• 2010 nasa special
    a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses Earth's southern Hemisphere. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow crosses the South Pacific Ocean where it makes no landfall except for Mangaia (Cook Islands) and Easter Island (Isla de Pascua).

Space Shuttle Mission: STS-133

Technician gets ready to scan Discovery's tank.  

Image above: Technician is getting ready to take a computed radiography (CR) image scan of the tank. The red machine in the foreground is the CR device. Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin

During space shuttle Discovery's final spaceflight, the STS-133 crew members will take important spare parts to the International Space Station along with the Express Logistics Carrier-4.

Additional Data Evaluated, External Tank's New Cracks To Be Repaired

The Space Shuttle Program management team was provided a status Thursday on the continuing investigation, testing and analysis regarding shuttle Discovery's External Tank stringer crack issue.

Following the rollback of Discovery's STS-133 stack to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Wednesday, Dec. 22, engineers immediately began the work to continue evaluation of the intertank area of the External Tank. Since the rollback data analysis from a tanking test has continued to be reviewed along with “non-destructive evaluation” (X-rays) of stringers that were not accessible at the launch pad.

The X-rays showed four additional small cracks on three stringers on the opposite side of the tank from Discovery, and managers elected to repair those cracks in a similar fashion to repairs made on cracks discovered after the Nov. 5 launch attempt. That work is estimated to take 2–3 days. Any further work will be evaluated thoroughly early next week after additional data is reviewed. The hardware is in place to perform any modification. That work would be performed inside the VAB.

Managers continue to evaluate an option to perform known and practiced modifications on additional stringers. A decision may be made as early as Monday, Jan. 3.

The next available launch date is Thursday, Feb. 3 at the opening of a window that extends through Feb. 10. The current preferred launch time on Feb. 3 is 1:37 a.m. EST.

NASA Finds Cracks in Space Shuttle’s Tank Supports, AFP Reports

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said four more small cracks have been found in the metal supports of the space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank, Agence France-Presse reported.
The shuttle’s final mission, originally scheduled for Nov. 5, has been postponed several times because of such cracks and necessary repairs; repairing the latest ones is likely to take two or three days, the news agency said.
It’s too early to say whether the mission, now planned for February, will be delayed again, AFP cited NASA as saying.

NASA: More cracks found on Discovery's external fuel tank

X-ray scans reveal more structural cracks. Image: NASA. 
X-ray scans reveal more structural cracks. Image: NASA.

Although NASA’s aging fleet of space shuttles are due to be withdrawn from service in 2011, potentially forced early retirement could be looming after engineers working on the Discovery uncovered a fresh batch of structural flaws on its external fuel tank.

According to an AFP report citing official NASA confirmation, four small cracks have been located on the external fuel tank’s metal support struts, which will apparently require two or three days to remedy.

Initially shunted back from its November 5 launch date due to inclement weather and technical issues, the shuttle suffered a more significant stream of delays following the discovery of damage to the fuel tank’s foam insulation, which, in turn, led engineers to find worrying cracks in the tank’s aluminium skin.

Once safely airborne, Discovery will spend a total of 11 days re-supplying the International Space Station, during which time it will deliver a robotic assistant and install a new storage capsule.

The Discovery is presently housed within the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where teams are scanning the orbiter, its external fuel tank and the two solid rocket boosters for further possible damage.

NASA presently has Discovery’s final mission (STS-133) pencilled in for a tentative launch on February 3.

Florida Peninsula


Launch and Landing

Mission: STS-133
Space Shuttle: Discovery
Primary Payload: Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM)
Launch Date: No earlier than Feb. 3, 2011
Launch Time: 1:34 a.m. EST
Launch Pad: 39A
Landing Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Mission Duration: 11 days
Inclination/Altitude: 51.6 degrees/122 nautical miles

Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach  

Image above: Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach watches over the tanking test of space shuttle Discovery at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Tanking Test
A daylong test of space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank took place Dec. 17 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to help engineers evaluate the stringers that make up the ribbed portion of the tank. Two stringers cracked during fueling operations in November. That launch attempt was scrubbed after the ground umbilical carrier plate developed a leak.

The tanking test filled Discovery's 15-story-tall external fuel tank with more than 535,000 gallons of super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, the same propellants used to power the shuttle's three main engines. The liquid oxygen is at minus 297 degrees F and the liquid hydrogen is at minus 423 degrees F.

Technicians placed 39 strain gauges and 50 thermal sensors in the stringer areas of the tank to precisely measure the pressure on the stringers as the tank chills with the addition of the propellants. Typically, the tank's diameter shrinks by about an inch as it cools down.

Results of the test will not be known immediately. The data from the test will be analyzed at other NASA centers where small-scale tests of stringer material, design and construction will take place. Space Shuttle Program managers expect the information to give them a root cause for the cracking of the stringers and allow them to proceed toward the launch of Discovery on the STS-133 mission.

Teams plan to roll Discovery back into the Vehicle Assembly Building no earlier than Tuesday, Dec. 21, so technicians can scan the stringers on the back side of the external tank, the ones not facing the shuttle. Foam also will be reapplied after the sensors are removed from the tank.

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 29 December 2010

All ISS systems continue to function nominally, except those noted previously or below.

FE-4 Dmitri Kondratyev conducted the regular daily early-morning check of the aerosol filters at the Russian Elektron O2 generator which Maxim Suraev had installed on 10/19/09 in gaps between the BZh Liquid Unit and the oxygen outlet pipe (filter FA-K) plus hydrogen outlet pipe (filter FA-V). [Dima will inspect the filters again before bedtime tonight, currently a daily requirement per plan, with photographs to be taken if the filter packing is discolored.]

FE-5 Nespoli continued his controlled diet for his first (FD15) Pro K session. His diet menu is being recorded on his diet log today and tomorrow (during the next session, FD30, he's free to eat what he wants but must log it). [For Pro K, there are five in-flight sampling sessions scheduled (FD15, FD30, FD60, FD120, FD180), to be shared with the NUTRITION w/Repository protocol, each one with five days of diet & urine pH logging and photography on the last day. The crewmember prepares a diet log and then annotates quantities of food packets consumed and supplements taken. Urine collections are spread over 24 hrs; samples go into the MELFI (Minus Eighty Laboratory for ISS) within 30 min after collection. Blood samples, on the last day, are centrifuged in the RC (Refrigerated Centrifuge) and placed in MELFI at -80 degC. There is an 8-hr fasting requirement prior to the blood draw (i.e., no food or drink, but water ingestion is encouraged). MELFI constraints: Maximum MELFI dewar open time: 60 sec; at least 45 min between MELFI dewar door openings.]

Beginning this morning and continuing for the next 24 hrs, Nespoli is also collecting his FD15 NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K urine samples for deposit in MELFI. Later in the day, Paolo set up the blood draw equipment, to be used tomorrow for his first phlebotomy. [The operational products for blood & urine collections for the HRP (Human Research Program) payloads were revised some time ago, based on crew feedback, new cold stowage hardware, and IPV capabilities. Generic blood & urine procedures have been created to allow an individual crewmember to select their payload complement and see specific requirements populated. Individual crewmembers will select their specific parameter in the procedures to reflect their science complement. Different crewmembers will have different required tubes and hardware configurations, so they must verify their choice selection before continuing with operations to ensure their specific instruction.

Using the equipment he set up yesterday, CDR Kelly acted as CMO (Crew Medical Officer) for Nespoli's first session with the periodic 30-min US PHS (Periodic Health Status)/Without Blood Labs exam. Afterwards, Paolo assumed the CMO job to assist FE-6 Coleman with her first PHS w/o Blood Labs session. FE-5 then logged the data and stowed the equipment. A subjective evaluation was part of the test. [The assessment used the AMP (Ambulatory Medical Pack), stethoscope, oral disposable thermometer and ABPC (Automatic Blood Pressure Cuff) from the ALSP (Advanced Life Support Pack). All data were then logged on the MEC (Medical Equipment Computer) and the hardware stowed. The PHS exam is guided by special IFEP (In-Flight Examination Program) software on the MEC (Medical Equipment Computer) laptop.]

Coleman performed the periodic status check on the MERLIN (Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator) Galley fridge, looking for any internal condensation moisture which would require replacing desiccants. [MERLIN, the Galley fridge, is used for cold storage of crew food and drink. If Cady found moisture, a change-out of the desiccant will be scheduled.]

In support of ER6 (EXPRESS Rack 6) troubleshooting by the ground, FE-6 checked out four "Quatech" card connections on the ER6 ELC (Express Rack Laptop Computer), copied log files to a jump drive and transferred them to an SSC (Station Support Computer) for OCA downlink. [After a remote software load by ground controllers yesterday, the ELC failed to reboot, resulting in a loss of the rack's health and status data to the ground. Ground teams decided to leave ER6 running overnight, since it contains the crew galley and still has functional smoke detection capabilities.]

Scott Kelly completed the periodic (approx. weekly) WRS (Water Recovery System) sampling in Node-3 using the TOCA (Total Organic Carbon Analyzer), after first initializing the software and priming (filling) the TOCA water sample hose. [After the approximately 2 hr TOCA analysis, results were transferred to the SSC-5 (Station Support Computer 5) laptop via USB drive for downlink, and the data were also logged.]

Afterwards, the CDR collected the periodic water samples from the EHS PWD (Environmental Health Systems / Potable Water Dispenser) Ambient & Hot ports for subsequent analysis. [Collected were one 50mL sample in a small waste water bag & one 125mL sample for in-flight chemistry/microbiology analysis using MCD (microbial capture device) and CDB (coliform detection bag) from the U.S. WMK (water microbiology kit) for treatment/processing after no more than 6 hours of the collection. Ambient sampling also included 1000mL for post-flight analysis on the ground, 250mL for TOCA analysis. From the PWD Hot port, 50mL were collected for post-flight and 125mL for in-flight microbiology analysis. This includes processing of water samples in the MWAK (microbial water analysis kit) for inflight coliform bacteria (Escherichia coli) detection. Results of the on-board processing will be available after a two-day incubation period (T+2d), in case of the MWAK after 4-6 days of incubation.]

Sample collections by the CDR today also involved "Exp-26 Week 14" specimen of potable water in the SM (Service Module) for chemical & microbial analysis from the SVO-ZV & SRV-Hot taps, the latter after preliminary heating of the water (three heating cycles) and flushing. [Collected were two 750 mL micro postflight samples for chemical post-flight analysis from both taps, to be returned on ULF5, one 150mL sample from SVO-ZV & one 50mL sample from SRV-K Hot, both for in-flight microbial analysis. The samples were stored later by Cady Coleman who also reclaimed the flush water for technical use.]

FE-1 Alex Kaleri configured the hardware for the Russian MBI-21 PNEVMOKARD experiment, then conducted the 1h15m session, his 3rd, which forbids moving or talking during data recording. The experiment is controlled from the RSE-med A31p laptop and uses the TENZOPLUS sphygmomanometer to measure arterial blood pressure. The experiment was then closed out and the test data were downlinked via OCA. [PNEVMOKARD (Pneumocard) attempts to obtain new scientific information to refine the understanding about the mechanisms used by the cardiorespiratory system and the whole body organism to spaceflight conditions. By recording (on PCMCIA cards) the crewmember's electrocardiogram, impedance cardiogram, low-frequency phonocardiogram (seismocardiogram), pneumotachogram (using nose temperature sensors), and finger photoplethismogram, the experiment supports integrated studies of (1) the cardiovascular system and its adaptation mechanisms in various phases of a long-duration mission, (2) the synchronization of heart activity and breathing factors, as well as the cardiorespiratory system control processes based on the variability rate of physiological parameters, and (3) the interconnection between the cardiorespiratory system during a long-duration mission and the tolerance of orthostatic & physical activities at the beginning of readaptation for predicting possible reactions of the crewmembers organism during the their return to ground.]

Afterwards, Kaleri worked about an hour in the MRM2 Poisk module, installing and connecting a BSK-2V power-switching unit (blok silovoiy kommutatsii) behind panel 202 on Plane III.

Alex also conducted another active session for the Russian experiment KPT-10 "Kulonovskiy Kristall" (Coulomb Crystal), then downlinked video footage obtained with two SONY HVR-Z1J camcorders, in two parts sequenced to RGS (Russian Groundsite) passes (~9:30am & 11:00am EST). [KPT-10 studies dynamic and structural characteristics of the Coulomb systems formed by charged dispersed diamagnetic macroparticles in the magnetic trap, investigating the following processes onboard the ISS RS (Russian Segment): condensed dust media, Coulomb crystals, and formation of Coulomb liquids due to charged macroparticles. Coulomb systems are structures following Coulomb's Law, a law of physics describing the electrostatic interaction between electrically charged particles. It was essential to the development of the theory of electromagnetism.]

FE-5 Nespoli installed the 4 PaRIS (Passive Rack Isolation System) lock-down alignment guides on the FCF (Fluids & Combustion Facility) in the CIR (Combustion Integrated Rack) at Lab loc. S3 to protect the rack from external loading events such as dockings & reboosts.

Having set up the high-speed high-resolution video camera for the CCF (Capillary Channel Flow) experiment in the MSG (Microgravity Science Glovebox) on 12/27, Kelly today returned to the MSG to adjust the camera as per request from the PI (Payload Investigator). [Ground monitoring had shown the Optical Diagnostics Unit to be slightly askew, impacting science. Scott corrected this today. CCF is a versatile experiment for studying a critical variety of inertial-capillary dominated flows key to spacecraft systems that cannot be studied on the ground. CCF results will help innovate existing and inspire new applications in the portion of the aerospace community that is challenged by the containment, storage, and handling of large liquid inventories (fuels, cryogens, and water) aboard spacecraft. The results will be immediately useful for the design, testing, and instrumentation for verification and validation of liquid management systems of current orbiting, design stage, and advanced spacecraft envisioned for future lunar and Mars missions. They will also be used to improve life support system design, phase separation, and enhance current system reliability.]

Later, Scott had ~2.5 hrs set aside to perform IFM (In-Flight Maintenance) on the FIR (Fluids Integrated Rack), with Paolo assisting by physically restraining the FIR while it was in a free-floating condition as Scott worked on it. [The overdue R&R (removal & replacement) of a damaged snubber at the lower left of the FIR required a realignment of FIR snubber & snubber cups to support ARIS (Active Rack Isolation System) pushrod operation. Paolo's rack restraint was necessary to prevent damage to the pushrods. Activities also included verification of pushrod locking sleeves being in the unlocked position.]

With a newly-build EDV-U container in the WHC (Waste & Hygiene Compartment), FE-6 Coleman reconnected the WHC from backflow back to feeding the UPA (Urine Processor Assembly), then reported the flush counter, a periodic activity.

Cady also did the periodic (~weekly) inspection & maintenance, as required, of the CGBA-4 (Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus 4) and CGBA-5 payloads in their ERs (EXPRESS Racks).

Paolo completed Part 2 of the periodic noise level measurements survey in the ISS interior for Week 14, using the SLM (Sound Level Meter) equipment. Data download to the MEC (Medical Equipment Computer) was a subsequent activity. [A total of 60 acoustic measurements were obtained in Parts 1 & 2, specifically at 9 locations in the Lab, with WHC (Waste & Hygiene Compartment) turned off, 10 in the JPM, 7 in COL (Columbus Orbital Laboratory), 10 in Node-2, 8 in Node-3, 4 in Node-1, and 12 in SM. The SLM gives instantaneous noise levels and their frequency spectra, which are transferred to the MEC laptop via an RS232 cable and later downlinked with regular CHeCS (Crew Health Care Systems) data dump or via OCA. No exercise was allowed during the SLM survey, to avoid corrupting the acoustic measurements.]

Alex completed the regular inspection of the replaceable half-coupling of the 4GB4 hydraulic unit of the KOB-2 (Loop 2) of the Russian SOTR Thermal Control System, checking for coolant fluid hermeticity (leak-tightness).

Afterwards, the CDR conducted the periodic transfer of condensate water to an RS EDV container for the periodic (about twice a month) replenishing of the Elektron's water supply for electrolysis into oxygen & hydrogen, filling the designated KOV (condensate water) EDV container from 2 CWCs (Contingency Water Containers, #1050, #1069). When filled, the EDV was connected to the BPK transfer pump for processing through the BKO water purification (multifiltration) unit. [The ~40-minute procedure is specially designed to prevent air bubbles larger than ~10 mm from getting into the Elektron's BZh Liquid Unit where they could cause Elektron shutdown. If bubbles are detected in the EDV, they are separated (by centrifugation) into another EDV. BKO contains five purification columns to rid the condensate of dissolved mineral and organic impurities. It has a service lifetime of ~450 liters throughput. The water needs to be purified for proper electrolysis in the Elektron O2 generator.]

FE-2 Skripochka took thehan about Flight Day 14 for each new Expedition and is then generally performed once per month. Note: There has been temporary hearing deficits documented on some U.S. and Russian crewmembers, all of which recovered to pre-mission levels.]

Dmitri Kondratyev & Oleg Skripochka joined up for another 3h30m period of preparations for the next Russian spacewalk, EVA-27, on 1/21. [The equipment, which includes various external covers, a cable reel & kit, the SVPI high-speed data transmission system and numerous tools, were gathered and staged in the DC-1 Docking Compartment. Dima & Oleg also reviewed in detail the translation path they are to take from the FGB to the MRM1 Rassvet module for the TV camera installation.]

In COL (Columbus Orbital Laboratory), Cady Coleman readied the PPFS (Portable Pulmonary Function System) hardware including MBS (Mixing Bag System), and then conducted her first session with the VO2max assessment, i load. Rebreathing measurements are initiated by the subject during the last minute of each stage. Constraints are: no food 2 hrs prior to exercise start, no caffeine 8 hrs prior to exercise, and must be well hydrated.]

Working in "his" Soyuz TMA-20/25S, Kondratyev continued troubleshooting activities on the GA/gas analyzer in the SA/Descent Module, conducting continuity checks on 11 electric circuit contacts, using the Elektronika MMTs-01 MultiMeter to measure resistance & DC voltage levels. [The troubleshooting is to determine why the SA has been blowing power line fuses.]

Paolo & Cady again had their free time for general orientation (adaptation, station familiarization & acclimatization) as is standard daily rule for fresh crewmembers for the first two weeks after starting residence, if they choose to take it.

FE-1 & FE-2 conducted their weekly PFCs (Private Family Conferences) via S-band/audio and Ku-band/MS-NetMeeting application (which displays the uplinked ground video on an SSC laptop), both at ~11:25am EST.

The crewmembers worked out with their regular 2-hr physical exercise on the CEVIS cycle ergometer with vibration isolation (FE-5), TVIS treadmill (FE-1, FE-2, FE-4), ARED advanced resistive exerciser (CDR, FE4,FE-6), T2/COLBERT advanced treadmill (CDR, FE-5, FE-6) and VELO ergometer bike with bungee cord load trainer (FE-1, FE-2). [T2 snubber arm inspection is no longer needed after every T2 session but must be done after the last T2 session of the day.]

Dmitri's workout on the ARED was captured on video and downlinked for subsequent biomechanical evaluation of the crewmember and hardware status at MCC-H.

CEO (Crew Earth Observation)ty of 400,000. The major Geba River estuary is the visual cue, with the city located on the north shore), Central Asia to Southwest China night pass (nadir pass over Bishek, capital city of Kyrgyzstan, neighboring towns. Then on the same pass ~3 mins later, the isolated cities of China's mountainous Southwest Yunnan province, est pass: looking mainly right for Mesopotamian cities, especially Baghdad. Then the string of bright lights of gulf coast cities [especially Dubai] and neighboring emirates. Then looking left for the Omani coastal towns).

ISS Orbit (as of this morning, 3:43am EST [= epoch])
Mean altitude - 352.4 km
Apogee height - 356.0 km
Perigee height - 348.8 km
Period -- 91.59 min.
Inclination (to Equator) -- 51.65 deg
Eccentricity -- 0.0005354
Solar Beta Angle -- 7.9 deg (magnitude decreasing)
Orbits per 24-hr. day -- 15.72
Mean altitude loss in the last 24 hours - 93 m
Revolutions since FGB/Zarya launch (Nov. 98) - 69,417.

Significant Events Ahead (all dates Eastern Time and subject to change):

--------------Six-crew operations-------------
01/13/11 -- ISS Reboost Pt. 2
01/20/11 -- HTV2 launch
01/21/11 -- Russian EVA-27
01/24/11 -- Progress M-08Menith)
01/28/11 -- Progress M-09M/41P launch
01/31/11 -- Progress M-09M/41P docking (DC1)
02/03/11 -- STS-133/Discovery launch - 1:37:36 am EST
02/04/11 -- STS-133/Discovery docking - ~9:43pm
02/11/11 -- STS-133/Discovery undock - 4:42pm
02/13/11 -- STS-133/Discovery land (KSC) - ~8:41pm
02/21/11 -- Russian EVA-28
02/15/11 -- ATV-2 "Johannes Kepler" launch
02/19/11 -- Progress M-07M/39P undock
02/24/11 -- HTV2 unberthing (Node-2 nadir)
02/26/11 -- ATV-2 "Johannes Kepler" docking (SM aft)
03/16/11 -- Soyuz TMA-01M/24S undock/landing (End of Increment 26)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
03/20/11 -- Soyuz TMA-21/26S launch - A. Borisienko (CDR-28)/R.Garan/A.Samokutayev
03/22/11 -- Soyuz TMA-21/26S docking (MRM2)
--------------Six-crew operations-------
04/27/11 -- Progress M-10M/42P launch
04/29/11 -- Progress M-10M/42P docking (DC1)
05/xx/11 -- Russian EVA-29
05/16/11 -- Soyuz TMA-20/25S undock/landing (End of Increment 27)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
05/30/11 -- Soyuz TMA-22/27S launch - M. Fossum (CDR-29)/S. Furukawa/S. Volkov
06/01/11 -- Soyuz TMA-22/27S docking (MRM1)
--------------Six-crew operations-------------
06/04/11 -- ATV-2 "Johannes Kepler" undock (SM aft)
06/21/11 -- Progress M-11M/43P launch
06/23/11 -- Progress M-11M/43P docking (SM aft)
08/29/11 -- Progress M-11M/43P undocking
08/30/11 -- Progress M-12M/44P launch
09/01/11 -- Progress M-12M/44P docking (SM aft)
09/16/11 - Soyuz TMA-21/26S undock/landing (End of Increment 28)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
09/30/11 -- Soyuz TMA-23/28S launch - D.Burbank (CDR-30)/A.Shkaplerov/A.Ivanishin
10/02/11 - Soyuz TMA-23/28S docking (MRM2)
--------------Six-crew operations-------------
10/25/11 -- Progress M-10M/42P undo
10/28/11 -- Progress M-13M/45P docking (DC-1)
11/16/11 -- Soyuz TMA-22/27S undock/landing (End of Increment 29)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
11/30/11 -- Soyuz TMA-24/29S launch - O.Kononenko (CDR-31)/A.Kuipers/D.Pettit
12/02/11 -- Soyuz TMA-24/29S docking (MRM1)
--------------Six-crew operations----------------
12/??/11 -- 3R Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) w/ERA - on Proton.
12/26/11 -- Progress M-13M/45P undock
12/27/11 -- Progress M-14M/46P launch
12/29/11 -- Progress M-14M/46P docking (DC-1)
03/05/12 -- Progress M-12M/44P undock
03/16/12 -- Soyuz TMA-23/28S undock/landing (End of Increment 30)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
03/30/12 -- Soyuz TMA-25/30S launch - G.Padalka (CDR-32)/J.Acaba/K.Valkov
04/01/12 -- Soyuz TMA-25/30S docking (MRM2)
--------------Six-crew operations----------------
05/15/12 -- Soyuz TMA-24/29S undock/landing (End of Increment 31)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
05/29/12 - Soyuz TMA-26/31S launch - S.Williams (CDR-33)/Y.Malenchenko/A.Hoshide
05/31/12 - Soyuz TMA-26/31S docking
--------------Six-crew operations----------------
09/09/12 -- Soyuz TMA-25/30S undock/landing (End of Increment 32)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
09/23/12 -- Soyuz TMA-27/32S launch
--------------Six-crew operations-------------
10/07/12 -- Soyuz TMA-26/31S undock/landing (End of Increment 33)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
11/xx/12 -- Soyuz TMA-28/33S launch - C.Hadfield (CDR-35)/T.Mashburn/R.Romanenko
11/xx/12 - Soyuz TMA-28/33S docking
--------------Six-crew operations-------------
03/xx/12 -- Soyuz TMA-27/32S undock/landing (End of Increment 34)
--------------Three-crew operations-------------
03/xx/12 - Soyuz TMA-29/34S launch.
03/xx/12 - Soyuz TMA-29/34S docking
--------------Six-crew operations-------------

To send holiday greetings to the crew and get more information about the space station, visit http://www.nasa.gov/station

2010 nasa special

a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses Earth's southern Hemisphere. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow crosses the South Pacific Ocean where it makes no landfall except for Mangaia (Cook Islands) and Easter Island (Isla de Pascua). The path of totality ends just after reaching southern Chile and Argentina. The Moon's penumbral shadow produces a partial eclipse visible from a much larger region covering the South Pacific and southern South America 

2010 Total Solar Eclipse Global Map

This web site has been established for the purpose of providing detailed predictions, maps, figures and information about this important event. The material here is adapted from Annular and Total Solar Eclipses of 2010 (NASA/TP-2008-214171). The publication date of this document is 2008 December. It is part of NASA's official eclipse bulletin publication series. Instructions and a form for ordering a hard copy of this publication can be found at: Order Form for NASA Eclipse Bulletins.
A special Web site is also available for the Annular Solar Eclipse of 2010 January 15.

NASA's Terra Satellite Sees a Snow-Covered Ireland

The Mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S. are not the only areas dealing with holiday snowfall. Ireland was recently swathed in white on December 22, 2010. When NASA's Terra satellite passed overhead, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument captured a true-color image of the snow. The overnight arrival of 15 cm (6 in) of snow at the Dublin airport forced its closure. Combined with the closure of the City of Derry airport, travel became quite difficult.
MODIS image of Ireland covered with snow 

 The Emerald Isle was swathed in white on December 22, 2010, when the MODIS instrument aboard the Terra satellite passed overhead, capturing this true-color image. Credit: NASA Goddard/MODIS Rapid Response Team, Jeff Schmaltz

MODIS images are created by the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The MODIS instrument flies onboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites.

Ireland enjoys a "temperate ocean climate" (Cfb) based on the Koopen climate classification system. Such climates normally enjoy cool, cloud-covered summers and mild winters. Ireland’s climate is also moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, which flows off the western shore. Snow commonly falls only in the highest elevations; dustings may occur elsewhere a few times each year. Significant accumulations anywhere in the country are rare.

The winter of 2009-2010 was unusually cold and snowy. Called “The Big Freeze” by the British media, it brought widespread transportation problems, school closings, power failures and twenty five deaths. A low of -22.3°C (-8.1°F) was recorded on January 8, 2010, making it the coldest winter since 1978/79.

Although it has just begun, the winter of 2010-2011 threatens to be just as challenging. The earliest widespread snowfall since 1993 occurred on November 24, primarily affecting Great Britain and Scotland. Two days later snow began to cover Ireland, and the continuing severe weather has taken a toll. It has disrupted air, road and rail travel, closed schools and businesses, and caused power outages. Livestock and horses have had difficulty finding grass to eat, some relying on volunteer feeding efforts for survival. Local temperature records were broken, including a new record low for Northern Ireland of -18.7°C (-2°F) at Castlederg on December 23. As of that date, 20 deaths had been attributed to the winter weather and associated hazards.

For more information and additional MODIS images, visit:
Jeff Schmaltz
MODIS Land Rapid Response Team
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Cassini Celebrates 10 Years Since Jupiter Encounter

This true color mosaic of Jupiter was constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft on December 29, 2000 

This true color mosaic of Jupiter was constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Unexpected dynamics in Jupiter's upper atmosphere, or stratosphere, including the birth and motion of a dark vortex wider than Earth 

Unexpected dynamics in Jupiter's upper atmosphere, or stratosphere, including the birth and motion of a dark vortex wider than Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Southwest Research Institute

Bands of eastward and westward winds on Jupiter appear as concentric rotating circles 

Bands of eastward and westward winds on Jupiter appear as concentric rotating circles. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Southwest Research Institute

These images and movie show the distribution of the organic molecule acetylene at the north and south poles of Jupiter, based on data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in early January 2001 

These images and movie show the distribution of the organic molecule acetylene at the north and south poles of Jupiter. Image credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC

Ten years ago, on Dec. 30, 2000, NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter on its way to orbiting Saturn. The main purpose was to use the gravity of the largest planet in our solar system to slingshot Cassini towards Saturn, its ultimate destination. But the encounter with Jupiter, Saturn's gas-giant big brother, also gave the Cassini project a perfect lab for testing its instruments and evaluating its operations plans for its tour of the ringed planet, which began in 2004.

"The Jupiter flyby allowed the Cassini spacecraft to stretch its wings, rehearsing for its prime time show, orbiting Saturn," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Ten years later, findings from the Jupiter flyby still continue to shape our understanding of similar processes in the Saturn system."
Cassini spent about six months - from October 2000 to March 2001 - exploring the Jupiter system. The closest approach brought Cassini to within about 9.7 million kilometers (6 million miles) of Jupiter's cloud tops at 2:05 a.m. Pacific Time, or 10:05 a.m. UTC, on Dec. 30, 2000. 

Cassini captured some 26,000 images of Jupiter and its moons over six months of continual viewing, creating the most detailed global portrait of Jupiter yet.
While Cassini's images of Jupiter did not have higher resolution than the best from NASA's Voyager mission during its two 1979 flybys, Cassini's cameras had a wider color spectrum than those aboard Voyager, capturing wavelengths of radiation that could probe different heights in Jupiter's atmosphere. The images enabled scientists to watch convective lightning storms evolve over time and helped them understand the heights and composition of these storms and the many clouds, hazes and other types of storms that blanket Jupiter.

The Cassini images also revealed a never-before-seen large, dark oval around 60 degrees north latitude that rivaled Jupiter's Great Red Spot in size. Like the Great Red Spot, the large oval was a giant storm on Jupiter. But, unlike the Great Red Spot, which has been stable for hundreds of years, the large oval showed itself to be quite transient, growing, moving sideways, developing a bright inner core, rotating and thinning over six months. The oval was at high altitude and high latitude, so scientists think the oval may have been associated with Jupiter's powerful auroras.

The imaging team was also able to amass 70-day movies of storms forming, merging and moving near Jupiter's north pole. They showed how larger storms gained energy from swallowing smaller storms, the way big fish eat small fish. The movies also showed how the ordered flow of the eastward and westward jet streams in low latitudes gives way to a more disordered flow at high latitudes.

Meanwhile, Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer was able to do the first thorough mapping of Jupiter's temperature and atmospheric composition. The temperature maps enabled winds to be determined above the cloud tops, so scientists no longer had to rely on tracking features to measure winds. The spectrometer data showed the unexpected presence of an intense equatorial eastward jet (roughly 140 meters per second, or 310 mph) high in the stratosphere, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) above the visible clouds. Data from this instrument also led to the highest-resolution map so far of acetylene on Jupiter and the first detection of organic methyl radical and diacetylene in the auroral hot spots near Jupiter's north and south poles. These molecules are important to understanding the chemical interactions between sunlight and molecules in Jupiter's stratosphere. 

As Cassini approached Jupiter, its radio and plasma wave instrument also recorded naturally occurring chirps created by electrons coming from a cosmic sonic boom. The boom occurs when supersonic solar wind - charged particles that fly off the sun - is slowed and deflected around the magnetic bubble surrounding Jupiter. 

Because Cassini arrived at Jupiter while NASA's Galileo spacecraft was still orbiting the planet, scientists were also able to take advantage of near-simultaneous measurements from two different spacecraft. This coincidence enabled scientists to make giant strides in understanding the interaction of the solar wind with Jupiter. Cassini and Galileo provided the first two-point measurement of the boundary of Jupiter's magnetic bubble and showed that it was in the act of contracting as a region of higher solar wind pressure blew on it.

"The Jupiter flyby benefited us in two ways, one being the unique science data we collected and the other the knowledge we gained about how to effectively operate this complex machine," said Bob Mitchell, Cassini program manager based at JPL. "Today, 10 years later, our operations are still heavily influenced by that experience and it is serving us very well."

In celebrating the anniversary of Cassini's visit 10 years ago, scientists are also excited about the upcoming and proposed missions to the Jupiter system, including NASA's Juno spacecraft, to be launched next August, and the Europa Jupiter System Mission, which has been given a priority by NASA.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. The composite infrared spectrometer team is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., where the instrument was built. The radio and plasma wave science team is based at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, where the instrument was built.
Media contacts:
Jia-Rui Cook/Priscilla Vega 818-354-0850/354-1357
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
jccook@jpl.nasa.gov / Priscilla.r.vega@jpl.nasa.gov

Many questions ahead for La. economy in 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Uncertain could be the perfect word to describe Louisiana’s economy entering the new year.

The state took a wild ride in 2010 with major successes – such as nabbing a major steel plant – and chilling setbacks, including a slowdown in petroleum activity after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the shutdown of NASA’s space shuttle program and the planned closure of a shipyard that is Louisiana’s largest industrial employer.

For the complete story and more local news, please subscribe to Jennings Daily News by clicking the “SUBSCRIBE” link at left or by calling 337-824-3011.

NASA has to keep defunct Ares rocket program going

Thanks to congressional inaction, NASA must continue to fund its defunct Ares I rocket program until March, a requirement that will cost the agency nearly $500 million at a time when it is struggling with the expensive task of replacing the space shuttle.

About a third of that money, $165 million, will go to Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, which has a $2-billion contract to build the solid-rocket first stage for the Ares I, which was supposed to fill the shuttle's role of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station.

But under a new NASA plan signed into law by President Obama in October, there's no guarantee that the new rocket required by that plan will use solid-fuel propulsion. And many in the agency say a liquid-fueled rocket would be cheaper, more powerful — and safer.

The money to ATK is part of the $1.2 billion NASA will spend on its canceled Constellation program from Oct. 1 through March. Most of the rest will go to Lockheed Martin Corp., which is building the Orion capsule intended to take astronauts into space aboard whatever rocket NASA selects. That program was largely spared by the new NASA plan.

What's more, constraints on NASA spending resulting from congressional budget gridlock will delay the scheduled start this year of a program to modernize aging facilities at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to transform it into a "21st century spaceport." It's now unclear when the program will begin.
The odd scenario, in which NASA is throwing money at a canceled rocket program but can't fund a modernization program, is because of several twists in the legislative process that started a year ago and came to a head this month.

At the root of the problem is a 70-word sentence inserted into the 2010 budget by lawmakers seeking to protect Ares I jobs in their home states that bars NASA from shutting down the program until Congress passed a new budget a year later.

That should have happened before the Oct. 1 start of the federal fiscal year.
But Congress never passed a 2011 budget and instead voted this month to extend the 2010 budget until March, so NASA still must abide by the 2010 language.

That means NASA and its contractors are required to keep building Ares I, even though Obama in effect killed it when he signed the new NASA plan that canceled the Constellation moon program begun under President George W. Bush.

"It would be nice if Congress did its work," said John Logsdon, a space expert at George Washington University. "I would not be surprised if there was a combination of frustration and anger [at NASA]. They want to get on carrying out a good space program."

According to NASA, the agency has been spending an average of $95 million a month on Ares I. At that rate, it will spend about $475 million from Oct. 1 to March 4, the period covered by the current budget extension.

The language that keeps Constellation going was inserted into the 2010 budget last year by Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who sought to protect the program and Ares jobs at Marshall Space Flight Center in his home state.

His office confirmed that the language was still in effect but did not respond to e-mails seeking details.
NASA officials, however, said the Ares I money wouldn't necessarily be wasted.
The new space plan approved by Congress calls for the construction of a new so-called heavy-lift rocket that would use solid-rocket engineering.

"Much of the Ares I work likely will be directly applicable to a heavy-lift vehicle if a shuttle-derived architecture is selected, including five-segment boosters, tank structures, upper-stage engine and avionics," said Michael Cabbage, a NASA spokesman.
Indeed, ATK plans to continue work at its Utah plant.

"To the best of our understanding, there has been no change in direction and we are aligning our resources and capabilities to support NASA in the development of a new heavy-lift capability," said Bryce Hallowell, spokesman for ATK of Minnesota.

The new NASA plan — developed after months of debate between Congress and the White House — favors an Ares I-type design by requiring use of "shuttle-derived" components, including solid-rocket motors. But some NASA engineers — and, reportedly, Shelby, reflecting the preferences of engineers at Marshall — favor a liquid-fueled rocket.

Such a rocket, they say, would be cheaper, more powerful and safer. A 2009 Air Force report warned that astronauts "will not survive" an explosion of the Ares I rocket during launch because flaming chunks of solid fuel would melt the parachutes of the escape system.

In November, NASA asked ATK and 12 other companies to come up with proposals for a new heavy-lift system, opening the door to other possibilities.

"These trade studies will provide a look at innovative launch vehicle concepts, propulsion technologies and processes that should make human exploration missions more affordable," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator of NASA's exploration division, in a statement.

NASA faces a competitor in SpaceX

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Early this month, a private company called SpaceX launched an unmanned version of its Dragon capsule into orbit, took it for a few spins around Earth, and then brought it home with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The total cost - including design, manufacture, testing and launch of the company's Falcon 9 rocket and the capsule - was roughly $800 million.

In the world of government spaceflight, that's almost a rounding error. The ability of SpaceX to do so much with so little money is raising some serious questions about NASA.

The agency that once stood for American technical wizardry is seriously starting to lose its luster. Already Brevard County high school students are talking in bowling alleys over orders of cheese fries about wanting to go work for SpaceX, not the agency that 40 years ago put Americans on the moon.
Inside NASA, some employees have taken to wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the letters "WWED," which stands for "What Would Elon Do?" - a reference to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, the Internet tycoon who invested his own fortune in pursuit of his dream of sending humans into space at affordable prices.

It's that lack of affordability that is killing NASA, experts say.
Aerospace-industry executives, NASA contractors and employees all warn that unless the storied agency can become leaner and more efficient in an era of shrinking federal budgets, it could find itself becoming a historical footnote.
"NASA and industry need to partner together to change our approach," says Jim Maser, the president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which has designed virtually every rocket engine used by NASA since the dawn of the space program.

Over the past six years, NASA has spent nearly $10billion on the Ares I rocket and Orion capsule - its own version more or less of what SpaceX has launched - and came up with little more than cost overruns and technical woes. In October, Congress scrapped the Constellation moon program and ordered the agency to start over to design a rocket and capsule capable of taking humans to explore the solar system.

Maser warns that, without reforms, NASA will simply repeat the Constellation experience. "Given that we are not going to get the budget increase that was hoped for under Constellation, given that (the budget) is going to be relatively flat with a still-aggressive agenda, if NASA and industry continue to do business in the traditional manner, I don't think NASA's charter will be fulfilled," he said.

But until recently, Maser said, NASA has rejected his proposals of new efficiencies that would lower Pratt Whitney's costs to the agency. Part of the  reason, Maser and others said, is many agency officials know no other way, and part is because officials worry that change could introduce more risk into the already dangerous business of spaceflight.

But there are signs that NASA realizes that it must do things differently.
Perhaps the greatest test case is the Orion spacecraft. Unlike Dragon, which cost SpaceX a few hundred million dollars to design, build and fly, Orion has so far cost $4.8 billion and is not likely to fly for at least another three years - and an additional $1.2billion.   Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/

Why NASA Is Spending Half a Billion Dollars on a Canceled Rocket

First human-like robot to fly in space

To watch NASA's Robonaut 2 tip its head and gaze down at its open palms as it flexes its fingers and opposable thumbs is to believe there must be a human behind the opaque gold visor on the robot's face. In fact, there are only cameras.

Robonaut 2, which NASA hopes to launch Feb. 3 aboard the space shuttle Discovery on a flight to its permanent home on the International Space Station, will be the first humanoidlike robot to fly in space. Based on technology nurtured in part at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View and built jointly by the space agency and General Motors, the robot has a head, two arms and a humanlike chest and shoulders. It has fingers, thumbs and wrists with enough dexterity to grip a pen and write "hello." It can even dial an iPhone.

Robonaut 2 was built "to bring robots to the next level," said Vytas SunSpiral, a senior robotics researcher at Ames, "to where you could see them working in people's houses, or out in public."
NASA intends to use Robonaut to do tasks that are too dangerous for humans, such as risky spacewalks, as well as for jobs that are too mundane, like swabbing the internal surfaces of the space station to prevent bacterial buildup -- an onerous task that now falls to astronauts. On Earth, GM hopes to use a future version of Robonaut, or component pieces of its technology, on its assembly lines or even inside its cars.

Beyond science fiction

Robonaut 2 look so human? In part, it's so the robot -- whether on the space station or a GM assembly line -- can use the same tools, grip the same handles and push the same buttons as humans. (Robonaut will launch without legs, but NASA plans to send some up on a future flight to allow it to move around the space station, and, ultimately, do spacewalks.)

"We are putting the robot into the station in order to do tasks that were originally designed for astronauts, so the tools and interface are all scaled in a way that makes sense for a human," said SunSpiral, a senior researcher with the Intelligent Robotics Group at Ames.

But engineers who worked on Robonaut 2 say the machine may mark a milestone in the relationship between humans and robots, as robots evolve toward a place so far only visited in science fiction novels, where they would work side by side with people.

"There is a certain connection that people feel toward things that look similar to them," said Marty Linn, principal robotic engineer for GM, who worked with NASA engineers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for more than three years on Robonaut 2. "You are looking to have a machine that is going to be able to work in an environment with humans."

A key feature that makes that possible is that its limbs and joints are built to be like a human body, in that they can be both strong and rigid, or soft and compliant, depending on the situation. Unlike other robots, Robonaut's control motors have what engineers call an "elastic actuator," essentially a spring built into the motor. If Robonaut collides with a control panel, or an astronaut, there should not be collateral damage.

"Having that ability to adapt to the world physically, not just through (computer) algorithms, but through your physical structure, you can really enhance a robot's ability to engage in the physical world," SunSpiral said. "That is really a necessary step to make it so that humans and robots can safety operate together."
GM does not disclose the amount of its Robonaut 2 investment, but Linn said the project has produced about 40 patents. One goal is to improve the quality of its assembly lines.
"Any time you can get to operations that are very mundane and very repetitive, you'd like to be able to automate those things to help the (human) operators add value to the product," Linn said.

A learning tool 

At Ames, SunSpiral worked on Robonaut 1 until 2006. Robonaut I was an earlier version in which a person operated the robot through virtual reality goggles and sensors.
"You would be telepresent in the robot," he said. "You really felt like when you put all this gear on, you would be looking out from the robot's eyes, and when you looked down at your arm, you would see the robot move its arm. It was really a transformative experience."

Because of the time delay in space communications, NASA and GM needed Robonaut 2 to be more independent. It will be controlled by space station astronauts, but can be programmed to do specific tasks and complete them autonomously. NASA foresees humanoid robots eventually repairing satellites, or serving as an advance scout for astronauts to asteroids, comets or Mars. But SunSpiral, who will help demonstrate Robonaut's capabilities in space, sees other human benefits.
Robots, he said, are "a tool to learn more about ourselves."


Developed by GM and NASA, Robonaut 2 will be the first humanoid robot in space when it is launched on the space shuttle. Robonaut has four dexterous fingers and opposable thumbs, and its arms are strong enough to hold 20 pounds in any pose in Earth's gravity.
Other specifications:
Materials: Primarily aluminum with steel, and nonmetallic components.
Weight: 330 pounds
Height: 3 feet, 4 inches (from waist to head)
Sensors: more than 350
Processors: 38 Power PC Processors
Twitter feed:
Source: NASA

Medal carried by astronaut lands in museum

TULSA — A silver medallion made in downtown Tulsa that orbited the moon with Oklahoma astronaut Thomas Stafford will be donated to the Tulsa Air and Space Museum.

 The medallion was made 42 years ago by Jim Ziegler, 84, of F.C. Ziegler Co.

A longtime friend, Forrest “Babe” O’Brien, asked Ziegler to make a medal that Stafford could take into space. The Stafford family had asked O’Brien, their parish priest at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Weatherford, to be with them at the NASA center in Houston during the flight.

O’Brien and Ziegler together designed the silver medal, depicting the orbit around the Earth and moon on one side, and the first verse of the Bible on the other: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” Three copies were made.

Stafford was commander of the Apollo 10 mission in May 1969 that circled the moon in preparation for the Apollo 11 moon landing that would come two months later.

After his mission, Stafford returned all three copies of the medal to O’Brien, who gave one to Ziegler along with a letter from Stafford verifying it had been on the flight.

Ziegler gave the medal to his son Tom, who was confined to a wheelchair with a nerve disorder. When Tom died at age 27, the medal was hung on a wall at the Ziegler home.

Several months ago, the Zieglers decided to give the medal to the museum.

“My wife and I decided the medal needed to be somewhere where people could see it,” he said.

Kim Jones, deputy director/curator of the museum said, “It’s an interesting aspect of the manned space program that involves an Oklahoma astronaut.

“I anticipate it will be up by February,” he said.

Ziegler said Stafford’s brother in Houston has one of the other medals and the third one was stolen from O’Brien, who has since died.