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Submission + - Space Shuttle Endeavour Carries Out Final Mission Through the Streets of LA

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The LA Times reports that standing five stories high and weighing 85 tons, the space shuttle's journey through the streets of Los Angeles is shaping up as Endeavour's final challenge as the spacecraft will be inches away from buildings, even protruding onto driveways and over sidewalks as it winds it's way on a 12-mile journey from LAX to Exposition Park. Engineers realized early on that the city streets could not support the shuttle's weight so they gathered maps and blueprints to identify all the gas lines, sewers, water pipes, drainage systems and other utilities that needed protecting and ended up installing nearly 2,700 large metal plates, each weighing as much as a small car, in strategic areas along the way. "The sheer number of the plates was surprising," says construction consultant Michael Volchok. "We've tapped out everything in Southern California." Making the road safe for the shuttle also took months of planning, but engineer Richard Plump declared the streets ready this week for the big ride and with the move set to begin Thursday just before midnight, the streetscapes look radically different from how they did months ago as more than 200 streetlights have been removed, along with nearly 60 traffic signals. "Believe me, those engineers and aeronautics people have measured every inch of every square," says LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman. Three types of movement will allow Endeavor to successfully navigate city streets — carousel, crabbing, and standard turn — with the trickiest maneuver occurring at Crenshaw Drive, where the shuttle will come within inches of buildings on either side of the street. Dr. Kenneth Phillips of the science center says they are "steeped in details" right now planning for the shuttle's arrival, adding that it's mostly a challenge because they can't disassemble the Endeavour to transport it. "We've brought objects much larger than the endeavor to the science center," says Phillips, but those objects could be taken apart or separated into more manageable size pieces."

Submission + - NASA Prepares for Space Surgery and Zero Gravity Blood

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Draining an infected abscess is a straightforward procedure on Earth but on a spaceship travelling to the moon or Mars, it could kill everyone on board. Now Rebecca Rosen writes that if humans are to one day go to Mars, one logistical hurdle that will need to be overcome is what to do if one of the crew members has a medical emergency and needs surgery. "Based on statistical probability, there is a high likelihood of trauma or a medical emergency on a deep space mission," says Carnegie Mellon professor James Antaki. It's not just a matter of whether you'll have the expertise on board to carry out such a task: Surgery in zero gravity presents its own set of potentially deadly complications because in zero gravity, blood and bodily fluids will not just stay put, in the body where they belong but could contaminate the entire cabin, threatening everybody on board. This week, NASA is testing a device known as the Aqueous Immersion Surgical System (AISS) that could possibly make space surgery possible. Designed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Louisville, AISS is a domed box that can fit over a wound. When filled with a sterile saline solution, a water-tight seal is created that prevents fluids from escaping. It can also be used to collect blood for possible reuse. "You won't have a blood bank in space," says James Burgess who came up with the concept for AISS, "so if there is bleeding you want to save as much blood as you can.""

Submission + - Space Station Saved by a Toothbrush?

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Denise Chow reports that two spacewalking astronauts successfully replaced a vital power unit on the International Space Station today, defeating a stubborn bolt that prevented the astronauts from properly installing the power unit on the ISS's backbone-like truss with the help of some improvised tools made of spare parts and a toothbrush. Astronauts Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide started by removing the power box, called a main bus switching unit (MBSU), from where it had been temporarily tied down with a tether, then spent several hours troubleshooting the unit and the two bolts that are designed to secure it in place on the space station's truss. After undoing the bolts, the spacewalkers examined them for possible damage, and used improvised cleaning tools and a pressurized can of nitrogen gas to clean out the metal shavings from the bolt receptacles. "I see a lot of metal shavings coming out," Hoshide said as he maneuvered a wire cleaner around one of the bolt holders. Williams and Hoshide then lubricated a spare bolt and manually threaded it into the place where the real bolt was eventually driven, in an effort to ensure that the receptacle was clear of any debris. Then the two applied grease to the sticky bolt as well as extra pressure and plain old jiggling until finally 4½ hours into the spacewalk, Hoshide reported: "It is locked." When Hoshide reported that the troublesome bolt was finally locked into place, the flight managers erupted in applause while astronaut Jack Fischer at Mission Control told the astonauts "that is a little slice of awesome pie.""

Submission + - NASA to Launch Android-Powered Satellites

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The LA Times reports that NASA will soon launch the cheapest and easiest-to-build satellites ever to fly in space, three nanosatellites measuring 4 inches and weighing less than 4 pounds, powered by Android smartphones and containing less than $3,500 in components with two models set to launch onboard the Antares rocket later this year. PhoneSat 1.0, which runs on the HTC Nexus One phone, will take pictures of the Earth and send them back, along with information about its health. PhoneSat 2.0 will run on the Samsung Nexus S smartphone, and it will include a two-way S-band radio so engineers can control it from Earth, solar panels to extend its mission duration, and a GPS receiver. "PhoneSat design makes extensive use of commercial-off-the-shelf components, including an unmodified, consumer-grade smartphone," according to Nasa. "Out of the box smartphones already offer a wealth of capabilities needed for satellite systems, including fast processors, versatile operating systems, multiple miniature sensors, high-resolution cameras, GPS receivers, and several radios." In addition, Nasa is challenging android developers to create an Android App that utilizes PhoneSat’s capabilities during a dedicated mission phase lasting approximately one orbit of 90 minutes. Your app will "have access to all of the phone sensors: magnetometer, gyroscope, and accelerometer in addition to the PhoneSat sensors and controls: thermometer, reaction wheels, magnetorquer boards, and solar panel current.""

Submission + - Space Station Spacewalkers Stymied by Stubborn Bolt 3

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Reuters reports that astronauts at the International Space Station ran into problems after removing the station's 100-kg power-switching unit, one of four used in a system that distributes electrical power generated by the station's solar array wings, and were stymied after repeated attempts to attach the new device failed when a bolt jammed, preventing astronauts from hooking it up into the station's power grid. Japanese Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide got the bolt to turn nine times but engineers need 15 turns to secure the power-switching unit. "We're kind of at a loss of what else we can try," said astronaut Jack Fischer at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston after more than an hour of trouble-shooting. "If you guys have any thoughts or ideas or brilliant schemes on what we can do, let us know." Hoshide suggested using a tool that provides more force on bolts, but NASA engineers are reluctant to try anything that could make the situation worse and as the spacewalk slipped past seven hours, flight controllers told the astronauts to tether the unit in place, clean up their tools and head back into the station's airlock. NASA officials says the failure to secure the new unit won't disrupt station operations but it will force engineers to carefully distribute electrical power from three operating units to various station systems and says another attempt to install the power distributor could come as early as next week if engineers can figure out what to do with the stubborn bolt. "We're going to figure it out another day," says Fischer."

Submission + - US Military Donates Two Spare Space Telescopes to NASA

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Alexis Madrigal reports that NASA, dealing with cost overruns on the next-generation Hubble which have been eating up the science budget, just got a surprise gift from the Department of Defense — two, unflown, better-than-Hubble space telescopes that the US military just happens to have sitting around. Designed for surveillance, the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office are no longer needed for spy missions and can now be used to study the heavens. But the gift raises an interesting question. If the DOD doesn't need these two birds, which are both better than any civilian telescope, what *do* they have? Are drones replacing space telescopes? Are there much better telescopes already up there? NASA doesn't have the money to launch either telescope at the moment, and at the very earliest, under reasonable budgets, it will be 2020 before one of the two gifted telescopes could be in order. "This is the state of our military-industrial-scientific complex in miniature," writes Madrigal. "The military has so much money that it has two extra telescopes better than anything civilians have; meanwhile, NASA will need eight years to find enough change in the couches at Cape Canaveral to turn these gifts into something they can use. Anyone else find anything wrong with this state of affairs?""

Submission + - Space Team Reunites for John Glenn's Friendship 7 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "An era begins to pass as only about 25 percent of today's American population were at least 5 years old when John Glenn climbed into the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule on Feb. 20, 1962 and became the first American to orbit the earth. This weekend John Glenn joined the proud, surviving veterans of NASA’s Project Mercury to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his historic orbital flight as Glenn and Scott Carpenter, the two surviving members of the original astronaut corps, thanked the retired Mercury workers, now in their 70s and 80s, who gathered with their spouses at the Kennedy Space Center to swap stories, pose for pictures and take a bow. “There are a lot more bald heads and gray heads in that group than others, but those are the people who did lay the foundation,” said 90-year-old Glenn. Norm Beckel Jr., a retired engineer who also was in the blockhouse that historic morning, said almost all the workers back then were in their 20s and fresh out of college. The managers were in their 30s. "I don’t know if I’d trust a 20-year-old today." Bob Schepp, 77, was reminded by the old launch equipment of how rudimentary everything was back then. “I wonder how we ever managed to launch anything in space with that kind of stuff,” said Schepp. “Everything is so digital now. But we were pioneers, and we made it all work.”"

Submission + - Do You Have the Right Stuff to Be an Astronaut?

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Do you have what it takes to become an astronaut? NASA, the world's leader in space and aeronautics is now hiring outstanding scientists, engineers, and other talented professionals until January 27, 2012 for full time, permanent employment to carry forward the great discovery process that its mission demands. "Creativity. Ambition. Teamwork. A sense of daring. And a probing mind." To qualify, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in science, engineering or mathematics. Certain degrees are immediate disqualifiers, including nursing, social sciences, aviation, exercise physiology, technology, and some psychology degrees, too. The job listing mandates "1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft" unless you have three years of "related, progressively responsible, professional experience" like being an astronaut somewhere else maybe? "Since astronauts will be expected to fly on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, they must fit Russia's physical requirements for cosmonauts. That means no one under 5 foot 2 inches or over 6 foot 3 inches." Applicants brought in for interviews will be measured to make sure they meet the job application's "anthropometric requirements." You'll need to pass a drug test, a comprehensive background check, a swimming test, and have 20/20 vision in each eye and it almost goes without saying that candidates will need to be in "incredible shape." Applicants must pass NASA's long-duration space flight physical, which evaluates individuals based on "physical, physiological, psychological, and social" stressors, like one's ability to work in small, confined spaces for hours on end. And of course..."Frequent travel may be required.""

Submission + - NASA Sues Apollo Astronaut to Return Moon Camera

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The US government has brought a lawsuit against astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, after discovering that Mitchell had approached a NY auction house trying to sell a 16-millimeter data acquisition camera (DAC) that was supposed to have been left in the lunar module (LM) during the Apollo 14 mission. Mitchell argues that too many years have gone by for the government to pursue the camera as stolen and besides, it was given to the now 80-year-old moonwalker as a gift in line with NASA's then-policies governing spent equipment. However the government contends it has no record of the camera being given to Mitchell who elected to remove it from the lunar module before parting ways with the spacecraft and returning to Earth, and the judge has ruled that the government is not bound by the statute of limitations denying Mitchell's motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against him. The Apollo 14 astronauts were not the only crewmates to salvage parts of their lunar module as mementos. Astronauts aboard Apollo 12 and Apollo 15 ripped off parts of their moonwalking suits' life support backpacks before they were discarded onto the lunar surface. But what makes Mitchell's case different is that other astronauts asked their bosses before each mission for permission and provided a list of items they planned to keep while apparently Mitchell didn't. "They give me a list of things they're going to bring back," said Deke Slayton, head of NASA's astronaut corps, who died in 1993. "I give it to the program office and they bring 'em back." For his part, Mitchell does not seem ready to give up the camera as the case prepares to go to trial next year. "It's utter nonsense. It's just a tempest in a teapot.""

Submission + - US Will Still Lead Despite Shuttle's End

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden says that the future is bright and promises that one day humans will land on Mars. "American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half-century because we’ve laid the foundation for success,” the nation’s space chief said in a speech at the National Press Club. “When I hear people say that the final shuttle flight marks the end of U.S. human space flight, you all must be living on another planet. We are not ending human space flight. We are recommitting ourselves to it.” Bolden says within a year private companies can take over the process of sending cargo shipments into orbit and by 2015 industry can take over astronaut transport, freeing NASA to focus on the long-term goals of reaching beyond Earth’s shadow. “Do we want to keep repeating ourselves or do we want to look at the big horizon?” says Bolden. “My generation touched the moon today, NASA, and the nation, wants to touch an asteroid, and eventually send a human to Mars.” A group of former astronauts and other critics have blasted the agency and the Obama administration for ending the 30-year-old shuttle program, once the cornerstone of NASA. "NASA's human spaceflight program is in substantial disarray with no clear-cut mission in the offing. We will have no rockets to carry humans to low-Earth orbit and beyond for an indeterminate number of years," write Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan. "After a half-century of remarkable progress, a coherent plan for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent.""

Submission + - A Problem with Apollo That Only a Kid Could Solve

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Here's a story from a few years ago that provides an interesting footnote to a problem with the spaceflight that landed the first humans on Earth's Moon. It was around 10:00 at night on July 23, and 10-year-old Greg Force was at home with his mom and three brothers as his father, Charles Force, was at work as director of the NASA tracking station in Guam, that was about to play a critical role in the return of Apollo 11 to Earth. A powerful antenna at Guam connected NASA communications with Apollo 11, and the antenna was the only way for NASA to make its last communications with the astronauts before splashdown. But at the last minute on that night, a bearing in the antenna failed, rendering it nearly useless. To properly replace the bearing would have required dismantling the entire antenna, but Charles Force thought if he could get more grease around the failed bearing, it would probably be fine. The only problem was, nobody at the station had an arm small enough to actually reach in through the two-and-a-half inch opening so Force sent someone out to his home to pick up Greg. Greg reached into the tiny hole and packed grease around the failed bearing. It worked, and the station was able to successfully complete its communications role in the mission and Apollo 11 splashed down safely the next day. Charles Force went on to become Associate Administrator Space Operations, the number six position at NASA and was instrumental in the development of the current Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. Greg went on to get his pilot's license, and even though his career now as a gymnastics school owner isn't exactly space-related, he says that "ever since then, I've followed the space program.""

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