Lagrange 5

waypoint to the past, present, and future of space

Monday, March 28, 2005

Space station crew conduct spacewalk

Mosnews and other media are reporting that the crew of the international space station have conducted a spacewalk on Monday.

Leroy Chiao and Salizhan Sharipov floated outside the space station for the second time this year. They erected antennas for an upcoming cargo flight, and deployed a small satellite.

The station's interior was unoccupied while the two worked outside. They did not work on a circuit breaker that caused the shutdown of one of the station's gyroscopes. That task will be left for the next crew of the ISS.

Monday, March 21, 2005

NASA culture still a problem, says ex-astronauts

Two former NASA astronauts say NASA culture has still not addressed the kinds of problems that led to the space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003, according to a USA Today article.

James Wetherbee, who commanded five space shuttle missions, and John Young, who flew in the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs, say NASA is not focusing enough of its energies on spaceflight safety, and is instead more concerned about costs and scheduling.

Young retired from the agency in December as an associate director at the Johnson Space Center. Wetherbee resigned from his job on JSC's safety team in January, citing the slow pace of progress in safety reform.

NASA scientist speaks out about Mars life report

James Oberg, writing for MSNBC, conducted an interview with NASA scientist Carol Stoker, who became the secondhand source of a article in February alleging the presence of life on Mars. published an article February 16th saying that NASA had found evidence of life on Mars, and cited NASA's Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke as the story's sources.

NASA issued a rare public denial of the story, and Dr. Stoker privately refuted it in e-mail correspondence.

L5 linked to the original story here, followed by NASA's press release refuting the story, along with Dr. Stoker's e-mail denial.

In the interview with Oberg, Stoker said she believes the story's allegations carry the possibility of damaging the credibility of her project and her reputation in the scientific community.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Next shuttle crew will have rescue backup

The Houston Chronicle and AP are reporting that NASA is planning to have space shuttle Atlantis available for a hastened launch preparation in case the Discovery crew are stranded in orbit.

Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled for a launch in May.

A rescue mission would be unprecedented in space history. There has never been an in-flight rescue of astronauts in earth orbit.

The U.S. space program made serious plans for a rescue capability at least as far back as the Apollo program.

The Skylab program had a rescue capability in place, with at least one crew and spacecraft available, and the plan was almost implemented in August 1973. When NASA feared the Skylab 3 crew was in danger of being stranded in orbit because of an oxidizer leak, a rescue mission was days away from the launch pad. A rescue launch was scrubbed when NASA judged that the leaks did not pose an immediate threat to the Skylab crew.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Lawmakers not happy about NASA aeronautics cuts

A Congressional hearing took place Wednesday to discuss the future of aeronautics at NASA, and some lawmakers aren't happy with budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration.

In an AP article carried by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, NASA funding for aeronautics research would be cut by $717.6 million, or 20 percent, over five years.

Members of Congress such as Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), warned that U.S. leadership in aeronautical research could be seriously undermined by the cuts, especially in light of increased aeronautics funding made in Europe and Asia.

Station gyroscope problem no threat, says NASA

The failure of a circuit breaker that caused the shutdown of a gyroscope aboard the international space station is not a threat, according to a Reuters report.

NASA space station program manager Bill Gerstenmaier said Thursday that the station was able to operate with two of its three gyroscopes, and that there was no immediate need to replace the breaker.

An article in Florida Today said that NASA does not believe the gyroscope shutdown will have any impact on the scheduled launch of space shuttle Discovery in May.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Shuttle launch may slip, says NASA

Scheduling for the first space shuttle launch in two years may be delayed, according to an MSNBC report.

A NASA source told NBC News' Jay Barbree that preparations are running behind schedule and that Discovery's launch date may slip.

Space shuttle Discovery is tentatively scheduled for launch May 15.

Circuit breaker fails on space station

A circuit breaker failed Wednesday aboard the international space station, according to an AP report carried by The breaker shut down one of the gyroscopes that help keep the station oriented in orbit.

It was the second time a circuit breaker has failed aboard the station in less than a year. Another circuit breaker failed last year and shut down the same gyroscope, making a spacewalk necessary to repair it.

NASA to test instrument on Mars rover

NASA has issued a news release announcing its decision to temporarily suspend activity on one of the instruments aboard Mars rover Opportunity. The instrument, a mini thermal emission spectrometer, which identifies minerals, is having problems providing data to scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The article said that Opportunity's other instruments all appear to be in good working order.

Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, have been exploring Mars since landing in January 2004, and have operated more than four times longer than their projected functional lifespans.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Rover is capable of finding Mars life

A report from says that an unmanned rover deployed in the dry Chilean desert has found signs of life, in an experiment to show that life can be found on Mars by using a robotic lander.

It was the first time a robotic rover has shown a capability to find life in an environment like the red planet. The experiment was designed to match conditions a rover would find on Mars as closely as possible.

The search for life on Mars is considered perhaps the most important reason for exploring the planet, and a life-detection capability means great potential for Mars exploration in the next generation.

Martian wind gives rover new life and are reporting that the dusty solar panels on NASA's Spirit rover were cleaned by martian winds, giving the rover new life.

Spirit encountered the whirlwind recently near its exploration site at Gusev crater. Scientists believe the Spirit's solar panels had become increasingly loaded with martian dust, but that a sudden wind gust, or dust devil, carried most of it away. The rover's available power increased markedly, and NASA believes Spirit's life expectancy has been extended as a result.

Friday, March 11, 2005

White House to nominate NASA administrator

President Bush will nominate Michael Griffin, an engineer who once served as NASA's associate administrator for exploration, as the agency's next administrator, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.

The article says Griffin is a backer of the Bush administration's goals to phase out the shuttle program and direct the space program toward the moon and Mars.

NASA to cut workforce

NASA plans to cut the size of its workforce by as much as 15.3 percent by the summer of 2006, according to a report in the Washington Post.

James L. Jennings, NASA's associate administrator for institutions and management, indicated the cuts will be made to help carry out the Bush administration's future space policy goals, which include a return to the moon by 2020. Jennings characterized the plan as streamlining the agency rather than downsizing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Voyager may face same fate as Hubble

NASA has indicated that the two Voyager spacecraft may have to be abandoned in budget cuts, according to a BBC News report.

Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 to explore the outer planets of the solar system. They are responsible for many of the most significant data discovered from Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

The article says that the spacecraft may be abandoned because they are becoming too expensive to continue on their present journey. Both spacecraft are flying in free space and are no longer able to carry out flyby missions.

SpaceShipOne will go to Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum will be the new home to the first privately-built spacecraft, according to a report in the Washington Post.

Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who invested $20 million to build the spacecraft, and its builder, Burt Rutan, said SpaceShipOne will be donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Last year, SpaceShipOne became the first privately-built spacecraft to fly into space.

The announcement was made Wednesday as Allen and Rutan were awarded the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for achievements in aerospace.

New push to save Hubble

A Reuters report says that a renewed call is being made for NASA to make necessary repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope.

In a letter addressed to interim NASA chief Frederick Gregory, U.S. senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said the agency has already promised $291 million in funds to repair Hubble in 2005, and that failing to carry out those repairs could be considered against the law.

The American Astronomical Society also made a statement Wednesday calling for NASA to continue servicing Hubble.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Astronauts cooling their heels on the ground

An interesting article carried by Yahoo and AP highlights NASA's post-Columbia realities for astronauts waiting to fly into space, and what may become of their futures with the agency.

The space shuttle fleet has been grounded for the last two years, and the shuttles are scheduled to be phased out beginning in five years' time. The coming several years will mean not every astronaut will get to fly in the foreseeable future. It is probable that any new astronaut classes selected by NASA in the next few years may be chosen to fill the slots of those who gave up waiting for flights, rather than to meet an increased mission schedule.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

China wants space station role is reporting that Chinese officials intend to meet with NASA about the possibility of Chinese participation on the international space station.

SpaceRef said an employee of the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC wants to meet with the next NASA administrator to discuss using China's Shenzhou spacecraft to assist the station.

Russian cargo craft arrives at station

A Russian Progress M-52 cargo spacecraft docked with the international space station on Wednesday, a Reuters report said.

The docking was completed at 3:10 p.m. Eastern time, according to the report. The spacecraft carries supplies for the station's crew, as well as equipment that will be used to inspect the space shuttle Discovery when it arrives in May.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Japan plans space shuttle and moon base

Hot on the heels of its first launch success in more than a year, the Japanese space agency JAXA is planning bold new steps for its space program.

According to an AP report in Newsday, Japan intends to build a space shuttle program of its own, and begin work on a manned base on the moon within the next twenty years.

The article cites the Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun as a source.

JAXA is doing what normally happens after new success in spaceflight -- capitalize on the euphoria and plan new projects, hoping to get financial commitments before the good feelings wane. NASA, ESA, and the Chinese space program have all done likewise in the past.

Other articles have mentioned recently that Japan and China may be seeing each other as rivals in an emerging space race in east Asia.

Monday, February 28, 2005

NASA interested in Indian moon mission

Indian newspapers reported on Saturday that NASA is interested in participating in India's planned moon mission, Chandrayan-1, slated for 2007.

NASA wants to outfit the spacecraft with imaging equipment which will help map the lunar surface, according to an article in the Times of India.

Russian supply rocket bound for station

A Russian rocket loaded with supplies for the international space station has lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to a BBC News report.

The rocket carrying the Progress M-52 spacecraft lifted off at 12:09 a.m. local time Tuesday.

Aside from providing supplies to the station, the cargo flight will help prepare the station to act as a "lifeboat" in case of an accident aboard the space shuttle. Discovery is scheduled for launch in May.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Russia to simulate Mars mission

Russia's Interfax news agency is reporting that the Russian Space Agency is preparing a Mars mission experiment, in an earthbound environment, to test human endurance for long space missions.

There was no indication of where the experiment would take place, except that a mock space station would be built for its purpose.

The report quoted a Russian Space Agency press release as saying that the experiment would begin in 2006 and last for 500 days, with a possibly multinational crew of six men.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Europe warming up to Mars exploration

The European Space Agency is getting more interested in exploring Mars, as the success of its Mars Express spacecraft continues paying dividends.

A report from Reuters discusses Europe's growing interest in the red planet. The article hints that the ESA may be interested in sending a sample return mission to Mars as a next possible project.

Mars Express has gathered a wealth of data suggesting the presence of martian life. On Tuesday, data from Mars Express suggested that ice may exist in large quantities under the martian regolith. Those successes have increased the desire among scientists to continue looking for water and life on the red planet.

Japan launches satellite

ABC News is reporting that Japan has successfully launched a rocket carrying a weather and navigation satellite on Saturday.

The launch was the first for Japan since a launch failure in November 2003 that set back its space program.

The launch was scheduled for 5:09 p.m. Japan time, according to a pre-launch report on NHK.

According to a Reuters report on Yahoo, the launch took place at 6:25 p.m. local time. The rocket successfully deployed the satellite into orbit about 40 minutes after liftoff.