perform the repair.

the mechanic is draining the vehicle’s tank of the fuel, several cracks
on the fuel tank can be seen which are unrelated to the earlier leak.

now the mechanic informs the family that they can make a few repairs at
their home, but will need to have a tow service come out and move the
vehicle to the garage for several weeks to ensure there are no further

Well, deep
down the father and his family really wanted to be at the hotel in space
hanging with several relatives and a few distant cousins, but feel it
would be safer to have the mechanic perform the checks in the garage.

tow service arrives a few weeks later after the mechanic fixes the
cracks, puts new fuel in the tank and then empties the tank.

tow truck then backs in but gets stuck, and has to spend a day
adjusting by several inches just to pick up the vehicle for tow.

The technicians in the garage bring in the vehicle known as Discovery to begin examining her tank.

the family of six wait… and wait through Christmas, and as they wait
they think of new plans they want to try and do on their trip.

The boys say they are looking forward to swimming around for seven
hours on two of their vacation days. While the mother wants to take a
look at the hotel in space she lived in for six months as she worked
away from home.

So the
family calls the garage several times to check on their vehicle’s
progress, but the technicians say that they need to add strengtheners to
the vehicles tank after discovering new cracks.

The repairs to the additional cracks continue.

And the family waits through through the New Year and into February.

They then consider to take that long awaited trip around March 1 as spring break nears in an attempt to get their father out of the house.

After all, he did have a desk job for a while…

Space station crew prepares for a busy 2011 start

 (Cape Canaveral, FL) UPDATED Jan. 18 — An extremely busy first quarter of
the new year is planned for the crew of the International Space Station
which will pave the way for new transportation and growth as humankind
lives and works in earth orbit.

Several flights to the
International Space Station by both manned and unmanned craft will be
the focus during the first 90 days of the year.

station’s crew of six known as the Expedition 26 will balance the
arrival of several ferry flights of supplies; perform two spacewalks by
two Russians and two by Americans; and prepare for the arrival of the
six visitors and a new storage module aboard the much delayed space
shuttle Discovery.

Russian cosmonauts on January 21 will don their Orlan MK spacesuits
and set out for an orbital walk in space to begin a multi-hour job
outside Russia’s Zvezda service module.
The spacewalk should get underway just after 9 a.m. EST.

Oleg Skripohcka and Dmitry Kondratiev will perform several tasks
including the removal of “the impulse plasma injector from Zvezda’s
outer surface, and installation of Russia’s high-speed data
transmission equipment Photon-Gamma intended to study gamma-bursts and
optical radiation during thunderstorms”, the Russian space agency
stated to this reporter.

A second Russian-based spacewalk is planned for one month later.

Japan’s space agency JAXA will kick off a series of space craft arrivals on January 22 with the launch of their unmanned resupply craft KOUNOTORI, or “white stork” in Japanese.

ten-meter long KOUNOTORI craft will lift-off a top the H-IIB rocket
from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center at
12:37 am EST (2:37 pm Japan ST). It will mark the second time a
supply craft from Japan will fly to the station.

days later, the craft, loaded with some 16 tons of fresh supplies and
hardware, will be captured by the space station’s robotic arm and then
berthed. The hatches into the KOUNOTORI will not open for nearly three
weeks by the crew due to the busy nature of the first quarter.

crew will undock the trash filled old Progress 40P from the Russian
Piers docking module on Jan. 23 for it’s fiery return to earth.

will make room for Russia to then launch their freshly supplied
Progress M-09M craft to dock with the Russian side of earth’s orbital
outpost in space.

of the Soyuz U rocket with the Progress 41P unmanned craft is
scheduled for January 27 at 8:30 pm EST ( 01:30 GMT on the 28th), from
the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan.

The Progress will dock three days later to the Russian Piers docking module.

of Florida and into the northern jungles of South America lies the
European spaceport in French Guiana — home to the Arianespace’s Ariane 5
heavy lift rocket.

Ariane 5 is scheduled to launch after Discovery’s lift-off on an
unmanned cargo supply flight to the European Columbus module on the

Launch of the Ariane 5 with the automated transfer vehicle nicknamed Johannes Kepler is currently set for February 15 at 5:09 pm EST (2209 GMT), from Kourou.

Kepler is currently scheduled to dock with the Russian side of station on February 26.

In the United States, the space
shuttle Discovery will be poised to lift-off on her 39th and final
space flight. Delayed due to a gaseous hydrogen leak and a half-dozen
cracks on the ship’s external fuel tank, the current target launch date
of no earlier than February 24 is under view as technicians strengthen
the tank.

Discovery’s brief February launch window closes on March 6, and reopens again on April 1.

Discovery does fly, the orbiter will dock to the space station to
begin eight days of off loading supplies; install a new permanent
storage module; and perform two spacewalks.

March 16, three of the station’s crew members will depart for their
return to earth. Alexander Kaleri, outgoing station commander Scott Kelly and Skripochka will
undock aboard the Soyuz TMA-01M craft and land several hours later in

Once the
Soyuz departs, the remaining crew of three — new station commander
Dmitry Kondratiev and flight engineers Catherine “Cady” Coleman and
Paolo Nespoli — will form the core of the new Expedition 27.

first quarter of 2011 will conclude with the launch of a new crew of
three to the space station to begin a nearly six month stay.

Soyuz 26 commander Alexander Samokutyaev and flight engineers Andrei
Borisienko and Ron Garan will lift-off aboard a Soyuz rocket on March 29
at 8:43 pm EST (0043 GMT on the 30th), on a two day journey to the
space station.

Of special interest to this reporter is what Garan will carry with him into earth orbit — a Space Tweep Society patch.

talking with Garan last spring, I asked him if he could represent
those of us who write and discuss aerospace activities via Twitter and
in blog form by flying the nearly 4-inch patch.

I’d be happy to take a patch with me”, the NASA astronaut told me on
May 26. “It will probably be a one way trip though since we will have
retired the Shuttle by then.”

black circular patch features the society’s logo of a bird named Meco
high above a celestial object, and was created by the society’s
co-founder Jen Scheer.

Everyone involved with STwS would just as soon see the Meco patch stay in earth orbi


(Twitter: @CAtkeison – Follow my aerospace news: http://spacelaunchnews.blogspot.com)