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On Sunday, December 11, 2011, the high fidelity Space Shuttle mockup that has been at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center was moved 5.6 miles from the Visitor’s Center to the Media Press Site 39 parking lot adjacent to the turning basin. In March this shuttle, known as “Explorer” while at the Kennedy Space Center, will be placed on a barge and sent to Galveston, Texas, and then on to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for permanent display.

The move took about three hours, starting about 7:30 am and ending about 11 am.

The Shuttle mockup leaving the Visitor Center. This mockup never flew in space. With it gone, the Visitor Center will build a special building to house a real Shuttle which is expected to be on display in late 2012 or early 2013.


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This photograph was taken at Location 4. This is the intersection of Schwartz Road and Contractor Road. The Shuttle has turned north and is headed up Contractor Road past the Railroad Engines. Movement of the Explorer, as it was known while at the Visitor's Center, went much quicker than expected. Originally the media was told movement would begin at 7:30 am and taken until 3 pm. In actuality movement began at 8:30am and ended at 11 am.


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This photograph was taken at Location 7 (see map of route below). Nearing the end of its 5.6 mile journey to the Pad 39 Media site parking lot, adjacent to the turning basin, the movers stopped the shuttle move for awhile to allow photographs in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Then they gathered and photographed themselves in a group shot.


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(Location 7) A few hundred yards from the Pad 39 Media site parking lot, and the Turning Basin, the mover-guys pulled over, piled out and allowed the media to takes pictures of the shuttle, and of themselves, in front of the VAB. Then, with the media done, they piled in front of the shuttle and their truck, for pictures of their own. These guys finished what was expected to be a 7.5 hour journey of 5.6 miles in a tidy 2.5 hours. They were so good that everybody was home in time for Sunday lunch and the afternoon football games.


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Carol Anne Swagler, self portrait. Ms. Swagler is accredited as a photographer and, you will note, she got herself entirely in the photograph but only half of the Shuttle. She would argue, and we would agree, she got most of what she was going for in this picture. Ms. Swagler took 267 photographs of the move on Sunday, December 11, 2011. Patricia Christian (in red behind Ms. Swagler), NASA public relations, was one of several escorts on Sunday. (Location 7).


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(CLICK to ENLARGE) This is the route from Visitor's Center to the parking lot at the press site. The media photographed the movement from 8 sites marked on this map.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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Houston is home to the astronauts. A huge crowd of family and well-wishers surround the four STS-135 astronauts as they return, finally, home safely after their 13 day mission in space, and after the final mission of the Space Shuttle.


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Political officals spoke as did all four astronauts. Then the astronauts melted into the crowd and signed autographs. This is one of two hangars where the homecoming rallies are held. Ellington Field is a few miles north of Johnson Space Center in Houston and once was an Air Force base.


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The media had two areas but many could not get into the hangar because they were blocked by security. Finally a member of the Johnson Space Center public relations staff intervened and brought the media into the hangar allowing them to set up their tripods and other cameras. The event last about an hour.

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The control tower at Ellington Field is visible through a maze of tv cameras Friday afternoon, July 22, 2011, in Houston. The STS-135 astronauts have returned to their homes in Houston and are being welcomed by nearly a thousand people inside NASA Hangar 990.

This is the final event in STS-135 mission, and only one event remains in the 30-year history of the shuttle program — a celebration at Johnson Space Center in late August which will be August 20 or August 27, 2011.

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Thursday, 4 pm, July 21, 2011 The crew of STS-135 / Space Shuttle Atlantis successfully landed shortly before 6 am on their first orbit opportunity on July 21, 2011, on runway 15 in Florida.

After safeing the vehicle, a press conference was held on the runway, and then Atlantis was towed back to Orbiter Processing Facility #2 where a walk-around for NASA / Kennedy Space Center eomployees was held.

For many of these employees the landing was bittersweet. A large number will be laid off on Friday, July 22, 2011.

Following the employee ceremonies, Atlantis was returned to its hangar (OPF #2) and preparations to turn her over to the Kennedy Visitors Space Center sometime in 2012 will begin.

STS-135 was the last of 135 shuttle missions over the past 30 years.

NASA has no near term plans to fly manned missions again and has, in effect, ceded the American manned space program to the Russians and the Chinese.

On Friday, July 22, 2011 … the four Astronauts will fly to Houston in the morning and will attend a final public celebration of their successful mission in Hangar 990 at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center at 4 pm.

This gathering is open to the public. Doors open about 3:30 pm.

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STS-135 Mission Patch

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NASA-TV does a superb job of providing on-going 24/7 coverage from the Mission Control Center, Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.

To quickly access their site, go HERE.
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Current header Photograph. International Space Station from docking hatch of the Shuttle Atlantis during docking. ISS is about 600 feet from the Atlantis as they fly in tandem. It is 10:02 am EDT (9:02 am CDT – Houston), Sunday, July 10, 2011. The shuttle is 1 hour, six minutes, from docking with the ISS at the time of this photograph. (NASA-TV Photo)

Sunday morning, July 10, 2011, Space Shuttle Atlantis (officially OV-104) overtook and docked with the International Space Station (ISS). These following views are of Mission Control, Houston, during that approach and docking, and renderings of the approach of how Atlantis approaches and docks to the ISS.

Photographs here are of the actual docking, some from a camera on the Atlantis of the docking area on the ISS.

All photographs below are courtesy NASA-TV


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If you can successfully land the shuttle using the simulator, NASA/JSC will award you a certificate -- fill in your own name.

Astronauts train both at Johnson Space Center, and in Russia. Language on the International Space Station is both in English and Russian. Astronauts must be fluent in both.

After the STS-135 NASA Mission, the United States will have no way back to the ISS except on the Russian Soyuz. The tab will be $55-million per ride, tips for the driver are included.

American Astronauts during the American shuttle program trained in Houston where extensive mockups of the shuttle, ISS, the space shuttle OV-95, flight simulators, and a visual reality lab, were located.

Come fly the shuttle. On Friday afternoon, July 1, 2011, NASA invited any accredited media who were interested to their facilities and offered opportunities to fly the simulators. Few took the opportunity — in our group there was only one other person, wife of a NASA employee, who trooped along.

Pete Crow docking Space Shuttle OV-95 to the International Space Station 230 miles above the Red Sea in a NASA avionics simulator at Johnson Space Center, Houston, on Friday, July 1, 2011. The joystick on the right of the picture, and a button out of view under his left hand are the only docking controls. Docking takes place on the flight deck with the Commander facing towards the bay and the back of the shuttle while looking into the bay, and down at the docking hatch which is located in the bay. Shuttle commanders dock; shuttle pilots (second in command) undock.

In all Carol Anne landed the shuttle twice from 10,000 feet successfully landing on the SLF in Florida.

Pete landed the shuttle once, and docked the shuttle with the International Space station.

After docking Pete remarked how easy it was, and the flight instructor agreed, adding, “the tough part is catching up with the ISS, modulating the shuttle’s speed so that the shuttle and ISS are flying exactly the same speed. Once the shuttle and the ISS are flying together, easing the shuttle closer to the ISS and docking is fairly easy.”

My career ended today. July 1, 2011, ended use of space shuttle simulators at Johnson Space Center. On Friday morning the crew of the Atlantis, STS-135, spent four hours on the simulators. In the afternoon we were invited in to fly the simulators.

Shortly before 7 pm, in the control room of the simulators at Johnson Space Center, Pete ran out of questions for the man who ran the simulator control room.

Pete offered his hand and shook hands. “Okay. That’s it,” the man said, “my career has ended.”

The simluators will be broken up and sent to scrap or to universities before the end of July.

The personnel who ran the simulators and maintained them will leave NASA when the STS-135 misson lands and ends in Florida. They keep their jobs, with nothing to do, through the landing of the shuttle in case something goes wrong and they need to assist Atlantis and its crew.
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When you fly the space shuttle simulators, the control room monitors everything you do by video camera, and computers compile a huge amount of data on each action you take. A flight instructor sits in the right hand seat beside you in the pilot seat giving gentle encouragement from the start of the simulation at 10,000 feet to wheels stop on the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF=runway). On the day Pete flew the simulator the approach was from the north and landing was on Runway 15.


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In landing, the flight instructor encourages flying by the heads up display from 10,000 feet the final seconds of the landing. The runway is in view once the shuttle completes its final bank. In the final seconds, the flight instructor encourages flying both the runway and the headsup display. The pilot (flight instructor) drops the landing gear and deploys the parachute once on the ground. In all four astronauts fly on the shuttle flight deck and all four are monitoring and assisting the commander in the approach and landing. This is the report on Carol Anne's second of two landings of the shuttle. A trained eye, comparing it with Pete's landing just above, will find Carol Anne's landing was vastly superior to Pete's.


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In all about 20 members of the media flew the simulators on Friday afternoon, July 1, 2011, and no one dumped the shuttle into the Atlantic Ocean. A flight instructor was sitting in the right hand seat offering advice and encouragement, and was responsible for the 100% success rate.


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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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NASA Flight Directors Kwatsi Alibaruho (KWAT-see Ah-lee-buh-roo-hoe) of Maywood, Ill., and Chris Edelen of Martinsville, Va, met with the press at Johnson Space Center, Houston on Thursday. Mr. Alibaruho is in the center; Mr. Edelen is on far right. A NASA public relations (left) coordinated the hour-long press conference.

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Where will the shuttles go?
How many were built?
How many shuttles survive?
How many mockups were built? — where are they?
What was OV-95? — where did it fly?

Five shuttles were built and three survive. The order in which they came into the fleet is as follows:

COLUMBIA = OV-102 … Columbia broke up as it was preparing to land and was lost, along with its entire crew, over southeastern Texas on February 1, 2003.

CHALLENGER == OV-99 … Challenger broke up and was lost, along with its entire crew, over the Atlantic Ocean shortly after launch on January 28, 1986.

DISCOVERY = OV-103 … the oldest surviving Orbiter will go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport early in 2012. Currently hazmat materials, useful instruments and other parts that may be of later use are being removed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Discovery has been in one of three hangars at Kennedy Space Center.

ATLANTIS = OV-104 … the second oldest surviving Orbiter, and the fourth of four originally built, will stay at the Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis will be the final shuttle to fly and is scheduled to be launched on July 8, 2011.

ENDEAVOUR == OV-105 … the youngest in the fleet, and by all accounts in very good shape “with quite a lot of life still left in her”, according to one NASA official. Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. She completed her final mission on June 1, 2011, landing at KSC at 2:32 am. Endeavour was built as a replacement when The Challenger was lost in 1986 and joined the fleet in 1991.

Where were the shuttles built?
All five shuttles were built in Palmdale, California, south of Edwards Air Force Base where shuttles originally landed during test flights, and on the earliest missions, prior to construction of the SLF (shuttle landinf facility = runway) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Later Edwards, and White Sands, New Mexico, were backup landing sites, and both were occasionally used.

Unlike the original four shuttles, construction of the Endeavour was speeded by availablily of replacement parts for the first four shuttles. Strictly speaking, unlike the first four, Endeavour was not built from scratch.

ENTERPRISE = OV-101 == Isn’t New York City getting a shuttle? —
where did THAT shuttle come from?

New York is getting a shuttle, but then again, it isn’t. New York will get the shuttle, Enterprise, currently on display at the Smithsonian. Enterprise never flew in space, but did fly in Earth atmosphere in test flights. Enterprise will be moved to New York and placed on display there. It’s a shuttle, but it was never an operational shuttle that flew in space, unlike the other three surviving shuttles. The shuttle New York City will get was an important vehicle in the development of the shuttle; it’s not some cardboard cut-out dummy, and it came close to having a life of its own in space not once, but twice. An excellent telling of the Enterprise’s history, and how it nearly became an operation shuttle itself is HERE.

EXPLORER (Mockup) ==
Why didn’t Texas, with Mission Control located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, get a shuttle?

There were only so many to go around and the prevailing thought is: politics: Texas didn’t vote for President Obama in 2008.

The shuttle mockup, Explorer, began its trip to Houston on December 1, 2011. Its name was painted out prior to the move from the Kennedy Visitors Center.

Texas is, however, getting a shuttle mockup.

The Explorer, a high definition shuttle mockup built and on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center, is on its way to Houston. It was moved from the Visitors Center in Florida to Pad 39 Media Parking lot adjacent to the KSC turning basin on December 11, 2011.

It will be shipped by barge to Galveston, and then moved overland to the Johnson Space Center in Spring 2012.

OV-95 = SAIL The Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory Shuttle This was the first shuttle to “fly” although it never flew in space. OV-95 was an exact mechanical replica of the other shuttles and used both to test systems and to fly (on the ground in tandem) beginning with a shuttle lift-off. SAIL was located in Houston. When STS-135 landed, it was broken up, the wiring re-cycled and the remainder discarded.

PATHFINDER (mockup) == (unofficially OV-98) This mockup was used to test road clearances and other non-operational spacial issues related to how the shuttle could and would be moved. At various times, after its use, it was in Japan and Florida and today is in Alabama on display. More about the Pathfinder can be found HERE.

There is logic in where all of the shuttles are going
— but that logic only goes so far:

Endeavour: The shuttles were built just north of Los Angeles so they get Endeavour

Atlantis: the shuttles were launched from KSC so they get Atlantis

Discovery: The Smithsonian always gets the premier aircraft, as they should, so they get Discovery, the oldest survivor in the fleet.

And then there’s New York City.

How did they manage to get a shuttle, albeit not an operational shuttle? Three shuttles on the east coast and one on the west? None in the midwest? Well, New York DID vote for Obama in 2008 … and …

More on the OV (“Orbiter Vehicle”) designation number can be found HERE.

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Launch Control Center, VAB and shuttle hangar -- Current header Photograph

Launch control at Kennedy Space Center has four firing rooms in a building adjacent to the Vehicle Assembly Building, and across the street from Press Complex 39.

Firing Room #4 is the most modern and is where the last 20 space shuttle missions were launched from. Just next door is Firing Room #3 which is very 1960s and retro. This is where some of the Apollo moon missions were launched from.

The Firing rooms all have an expansive window giving superb views of Launch Pads 39A and 39B where both the shuttles and the Apollo moon fights lifted off. The problem? If you’re working to get the shuttles off the launch pads, you’re looking at monitors, not out the window. After launch, however, if you have time, it’s a great view.
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Launch Control Center where all major missions have been launched since the Apollo landings on the Moon. LCC is on the left, and the Vehicle Assembly Building is on the right. The set of windows on the furthest left on the LCC is Firing Room #4, the most modern firing room where all recent shuttle missions were launched from. The large second set of windows from the left (ignore the small square set of windows which are a small VIP viewing room) is Firing Room #3 where some of the Apollo missions were launched. Barely visible behind the LCC is one of the shuttle hangars which are called Orbiter Processing Facilities or OPFs. The picture is taken from the Crawlerway that leads to launch Pads 39A and 39B on the east virtually on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. This photograph looks to the west.


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Foyer of the Launch Control Center (LCC) stands in the middle of the LCC with two firing rooms on each side of the LCC on upper stories


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Firing Room #3 is very 1960s and retro, almost Buck Rogers today. But it still is fully operational and should backup be needed during a launch, this room would be ready. Along the back wall are plaques for every mission launched from this room, including the date of the launch and of the landing.


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When Firing Room #4 was modernized, this room was no longer the firing room of choice and was not used during the final twenty shuttle launches. During countdowns, the number of people in the Firing Rooms gradually increases until at launch there were about 300 people in the firing room. After launch, control of a mission is instantly handed to the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, and the number of people working here drops quickly.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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(This is a series of remembrances that will lead up to the final launch of the shuttle now secheduled for September 2010 – I’ve started with Apollo, but will work my way through Skylab and the Shuttle programs)

December 6, 1972 / Kennedy Space Center, Florida …

After picking up my credentials, I had to keep moving that morning.

Around noon the Cape would be sealed, no one on or off. I drove up Merritt Island past throngs of people already waiting along the road to see the launch that night.

The press site was then where it is now –across the street from the Vehicle Assembly Building. adjacent to the basin where the refillable rockets were unloaded from barges after being recovered in the Atlantic Ocean. Off to the northeast these days is the landing strip for the shuttles which may have been there in those days; I just never got there. Today, between the airstrip and the VAB are four hangars, one for each of the shuttles. As the shuttle program ends only three of the five shuttles survive, but we’ll get to that later.

Today, further to the south from the media site, on another road, is the building housing the clean room where payloads for the shuttle have been prepared. In this area there are also a dormitory for the astronauts and other NASA offices and facilities. And further south still is the old launch pad and control room where the Mercury capsules were launched, and where America’s manned space program began.

And, finally, a few hundred yards north of the press site is a road which heads east into a secured area, paralleled by two tracks of rocks. On these rocks atop the crawler, the shuttles have been ferried from the VAB to one of two the launch sites.

“Go fly.”
At the press site on the afternoon before the Apollo 17 launch, the mood was block party with a rich collection of people, like author Allen Drury and others from around the world. NASA had cast a wide net when accrediting the media. NASA was proud of the program and wanted to share their amazement with the world. The joy was infectous.

Other non-media types such as the VIPS had been banished to inferior seats elsewhere. A Life Magazine photographer discovered to his horror that he was being packed off to the cheap setats. His job that night was to snap a single picture – a certain celebratiy (I forget who) with their mouth gaping at the moment of the launch. That meant this guy would have his back to the launch and see nothing at all, unless he caught it later on TV.

The television networks were there in separate buildings …

Photograph Northerly view, December 6, 1972, from the Press Grandstand of buildings from which ABC, CBS and NBC covered the launches. Photograph © 1972, 1997, The PeterMCrow Trust

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