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Space Shuttle Discovery’s Salute to the National Mall

  We knew Discovery had arrived when the large crowd waiting on the National Mall for the historic final flypast of the iconic Space Shuttle let out a collective cheer. The spacecraft was bolted to the top of a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Boeing 747 flying low along the Potomac River, following the flightpath familiar to…

Was that America? The shuttle Discovery, as seen from afar.

By Chris Combs  for Breaking Orbit This is how it ended: We drove a few more miles, parked the car, stopped in at Cosmic Coffee for a cup of joe, and watched a bright speck sear its way out of sight. About a year ago, my partner, Rachel, and I had heard the nearly thirty-year-old…

A Challenger Tribute, 25 Years in the Making

Twenty-five years ago today, seven astronauts embarked on NASA’s 25th space shuttle mission, on January 28, 1986. The shuttle Challenger lifted off from Launch Complex 39-B at Kennedy Space Center at 11:38 a.m. local time. Then, 73 seconds into the flight of STS-51L, the shuttle was engulfed in a cloud of vapor as it began…

Last Chance to Vote for Discovery’s Wakeup Songs

The space shuttle Discovery is slated to launch on its final mission this week, and that means voting will soon close on NASA’s Space Rock contest. —Image courtesy NASA As we reported back in August, it’s been a tradition since the Apollo program to rouse slumbering astronauts with music selected either by flight controllers or…

Remembering Space Bat

It’s almost Halloween, and it’s almost the final launch of the space shuttle Discovery. These two events have me thinking about Space Bat. It’s been more than a year since Discovery lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with a small bat clinging to its external fuel tank. —Image courtesy NASA The animal, according to…

In Memoriam: Astronaut William “Bill” Lenoir

William Lenoir, an astronaut who flew aboard the first space shuttle mission to deploy commercial satellites, died August 26 from head injuries sustained during a bicycle accident. —Image courtesy NASA Born March 14, 1939, in Miami, Florida, Lenoir earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ultimately graduating with a Ph.D. in electrical…

Astronaut Idol: NASA Calls for Space Shuttle Wakeup Songs

Since the heady days of the Apollo program, NASA has asked friends and family of astronauts to select “wakeup music” for slumbering spacefarers. Astronaut Gregory C. Johnson rests in his sleeping bag on the space shuttle Atlantis in May 2009. —Picture courtesy NASA After all, sunrises are a dime a dozen in low-Earth orbit, and…

What Does It Take to Be an Astronaut?

That was the most asked question during an event this morning at the National Air and Space Museum featuring the crew of STS-132, the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station. A student asks a question of the STS-132 crew. —Image by Eric Long/NASM Well, the final “scheduled” flight, anyway.…

Final Space Shuttle Launches Delayed

NASA announced today that they’ve officially decided to postpone the final two space shuttle launches, pushing Discovery’s launch to November and the [supposed] last-ever shuttle launch featuring Endeavour to February 2011. For followers of the intrepid space agency, news of the delay—or any delay, really—will surely come as no surprise. Space shuttle Atlantis lifts off…

Astro_Soichi Comes Back to Earth

Barring only the Hubble Space Telescope, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi may go down in history as the most beloved orbiting space photographer. Bye! The Yokohama native spent just over five months as a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station, returning to Earth today via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. That’s the longest time any Japanese…

Discovery Comes Home

After traveling more than 6.2 million miles in just over 15 days, the space shuttle Discovery glided back to Earth this morning, touching down at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 9:08 a.m. local time. —Photo courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls The mission, known as STS-131 among NASA folk, marks the second of the “final five” launches of…

Space Shuttle Discovery on Its Way!

Intrepid “shuttle geek” Susan Poulton is winging back home today after witnessing the space shuttle Discovery’s successful predawn lift-off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. —Image courtesy NASA Look out for further Poulton pictures and ruminations from the scene, but in the meanwhile, here’re a few details on STS-131. Marking the fourth to the last shuttle…

Tiny Solar Sail Pitched to Clean Up Space Junk

From huge patches of plastic in remote corners of the ocean to piles of consumer electronics in rural Nigeria, trash has a way of accumulating even in places few of Earth’s 6.8 billion people have ever been. Space is no exception: Even though the first satellite went into low-Earth orbit a little over 50 years…

Hubble, in All Its 3D Glory

Do you love stellar nurseries, space shuttles, and weightless chicken tacos? Then get out of the house tonight and go see Hubble 3D at an IMAX theater near you! I was lucky enough to see the world premiere last week here at the Air and Space Museum, where astronauts walked the red carpet and NASA…

Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion: 24 Years After the Disaster

The space shuttle has been on my mind a lot lately, since 2010 will see the final five shuttle launches for all time. Already NASA has plans to distribute the decommissioned shuttles to museums and education centers. And the space agency just announced that the Endeavour launch, slated for February 7, will be the last-ever…