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July 22, 2009

STS-127 Week 2 Summary

There was a little bit of unexpected drama added to the end of today's spacewalk. Flight controllers noticed rising carbon dioxide levels in Cassidy's space suit. At first they thought it might be because he was working hard, but finally decided that for whatever reason, the lithium hydroxide (LiOH) canister that is supposed to soak up the carbon dioxide, wasn't doing its job. The crew were quite a distance from the airlock, and carbon dioxide can be fatal, so just a few minutes after Mission Control voiced their concern and said to clean up the worksite, they ordered them back to the airlock.

The main task for the spacewalk was to install 4 of 6 new batteries that are used to store electrical power for use when the space station is in orbital darkness. No details have been released yet, but it is assumed that the unfinished activities of today's spacewalk will be added to the next spacewalk, scheduled for Friday. Another spacewalk is planned for Monday (see schedule below).

I anticipate that Cassidy and his suit will be put through some tests before he is cleared to join Marshburn as planned for the next two spacewalks. Hopefully a swap of the LiOH canister will correct the problem. If not, then Mission Control is sure to devise an alternative way to get those important batteries installed.

Here is the original plan for the rest of the mission:

Thursday is Flight Day 9. The Shuttle crew has shifted their sleep start from midnight to 8 PM now. (ISS crew sleep starts a half hour earlier.) Bed times always shift earlier during Shuttle missions because the crew has to be awake for launch and landing--and the landing opportunities shift earlier each day.

Th 7-23, First use of new Japanese robotic arm by Wakata/Kopra begins just before 9 AM CDT. Will move 3 experiments from the exposed section (farthest from the module) to the exposed facility (closer to the window). Experiments are an all-sky X-ray camera; a space environmental data measuring experiment, and a communications system that sends data between Kibo and Tsukuba, Japan.

Fr 7-24, EVA #4 begins at 8:58 AM CDT and ends at 3:28 PM. Marshburn and Cassidy complete battery swap out on the port truss. Station arm hands off the ICC-VLD to the Shuttle arm operated by Polansky/Hurley at 2:03 PM.

Sat 7-25, off-duty day. ISS crew is up at 3:33 AM, and Shuttle crew up at 4 AM CDT. Bedtime is 7:03 and 8:00 PM respectively.

Sun 7-26, At 7:03 AM, Wakata/Kopra will use the station arm to hand off the Japanese exposed section to Polansky/Payette who will use the Shuttle arm to put it into the cargo bay. The handoff should be fun to watch. Joint crew news conference at 3 PM.

Mon 7-27, EVA #5 begins at 7:28 AM and ends at 1:58 PM, Marshburn and Cassidy swap connectors on the Z1 truss (is it still called Mr. Potato Head?), install new video system, and remove insulation from the Dextre arm. ISS crew sleep begins at 5:33 PM, and Shuttle crew at 6:03 PM.

Tues 7-28, Station arm hands Shuttle back its arm extension. Hatch closure at 9:23 AM.

Wed 7-29 Undocking and fly around/inspection. These images are always spectacular, and will show the station with its new “porch” for the first time. Shuttle holds station 46 miles away from ISS in case of a problem.

Th 7-30, At 7:27 AM, Deploy Dragonsat which is the AggieSat2 and Paradigm (from UT). At 7:49, deploy ANDE-2, a DoD scientific satellite. Last bedtime is 5:03 PM, 7 hours earlier than their first night!

Fr 7-31, Crew is up at 1:03 AM. Landing at Kennedy Space Center is 9:45 AM CDT/10:45 AM EDT.

For more details, I recommend Bill Harwood’s blog:

To the stars,

Marianne Dyson

Member NSS Board of Advisors

Posted by m_dyson at 05:36 PM

July 20, 2009

Celebrate the First Steps

I turned on NASA TV during lunch today to watch some of the STS-127 spacewalk, and instead, heard Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin recommending we use the space station to test ourselves and our equipment for challenging missions to deep space. He did not single out Mars specifically this time, but with a wave of his large hand, seemed to include all of space in his vision.

His vision is OUR vision: people living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.

The Apollo astronauts took those first steps toward that grand vision 40 years ago. Everyone is talking about it, and contemplating, along with the Augustine Committee, how we can tap that legacy to move forward without breaking the budget or risking lives.

While most people in the space community agree that we want to end up with thriving communities beyond Earth, opinions vary on what path we should take to get there.

Buzz suggests that the United States join with its space station partners (plus China, India, and South Korea) to revisit the Moon—but put the bulk of American investment into deep-space exploration—preparing for Mars and asteroids and beyond.

I’m only speaking for myself (not NSS), but I think we are having the wrong argument. While it is important to know where we are going in order to choose how to get there; and it is also important to understand why we want to go in order to plan for the right mix of humans and robots and equipment that must be developed, unless a need is driving us toward space, it is unlikely there will ever be sufficient funds either from the government or private sectors to create the space-faring civilization many of us envision.

So what do we need that space can provide, and provide to the point where the cost of satisfying that need makes good common sense to the majority of people, just like going to the Moon made perfect sense in the 60s to satisfy a political need?

And what do we need NOW that space can provide? I think the answer is obvious: ENERGY.

Space has all the energy we need, and then some. We already know how to collect and use this energy in space. The solar arrays on the space station have been soaking it up and keeping the lights on and pumps pumping for more than ten years. The old solar panels are still at 99 percent of their original generating capacity.

The station arrays generate enough power to support 6 full-time crewmembers and all their equipment in space. They also provide power to the Shuttle while it is docked. One of the tasks of the STS-127 space walks this week is to replace the oldest of the batteries that store the energy for use during orbital night.

So we already have solar power systems that we know will work for more than a decade under space conditions—and technology has come a long way since those arrays were manufactured.

Buzz has a good idea for us to use the space station as a testbed. But instead of just using it to test humans for long-duration missions TO anywhere—how about using it to prepare to build the first “Hoover dam” in space?

Let space become an obvious solution to an obvious need. Then going to the Moon for oxygen to supply the assembly workers in orbit and the propellant for the space tugs and supply haulers; and going to the asteroids or Mars or Jupiter’s moons for metals or water, will just evolve naturally.

People will be needed to help assemble the satellites, repair the robots, remotely control the mining and processing equipment, fly the ships, and, like the STS-127 crew is doing this week, install new equipment and replace batteries. Many of these tasks can be practiced on the station and on the Moon.

All the other reasons for going to the stars will remain: science, exploration, vacation, etc. But I believe that a true space-faring civilization will begin by satisfying a basic human need for energy.

So on this special anniversary, let us celebrate the first steps toward the vision of people living and working in space, and think about what space can do for us as well as what we can do for space!

To the stars,

Marianne Dyson
NSS Advisor

Read more about space solar power:

Posted by m_dyson at 05:16 PM

July 16, 2009

STS-127 First Week Summary

Hurrah! Space Shuttle Endeavour is finally on its way to the International Space Station. Because the launch time shifted early each day, the Shuttle crew is out of sync with the station crew. To get in sync, the Shuttle crew, that went to bed at midnight Wed, will be shifting to an earlier bed time at 10 PM on Friday.

It is going to be a busy flight! Here's an overview of the first week of this 17-day flight:

Th 7-16, Tile inspection day. Let's hope the foam strikes seen during launch were not serious. If so, another inspection will occur on Saturday.

Fr 7-17 Docking at 12:55 PM Central time, with hatch opening at 2:43 PM. Celebration of first time 13 people together on the station. Seven Americans, two Russians, two Canadians (I think this is a first?), one European, one Japanese. Sadly (IMHO), only one woman (Julie Payette).

Sat 7-18 EVA #1 (of 5) starts at 10:58 AM CDT. Spacewalkers are Wolf (solid red stripes), and Kopra (white). Kopra's first and only EVA this flight (he joins Expedition 20 crew). First of 3 for Wolf. Shuttle arm work by Polansky and Payette, ISS arm work by Hurley and Padalka. Main task is to unload and install Japanese Exposed Facility (they call if "JEF") Ends at 5:28 PM.

Sun 7-19 Tile inspection, if needed, begins around 7:30 AM. Otherwise, station and Shuttle arm work by Payette and Kopra, Polansky and Hurley to unload Integrated Cargo Carrier-Vertical Light Deploy (ICC-VLD).

Mon 7-20 (40th anniversary, first humans on the Moon) EVA #2 begins at 10:28 AM. Wolf and Marshburn (dashed red lines). Transfer of equipment from the ICC-VLD to a stowage place between the port radiator and the first solar array wing. Ends at 4:58 PM.

Tues 7-21 Shuttle and Station arm work by Polansky/Payette and Hurley/Wakata to unload and install Japanese Logistics Module-Exposed Section. Begins 7:08 AM, handover between arms at 11:33 AM should be fun to watch.

Wed 7-22 EVA #3 begins at 9:58 AM. Wolf and Cassidy (horizontal red stripes). First part of swap out of 6 batteries (on station since 2000) on the far port end of the solar arrays--should be some spectacular views from there around 11 AM. EVA ends at 4:28 PM.

I'll post the second week's summary timeline in a later message. Landing is planned for July 31.

To the stars,

Marianne Dyson
NSS Advisor

PS Come join me and members of NSS of North Texas at the "Moon Day" event at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field (airport) in Dallas Sunday 1-5!

Posted by m_dyson at 01:25 AM

July 13, 2009

Next Launch Attempt Wed 7-15

The weather in Florida is just not playing nice. Once again, STS-127 has been delayed. NASA managers decided to skip Tuesday (with only a 40 percent chance) and try again Wednesday at 6:03 PM EDT. Unless the Russians decide to delay the Progress launch (scheduled for Friday, 7-24), the shuttle mission will need to be shortened a day to make room for the Progress to dock. The Progress can only hang around in orbit for 5 days, so it has to dock by July 29.

Sigh. It's never easy. Crews are used to waiting, but these delays must be frustrating for them and their families, as well as costing NASA extra money. Let's hope Wednesday will see this shuttle take flight!

Marianne Dyson
NSS Advisor

While you're waiting for launch, check out some good reads on the NSS Reading Space page:!

Posted by m_dyson at 07:52 PM

July 11, 2009

Launch Delayed

Lightning around the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center caused NASA to postpone today's scheduled shuttle launch to Sunday at 7:13 PM EDT.

The chance of launching STS-127 on Sunday is around 60 percent. Cross your fingers!

Marianne Dyson
NSS Advisor

Posted by m_dyson at 12:44 PM

July 10, 2009

STS-127 Launch

The STS-127 launch that was postponed from June because of a hydrogen leak, is on schedule for launch Saturday, July 11, at 7:39 PM Eastern time.

However, the weather gives Endeavour only a 40 percent chance of actually launching because of the usual summer afternoon thunderstorms. The storms have to be at least twenty-three miles away from the landing strip in case of an abort. The launch window is open for 4 days. If the weather does not cooperate, the next window opens July 27.

This flight, like all the remaining shuttle flights, is headed to the International Space Station (ISS). The primary goal of the 16-day mission is to deliver and install the "back porch" of the Japanese Kibo ("Hope") module during 5 spacewalks.

The crew of 7 is commanded by Mark Polansky. The pilot is rookie Douglas Hurley. Mission specialists are Canadian flight engineer Julie Payette, David Wolf, Christopher Cassidy, and Thomas Marshburn. Space station flight engineer, Timothy Kopra, will replace Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata who is currently on the ISS.

Here's hoping the STS-127 crew gets to celebrate the Apollo 40th anniversary in space, matching (for the fourth time) the record of 13 people in space at once. This will be the first time all 13 people will be on the same spacecraft. (March 2009 had Discovery crew of 7, ISS crew of 3, and Soyuz crew of 3 at once, and 1995 and 1997 records counted separate American and Russian craft as well.) I only wish those 13 people were together on the Moon! Maybe by the 50th anniversary?

To the stars,

Marianne Dyson
NSS Advisor

Support NSS by reading! Use the links to Amazon at No matter what books (or electronics, etc.) you buy, NSS gets a donation, and it doesn't cost you a thing!

Posted by m_dyson at 06:18 PM


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