updated 5-3-07






by Dee Finney

Astronaut Alan Shepard poses in his Mercury spacesuit in 1961,
shortly before he became the first American in space. Ten years
later he became the fifth man to walk on the Moon.
Photo - Courtesy NASA.

Gordon Cooper dead on 10-5-04 at age 77
He was one of the first men in space

6-27-98- DREAM - This dream started at my New Berlin, WI  house but my family was not there.

The people in the house had malformations of the head. One person had growths all over her head like 'elephant man'. One woman had like a sculpted frame built around her head with skewers to hold her skull together. I was so grossed out by those two women but I forced myself to look at them. I knew this was for a reason I had to do this. At one point, I was helping to repair a table lamp by taking parts from another table lamp.

Another guy had just shaved his beard and he had cut off these huge growths on his fact that were like long tentacles. I had to prove to him that he was loved anyway and I had to prove that by eating something gross-looking that touched his face.

I then went outside and walked around the house to the front. I saw my family standing on the lawn about 30 feet away. As I came around the front of the house, I saw a huge yellow UFO appear in the sky suddenly. I stood there in awe with my mouth hanging open. I hollered to my family to look.

As we watched, the yellow UFO morphed into a rocket shape and a big American flag appeared and waved in the wind. We were so shocked, we couldn't believe our eyes.

Then a big rocket appeared in the western sky. It was going upward, but getting closer and it seemed ominous. Then another rocket appeared and crossed paths with the first rocket and instantly a huge silver flat faced balloon shot up out of the 2nd rocket and the balloon had the face of an astronaut on it with an American flag behind him.

My family was in awe and stood there with me, mouths hanging open and then, not knowing what else to do, we started to applaud.

Just then, another UFO appeared in the southern sky. As we watched another spacecraft appeared. Again, an American flag shot up from the 2nd spacecraft like it had confronted the 1st one and won. Again, we applauded heartedly.

As I sat there, an astronaut appeared on the lawn up on the hill behind the house. He was in black and white -...not color like the rest of the dream. It was Wally Shirra. I don't know how I knew it was him but I'm as positive about that s I know my own name. He was wearing one of those puffy white spacesuits like they wear in outer space. It had black bands around the upper arms, and waist, and by his ankles. I saw his face clearly, so I know he was not wearing a helmet.

NOTE: Wally Shirra passed away on May 3, 2007 at the age of 84.

He began to speak to me. I was in awe but tried to answer his questions. (I can't remember what he said.) When I tried to talk, my lips could move, but my teeth didn't come apart and I was mumbling like I was half asleep.

I was so discomforted about speaking to the famous Wally Shirra while mumbling, I finally said to him, "I feel like I'm half asleep". He said then, "Oh! Then I won't bother you, and he evaporated.

I was so disappointed. I felt like I had chased him away by being rude. I felt really bad. But then, I wanted to tell someone about my 'dream'.

The scene changed and I was at a large school. As I walked across the schoolyard, there were many children playing there, and I picked up things that were dropped and handed them back and patted heads and smiled at them.

Off to my left, all of the female teachers were playing a game of baseball. They were all wearing white tops and black longish shorts. As I got to the school door, the double doors closed and I saw that there were no handles on the outside to open the doors. However, when I tried to pry the doors apart in the center, I discovered that the doors pushed inward very easily.

I stood there in the hallway, looking for someone I could tell my Wally Shirra dream to. The teachers came in from the baseball field and they were all now wearing long shimmering robes of multicolored purple, blue, and rose. They were talking together amongst themselves and some of them were dispersing to up a stairway, so I ran amongst them hollering, "Ladies! Ladies! I want to tell you about my dream. It was about UFOs!" They were all instantly interested and wanted to hear my dream.

There was a large conference room there, so I entered it and found it to be full of the male teachers sitting on the floor facing the front like they had just been lectured to from the podium. They were all dressed in longish black shorts, and white nubby cotton tops.

I told them that I had something to tell them and they all moved back to make a square opening in front for the female teachers to come in.

For some reason I wasn't shocked but as the female teachers filed in, they were all wearing pajamas and robes and were crippled in one way or another.

The tallest woman had no hair and was on crutches. She seemed to be referring to the light I had been helping to repair earlier, and told me that if I needed parts to repair anything, there was a junk yard on 108th St. that carried all kinds of parts and could probably get me anything I needed.

NOTE: Interestingly enough, 108 is the number of Goddesses in the Hindu religion.

NOTE:  On July 22, 1998, Astronaut Alan Shephard passed away from leukemia.

Pioneering Astronaut Dies at Age 74

The first American to climb aboard a rocket and be launched above Earth's atmosphere has died. Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. passed away early July 22nd at age 74. One of NASA's "original seven" Mercury astronauts, Shepard became the first American in space during the suborbital flight of Freedom 7 on May 5, 1961. He was subsequently grounded for several years because of an inner-ear problem, but then recovered to command the Apollo 14 mission in February 1971. He was the fifth human to walk on the Moon.

For more information and images, see NASA's Alan Shepard tribute page.


- STS 107 scheduled landing - 2-1-2003 - broke up and crashed on landing. ...

See Lion Power - A page about psychic power and Astronaut Edgar Mitchell

Another Astronaut Dream

4-12-00 - DREAM - I was at a place where I and some other people were working with objects that were number 1 thru 27 and represented astronauts. These objects were rather egg shaped or vehicle shaped. I didn't get a clear look at them though I held them in my right hand several times when I moved them within the circular container that held these objects. The container edge was no taller than the objects and the circular container held only the 27 objects with no extra space.  The container was about 18 inches across.

Here too was a strange pool that was ocean-like water that was about knee deep on me but there were small children there and the water would have been over their heads so there was a safety issue which we discussed, not wanting to jeopardize anyone's life.

After this, we decided to play a card game called the 'Game of Life'. The cards were similar to a regular deck of card with numbers and face cards, but the cards were extra large like the large size Tarot cards. We were playing with a double deck, twice as many cards as normal.

We were all sitting on the floor to play the game, with the cards set up in two stacks which I leaned against my outstretched leg.  The astronaut objects were in the circular container on top of a hassock next to my right knee. The cards were placed such that the numbers and face cards could be seen by everyone.

At this point, President Clinton came in to observe this game as the outcome of this game influenced the fate of the 27 astronauts.

I made certain that the cards were set up so President Clinton had a clear view. He sat behind us with a cup of coffee and a newspaper so he could relax and view the game at the ssame time.

At this point, my son Tom wanted to rearrange the cards so that the number cards were in one pile and the face cards in the other pile.

I told him that he was too late to do that as it would be too time consuming to change the game now, that if he wanted to play the game that way, he should set the cards up that way in advance at some future date for another future game.

This divided the group into two factions, half for one way of playing, half for the other. Some people actually abandoned the game, but not everyone. The game was still on.

President Clinton continued to observe myself, and a couple other people as we continued to play the game which affected the future of the 27 astronauts.

The 7 Sisters Of The Pleiades - The Connection To 5/5/2000 - The Big Dipper

The original seven astronauts selected
for the Mercury program are: (front row,
left to right) Walter M. Schirra, Jr.,
Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr.,
and M. Scott Carpenter, (back row, left to
right)  Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom
and L. Gordon Cooper.

Large View

The word astronaut means "Star Sailor" in Latin

Requirements to be an astronaut


Practicing in the underwater tank

Honoring 10 African American Astronauts

Here in the United States, the NASA Space Program selects and trains new Astronauts every two years. Of all the eager men and women that apply, only about twenty are chosen. The future astronauts must have the important quality of working well with others in addition to physical fitness and a good education.

The Space Station

Manned Mars Mission - The Basic Plan

- 6 people, 2 of them MD's
- 500 to 1000 days in space, most of mission to be on Mars Surface
- Send hardware to high earth orbit from LEO
- 500 kWe solar electric propulsion, using 10 Russian Hall-effect thrusters
- 80 ton cargo mission first two year window
- 80 ton for Mars surface, liquid methane-LOX production next two years
- Send people after cryofuels for return exist on Mars Surface
- 4 to 6 month trips from Earth to Mars, or return
- - Year 2004 AD decision

The Rest of the Details


The crew for the manned mission - MISSION TO MARS


A Crewed Mission to Mars

Implications of a Manned Mars Trip


NASA Photo

The Apollo Test Fire

January 27, 1967

Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White, Rodger Chaffe

In a full dress rehearsal of the Apollo 1 launch, due in less than two weeks, all three astronauts die in a flash fire on board their new spacecraft which is using a 100% O2 atmosphere.

In January 1967, all seemed on schedule for Apollo 1, Contracters and NASA had been working feverishly on meeting Preisdent Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon. On January 27, in a dress rehearsal for the Feburary 21 maiden voyage, an electrial fire started inside the command module. The cabin with 100% oxygen atmosphere became a rapidly burning infermo. The combination faulty wiring, oxygen content, and a hatch that took 90 seconds to open has been deemed what caused three brave, and experienced astronauts.

History of Apollo 1 -
Includes Full details of the fire investigation

Apollo 1 (AS-204)  Disaster On Pad 34

Nasa Photo-Virgil Grissom Inspecting the Inside of Appollo 1


On January 5 th, 1986, I had a dream on a very high level in which I was looking toward the west & saw an unnatural cloud in the sky and on the ground there was a building and I went inside the building and there were people there and everything was shades of grey and there was no color. The people had very long faces and walked about not noticing me at all. I said "what is this a funeral ?"

I went out of the house and saw a building to the south east and I flew over to that building and flew through a window there and inside the building was filled with pieces of sheet metal that was stacked up and looked very much like the wreckage of an airliner, and I touched a piece of it and cut myself and I said "this building is full of hurt."

I flew back out the window and back to where I had started and I heard a sound like thunder and I looked up into that cloud that hung over this place and saw a great fire inside the cloud. As I watched the fire broke into three parts and then it broke into thousands of little parts and I said "what is this fire in the sky ?" Suddenly two bright sparks fell out of the cloud and I saw they were angels and one landed on either side of me and I was astounded at their form & brilliance. When they touched me I was lifted into the air and we turned and flew toward the East where I saw another building on the ground and a path like a road that ran south of the building and there was frost all over the ground and everything I saw. I saw lights under the ground that looked very much like car lights but I could see them and there was a vehicle that was buried under the surface of the frost and I went down there to see what it was and saw there was in fact a vehicle that was buried there below where I stood. I said "what is this that is buried here," and something moved in front of me and I looked up and there standing directly to the south of where I stood was a woman dressed in a full length black dress with a Bible in her right hand.   She was dressed for a funeral and she was a school teacher. I stood there looking into her face and her eyes but she didn't move but she had a message. That message was greater than I could comprehend at that very moment but in short we must look to the past to find the answers to the future. She was saying that had people listened to God this would not have happened.

Other Prophetic Dreams

"They slipped the surly bounds of Earth to touch the face of God."

-Ronald Reagan
State of the Union Address, 1986

Gregory Jarvis, Mike Smith, Ellison Onizuka
Ronald McNair, Francis Scobee, Judy Resnik
Christa McAuliffe

In January 1986, the world watched in horror
as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in
mid-air just 73 seconds after lift-off. After the
accident, the families of the Challenger astronauts
wanted to continue the educational mission of the
crew. During a meeting of top educators from
around the country, the idea of a space simulation
was born.

Christa McAuliffe

STS 51-L Mission Overview

Challenger Remembered

The Challenger Disaster - Cause and Effect

Memories of the Challenger Disaster

The Shuttle Memorial - Arlington Cemetery


Fallen Heroes

In Memorium



Results of a Survey on the Use of Virtual Environment Technology in Training NASA Flight Controllers for the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

Russian Astronauts in Training for Mir

Manned Spaceflight - 1980 - 1989

Psychology Keeps Astronauts Well Grounded

STARCHILD  - A Learning Center for Young Astronomers

Astronaut Sites for Children



Date: 04/22/2000

Astronauts in Florida for space station mission

By Brad Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 21, 2000 (Reuters) - A patchwork crew of seven  astronauts arrived at the Kennedy Space Centre on Friday to begin final preparations for a quickly planned mission to the International Space Station, which is slowly losing its orbit as it waits for an overdue Russian module.

``We're incredibly happy to be here,'' said mission commander James Halsell, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. ``It's our understanding the vehicle is in fine shape.''

Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to lift off on Monday and return to Earth 10 days later. Its mission is about as close to improvisation as NASA can get, given the enormous complexity of launching humans into space.

While crews normally train together for a year or more before launch, this crew was only finalised in mid-February.

The Atlantis mission was originally designed to supply the International Space Station before the first expeditionary crew took up residence.

But the U.S. space agency went back to the drawing board when it became clear that the launch of the Russian Zvezda service module, similar to the core unit of Russia's Mir space station, was going to slip more than two years behind schedule and the station would not be ready to begin operations.

The $60 billion International Space Station brings together the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada in a joint venture to create a research outpost in space.

When completed, the station will have more pressurized living space than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet and will be clearly visible in the evening sky. An ambitious schedule, involving dozens of missions, targets completion in four years.

The service module, beside providing crew quarters for three, was also designed to maintain the station's orbit, which currently is slipping by about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) a week.

While docked to the fledgling space station, Atlantis will use its own engines to boost the complex by about 19 miles (31 km), which should put it safely beyond the Earth's atmosphere until Zvezda's arrival, now scheduled for mid-July.

When the mission was replanned, three crew members were pulled from duty and reassigned to a new mission planned for August, to follow Zvezda's launch.

To take their place, NASA sent to Moscow for astronauts James Voss and Susan Helms and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev. The three had been designated the space station's Expedition 2 crew and were training for a mission set for next year.

They joined Halsell, pilot Scott Horowitz and mission specialists Mary Ellen Weber and Jeffery Williams.

The quick reworking of this mission is a sign of the times, according to Halsell, and something astronauts will have to get used to. Although the first crew is scheduled to live aboard the station this year, it will still be a work in progress, with 39 more shuttle flights planned before its completion.

``I think that in the future we are going to have to perhaps become a little bit more flexible,'' Halsell said in an interview. ``In the future we're going to have to be able to take a shuttle crew off the shelf and an International Space Station crew already in training off the shelf, and put them together as one crew and have them go fly.''

``You have to be able to adapt to new situations, and that's what we were all asked to do,'' Weber said.

Besides boosting the station's orbit, the crew will deliver about 2,000 pounds (907 kgs) of provisions and equipment for future crews, as well as make repairs.

``We do have some degradation in some of the mechanical and electrical systems on board'' after more than a year and a half in space, Halsell said.

Voss and Williams will conduct a space walk to repair a communications antenna and complete construction of a construction crane to be used during future assembly missions.

On board the station, the crew will replace four of six batteries that store power generated by the station's solar-panel wings. NASA said the batteries have been overtaxed while waiting for the Zvezda module to arrive.

The delay also gave ground crews time to repair on-board problems found during tests conducted on the launch pad. Repairs were made to systems that control the shuttle's rudder, flaps and brakes.

17:14 04-21-00

Space station awaits Monday shuttle launch by NASA

Date: 04/23/2000

By Brad Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 23, 2000 (Reuters) - As the International Space Station circles Earth, losing orbit, short on power and months away from being habitable, NASA prepared on Sunday to launch the space shuttle Atlantis on a mission that promised to be part progress and part rescue.

Atlantis and its crew of six Americans and one Russian are scheduled to lift off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 4:15 p.m. EDT (2015 GMT) on Monday. The U.S. space agency said an approaching storm front was unlikely to pose a problem by launch time.

Inside the shuttle's cargo bay were more than 2,000 pounds (900 kg) of supplies, from smoke detectors to an exercise treadmill. Expeditionary crews will use them when they eventually take up residence, a step already two years behind schedule.

So far the $60 billion station is like a half-built house that has sat on a vacant lot too long. Some repairs will have to be made before the job can even be finished.

When completed, the station will have more pressurized air space than a Boeing 747, but now it is little more than storage space, still waiting for the long-delayed Russian service module, dubbed Zvezda, that will provide living quarters, power and navigational aid while construction continues on the remainder of the station.


But first, the Atlantis crew will have to replace four of six batteries in the Russian-built Zarya module. Zarya has been in space since November 1998 and was never designed to operate alone for so long without help from Zvezda.

The crew will also try to buffer the noise inside Zarya. At 75 decibels, this is about as loud as a noisy office or normal city traffic, but through prolonged exposure, it can cause partial deafness.

They also will take plenty of air samples, hoping scientists on the ground can learn why an earlier supply crew became sick while working on Zarya.

While spacewalking astronauts put the finishing touches to a Russian construction crane outside the station, they will also repair a communications antenna that failed.

During more than five days of docked operations, Atlantis commander James Halsell and pilot Scott Horowitz will periodically fire the shuttle's engines to boost the station's orbit by about 20 miles (32 km). Without the fuel and thrusters on Zvezda, the station's orbit has been declining about 1.5 miles (2.4 kg) a week.

NASA defends its work on the station but says there is only so much the agency can accomplish until the Russians put Zvezda into orbit. That launch is scheduled for mid-July, but NASA managers are saying it may be August at the earliest.


``Today, 85 percent of the U.S. hardware (for the station) is down in Florida, waiting to be launched,'' said Tommy Holloway, space station manager for the Johnson Space Centre in Houston. ``We're ready for 10 flights of hardware. Five of those flights are in final preparations.''

Meanwhile, the Russian Space Agency, which is more than two years behind schedule on launching the service module, has come under increasing criticism from Congress and from the General Accounting Office, which in March complained that the Russians were delivering components, including Zvezda and Zarya, that did not meet specifications for safety and reliability.

Both modules were not adequately shielded from orbital debris from satellites and other space missions, which could collide with the station at 18,000 mph (29,000 kph) or faster, the accounting office found. It also said the modules would not operate if the station lost air pressure.

For their part, the Russians say that their international partners -- the United States, Canada, the European Space Agency and Japan -- lack the experience Russia has in building and orbiting space stations and sometimes see problems where the Russians have found solutions years ago.

``It's no picnic,'' said Valeri Alaverdov, First Deputy General Director of the Russian Space Agency. ``I think the best thing in any argument is the evidence, and we have plenty of evidence that our hardware is reliable. We've been flying the Mir station for almost 15 years.''

Atlantis is scheduled to return to Earth on May 4.

17:18 04-23-00


SPACE.com Today . 26 April 2000 . http:www.space.com

Third Shuttle Scrub Forces Delay Into May

Nasty weather at overseas emergency landing sites forces another delay on Space Shuttle Atlantis' mission to the International Space Station.


Join us for multimedia coverage of the Atlantis Mission with daily updates leading up to the next planned launch on May 11.


Weather Delays Shuttle Launch Until May 18

NASA announced Friday that it will wait until May 18 to attempt the next launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on a mission to the International Space Station after weather scrubbed three launch attempts earlier in the week.

The extended delay is required because the Eastern Range, which encompasses the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is booked for several unmanned launches through mid-May.

NASA had considered pushing back the launch of an Atlas 2 carrying the GOES-L weather satellite to allow another shuttle launch attempt on or around May 3, the date of the Atlas launch. The space agency decided, however, to launch the Atlas as scheduled in order to preserve "full satellite weather capability."

This means the shuttle has to move to the end of a long line of upcoming launches from the Cape. Besides the Atlas 2 launch scheduled for May 3, a Titan 4 is scheduled to launch a military early warning satellite on May 8. That will be followed by a Delta 2 launch of a GPS satellite on May 10, a launch pushed back from April to investigate a possible problem with the satellite. On May 15 an Atlas 3 is scheduled to launch a commercial communications satellite on its inaugural flight.

A May 18 launch would make it almost exactly one year since the shuttle last visited the station on mission STS-96. In the meantime space station flight controllers are considering a thruster burn later this week that could raise the station's orbit until the shuttle arrives, since one of the things the shuttle would do during the STS-101 mission is to boost the slowly-decaying orbit of the station.

NASA made three attempts to launch Atlantis this past week, but all three were thwarted by weather. High winds at the Kennedy Space Center postponed launch attempts on Monday and Tuesday, primarily because crosswinds were too high at the Shuttle Landing Facility to permit a safe landing in the event that a launch emergency forced the shuttle to return to the Kennedy Space Center.

Although weather conditions improved enough on Wednesday that crosswinds and other launch site weather was not an issue, unacceptable weather conditions at all three transatlantic abort landing sites in Spain and Morocco forced NASA to scrub that attempt.

NASA went to extra lengths to try and launch the shuttle last week. Thursday was the third consecutive day NASA made a launch attempt, something never before attempted in shuttle program history: usually NASA stands down for a day or more after back-to-back launch attempts to give crews time to rest. Officials said they made the unprecedented attempt because of the lack of technical problems encountered during any of the countdown attempts.

When it does finally launch, Atlantis will be docked to ISS for six of the 10 or 11 days of the mission as the seven-person crew performs maintenance and repairs of the station's Zarya control module and Unity docking node, including the replacement of a faulty battery in the Zarya module that was noticed by controllers last year.

"STS-101 effectively jump-starts us back into assembling the International Space Station," said shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore during a pre-launch briefing last month.

STS-101 will also be the first flight of Atlantis since September 1997, when it flew mission STS-86, the seventh shuttle-Mir docking mission. After that mission the shuttle underwent an extensive overhaul and upgrade period at a Boeing facility in Palmdale, California.

STS-101 is commanded by veteran astronaut Jim Halsell, with Scott Horowitz as pilot. The five mission specialists on STS-101 are Mary Ellen Weber, Jeffrey Williams, James Voss, Susan Helms, and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev. The latter three will also be the second long-duration crew to stay on ISS, starting next year.

If the shuttle does launch on May 18, it would return to the Kennedy Space Center on May 28 or 29. The exact length of the mission depends on the amount of time needed to rendezvous and dock with the station.

Space Station Needs Atlantis Badly


.c The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -5-18-00 -  The international space station needs space shuttle Atlantis and its repair crew more than ever as more parts break and it slips lower and lower in orbit.

Atlantis was scheduled to lift off shortly before sunrise Friday with new batteries and other replacement parts for the space station. NASA began fueling the shuttle Thursday night for NASA's fourth attempt to send the shuttle to the rescue.

Gusty wind wiped out all three launch attempts in late April. Perfect weather was forecast this time.

Four of the six electricity-generating batteries on the space station have failed or are failing. Replacing them is NASA's No. 1 priority.

During the past three weeks, yet another electrical component began faltering: a Russian battery-charging device, which will have to be replaced.

NASA's No. 2 priority is boosting the space station.

For months, the station has been dropping about 1 1/2 miles each week because of increased solar activity, which causes the atmosphere to expand and spacecraft to sink.

The station is nearly 210 miles high. Atlantis will give it a 26-mile lift during the six days that the spacecraft are docked.

That will put it on par with Russia's Mir, which is flying high again with cosmonauts after being abandoned for months and experiencing a fire, a collision and numerous breakdowns.

The first piece of the international space station was placed in orbit in November 1998, and the second piece a month later. But because of delays by the Russians, no major parts have been added since then, and a permanent crew will not move in until November at the earliest - 2 1/2 years behind schedule.

``There's been a lot of talk about the space station's up there with problems and people are on board Mir and we're second-string, if you want to say it that way. But we're not,'' space station deputy manager Robert Cabana said Thursday.

``The truth be known, Mir is noisier and noisier than the international space station and when we're done, the international space station is going to be extremely quiet and nice.''

Still, the seven shuttle astronauts will have to wear ear plugs while working inside the Russian half of the space station, because of the racket from whirring equipment.

They will also carry their own fans. The air circulation is so poor in the Russian module that the last astronauts who visited, one year ago, became ill.

The pace in orbit will pick up greatly once the Russians launch their service module, supposedly in July.

On the Net:

NASA's human space flight program: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/index-m.html

AP-NY-05-18-00 2124EDT

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.

Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off on Fourth Try


.c The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (May 19, 2000) - Space shuttle Atlantis and seven astronauts blasted into orbit today on a mission to fix the international space station, succeeding finally on their fourth launch try.

Atlantis rose from its seaside pad at daybreak as the space station sped over Bulgaria. The shuttle is expected to catch up with the station early Sunday.

''We're on our way to the station,'' shuttle commander James Halsell Jr. called out.

The space station needs Atlantis and its crew more than ever as more parts break and it slips lower and lower in orbit. NASA's efforts to send the shuttle to the rescue in late April were foiled three days in a row by gusty wind.

This time, the weather was perfect for flying. A nearly full moon glowed in the sky at the appointed 6:11 a.m. liftoff time. The exhaust plumes left in the shuttle's wake also glowed, illuminated by the rising sun.

Atlantis' pilot, Scott Horowitz, turned out to be right when he held up a sign before crawling into the shuttle. The sign read:

''4th time is a Charm!'' Never mind that he'd scratched out ''3rd.''

''They say that good things come to those who wait and we waited for a while on this one,'' said launch director Dave King. ''It was awesome to get that mission off today, and what a beautiful time of day to launch.''

Four of the six electricity-generating batteries on the space station have failed or are failing. Replacing them is NASA's No. 1 priority.

Since the shuttle's last launch attempt, yet another electrical component has begun faltering: a Russian battery-charging device, which will have to be replaced.

NASA's No. 2 priority is boosting the space station.

For months, the station has been dropping about 1 1/2 miles each week because of increased solar activity, which causes the atmosphere to expand and spacecraft to sink.

The station is nearly 210 miles high. Atlantis will give it a 26-mile lift during the six days the spacecraft are docked.

That will put it on par with Russia's Mir, which is flying high again with cosmonauts after being abandoned for months and experiencing a fire, a collision and numerous breakdowns.

The first piece of the international space station was placed in orbit in November 1998, and the second piece the following month. But because of delays by the Russians, no major parts have been added since then and a permanent crew will not move in until November at the earliest - 2 1/2 years behind schedule.

''There's been a lot of talk about the space station's up there with problems and people are on board Mir and we're second-string, if you want to say it that way. But we're not,'' said space station deputy manager Robert Cabana.

''The truth be known, Mir is noisier and noisier than the international space station and when we're done, the international space station is going to be extremely quiet and nice.''

Halsell and his crew will have to wear ear plugs while working inside the Russian half of the station because of the racket from whirring equipment.

They will also carry their own fans. The air circulation is so poor in the Russian module that the last astronauts who visited, one year ago, became ill. The Russians are expected to launch their service module in July.

This is Atlantis' first outing in almost three years; it spent much of that time in the shop being tuned up. Atlantis is the first shuttle to sport a modern, Boeing 777-style cockpit with digital rather than mechanical controls.

Launch manager Bill Gerstenmaier said it's amazing the shuttle is orbiting in ''unbelievably great shape'' following such a massive overhaul. The only problem during liftoff, and a minor one at that, was with the pressure regulator for an orbital-maneuvering engine.

One other item of note: Packed aboard Atlantis were an Olympic 2000 torch, unlit of course, and an Olympic flag that will fly in Sydney in September.

Atlantis is due back on Memorial Day.

AP-NY-05-19-00 0749EDT

Tuesday May 23 6:17 AM ET

Astronauts Enter Space Station

By C. BRYSON HULL, Associated Press Writer

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) - Space shuttle Atlantis' astronauts today finished replacing two crucial batteries aboard the international space station after opening up the vacant outpost for the first time in a year.

Minutes after cracking open the brightly lit Unity module late Monday, American astronaut Susan Helms and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev headed in.

Only two of the six Russian-made batteries were working. The other four were dead or dying because of careless overcharging by Russian engineers. They are being replaced to restore full electrical power to the anemic space station.

Pushing aside piles of supplies, Helms and Usachev pulled up the floor of the Russian control module - named Zarya, or Sunrise - to get to the batteries. They replaced two of them in just over five hours, finishing well ahead of schedule early today.

``A lot of the credit goes to the crew working together before the flight to work out the choreography,'' flight director Phil Engelauf said. ``They really worked this down to a science, like a pit crew working on a race car.''

Russia's space program is picking up the tab for the batteries. Each one costs $252,000.

James Voss, who will join Helms and Usachev as a space station resident next year, was close behind them as they led the way into the space station.

``Glad you left the lights on for us,'' Voss told Mission Control.

Once inside, the seven Atlantis crewmates took air samples and checked the carbon-dioxide level to make sure it was safe.

The air was fine, although the thermometer was in the mid-80s. It was hot enough to prompt astronaut Jeffrey Williams, a Wisconsin native, to strip down to his shorts. The temperature eventually dropped to the high 70s.

The air-quality problems which plagued astronauts with nausea, itchy eyes and headaches - presumably because of the stagnant air - during NASA's last space station visit a year ago were not evident this time.

The astronauts had personal-sized fans to prevent exhaled carbon dioxide from pooling around their heads.

Before Atlantis undocks on Friday, the astronauts will drive the space station into a higher orbit and haul over supplies for future station residents.

A busy year of solar activity has caused the space station's orbit to drop by 11/2 miles a week. The shuttle's pilots start the first of three one-hour boosts tonight.

Since the engines get too hot after more than an hour of thrusting and need 24 hours to cool, NASA had to split the work up over three days. The plan is for Atlantis to shove the station 25 miles higher. Right now, the outpost is 209 miles above the earth.

See the older news on the shuttle

Tuesday May 23 9:55 AM ET

NASA Pleased With Space Station Air Quality

Astronauts Aboard The Space Shuttle Atlantis Continue Troubleshooting, Tackling Power Supply

By Brad Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - As astronauts from the space shuttle Atlantis worked inside the International Space Station on Tuesday, NASA said that suspect air quality on the station did not appear to pose a health risk.

Members of a shuttle crew that visited the station a year ago became sick while working in the Russian-built Zarya module, one of two existing modules on the unfinished science outpost.

For this trip, NASA reconfigured the duct work that moves fresh air from the shuttle throughout the station.

``The crew looked like they were doing great,'' said Paul Hill, lead flight director for the space station.

The space station, a joint venture involving the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, is expected to cost $60 billion when completed, perhaps by 2005. It will be one of the brightest objects in the evening sky and have as much pressurized living space as a Boeing 747 aircraft.

On Monday evening, astronauts from Atlantis began working their way through a maze of hatches on the shuttered station, and by Tuesday morning had completed about half the repair work scheduled for the station's power station, where solar-powered batteries are not recharging properly.

The crew entered the station armed with air detectors, mini-gas masks and personal fans, but did not appear to need any of them as they plunged into work.

``We haven't seen any indications of adverse affects or poor air quality,'' said Phil Engelauf, the shuttle's lead flight director.

In the weightless environment of space, air does not circulate freely as it does on Earth, where hot air rises and cold air falls. There is no up or down in space. That led to concerns that astronauts working in one area for too long a time might be re-breathing their own carbon dioxide.

The crew relies on air scrubbers on the shuttle to clean the station's air and scientists on the ground decided that maybe the shuttle was not circulating fresh air adequately.

A new system being used on this flight was designed to fix the problem.

``We're optimistic we'll keep the air as good as we possibly can make it on the station,'' Engelauf said.

Future Crew Looks At Station

The 18-month-old station has never housed a live-aboard crew and now needs urgent repairs before a third module can be added in July and the first long-term crew moves in by the end of the year.

A future expeditionary staff is part of the Atlantis crew on this trip and for them the day provided a first look at their soon-to-be temporary home. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev and American astronauts Susan Helms and James Voss are set to be the second crew to take up residence.

Usachev and Helms were first into Zarya. In addition to fans and masks, they also carried earplugs to protect them from Zarya's 75-decibel noise level, but did not appear to use any of the protective equipment.

The astronauts wasted little time before tearing out wall and floor panels so they could get to the six solar-charged batteries that store the station's power.

Two of the 163-pound (74 kg) batteries have failed and another two are malfunctioning. The two failed batteries were replaced immediately so they could begin recharging. The other two will be replaced before the crew departs on Friday.

The crew was eager to get to work after ending their sleep period late on Monday afternoon.

``Is there anything to keep us from opening up early?'' Atlantis commander James Halsell asked Mission Control, which gave them the OK to start their work half an hour early.

Halsell and pilot Scott Horowitz will fire thrusters on Atlantis at least three times before Friday to boost the station's faltering orbit. Currently orbiting 207 miles (333 km) above Earth, it is too low to intercept the next module, a Russian service module with living quarters, set for launch in July.

All kinds of supplies are in the shuttle's pressurized cargo hold, from trash bags and smoke detectors to clothing and an exercise treadmill.

They will be stored on the space station for the first expedition crew -- American William Shepherd and Russians Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev -- set to arrive in late October or early November.

Shuttle Atlantis Returns to Earth

Mission to Space Station Hailed a Success


.c The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (May 29, 2000) - Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew swooped through the pre-dawn darkness today and ended a triumphant repair mission to the international space station.

Within moments of touchdown, the seven astronauts were basking in praise.

``Just a super mission,'' congratulated Mission Control.

Infrared cameras tracked Atlantis on final approach; the shuttle resembled a ghost ship in the grainy, black and white pictures. The view switched to inside the cockpit just before the 2:20 a.m. landing, and the floodlighted runway and center line were easily distinguishable from the pilots' seats.

It was only the 14th time in 98 flights that a space shuttle landed in darkness. The crosswind ended up being well within safety limits, despite NASA's earlier concerns.

The astronauts' handiwork, the rejuvenated space station, had passed over the Kennedy Space Center just 10 minutes earlier, and was crossing the North Atlantic when Atlantis touched down.

All four newly installed batteries were working fine and providing full electrical power to the space station.

``I know it's bad hours for the arrival, but we are certainly glad to be back home,'' commander James Halsell Jr. said.

Halsell and his crew immediately inspected scratches and dents in the thermal tiles covering the bottom of each shuttle wing. The scrapes happened during liftoff May 19 and were noticed when NASA reviewed video of the launch. Engineers suspect the wings were hit by chunks of ice that fell off the external fuel tank. The ice sometimes forms because of the supercold liquid fuel inside.

Halsell said the damage turned out to be ``nothing extraordinary,'' even though NASA had him take special precautions in preparing for landing.

Besides replacing bad batteries, the six Americans and one Russian furnished the 1 1/2-year-old space station with a new antenna, construction crane, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and fans. They also boosted the complex into an orbit more than 230 miles high, 30 miles higher than before.

Halsell said it was sometimes stressful trying to squeeze everything into the six days that the spacecraft were docked. But he noted with visible pride that the outcome was ``a resounding success and something of a resurgence for the international space station program.''

Now that it's back in top form, the space station will fly solo until July. That's when Russia's long delayed service module is supposed to arrive. Once that happens, space station compartments will start soaring and astronauts and cosmonauts will begin moving in.

After more than two years of delay, the service module finally appears to be ready, said NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. The space agency wants Russian space officials to launch a few more Proton rockets, however, before committing to the all-important service module flight.

A pair of Proton launch accidents last year put the service module flight on hold. The module, a propulsion tug as well as crew quarters, was already running late because of Russia's money crunch.

``Until it goes up, we won't know,'' Goldin said. As a precaution, NASA is working on substitute modules to keep the space station program on track.

Goldin said the crew's extensive training paid off on this 10-day mission. But he noted: ``There's a bit of luck, too.''

NASA hopes to have Atlantis ready for another space station visit, with another U.S.-Russian crew, in September.

AP-NY-05-29-00 0914EDT

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.


BAIKONUR, Kazakhastan-- After an apparently flawless launch, a Russia Proton rocket roared in the sky over Central Asia early Wednesday, carrying aloft the long-delayed service module that will form the heart of the enormous International Space Station.

The unmanned module named Zvezda, Russian for "Star," is scheduled to dock automatically with the space station -- orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 240 miles (384 km) -- on July 25. The first crew could begin living on the station by October, NASA has said.

Both Russia and the United States have a lot riding on the success of Zvezda. As well as containing flight controls and the sewage system, the Zvezda will be a hub for future modules and is where the crew will sleep.

"The launch is crucial because without this module the further development of the ISS is impossible," said Alexander Kuznetsov, deputy director of the Russian space agency.

The 22-ton, 43-foot-long segment, which Russia says cost about $320 million to build, has taxed Russia's dwindling resources and put the U.S.-led project more than two years behind schedule, casting doubts on Russia's reliability as a major partner.

The Zvezda launch costs were partly defrayed by U.S. pizza chain Pizza Hut, which put a giant advertisement on the side of the Proton rocket. The ad was not visible Tuesday, with the rocket mostly covered by scaffolding from the launch tower in Baikonur.

Contingency plan

If Zvezda fails to dock successfully with the existing infrastructure, a three-man team known as the "zero crew" is on standby in Baikonur to race into space and make the connection manually, Kuznetsov said.

Kuznetsov said a technical hitch during the last Proton launch earlier this month, when it was discovered that pressure in one of its fuel tanks dropped below normal levels, had been resolved by a series of extra tests.

"(The new Proton) has undergone extra tests, but we understand that all parts are fully reliable and the rocket can be launched," he said.

The space station partners -- which include the European nations, Japan and Canada in addition to the U.S. and Russia -- are hoping it will be the start of a 15-year continuous multinational manned presence on the $60 billion outpost.

Strapped for cash, the Russians have had a hard time completing the complicated module. During the past six months, Russian Space Agency officials admit they spotted -- and they say rectified -- no less than 368 malfunctions in the service module. In addition, they say they made 70 design improvements based on input from astronauts and cosmonauts.

But Zvezda will still be launched with some serious flaws that will require repair in space. NASA engineers say, among other things, the service module does not meet their specifications for noise abatement and micrometeroid shielding.

The early crews will simply be provided earplugs and headsets while engineers ponder some muffler designs. And shielding against wayward space junk and meteor fragments will be installed by spacewalking astronauts a few years from now.

The early three-person crews will also have to deal with an odd design characteristic on Zvezda: There are only two small sleeping berths, leaving one station-keeper the odd person out.

The station is still nowhere near complete. Dozens more modules have to be built, and the station is expected to be finished by 2005 at the earliest, with 46 more planned space launches.

Despite the hectic, complicated, expensive schedule that lies before them, Russian space agency officials say they are sticking with plans to keep Mir in orbit as long as they have investors and at least until February 2001, when the station marks its 15th anniversary in orbit.

CNN Space Correspondent Miles O'Brien, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Wednesday August 23, 2000

International Space Station: Boon to Science or Boondoggle?

By Paul Hoversten - Washington Bureau Chief, SPACE.com

WASHINGTON -- When NASA launches a spacecraft into the cosmos, the mission usually flies with a long laundry list of results the space agency hopes to reap from it.

But the $60 billion International Space Station (ISS) -- NASA's costliest and most daunting venture yet -- stands alone as a mission whose mandates cannot be readily determined. Unlike robot probes dispatched to study the specific features or climate of another planet, the space station is an open-ended endeavor that NASA hopes will benefit Earth in ways that are impossible to predict.

That makes it easy fodder for critics who ask, what's the point?

Sixteen years after NASA first started work on the project -- with five more years to go before the station is completed -- the 16-nation space station looms as one of the largest question marks in the space agency's history. No other mission has been as scrutinized, analyzed or redesigned. None has been as technically challenging. Even before the first astronauts take up residence, the debate over the space station is shaping up like this: Is the station a boon for science or a boondoggle for taxpayers?

"We don't know what we'll get up there but we know some things that we're looking for," said Roger Crouch, NASA's senior scientist for the space station. "A lot of it is basic investigations of physics laws…where you don't have gravity smearing out the results. If you're lucky, you're going to find yourself pushing the envelope and you're going to find unimagined things…to improve the quality of life on the ground."

Mission success, Crouch said, will be measured in three areas: crew safety, useful hardware and scientific results that are in line with peer review.

"As far as breakthroughs or something leading to technology that can be integrated into Joe Sixpack's life, that could take 10 to 15 years," he said.

That sort of wait-and-see philosophy steams critics like Robert Park, a physicist at the University of Maryland and spokesman for the American Physical Society, who argues the space station is draining money from more worthy space missions.

"You can certainly hope for a breakthrough but it's improbable," Park said. "That money invested elsewhere is much more worthwhile. There are great explorations yet to be carried out at Mars or Europa and they won't be done in our lifetime."

The station now consists of a Russian space tug called Zarya, a Russian command post and living quarters called Zvezda and an American connecting tunnel called Unity, all orbiting 240 miles (385 kilometers) above Earth. Though the first live-aboard crew is due to arrive in late October for a three-month stay, scientific research won't begin in earnest until a U.S. laboratory named Destiny arrives on a mid-January launch aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.

If all goes as planned, the station will be finished in 2005 and operate for a decade beyond that. With 100 pieces weighing 1 million pounds (454,000 kilograms), the station will have five and a half times the electrical power of the Russian space station Mir with four and a half times its living space. When it is completed, the ISS will measure 356 feet (108.5 meters) across and 290 feet (88 meters) long -- the size of two football fields with a habitable volume of two Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

Research conducted in six labs -- built by the U.S., Europe, Japan or Russia -- will help assess how the human body reacts to long stays in weightlessness for a possible return to the moon or flights to Mars. Other experiments could lead to better drugs and treatments for cancer or other diseases. Still other studies of Earth from space could help scientists understand long-term changes to Earth's climate and environment.

Scientists also will study how flames, fluids and metals react in space and whether tests on certain materials in weightlessness can help improve earthbound industrial processes. All these will take time, and for the public to expect quick and substantial results, Crouch said, "is a little like expecting a pinch hitter to hit a home run every time he comes up to the plate."

What the station offers most, he said, is a new environment in which to study the world just as the invention of the microscope in the 16th century opened new doors into scientific research.

"We've never had access to an operating laboratory of this type in space before," said Mary Musgrave, a plant biologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Her experiments on seed growth have been flown both on Mir and the shuttle's Spacelab module.

"The Mir and Spacelab programs provided only a glimpse. The International Space Station offers the opportunity to conduct research 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," she said.

Whether that research can produce good science is open to debate. Critics doubt that it can. NASA argues that the nascent station someday will yield plenty of scientific breakthroughs in areas ranging from medicine to engineering. They just can't say what those might be or when they will come. As supporters see it, that sort of hedging is no different than the expectations for any general research laboratory on Earth.

"You approach research in space in a similar way that you do on Earth," said Ron Sega, a former astronaut and now dean of the college of engineering and applied science at the University of Colorado. "Some results are fairly dramatic and come early. Other times, it takes a long time."

The earliest results no doubt will come in learning how to operate and live safely aboard large structures in orbit. Long-term investigations, such as understanding how and why certain bodies of water are drying up on Earth, probably won't be conclusive for years. Breakthroughs, if and when they happen, often are the result of basic research done years before.

That's why a learn-as-you-go routine is natural for a mission like the station, said Sega, who flew on the space shuttle in 1994 and 1996.

"You approach working in the station environment in a different way," he said. "My two flights on the shuttle were short-duration flights of eight to nine days….Your preparation is very task-oriented. In a longer-duration activity, you train for the skills needed with an eye to adapting. It's very important that we see this as a laboratory and research work-in-progress, and people should view it in a similar way of doing high-quality research in a university or government lab."

As far as demanding instant scientific results, Sega said, "We don't do that with labs here, we shouldn't do that there either."

But critics contend the station's biggest problem is that its objectives were never clearly defined from the start. That left it open to design changes they say have compromised its purpose. Outlined by President Reagan in 1984 as an $8 billion facility that was to be ready by 1990, the station has grown to include 16 nations in a project costing eight times as much as originally planned.

"Its mission has never been very clear," said Park of the American Physical Society. "Each administration cooks up a new explanation for it…. By the time it's obvious nothing's going to come out of it, we'll have already spent the money. The space station stands as the single greatest obstacle to exploring space, and that's kind of sad."

If nothing else, the station gives NASA something it has not had in almost 20 years of flying the space shuttle -- a home in space. But it also commits the nation, and to a lesser degree its international partners, to a course of aiming humans no higher than low Earth orbit.

Crouch, however, said the sheer number of scientific investigations for the station -- between 100 and 120 experiments each year -- virtually assure NASA that the station will produce rewarding results.

"We're going to be doing research with the cream of the crop up there," he said. "To me, we'll start getting substantial results in even the first experiments that go up. We're looking forward to this being a progressive step in our learning."

Crew to make station a home



Posted: August 31, 2000

The astronauts will float into the space station the day after the spacewalk - flight day five - to begin transferring supplies and equipment into the outpost. The goal is to outfit and activate the Zvezda module, which will provide the station's initial crew quarters and the propulsion needed to maintain a safe orbit.

Running two years behind schedule because of Russian funding shortfalls and recent problems with Proton boosters, Zvezda was finally boosted into space July 12, clearing the way for arrival of the lab's first full-time crew in November.

To save weight, Zvezda was launched with just five of its eight batteries installed and with many of its modular life support and control systems incomplete.

Some of the missing equipment, along with crew supplies, food and other material, was launched Aug. 6 aboard the Progress 251 vehicle now docked to the far end of Zvezda. Additional equipment and supplies will be launched aboard Atlantis in a double Spacehab module mounted in the shuttle's cargo bay.

The astronauts will be hard pressed to completely unload both vehicles during the five days Atlantis is docked to the station.

"There are over 600 kilograms of cargo in the Progress cargo hold," Morukov said. "We made an attempt to load the cargo in the sequence that would best fit the unloading process and the accommodation aboard the station.

"Some of the cargoes are packed in U.S.-made bags that are very easy to accommodate on the station and which have specified preset locations," he added. "Other cargos - large components in boxes for the various systems - will be installed into the locations where they will be operated subsequently. This cargo complement includes very important components of the life support system.

Illustration of the Progress freighter docked to the end of Zvezda.
Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

"Probably the most important objective of the Progress flight is to deliver propellant to the station. However, the crew is not involved in the propellant transfer."

The Atlantis astronauts will, however, use spare fuel aboard the space shuttle to boost the station's altitude by about three nautical miles (six kilometers), saving the station's propellant for use when the shuttle is not available.

Morukov is responsible for orchestrating the Progress unloading. Burbank will direct stowage and assembly operations in the space station while Mastracchio will organize the unloading of the Spacehab module.

"Not only are we taking cargo and logistics from the orbiter but we're also bringing them across the hatch from the Progress into the service module," Burbank said. "It's going to be a major exercise in choreography. The key to all that is just doing the homework ahead of time."

Along with moving supplies into the station, the astronauts will assemble a Russian Elektron oxygen generator, a carbon dioxide removal system and major components of the station's toilet. They will also assemble a NASA-supplied treadmill and install laptop computers and equipment to set up a local area network.

Two new batteries will be installed in the Zarya module - four were replaced during the most recent shuttle visit in May - and three batteries and their charge-discharge controllers will be installed aboard Zvezda, giving the module a full complement of eight.

All told, Atlantis will carry 4,817 pounds (2,186 kilograms) of gear that will be transferred to the station, including 722 pounds (327 kilograms) of Russian hardware, 858 pounds of food (389 kilograms), 784 pounds (356 kilograms) of fresh water generated by the shuttle and 1,150 pounds (522 kilograms) of exercise equipment.

The Progress 251 vehicle is loaded with some 1,313 pounds (588 kilograms) of material, including components for the Elektron oxygen generator, the carbon dioxide air scrubber and toilet components.

"One of the primary goals of STS-106 is to get that vehicle off loaded because we will need an additional vehicle, Progress 2, to deliver the remaining supplies that are required to meet the early initial conditions for the crew, to have all the necessary supplies," Engelauf said.

"In addition, we will be off-loading a significant amount of cargo from the Spacehab," he said. "After we arrive, we'll move some of the supplies from the Zarya into Zvezda, we'll unload some equipment out of the Zarya that is no longer required. ... In addition, we'll be transferring a couple of science payloads."

Other objectives include:

Installation of new software into computers in the Unity module to help control the P6 solar array when it arrives later this year

Measurements of air quality in the station and the background acoustic environment

Installation of air ducts and fans in Zvezda

Removal of no-longer-needed manual docking control equipment in the Zarya module to make room for other equipment

Installation of U.S.-to-Russian power converter units to enable Russian equipment to use power generated by the P6 solar array

Installation of a bar code reader system to track station inventory and stowage locations

Removal of launch restraint bolts from fire extinguishers in the Zvezda module

Removal of Zarya's aft docking probe, which is no longer needed

The station's first full-time crew - commander William Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev - will complete activation of Zvezda's life support systems after arrival in early November.

"We've basically got a house up there that we're trying to get ready for somebody else to move into but half the systems aren't installed," Lu said.

"We're going to show up with two big moving vans - a shuttle and a Progress - and we've got five days once we get up there for all of us to unload all that stuff, get it put together, install it in its proper place and ... get a lot of systems up and running or ready for the Expedition One crew to do that themselves."

Because of the sheer volume of material to be transferred, stored and set up in the station, NASA managers are holding open the option of extending Atlantis's mission by one day.

"It's very aggressive and our list of things that we can do productively on this flight exceeds the amount of time we're going to have available," Engelauf said.

But a decision to extend the flight likely will not be made until after the shuttle is in orbit, based on the shuttle's actual power consumption. If the flight is not extended, Atlantis will undock from the station late in the evening (Eastern time) on Sept. 16.

"We'll put the vehicle in the same orientation as when we docked, with the orbiter out on the radial outward side from the Earth relative to the stack," Engelauf said.

"We'll separate away to a distance of about 450 feet from the center of gravity of the vehicle and the crew will initiate a fly around. This is going to be our first opportunity to do a good exterior inspection of the Zvezda since we arrived on orbit."

Over the next two days, the astronauts will relax and enjoy a bit of time off before testing re-entry systems and gearing up for a pre-dawn landing at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 19.

"This is a tremendously important mission," Altman said. "We're preparing the international space station for its first occupants. So I feel a heavy responsibility as far as putting things together, making sure everything is up and ready for them when they arrive, so that they can get right to work without having to deal with any of the hassles of basically building a new house. We want to have it ready for move-in when we're complete."

Wednesday September 6, 2000

NASA Starts Countdown for Shuttle Launch

By Brad Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA is counting down toward a Friday launch of the space-shuttle Atlantis on an assembly and supply run to the International Space Station, a $60 billion science outpost that is under construction.

Highlights of the 11-day voyage will include a space walk in which an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut scamper along the outside of the 11-story station as it is docked with the orbiting Atlantis.

Inside the station, the crew of seven, along with viewers on Earth, will get their first look inside the Zvezda service module since the Russian Space Agency launched it into space in July. Zvezda will be the early headquarters aboard the sprawling construction site once the first long-duration crew, dubbed Expedition One, heads for space in October.

The space station is being built by a 17-nation consortium led by the United States and Russia, the most experienced space-faring nations.

Completion is targeted for 2005, and by that time the station should sprawl 365 feet (108 meters) at its widest point, host six laboratories and house a crew of seven in pressurized space roughly equivalent to two modest suburban homes.

The three-day countdown for launch of the shuttle began on Tuesday.

Atlantis is scheduled for liftoff about 8:45 a.m. EDT on Friday, with weather forecasters saying there is a 60 percent chance of clear skies and winds acceptable for a launch.

The space shuttle crew arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday night from their training center in Houston aboard T-38 training jets.

``We're ready to go,'' Commander Terrence Wilcutt, a U.S. Marine Corps colonel and veteran of three previous shuttle flights, two of them to the Russian Mir space station. ``We've been training about seven months and I don't think we've left any stone unturned,'' he told reporters waiting on the ground.

This mission is similar to other recent flights in that Atlantis will deliver tons of supplies to the station as astronauts assemble and wire various appliances and on-board systems. On this trip the station gets a toilet.

Atlantis last flew about four months ago, making this a very quick turnaround for shuttle operations as the program tries to catch up on past delays.

The launch window, often an hour or more long, will be between two and four minutes on Friday. Tightening the window is a way to conserve fuel, and NASA wants to add a 12th day to the mission, if possible, giving the crew time to get ahead of schedule in station assembly.

Space station construction has been held up more than a year as the cash-strapped Russians struggled to get Zvezda off the ground. NASA is counting on this launch to uncork an ambitious schedule of 15 U.S. and Russian flights over the next year.

``There's an awful lot of launches coming up in the next year. We're all looking forward to getting this off on the right foot,'' Atlantis mission specialist Edward Lu said during the crew-arrival ceremony.

In addition to Wilcutt and Lu, the Atlantis crew includes three other Americans -- pilot Scott Altman and mission specialists Richard Mastracchio and Daniel Burbank -- and two Russians, Yuri Malenchenko and Boris Morukov.

Thursday December 7, 2000

Press Release

International Space Station Solar Arrays Fully Unfurled and Tensioned Following Spacewalk Repair

SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 7, 2000--Both International Space Station (ISS) solar array wings, built at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, have been fully unfurled and tensioned following a spacewalk this morning by shuttle astronauts Joe Tanner and Carlos Noriega. The astronauts successfully repositioned tensioning wires on the starboard solar array that was deployed on Sunday, December 3, 2000. The wires slipped from their reels during the initial deployment.

Procedures to effect the repair were developed by the Lockheed Martin solar array team in consultation with NASA astronauts who traveled here to examine identical flight hardware, which will be delivered to the International Space Station on an upcoming shuttle mission. The astronauts here practiced the procedure on a deployed solar array blanket and found it satisfactory. It was further simulated and practiced by astronauts in a massive pool, called the Neutral Bouyancy Laboratory, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

``The whole team is absolutely delighted to see that the final tensioning procedures worked just as we believed they would,'' said Sid Bourgeois, Lockheed Martin International Space Station program manager. ``We look forward to continuing work here on getting the remaining six solar array wings ready for flight.''

The first of four pairs of massive solar arrays for the International Space Station, were launched aboard the space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station on November 30, 2000. Subsequent pairs of arrays will be delivered on shuttle flights currently scheduled for 2002, 2003, and 2006.

The functional testing of the solar array flight hardware has involved several extension and retraction cycles of the 107-foot deployment mast and solar array blankets. Additionally, all individual solar panel circuits have been flash-tested with simulated sunlight to verify output power. Further, a close inspection has ensured that individual solar cells can withstand the harsh environment of space while converting sunlight into electricity. Arrays have also been exposed to harsh vacuum and thermal environments that simulate conditions 200 miles above the Earth's surface, and tested further in an acoustic chamber to simulate the violent shaking vibrations that accompany launch aboard the Space Shuttle. The technology has already been flight proven in a demonstration prototype solar array replacement flown by NASA and Space Systems on the Russian MIR space station.

The Space Systems ISS solar arrays are the largest deployable space structure ever built and will be by far, the most powerful electricity-producing arrays ever put into orbit. When the Station is completed a total of eight flexible, deployable solar array wings will generate the reliable, continuous power for the on-orbit operation of the ISS systems. The eight array wings were designed and built under a $450 million contract from the Boeing-Rocketdyne Division in Canoga Park, Calif., for delivery to the Boeing Company and NASA.

Each of the eight wings consists of a mast assembly and two solar array blankets. Each blanket has 84 panels, of which 82 are populated with solar cells. Each panel contains 200 solar cells. The eight photovoltaic arrays thus accommodate a total of 262,400 solar cells. When fully deployed in space, the active area of the eight wings, each 107 by 38-feet, will encompass an area of 32,528-sq. ft., and will provide power to the ISS for 15 years.

In addition to the arrays, Space Systems in Sunnyvale has also designed and built other elements for the Space Station that will be launched on future shuttle missions. Rotary mechanical joints for the ISS will move the solar arrays and thermal radiators into positions relative to the Sun that will optimize their individual functions. These mechanical joints are the largest mechanisms ever designed to operate in a space environment.

The two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints (SARJ) are each 10.5 ft diameter and 40 inches long. Their purpose is to maintain the solar arrays in an optimal orientation to the Sun while the entire Space Station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes. Drive motors in each SARJ will move the arrays through 360 degrees of motion at four degrees per minute.

The Thermal Radiator Rotary Joints (TRRJ) are each five and a half feet long and three feet in diameter. Their purpose is to maintain the Space Station thermal radiators in an edge-on orientation to the sun that maximizes the dissipation of heat from the radiators.

Space Systems has also produced the Trace Contaminant Control System, an advanced air processing and filtering system that will ensure that over 200 various trace chemical contaminants, generated from material off-gassing and metabolic functions in the Space Station atmosphere, remain within allowable concentration levels. It will become an integral part of the Space Station's Cabin Air Revitalization Subsystem.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA, is a leading supplier of satellites and space systems to military, civil government and commercial communications organizations around the world. These spacecraft and systems have enhanced military and commercial communications; provided new and timely remote-sensing information; and furnished new data for thousands of scientists studying our planet and the universe.

Hi- and low-resolution electronic images of an ISS solar array blanket at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale are available at: http://lmms.external.lmco.com/photos/civil_space/space_station/ space.stat.html

For more information about Lockheed Martin Space Systems-Sunnyvale, see our website at http://lmms.external.lmco.com

Thursday February 8 , 2001

Shuttle, Space-Station Crews Prepare for Meeting

By Brad Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Two crews of astronauts, one spending its fourth month in space, the other just getting used to weightlessness, prepared on Thursday for Friday's arrival of space shuttle Atlantis at the International Space Station

Atlantis was launched from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday carrying a $1.4 billion laboratory module that will be the cornerstone of scientific inquiry aboard the $95 billion orbiting research outpost for a decade or more.

On the International Space Station, the Expedition One crew worked with mission controllers in Moscow to undock a Progress supply ship from the station, creating a ``parking space'' for Atlantis.

The Russian Progress, similar to the ships used to launch Russian astronauts, is used to ferry supplies to the orbiting outpost and then to store garbage.

The Expedition One crew, American commander Bill Shepherd and Russian crewmates Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalyov, have been aboard the station since November 2000 and are scheduled to return to Earth when a second crew arrives in March.

As the five astronauts on Atlantis began their day they trailed the space station by about 2,000 miles. The crew was to spend most of its day checking systems to be used once they reach the station.

Astronaut Marsha Ivins will flex the 50-foot robotic arm she will use to pluck the 13 ton laboratory, named Destiny, from the shuttle's cargo bay and move it to its new berth on the station.

The airlock that astronauts Bob Curbeam and Tom Jones will use during three spacewalks was also being checked. Working outside the shuttle, in the vacuum of space, Curbeam and Jones will make the power and data connections that will fully integrate Destiny into the stations operations.

For commander Ken Cockrell and pilot Mark Polansky, there is a critical test of the docking ring that will extend from Atlantis and grab hold of the station as both spacecraft speed through the heavens about five miles per second.

Since the first space-station module was launched from Russia in 1998, work has focused on making the complex livable with air, water, climate controls and supplies.

Destiny moves the project forward toward its ultimate purpose -- scientific research. The laboratory will be the seat of serious inquiry on the station once a number of refrigerator-sized science stations are added on future shuttle flights. In the meantime, its onboard computers will assume many critical command controls.

``I'm sure that someday we're going to look back at this span of time as some of the most critical for the International Space Station,'' said Jim Halsell, the veteran shuttle commander and Kennedy Space Center launch manager.

When finished in 2006, the station should be a fully functional laboratory in space, with rotating teams of astronauts conducting experiments designed for microgravity or for the near vacuum through which the station moves.

A recent report by the U.S. government's General Accounting Office put the price tag for building and operating the space station for 15 years at $95 billion.

Saturday February 10, 2001

Astronauts Install Destiny Space Lab

By Brad Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Astronauts from the space shuttle Atlantis completed the delicate, painstaking task of lifting a $1.4 billion laboratory module from the shuttle and mounting it on the International Space Station on Saturday.

The job was a nailbiter and required two astronauts to work outside the spacecraft. Floating in the vacuum of space some 230 miles above Earth, they gave directions to a third astronaut, Marsha Ivins, working blind as she maneuvered the lab with the shuttle's robotic arm from the spacecraft's payload bay.

The Destiny lab is the single most expensive component of the space station, whose ultimate purpose is scientific research. NASA could not afford to build a backup, so the success of this mission was critical to the completion of the $95 billion orbiting outpost, targeted for 2006.

Before Destiny could be hoisted into place on Saturday, Ivins had to use the 50-foot arm to remove a docking port from the end of the Unity module, where Destiny would be permanently berthed.

To lighten the mood, shuttle commander Ken Cockrell played the Hanks Williams standard ``Release Me,'' before his crew unlatched the port.

When Mission Control suggested Cockrell might have a future as a disk jockey, he replied, ``That's if you let us come back. Let's see if we can get this job done first.''

The International Space Station is a joint project of the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada.

Since the first space-station module was launched from Russia in 1998, work has focused on making the complex livable with air, water, climate controls and supplies. A crew has been aboard the station since last November.

On Saturday, Ivins was aided throughout the operation by spacewalkers Tom Jones and Robert Curbeam, who became her eyes during much of the work. Her view from the shuttle's crew cabin was blocked most of the time, and video feeds were not always helpful.

``I've got essentially worthless cameras, worthless views,'' she said as she prepared to lift Destiny from the berth where it rode to space on Wednesday.

``You've got plenty of clearance. If you come straight out you're clear,'' said Curbeam.

In fact, Ivins had just about two inches of clearance. Destiny, a silvery cylinder 28 feet long and 14 feet wide, was a tight fit in the cargo bay.

Destiny is a key advance toward the project's scientific research. Although it will be several years before the lab is fully utilized -- a number of refrigerator-sized science stations were too heavy for this launch and will arrive on future missions -- NASA hopes to have about 30 ongoing studies underway in a year.

In the meantime, its onboard computers will assume many critical command controls.

When finished, the station should be a fully functional laboratory in space, with rotating teams of astronauts conducting experiments designed for microgravity or for the near vacuum through which the station moves.

On Saturday, Ivins closed the final inches between the lab and the station shortly before 2 p.m. EST as the shuttle and space station passed over Australia.

Once in place, Curbeam and Jones, both of them on their first spacewalk, began a scramble to connect power, data and utility lines linking Destiny to the station. Some systems need to be activated right away so that the lab's interior, where some vital computers are located, does not overheat.

On Sunday, the Atlantis crew will reenter the station where the Expedition One crew of Bill Shepherd, the American commander, and his Russian crewmates, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalyov, have been in residence since November.

Jones and Curbeam have two more spacewalks planned to complete the connections between Destiny and the station.

Thursday February 15, 2001

Astronauts Cap 100th Spacewalk With Successful Disaster Drill

By Todd Halvorson

Cape Canaveral Bureau Chief, SPACE.com

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Two spacewalking NASA astronauts staged a disaster drill outside the International Space Station Wednesday, taking turns hauling each other into the foyer of a makeshift orbital emergency room.

In what amounted to a make-believe medical crisis, Robert Curbeam and Tom Jones each "played dead" as part of a test to see if a spacewalking construction worker could hurry an unconscious partner back into a shuttle airlock in an emergency.

Decked out in bulky white spacesuits and tugging each other along with safety tethers, the astronauts moved swiftly but cautiously across shuttle Atlantis' cargo bay, taking care not to create a real life crisis.

"Just take it real slow," said Atlantis pilot Mark Polansky, who was directing the test from inside the shuttle's crew cabin. "No rush."

"Mission Control concurs," astronaut Mario Runco chimed in from NASA's Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Coming at the end of NASA's milestone 100th spacewalk, the so-called "Dead Guy Test" was meant to simulate action that would have to be taken if a spacewalker somehow became incapacitated while carrying out construction or maintenance work outside the outpost.

The going was tough at times for both astronauts. Floating in weightless space, each found it difficult using one of two techniques tested to make their way to safe harbor while pulling his partner along with a leash.

"Man, that's a job I wouldn't want to have all day," Jones said.

The disaster drill capped the last of three spacewalks planned for the Atlantis crew's weeklong visit to the station, now occupied by U.S. astronaut Bill Shepherd and two Russian cosmonauts - Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev.

The station's first full-time tenants continued outfitting the newly arrived U.S. Destiny science laboratory while the spacewalking work unfolded outside the outpost.

Job Number One for the spacewalkers was stowing a spare communications antenna on a girder-like outpost truss. Curbeam used a pistol-shaped power tool to bolt the antenna in place and then yanked it back and forth to make certain it was secure.

"Shake test, and it's definitely not going anywhere," Curbeam reported.

"Beamer slammed it in there - gently, of course," added Jones.

"Outstanding," Runco exclaimed. "You guys are awesome."

The spacewalkers then unlatched a station radiator and watched on as it unfolded in orbit, the crew inside the shuttle having sent the requisite computer commands to deploy it. A wowed Jones called the resulting view "out-of-this-world."

"That's an understatement," Curbeam said with a laugh.

"Man, that radiator is reaching right out to the horizon," Jones added.

Next up: Inspections of quick disconnect fittings on four ammonia coolant lines between the $1.4 billion Destiny lab and the end of the station's Unity module, where the bus-sized research facility was mounted last Saturday.

One of the coolant lines sprang a leak of toxic ammonia that day as Curbeam was rigging it up. A cloud of frozen ammonia crystals enveloped Curbeam, prompting an unprecedented decontamination effort as he and Jones wrapped up their first excursion outside the station.

Wielding cameras tethered to their suits, the astronauts snapped pictures of the coolant line connectors, which appear to be properly mounted. No coolant leaks were evident.

With cameras in tow, Curbeam and Jones then scaled to the top of the 17-story outpost and took pictures of a metal latch at the base of the station's massive American-made solar wings, which stretch 240 feet (73 meters) from tip to tip.

One of four such latches, the device failed to firmly lock into place during a station assembly mission in December. The pictures are meant to help engineers figure out how to fix the latch during a future flight.

The lofty photo opportunity, meanwhile, afforded the two spacewalkers a spectacular panoramic view from a perch 90 feet (27 meters) above the black-and-white nose of Atlantis.

Said Jones: "This is high country up here."

Some electrical work followed as Curbeam and Jones checked out power cables routed between the lab and a shuttle docking port mounted to its end.

Then came the emergency drill, which involved testing two methods for hauling an incapacitated spacewalker back into the shuttle's airlock.

The so-called "daisy chain" method called for Curbeam and Jones to hook their own waist safety tether to their "unconscious" partner and then tow the limp crewmate into the airlock.

In the other - known as the "strap method" - Curbeam and Jones were told to form a rope-like loop with the passive partner's waist tether. The spacewalker playing the role of lifesaver then placed his arm inside the loop as if he were carrying a purse.

Both spacewalkers found the "strap" method the more difficult of the two - primarily because it afforded little breathing room between the astronauts.

"I can tell you already it's much harder to control his body position with the strap method," Curbeam told ground controllers. "I'm working a heck of a lot harder on this run than the last one - much harder."

Added Jones: "The daisy chain keeps you out free and floating clear."

Runco and astronaut Greg Harbaugh carried out a similar test during a January 1993 shuttle mission, but the drill largely was considered a bust. The two astronauts tried to pull themselves down the shuttle's sidewall with one hand while tugging their partner along with the other - a method that proved too difficult to rely on in a real emergency.

This time, however, the drill went relatively smoothly. And that was welcome news to Harbaugh, who now serves as chief of NASA's spacewalk projects office in Houston.

"I feel much more comfortable today that we are in a position to take care of somebody if we should ever find ourselves in posture where they might need some assistance returning back to the safe harbor of the airlock," he said.

Coming 36 years after Edward White exited a Gemini capsule for NASA's very first EVA - or Extravehicular Activity - the 5-hour, 25-minute excursion marked the agency's 100th walk in the deadly vacuum of space.

The first 40 of those spacewalks were carried out during NASA's Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs, and 60 since have been staged from U.S. space shuttles.

The two Atlantis spacewalkers took time at the end of their sortie to mark what Curbeam called "a golden anniversary of sorts."

Displaying a commemorative sign outside shuttle windows, Jones and his partner tipped their helmet visors in a tribute to the thousands of NASA and contractor workers that have been involved in spacewalking work to date.

What's more, they predicted that future spacewalks would take astronauts to work sites far beyond the current outpost construction zone some 230 miles (368 kilometers) above the planet.

"We think that in the years to come - in the very near future - we'll see not only the construction of the space station completed, but spacewalkers will take their place not only in low Earth orbit, but back on the moon, and on asteroids and perhaps even on Mars," Jones said. "We look forward to that day, and we're ready for this next century of EVA."

"Great words, Atlantis," Runco replied. "We look forward to 100 more."

Said Jones: "Hope we can be a part of that."

The spacewalk Wednesday was the 16th to be carried out as part of a 16-nation effort to build the international station, which eventually will weigh 480 tons and span an area nearly as large as two football fields set side by side.

And with another 152 still required to finish the station over the next five years, spacewalking excursions will become the rule - rather than the exception - until the outpost is completed in mid-2006.

Nineteen more spacewalks - or a total of 22 - are to be carried out at the station this year, compared to nine in the year 2000, a tally that tied a longstanding NASA record.

The spacewalking workload then will ramp up in fast fashion: 29 sorties are scheduled in 2002 and 43 are on tap for 2003. The next year will be relatively light, with 17 spacewalks planned in 2004, and station construction will be capped with 30 excursions in 2005.

"So you can see that the pace is quickening, and it's not going to get any easier. We've got our work cut out for us," said veteran NASA spacewalker Michael Lopez-Alegria.

Lopez-Alegria noted that spacewalking work at the station to date largely has come off without major problems - a small miracle considering the degree of difficult and potential dangers involved in any venture into open space.

Maintaining that record, however, is not expected to be an easy task.

"We have to keep our fingers crossed," Lopez-Alegria said. "It's kind of like an undefeated team. The streak can only go on for so long. But so far, so good."

Hatches between Atlantis and the international outpost - which also is known by the radio call sign "Alpha" - swung open for a third time late Wednesday afternoon so the joined shuttle and station crews could continue outfitting the Destiny lab.

That work will continue Thursday as the two crews spend their final full day together in orbit.

Atlantis remains scheduled to depart the station Friday after a final farewell and hatch-closing ceremony set for 7:18 a.m. EST (12:18 GMT) that day. The shuttle and its crew are due to land at Kennedy Space Center at 12:52 p.m. EST (17:52 GMT) Sunday.

Friday February 16, 2001

Atlantis Leaves International Space Station

By Brad Liston

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - With a gentle nudge from its onboard jets, the space shuttle Atlantis departed the International Space Station (news - web sites) on Friday, leaving behind a $1.4 billion laboratory module and setting its sights for home.

The Destiny module is the single most expensive component of the orbital construction project and added more than 40 percent to the living space shared by the Russian-American space-station crew.

During a pass over the South Pacific, Atlantis pilot Mark Polansky inched his spacecraft to a position about 450 feet (140 meters) beneath the station. Polanksy then began a slow half-revolution around the station, giving the shuttle crew an opportunity to photograph it in its new configuration.

The images beamed to Earth showed the station to be an awkward-looking stack of cylinders and knobs, just as it has been since construction began in 1998. Unlike spacecraft that launch through the Earth's atmosphere, the station has no need for smooth surfaces or aerodynamic lines.

The only touch of elegance came with a pair of golden wings spanning 240 feet (73 meters) and lined with thousands of photoelectric cells that convert the sunlight into electricity to power the station.

NASA has described Destiny, which roughly doubled the station's computer power and provided space for 13 modular science stations, as the single largest step-up in capabilities during the assembly phase of the station's life. Completion is targeted for 2006.

As the shuttle slowly pulled away, the station's commander, American Bill Shepherd, radioed his thanks to the five Atlantis astronauts.

``We will use it well,'' Shepherd said of Destiny. ``May you have a safe voyage back.''

``Shep, thanks for the kind wishes. We enjoyed your hospitality,'' said Atlantis commander Ken Cockrell.

Atlantis spent seven days docked to the station. Astronauts Robert Curbeam and Tom Jones made three spacewalks aided by Marsha Ivins, who used the shuttle's robotic arm to lift Destiny from the berth where it rode to space and moved it to its new home.

Atlantis is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday. Shepherd and his Russian crewmates, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalyov, are to return to Earth in March after a four-month stay. A new crew will take their place. When finished, the station should be a fully functional laboratory in space, with rotating teams of astronauts conducting experiments designed for microgravity or for the near vacuum through which the station moves.

The $95 billion project is a partnership of the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada.

Thursday February 22 , 2001

Upcoming Shuttle Ferry Flights a NASA First

By Todd Halvorson

Cape Canaveral Bureau Chief, SPACE.com

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's space shuttle fleet will be on the move in the coming two weeks, with two winged orbiters taking cross-country piggyback rides and a third thundering off for the International Space Station.

Mounted atop a specially equipped Boeing 747, fleet leader Columbia will take off Saturday from a shuttle assembly plant in Palmdale, California where it has been undergoing extensive inspections and modifications since September 1999.

NASA's oldest orbiter is scheduled to make an overnight stop at Ellington Air Field near NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston that day before heading on to Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Weather permitting, Columbia and its shuttle carrier aircraft are expected to arrive back at its homeport around mid-day Sunday.

Sistership Atlantis, meanwhile, is being readied for a similar cross-country trip in the aftermath of its landing Tuesday at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The orbiter now is scheduled to depart the Mojave Desert military base Feb. 28 and, weather permitting, the ship and its carrier aircraft will arrive at NASA's coastal Florida spaceport the next day.

The back-to-back ferry flights represent a new space first for NASA.

"I think we can say that if we pull this off, it would be the closest two ferry flights we've ever had," KSC spokesman Bruce Buckingham said Wednesday.

Closing out a successful mission to deliver the U.S. Destiny science lab to the international station, Atlantis was detoured to Edwards after three days of high winds and cloudy skies thwarted plans to bring the ship and its five astronauts back to KSC.

The Atlantis astronauts headed back to Houston Wednesday.

Preliminary inspections, meanwhile, indicate that their ship came through the mission relatively unscathed. Some 58 debris hits -- eight of which measured an inch (2.54 centimeters) or more in width -- were spotted on the orbiter's black-tiled belly.

"That's classified as normal," Buckingham said.

No abnormal wear was noted on the shuttle's tires or its brakes.

The Atlantis landing cleared the way for NASA's next shuttle flight: The planned March 8 launch of Discovery on a mission to further outfit the Destiny lab. Riding aboard Discovery will be the second full-time crew of the station, which includes Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev and American astronauts Susan Helms and James Voss.

The so-called Expedition Two crew will replace the station's current tenants -- U.S. astronaut Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev. That trio will taxi back to Earth aboard Discovery March 20, capping a 140-day tour at the outpost.

Wednesday February 28 5:37 AM ET

Cargo Ship Docks With Space Station

KOROLYOV, Russia (AP) - A Russian M-44 Progress cargo ship on Wednesday docked flawlessly with the International Space Station (news - web sites), where it was delivering equipment, water and food including fresh citrus fruits, apples and onions for the crew.

The spaceship blasted off Monday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Central Asian nation of Kazakstan. It was carrying 2.75 tons of equipment to outfit the Zvezda (news - web sites) module of the station, which serves as the crew's living quarters.

The docking was performed by automatic systems monitored at Russia's Mission Control in Korolyov, outside Moscow. Engineers watching the docking on a large screen broke out in applause as the spaceship slipped into place at 12:50 a.m. Moscow time.

U.S. astronaut Bill Shepherd and his Russian colleagues Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev have been living and working on the space station since November. A new crew is scheduled to fly to the station on the space shuttle Discovery on March 8, and the three current occupants will return to Earth

Mystifying shuttle shadow

By Globe Staff, 2/27/2001

The launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on Feb. 8, on a mission to the International Space Station, was one of the most spectacularly beautiful ever. Lifting off at 20 minutes after sunset and eight hours before a full moon created spectacular visual effects, best captured in this photo by Pat McCracken of NASA headquarters.

But many people were mystified by the long, dark cone extending from the shuttle's bright exhaust plume to the full moon near the horizon. Some news accounts described it as rainbow-like, and some observers wondered how a dark shadow could possibly extend from one very bright object (the shuttle plume) to another (the full moon).

Robert Greenler, a leading expert on unusual optical phenomena in the sky, believes the explanation lies in the shadow cast by the rocket's own plume, whose base was still in darkness but whose tall spire extended up into sunlight, progressing through the colors of sunset along the way.

The phenomenon is closely related to the dark rays that are often seen extending upward from the sun around sunset, called crepuscular rays. These are the shadows of clouds or mountains near the horizon. In some cases, these rays can be seen converging on the opposite side of the sky, where they are called ''anticrepuscular rays.''

''My guess is that we are looking at an anticrepuscular ray, which in this case is the shadow cast across the sky by the rocket plume,'' said Greenler, a physicist and author of ''Rainbows, Halos and Glories'' and ''Chasing the Rainbow.''

''The lower part of the plume is dark and the top is bright, which suggests that the sun had just set for an observer on the ground, but still illuminates the plume higher in the sky. A shadow cast by the obscuring plume would be in the form of a fan converging to the antisolar point,'' the point in the sky exactly opposite to the sun's position.

Based on the time of the shuttle launch, Greenler estimated that the antisolar point would be just above the horizon in the east, creating a shadow extending through the moon and disappearing in the murk close to the horizon. The fact that the shadow passes through the moon is just a coincidence, he said, because when full, it is very near the antisolar point.

The confusing fact that the shadow fan converges, instead of diverging, toward the moon is a result of perspective, Greenler explained - the same effect that causes parallel train tracks to appear to converge toward the horizon.


This story ran on page 3 of the Boston Globe on 2/27/2001. © Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

Dr. Sky Website

Subj: Life on Red Planet May Exist

Date: 05/05/2000

Updated Thursday, May 4, 2000


*Life on Red Planet May Exist

Students suggest ‘films’ of liquid water present on Mars

by Will Evans - Contributing Writer

For decades, scientists have debated whether life on Mars is possible. Today, a team of UC Berkeley students will fly to a conference in Texas to present experimental evidence that demonstrates that liquid water may exist on the red planet — a finding that leaves open the possibility of life as we known it outside of the Earth.

Using recent NASA information, experimental data collected in class and their willingness to think critically, the undergraduate students hope to squash the long-held belief that life could not exist on Mars because the planet hosts no liquid water.

"There are several inherent flaws in the case against liquid water," said Vincent Chang, an undeclared freshman. "The technology is simply inadequate. The prevailing assumption was that liquid water can't exist. They just haven't put much research into it."

Although many scientists agree that liquid water has existed on the planet in the distant past, current technology only shows images of desserts and water present in polar ice caps, which cannot sustain life. Chang said if scientists were able to look closer they may find smaller "films" of liquid water.

"(The films) might have come from large underground chasms or flowing streams," he said.

Previously, scientists had concluded that the planet's temperature and air pressure are too low to support liquid water. Combined, the surrounding pressure and the overall temperature of an environment dictate the conditions under which the different phases of matter exist.

But previous data was collected under the assumption that the shape of Mars is a perfect sphere, even though the planet has an uneven surface.

Inspired by phenomena from everyday life, the students considered the case of a football stadium, which is hotter at the bottom than at the top.

Applying the "football stadium effect" to knowledge of craters and mountains on Mars, students hypothesized that temperatures on Mars might vary depending on different elevations on the planet.

"As we approach the Martian surface, the temperature and pressure increases," said Dalziel Wilson, a freshman majoring in astrophysics. "The temperatures at the base (of the Vallis Marineris) canyon might be a lot higher than we had previously thought."

Wilson said this discovery may have profound implications for future missions to Mars.

"If it was feasible to tap liquid water at a landing site, we could use this water for drinking, hygiene, to make oxygen, hydrogen and fuel," he said. "It would greatly reduce mission costs."

Students analyzed data collected from the most recent Viking mission and uncovered that the Mars surface collects the sun's heat to produce temperatures of up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in certain locations.

They then set out to simulate Martian conditions in a bell jar with frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, an ice cube, a drying chemical and a lamp.

"Liquid water is shown to exist under these simulated Mars conditions," said David Chu, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering and computer science. "(We saw) small droplets on the tip of the ice cube or a film pressed up against the side."

Chu said it would take an "extremophile" organism to live in liquid water that periodically freezes, but he noted that plants sometimes grow out of cement walls in Berkeley.

"The bottom line is life will find a way," Chu said.

The next step for the class will be to do the experiment with simulated Martian soil and later to add organisms, said Chu. The students will then propose a Pathfinder-style mission to Mars to try to find liquid water.

"The existence of liquid water would change the paradigm of how Mars evolved," Chu said. "We'd like to get some funding."

The class, called Mission to Mars, is sponsored by the Lunar Planetary Institute, which is hosting the competition in Houston this week. The competition will include college students from around the nation who have conducted projects on Mars-related research.

Larry Kuznetz, a scientist and engineer for NASA for almost 20 years, leads the class and said the research will continue next year with different students.

"There is a lot of interest in this," he said. "There are two groups at NASA doing the same thing after us. They're building on what we started."

Send letters to the editor to opinion@dailycal.org.

(c) 1999

Berkeley, California

E-mail: dailycal@dailycal.org

Space pioneer Gordon Cooper dies

Cooper believed in UFO coverup

Monday, October 4, 2004 

Gordon Cooper before his 1963 Mercury launch.

(CNN) -- Leroy Gordon Cooper, one of the nation's first astronauts who once set a space endurance record by traveling more than 3.3 million miles aboard Gemini 5 in 1965, died on Monday, NASA said. He was 77.

Cooper died at his home in Ventura, California.

"As one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, Gordon Cooper was one of the faces of America's fledgling space program. He truly portrayed the right stuff, and he helped gain the backing and enthusiasm of the American public, so critical for the spirit of exploration," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said on the space agency's Web site.

Cooper, an Oklahoma native who entered the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1945, later became an elite Air Force test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where he became fascinated with the space program.

By April 1959, Cooper was named as one of the Project Mercury astronauts, following grueling physical and mental tests each candidate had to endure.

At the news conference naming the future of America's space program, Cooper was joined by Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, M. Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra Jr. and Deke Slayton.

On May 15 and 16, 1963, Cooper piloted the Faith 7 spacecraft on a 22-orbit mission that concluded the operational phase of Project Mercury.

A little more than two years later, he would set a new space endurance record, serving as command pilot of the eight-day, 120-revolution Gemini 5 mission, which began August 21, 1965.

It was on this flight that he and Charles Conrad traveled a distance of 3,312,993 miles in 190 hours and 56 minutes. Cooper also became the first man to make a second orbital flight.

During his two space flights, Cooper logged 225 hours, 15 minutes and 3 seconds. He served as backup command pilot for Gemini 12 and as backup commander for Apollo X.

In an interview with CNN in 2000, Cooper said in-house politics kept him off the moon flights.

"I would have liked to have gone to the moon. I would have liked to have been one of the crew that landed on the moon but it just didn't work out that way. And I don't, I certainly don't harbor any bitterness or anger."

In addition to his space flights, Cooper logged more than 7,000 hours flying time in jets and commercial aircraft. He retired from the Air Force and NASA in 1970 with the rank of colonel.

After leaving NASA, Cooper served on the boards of directors as a technical consultant to a number of companies in the aerospace, electronics and energy fields. He also was the vice president for research and development for Walter E. Disney Enterprises Inc., from 1974-1980.

In his post-NASA career, Cooper became known as an outspoken believer in UFOs and charged that the government was covering up its knowledge of extraterrestrial activity.

"I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which obviously are a little more technically advanced than we are here on Earth," he told a United Nations panel in 1985.

"I feel that we need to have a top-level, coordinated program to scientifically collect and analyze data from all over the Earth concerning any type of encounter, and to determine how best to interface with these visitors in a friendly fashion."

He added, "For many years I have lived with a secret, in a secrecy imposed on all specialists and astronauts. I can now reveal that every day, in the USA, our radar instruments capture objects of form and composition unknown to us."

10-04-04 - Astronaut Edgar Mitchel -- Says Yes to Alien Visits to Earth.

Former Astronaut DR Edgar Mitchel who walked on the Moon Appeared on the Coast to Coast radio program Monday night and was asked by George Noory if he thought we had been visited ?  (Which was understood to mean by Aliens - But was not said)
  Edgar Mitchel then said he had had no personal sightings of UFOs but from his talking to military and secret agency  people many years ago
(probably 40 years ?) and talking to military and secret agency people recently -- That the answer is YES !


The Astrobiology Web.   An excellent site covering all aspects of life in space, with a variety of short pieces on terraforming.
The Mars Society. A recently founded Mars special interest and pressure group. In favour of further exploration and eventual settlement and terraforming of Mars.
Artesian Basins on Mars. New Mars Features.
The First Millenial Foundation. A society interested in both ocean and space settlement, with an agenda to achieve both.
The Millennium Mars Calendar. A calendar encompassing one Martian year and based on a terraforming theme. Developed by James M. Graham and Kandis Elliott. Beautifully illustrated.
The Darian Defrost Calendar. A breathtaking website, all about Martian timekeeping and terraforming. Visit and enjoy browing the best map of a terraformed Mars on the Internet. By Frans Blok.
Biology and the Planetary Engineering of Mars. A comprehensive review paper on the biological aspects of terraforming by Julian Hiscox.
Terraforming Mars: What is best for Our Little Brother? A summary of the ideas of Australian terraformer Robert Parke, by Ron Garrison of Distant Star Magazine.
American Museum of Natural History. A page introducing the concept of terraforming Mars.
Romance to Reality. Archive of annotated references- running the gamut from initial moon & Mars expeditions to "corridor culture" settlement to terraforming.
The Astrobiology, Extreme Environments and Terraformation Index.
Mars' Hostile Environment: Possibility of Life Could Block Planet's Transformation. A feature at Florida Today Space Online about the terraformers James Graham, Loretta Hidalgo and Chris McKay.
Terraforming at Ames. Two introductory pages from the NASA-Ames Research Center: the home of terraforming studies.
Customizing Mars Through Terraforming. An introductory feature at the Mission to Mars home page. Includes a painting by Julian Baum.
Terraforming Mars
Terraforming Bibliography