Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm not attending the NewSpace 2011 conference in person this year, but I am following the sessions via webcast at Spacevidcast. Also, here is the conference Twitter feed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Been Quite a Ride!

The Space Shuttle Program concluded this morning with the safe landing of Atlantis in Florida. The occasion was observed in various ways. At Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, a group picture was taken to include all those who had any involvement in the Space Shuttle Program during their careers. (I've been involved with Shuttle payload missions during much of my career.)

While it is a day for emotion and nostalgia, it is not a time for despair but a time for renewed determination to bring to reality the potential for more engagement of the commercial space sector while gaining more definition and commitment for NASAs role in leading human exploration beyond Earth orbit.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anniversary Day


Today is the 42nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 pioneering expedition to the lunar surface, the day human beings first made landfall on another world. Check out Rand Simberg's ceremonial commemoration of that epic voyage. Also, Clark Lindsey has several links, including this poetic video piece by Rick Tumlinson.

Today is also the eighth anniversary ('blogiversary') of the launch of this humble blog. Here is the inaugural post (Note that I was too inexperienced to think of giving it a title.) on Life at the Frontier.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dawn at Vesta

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASAs Dawn spacecraft has entered orbit around the large main belt asteroid Vesta. Continuing updates on this mission can be found on the Dawn mission web site.

Atlantis Departs Station for Home

The last Space Shuttle to visit the International Space Station (ISS) departed for home early this morning. Atlantis is scheduled to land in Florida on Thursday morning.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

As It Happened, the Apollo 11 Launch

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to land the first men on the Moon. Here is a (10 min) video of the final minutes of the countdown and the first few minutes of flight. Relive the moment, or experience it for the first time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Signed, Sealed, Delivered!

Spacewalker Mike Fossum rides on the International Space Station's robotic arm as he carries the Robotic Refueling Mission experiment. This the final scheduled spacewalk during a shuttle mission. Image Credit: NASA

In the final spacewalk to occur during a Space Shuttle flight, the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) payload was transferred by astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Also, a faulty Pump Module was installed on the Shuttle for return to Earth. Inside, Shuttle and Station crews are continuing transfers of cargo to and from the ISS before the Shuttle departs for home this weekend.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Grand Finale Launch for Atlantis

Shuttle Atlantis lofted into space today for the final launch of the Space Shuttle program. The launch drew one of the largest crowds in the history of the space program to the Central Florida Coast.

Turn up your speakers and set to full screen to take in the feeling of this historic launch.

There is abundant commentary around the 'net. Keith Cowing captures the emotion and impact of the event in this column.
I will wager that prior to today's launch, 90 percent - or more - of the people involved in NASA's human space flight program had not fully processed the blunt reality of what the end of shuttle operations really means. Between today and wheel stop in 12-13 day's time it will start to settle in.

People are being laid off. Others are retiring. Others will show up for work weeks or months from now, sense a sea change, and suddenly decide to depart. When all is said and done the agency will look much different. And I will wager that NASA itself has yet to grasp what this will means in terms of what it wants to do - and what it is able to do.

Transitions are never easy but this one was made more difficult than it had to be because of indecision and conflict at several levels of government. However there is the prospect of new ventures emerging over the next few years. Some of these are portrayed in this short video.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Go Atlantis!

Photo credit: NASA/Troy Cryder

Well, we're finally here, the night before the final launch of the Space Shuttle (putting aside the strong chance of a postponement due to weather). I've spent much of my career working on Space Shuttle payload missions, so it's hard to believe this is the final one. That doesn't mean that there's nothing ahead. The prospect of new commercial ventures taking people into orbit and NASA taking the lead in deep space exploration is still there, but will take some real creativity and daring in light of the financial and political challenges.

Anyway, the STS-135 mission includes a final major resupply of the International Space Station (ISS), providing additional margin until the commercial providers get their services up and running. Also on this flight is the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) (the project I've been working on for the past year and a half), which will demonstrate how current satellites may be refueled in the not-too-distant future.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Happy July Fourth!

As we join in the festivities of the Fourth, let's strive to keep to the values proclaimed in the Declaration that make it worth celebrating.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Some additional thoughts from around the web remind us that "Freedom isn't Free", the significance of some words from the second stanza of America the Beautiful, and thoughts on the Stars and Stripes from a famous Catholic English writer.
Wow. Think about that line: "by whose stars we are illumined, and by whose stripes we are healed." Have you ever thought about your flag that way - so Christ-like? G. K. Chesterton did. It’s a stirring interpretation of America and its mission.

More "Progressive" versus Progress

In a post last year, I link to a Michael Barone column defining the difference between the "progressive" agenda and authentic progress. In a recent column, Keith Fournier zeroes in on how this dichotomy is reflected in fantasy vs. objective reality views of some of the most fundamental issues of human existence.
What is really happening is a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, which involves competing definitions of human freedom, human flourishing and truly human progress. The positions being espoused and lifestyles being affirmed as "progressive" by those using the term as a political label are anything but. They turn the clock back.

It is the promotion of faithful, monogamous marriage, family, authentic human freedom, the dignity of every human person - and the insistence that there are objective truths that can be known and unalienable rights that are endowed on all men and women - which have guided true progress in human history and always pave the future of real progress.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Night Launch at Wallops

I had a nearly mini-vacation at Chincoteague: spectacular launch, sun, sand, surf, nature, good food and drink. Here's my video (~4 min) of the Minotaur rocket launch from the spaceport at Wallops Island on Wed., June 29 at 11:09 PM, taken ~3 mi. from the pad. (The rocket's exhaust is over-exposed. It actually appeared as a brilliant orange flame.)

Here is the summary of media reports on the launch and its mission for the Department of Defense. A professional launch video from NASA is below.