Astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were honored on November 16 when they were each awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda. The medals were presented by Representatives John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi and Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award in the United States. Glenn flew into space twice, on the third Mercury mission and on STS-95. Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins flew on the first lunar landing mission and each also flew on a Gemini mission. The Apollo astronauts received the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1969.
British amateur Astronomer Nick Howes is leading a search to find Snoopy, the lunar module used by the Apollo 10 crew to fly within 8.5 miles of the lunar surface. Following the mission, the module was jettisoned into a solar orbit while the crew returned to Earth in the command module, Charlie Brown.
Tor Books and NASA have announced a collaboration to publish a series of
science based, commercial fiction books, referred to as “NASA inspired Works of Fiction.” The series will allow authors to work closely with NASA Subject Matter Experts to ensure that the science incorporated into the novels is accurate. The Goddard Space Flight Center’s Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) Office will host a two-day workshop for authors.
A power reactant storage and distribution from the space shuttle Columbia has been found at the bottom of a Texas lake. The four-foot diameter PRSD is a tank that provided power and water for shuttle missions. It was found after drought caused the waters of Lake Nacogdoches to recede enough to uncover the unit. Columbia disintegrated during re-entry over Texas on February 1, 2003.
Images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter may show the crash site of the Lunar Orbiter 2, which helped map potential landing sites for Apollo missions in 1967. After completing its mission, NASA instructed the LO2 to crash into the farside of the moon, although the exact location of its crash was unknown. The LRO was launched in 2009 to fully map the lunar surface and create 3D maps for a potential return to the moon. The LRO has previously mapped all six Apollo landing sites and has found evidence of volcanism on the moon.
The space shuttle Atlantis landed this morning at 5:57:00, completing both STS-135 and the shuttle program. The first shuttle, Columbia was launched in April 1981. Over the intervening thirty years, two shuttles and their crews were lost in flight, five shuttles flew in total, and the crafts traveled a total of 548,049,445 miles. The landing of Atlantis marks the first time in 30 years that the United States has not had the capacity to put humans into space. Atlantis will spend its retirement on display at the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA launched the Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-135, its final mission, and the final mission of the 30 year long shuttle program at 11:29 ET. The mission was delayed with an unexpected hold at T-31 seconds when an error indicated that the Gaseous Oxygen Vent Arm had not fully retracted. Visual examination showed the error was a computer glitch and the countdown continued. Originally, Atlantis was supposed to have flown its last mission in May, 2010, but the current mission was added on October 11, 2010. The first shuttle launch, of Columbia, occurred on April 12, 1981.
A speck of lunar dust about the size of a finger nail, which has been missing since shortly after it was brought back to Earth by the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, has been recovered by NASA and the US Attorney’s Office from an auction house in St. Louis. Originally lifted from a film canister, the dust was sold in 2001 to a German collector whose widow was trying to sell it. When informed of the dust’s provenance, she returned it to the US government.
NASA sent the shutdown command to the Mars Spirit Rover on May 25, seven years after the exploration vehicle landed. Spirit was scheduled to operate for approximately three weeks and cover a distance of a couple hundred yards. Instead, it operated for more than five years and covered almost five miles. Spirit made its last transmission on March 22, 2010. Spirit‘s sister craft, Opportunity, is still operating.