STS-80 Mission Highlights: Nov.-Dec. 1996 November 21, 2016Posted by skywalking1 in Uncategorized.
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Mission Highlights STS-80
(Published by NASA Johnson Space Center in early 1997, and transcribed by me for posting here. Credit NASA)
Double deploys Highlight Mission
An early morning landing of the Space Shuttle Columbia ended a more than 17-day mission to deploy and retrieve two science satellites, one that studied stars and another that made thin film wafers. Pilot Kent Rominger recounted how impressive it was to see the trailing satellites at sunrise. “It was incredible having two satellites out there at the same time. In the morning when the sun would rise, they were just tremendously bright stars, trailing along behind us.”
Mission Specialist Tamara Jernigan reflected on how a stuck hatch would give the space program an advantage in future flights. ”This flight offered all of us a bit of everything the space program has to offer,” Jernigan said. “It offered the excitement of two deploys, rendezvous and retrievals, and also the frustration of a hatch that wouldn’t open and EVAs left undone. I bet it is a long, long time before we ever have another hatch problem. NASA will make the most of the lesson it has learned.”
Mission Specialist Story Musgrave recounted that the long mission gave him a sense of what space is all about. ”This mission was long enough so you had some time to stop and think about what space was about,” Musgrave said. “Time to have an experience of space to explore the heavens, to explore the Earth and think about what that is all about and get a feel for space.”
In addition to setting a record for the longest shuttle flight to date, Astronaut Musgrave reached a few milestones for himself. His sixth shuttle flight tied him with John Young for the most space flights by any human being. In addition, at age 61, Musgrave became the oldest person ever to fly in space.
The Space Shuttle Columbia returned to space for the 21st time at 1:55 p.m. CST, November 19, 1996. Its scientific mission was to study stars, produce improved semiconductor films and practice building the International Space Station.
Mission specialist Tammy Jernigan released the Orbiting Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer (ORFEUS) from Columbia’ s robot arm November 20, about 10:11 p.m. CST. Three hours later, ground controllers observed the telescope door opening and noted that the instrument appeared to be working properly, beginning two weeks of gathering data on the origin and makeup of stars.
While Columbia led the ORFEUS SPAS spacecraft, the five astronauts concentrated their attention on other activities aboard the orbiter including testing the Space Vision System, conducting a visual checkout of the Wake Shield Facility (WSF) and working with middeck experiments. Other experiments conducted by the crew included VIEW-CPL, an investigation of capillary pumped loop equipment in weightlessness designed by University of Maryland students. Such technology may be used in cooling systems for future spacecraft, allowing fluids to be pumped without the use of moving parts.
Astronaut Tom Jones unberthed the WSF from its latched position in the shuttle cargo bay Friday, November 22, at 2:56 p.m. Jones positioned the satellite over the left-hand edge of the cargo bay with the WSF underside facing into the direction of travel. This position allows atomic oxygen to “cleanse” the satellite’s underside in preparation for its experiment operations. The crew released the WSF at 7:38 p.m. CST.
The first growth of thin films on the back side of the WSF began Saturday, November 23, at 6:37 p.m. CST. The film growths continued while the WSF flew free of the Orbiter.
Commander Ken Cockrell took the shuttle to within 35 feet of the WSF Monday, November 25, and Astronaut Tom Jones latched the mechanical arm onto it about 8:01 p.m. CST. The satellite’s scientists reported they completed seven thin film growths of semiconductor materials, the maximum capability for the satellite.
The WSF again was unberthed at 6:06 p.m. CST November the 27, for 3.5 hours of work with the Atomic Oxygen Processing experiment. With work to produce aluminum oxide films using the atomic oxygen available in low-Earth orbit going well, scientists were granted an extra 3 hours to finish their work and test the Orbiter Space Vision System’s ability to provide precise information on the WSF’s position in the cargo bay.
Plans for a spacewalk by astronauts Tammy Jernigan and Tom Jones were abandoned after the airlock outer hatch failed to open. A post flight analysis of the hatch revealed a loose screw was the problem.
Although the planned space walks were canceled, crew members took advantage of the microgravity environment of space to evaluate the Pistol Grip Tool in the cabin. Jernigan, Jones and Musgrave evaluated the tool while tightening and loosening a bolt on the middeck floor to evaluate the tool’s operation in weightlessness.
Scientists were given an extra day of science gathering with the extension of the STS-80 mission. The ORFEUS SPAS satellite was captured from its orbit using the robotic arm about 2:26 a.m. CST, Wednesday December 3. Jernigan, Jones and Musgrave performed about four hours of robot arm operations with ORFEUS-SPAS prior to locking the satellite in the payload bay at 7:14 a.m.
A second extra day in space was granted to the five astronauts aboard Columbia when fog prevented a landing at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and high winds on the Mojave Desert meant that Edwards Air Force Base also was not available. NASA’s final shuttle mission of 1996 concluded at 5:49 a.m. CST, December 7, with a landing at Kennedy Space Center.
ORFEUS-SPAS II: The Orbiting and Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrograph-Shuttle Pallet Satellite IT (ORFEUS-SPAS II) mission was the third flight to use the German-built ASTRO-SPAS science satellite. The ASTRO-SPAS program is a cooperative endeavor between NASA and the German Space Agency, DARA. ORFEUS-SPAS II, a free-flying satellite, was deployed and retrieved using Columbia’ s Remote Manipulator System (RMS). The goal of this astrophysics mission was to investigate the rarely explored far- and extreme-ultraviolet regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, and study the very hot and very cold matter in the universe.
ORFEUS-SPAS II attempted a large number of observing programs. Among the many areas in which scientists hoped to gain new insights during this mission was the evolution of stars, the structure of galaxies, and the nature of the interstellar medium, and others. Many of the objects they looked at had never before been observed in the far-ultraviolet.
ASTRO-SPAS is a carrier designed for launch, deployment and retrieval by the space shuttle. Once deployed from the shuttle’s RMS, ASTRO-SPAS operated quasi-autonomously for 14 days in the vicinity of the shuttle. After completion of the free flight phase, the satellite was retrieved by the RMS, returned to the shuttle cargo bay and returned to Earth.
The one-meter diameter ORFEUS telescope with the Far Ultraviolet (FUV) Spectrograph and the Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) Spectrograph comprised the main payload. A secondary, but highly complementary, payload was the Interstellar Medium Absorption Profile Spectrograph (IMAPS). In addition to the astronomy payloads, ORFEUS-SPAS II carried the Surface Effects Sample Monitor (SESAM), the ATV Rendezvous Pre-Development Project (ARP), and the Student Experiment on ASTRO-SPAS (SEAS).
The ORFEUS-SPAS II mission was dedicated to astronomical observations at very short wavelengths, specifically the two spectral ranges Far Ultraviolet and Extreme Ultraviolet. This part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is obscured by the Earth’s atmosphere and not observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, includes a high density of spectral lines (especially from various states of hydrogen and oxygen), which are emitted or absorbed by matter covering a wide range of temperatures.
The primary scientific objectives were:
- Investigation of the nature of hot stellar atmospheres
- Investigation of cooling mechanisms of white dwarf stars
- Investigation of supernova remnants
- Investigation of the interstellar medium and potential star forming regions
The Interstellar Medium Absorption Profile Spectrograph (IMAPS) was a separate instrument, attached to the ASTRO-SPAS framework. IMAPS operated independently of the ORFEUS telescope. IMAPS operated for more than two days of free flight and during that time observed the brightest galactic objects at extremely high resolutions. This resolution allows study of fine structure in interstellar gas lines. The individual motions of interstellar gas clouds can be determined to an accuracy of 1.6 kilometers per second.
Another science payload was the Surface Effects Sample Monitor (SESAM), a passive carrier for state of-the-art optical surfaces and potential future detector materials. SESAM investigated the impact of the space environment on materials and surfaces in different phases of a space shuttle mission, from launch, orbit phase to re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Among the SESAM samples were witness samples to the telescope mirror, allowing for accurate calibration measurements after landing. Sample spaces were available to scientific and industrial users.
The ATV Rendezvous PreDevelopment Project (ARP), part of the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), was an element of the European manned space transportation program. Among the objectives of the ARP were to develop and validate ground simulation facilities; develop and demonstrate on-board control software and inorbit relative GPS capabilities; and to demonstrate the operation of the optical rendezvous sensor in orbit.
The Student Experiment on ASTRO-SPAS (SEAS) was an electrolysis experiment built by students of the German high school of Ottobrunn. It consisted of eight experiment chambers containing various metal salt solutions and two electrodes. Metal “trees” of different shapes were grown on one electrode. Photographs taken of this process during the mission were compared to those of identical experiments conducted on the ground under the full influence of Earth’s gravity.
DARA SCHOOL PROJECT: For this second ORFEUS-SPAS mission, DARA developed an innovative educational program designed to reach students in 170 German schools teaching astronomy, physics and computer science. The classes were tailored to prepare the students to use ORFEUS SPAS data in the study of general astronomy, the life and death of stars, stellar spectral analysis, as well as how to work with the data on computers via the Internet. DARA supplied the necessary written course information and developed an ORFEUS-SPAS Internet home page, where students received and worked directly with the data obtained during the mission.
WAKE SHIELD FACILITY-3 (WSF-3): The WSF-3 was a 12-foot diameter, free-flying, stainless steel disk designed to generate an “ultra vacuum” environment in space in which to grow semiconductor thin films for use in advanced electronics. The STS-80 crew deployed and retrieved the WSF during the 17-day mission using Columbia’s “robot arm,” or Remote Manipulator System.
Wake Shield was sponsored by the Space Processing Division in NASA’s Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications. It was designed, built and operated by the Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center at the University of Houston-a NASA Commercial Space Center, in conjunction with its industrial partner, Space Industries, Inc., also in Houston.
Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) space has only a moderate natural vacuum, one that can be greatly improved through the generation of an “ultra vacuum” wake behind an object moving through orbit. The unique ultra vacuum produced in the wake of the WSF has been shown in past flights to be 100 to 1,000 times better than the best operating ground-based laboratory chamber vacuums. Using this ultravacuum in space, the WSF had already grown the highest purity aluminum gallium arsenide thin films, and holds the promise of producing the next generation of semiconductor materials along with the devices they make possible.
The major objective of this third flight of WSF is to grow thin “epitaxial” films which could have a significant impact on the micro-electronics industry because the use of advanced semiconducting thin film materials in electronic components holds a very promising economic advantage. The commercial applications for high quality semiconductor devices are most critical in the consumer technology areas of personal communications systems, fiber optic communications, high-speed transistors and processors, and optoelectronic devices.
The Space Experiment Module (SEM) was a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Shuttle Small Payloads Project education initiative that provided increased educational access to space. The program targeted kindergarten through university level participants. SEM stimulated and encouraged direct student participation in the creation, development, and flight of zero-gravity and microgravity experiments on the space shuttle.
SEM’s first flight included a number of experiments sponsored by the Charleston, SC, school district (CANDO). Their experiments included Gravity & Acceleration Readings, Bacteria-Agar Research Instrument, Crystal Research in Space, Magnetic Attraction Viewed in Space, and numerous passive items such as algae, bones, yeast, and photographic film.
Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, also sponsored a number of experiments: Fluid Thermal Convection, NADH Oxidase Absorbence in Shrimp, and a Passive Particle Detector experiment.
Hampton Elementary School in Lutherville, MD, experimented with seeds, soil, chalk, crayon, calcite, Silly Putty, bubble solution, popcorn, mosquito eggs, and other organic compounds.
Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, IL, had a Surface Tension experiment. Albion Jr. High in Strongville, OH, flew a heat transfer experiment and studied the heating properties of copper tubes and pennies. Poquoson Middle School in Poquoson; VA, conducted a Bacteria Inoculation in Space experiment and NORSTAR (Norfolk Public Schools Science and Technology Advanced Research) in Norfolk, VA, observed the behavior of immiscible fluids.
NIH-R4 was the fourth in a series of collaborative experiments developed by NASA and the National Institutes of Health. NASA’s Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, was the experiment developer.
Principal investigator of the NIHR4 experiment, “Calcium, Metabolism and Vascular Function After Space Flight,” was the Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland. For many years, they investigated the role of calcium in blood pressure regulation. Calcium has long been recognized as a critical mineral in the nor mal development and function of bone and muscle. These researchers were among the first to demonstrate that calcium also is essential for normal cardiovascular function.
This study added to the body of knowledge necessary to maintain the health of astronauts during space flight. In addition, it added new and exciting data to a growing body of evidence that calcium is a mineral with myriad functions critical to the normal function of human life on Earth.
NASA/CCM-A is one in a series of bone cell experiments conducted aboard the space shuttle. Results from a previous shuttle flight, NIH.C4 on STS-69, indicate that bone is affected by microgravity at the cellular level. The investigators participating in the STS-80 CCM-A mission hope to confirm their previous findings, and further test the hypothesis that the absence of gravity has a negative effect on bone formation.
Weightlessness results in bone loss in astronauts, similar to what occurs in people who undergo prolonged bed rest or, in some cases, lose the use of one of their limbs due to injury or disease. The exact cause of the bone loss is not yet clear, but it is at least partially due to decreased activity of osteoblasts, the cells which produce the matrix which mineralizes to become bone. Weightlessness results in similar decreased bone formation in both rodents and humans. Results from this experiment help scientists determine the usefulness of cultured bone cells in understanding how the acceleration due to gravity functions to maintain bone cell activity. The Principal Investigator for this study was the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
Osteoblast adhesion and phenotype in microgravity: Among the unanswered questions of bone loss during space flight are the direct effects that microgravity exerts on bone cells, and the mechanisms by which these cells recognize changes in gravity. This study focused on bone cells of the osteoblast family, which synthesize bone matrix and also may participate in its breakdown (resorption) by regulating the formation and activity of bone-resorbing cells, osteoblasts.
The investigators of this study were the Departments of Orthopedics, and Ophthalmology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY. The project was sponsored by NASA’s Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications Small Payloads Program, and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases.
BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN CANISTER (BRIC): Although various effects of microgravity on plants have been observed, little is known about the underlying mechanisms involved. BRlC-09 studied the influence of microgravity on genetically altered tomato and tobacco seedlings that had been modified to contain elements of soybean genes. This study provided information about plants’ molecular biology and insight into the transport and distribution mechanisms for hormones within plants. The research provides crucial information on how to improve growth rates and biomass production of space-grown plants as well as information on how to enhance crop productivity on the Earth. The improvement of growth rate and biomass production of space grown plants is particularly useful for the development of life support systems to support crews over long duration flights. The improvement of growth and biomass production of space-grown plants also is an important step toward commercial application of space using plants as bioreactors for pharmaceutical products and for other commercial purposes. The principal investigator was, Kansas State University, Division of Biology, Manhattan, KS.
COMMERCIAL MDA ITA EXPERIMENT (CMIX-5): CMIX-5 was the last in a series of five shuttle flights linking NASA and the University of Alabama/Huntsville (UAH) Consortium for Materials Development in Space, with flight hardware privately developed by Instrumentation Technology Associates (ITA) of Exton, PA.
UAH research included diabetes treatment; cell reaction in microgravity that may lead to tissue replacement techniques; the development of gene combinations that are toxic to insect pests but not harmful to other species, thus creating a natural pesticide; and an environmental monitoring model using mysid shrimp.
A key activity for ITA was the ongoing effort to grow large protein crystals of urokinase for research linked to breast cancer inhibitors. There was also an ITA materials analysis study to see if the use of sealants in microgravity can lead to better protection of ntional monuments against acid rain. ITA also sponsored seven elementary and high school research activities as well as experiments linked to the National Space Society and the International Space University.
VISUALIZATION IN AN EXPERIMENTAL WATER CAPILLARY PUMPED LOOP (VIEWCPL): This technology was an option for spacecraft thermal management. A CPL collects and transports excess heat generated by spacecraft instruments. The heat is transported to a spacecraft radiator for rejection into space. Requiring no mechanical pump, a CPL can transport more energy for longer distances than heat pipes currently used today.
The purpose of the STS-80 experiment was to help develop a complete understanding of CPL physics in a microgravity environment by viewing the fluid flow inside the evaporator. VIEW-CPL was developed by the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Maryland at College Park, as part of NASA’s In-Space Technology Experiment Program (IN STEP).
Commander: Kenneth D. Cockrell. Cockrell, 46, was born, in Austin, TX. He received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas and a master of science degree in aeronautical systems from the University of West Florida.
Cockrell was selected as an astronaut by NASA in January 1990 and became qualified for a flight assignment July 1991. A veteran of three space flights, including STS-56 in 1993 and STS-69 in 1995, he has logged more than 906 hours in space.
Pilot: Kent V. Rominger (CMDR, USN). Rominger, 40, was born in Del Norte, CO. He received a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Colorado State University and a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Rominger reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992 and after completing the one year of required training became qualified for future flight assignment. He made his first space flight from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5, 1995, on STS-73 during which Rominger served as pilot. With the completion of STS-80, Rominger has logged more than 806 hours in space.
Mission Specialist: Tamara E. Jernigan (Ph.D.). Jernigan, 37, was born in Chattanooga, TN. She received a bachelor of science degree in physics (with honors) and a master of science degree in engineering science from Stanford University. Jernigan also earned a master of science degree in astronomy from the University of California-Berkeley and a doctorate in space physics and astronomy from Rice University. Jernigan was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in June 1985 and became an astronaut in July 1986. A veteran of four space flights, Jernigan was a mission specialist on STS-40 in 1991 and STS-52 in October 1992. She was the payload commander on STS- 67 in March 1995 and with the completion of STS-80 has logged more than 1,278 hours in space.
Mission Specialist: Thomas D. Jones (Ph.D.). Jones, 41, was born in Baltimore, MD. He received a bachelor of science degree in basic sciences from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, and a doctorate in planetary science from the University of Arizona in Tucson. After a year of training following his selection by NASA in January 1990, Jones became an astronaut in July 1991. In 1994, he flew as a mission specialist on successive flights of Space Shuttle Endeavour and the Space Radar Laboratory payload. His first flight was in April 1994 on STS-59 and then in October 1994 on STS-68, he served as payload commander for Space Radar Lab 2. With the completion of STS-80, Jones has logged more than 963 hours in space.
Mission Specialist: Story Musgrave (MD). Musgrave, 61, was born in Boston, MA, but considers Lexington, KY, to be his hometown. He received a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and statistics from Syracuse University, a master of business administration degree in operations analysis and computer programming from the University of California at Los Angeles, a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry from Marietta College, a doctorate in medicine from Columbia University, New York, NY, a master of science in physiology and biophysics from the University of Kentucky, and a master of arts in literature from the University of Houston. Musgrave was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967. A veteran of six space flights, Musgrave was a mission specialist on STS-6 in 1983, STS-51 F in 1985, STS-33 in 1989 and STS-44 in 1991. He was the payload commander on STS-61 in 1993 and with the completion of STS-80 has logged more than 1,282 hours in space. His sixth flight tied him with John Young’s record for most number of space flights by any human being and, at age 61, made him the oldest person ever to fly in space.
The STS-80 mission patch depicts Space Shuttle Columbia and the two research satellites its crew deployed into the blue field of space. The uppermost satellite is ORFEUS-SPAS (Orbiting Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrograph-Shuttle Pallet Satellite), a telescope aimed at unraveling the life cycles of stars and understanding the gases that drift between them. The lower satellite is the Wake Shield Facility, flying for the third time. It used the vacuum of space to create advanced semiconductors for the nation’s electronics industry. ORFEUS and Wake Shield are joined by the symbol of the Astronaut Corps, representing the human contribution to scientific progress in space. The two bright blue stars represent the mission’s space walks, final rehearsals for techniques and tools to be used in assembly of the International Space Station. Surrounding Columbia is a constellation of 16 stars, one for each day of the mission, representing the stellar talents of the ground and flight team that share the goal of expanding knowledge through a permanent human presence in space.
List of Tom Jones Consulting Projects March 4, 2016Posted by skywalking1 in Space.
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Assessment with the IHMC team of how to use space resources from the asteroids, Mars moons, and Mars atmosphere and surface to support human expeditions to the Red Planet. (2015)
On-air spaceflight expert for production of “Surviving Space,” a new documentary television series on Discovery Science Channel. (2015)
On-air astronaut consultant for the Weather Channel during their coverage of the first test flight of NASA’s Orion deep-space, multi-purpose crew vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (2014)
Assessment with the IHMC team of various deep-space astronaut activities for NASA’s human exploration plans beyond the Moon, to the nearby asteroids, and Mars. (2013)
Science advisor to Planetary Resources, Inc, the asteroid mining company. (2013)
Member of NASA Planetary Science Division’s Senior Review Panel for ongoing Planetary Missions. (2012)
Asteroid and space operations consultant on Keck Institute for Space Studies assessment of an exciting mission to capture a small asteroid and return it safely to the Earth-Moon system for exploration and exploitation. (2012)
On-air commentator for Fox News Channel’s science and spaceflight coverage. (2005-2012)
Served on distinguished National Research Council panel on the Future of NASA’s Astronaut Selection and Training programs. (2011)
Co-chair of the NASA Advisory Council ad hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense, and editor of its final report. (2010)
NASA Advisory Council member, Space Operations committee. (2006-2009)
Science and crew operations consultant on NASA study team examining piloted missions to Near-Earth Asteroids. (2005)
Astronaut expert for a 2005 NASA study of advanced space suit life support concepts. The team took a “clean sheet” approach to keeping a crewmember alive in free-fall or on a planetary surface.
Team member for the 2005 NASA Solar System Exploration Strategic Roadmap Committee. The team set out robotic exploration priorities for solar system science over the next three decades.
Study team member on a 2004 Planetary Society examination of a human space exploration strategy
Contributor to International Academy of Astronautics study The Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space.
Panel member for the National Academy of Sciences’ Space Studies Board’s report, Issues and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program.
NASA selection panel member for a variety of Earth sciences and space astronomy programs.
Technical advisor for the major Hollywood motion picture, The Core. (2001)
For more information on hiring astronaut Tom Jones for your project, see www.AstronautTomJones.com
Launching an Annual Asteroid Day March 2, 2016Posted by skywalking1 in History, Space, Uncategorized.
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In late February, the Association of Space Explorers, working with the United Nations in Vienna, proposed that the UN declare that Asteroid Day be held as an annual, global event. Asteroid Day, first held in 2015, heightens public awareness of the asteroid impact hazard, educates society on what we humans can do with space technology to prevent a future disaster, and calls for stepping up the discovery rate of possibly hazardous asteroids.
At the Vienna session of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (through its Science and Technical Subcommittee), our ASE representative Dorin Prunariu delivered our statement on the importance of Asteroid Day as a global, UN-recognized event. His presentation to the member state delegates was well-received. The Association of Space Explorers submitted a Conference Room Paper to the member state delegates calling for recognition of Asteroid Day, and it’s posted here.
Here is one excerpt from our Paper:
In view of the successful results of last year’s Asteroid Day, and the goals and
plans for Asteroid Day 2016 and beyond, the Association of Space Explorers asks
the member States of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to support
Asteroid Day’s goals, and to propose that the United Nations General Assembly at
its 71st session in 2016 declare the International Asteroid Day as [an] annual global
observance. The purpose of such an Asteroid Day declaration is to promote and
raise each year at the international level the awareness of NEO hazards, the
potential for space science and technology to protect humanity against future
damaging impacts, and the need to act together to end the threat of an asteroid
collision with Earth. Because 30 June was the date of the largest impact of an
asteroid on Earth in historical times, we propose that the United Nations General
Assembly resolve that the International Asteroid Day be celebrated and promoted
annually on that date.
We anticipate that the full Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, meeting in June, will adopt the report of its Committee. If so, October’s gathering of the General Assembly in New York should see the approval of the document, and thus UN recognition of Asteroid Day as an annual, global event.
The Association of Space Explorers Committee on Near-Earth Objects thanks Dorin (celebrating the 35th anniversary of the first Romanian space mission (his) this year) and the Asteroid Day organizers Grig Richter and Danica Remy for making the work in Vienna possible. So this June 30, check with AsteroidDay.org to see and attend the closest Asteroid Day event, or better yet, plan to organize and hold one of your own. We’re sure to continue our ASE support of this year’s events with astronauts attending many of the Asteroid Day gatherings. See you on June 30.
#Apollo45: Moon Memories December 14, 2015Posted by skywalking1 in History, Space, Uncategorized.
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July 2014 marked the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first time astronauts visited and walked on another celestial body. I recorded my memories of that event, and the inspiration it brought to me, at the #Apollo45 YouTube channel.
Here is my video link.
What do you remember seeing–and feeling–on July 20, 1969?
The Apollo 11 crew on July 20, 2009, at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Aldrin (left), Armstrong, and Collins. (NASM)
Four Hairballs Head for Space–STS-68 September 11, 2015Posted by skywalking1 in History, Space.
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Since July 1990, the 23 members of Astronaut Group XIII had studied and trained together for their ultimate challenge in space. Although all of us wanted to be the first in our class to fly, we knew it would take a couple of years to get every Hairball into orbit, flying a couple of us rookies at most with every shuttle mission. Bernard Harris and Charlie Precourt were the first in the group to get to space, flying in April 1993 on STS-55. It was almost a year later before I got my chance on STS-59.
Just six months earlier, in October, I was floored to learn I’d be joined on STS-68, flying the SRL-2 radar imaging payload, by THREE of my Hairball classmates: Terry Wilcutt, Jeff Wisoff, and Dan Bursch. We’d spent a year together in “astronaut school” at Johnson Space Center, and flown everything from the simulators to T-38 jets together. We knew each others’ personalities well, and I was reassured that I was flying with good friends and strong, capable crewmates. Jeff and Dan had flown in the previous year as mission specialists, and Terry would be our crew’s pilot. The way we split up our orbit team for round-the-clock radar operations, Dan and I would work the “night” shift together–the Blue Shift–, along with Steve Smith, and Terry and Jeff would take up the Red Shift–daytime back in Houston–with commander Mike Baker.
Today, Terry is the safety and mission assurance chief at NASA, Jeff is principal associate director of the National Ignition Facility (“lasers”), and Dan is a senior project engineer at the Aerospace Corporation. They’ve taught me so much, both on space and on Earth.
Here we are, just after suiting up down the hall from astronaut crew quarters in the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center. From here it was just a few short steps to the elevator down to the Astrovan, and our ride to the pad for the launch of STS-68,
Food for Thought…Just Before Liftoff September 10, 2015Posted by skywalking1 in Uncategorized.
Tags: human spaceflight program, shuttle, space history
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In a tradition dating back to Alan Shepard’s first U.S. spaceflight in 1961, astronauts are served a favorite meal before suiting up and heading to the launch pad–and space. On STS-68, scheduled for an Aug. 18, 1994 launch, I asked the dietitians at the NASA Astronaut Crew Quarters at Kennedy Space Center (my favorite was Dotti Kunde) to prepare a mushroom and cheese omelet with bacon, toast, fresh fruit, coffee, and orange juice. My crew gathered in the dining room of crew quarters for a ceremonial photo and a wave at the TV cameras, and a formal acceptance of our “mission cake,” a giant sheet cake with our SRL-2/STS-68 patch decorating the top. After the photos, the cake immediately went into the freezer and was delivered to Houston. We’d eat the cake when–and if–we actually returned from a successful mission.
Breakfast was served between five and six hours before liftoff, so there was no possibility that any of this delicious food was going to still be in my stomach when I arrived in free fall. Hence, I needn’t worry about seeing any of it if I experienced a bout of space sickness on arrival in orbit. (Besides, I took anti-nausea meds on the launch pad, eliminating any possibility of “space adaptation syndrome” that might require me to deploy my space sickness bag.)
Of course, this was just the first launch morning breakfast I’d enjoy on STS-68. I came back six weeks later for another one, following our pad abort on August 18 and Endeavour’s return to the pad for our next attempt. But that’s another story….
Thank you, Dot and friends, for a delicious breakfast. It was plenty tasty enough to make one intent on returning to Earth.
Read more about STS-68 in “Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Memoir.”
STS-68 Preflight: Getting Ready for Space Radar Lab 2 September 8, 2014Posted by skywalking1 in History, Space.
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The crew of STS-68, Space Radar Lab 2, on Endeavour. Throughout our training syllabus, we were guided through the frantic schedule of classes and simulator sessions by our training team. Without their expertise, we would never have been ready in time for our planned Aug. 18 launch date.
The FFT trainer, once in Bldg. 9, is now at the Seattle Museum of Flight, still bearing the scuff marks from the boots of dozens of crews sliding down the exterior using their “Sky Genie” escape ropes.
Our crew of six included two EVA-qualified astronauts: Jeff Wisoff and Steve Smith. They trained for an unexpected spacewalk on STS-68, if needed for repairs or emergency closure of the payload bay doors or latches. As Jeff and Steve worked through their syllabus, including four underwater sessions covering most orbiter repair tasks, I visited to refresh my memory on their tools and to take some photos of them as they prepared to plunge into the 25-foot-deep pool. I’d trained for this same job on STS-59, a few months earlier. Here, Jeff is fully suited, on the donning stand, and ready to begin his training class. Steve Smith is on the other side of the stand. Crewmate and Endeavour pilot Terry Wilcutt took the photo.
Terry and I discussed Steve and Jeff’s work poolside at the Weightless Environment Training Facility in Bldg. 29 at Johnson Space Center. This building had once housed the Apollo-era centrifuge, but with the advent of the shuttle, the centrifuge gave way to the new WETF swimming pool for EVA training. The building also housed control consoles, life support systems, tool storage, a medical office, and diver and astronaut locker facilities. An ambulance was always parked at the WETF entrance during suited runs underwater.
We all had a chance to drive the M113 APC, below, just in case we had to evacuate an injured crewmember from the blast bunker and get him to a nearby helipad.
Our crew posed on the launch pad next to Endeavour during the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test activities. This swingarm carries flammable, gaseous hydrogen away from the external tank during launch preparations. It’s amazing to get so close to this massive machinery, even more startling to realize you’re going to ride it off the planet.
The AstroVan (below) is now on display near Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Will it roll again? Here we’re loose and joking, but the atmosphere’s a little more tense on the day of the real ride to the launch pad.
As we waited for our strap-in and countdown rehearsal aboard Endeavour, we took some photos atop the launch pad.
Steve and I would work on the Blue Shift together with Dan Bursch while in orbit. Steve rode uphill in the MS-1 position on the flight deck, next to flight engineer and MS-2 Dan Bursch.
Our countdown rehearsal ended with a mock pad abort and an emergency egress from the crew module to the escape slide baskets on the western, or far side of the 195-foot level.
Following lunch back at crew quarters, we headed back to the pad for an afternoon press conference near the blast bunker on the pad perimeter road.
On the shot below, the slide wires for the escape baskets are visible, reaching back to the 195-foot level at Pad 39A. It was a hot August day on the Florida Space Coast.
Two days before launch, 20 years ago, for STS-68. The crew arrives at the Cape beach house for BBQ with family members. Left to right: Steve Smith, Mike Baker, Tom Jones, Terry Wilcutt, Jeff Wisoff, and Dan Bursch. NASA had rented us some nifty Chrysler LeBaron convertibles. (below, NASA 9-28-94)
The day before launch, our food technicians start loading the contents of the fresh food locker: Wheat Thins in ziplocs, tortillas into dark green packages, squeezable cheese spread, picante sauce packets, peanut butter, empty water pouches, my TastyKake chocolate cupcakes and butterscotch krimpets, and (ahem) white packets of high-fiber cookies.
After our pad abort on August 18, we were all eager to go. Here are the four “Hairballs” from the 1990 astronaut group flying on STS-68: Jones, Wilcutt, Wisoff, and Bursch. In the background of the suit room, we see Hoot Gibson (chief astronaut) in the blue flight suit, with tan-suited Dave Leestma (chief of Flight Crew Operations) on the right. We would shortly walk to the Astrovan for our ride to Pad 39A.
In the photo above, LIz and I posed in front of Endeavour as part of our spouse’s tour before heading to night viewing with our friends and family. We were able to see the ship from top to bottom, from the White Room down to the flame trench beneath the mobile launch platform on Pad 39A. Likely taken Aug. 17, 1994. For more info on STS-68, see: http://www.AstronautTomJones.com
Did UFOs Visit STS-80 Columbia? September 8, 2014Posted by skywalking1 in Uncategorized.
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During the week of April 11, 2011, the FBI released some of its investigation records on UFOs. The reports reflect the reality that people do see unexplained phenomena in the sky. Are these sightings evidence for intelligent life elsewhere, or some secret flight testing program?
Much UFO speculation in the past has focused on one of my shuttle missions, STS-80, flown in late 1996. Some have maintained that video shot during this Columbia space shuttle flight provides evidence for unknown objects moving in the night sky. I have reviewed this video (for the first time in 1997), and conclude that it shows commonplace and well-known objects near the shuttle, all of them observed on every shuttle flight. These videos show low-light television camera images of ice particles or man-made debris drifting out of Columbia’s cargo bay, and floating in the vicinity of the shuttle, likely within a few…
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FROM AIAA Daily Launch, July 1, 2014:
ARM Promoted As Fruitful First Step Toward Mars. In an article for the Space Review (6/30), Louis Friedman, Executive Director-Emeritus of the Planetary Society, and Thomas Jones, veteran astronaut and senior research scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, wrote about why NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is the “affordable and logical first step” for NASA to send people to Mars despite what the recent National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Human Spaceflight report claimed. With the Apollo and ISS programs the only “successful examples of government support for human space exploration initiatives,” the authors believe that ARM can build the “sustainable momentum” needed at a time there is no “strong geopolitical rationale” for missions to Mars. ARM also would get astronauts into deep space “much sooner, and at much lower cost” than a lunar mission, although the authors do not rule out missions to the moon. Just by examining the NRC report’s recommendations, ARM was an “attractive first step” toward Mars.
See my latest speeches, articles and images at www.AstronautTomJones.com
Endeavour Rollout to Launch Pad 39A, Aug. 8, 1995 March 20, 2014Posted by skywalking1 in History, Space.
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Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on its STS-69 mission on September 7, 1995. The orbiter and stack had rolled back to the VAB on Aug. 1 to avoid the effets of Hurricane Erin. I was one of the capcoms (astronaut communicator working in Mission Control) for the mission, and I had never seen a space shuttle stack move out to the launch pad. So I took advantage of an invitation from the STS-69 crew (Dave Walker, Ken Cockrell, Jim Voss, Mike Gernhardt, and Jim Newman) to join them for the rollout. Our pair of T-38s headed from Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center for the Cape on the afternoon of Aug. 7, 1995.
After spending the night at astronaut crew quarters, we were up the next morning to join Endeavour on her roll to the pad, which had begun in darkness at 1:55 am. We drove out to the crawlerway, once the route of Saturn V moon rockets to the pad, catching a heart-stopping view of the shuttle stack about two-thirds of the way to Launch Pad 39A. We parked along the road to step aboard the Mobile Launch Platform and get up close to the orbiter I’d flown twice in the previous year (STS-59 and STS-68).
I had never boarded the MLP while in motion, but it was easy to jump aboard the gangway at its 1 mph pace along the crushed river stone of the crawlerway and climb to the deck. Here I was within touching distance of the Endeavour stack, this time unprotected from any pad structure, as on my prelaunch visits to my ship in 1994. Endeavour was independent and self-supported, gliding toward its appointment with orbit, oblivious of the human gnats buzzing around her with a Nikon draped around their necks.
I think the focus on the above shot is a bit soft, due to the early morning light at the Cape–we got their shortly after dawn. The two tab-shaped gray structures on either side of the orbiter’s tail also belonged to the MLP. They housed the T-minus-zero umbilicals (“T-zero umbilicals” was how we said it), those clusters of gas, power, and propellant lines that fed into the ship on either side, just below the OMS pods. Through these umbilicals the external tank received its propellants, the orbiter received commands and electrical power and sent back telemetry, and its plumbing was furnished with gaseous nitrogen for purging the payload bay and engine compartment. At zero in the count, the umbilical panel was yanked away by a falling counterweight, retracted into the gray structure, and protected from the fierce exhaust blast by armored doors that slammed down over the now-recessed umbilical plate.
While pacing the MLP and craning my neck back to look up at Endeavour (as close as I’d been since my landing at Edwards on STS-68 the previous October), I had to get myself in the picture. I’d lived aboard this ship in space for three weeks in 1994, yet it was still hard to wrap my head around that reality. How is it possible that we could have hurled this entire machine into space at five miles per second, with six humans aboard, and brought it back safely to Earth? We have deliberately chosen to walk away from this national capability. Today, if we don’t choose to use these machines any longer, we must quickly–very quickly–develop an alternative national means to send our people to space. Not accelerating this development is sheer negligence on a national scale.
We dropped back to Earth again, stepping onto the crawlerway for a few more photos as the mobile launcher neared the incline to the top of Pad 39A. These views just kept me grinning and shaking my head in awe. I will be similarly amazed when a mobile launcher carries the first Space Launch System booster to its pad.
Endeavour, OV-105, began its ascent of the ramp to 39A as I took up a perch on the Rotating Service Structure, seen to the left in the photo above. This was the rail-mounted “gantry” that would swing in behind the orbiter, once it was in position, and enclose most of the orbiter for protection from the weather. It would also provide clean-room access to the payload bay, enabling technicians to transfer payloads from a mobile canister from the RSS into the payload bay. For me, the top of the RSS provided a fantastic photo vantage point for me and the Nikon F4 I’d borrowed from the photo lab at JSC.
From atop the RSS I head the constant roar of the crawler’s diesels (in turn powering electric motors that drive the tracks) as it mounted the pad elevation.
If there’s anything that will bring a grin to your face, it’s the sight of a spaceship almost imperceptibly rolling up alongside of you. The orbiter seemed to say: “Comin’ through! I’m headed for orbit. Stand aside!”
Endeavour pulls even with the pad structure as I stood, amazed, just above the orbiter White Room level on the RSS.
Here, the crawler would lower the stack onto the four massive launch platform pedestals, then drive back down the incline for its next job. Back on the MLP deck, I got a look at the base of the external tank and its structural connections to the solid rocket boosters. Each booster is held to the platform by 4 massive bolts and nuts, which shatter under explosive detonations at T-minus-zero.
I flew home later that afternoon, with Ken Cockrell at the controls. I hope he’ll be able to figure out who the crew is in T-38 #907, based on the helmet colors in the photo. STS-69 launched on September 7, 1995:
My thanks to the STS-69 crew for allowing me to share their orbiter’s rollout, and for inviting me to work with them as a capcom on their mission. Of course, Ken Cockrell and I flew together just 14 months later on STS-80. But that’s another story. See my website here for more details: