April 4, 2020

23.10.12: Exciting Changes & More at the Kennedy Space Center.

39A +Solar Halo! (All photos by Author).

New and exciting things are afoot along the U.S. Space Coast. This past week, we had the chance to witness the transition of history up close as the age of the space shuttle comes to an end and we move into an era where NASA gets back to what it knows best; exploration. It’s been a bitter-sweet year, watching the four remaining orbiters (Enterprise, Endeavour, Discovery & Atlantis) get dispersed throughout the country.

We were thrilled to be able to witness the very last orbiter to occupy the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) before its transfer to the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex on November 2nd of this year;

We always seem to be “drawn”ť to Atlantis. The two launches that we had the privilege to witness up close where both Atlantis; STS-125 and the final repair mission to the Hubble from the visitor center, and STS-132 from the press site during the #NASATweetup. With the arrival of Endeavour to Los Angeles, an orbiter will never take to the skies again. It seems strange to watch the shuttle fleet go into retirement. I remember watching the very first drop tests of Enterprise carried out at Edwards as a kid in the late 70′s. It was always assumed that the shuttle fleet would grow and become a mainstay of the space program as we pressed outward from low Earth orbit as a dedicated work horse. It’s a strange sort of space policy we’ve ended up with, one that goes in fits and starts from one administration to the next.

Atlantis in the VAB.

But new beginnings are afoot, both in the space program and at the KSC visitor complex. Atlantis is scheduled to go on permanent display in July 2013, and will feature a thrilling exhibit showcasing the orbiter as if suspended in space with its payload bay doors open. A Rocket Garden Cafe is now open for business, with food that’s out of this world. Tours are also currently allowing folks to get up close to previously off-limits areas, such as launch pad 39A & the VAB. Signs of a brave new era are evident, as SpaceX has begun routine missions to the ISS and NASA’s Orion/MPCV is slated to once again take U.S. astronauts spaceward in the coming years. It was thrilling, just weeks ago, to watch the Falcon 9 rocket headed northeastward after the ISS; hopefully, that’ll once again become a frequent sight for U.S. Space Coast residents and visitors.

Historic Launch Pad 39A.

Do make an effort to visit the KSC as these “times of transition”ť are often the best to gain unprecedented access to some fascinating locales in space history. A big shout out and thanks to Andrea Farmer and @ExploreKSC for making it all possible!


20.02.11: A Snapshot of a Primordial Galaxy.

When it comes to the Hubble Space Telescope, the hits just keep on a’ comin’… earlier this year, researchers pushed the refurbished telescope to its limits, revealing what may prove to be most distant galaxy (or indeed object) yet seen. At 13.2 light years distant, the smudge pictured above would have been from a time when the universe was only about 500 million years old.

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Review: Hubble 3D IMAX.

After much anticipation, we finally had a chance to make the pilgrimage to the Kennedy Space Center earlier this week to catch the IMAX film Hubble: 3D! All we’ve got to say is…wow! This is definitely one not to miss. Hubble 3D takes you from the launch pad to on-orbit repairs following the crew of STS-125 as they train for a mission that almost never was. But the film is more than simply a tale of a telescope; Hubble 3D is no less than a testament to mans quest for understanding in the universe. Some of the 3-Dimensional fly-arounds were particularly captivating; I felt as if I could reach out and touch some of those proto-solar cocoons in M42 as we dived in!

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2010: A Lookback at the Year in Science and a Look Ahead.

2009 was a year of silent triumph in the world of science. Unmanned spacecraft scoured the solar system, while at home, we saw the first tentative steps signaling a transitioning of manned spaceflight. Indeed, as we pause to enter a new decade, all eyes are on change and what it will bring about for science and the world at large. As we endeavor to keep up with our ceaseless calendar, here’s the Astroguyz down and dirty on happenings in 2009 A.D. and a look ahead;

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15.10.09:Watch the Hubble Repair Online!

Its out! After much waiting, PBS’s flagship science program NOVA has at last begun putting the new season up online for viewing! This will assure that those of us who now exclusively get their media via the Internet, such as ourselves here at Astroguyz HQ, receive our weekly fix. And the change-over could not have been timelier; the first episode we previewed was Hubble’s Amazing Rescue, the STS-125 mission to save the Space Telescope earlier this year. The episode follows the dangerous repair mission from the tank training on the ground to the problems encountered and overcome while in orbit. The personalities of astronauts Mike Massimino (a.k.a. The “Tweeting astronaut”) and Megan MacArthur shine through in this engaging episode. And hey, we learned a thing or two; I’d heard about the nut capture plate for instance, but had never seen it in action. Lots of stunning IMAX footage was shot during this amazing mission for eventual use on the big screen. Be sure to give the NOVA site a peek as new episodes are now going up!

TopStars and the Hubble Space Telescope Heritage.

Now that the final servicing mission to the Hubble is winding down, it’s an excellent chance to reflect on the heritage of the Space Telescope, as well as announce an exciting program connected to the Hubble starting this year.

I first heard about the Hubble Top Stars program through Western Governors’ University (WGU rocks!) where I’m currently enrolled in my quest for a Bachelor’s Science Teaching degree. Top Stars is run by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and is sponsored by NASA. Top Stars is looking for submissions on the best examples of using Hubble for inspiring science, technology, or engineering in education. The winners will receive a high quality Hubble print, official recognition and teleconferencing opportunities with NASA engineers. [Read more...]

Astro-Event of the Week: 05.18.09: Spot a Hubble Classic!

As all eyes are now in orbit following the intrepid crew of the shuttle Atlantis as they carry out the final repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope, now is a good time to track down one of its classic targets. One of Hubble’s most enduring photographs is that of the Eagle Nebula. Our challenge to you is to try and spy this illusive nebula. A broad, emission nebula in the constellation Serpens, this also has the multiple designations of M16 in the messier catalog and NGC 6611. Many folks, even seasoned amateurs, have never viewed this extraordinary object.

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Viewing the STS-125 launch and a Servicing Mission 4 Update.

On Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 2:01PM EDT local the Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on a historic mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope(HST) one last time. The day was blistering hot at the Kennedy Space Center(KSC), but the launch went off without a hitch. I’d like to share our notes on the launch viewing experience, as well as give you an update as to what’s happening in orbit.

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Astro-Event of the Week: 05.11.09: See STS-125 dock with Hubble!

First; the good news. This week’s potential launch of Atlantis on STS-125 for it’s much delayed servicing mission (the 4th and final) to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) will provide spectacular views, both of the initial launch along the Space Coast of Florida and the dawn and dusk skies as it chases the orbiting observatory. Now for the bad; the current orbit of Hubble is positioned such that most of the northern hemisphere won’t see the action! The HST is inclined at a 28.5 degree orbit, far different than the normal 51.6 degree orbit the shuttle orbiters must attain to dock with the ISS.

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Review: The Universe in a Mirror by Robert Zimmerman.

NASA is going back to visit and old friend, one more time.

As we gear up for the collective adventure of the final (?) shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST),  The Universe in a Mirror: the Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who built It by Robert Zimmerman serves as a fine look back at the history of the storied telescope, as well as a peek at where we might be headed. The tale of how Hubble came to be traces its origins back to past the dawn of the space age. Although much press, both good and bad, has been written on Hubble, much of its origin has never been told. The tale the author weaves in Universe is a fascinating look into the politics of NASA and how the telescope evolved over the periods of successive administrations. [Read more...]

November 2008: News & Notes.

STS-125 Update: The final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope is still officially on hold status, although an unofficial date of February 12th, 2009 is under current review. On October 25th, NASA engineers announced the reactivation of the main camera out of safe mode, which is certainly encouraging. The shuttle Endeavour, STS-126 headed for the International Space Station, now moves into the forward launch slot. Endeavour, formerly a backup to Atlantis, is slated to launch on November 14th.  

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Astro-event for October 6th-12th, 2008: Spot the Hubble Space Telescope!

I almost didn’t do this weeks’ event. The Hubble space telescope is in trouble. This past week, the failure of Hubble’s Control Unit- Side A has meant that the telescope is effectively crippled in space; engineers will attempt to transfer services to the Side -B backup, which hasn’t been used since the telescope was put in orbit in 1990.

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