Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit Honors 30-Year NASA Program

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex Photo

Now open on Florida’s Space Coast, the $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit features over 60 interactive experiences and celebrates the people, passion and patriotism behind the shuttle program.

“It’s true that there is more than one space shuttle orbiter out there, but there is nowhere else on Earth like Space Shuttle Atlantis,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in the Miami Herald.

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The 90,000-square-foot Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit is not funded by tax dollars or appropriated funds but by ticket, food and merchandise sales – part of a 10-year master plan developed by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, operator of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for NASA since 1995.

Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11 and includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, which features the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, the new Angry Birds™ Space Encounter, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX® space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and other interactive exhibits.

“This completely immersive experience is about much more than seeing Atlantis close up,” said Moore. “With hi-fi replicas, simulators and interactive activities touching on all aspects of the shuttle program and its accomplishments, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, it’s the closest guests can get to living and working in space – short of applying to the astronaut corps.”

Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia.

Video: A Week In The Life Of The International Space Station


The International Space Station is one of the wonders of modern technology. A series of interconnected orbital modules are home to a rotating crew of astronauts and cosmonauts plus a host of ongoing experiments. While the ISS only gets into the news every now and then, interesting things are happening there daily.

Right now three astronauts – two American and one Canadian – are on duty up there along with three cosmonauts from Russia. This video is a weekly update showing what they did last week. The main work has been preparing for the arrival of the Dragon spacecraft, which will bring supplies and take some completed experiments and waste back to Earth.

Besides that, the crew has been conducting experiments, doing maintenance work on their spacesuits, troubleshooting a partial communications failure, training with the robotic arm, and answering questions from the public back on Earth.

The three astronauts even got a break for Presidents Day. I didn’t know they got days off up there. I wonder what they do? Stare out the window a lot, I bet.

The weekly update gets uploaded every Friday and there are daily updates throughout the week. You can followed them on the ISS website.

For more about this giant orbital laboratory take this video tour of the International Space Station.

Welcome Home Taikonauts!

China has made another great leap forward in their space program. At 2:05 GMT today, the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft landed safely in Inner Mongolia.

The capsule contained three Chinese taikonauts (astronauts), including Major Liu Yang, China’s first female taikonaut to go on a mission. The state press has nicknamed Major Liu Yang the “little Flying Knight,” which seems a wee bit condescending for such a brave pioneer.

The crew had been in space for 13 days and had docked with the Tiangong-1 space platform, the nucleus of what will become China’s space station by 2020. Above is a Wikimedia Commons diagram of Shenzhou-9 (right) docked with Tiangong-1 (left). The landing was broadcast live on state television.

As Chinese space missions become more common, the question becomes what to call their crews. The Chinese government doesn’t seem to be able to decide. Depending on the source and the language of the official statement, they’re variously referred to as astronauts, cosmonauts, “tàikōng rén” (“spacemen”) or taikonauts, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “a hybrid of the Chinese term taikong (space) and the Greek naut (sailor).” Personally I think taikonaut sounds the coolest.

Want to learn more? Check out the Go Taikonauts! fan page.

First woman in space turns 75

woman in space Valentina TereshkovaLast week, Russia marked the 75th birthday of Russian space pioneer Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. In 1963, Tereshkova orbited the earth 48 times in three days, logging more flight time than all the previous American astronauts combined, and becoming the first and only woman to travel solo in space. Before launching into space, Tereshkova exclaimed, “Hey, sky, take your hat off!” The US space program would not send a woman into space for another 20 years, when Sally Ride flew as a crew member on the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Tereshkova later married another cosmonaut, held several of the highest offices in the Soviet Union, and is revered as a hero among women and Russians. Inspired by Ms. Tereshkova? You can go inside the Russian space program this fall for a cool $14,000.

[Photo courtesy Martin Addison via Wikimedia Commons]

Space junk is out of control, scientists say

space junkIt’s a dilemma faced by every adventure traveler: to find the perfect remote spot untouched by modernity, free from cell phones, television, and trash. Of course there is no such place, not even in space. In fact, the orbital detritus of modern life can be downright dangerous, scientists warn.

A new report from the National Research Council says there are so many bits of trash in orbit, ranging from defunct satellites to fragments like nuts and bolts, that they’re bumping into each other, breaking apart, and making more trash. Around 22,000 large pieces of space junk are tracked from the ground, occasionally prompting the International Space Station to maneuver out of the way, and there are hundreds of thousands of more pieces too small to be detected. It amounts to a cloud of trash surrounding the earth, as this NASA image shows.

This puts current astronauts and future space tourists in peril. With the high velocities objects achieve in orbit, it’s like having hundreds of thousands of bullets flying around the Earth.

space junkAnd it’s getting worse. The BBC reports two satellites crashed in 2009 and broke apart. Also, the Chinese tested a satellite killer in 2007 that successfully smashed up its target into more than 150,000 pieces larger than a centimeter. The U.S. and Soviet Union tested similar weapons back in the 1960s and 1970s, creating their own clouds of debris.

Several manned spacecraft have been hit by space debris. Two Shuttle missions have had radiator panels in the cargo bay punctured by debris. The International Space Station and Mir have both suffered numerous impacts. Sometimes the damage is caused by natural micrometeorites.

One certain impact by space debris was in 1983 when a fleck of paint smacked into the space shuttle Challenger’s front window and left a crater, as you can see in this NASA image.

If a fleck of paint can do this to the Space Shuttle, imagine what an old rocket booster could do.