Jul 2000

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Space News July 2000...

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Mars image courtesy of NASA.

Evidence of liquid water flowing on Mars!

Space Station docking!

ISS simulated image courtesy of NASA.


31 July 2000 - A private U.S. company is trying to build a space port in the South American country of Guyana, but there's one snag - neighboring Venezuela is also claiming the territory.

Latest Shuttle Status Report here. NASA states:

Preparations continue for the launch of STS-106 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The payload bay doors on Space Shuttle Atlantis are closed as workers get ready for Atlantis' roll out of the Orbiter Processing Facility and transfer to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Aug. 7. Beginning Tuesday, Atlantis will undergo pressure testing, and weight and center of gravity tests will occur on Thursday. The orbiter is scheduled to be moved to Launch Pad 39B on Aug. 14 and slated for liftoff on Sept. 8.

Wrap up last week's space news at Florida Today.

Today In Space History: 36 years ago today (31 July 1964), the lunar probe Ranger 7 returned close-up pictures of the Moon's surface. The Ranger series was designed to crash-land on the Moon, beaming images back to Earth until the moment of impact. The seventh Ranger mission was the first to successfully return photos of the lunar surface - scoping it out for the astronauts that would follow a few years later.

Today is also the 31st anniversary of the Mariner 6 flyby of Mars.



30 July 2000 - More on the 2003 mission to Mars - which will bounce to the surface on airbags, a-la-Pathfinder. Let's hope this one goes better than the last two!

The Dog Days of summer are here! Ever wonder why the heck people say that? Here's your answer!



29 July 2000 - The Sea Launch system has scored another success, sending a communications satellite into orbit from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean, near the Equator.

The latest edition of KSC's internal newsletter, Spaceport News, is on-line [requires Acrobat Reader].



28 July 2000 - Did you know? Pluto, the ninth world in our Solar System (discovered only 70 years ago), is the only planet that has not been explored by a space probe. Now, a mission to the mysterious planet is in danger of being cancelled. Can The Planetary Society save it?

How much did women contribute to early astronomy? More than you think!



27 July 2000 - NASA has selected a Mars Rover mission for 2003, choosing the wheeled lander over a competing proposal for a high-resolution orbiter.

The guys at Devon Island (waaay up in the Arctic) have finished building their living quarters. What are they doing so close to the North Pole - trying to beat the summer heat? No, they (the Mars Society, that is) are trying to simulate conditions that people would face on a manned expedition to Mars - and the barren Canadian wilderness is the closest thing we have to the Red Planet (minus the Moosehead). NASA is running a similar experiment nearby.



26 July 2000 - The docking of the Zvezda crew module with the other 2 components of the International Space Station was hailed by both Russians and Americans as a milestone in space exploration. Now, let's keep this thing moving forward!

Today In Space History: 29 years ago today, (25 July 1971) the astronauts of Apollo 15 lifted off towards the moon. They would be the fourth crew to land on the lunar surface, and the first to ride in style on a Lunar Roving Vehicle.



25 July 2000 - UPDATE 11PM - The Space Station docking was a success! The crew quarters is the third component of the ISS to fly, and the first entirely Russian contribution to the 16-nation project. The Station, now weighing in at 60 tons, is orbiting the Earth 229 miles above us - you can try spotting it from the ground!  Tonight's ISS Status Report here. NASA states:

The International Space Station and the Zvezda Service Module have completed docking procedures, which began Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. CDT, or Wednesday at 00:45 GMT. Within a few days, flight controllers will switch space station attitude control from the Zarya Control Module to Zvezda. The next visitor to the space station will be a Progress resupply vehicle in August. Then, Space Shuttle Atlantis, which is scheduled to launch Sept. 8, will visit the station, and its seven-member crew will outfit Zvezda in preparation for the Station's first permanent crew.

And you thought they just made Tang: A sensor using NASA technology can remotely monitor your car's emissions!

Falling rock zone: Don't you just hate when meteorites fall from the sky and break your windshield??


25 July 2000 - Space Station docking tonight at 8:44PM EDT! Latest ISS Status Report here.  NASA states:

With all of its scheduled rendezvous maneuvers completed, the Zvezda Service Module awaits the arrival of the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:44 p.m. CDT, or Wednesday at 00:44 GMT. Watch streaming video on NASA TV to see continuing coverage of the Zvezda Service Module activities.



24 July 2000 - Space Station docking tomorrow - details to follow... NASA reports:

Flight controllers completed the Zvezda Service Module's final rendezvous and correction burns over the weekend in preparation for docking with the International Space Station. With the completion of the burns, Zvezda is now the passive vehicle as it awaits the arrival of the station. Russian flight controllers also deployed the Zarya Control Module's docking probe and verified that it is in the right position. The station and Zvezda are scheduled to dock Tuesday at 7:44 p.m. CDT, or Wednesday at 00:44 GMT.

Rover or Orbiter? NASA has temporarily put off announcing a decision for the next mission to Mars.

Today In Space History: Fifty years ago today (24 July 1950), the first rocket launch took place from Cape Canaveral, Florida (the center was then known as the Long Range Proving Ground Base). From those humble beginnings, thousands of space voyages have started there. What people commonly refer to as "The Cape" is now actually two separate facilities - one civilian (NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on Merrit Island, where the Space Shuttle and the moon rockets launch from), and one military (Patrick Air Force Base, on Cape Canaveral proper, where unmanned rockets launch from - and the site of Mercury, Gemini, and early Apollo launches). NASA recalls:

Fifty years ago today, the first successful rocket launches took place at Cape Canaveral, then a bare-bones facility in the sandbars off the Florida coast. The first rockets launched from the Cape were a combination of captured German V-2 missiles and high-altitude rockets developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. 
...The first launch from mosquito-infested Cape Canaveral occurred on July 24, 1950, at 9:28 a.m., when the Army launched Bumper WAC 8 from Complex 3... [It] took place with about 50 launch crew members and 20 reporters looking on...
Five days later engineers at the Cape successfully launched their second rocket, which flew at nine times the speed of sound, a new speed record for a human-made object... [In the half-century since Bumper 8], 3,245 launches have been conducted from the Eastern Range... Tomorrow we will watch the docking of the Russian-made service module to the orbiting International Space Station. We've come a long way in 50 years.

Happy Birthday to "Spaceport USA!" Also: on this day in 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts splashed down to complete the first lunar landing mission. And: on this day in 1975, the American astronauts from the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project made the last manned splashdown of the space program, bringing a successful close to the first international space mission. [See also 9 July 2000].

Wrap up last week's space news at Florida Today.



23 July 2000 - Astronomers may have discovered a new moon around Jupiter - the 17th for the giant planet.

Today In Space History: One year ago today, STS-93 (Shuttle Columbia) lifted off from KSC on a mission to deploy the Chandra X-Ray observatory. Mission Facts here and here; Crew info here; Image collections here; News coverage here and here. The flight featured the first woman to command a Shuttle mission - Eileen Collins.



22 July 2000 - At this week's G-8 summit meeting, North Korea made an offer to discontinue its missile program, in exchange for help with launching commercial satellites and space exploration. The offer was relayed though Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Did you know that there are 3 teams of scientists in the Arctic (Devon Island) trying to simulate conditions that colonists on Mars might face?



21 July 2000 - Latest ISS Status Report here.  NASA states:

The docking of Zvezda will set the stage for the arrival of the station's first permanent crew. The three-member crew is scheduled to launch Oct. 30 on Flight 2R and arrive at the station two days later. The launch vehicle will be a Russian Soyuz rocket. The crew consists of Commander Bill Shepherd, Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev.

NASA is holding off on announcing the type of (unmanned) mission they will send to Mars in 2003. Meanwhile, life goes on at a simulated Mars base in the Arctic.

Latest KSC Shuttle Status Report here. NASA states:

At Kennedy Space Center, Fla., preparations continue for Sept. 8's scheduled launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-106. Currently, technicians are testing Atlantis' ground control interface logic system and onboard operations recorder. Also, the seven STS-106 astronauts are participating in Crew Equipment Interface Test activities at Kennedy Space Center. The test activities are scheduled to last through the weekend. The STS-106 crew will deliver supplies to the International Space Station and perform a space walk while at the station.



20 July 2000 - Not Just A Good Idea, It's The Law: A controversial experiment at New Jersey's Princeton University has potentially shown that the speed of light is not the absolute "speed limit" in the universe. The jury's still out on this one!

NASA is investigating the derailment of a train carrying solid rocket booster parts for the Space Shuttle at KSC.

Will Japan support the proposed U.S. Anti-Missile system?

Today In Space History: 31 years ago today (20 July 1969), men first walked on the moon as Apollo 11 touched down on the lunar surface. Another historic mission landed 24 years ago today (20 July 1976), as the remotely-operated Viking 1 became the first spacecraft to successfully land on the surface of Mars.



19 July 2000 - Latest ISS Status Report here.  NASA states:

Systems checkouts on the Zvezda Service Module are coming to an end as its rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station approaches. Docking is scheduled for Tuesday, July 25 at 7:53 p.m. CDT, or Wednesday, July 26 at 00:53 GMT, as the two spacecraft fly above the Russian Federation. Flight controllers completed another rendezvous maneuver for Zvezda Wednesday night. The next two rendezvous burns are scheduled for Friday night. Also on Friday night, a docking test, which includes conducting a capture test using Zvezda's docking mechanism, will be performed.

How has man's perception of the universe changed over the centuries?



18 July 2000 - How does space travel affect the human body? What could happen to those exposed to zero-gravity over a long period of time?

The NEAR mission (the first spaceprobe to orbit an asteroid) is getting its closest views yet of asteroid Eros.



17 July 2000 - Latest Shuttle Status Report here; Latest ISS Status Report here.  NASA states:

With launch of the Zvezda Service Module complete and docking scheduled for July 25, the STS-106 astronauts are redoubling their efforts to prepare for the next human visit to the International Space Station.

Wrap up last week's space news at Florida Today.



16 July 2000 - Latest ISS Status Report here. NASA states:

Friday morning, flight controllers performed the first two major rendezvous burns for the Zvezda Service Module as it continued its journey to the International Space Station. After analyzing the data from the two burns, flight controllers decided to cancel the correction burn that was scheduled for Saturday. This weekend, the "Regul" telemetry system will go through a thorough check out. Zvezda's rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station is scheduled for July 25 at 7:46 p.m. CDT, or July 26 at 00:46 GMT.

Zvezda's orbital burn went smoothly, setting the stage for this month's docking with the other two modules.

Today In Space History: Thirty-one years ago today (16 July 1969), Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission, launched from Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A, on its way to make history 4 days later. Mission Fact sheet here; Crew info here; Image collection here. And... one year ago today, launch preparations began on this very website! Happy Birthday, NewsFromSpace!



15 July 2000 - NASA has found a problem with the current supply of spacesuits which could cause them to burst into flames! The problem is that an oily residue has contaminated the oxygen regulators in the emergency oxygen supplies, and the oil mixed with the high-pressure O2 would cause a "conflagration" (NASA's term for "now you're a baked potato"). Thank God this was discovered before a tragedy occurred - "Stop, Drop, and Roll" doesn't work when you're in orbit!

This week's giant solar flares are due to collide with Earth's magnetic field this Saturday. Watch the skies for Northern Lights tonight! The Sun is at the peak of its 11-year cycle of sunspot and flare activity.

Sea Launch platform on its way for July 28th liftoff...

Lunar eclipse tomorrow - but it won't be visible from most of the US. Check here for live webcast sites.



14 July 2000 - Two people charged in latest NASA/JPL computer hack...

Astronomers, working with the Chandra X-ray orbiting telescope, have  spotted the first flare from a failed star (AKA brown dwarf).

Is the UK falling behind in space exploration? Their government thinks so.

A solar eruption is causing radio blackouts here on Earth. On the upside, we may get to see some awesome Northern Lights - even as far south as Florida!

Latest ISS Status Report here. U.S. V.P. Al Gore (AKA The Man Who Invented The Internet) hailed this week's launch of the Zvezda service module. NASA recounts:

Saying, "All Americans can take pride in this exciting accomplishment," Vice President Al Gore saluted the launch of the Zvezda Service Module toward its eventual docking with the International Space Station. "Once the International Space Station becomes fully operational, it promises to deliver enormous benefits to Americans in the form of increased scientific research and development opportunities."

Boeing says things are looking grim in the satellite business. 

Can NASA technology help find a long-lost Da Vinci mural?



13 July 2000 - Here's some more on yesterday's successful Zvezda launch. The Russian spacecraft will link up automatically with the rest of the International Space Station next week, and serve as the station's living quarters. The Proton-K rocket that lofted the crew module (unmanned) into orbit had one unusual feature - a Pizza Hut ad on the side, which the Russians got large dollars for.

Why is Japan having so many problems with their space program?

The Air Force has placed an order for Boeing's first Delta IV rocket, slated to launch a satellite in May 2002.

Who is "Rocket Guy", and what is he building in his back yard??

Hubble Space Telescope catches distant star "shredding" its surroundings...



12 July 2000 1:10AM EDT - The "nerve center" of the International Space Station, "Zvezda" (Russian for "star") has been launched aboard a Proton rocket (with a Pizza Hut ad on the side!). The unmanned module is slated to dock with the station's other two modules two weeks from now, and host a crew this fall. The launch is reported to be "flawless", with the climb to orbit "without incident". The 95-foot solar arrays are being deployed. There will be a news conference on NASA TV at 2:30AM EDT. NASA states:

The International Space Station and Zvezda are scheduled to rendezvous and dock July 25 at 7:46 p.m. CDT, or July 26 at 00:46 GMT. Zvezda will be the passive vehicle for a rendezvous with the already-orbiting station, which is comprised of the Zarya Control Module and the Unity module. As the passive "target" vehicle, Zvezda will maintain a station-keeping orbit as Zarya performs the rendezvous and docking under control from the ground using Kurs, the Russian automated rendezvous and docking system.

Here's some food for thought on backyard astronomy.



11 July 2000 - Key space station component to launch tomorrow (early Wednesday morning at 1AM EDT). Launch journal will be at Florida Today.

Microbes have been discovered at the South Pole - one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. If life can survive there, could there be hope of life existing elsewhere in our Solar System? 

Russian and American astronauts gathered in Moscow on Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first docking between spacecraft from different countries. [See also 9 July 2000].



10 July 2000 - The long-delayed crew module for the ISS is finally going up this Wednesday - but did you know there are four other launches scheduled this week?

Will President Clinton make a decision on the National Missile Defense system, or leave it up to the next guy? Would the test have any value (we wouldn't have advance notice in real life) even if the interception did happen?

A British professor launched a two-stage rocket last week, a step towards his quest to win the X Prize, a competition to be the first amateur space explorer.

"Solarmax" film debuts in London: The large screen IMAX film is a 40-minute summary of man's quest to understand the Sun and space.

If the SETI@Home project can break down a huge computing problem (the analysis of radio data to try and find intelligent life beyond Earth), what other projects can be done via distributed computer networks?

Wrap up last week's space news at Florida Today.



9 July 2000 - What caused the test of the National Missile Defense system to fail? The system has many complex components, but the showstopper was a basic staging problem. The "kill vehicle" never got the chance to do its thing, because it never received the signal to separate from the booster stage. The payload fell into the Pacific ocean without even getting out of its protective fairing. Video here. [See also 8 July 2000].

NASA has "rescued" a space probe that had "lost its way": Deep Space 1, the probe that was on its way to rendezvous with a comet, was in trouble when its star tracker device went dead, rendering the spacecraft blind. Engineers on the ground wrote and uploaded new software to use a different on-board camera to orient the probe, and now the mission is back on track! Nice save, guys!

Maybe we could put the folks who saved Deep Space 1 (see above) to straighten out the accounting system at NASA. It seems they made a $590 million bookkeeping error in their 1999 financial report, though the agency claims that the miscalculation was only in over-reporting a 1998 credit, and did not affect operations or spending of funds. We could use an extra half-billion in our checkbook! The government has also criticized NASA for calling the robotic arm on the Mars Polar Lander a success, even though MPL crashed and the arm was never deployed outside of lab tests.

This Week In Space History: As we approach the launch of the crew module for the International Space Station, a multinational project of unprecedented proportions (and expense!), it is fitting that we celebrate the 25th anniversary (15 July 1975) of the Apollo- Soyuz Test Project, the world's first multinational space project. The U.S. and the Soviet Union, bitter rivals in the midst of the Cold War, proved that cooperation in space could lead to cooperation back on the ground. Mission Facts here and here; Crew info here and here; Image collections here, here, and here. This would be the last flight of an Apollo capsule, the last flight of a Saturn rocket, and the last splashdown of the American space program. The next manned mission, six years later, would be aboard the re-usable Space Shuttle.



8 July 2000 - Missile test fails! A booster malfunction apparently caused the kill vehicle to miss the target, an ICBM with a dummy warhead. The modified Minuteman II missile was launched shortly after midnight last night (Saturday morning), with the interceptor launching around 12:40AM EDT from the Marshall Islands. A problem with the Minuteman's battery system caused a delay in the launch, which was scheduled for 10PM EDT. More investigation is needed, but initial reports say that the second stage on the interceptor failed to separate, causing it to miss the target. Russia, which strongly opposes the system, said that the failure is proof that the system is unworkable. President Clinton will decide over the coming weeks on whether to implement the system under its original 2005 due date. This was the third test of the system - the first one (in October 1999) was successful, but the next two had problems.   Pentagon briefing here. [See also 7 July, 20 January 2000].

If airplanes can carry "black boxes" to analyze mishaps, why can't we do the same for satellites?

The Zvezda ("Star") module of the ISS has been mated to the Proton rocket which will launch it to orbit from central Asia, to dock automatically (no crew will be aboard until this fall) with the other 2 Station components about 240 miles above the Earth. The U.S. and Russia are investigating a minor problem with a recent Proton shot, to make sure that the Zvezda launch will go smoothly on 12 July. 



7 July 2000 - Missile test tonight! A modified MinuteMan II will launch from Vandenberg AFB in California between 10PM and 2AM ET, acting as a target. The kill vehicle will launch 20 minutes later from the U.S. Army's Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands. If all goes well, the target will be destroyed 144 miles above the Pacific Ocean at a combined speed of 15000MPH. Greenpeace is protesting the launch, and some scientists claim that the technology is not advanced enough to provide an effective shield. Could this plunge the world into a new arms race? Will China or Russia build up their arsenals to overcome the system? Video report here. [See also 6 July, 20 January 2000].

Russia is set to launch the long-awaited crew module for the International Space Station this coming Wednesday! NASA reports:

The Zvezda Service Module is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 4:56 GMT July 12, or 11:56 p.m. CDT July 11. Workers completed fueling of the Service Module's launch vehicle, a Russian Proton rocket, Thursday morning. Mating of Zvezda to the Proton rocket will occur Friday, and rollout to the launch pad is scheduled for Saturday, July 8. Zvezda is slated to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station on July 25. Meanwhile, the space station continues to orbit the Earth with no significant problems.

A jet of superhot gas coming from galaxy M87, likened to a "searchlight" beaming from its center, is probably the result of a black hole and the magnetic fields surrounding it, say researchers working with the Hubble Space Telescope. Even though a black hole's gravity is so strong that not even light can escape, disks of swirling matter surround them, throwing off massive amounts of matter and radiation - that's the only way they can be spotted.



6 July 2000 - Tomorrow's test of the the National Missile Defense system is causing some controversy. Will the system spark a new arms race? Will it be effective? Is this a valid test? The President's decision on whether to implement the system will have far-reaching implications on the world scene. [See also 26 June, 20 January 2000].

NASA has tested a "space sail" that could be driven by an orbiting laser satellite. This would enable fast, long-range space flights, because heavy chemical rockets would not be needed aboard the spacecraft. The bulk of the propulsion system would remain "back home", while the light-weight, high-strength sail would capture photons from the solar wind and from the high-energy beams.

Kaboom! The Chandra X-Ray telescope, in Earth orbit, has produced a map of a star that exploded three centuries ago, giving some clues as to the elements inside.



5 July 2000 - Russia's launch of yet another Proton rocket is good news for the International Space Station. The ISS has been without a module for crew quarters since the other 2 nodes (one American, one Russian) were assembled 2 years ago. The "Zvezda" module is set to launch on 12 July.

When the USSR created a competitor to America's Space Shuttle, they needed a plane to transport it between launch and landing sites. The Antonov An-225 was one of the world's largest aircraft when built. Now the Ukranian company wants to revive the planes for cargo purposes. [See also 20 June 2000].



4 July 2000 -  Happy Independence Day! Here's a neat essay on the contributions of American astronomers.

Why is the Sun's corona (the "crown" surrounding it, which is visible during an eclipse) hotter than its surface?

More on yesterday's China-in-space story. They launched a modified Soyuz capsule last year, which was capable of holding 3 astronauts ("taikonauts"), but there was no crew aboard. Now, it appears that they may be preparing to launch a second unmanned test, followed by a manned mission as early as this year.

Today In Space History - Three years ago today (4 July 1997), the Mars Pathfinder, an unmanned NASA probe, landed on the surface of the Red Planet. It returned over 16000 images and was considered a huge success.



3 July 2000 - Did computer hackers endanger a Shuttle mission back in 1997? The BBC broke a report today asserting that someone tried to overload the medical monitoring systems for the STS-86 mission to Russia's Mir space station. NASA is denying the allegations.

NASA is developing a new type of spacecraft engine (first discussed here on 15 June) that could cut interplanetary mission time way down - like getting humans to Mars in 6 months instead of a year. What's the catch? It's nuclear powered.

Is China ready to put a man in space? U.S. intelligence thinks they are ready to become only the third nation with the ability to launch humans into space with their own rockets.

Wrap up last week's space news at Florida Today.



2 July 2000 - Latest Shuttle Status Report here. NASA states:

At Kennedy Space Center, Fla., preparations continue for the launch of STS-106. Space Shuttle Atlantis and its seven-member crew are scheduled to lift off Sept. 8 for the fourth flight to the International Space Station. This week, technicians completed transformer replacement on the left-hand orbiter maneuvering system pod and finished valve cycling tests. Meanwhile, testing of the space-to-space orbiter radio system continues and workers are preparing for the installation of Atlantis' engines, which is slated to begin Wednesday, July 5.

More on Russia's readiness to launch Zvezda, the International Space Station's living quarters. The module is scheduled to lift off aboard a Proton rocket on 12 July.

What are Gamma-Ray bursts, and are they indicators of stellar births?

How do different cultures view the universe?



1 July 2000 - NASA launched a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite yesterday morning from the USAF's Cape Canaveral rocket base. TDRS-H was deployed successfully into Earth orbit (after a one-day delay), and will supply data and communications services for Shuttle missions and the International Space Station. An Atlas 2A rocket boosted the bird into space at 8:56AM EDT.

Halfway around the world, in former Soviet Kazakhstan, a Proton rocket launched a satellite that will provide digital radio for things like CD-quality music broadcasts to cars. Both launches were managed by International Launch Services (ILS), a joint U.S.-Russian company. Two shots within 10 hours - not bad!!


To keep going back in the timeline, check the Space News Archive for June 2000, Apr - May 2000, Jan - Feb 2000Oct - Dec 1999, and before.

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