Paolo’s pictures have arrived!

Here they are, the pictures @astro_paolo took while departing from the International Space Station have finally been released.

These are quite historically significant and will be the pictures that end up in books about (what im calling) the second space age for years to come.

Enjoy them in all their glory (if you want to download them they’re available here) and well done to @astro_paolo for a steady hand at 17,500mph.

Update 11/06/11: Purhaps even more amazing than the pictures is the video that’s been released…

Meanwhile… in Russia

A few days post landing and NASA and others have been posting up videos and pictures galore…

The time-lapse of STS-135’s rollout to the launch pad is also available…

and this video is particularly amazing, it’s the shuttle landing viewed from the ground in Mexico…

Annoyingly there’s still no sign of the pictures astro_paolo took before he landed (I hope they survived reentry/he remembered to take the lens cap off/NASA might be saving them for the end of the whole space shuttle programme).

but meanwhile in a car park in Russia this happened…

(yes I know it happened the other day but this blog appears to have a bit of a tradition of posting about anniversaries a bit late. The Mars500 project is one of those projects that sounds (and looks) completely crazy but is scientifically quite useful. In case you haven’t heard about it the russians has essentially locked a group of guys up for a simulated mars mission in the car park of one of their universities.

The project’s website is full of videos of the experiments (pranks) the team looking after the guys have performed (here) and the final results of all this could have a real effect on the way we treat the first humans to head to the red planet or beyond.

Back in the real world and the second half of Expedition 28 moved a step closer to launching as its Soyuz rocket was dragged to the launch pad. It wont be long before the European Space Agency has the ability to launch some of these on their own, as they finished building a Soyuz launch centre in French Guiana not long ago. Once that happens we might finally see the one Brit in the ESA’s astronaut corps getting his feet off the ground.

Mission Day 17: Endeavour wheel stop

Very very busy morning at Kennedy Space Center. I cheekily had my iPad streaming NASA TV while at work this morning to catch the moment when Endeavour touched down. I also grabbed a series of screen shots that I thought I’d share with you in case you missed out.

(good to see even NASA can’t resist a bit of wordart)

And while all this was going on Atlantis made its way to Launch Complex 39a

So a successful morning all round I’d say, the video of which can be found here (will embed when by a computer)

Mission Day 16: One in, one out

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Kennedy Space Center will be busy tonight. As Space Shuttle Endeavour glides in through the earth’s atmosphere, Space Shuttle Atlantis will be rolling out to it’s launch pad. It’s fairly rare for these two events to occur at the same time but it’s fairly fitting/lucky that it should happen for the final two Shuttles.

If you’re planning on watching either, Atlantis’ rollout it starts at 0100 BST and will take approximately 8 hours and Endeavour’s first landing attempt is planned for 0736 BST. So if you’re bored at breakfast flick over to NASA TV to see some beasty machinery being put thought it’s paces I’m hoping NASA has cameras lined up to catch the view of them both in shot.

Once Endeavour’s on the ground it will go through largely the same process that Discovery has already gone though. After being ‘safed’ engineers will slowly begin to drain pipes, pull out engines and make the shuttle ready for public display.

After tonight there will never be another space shuttle in the Vehicle Assembly Building (provided Atlantis doesn’t suffer any major set backs). The fourth largest building in the world (by volume) will be empty for at least a couple of years while NASA takes it’s time to move on from the Shuttle era.

I got the chance to walk round the building a couple of months ago and I honestly think it will be a funny old place when it’s without a purpose, a bit like when a large shop closes and you catch a glimpse of the remains from the inside. But i have no doubt it will be used again, it’s been converted before (the image below shows one of the smaller hangers used to store stage 2 of the old Saturn V rockets before stacking), it will be converted again.

If you’re too busy to watch it live you’ll find the video of the landing and the no doubt amazing time-lapse of the final rollout to the launch pad on the blog tomorrow. And don’t forget…

There’ll be a post about that too.

Mission Day 15: Time to go home

I dont think I could ever get tired of pictures of our planet from space, especially ones that show it’s general hugeness. Endeavour undocked this morning for the final time (and included a minor win for UK space flight, pilot Greg Johnson was born in Middlesex. Whoever said the UK doesn’t do space?). The Shuttle that first kited out the station all those years ago has one last appointment with the earth’s atmosphere that needs to be kept.

Not before they performed the STORRM fly around though, a procedure that brought about this particularly funny (well i think it’s funny) bit of banter between station shuttle crew…

Would love to find the video/audio of that actually being said (job for a later day I feel) but I have it on good authority that it was, probably at a similar point that this photo was taken…

The Shuttle crew leave behind three men who must now be in an almost ‘post christmas vibe’ (that moment when the festivities are over and everyone’s going back to their normal lives, after all they’ve just seen 9 people leave them in the past couple of days. Not to worry though, at least they’ve got some LEGO to play with…

One of the more important pieces of cargo that the shuttle delivered to the station in my opinion. Now that the station is complete i thought it was worth linking to an excellently detailed page on Space.com going through the various parts of the station, what does what, who’s responsible for it etc. This things going to be in orbit for at least another ten years so there’s never a bad time to find out what it does. Remember, it’s the single most expensive object ever built and there’s a good chance that at some point you paid for it.

Landing for the shuttle is scheduled for Wednesday morning (about 7:35 UK time) if you were planning on catching it. It’s a nighttime landing which means it might not be quite as spectacular as Discovery’s final ‘wheel stop’, but it’s still worth watching while you’re going through your breakfast. As normal NASA TV will have full coverage, and you never know a couple of the British news channels might pick it up as well. If you’ve never seen a landing before, just remember, it doesn’t have a second chance. The shuttle lands completely unpowered, so it’s coming down whether we’re ready for it or not.

Mission Day 14: Did you lock the door?

Well that’s that then….

The doors are being locked as I blog and Endeavour will depart within 24 hours. Beth Beck from NASA pointed out a wonderful bit of symmetry given that it’s the Shuttle that completed the station.

The Farewell ceremony happened a little while ago and if you want to watch it i’ve embedded it below…

Bit of an update on the planned testing of the STORRM rendezvous system, essentially a large chunk of it failed this morning and they’re a little worried about checking the status of the remaining bits in case this makes the problem worse. Spaceflight 101 has a decent little blurb on what’s going to happen, that can be found here.

So Endeavour’s adventure’s in space are slowly coming to an end, one last controlled glide through the earth’s atmosphere and it’s a lifetime as a museum exhibition to look forward to.

NASA posted up a brilliant video of the highlights of this final launch this morning, if you’ve got a spare quarter of an hour I would highly recommend you watch it.