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Tuesday, 18 November 2008

NASA - Another View

The International Space Station's Expedition 18 crew provided a close-up view of Endeavour's tail section. The image provides partial views of the shuttle's main engines, orbital maneuvering system pods, vertical stabilizer, the payload bay door panels and the Leonard Multi-Purpose Logistics Module located in the cargo bay.

Before docking with the station, astronaut Chris Ferguson, STS-126 commander, flew the shuttle through a roll pitch maneuver or basically a backflip to allow the space station crew a good view of Endeavour's heat shield. Using digital still cameras equipped with both 400 and 800 millimeter lenses, the station crew took a number of photos of the shuttle's thermal protection system and sent them down to teams on the ground for analysis. A 400 millimeter lens was used for this image.

Image Credit: NASA

NASA - Nations Around the World Mark 10th Anniversary of International Space Station

HOUSTON -- Nations around the world will join together to mark a milestone in space exploration this week, celebrating the 10th birthday of a unique research laboratory, the International Space Station.
Now the largest spacecraft ever built, the orbital assembly of the space station began with the launch from Kazakhstan of its first bus-sized component, Zarya, on Nov. 20, 1998. The launch began an international construction project of unprecedented complexity and sophistication.
The station is a venture of international cooperation among NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, and 11 members of the European Space Agency, or ESA: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. More than 100,000 people in space agencies and contractor facilities in 37 U.S. states and throughout the world are involved in this endeavor.
"The station's capability and sheer size today are truly amazing," said International Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini. "The tremendous technological achievement in orbit is matched only by the cooperation and perseverance of its partners on the ground. We have overcome differences in language, geography and engineering philosophies to succeed."
Only a few weeks after the U.S.-funded, Russian-built, Zarya module was launched from Kazakhstan, the space shuttle carried aloft the Unity connector module in December 1998. Constructed on opposite sides of Earth, Unity and Zarya met for the first time in space and were joined to begin the orbital station's assembly and a decade of peaceful cooperation.
Ten years later, the station's mass has expanded to more than 627,000 pounds, and its interior volume is more than 25,000 cubic feet, comparable to the size of a five-bedroom house. Since Zarya's launch as the early command, control and power module, there have been 29 additional construction flights to the station: 27 aboard the space shuttle and two additional Russian launches.
One hundred sixty seven individual representing 14 countries have visited the complex. Crews have eaten some 19,000 meals aboard the station since the first crew took up residence in 2000. Through the course of 114 spacewalks and unmatched robotic construction in space, the station's truss structure has grown to 291 feet long so far. Its solar arrays now span to 28,800 square feet, large enough to cover six basketball courts.
The International Space Station hosts 19 research facilities, including nine sponsored by NASA, eight by ESA and two by JAXA. Cooperation among international teams of humans and robots is expected to become a mainstay of space exploration throughout our solar system. The 2005 NASA Authorization Act recognized the U.S. orbital segment as the first national laboratory beyond Earth, opening it for additional research by other government agencies, academia and the private sector.
"With the International Space Station, we have learned so many things -- and we're going to take that knowledge and apply it to flying to the moon and Mars," said Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke, now aboard the station. "Everything we're learning so close to home, only 240 miles away from the planet, we can apply to the moon 240,000 miles away."
To take a virtual tour of the International Space Station and learn more about the current mission, visit: 
To find out how to see the station from your own backyard, visit: 
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Monday, 17 November 2008

NASA - Consolidated Launch Manifest

Launch Schedule

Consolidated Launch Manifest
Space Shuttle Flights and ISS Assembly Sequence

+ View computer-generated artist's renderings of future ISS assembly flights

Nov. 14, 2008
  • Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM)
Under ReviewN/AAtlantis
  • N/A
Feb. 12, 2009
May 15, 2009
  • Kibo Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility (JEM EF)
  • Kibo Japanese Experiment Logistics Module - Exposed Section (ELM-ES)
  • Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC)
Establish Six Person Crew Capability
July 30, 2009
  • Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM)
  • Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier (LMC)
Targeted for Aug. 2009 5RRussian Soyuz
  • Mini Research Module 2 (MRM2)
Targeted for Sept. 2009
  • Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle
Oct. 15, 2009
  • EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 1 (ELC1)
  • EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 2 (ELC2)
Dec. 10, 2009
  • Node 3
  • Cupola
Feb. 11, 2010
  • Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM)
  • Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier (LMC)
April 8, 2010
  • Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC)
  • Mini Research Module (MRM1)
May 31, 2010
  • EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3 (ELC3)
  • EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4)
Targeted for Dec. 2011
3RRussian Proton
  • Multipurpose Laboratory Module with European Robotic Arm (ERA)
* Two shuttle-equivalent flights for contingency
Notes: Additional Progress and Soyuz flights for crew transport, logistics and resupply are not listed.

Converging Planets and Leonid Meteors

Space Weather News for Nov. 16, 2008

EVENING PLANETS: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look southwest. The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, are shining through the twilight side by side. You'll want to keep an eye on these two because they are drawing noticeably closer together every night.  Venus and Jupiter are converging on a patch of sky in Sagittarius where they will have a spectacular double-conjunction with the Moon at the end of the month. Don't wait until then, though. Visit for sky maps and start watching now.

LEONID METEOR WATCH:  The Leonid meteor shower peaks this year on Nov. 17th and 18th.  Bright moonlight will probably spoil the show, but not necessarily.  Researchers who study Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, the source of the Leonids, say Earth is going to pass through one or two of the comet's dusty filaments.  Peak rates of 20 to 100 meteors per hour are possible during the early hours of Nov. 17th (especially 0000-0200 UT) and again during the waning hours of Nov. 18th (around 2130 UT).  These times favor sky watchers in Europe, Africa, and Asia.  Smaller numbers of Leonids could appear between the anticipated peak times. Meteor enthusiasts everywhere should monitor the sky on Nov. 17th and 18th; the hours before local dawn are usually best.

NASA - STS-126 MCC Status Report #05

Watched the docking live on NASA TV live last night-very interesting

STS-126 MCC Status Report #05

The space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station at 4:01 p.m. CST, carrying the Leonardo logistics module with over 14,000 pounds of cargo for the complex.

Endeavour Commander Chris Ferguson guided the shuttle to a docking with the station as the two spacecraft flew 212 miles above the northern border of India, near China. Before closing the final 600 feet to the station, Ferguson flew the shuttle through a slow backflip, allowing the station's Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff to take photos that ground experts will review to assess the health of Endeavour's heat shield.

The shuttle and station crews opened hatches and greeted one another at 6:16 p.m., beginning more than a week of joint operations between the two crews. The crews will collaborate on the delivery of the key life support and habitability systems that will enable long-term, self-sustaining station operations for a six-person resident crew. The crews also will conduct four spacewalks to service and lubricate the station's two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints that allow its solar arrays to track the sun.

Transfer of equipment and supplies between Endeavour's middeck and the station began and the Leonardo cargo module will be installed on the station Monday so that its contents can be unloaded.

Endeavour also brought astronaut Sandra Magnus to the station, who will officially take over for Chamitoff as a member of the station crew tonight when her custom Soyuz seatliner is installed. Chamitoff – who will then formally be a mission specialist aboard the shuttle – will return home after 167 days as a station crew member.

The crews used the station robotic arm to hand off the Orbiter Boom Sensor System to the shuttle robotic arm in case it is needed for further orbiter heat shield inspections.

The crew is scheduled to go to bed at 12:25 a.m. Monday and be awakened at 8:25 a.m. The next shuttle status report will be issued after crew wake, or earlier if events warrant.

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NASA - Endeavour Lifts Off!....

Blazing light surrounds space shuttle Endeavour, eclipsing the light from the nearby full moon, as it roars into space from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center during the launch of the STS-126 mission.

Liftoff was on time at 7:55 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 14, 2008. STS-126 is the 124th space shuttle flight and the 27th flight to the International Space Station.

The mission will feature four spacewalks and work that will prepare the space station to house six crew members for long-duration missions.

NASA - STS-126 Launch Podcast....

Candrea Thomas/Launch Commentator: Ten…
GLS is go for main engine start.
Candrea Thomas/Launch Commentator: Seven… six… five… four… three… two… one… booster ignition. And liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour -- preparing our home in space for a larger international family
Kyle Humphries/Mission Control Commentator: Houston now controlling.
Commander Chris Ferguson: Houston -- Endeavour -- roll program.
Alan Poindexter/ Spacecraft Communicatior: Roger, roll Endeavour.
Kyle Humphries/Mission Control Commentator: Commander Chris Ferguson confirming Endeavour is rolling on course for rendezvous with the International Space Station. Speed at 1,000 mph. Altitude one mile, downrange distance six and one half miles from Kennedy Space Center already. Three engines slowing down to the 72 percent of their rated thrust, as the shuttle goes through the realm of maximum aerodynamic pressure -- altitude five miles, downrange eight miles from Kennedy Space Center -- speed 1,500 mph.
Alan Poindexter/ Spacecraft Communicatior: Endeavour, go at throttle up.
Kyle Humphries/Mission Control Commentator: All systems remain go. Speed 2,000 mph, altitude 10 miles. Downrange systems 12 miles from Kennedy Space Center. It's one and a half minutes since launch -- Endeavour has consumed two and a quarter million pounds of propellant -- and weighs less than half of what it did at launch.
Standing by for burnout of the twin solid rocket boosters and jettison.
Booster officer confirms a clean separation of the two solid rockets, Endeavour's three main engines continuing the second stage, accelerating at 37 million horsepower.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Taurid Meteor Shower

Space Weather News for Nov. 6, 2008

TAURID METEOR SHOWER: The annual Taurid meteor shower is underway and it could be a good show. 2008 is a "swarm year" for the Taurids. Between Nov. 5th and 12th, Earth is due to pass through an unusually dense swarm of gritty debris from parent comet 2P/Encke. When a similar encounter happened in 2005, sky watchers observed a slow drizzle of midnight fireballs for nearly two weeks.  Whether 2008 will be as good as 2005, however, remains to be seen. In 2005, the swarm encounter was more central; Earth passed through the middle of the cloud.  In 2008, forecasters believe we are closer to the outskirts.  How much this will affect the shower, no one knows. The best time to look is during the hours around midnight when the constellation Taurus is high in the sky.

Visit for sky maps and photos of the ongoing shower.

Would you like a phone call to alert you when the ISS is about to fly over your hometown--or when auroras are active--or when meteor showers erupt? Sign up for SpaceWeather PHONE:

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Fireball report, October 29-30

The reply I recieved about the small fireball I see on 29-30 October...

Dear Colin,

Thanks very much for your fireball report from October 29-30. Much appreciated, and congratulations on spotting such a fine meteor!

Unfortunately, but as is so often the case, I've not had any other sightings from around 18:06 UT that night as yet, but your report will stay on-file in case anything more turns up. I'll add it to the SPA's "Recent Fireball Sightings" page in my next update as well, which should hopefully be online in a day or two, and which may bring in some belated observations.

Your description makes clear this meteor cannot have originated from a radiant in Cygnus, because meteors from a given shower are always very short when their paths start close to their radiant. Such a very long path as you mentioned is only possible for the random sporadic meteors, or a shower whose radiant is low in the sky. From the details you sent, this particular meteor may have been a Taurid, since although you suggested it was of speed class 3 or 4, a 60 to 70 degree path taking about 10 seconds to accomplish is meteorically slow to very slow (so, of class 1 or 2). I'd need more precise details on just where the apparent path started and ended in the sky (RA and Dec positions for both points ideally) to determine if it was a probable Taurid or not, however.

If you did record, or can recall, more information on the object's sky-path, I'd be pleased to see it, though I appreciate the problems of trying to remember such information exactly enough this long after the event, if it wasn't noted at the time.

Good luck for more such sightings before too long, and all best wishes, Alastair.

Alastair McBeath,
Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy.
Meteor homepage:
E-mail: <> (messages under 150 kB in size only, please)

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Grazing Occultation of Neptune Thursday November 6th 2008

Special Electronic News Bulletin 2008 November 4

By Jon Harper
Occultation Section Director

Early in the evening of 6 November, observers in the north and west of
the UK will have an opportunity (weather permitting) to observe an
occultation of Neptune, while those in the south and east will see the
planet close to the southern limb of the Moon. The most interesting
place to be is on the graze line, which crosses the country from SW to
NE, from north Cornwall and north Devon, via south Wales, Stoke on
Trent, Barnsley and York to Whitby on the North Sea coast. In the
graze zone you may expect to see the planet dim and blink out several
times as it is successively hidden and then reappears behind mountains
on the Moon's dark southern limb. After leaving England, the graze
line continues towards the NE following the coastline of Norway.
I have produced a map showing the graze line crossing the country, and
another showing the position of the m(v) +7.9 planet in relation to
the gibbous waxing Moon's dark limb at the time. The maps may be seen
in the most recent issue of 'Popular Astronomy' or can be accessed
from the Occultation Section's website, via: or directly at: .

Approximate times (UT) of the grazing event for various UK places on
the line are as follows -- but it would be a good idea to set up and
locate Neptune 15 minutes or more before the predicted time: Lizard
Point 18:44, Barnstaple 18:46, Lynmouth 18:48, St Brides (S. Wales
coast) 18:49, Brecon 18:50, Stoke on Trent 18:51, Barnsley 18:52, York
18:53, Whitby 18:54. The altitude and azimuth of the event are about
22 and 183 degrees respectively, and the Moon's age is 8.8 days.
The next UK lunar occultation of Neptune is not until 2016 June 25
at around 23:55 UT.

Bulletin compiled by Clive Down

(c) 2008 the Society for Popular Astronomy.