Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving greeting from Space

"We wanted to say happy Thanksgiving to all our NASA viewers,"
Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson, an Iowa native, said. "We feel particularly privileged and thankful to be up here on board the International Space Station this Thanksgiving, and we're looking forward to our activities this week. We have a busy week with spacewalks, and we hope that you also are having a great

"My family, we gather for Thanksgiving, and we spend a minute just thinking about the things we're thankful for and, of course, I'm thankful for the continued health of my family and my loved ones," Flight Engineer DanTani, an Illinois native, said. "Also this year,I'm thankful that I'm safely on the space station, conducting our
mission successfully and having a great time doing it."

Update: Here's an article from Space Review on the Women commanders meeting in space.
Perhaps the greatest tribute to shuttle commander Pam Melroy and station commander Peggy Whitson, and to their ground-breaking (perhaps we should say space-breaking?) predecessors such as Sally Ride, Kathy Sullivan, Shannon Lucid, Eileen Collins, and three dozen others, is that an examination of their technical credentials—their education, experience, and career achievements—couldn’t give a clue as to their gender. Their ultimate “firsts” were logical step-by-step progressions from their solid professional competence.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Comet Holmes

From Hubble site here.

Hubble first observed Comet 17P/Holmes on June 15, 1999, when there was virtually no dusty shroud around the nucleus. From that observation, astronomers deduced that the nucleus had a diameter of approximately 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometers), about the length of New York City's Central Park. Astronomers hope to use the new Hubble images to determine the size of the comet's nucleus to see how much of it was blasted away during the outburst.

Hubble's two earlier snapshots of Comet Holmes also showed some interesting features. On Oct. 29, the telescope spied three "spurs" of dust emanating from the nucleus, while the Hubble images taken on Oct. 31 revealed an outburst of dust just west of the nucleus.

The Hubble images, however, do not show any large fragments near the nucleus of Comet Holmes, unlike the case of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW3). In the spring of 2006 Hubble observations revealed a multitude of "mini-comets" ejected by SW3 after the comet increased dramatically in brightness.

Ground-based images of Comet Holmes show a large, spherically symmetrical cloud of dust that is offset from the nucleus, suggesting that a large fragment did break off and subsequently disintegrated into tiny dust particles after moving away from the main nucleus.
From NASA here.

Harmony's hooked up

From CNN here.

Commander Peggy Whitson and Daniel Tani spent hours hooking up power and heater cables and fluid lines between the space station and the Harmony compartment that was delivered by the shuttle last month. It was tedious, hand-intensive work.

"Yay! Got it," Whitson exclaimed after making a particularly difficult connection. "Those were hard."

Not long afterward, Tani commented on how strong Whitson looked.

"She's the king of the world," Tani shouted. "Queen," replied the space station's first female skipper, sparking laughter between the two.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Smelling smoke in a suit

Late last week a Russian astronaut trainee, working at Johnson Space Center, smelled smoke in his spacesuit and felt heat on his neck during a test in a pressure chamber.

NASA feels the problem will be cleared up and is examining CO2 scrub cans, which have not functioned properly in the past, said NASA spokesman Lynette Madison at Johnson Space Center.

"There is no evidence of a combustion source," said Madison. "They feel like this is going to be cleared up and there won't be any issue for the spacewalks." Late today, Mission Control radioed to tell the crew they expect to clear the spacesuits soon.

From Flame Trench here.

A fire in a spacesuit would be fatal to the astronaut. The Oxygen would ignite and instantly kill the occupant of the spacesuit.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Delta IV Heavy

I watched the launch Saturday night. It took half a minute to clear the launch pad. Great night launch. HT Florida Today.

The payload:

Weighing 5,200 pounds, the DSP-23 satellite completed a 6 hour, 20 minute mission and was deployed into its proper orbit at 3:10 a.m., today. The DSP-23 launch completes the deployment of this important constellation of satellites. DSP satellites provide early warning for intercontinental ballistic missile launches and have been used by the military for more than 30 years.

The United Launch Alliance site is here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ready Houston, here we come!

Discovery is getting ready for re-entry burn. Weather is clear enough at KSC to land. I will be live blogging as much as I can.

Discovery will be coming over British Columbia, Flying over the heartland of America! And landing at KSC.

-- 9:00 AM PST Good Burn No trim required

-- 9:30 AM PST Discovery is near atmosphere re-entry. It's about a half hour to touch down at the cape.
Discovery is beginning to encounter the effects of the atmosphere, a point called "entry interface." Now flying at about 16,000 miles per hour, the orbiter is angled upward with wings level. The shuttle is set to touch down in just over 30 minutes.
HT from NASA Landing Blog here.

-- 9:36 AM PST Discovery is closing in on the coast of Canada. They will be the first to hear the double sonic booms.
What causes the booms?
Air pressure. As the shuttle cuts through the atmosphere flying faster than the speed of sound, air molecules get pushed aisde (like water around a fast-moving boat). The air molecules form a shock wave around the nose and the tail of an aircraft. The rapidly increasing air pressure can be heard as a loud boom.

Why two sonic booms?
The space shuttle is big for a supersonic aircraft. A typical aircraft capable of this kind of speed would be a fighter jet, something about 50 feet or so long. For those small fighters, the shock waves generated at the nose and the tail of the aircraft happen less than one-tenth of a second apart. On the ground, people would hear what sounds like one boom. The orbiter is 122 feet long. The time between the nose and tail shock waves is half of a second, just long enough for us to hear both of the booms.
HT from Flame Trench here
-- 9:40 AM PST Right over Montana. 22 minutes to Florida coast!
-- 9:42 AM PST Right over Nebraska with 18 minutes to go to landing.
-- 9:44 AM PST Right over Kansas TODO! 16 minutes to go.
-- 9:46 AM PST Right over Missuiori with 14 minutes to go.
-- 9:47 AM PST Right over Mississippi and Alabama! 13 minutes to go.
-- 9:49 AM PST Right over Alabama toward Georgia. Florida here we come! 12 Minutes.
-- 9:50 AM PST Merrius Island tracking station has Discovery on site. Less then 11 minutes to go. GPS and tracking a-go.
-- 10:01 AM PST TOUCH DOWN! Great landing! Photos of banking and landing were fantastic! Good Job Pam!

15 days in space

Were did the time go? This mission was a great accomplishment in space. The space walk to repair the solar wings was phenomenal. Placing an astronaut on a boom then extending the station arm as far as it could reach. The station commander was worried it would not reach the proper place to fix it. But with a hockey stick in one hand ( to avoid electrocution) and home made cuff links (materials found on the ISS) in the other the repair was done. Well done!

I wish I could have spend more time space blogging on the mission but my life has been busy with kids, getting the flu and cars breaking down, etc. But I did keep an eye on Space Trench and NASA TV. It was a wonderful mission getting the ISS fitted to Harmony and ready for other modules to come.