Posts Tagged ‘Neil Armstrong’

'This Week In Space' – May 29, 2010

May 29, 2010

The latest edition of “This Week In Space” is now available.  Check us out!

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Atlantis lands. Source: NASA

We begin at the end this week – the end of an era in space. Well maybe. This was the scene at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday – commander Ken Ham dead-sticking Atlantis down the steep glide slope to Runway 33.  The mission – STS-132 – was the final scheduled flight of Atlantis.  But she is not heading straight to the museums.  She’s now back in her Orbiter Processing Facility – NASA-speak for hanger – where she will be prepped for flight on short notice should there be trouble on the remaining pair of missions. BUT the museums might have to wait –  NASA is leaving the door open to schedule an encore mission for Atlantis. Since there would be no rescue vehicle at the ready – she would likely fly with a scaled down crew that would use the Russian Soyuz as a lifeboat.  NASA will make a decision on this by mid-June. Maybe the shuttle program will end as it began – with a two person crew.

For those of you keeping score at home – If it turns out this was the last ride to space for OV-104 – here are her final game stats:  32 flights – 11 of those to the International Space Station, over 120 million miles on the odometer, 294 days in orbit, 4,649 revolutions around Earth.  She was home-away-from-home to 189 astronauts.  She carried the Magellan and Galileo interplanetary probes to space, as well as the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. She was the first orbiter to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir, and the last one to visit the Hubble Space Telescope. Not bad at all. Way to go Atlantis. Way to go…

He’s the E.F. Hutton of astronauts –  “when he talks, people listen.”  Or would Greta Garbo be a better analogy.  Or maybe J.D. Salinger.  I digress.  You guessed it, I’m talking about Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, a bona fide National Hero, and a man who chooses his words very carefully. And he has been speaking out recently in opposition to the Obama Administration’s plan to kill the moonshot program known as Constellation. This week, he took center stage again – at a House Science and Technology committee hearing.  He reiterated his support for Constellation in particular and a return to the moon in general. The man has a lifetime supply  of dry powder – and he fired at will:

The issue facing this meeting has produced substantial turmoil among space advocates. So many normally knowledgeable people were completely astounded by the President’s proposal. Had the announcement been preceded by the typical review, analysis and discussion among the Executive branch, the agency, the congress, and all the other interested and knowledgeable parties, no member of this committee would have been surprised by the announcement of a new plan.  In this case, a normally collegial sector of society was split in many fragments, some focused on contracts and money, some on work force and jobs, some on technical choices.    All because a few planners, with little or no space operations experience, attempted an end run on the normal process.    It has been painful to watch.

Armstrong was joined by the last man to walk on the moon- Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan, who also took aim at Obama’s plan, which he views as long on talk and short on funds.  In other words, “show me the money.”

And, when one examines details of the FY2011 budget proposal, nowhere is there to be found one penny allocated to support space exploration. Yes, there has been much rhetoric on transformative technology, heavy lift propulsion research, robotic precursor missions, significant investment in commercial crew and cargo capabilities, pursuit of cross-cutting space technology capabilities, climate change research, aeronautics R&D, and education initiatives, all worthwhile endeavors in their own right. Yet nowhere do we find any mention of the Human Exploration of Space and nowhere do we find a commitment in dollars to support this all important national endeavor. We (Armstrong, Lovell and I) have come to the unanimous conclusion that this budget proposal presents no challenges, has no focus, and in fact is a blueprint for a mission to ‘nowhere.’

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden was also on hand, testifying earlier in the day.  He disclosed that it will cost and estimated four and half billion dollars over five years to implement Obama’s recently announced plan to turn the Orion capsule into an ISS lifeboat – money that NASA will have to take out of other programs.  And he assured the committee that NASA is continuing work on Constellation in good faith. Yes – the work goes on until Congress weighs in because that is the way the law is written. Bolden got an earful from Arizona’s Gabrielle Giffords over NASA’s just-announced decision to reassign the outspoken Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley.

Gabrielle Giffords:  Mr. Bolden, my concern is, particularly concerning the news we had last week, that the program manager was actually working hard to make the program work, given the constraints of the budget, but again from where we sit, his work to restructure and potentially save the parts of Constellation that need to be saved, by removing him from his position…I think again it demonstrates to us that the question that I asked you earlier, whether or not you would give this committee your assurance that you were doing everything that you can as NASA administrator to make progress with Constellation for the remainder of FY 2010, when the constellation manager is removed from his position, it frankly makes me personally very dubious that that is in fact happening .  So I’m wondering again, the assurance that you can give us in the united states congress that your actually carrying this out.  and whether or not the program will actually carry forward, and whether or not you are actually planning on replacing him with someone competent, and whether or not you are planning to replace him expeditiously.

Charlie Bolden:  We would replace him with someone who is incredibly competent, I don’t think I have anyone in the hierarchy of the constellation program or anywhere else that is not competent and has my confidence. Jeff Hanley is not leaving NASA.  Jeff Hanley is moving up to become the deputy director of the Johnson Space Center for Strategic Studies and Strategic plans.  He is an incredibly talented individual.  Jeff and I have spoken for quite sometime since I became the NASA administrator, about his future.

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A Room with a View

February 21, 2010
Endeavour astronaut Steve Robinson in front of the cupola.

Endeavour astronaut Steve Robinson in front of the cupola.

As the the joint station/shuttle team bolted on the Tranquility Node – with its 7 windowed cupola…would that the NASA nation could see the future as clearly as this…

The cupola is supposed to be there to make it easier for station-keepers to operate the robot arm – but you can bet they will have to keep the Windex handy – to clean the smudges from their noses flattened against the glass.

At the cupola ribbon cutting – station keeper Jeff Williams and Shuttle boss George Zamka paused to remember the late Lacy Veach an astronaut who died of cancer in 1995 – and who participated in the cupola’s initial design –  they also installed a plaque with some small moon rocks picked up by Neil Armstrong in 1969 – and carried to the summit of Mt. Everest by astronaut Scott Parazynski this past spring.

Charles Lacy Veach

Charles Lacy Veach

Before the Endeavour astronauts departed the station, they took a call from President Obama.  It was the first time the President has found himself in the space – space – world since he rolled out  his controversial new NASA budget that cancels the Constellation Project.  Surrounded by schoolkids and his science adviser John Holdren, Obama offered major props to the crew:

“Just wanted to let you know that the amazing work that is being done on the international space station,  not only by American astronauts but also by our colleagues in Japan and Russia, is just a testimony to human ingenuity, a testimony to extraordinary skill and courage that you guys bring to bear, and is also testimony as to why continued space exploration is so important, and is part of the reason why my commitment to NASA is unwavering,” said Obama.

You can watch a video version of this story on “This Week in Space”.

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But before STS-130 is history, we gotta show you a couple of pictures. Check out this one…that’s the predawn launch of Endeavour back on February 8, as seen from the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, in Ponte Vedra, Florida, about 115 miles north of the launch site.  Thanks to James Vernacotola for that.

Endeavour launch on February 8 from Ponte Vedre, Florida

Endeavour launch on February 8 from Ponte Vedre, Florida

And here’s another…that’s Endeavour on final approach to the ISS, just before docking.  Check out the layers of the atmosphere…for the record, blue is the mesosphere, white is the stratosphere, and orange is the troposphere.  Looks like a parfait doesn’t it?  paraphrasing a famous donkey:  “Parfait’s gotta be the tastiest thing on – or off – the whole damn planet.”

Endeavour on approach to ISS.

Endeavour on approach to ISS.

It’s cold up there above the troposphere – and also on the ground at the Cape – so how cold was it? So cold they couldn’t move the shuttle Discovery…and that means a 2 and a half week launch delay..

For the first time anyone can remember – the shuttle team canceled a move out of Discovery’s hangar into the unheated Vehicle Assembly Building – on account of cold. Apparently when sub 45 degree weather can cause the the thrusters to spring leaks. The delay forced shuttle program managers to postpone the launch date until after a Russian Soyuz docking. The shuttle launch is now set for April 5th.

Astronaut 'Hurting,' Resting after 'Topping Off' at Everest

May 19, 2009

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UPDATE: Videos of Scott’s arrival and descent now available here.

Astronaut Scott Parazynski is now back at Camp 4 – “hurting” and resting – after successfully making it to the summit of Mount Everest at 4 am local time on Wednesday (6:15 pm EDT Tuesday ) – one year after a back injury forced him to turn around as he neared the top of the world’s tallest peak. Carrying moon rocks, a hi-tech satellite tracking device and the dreams of a lifetime, he is the first astronaut to summit Everest.

Scott and his Sherpa Danuru remained on the summit for about thirty minutes and then began the more perilous journey down the mountain. Scott told me in his last Skype chat before making the final push that he was worried about an “Into Thin Air” style conga line at the top of the world, and so apparently got up early to beat “rush hour” on Everest.

Although I have not had a chance to confirm this, his plan was to speak to the crew of the International Space Station as he stood on Everest.everest_route_map

Scott is carrying some tiny moon rock fragments gathered by Neil Armstrong on Jul 20, 1969 in the Sea of Tranquility. You can see my post – with some video and images of the rocks here. They are on loan from NASA.

He is carrying a SPOT satellite messenger device which allows users to leave a trail of electronic breadcrumbs on the web. You can see Scott’s trail to the top of the world at http://www.SPOTAdventures.com

As Scott pointed out in his last Skype chat with me, the trip down the mountain is considered the most perilous. First, climbers are pretty well spent by the time they make it to the summit (Scott had been climbing non-stop for 10 hours to get there) and second, tripping on crampons going down the steep, icy precipice has potentially fatal consequences.

Scott is being assisted by Keith Cowing who hosts the website http://onborbit.com/everest – where you can find a blog that details their advenutres. I just got off the Skype with Keith Cowing at Everest Base Camp. He got a little misty when I asked him to put the whole adventure into perspective:

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The five-time shuttle shuttle flier has conducted seven spacewalks (including a perilous trip into the void in 2007 to repair a snarled solar array on the International Space Station) and he flew in 1998 with Senator John Glenn. So what does a guy like that (oh, he is also an M.D.) do after the space thing is over? One word: Everest.

Last year, only a few thousand feet from the summit, he awakened to stabbing pains in his back. He had a ruptured disc and was forced to hobble down the mountain. His only saving grace: on Everest, there is an endless supply of ice to deaden the pain. Since then he has had surgery and stuck to a strict exercise regimen. The back was not a problem this time around.

Scott and I had lunch in New York around the holidays. He was wondering if there was a way that he could get back for a second stab at the summit. I was newly out of a job and agreed to help him find sponsorship  – under the assumption that I would join him at Everest Base Camp to help him get the story out. Everything worked except I turned out to be a pretty busy unemployed guy  – and my obligation to the PBS documentary Blueprint America: The Road to the Future extended into my Everest window. And so I spent the trip talking to Scott in my laundry room. Alas, they also serve who wait and wash…

Here is a photo album from Scott’s two-month trek toward this moment: