Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Space Shuttle Discovery: After 39 Missions...Last Flight to the Smithsonian
The space shuttle Discovery, NASA's fleet leader and the world's most-flown spacecraft, arrived in Washington, D.C. Tuesday (April 17), where it will go on permanent display at the Smithsonian later this week.
The retired space plane was delivered to the nation's capital mounted to the space agency's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, on a final ferry flight that included a historic flyover of the National Mall and some of its nearby monuments and federal buildings.
The air- and spacecraft duo landed at Washington Dulles International Airport at 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT).
The four-hour flight left the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:00 a.m. (1100 GMT), just after dawn. Guests at Kennedy's visitor complex and spectators along the space coast were treated to a final flyby of Discovery before the shuttle began its trip up the Eastern Seaboard.
The departure marked a final separation for Discovery and Kennedy Space Center, which had served as the shuttle's home base and launch site since it first arrived at the Florida spaceport atop the same carrier aircraft on Nov. 9, 1983.
In the three decades since, Discovery flew 39 missions — more than any other spacecraft in history — and logged more than a year in space. It became the first of NASA's three shuttles to be retired when it landed a final time from space on March 9, 2011.
Space shuttle Discovery, mounted atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, flies into the sunrise above Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 17, 2012. The ferry flight, destined for Washington, D.C., marked the final departure for Discovery from its home for three decades.
Next stop: the Smithsonian
Now on the ground at Dulles, Discovery — still atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft — will be moved to a remote apron at the airport where NASA has pre-staged large cranes to offload the orbiter starting on Wednesday (April 18).
On Thursday morning, Discovery will be rolled over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located adjacent to the airport, for a transfer ceremony. Many of the shuttle's former mission commanders, as well as Smithsonian and NASA officials, will take part in the public event, which will kick off a four-day "Welcome Discovery" festival at the northern Virginia museum.
By the end of the day Thursday, should all go as planned, Discovery will take its place in the Udvar-Hazy's James S. McDonnell Space Hangar as its centerpiece.
Discovery is replacing the shuttle prototype Enterprise, which had been on display at the museum since 2003. Enterprise will be flown to New York on Monday (April 23) to be displayed at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum this summer.
Leading the fleet into retirement
Discovery is the first of NASA's now retired shuttle fleet to embark on a new mission as a museum exhibit.
In April 2011, NASA also awarded shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center in Los Angeles and retained Atlantis for its own visitor complex at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Endeavour will depart for the west coast in September; Atlantis is scheduled to be rolled down the road two months later in November.
Discovery was first promised to the Smithsonian in 2008. The fleet leader, Discovery spent more than 365 days in space over the course of its 39 missions, more than any other vehicle to launch and return from Earth orbit.
The third of NASA's orbiters to enter service, Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ulysses solar probe and was the first spacecraft to recover satellites from orbit. It also returned the shuttle program to flight after the losses of Challenger and Columbia in 1986 and 2003, respectively.
Discovery was the first shuttle to visit the International Space Station and delivered its largest laboratory, among other components. - space
NOTE: if you're ever in Washington, D.C. the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the Mall and the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International in northern Virginia are a MUST see...Lon
The Space Shuttle: Celebrating Thirty Years of NASA's First Space Plane
The Space Shuttle: A Photographic History
UFO - Helen, Georgia
A friend of mine and I were riding my motorcycle north of Helen, Ga on highway 17/75 Monday April 9th. We stopped and took some pictures along the way. At the time we did not see anything out of the ordinary.
Upon returning to Louisiana and going through the pictures on Sunday April 15th, I noticed this object in the top right hand corner of one of the pictures. A picture taken 4 seconds before this one and another picture taken 10 seconds after of the same area does not show the object. It was a cloudless day.
The object appears to reflect sunlight from above and is dark on the bottom. The object is blurry as if it may have been moving quickly. - MUFON CMS
In the Past, NASA Worried About 'Space Madness'
When astronauts first began flying in space, NASA worried about "space madness," a mental malady they thought might arise from humans experiencing microgravity and claustrophobic isolation inside of a cramped spacecraft high above the Earth. Such fears have since faded, but humanity continues to see spaceflight as having the power to transform people for either better or for worse.
Such early concerns of NASA psychiatrists led to careful screening of the first astronauts drawn from military test pilots. The astronauts proved highly professional and level-headed in even the most life-threatening scenarios — a reality that did not stop reporters and science fiction writers from imagining astronauts going crazy or becoming spiritually changed by spaceflight.
"People were making movies about astronauts suffering psychic stress long before any astronauts went into space," said Matthew Hersch, a historian of science and technology at the University of Pennsylvania. "They assumed leaving Earth and traveling into the heavens would be so traumatic that humans would have to respond in some way."
The sense of spaceflight's transformative power arose from both science fiction stories and from legitimate uncertainties about how traveling aboard a powerful rocket into the unknown might affect the human psyche, Hersch said. He also described how Americans projected their own hopes and fears of past decades onto the idea of spaceflight in a paper that appears in the March issue of the journal Endeavour.
Metamorphosis in space
U.S. astronauts and their Russian cosmonaut counterparts have mostly maintained their cool during long missions aboard space stations such as Skylab, Mir and the International Space Station. That stands in contrast to a rise in science fiction tales that are filled with space travelers going insane or experiencing life-changing moments.
"There are no examples of what we might consider freak-outs or psychotic breaks in any space missions," Hersch told InnovationNewsDaily. "There have been arguments, disagreements and occasional shouting."
Despite what writers like to imagine, astronauts displayed a businesslike attitude and stoicism in the face of danger that has proven popular with the American public. Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, showed such calm when he was ejected from a jet-powered lunar landing simulator less than a second before it crashed to the ground — he surprised even his colleagues when he returned to work quietly at his desk barely an hour after the incident.
Pop culture and news reporting of the 1960s did their part in playing up the stoic image of astronauts. But writers and reporters of the 1970s wanted to see the more human side of astronauts — they imagined astronauts cracking under pressure or experiencing a spiritual transformation through spaceflight. But the astronauts ended up mostly disappointing them in both cases.
Have spacesuit, will travel
The opening of spaceflight to private citizens who fly as "space tourists" in the 21st century may again revive milder "space madness" concerns. "As we see space become more democratized with people who fly in space not being former test pilots, there are concerns about people flying in space without having had a lifetime of training for stressful situations," Hersch said.
Such concerns previously arose when NASA opened up its space shuttle program to more civilian scientists, engineers and teachers, but the civilian astronauts soon proved how well they could perform. Even the first few space tourists have mostly proven motivated and eager to undergo their own crash-course training.
Still, spacefaring nations already look beyond the imagined fears of space madness in planning for the real human challenges of new space missions. China has carefully screened its prospective astronauts (called taikonauts) for compatibility among possible space crews — an issue that was rarely considered during the early days of spaceflight. NASA has also paid more attention to its astronauts' psychological health on Earth in recent decades.
The wonder of it all
Space madness may mostly live on in science fiction stories rather than in reality. Yet the idea of spaceflight as a life-changing experience — something similar to a spiritual journey — is still strong in the minds of people shaping the future of space exploration. Such people range from the earliest rocket pioneers to the private spaceflight entrepreneurs of today.
"That kind of idea often motivates people who get into the spaceflight business," Hersch explained. "Virtually every spaceflight pioneer, including Werner von Braun, was steeped in the notion of spaceflight being good for its own sake, but justified it for military, business or technical capability reasons."
But will there ever be a time when spaceflight stops being seen as an automatic life-changing experience and starts becoming routine? Hersch thinks yes.
"It may take a few hundred years, but we'll eventually get there," Hersch said. - discovery
This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury
Project Mercury: A Chronology - A History of America's First Manned Spacecraft for the Shepard, Grissom, Glenn, Carpenter, Schirra, Cooper Flights (NASA SP-4001)
NASA Killed Martians!
NASA revealed last week that in 1976 that found life on Mars. They brought them home, but “accidentally” boiled them alive.
NASA found the Martians (less than an inch tall), and brought them back to Earth. But one NASA scientist mistook the Martians for sugar cubes and put them in his coffee. Thus, boiling the Martians to death.
The 36-year-old news was finally revealed by a retired NASA scientist, who wishes to remain anonymous. He said that he “couldn’t die” without revealing that life was found on Mars and that he… accidentally killed them.
“I feel terrible,” the scientist told WWN. ”It would have made my career. Instead, I’m a laughing stock of NASA.”
The Martian life was brought back to Earth via NASA’s Viking Mars robots in 1976.
Biologist Todd Markham, of the University of Southern California, told WWN: “I’m 99 per cent sure there’s life there. And this proves I’m right.”
Dr. Markham wants NASA to send a craft back to Mars to gather more Martians – and keep them away from absent-minded scientists! - weeklyworldnews
NOTE: I thought you'd enjoy some Weekly World News nonsense...Lon
Cause of North Korean Rocket Failure a Mystery
The general public will likely never know just what caused a North Korean rocket to crash and burn on Friday (April 13), one expert says.
North Korea went ahead with the controversial launch of its long-range Unha-3 rocket despite warnings from the United States and other nations, which viewed the event as a thinly disguised military missile test. The Unha-3 was supposed to deliver an Earth-observing satellite to orbit, according to North Korean officials, but it broke apart and pitched into the sea shortly after liftoff.
While American intelligence officials may already know what went wrong, the rest of us will probably never get the full story, according to Brian Weeden, a technical adviser with the Secure World Foundation and a former orbital analyst with the U.S. Air Force.
"I think the U.S. military and its allies in the region probably have a good idea of what happened (perhaps more so than the North Koreans), but it is unlikely the public will ever know," Weeden told SPACE.com via email. "That type of technical intelligence data is rarely ever made public."
"It’s also very hard to speculate what went wrong, as I’ve heard conflicting reports about whether the event happened while the first stage was burning or at second-stage ignition," he added.
The Unha-3 failure was the fourth long-range rocket flop in a row for North Korea, whose secretive, unpredictable nature and status as a nuclear-armed nation have long concerned the West.
In 1998, the Hermit Kingdom attempted its first satellite launch with a rocket called Taepodong-1. North Korean officials claim the blastoff was a success, but Western observers say the satellite never made it to orbit.
A 2006 test flight of the Taepodong-2 also did not go well, with the rocket exploding just 40 seconds after liftoff. And a second satellite launch in 2009, using an advanced, three-stage variant of the Taepodong-2 called Unha-2, failed as well. The rocket's third stage apparently failed to ignite,experts say, and the satellite ended up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The Unha-3 ("Galaxy-3") is thought to be broadly similar to the Unha-2, though not much is known about the rocket for sure.
However, North Korea has been more forthcoming about this rocket launch than its past efforts. The nation invited foreign journalists to tour the Unha-3's launch site shortly before its April 13 liftoff, for example, and North Korean officials admitted the launch failure several hours after it occurred.
The Unha-3 rocket was a three-stage booster that stood about 100 feet tall (30 meters) and launched from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station located in northwestern North Korea near the village of Tongchang-ri. - space
NOTE: most likely because it was a piece of crap. Lon
The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future
The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters (Melville House Publishing)