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March 31, 2008

STS-124 Rescheduled

The next shuttle flight has been moved from May 25 to May 31, the Saturday of our International Space Development Conference (ISDC). Launch time is planned for 5:01 p.m. Come to the conference and cheer the launch with a bunch of fellow space enthusiasts!

The delay was a domino effect of weather problems that delayed the shipment of the external tank from the Michoud Facility in Louisiana.

The main objective of the mission is to deliver the Japanese Kibo (Hope) module. The Japanese logistics module, which was brought up by the last flight, will be moved to attach to Kibo. That involves a lot of fancy robotic "crane" work that should be fun to watch in between sessions at the ISDC.

Mark Kelly will command the seven-member crew, which includes Pilot Ken Ham, Mission Specialists Karen Nyberg, Ron Garan, Jr., Mike Fossum, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and Greg Chamitoff. Chamitoff will replace Expedition 16/17 Flight Engineer Garrett Reisman and remain aboard the station as a member of the Expedition 17 crew. Reisman will return to Earth with the STS-124 crew.

For more information on the shuttle mission, visit:

To the stars!

Marianne Dyson
NSS member

Posted by m_dyson at 10:19 PM

March 24, 2008

Flying off into the sunset

The crew of STS-123 will be putting on quite a show Monday just before 7 PM CDT. That's when Endeavour will pull away from the space station, and the crew will peer out the windows with smiles on their faces as they admire their handiwork.

Expect the images to be stunning!

For almost two weeks, the crew of the shuttle and station have worked to attach the shiny new Japanese logisitics module and the clean white Canadian Dextre robotic arm. The fly-around will be the first time for anyone to see the station's new look from a distance.

It seemed that every time I turned on the TV during one of the 5 spacewalks last week, I saw only gloves and whatever equipment they were twisting or connecting or hammering into place. As a former flight controller, I understand the need to be brief and talk in acronyms. But as a member of the viewing public, I have to admit that the "loop" chatter was about as exciting as someone reading the phone book. I kept wishing for the camera to zoom out and give me some context and some inspiration.

At the tail end of Saturday night's EVA, which was during orbital darkness, I thought, "Surely they will find some excuse to wait outside an extra 5 minutes and let the crew watch a sunrise from outside." But no. I glimpsed a tiny bit of the horizon as Forman pulled down the thermal cover over the hatch.

If the crew had said, "Hey, Mission Control, we're going to hang out a few minutes and watch the sunrise," what could they do to stop them? Were they so exhausted (or hungry?) that all they wanted to do was get out of those sweaty suits? Or were they afraid to dally or ask permission to take in the view from what Gene Cernan called "God's front porch" because their time is so scripted and so valuable that someone would accuse them of goofing off at taxpayer expense? I mean, Mission Control does clock the length of the EVAs to the s e c o n d!

At least we were treated to some spectacular views via the cameras mounted outside after all the spacewalkers were tucked safely inside. I never tire of seeing the intense sparkling blue oceans of Earth with the layered cloud decks doppled on it like some super-fluffy whipped cream. And then the moon appeared!

The PAO commentator in Mission Control mentioned that this crew got to see a "moonset" about every ninety-one minutes. All I could think was, "Wow!" The full moon on the vernal equinox on Easter... what a powerful symbol of the spring of our future and our spiritual awakening, etc. There she was, our daughter world, snuggling up against Mother Earth, slowly slipping behind the thin veil of atmosphere, and then hiding under the sparkling blue and white "covers."

Maybe it is a good thing that there aren't many windows in the space station. If there were, no work could possibly get done. I don't think I could have walked away from the TV if they hadn't "broken the spell" and switched back to a view of some equipment rack.

Sigh. Unfortunately, all good things must pass. If we want to see more of these views, we all have a lot of work to do. But a glimpse is good to remind us of our goal--a spacefaring civilization--that means people like you and me casually looking up from our keyboards to see a moonset.

This crew will soon be riding off into the sunset-- first flying through the fireworks of entry and then landing on Wednesday just before sunset at Kennedy Space Center. That will be the end of the longest shuttle flight yet. One that brought the station closer than ever to completion.

Next flight, the one that will take up the large Kibo module, is scheduled for May.

To the stars!

Marianne Dyson

NSS Member

Posted by m_dyson at 01:09 AM

March 15, 2008

Japanese On Board

The station has a new room, and the world has a new moon (view, at least). The crews of STS-123 and Expedition 16 and 17 delivered and attached the Japanese pressurized logistics module this week. Japanese astronaut Takao Doi and ISS Commander Peggy Whitson opened the hatch on Friday night, March 14.

Meanwhile, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference this week in Houston, Japanese scientists unveiled absolutely stunning high definition flybys of the moon taken by their Kaguya orbiter. As the glistening white rim of Aristarchus appeared on the black horizon, I imagined those mountains as towers of a bright city reaching for the heavens, with life-sustaining modules tucked into their bases, and roads of lunar glass heading out like rays of the sun to welcome people from all over the world to respectfully enjoy the majesty of this ancient place.

JAXA posted the low-res versions of these movies online at

You don't have to wait for high definition views of Earth, though. These are available live during spacewalks and at other times via NASA TV. The second of five spacewalks planned for this mission starts tonight (Saturday) at about 7:23 p.m. and runs to about 1:30 a.m. (Central time)

The spacewalkers are Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan and Mike Foreman. They will be working on the new Canadian Dextre robotic arm. A problem with the power connection has been solved, and soon this gigantic arm will be waving hello (not literally!) to those of us on the ground.

More spacewalks are planned for Monday night, Thursday night, and next Saturday night (March 22). The launch and landing opportunities being at night dictated this schedule that happens to make watching the show conveniently fall between dinner and bedtime for most Americans. The crew for the third space walk is Linnehan and Robert Behnken. This will be Behnken's first EVA. He is tagged to do the fourth and fifth walks with Fossum. Takao Doi is the primary arm operator for these EVAs.

Fresh views of the moon and Earth from space can't help but inspire a yen (sorry for the pun!) in all of us to personally explore the space frontier. I put a Kaguya still image of Aristarchus next to my computer to remind me why I am a member of National Space Society: I want to go!

Marianne Dyson

NSS member

Posted by m_dyson at 02:05 PM

March 01, 2008

Next up: night launch of STS-123

The Japanese logistics module and Canada's Dextre robotic arm are ready to launch inside Endeavor's payload bay on Tuesday March 11, 2008 in a spectacular night launch, scheduled for 2:28 a.m. EST.

Japan's Takao Doi, who flew in 1997, will accompany his nation's hardware to orbit as one of the all-male crew. Led by Commander Dominic Gorie (U.S. Navy Capt.), the crew of seven has trained for the longest shuttle mission to the station yet: lasting 16 days and including 5 spacewalks.

U.S. Air Force Col. Gregory Johnson will serve as shuttle pilot. Besides Doi, mission specialists include Richard Linnehan, Air Force Maj. Robert Behnken, and Navy Capt. Michael Foreman.

The primary goal of the mission is to deliver the logistics module which holds the supporting equipment for the Japanese Kibo (Hope) module. That flight was delayed from April 24 to May 25 because of the fuel gauge problem that postponed the last launch.

NASA managers determined that the debris from the shooting down of a spy satellite on February 20 has only increased the risk of damage to the shuttle from 1 in 269 to 1 in 259.

To the stars,

Marianne Dyson
NSS member
Assignments Editor, Ad Astra magazine

Posted by m_dyson at 01:07 PM


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