Astronaut Janice Voss (b.1956) died on February 6 after a battle with breast cancer. Voss served as a mission specialist on five space shuttle missions between 1993 and 2000. Flying two missions each on Endeavour and Columbia and one on Discovery. Following her in-space career, Voss worked as the Science Director for the Kepler Space Observatory and Payloads Lead of the Astronaut Office Station Branch.
Engineer Roger Boisjoly (b.1938) died on January 6. Boisjoly worked for Morton Thiokol in 1986 and warned NASA that due to falling temperatures, the O-Rings on the space shuttle Challenger could undergo a catastrophic failure and urged for them to cancel the flight. The next day, his predictions came true when Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight.
NASA has announced that SpaceX has been given permission to dock the Dragon capsule with the International Space Station. The Dragon will be carried aloft by the Falcon 9 Rocket on February 7, contingent on final safety reviews, testing and verification of the craft.
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.