Spaceflight roundup

It is forty-nine years since the first American in space. Alan Shepard launched into space for fifteen minutes in the Freedom 7 capsule on the Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) flight. NASA has republished the fortieth anniversary information to celebrate.

Closer to the ground and air travel has been under the spotlight again, with launches of reusable unmanned minishuttles and hypersonic vehicles. Doug Millard, Space Curator of the Science Museum, looks back at the history of the ever cancelled next big thing in air travel. I suppose it is one better than looking back at the blimps and deciding they’re the next big thing, as E-Green Technologies appear to have done. The company has come up with the Bullet 580, a giant airship that could be used as a suborbital platform for heavy equipment or for periods of observation. The airship is expected to stay aloft for up to 2-7 days. Prototypes have flown and the full sized thing is expected to rise later this month.

Another thing expected to launch later this month, and for the final time ever, is the Space Shuttle Atlantis. STS-132 is presently slated for a May14th blast off to the International Space Station and the flight readiness review went on today (follow discussions on twitter using the #FRR hastag). The flight readiness review (points summarised as they happened on NASA’s twitter page) looked at all aspects of how the ISS coped with visitors and whether or not it is ready to receive more as well as examining the reusable bits of the thing they’ll be launching and whether or not they’re prepared to go back up. The result of the review was that everything’s fine for a launch at 14:20 EDT (19:20 BST) on May 14th, with 4 attempts available between 14th-18th. Everything was broadcast on NASA TV and then archived on their youtube channel, from which it has been leached and shown below:

Another thing being readied at the moment is the Pad Abort system that is to pull a capsule away from danger in case something goes wrong when launching a manned rocket. Pictures from tests are here.

Frank De Winne has been answering some questions in his spare time aboard the ISS, which have then found themselves on ESA’s Youtube Channel. This time the questions from Susie Marks, Southern California were; What do you think about moon colonization? When will moon colonization be possible? What challenges would we be faced with? His answers were:

A life size wall graphic of Buzz Aldrin facing the Eagle is available via FatHead.com.

…and finally, the last part of Universe Today’s 13 things that saved Apollo 13 is concerned with The Mission Operations Team.

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