Some spaceflight stuff

Six ESA astronaut candidates have been preparing for their travels with a bit of survival training. The training is to prepare them for the eventuality that they may end up in a Soyuz capsule with emergency rations in some forgotten corner of the Earth out of contact with those sent to recover them. Pictures of the events are on ESA’s flickr page.

At the other end of the scale, Dr. John Grunsfeld, who participated in eight shuttle missions, including three Hubble Space Telescope repair missions, and who was an astrophysicist before becoming an astronaut, has returned to that role after accepting a Research Professorship at John Hopkins University. More info on Professor Grunsfeld is contained in this interview.

But it isn’t just old astronauts getting picked up for new views. The paraphernalia left behind by Apollo 16 has been photographed again by the LRO probe. I guess as good a point as any to advertise the what’s new section in NASA’s History division.

A moment of history was also delivered on the ground when ET-138, the External Tank for mission STS-134, the last scheduled shuttle mission, rolled out. This marks the final new tank for the Lockheed Martin workforce at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, which has been pumping them out since 1973. The iconic orange tanks get shipped over to the Kennedy Space Center to be fitted with the two external booster rockets and later mated to the shuttle itself. The workforce do have one final task to complete – the refurbishment of ET-122, which was damaged by hurricane Katrina. That tank will be fitted to the space shuttle Atlantis, which will be acting as a rescue shuttle, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong on the final mission. A decision has yet to be made on whether or not Atlantis could be sent up with a skeleton crew for one last mission using this tank.

And finally, as the sun sets on that workforce, a new Director for the Glenn Research Center has been announced. Ramon “Ray” Lugo III has been the acting director since March and assumes the permanent position on the 18th of July.

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