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September 22, 2006

Anousheh Ansari First Space Blogger?

Anousheh Ansari is not only the first female space tourist but she is also the first blogger from space. Visit Anousheh’s blog at:

Posted by bsilcox at 05:31 PM

"Spaceflight is tough."

That’s what STS-115 astronaut Joe Tanner said at the welcome home today at Ellington Field in Houston after fellow spacewalker, Heide Piper, fainted at the podium. Each crewmember offered their thanks to the various training instructors, flight controllers, and family members present, and Heide was in the midst of adding to the list when her knees went all wobbly and she collapsed. While the NASA team tended to her, Joe said, “Spaceflight is tough.” Then indicating Heide, who was already sitting back up, he assured everyone that she was fine and that, “I had that happen to me yesterday.”

Heide returned to the podium with a big smile and said, “That was embarrassing!” She had already called the mission an adventure and seeing the solar array “tremendous,” and promised to keep her speech short, but her knees gave out on her again before she finished. JSC Director and former astronaut Mike Coats, who had introduced the crew and lauded their many accomplishments, was right there to catch her and gently lower her to the floor. She revived again quickly, but they made her get out of the hot hanger and into the air-conditioned offices behind the podium to recover.

A friend who accompanied me to the welcome ceremony wondered why no one seemed terribly surprised or concerned that an astronaut had fainted. I explained that this is not uncommon.

When a person enters freefall, the heart no longer has to pump blood “uphill” to the brain. Blood rushes to the head, and because blood vessels are designed to prevent backflow, like a bathtub with a small drain fills with a shower on, the blood accumulates in the head. The brain signals the body to get rid of this excess fluid by sweating and urination, and after a day or so, the volume of blood has been reduced. In freefall, the heart does not have to work as hard, and it actually shrinks in size over a 3-week period.

When it is time to return to Earth, astronauts do “fluid loading” in anticipation of the body’s sudden need to replace that lost blood volume. The heart muscles have weakened and take weeks to regain their full pumping power. So in the days following landing, astronauts’ hearts have less blood to work with, and are not as efficient as usual at pumping that blood to the head. When a brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, the person faints. Fainting naturally brings the head down level with the heart. This increases blood flow to the brain, restores the oxygen level, and the person revives. Note that fainting will not work in freefall. If someone passes out in freefall because of suffocation or blood loss, a fellow crewmember would have to hold them by the feet and swing them in a circle to increase the blood flow to the head! (There is a lower-body-negative-pressure garment that test pilots use to push blood from the legs to the head that was tested on Spacelab flights.)

The people who work and live with the astronauts are very familiar with the effects of space and Earth adaptation, so were not unduly concerned when Heide fainted. But to assure the media and the school children who were in attendance, she came back out before the event ended and waved to the crowd with a big smile. Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean, who spoke after Heide had left the podium, said that spaceflight “is a human experience.” He said he will now have lots of stories that he will probably tell over and over to his grandchildren someday. He joked that they would get so tired of hearing about his “ultimate experience” that they would use it as at leverage to get him to play with them, saying, “Grandpa, we will let you tell us your space stories if you come and play with us!”

And I can hear myself in the future as well… “I remember the day when one of the astronauts fainted at the welcome back ceremony…” or maybe not. Hopefully, I’ll have some more interesting tales to tell by then!

Congratulations and thanks to the STS-115 crew and ground teams for sharing their expertise and experience with all of us. What a fantastic flight!

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 05:25 PM

Atlantis is back on Earth

NSS welcomes home Atlantis' Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Chris Ferguson and missionspecialists Joe Tanner, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Dan Burbank, and Steve MacLean after a successful mission to the International Space Station.

The Shuttle Atlantis landed on Thursday after a nearly flawless mission that brought more power to ISS after a giant set of electricity-producing solar panels were installed.

The crew came home after a 12-day journey of more than 4.9 million miles in space. The STS-115 crew succeeded in restarting the assembly of the ISS that will continue with the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery', targeted for mid-December, on the STS-116 mission to deliver an additional truss segment and a cargo module to the station. Discovery will also do extensive work on the station's electrical and cooling systems.

Posted by bsilcox at 02:08 PM

September 20, 2006

Landing Rescheduled for Thursday

NASA has decided that the mysterious debris spotted by the crew and flight control team yesterday that postponed the landing is no threat to Atlantis. Landing has been rescheduled for 5:22 a.m. CDT at Kennedy Space Center.

We may never know what the debris was, but considering it appeared just after the re-entry dress rehearsal jet firings and flap testing, it is most likely stuff that was leftover from processing activities at the Cape. Or maybe the Vulcans were careless when they self-destructed their secret monitoring devices...

Seriously, the recent failure of the Elektron oxygen-generating system on the ISS and this debris threatening Atlantis remind us that space flight is never easy. It also shows the value of what we are learning in low-Earth orbit in terms of preparing us for trips to the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. Before we send a crew to Mars, we need to know that their critical life support systems will last for several years, what spare parts should be sent along, what back-up systems to include, and how to make in-flight repairs. We also need to know how to inspect and rempair our craft for damage from meteorites and debris that we inadvertently take with us or create while in space. Though we understand that risk is always a part of the human exploration of space, that risk is being reduced by every failure that we encounter in low-Earth orbit.

We owe a loud "Thank You!" to the crews of the ISS and Space Shuttles and Soyuz and all the members of the American and Russian flight control teams that have faced and overcome failures again and again and are making space flight safer for the rest of us in the future.

Ad astra!

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 02:26 PM

September 18, 2006

Anousheh in Orbit!

The Soyuz vehicle containing the space explorer Anousheh Ansari has reached orbit! Stay tuned for more details, but it appears that the launch went well. Ansari and her crewmates will now have roughly two days before docking with the International Space Station. It turns out that they will dock just a few hours before the Space Shuttle is due to land on Wednesday morning. Of course, the Shuttle has already undocked from ISS, after a very successful assembly mission. It's getting hectic up there at the Station -- in a very good way. Congrats to Anousheh and the entire Ansari family for a safe launch.

Posted by george_whitesides at 01:07 AM

The Next Episode of Space Trek

Star Trek fans (yes, I admit to being one!) have been bemoaning the fact that there is no new series planned. But we can take heart in knowing that many aspects of the show that were once considered fanciful dreams are now things we take for granted.

For example, for the next two days, a dozen humans, 2 women and 10 men, are in space in three separate spacecraft operated and coordinated by countries on two different continents, with crewmembers from four nations (five if you count Ansari's country of birth), and one who is flying as a tourist.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who included a black woman and a Russian on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, would be proud of us.

And maybe the Vulcans are, too? Planets have been discovered around the star that is supposed to be their home system: Epsilon Eridanus. So who knows, once some young engineer designs warp drive, maybe they'll show up.

While we work on designs for the future, we should celebrate how far we have come. Three spacecraft with people in them, going 5 miles/second and crossing into and out of daylight every 45 minutes are more amazing than any special effects on TV.

The next episode in “Space Trek” is scheduled to air in the wee hours of Wednesday. The three-person Soyuz crew is scheduled to dock with the space station at 28 minutes after midnight (CDT) on Wednesday morning, September 20. Atlantis is scheduled to land at KSC at 4:57 AM (CDT) that same morning.

If you miss these events in real-time, don’t worry. There will be reruns. And our bolt-wrestling, free-falling, cool heroes will be back with a new show in December.

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 12:40 AM

September 15, 2006

Making Space Cool

Back in 1996, I got a call from an editor at Scholastic who liked my proposal for a book about the space station. She explained that before she could offer me a contract, I needed to send her a sample chapter that she could use to persuade the marketing department that this book would sell. I wondered what topic to choose that would grab their attention and seal the deal for what would be my first book contract.

Coincidentally, I had planned to attend an NSS regional conference in Dallas that same week. Should I cancel so I’d have more time to write, or should I go and hope that I’d learn something useful for the book? I decided to go. I was not sorry! Astronaut Don Thomas’s enthusiastic description of his recent shuttle launch was perfect for a chapter on getting to the space station. But I really wanted to show this editor that the space station itself is a cool topic.

The next speaker was an engineer from Vought Systems (later Loral Vought) who described the space station radiators that his company was building. Even better, he offered to take us on a tour of the factory! You may be thinking that such a tour would only appeal to diehard space enthusiasts, and you may be right. But what I learned on that tour was so captivating that I decided to risk my future career as a children’s author by focusing my sample chapter on the space station radiator panels—the very ones that were deployed on the space station this week.

You probably are aware that space is an extreme place in terms of hot and cold. Temperatures vary about 500 degrees from sunlight to shadow. Cold is an issue for equipment outside, yet inside, getting rid of the heat is the bigger challenge. People and equipment produce lots of heat, and there is no option to open the windows.

Hot air on Earth rises because it is less dense than cold air. In freefall, they both weigh the same: nothing! So hot air stays near its source in an invisible cloud around each hot thing or person. Cabin fans move and mix the air, but do not get rid of the heat. To do that, the fans push the hot air into a cold bath called a heat exchanger.

The air/water heat exchanger on the station is shaped like a sandwich with more than 30 layers of air and water separated by metal sheets. Hot air from the cabin warms the metal that in turn warms the cool water on the other side. The cooled air exits the heat exchanger and the warmed water flows away in pipes.

The water pipes also pick up heat from cold plates that are flattened-out sections of pipe on which equipment sits. The warmed water cannot be taken “outside” to be cooled because water expands when it freezes, and burst pipes are not a good thing. So the water is cooled by giving its heat to ammonia in another heat exchanger. (The space shuttle uses Freon instead of ammonia.) Ammonia can get much colder than water before it freezes, and it doesn’t expand when it does. (Cabin heat is not directly transferred to ammonia because escaping ammonia would poison the crew. It is safer to use water as a “middleman.”)

The ammonia flows out of the module to the radiators and through hundreds of little pipes. Each one of those pipes was painstakingly hand-welded by someone at the Vought factory in Dallas. I got to see the actual panels in their pristine white condition, protected behind drapes of plastic sheeting. (Radiators on the shuttle are mirrored, but this surface does not hold up well in the space environment, so the station radiators are painted white.) I knew that someday, those “cool” pieces of hardware would be mounted perpendicular to the solar wings on the space station that I hoped to write a book about.

I have always known that space is cool. And thanks to the Dallas chapter of NSS and the workers at Vought, I learned how it stays cool, and was able to share that information with that editor at Scholastic. She said she had no idea that a subject as dull-sounding as “the thermal protection system” could be so engaging! I got my contract (for Space Station Science, now in its second edition with Windward).

Members of NSS often question if the time they spend attending and organizing conferences and tours and meetings actually makes a difference. As my experience shows, it does, and not necessarily in ways you might expect!

So I hope you will join me next May for the International Space Development Conference in Dallas (see “2007 Conference Information” link on the Home page). The conference co-chair is Carol Johnson who used to work at Loral Vought and arranged that “cool” tour. She is sure to recruit some out-of-this-world speakers and set up tours that will impress even the most skeptical editors.

Space is cool, and thanks to the addition of the new radiator by the STS-115 crew this week, getting even cooler.

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 02:33 PM

September 14, 2006

Space Hairstyles and Other Silly Questions

The first two spacewalks went smoothly, and there is just one left on Friday. There are a lot of technical things to know about spacewalking: the low pressure of the suits that requires them to campout in the airlock overnight in preparation; the names of the tools, the path they will follow (the low and the high road refer to their position below or above the truss); the timeline of events, and the complicated procedures they will execute.

But a few weeks ago, sitting there at JSC in the crew press conference, all of that technical stuff sort of went right over my head. What I really longed to know, that only another woman with long hair like Heidi could tell me, was what in the heck do you do with your hair during a spacewalk?

Too embarrassed to ask such a silly question during the press conference where the other reporters were focused on how many days the crew could stay on the ISS if Atlantis were too damaged to return (110 days), and other grim technical details of the mission, I resorted to rushing up to her afterwards and asking her privately. (The NASA photographer took our picture. You can see it here: Note I’m wearing my NSS pin!)

She laughed and said that actually, quite a few people had asked her that question. So for all of you ladies (and you curious gentlemen) who want to know…

Heidi kindly demonstrated her spacewalking hairstyle for me. She pulled the hair back like you would do for a pony tail. Then she twisted it counterclockwise until it was fairly tightly wound. Then she coiled it around into a flat bun just above her neck. A few pins or a clip are enough to hold it in place.

This practical solution gets the hair out of the way of the helmet vent that blows air from the top of the head down over the face. Being in freefall, the hair is of course weightless, so she can’t even feel it pressing down on the back of her head.

So ladies, if you like your hair long, don’t worry about having to cut it to go into space. Heidi has proven that it is not a problem, even for tough jobs like spacewalking! And even better, Shannon Lucid kindly explained to me at one press conference that you hardly ever have to wash your hair in space because it is not rubbing against your scalp and getting oily.

Living in space is sounding better and better. No wrinkles, no bras, no uncomfortable shoes, a smaller waist, and no-wash, always fluffy hair that is pinned out of the way in one easy motion. Moving around with the touch of a finger. I could get used to that.

I’m grateful to the station and shuttle crews, and especially to the women, who are doing the hard jobs and taking risks to open the frontier, but showing that being in space is also fun. Our first female tourist will be setting yet another milestone for women next week: Anousheh Ansari will launch on Sunday night at 11:09 PM (Houston time), and arrive on the station in the wee hours of Wednesday (hatch opening scheduled for 3:10 AM). Too bad I didn’t get a chance to attend one of her press conferences. I have a few other silly questions I’d like to ask!

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 02:13 AM

September 11, 2006

Living on Shuttle Time

If you live in the United States and have hopes of watching the spacewalks this week, plan to get up early. Or, if you live in California, just stay up all night!

Why are the spacewalks starting in the middle of (our) night? Blame it on the buses in Moscow. At least that is what I heard. Apparently the buses don’t run at night in Moscow, and the flight controllers need them to get to work. The main space station control center is in Houston, Texas in the USA, but the crew module and systems, the Soyuz escape ship, some communications, engines, and other systems, plus at least one of the crewmembers, are Russian. The Russians work a full team when the crew are awake, and it requires buses to get the controllers there, so the crew are awake when it is daytime in Moscow. Moscow is 9 hours ahead of Houston, so their day starts in the middle of our night. (I’m in Houston.)

The shuttle crew will be working hand-in-hand with the station crew to coordinate the transfer of supplies, the use of the robotic arms, and the spacewalks. So the shuttle crew has to sync up their sleep/wake cycle with the station crew.

So starting on Monday, both crews will get up when Americans go to bed (11:15 p.m Houston time) and float to sleep between 2:45 and 3:15 p.m. in our afternoon. (The ISS crew gets 8.5 hours off-duty/sleep, and the shuttle crew 8 hours.) This schedule makes it hard for American space enthusiasts who work regular jobs to watch the mission events in real-time; but if you are not an early riser, there are sure to be replays by the press later in the day! The crew schedule is posted on, but in case you don’t happen to know what an SRMS (shuttle remote manipulator system=arm)or a SARJ (solar alpha rotary joint=the thing that makes the solar array spin, which it won't do on this mission because the "tree" tower is in the way) or P3/P4 (port/left side truss solar arrays), here are some suggestions for some cool stuff to watch for and when (use “Watch NASA TV” link on NSS front page):

All times for Central Time Zone (Houston)

Monday: 7:35-8 AM, hatches between shuttle and ISS open and welcome.
Monday: 10:25, handover of solar array (P3/P4) from shuttle arm to station arm

Tuesday: 4:15 AM, Joe Tanner (red stripes) and Heidi Piper (no stripes) exit airlock. This is Heidi’s first EVA: what will she say about that first view?
Tuesday: 6:45 AM, open the aft solar array wing box, basically a big square folds out into two halves.
Tuesday: 7:45 AM, open the forward solar array wing box.
Tuesday: 10:35 AM, its all over, they are in the airlock.

Wednesday: 4:15 AM, Dan Burbank (diagonal stripes) and Steve MacLean (broken stripes) exit airlock. This is Steve’s first EVA: what will he say about the view, and will he say it in French for his fellow Canadians? The work involves a lot of electrical hookups, and so any time after the first hour, you’re likely to see them removing restraints and covers and talking about their PGT: pistol grip tool.
Wednesday: 10:35 AM, its all over, they are in the airlock.

Thursday: the BIG event! No, not a spacewalk! The solar array masts will be deployed, unfurling the gold and blue blankets. It is going to be an amazing sight! Unfortunately, this will begin at 2:55 a.m. and run until about 5:05 am. I’m betting they will replay it just before the crew press conference at 10:15 a.m. and/or the next one at 10:50 a.m.

Friday: 4:15 AM, Joe and Heidi go out the airlock again.
Friday: 4:45 AM, Joe will be climbing “the tree” to fix something holding the current set of solar arrays that stick "up" from the Z1 truss. The view should be pretty spectacular.
Friday: 5:50 AM, the solar array’s radiator will be deployed. This won’t be as dramatic as the wing deployment, but still pretty cool to watch.
Friday: 9:40 AM, the crew will pick up MISSE, a materials science experiment to test how materials and seeds respond to exposure to the space environment. It includes some student experiments and has been out there since STS-114, more than a year ago.

Saturday: the crew are taking a day off to rest. Only thing happening is a news conference at 6:35 a.m.

Sunday: 5:25 a.m. farewell ceremony, followed by hatch closing at 5:40 a.m. and undocking at 7:50 a.m. There will be some fancy flying for the cameras: they’re checking for meteorite damage. The crew shift their bedtime an hour earlier.

Monday: Checking out the wings one last time with the shuttle arm. The crew shift their bedtime to 2:45 PM, and get up at 10:45 PM, also on Monday.

Tuesday: Deorbit preparations (dress rehearsal for entry). There’s a news conference at 5:55 a.m.

Wednesday: 12:55 a.m. Deorbit burn (that slows them down).
Wednesday: 4:57 a.m. Landing at KSC, right at sunrise. Should be beautiful!

I hope this schedule is helpful to my fellow NSS members. Check back here during the week for some further translation of acronyms and various comments on the accomplishments of the 8 men and 1 woman who are currently enjoying some fantastic freefall and out-of-this-world views of our home planet.

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 01:18 AM

September 09, 2006

Fantastic Freefall

From “MECO” (main engine cutoff) until entry, the crew of STS-115 will enjoy being weightless. The reason they are weightless is not because there isn’t any gravity in space. Weightlessness is a result of falling, in their case, in a big circle around the Earth. I bring this up because I have discovered that the cause of weightlessness is the number 1 misconception about space, and I’m hoping my fellow NSS members will help clear up this issue while discussing the mission with their friends and families.

To help your friends visualize what is going on, toss a ball into the air. Gravity pulls the ball back down. Note that the more energy you put into the toss, the higher the ball goes, but gravity still pulls it back down. So why doesn’t the shuttle fall back down? Actually it does! To understand what is happening, toss the ball in a high arc to your friend. You have given the ball horizontal speed as well as vertical so that its fall will intersect their position. As they move farther away from you, you have to give it more horizontal energy so the ball won’t be pulled down to the ground before reaching them. If you shoot the ball out of a gun, it will go a long way before impacting the ground. In order for the ball to fall without impacting the ground, it has to be high enough not to run into any buildings or mountains, and it has to be going 5 miles/second. To stay up there, it needs to be above the atmosphere (defined as about 50 miles) so the friction won’t slow it down. (The atmosphere extends beyond 50 miles and is part of the reason that the space station has to be boosted regularly.) Gravity never stops pulling the ball or the shuttle down, but its hold is reduced by the square of the distance from the center of the Earth. At the altitude of the space station, gravity is about 95 percent of what it is on Earth. It is NOT zero!

So if gravity is 95 percent of surface gravity, why are the astronauts weightless? Because they are falling. (It’s FREE fall because they don’t pay the price of hitting the ground.) All objects, regardless of mass, are pulled towards Earth with the same force, and fall at the same rate. If you and the ball were both thrown into the air, you would both fall together. When you looked over at the ball, you would see it floating beside you. If you had tossed a bathroom scale up with you, it too would be falling. It would not measure any weight for you or the ball. (To demonstrate this, put a heavy can of something on a bathroom scale and drop it over a bed: the can will be weightless while falling.)

Those of us who have had the thrill of flying on a parabolic flight have had the fun of floating around and gobbling up juice bubbles falling with us. But anyone who has ever jumped off a bed has been weightless for at least a second. That’s not long enough to really feel the effects of the blood rushing to your head. The excess fluid in your head triggers your body to get rid of fluids, so body temperature rises and causes you to sweat and have to go to the bathroom (and sometimes throw up). These effects are the origin of space adaptation syndrome (SAS) or space sickness. Most people get rid of their water and adjust within a day.

A freefall environment is fantastic. Besides the ease of movement, women especially love being in space. No bras required! And forget about wrinkles: the fluid shift provides a natural facelift! The fluid shift also reduces the size of thighs and waistlines, though gentlemen should note that the neck expands, so collars will become tight. I’m sure none of the men will miss wearing ties anyway! The women could wear high heels without hurting their feet, but no shoes are required, so why wear them?

Though freefall is the “correct” term for weightlessness, “zero-g” has become part of the lexicon. Unfortunately as a result, millions of children now have it in their heads that there is no gravity in space (even on the Moon). Everyone from astronauts to non-technical people (including journalists) use this term and reinforce the misconception.

Freefall is fantastic, and even more so when you realize what we humans have to do to achieve it: build rockets that can reach the altitude and horizontal speed necessary to go into orbit, and ships that can protect us from the airless vacuum. We have to go even faster to escape from Earth’s gravity and then let ourselves freefall down the Moon’s gravity well. It is very hard to do, and equipment and Mother Nature are constantly challenging us to find better ways to do it. Today, the space shuttle Atlantis succeeded in a spectacular launch. For 11 days, the crew will take advantage of that special environment to do some amazing feats of engineering and science. I hope NSS members will be out spreading the word about their accomplishments in zero-g, I mean freefall!

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 01:51 PM

Shuttle Atlantis Blasts Off!

The Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off to orbit this morning at 11:15 am. The launch was delayed for weeks due to a combination of weather and technical issues. Today was the end of the current launch window -- in fact, the window had been extended by a day after discussions with the Russian Space Agency. For now, we wish the crew and its commander, Brent Jett, a fully successful mission.

Posted by george_whitesides at 11:48 AM

September 08, 2006

Try Try Again--Saturday Launch?

This time it was a fuel sensor that kept the STS-115 crew from taking off on their mission to add a new solar array to the International Space Station. Their mission was originally scheduled for May 2003 and postponed because of the Columbia accident. Last summer’s STS-117 mission showed that the foam problem had not been solved, so the shuttles were grounded until this July. With STS-121 successful, STS-115 was cleared to resume the assembly of the ISS. The first launch attempt in August was scrubbed because of a lightning strike to the launch pad. Then Ernesto threatened the Florida coast, and the shuttle was almost to the hangar when that threat was cleared. Atlantis was put back on the pad and then a fuel cell pump caused another scrub Wednesday.

Friday was supposed to be the last day of this launch window, but the Russians agreed to hold their Soyuz flight one more day. Both partners would like to see the new solar arrays installed as soon as possible, but the Soyuz, that transports crew and also serves as the escape ship if there were an emergency, must be changed out every six months.

NASA plans to empty the fuel from the external tank and refill it overnight. If the sensor again fails the test, the computers will be instructed to ignore it (so it won't report that there is no fuel and shut down the engines prematurely—leading to possible disaster), and listen to the other two sensors. My understanding is that if the sensor passes the test, then the launch will likely be scrubbed to investigate why it failed before. So ironically, we should all hope that the sensor fails so the crew can launch.

If you find this rather confusing, you are not alone. When asked how it could be that a failure could actually give a “go” for launch, Miles O’Brien of CNN quipped, “After all, it IS rocket science!”

Hopefully, the rocket and Mother Nature will cooperate and let this batch of very patient astronauts get on with their mission. So far the weather forecast is promising for the 11:15 a.m. EDT launch window.

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 01:25 PM

September 07, 2006

Go For Launch Friday?

Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale said that the fuel cell problem that scrubbed the shuttle launch on Wednesday has been resolved. The launch is set for 11:41 AM EDT. If weather or some other problem prevents the launch on Friday, then NASA managers will face a tough decision: whether or not to approve a night-time launch later this month or in early October. Daylight launch is preferred so the launch cameras can scan the vehicle for falling foam. NASA had planned for this to be the last mission with this constraint on the launch window.

Friday is the last day in this window because the 11-day mission of STS-115 cannot overlap the Russian Soyuz TMA-9 flight that will bring up two members of the Expedition 14 crew, Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin. Tom Reiter went up on the July shuttle flight and will remain onboard until Shuttle Flight STS-116 in December when Sunita Williams will take his place. The current Expedition 13 crew, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams, will ride home on the Soyuz TMA-8 with the first female space tourist, Anousheh Ansari.

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at 07:44 PM

September 06, 2006

Atlantis Launch Postponed

NASA has delayed Wednesday's launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on its STS-115 mission to the International Space Station. Shuttle Program managers made the decision early Wednesday morning due to a problem that occurred during the activation of one of the shuttle's three electricity-producing fuel cells. Teams are evaluating data on what might have caused a voltage spike in the fuel cell's coolant pump that cools the fuel cell system.

Atlantis' crew, Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Chris Ferguson and mission specialists Dan Burbank, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, Joe Tanner and Steve MacLean, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut, remains at Kennedy Space Center.

Posted by bsilcox at 10:25 AM


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