Tuesday, September 27, 2011

FINAL UARS Update - September 27 Edition

NASA ground track shows UARS leaving Africa and reentering over the Pacific Ocean at approximately 12:01 a.m. EDT September 24. Map courtesy of NASA

Here's the final word from NASA's UARS reentry Web page
"NASA's decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite fell back to Earth at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT) on Saturday, Sept. 24. The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has determined the satellite entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at 14.1 degrees south latitude and 189.8 degrees east longitude. This location is over a broad, remote ocean area in the Southern Hemisphere, far from any major land mass. The debris field is located between 300 miles and 800 miles downrange, or generally northeast of the re-entry point. NASA is not aware of any possible debris sightings from this geographic area."
 By the way, if you live in Florida and you think you saw UARS reenter, you so totally didn't. Stop playin'. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, John Young!

John Young, 1965. He was approximately my age (34) in this Life magazine photo. 

Happy birthday to Floridian badass and originator of the Blue Steel, John Young! John and his tousled hair are both 81 years old today.

Here's a short list of things John Watts Young has accomplished in his time on the planet:
  • Flew on Gemini 3 with Gus "I Am A Total Badass" Grissom (1965);
  • Flew on Gemini 10 with Mike Collins, the original space hipster (1966);
  • Flew on Apollo 10 with his bros Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan (1969);
  • Flew on Apollo 16 with Ken Mattingly and Charlie Duke, and walked on the FREAKIN' MOON (1972); and
  • Flew the space shuttle twice like a boss (STS-1 in 1981 and STS-9/Spacelab 1 in 1983).
He also probably made that particle or whatever go faster than the speed of light, but he's too humble to take any credit for it. At any rate...the day belongs to John Young.

Friday, September 23, 2011

UARS Reentry Update: 9/23/2011

UARS is scheduled to reenter sometime between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. September 24. It may reenter over parts of Canada, Africa and Australia. Here's a link from NASA which provides more in-depth updates. The FAA has also issued an advisory of sorts.

So, who wants to have a UARS reentry party with me? This Space Available will be providing updates as this situation unfolds. 

UPDATE 9:56 p.m.: Observers in Texas saw UARS overhead still in orbit around 9:18 p.m. EDT. It has not yet begun to reenter.  

UPDATE 10:58 p.m.: UARS will reenter over parts of Canada, Africa and Australia (as well as over the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans) between 11:45 p.m. and 12:45 a.m. EDT. For more updates, check out this NASA link. Spaceflight Now has live tracking data available on its site.

UPDATE 11:39 p.m.: UARS is apparently on its last orbit. 

UPDATE 11:46 p.m.: Within an hour of reentry. 

UPDATE 12:54 a.m.: An unconfirmed report came through that UARS came down somewhere in Northern Quebec. No idea is this is true. Waiting on positive confirmation. 

UPDATE 1:56 a.m.: I am really tired. No confirmation from NASA yet as to where UARS is now located.  It is widely believed the satellite is down. I am going to bed...I will update this post tomorrow. 

UPDATE 10:14 a.m.: NASA has confirmed that UARS reentered sometime early this morning. It is believed it went down over the Pacific Ocean, although no one has confirmed this yet. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why There Are Bigger Things To Worry About Other Than That Satellite Falling To Earth

This is what the satellite which is falling from orbit - the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite - looks like. So if you see this in your backyard, you might want to call NASA and let them know. NASA photo. 

There's been a lot of hype about the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (deployed by space shuttle Discovery in 1991) falling back to Earth. The satellite is currently expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere tomorrow (also known as Friday, September 23 for those who are confused about what day it is) during the early afternoon. Before you freak out and break out the Skylab shields from 1979, here's a short primer on why you probably shouldn't be worried about this thing crashing into your house and ruining your swimming pool. 

Keep in mind that the Earth's atmosphere upon reentry is really, really, REALLY hot. I am talking about 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit hot, or something in or about that general hotness neighborhood. Most of the satellite's components will be burned up in the high atmosphere. There are parts of the satellite which are expected to survive reentry because they are made of materials which happen to have a high melting point. Only 26 parts like this have been identified. Also, the Earth is comprised of 70% water. Statistics dictate that any satellite  parts and pieces would most likely enter an ocean, never to be seen again. If you want to learn more, click on this CNN article

This is nothing compared to when Skylab was reentering in 1979 over Australia. Several large pieces of the first U.S. space station survived the reentry, and generally horrified everyone at the time. Also, Skylab weighed 70 tons. That is way larger than the pieces which may or may not enter our atmosphere around this time tomorrow. Contrary to what you may have heard, no one was injured due to Skylab's reentry. (Click on this link to read more about Skylab's reentry.)

In summation, I wouldn't stay up at night worrying about this satellite crashing on your vintage Corvette. Here's a list of things you probably should actually worry about:
  1. Making sure your car is filled with gas before you drive to work;
  2. That weird-ass light which keeps popping up and annoying you on your dashboard;
  3. The rising cost of basic things, like milk and deodorant;
  4. Making sure you brush your teeth on a regular basis; and finally
  5. Those pants look funny on you. Really, change into something different.
There. Those are some things you should legitimately be worried about.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lots of Updates: This Last Week in September Edition

John Young looking superfly in 1972 following Apollo 16. Photo from Retro Space Images on Facebook.

Okay, NASA announced several new prospective launch vehicles this week; one of these vehicles (the SLS) looks like a dope-ass Saturn V rocket with boosters.

In addition, they discovered a planet with two suns which happens not to have occurred in Star Wars movies or in Old Spice ads. DOUBLE SUN POWER!!!!!! All in all, it's been a pretty cool week on the space front. 

I have been pretty busy in real life so I haven't had much time to cover these events; however, they did end up at my Tumblr blog. If you'd like to read about these stories in further detail, check out the archives section at "As Only NASA Can."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Some Updatin' Updates - 9/10/11 Edition

Joe Kerwin makes a perfect sphere of water out of a straw in Skylab, 1973. NASA photo.

I was linked in a blog post by The Planetary Society! The Planetary Society is a non-profit space education outreach organization championed by Bill Nye, who readers may know as the ubiquitous "Science Guy" who stalked your TVs throughout the 1990s with science and math. I'd like to thank them for linking me!

Also, I contributed a blog post about Skylab II to Space Blog Alpha, which has been around since 2005 and promotes spaceflight education. It's entitled "Skylabbin' with Pete, Joe, and Paul" and I hope my readers enjoy it. I'd like to thank Space Blog Alpha for letting me contribute to their great site!

IN ADDITION...this is my 100th post on this site! Woo hoo! Party time!

STS-2 parties down before their November 1981 launch. NASA photo.

GRAIL Launch Coverage - September 10, 2011

GRAIL and its Delta II launch vehicle at LC-17B on September 8, 2011. Photo credit: NASA/Ken Thornsley.

So, I am up and it is around 8:48 a.m. Watching NASA TV in an attempt to see the twin probes GRAIL launch to their lunar destination. GRAIL is a set of two probes destined for the moon, and will be measuring the moon's gravity fields in an unprecedented lunar mission. I believe this will be the last launch from LC-17 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

8:50 a.m.: Waiting for next weather balloon data set to come in shortly after 9:00 a.m. The launch has already been scrubbed several times due to pesky high level winds. 

8:53: Apparently now we have a yellow indication on fuel tank pressure. I don't like that line of thinking. However, range is currently go. Just got news that latest weather balloon was GREEN. This is all according to NASA TV...launch director Tim Dunn will give the final word I suppose.  

8:58: NASA team is ready for launch. Countdown will resume after planned T-4 hold. Currently GO for launch. 

9:03: GRAIL is now on internal power. Standing by for release of the planned hold in 30 seconds. 

9:05: Counting down! Yay!

9:06: Spacecraft is go. Things (hopefully) are going swimmingly now.  

9:07: Range go for launch. Go GRAIL!

9:08: GO! We have launch! 

9:12 - 9-13: Four minutes into flight, now at MECO. Now at stage separation and fairing separation. Hey there GRAIL!

Photo by NASATweetup on Twitter. 
9:17: GRAIL's probes are now in a parking orbit; in an hour, another burn will take place in order to send the probes to the moon. The launch went fantastically and of course NASA delivered the wonder yet again. 


GRAIL launch video from NASA.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Jack Swigert of the Week: It's Tax Season, Oh No!

"Oh thank you, I seriously thought I was going to jail over my taxes. Now I can go back to my normal everyday activities, which include but aren't limited to flying jet planes, being a total badass and squiring insanely hot women around town." Jack Swigert receives a gift and his tax forms from American Samoa Governor John M. Haydon, April 1970. Jack famously remembered that he hadn't filed his taxes while he was in space on Apollo 13; he was granted an exemption since he was most decidedly out of the country.

I believe this photograph is from the Jean P. Haydon Museum, Fagatogo, American Samoa; if it is not, feel free to correct me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

From The Earth To The Earth: The Missions Which Never Left The Ground, Part One - 2TV-1, 1968

In 1968, these three goobers spent a week pretending they were in space. But why? Read on. NASA portraits. From left, Joe Kerwin, Vance Brand, and Joe Engle. 

By mid-1968, NASA was still working on its design of the Apollo command module. In order to make the spacecraft "human rated," NASA needed to stick three guys inside one of its Apollo capsules for a seven-day simulated moon mission. So they picked three then-rookie astronauts - Joe Kerwin (the first U.S. space doctor who flew on Skylab 2 in 1973), Vance Brand (ASTP pilot and future shuttle commander) and Joe Engle (X-15 pilot and general space badass) - and slapped them inside a fake Apollo capsule for an entire week. To NASA's credit, they at least pressurized the spacecraft's cabin and gave them some food and water. On June 16, 1968, these three poor dudes had the hatch slammed shut in their smiling faces at about 11:00 a.m. 

The three crew members of "2TV-1" wore pressure suits during the first phase of the "mission"; they gradually settled into typical in-flight garments consisting of thermal underwear and white jumpsuits, which were probably slightly soiled during the mission by food, boogers from sneezes, and shame. Before you come to the quick conclusion that this fake mission was invented to merely troll these junior astronauts, understand that IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION and engineering data about the Apollo command module were all at stake. 

Perhaps having set the Guinness Book record for the world's longest involuntary slumber party, the three intrepid explorers - who hadn't budged from their rather tiny space during that entire period - emerged 177 hours later on June 24 looking like grizzly bears. They hadn't shaved during the preceding week, and probably all wanted to throttle one another. Joe Kerwin undoubtedly wanted to strangle Joe Engle for playing rock music ("But I only like classical music! Stop playing the Animals!"), while Vance Brand wanted to punch both of the men in their stubbly grills for both being named "Joe." Okay, I just imagined that last part; according to NASA, by all reports the men exited the spacecraft in excellent physical and mental health. It is still not known if the three astronauts played the popular military game known as "Which Meal Do You Want The Most When You're Released From This Long Nightmare?" during their stint inside the capsule. (This particular game was impossible to escape during my time in the U.S. Navy, when we were forced to eat awful food for six month stretches with scarcely a delicious hamburger break.)

At this point in NASA's Apollo timeline, the command module now was rated for human flight. The lunar module also required a similar test, but I'll judiciously save that story for another post. 2TV-1 may have never left the planet, but they made plenty of advances in science, engineering, and embarrassing photo technology (if that isn't a field of study, it should be). 

They emerged looking like this. From left, a post-mission shot of Brand, Engle, and Kerwin. The shame. 

DID YOU KNOW?: 2TV-1's mission motto was Arrogans Avis Cauda Gravis, which from Latin translates to "The Proud Bird with the Heavy Tail," denoting that the mission was not leaving Earth. 2TV-1 commander Joe Kerwin suggested this phrase to describe the mission. Joe probably just thought he was really intelligent and wanted to bust out some Latin phrases to impress everyone, because he's a friggin' doctor. (Note: If you're Joe Kerwin and you're reading this, I AM JUST KIDDING; please, don't sue me.)

If you'd like to read more about 2TV-1, check out this NASA press release from June 1968

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Workin' Hard Like A Boss In FL

Deke Slayton talks to Alan Shepard during Al's 1961 suborbital flight like a boss. Life magazine photo.

First, the good news: I have an awesome new job, and things in This Space Availableland (located in This Space Available, Florida, of course) are going pretty well at the moment. 

However, I won't have as much time - except during the weekends - to update this space, so I will go longer without newer updates. However, don't despair - I will still keep you, dear reader, up-to-date with the latest badassery in spaceflight as best as I can.

This week, a lot of my space tweep friends are going to see the GRAIL launch on Florida's eastern coast, so I will have some cool pictures and video of that event. I am hoping to make it to MSL (the Mars Curiosity mission) event in November...we'll see how that goes. At any rate, I wish you all a great week.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Apollo 18, Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Want Mah Money Back From The Theater

Gus Grissom's facial expression above sums up my reaction to the newly-released Apollo 18 movie. 1959 photo from Life magazine.

Yes, I did pay $10 to see the hot mess summer blockbuster smash Apollo 18.

If you love NASA, the Apollo program, and tastefully executed projects in general, I recommend that you should probably stay away from this movie. My extended review is coming up soon in Popshifter.

As a palate cleanser, I had to watch this vintage footage tonight, and just admire it for the gorgeousness it was. Ahhhh, nighttime Apollo launch, sans craziness.