Sunday, January 8, 2012

Space News - January 8, 2012: ISS Crew Excited; New LRO Moon Photos; NASA Wants List Back


International Space Station by SW/LITS.


Space Station Crew Excited for 1st Private Spaceship Visit


The astronauts living on the International Space Station (ISS) are gearing up for a milestone event in February — the first visit of a commercial spaceship to the orbiting outpost.

The private spaceflight company SpaceX plans to launch its unmanned Dragon capsule to orbit Feb. 7 atop the firm's Falcon 9 booster from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. The capsule will carry a load of food, clothing and other supplies for the six-man crew of the space station.

"We're excited about that," NASA astronaut Don Pettit told in an interview Wednesday (Jan. 4) from the station. "Anytime you have a visiting vehicle coming by, that's an exciting day."

Dragon's flight is partially funded by NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which aims to stimulate the development of private spacecraft to carry cargo to the station now that NASA's space shuttle fleet is retired. [Gallery: Dragon, SpaceX's Private Spacecraft]

The Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX is the first of a number of companies vying to fly test flights to the International Space Station. NASA has also awarded funding to the Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., which is developing the Cygnus spacecraft to fly on its Taurus 2 rocket.

Dragon is due to make an automated rendezvous with the International Space Station at about 240 miles (386 kilometers) above the Earth. Once it approaches within a few meters of the laboratory, astronauts inside will use the station's robotic arm to grab hold of the capsule and attach it to the outpost.

"It's going to be packed with all kinds of supplies for us, and it's sort of the first of many wagon trains coming up here to bring us supplies," Pettit said.

After being docked for about a week, Dragon will depart the space station, carrying cargo back down to Earth, where the capsule will be retrieved after landing in the Pacific Ocean.

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Photo taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) shows high sunlight reflecting off the moon's Aristarchus crater.
CREDIT: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Giant Moon Crater Revealed in Up-Close Photos


Spectacular new images of a gigantic crater on the moon were captured recently by a low-skimming NASA satellite.
In November 2011, the space agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft passed over the moon's Aristarchus crater, which spans 25 miles (40 km) and sinks more than 2 miles (3.5 km) deep. Photos and video of the crater from LRO's sweep were released Dec. 25.
The huge and highly reflective Aristarchus is easily visible with the naked eye. But the details shown in the new photos are a special treat from an extremely low flyover by LRO.

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NASA Questions Astronaut's Right to Sell Apollo 13 Memorabilia

NASA is questioning whether Apollo 13 commander James Lovell has the right to sell a 70-page checklist from the flight that includes his handwritten calculations that were crucial in guiding the damaged spacecraft back to Earth.

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LITS Notes:  My personal opinion is that if NASA wanted such documents back, they should have asked for them years ago.  Knowing what astronauts were paid back then, I think Lovell deserves to do with the list as he sees fit.

Would I like to see the list donated to the space museum?  Sure but possession is nine tenths of the law and NASA is pushing that one tenth for all it's worth...


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