With a little help, a space shuttle took to the skies briefly on August 14 in Houston, Texas. Space Shuttle Independence was hoisted by the smallest of Mammoet Holding’s cranes, a 440-ton behemoth stabilized by 980,000 pounds of counterweights (more than the International Space Station would weigh on Earth). As hundreds of onlookers watched, the 171,860 pound (86 ton) replica orbiter gently rose off its mobile transporter and moved into place on the back of the NASA905 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. [Read more…]
It took the twenty year anniversary (2006) to bring the first loss of U.S. astronauts in flight back into the public’s consciousness. NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51L) was lost 73 seconds after lift-off on January 28, 1986, the victim of faulty O-ring seals on its Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), and a broken management and safety culture within NASA. NASA grounded the Shuttle fleet until 1988, at which point Shuttle flights resumed with redesigned SRBs, and a newfound appreciation of the risks of human spaceflight. Did the management and safety culture change? Supposedly, yes, yet 17 years later, we lost Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) and her crew during re-entry — the victim of burn-through caused by wing damage sustained during lift-off. [Read more…]
What’s NASA done for you lately? Oh, you mean apart from keeping a continuously inhabited orbiting laboratory (International Space Station) in productive operation for over 12 years (since November 2, 2000,) monitoring probes sent to the farthest reaches of our Solar System (Voyager 1 & Voyager 2), and a probe arriving at Jupiter in 2016 (Juno), launching countless scientific missions to study the Earth (Van Allen Probes), Sun (Solar Dynamics Observatory), and Moon (GRAIL), and landing a 2000 lb. robotic rover (Mars Curiosity) on the surface of Mars via a never-before-used SkyCrane…?
Here on Earth, NASA is also busy inspiring and educating, through its award-winning NASA Social events, open houses, and a wealth of free stuff: desktop wallpapers, ebooks, apps, paper spacecraft models, posters, and more! [Read more…]