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  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Star Trek shuttlecraft on display at NASA HQ

    Capt. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise had a five-year mission. But one of the starship's shuttles has been on a nearly 50-year mission that ends Wednesday.The shuttle craft Galileo, which appeared in seven episodes of the original Star Trek series, is settling in Wednesday at its final landing place, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's space center in Houston.It has been a long voyage for this nearly full-size shuttle that was built for "The Galileo Seven" episode, which first aired in January 1967. The historic TV prop might never have made it to the space center if it wasn't for a first-class Star Trek fan....

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    Stephen Pyne: Voyager spacecraft marked new age of discovery

    Some are baffled and others saddened by the fact that humans put footprints on the moon more than 40 years ago and have not ventured a fraction of that distance from home since. Have we lost our spirit of exploration?Not at all, said Arizona State University historian Stephen Pyne, but we're seeing the end of one great era of exploration and the start of a new one. In a talk May 15 at Drexel University, Pyne said we are just entering a third great era of exploration kicked off by the Voyager spacecraft, which explored thousands of times farther than any human-led expedition could go.The twin spacecraft Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 and since then have brought us spectacular pictures not only of the planets but their bizarre and diverse moons. Today, Voyager 1 is on the verge of crossing through a theoretical boundary called the heliopause, which marks the end of the solar wind's reach and the beginning of interstellar space....

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    NASA Engines Found, News About Squid and More

    So few people do favors for NASA these days. So when Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com founder, announced last week that an expedition he financed had hoisted two F-1 rocket engines from an Apollo mission off the ocean floor, the agency was understandably grateful.“We look forward to the restoration of these engines by the Bezos team and applaud Jeff’s desire to make these historic artifacts available for public display,” the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., said in a statement.

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    Columbia shuttle crew not told of possible problem with reentry

    What would you tell seven astronauts if you knew their space shuttle was crippled on orbit?It was a question that faced NASA's Mission Control considered after initial suspicions that something might be wrong with the shuttle Columbia as it was making its doomed reentry in 2003.Wayne Hale, who later became space shuttle program manager, struggled with this question after the deaths of the Columbia crew 10 years ago. Recently he wrote about the debate in his blog, recalling a meeting to discuss the dilemma:"After one of the MMTs (Mission Management Team) when possible damage to the orbiter was discussed, he (Flight Director Jon Harpold) gave me his opinion: 'You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS (Thermal Protection System). If it has been damaged it's probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don't you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done, until the air ran out?"...

  • Originally published 01/24/2013

    NASA's History of Organizational Problems

    Editor's Note: On the tenth anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia re-entry disaster, Robert Huddleston, a NASA engineer in the 1960s, explains how NASA's top-heavy, mixture-of-public-and-private culture, so problematic during the shuttle program and a contributing factor to both the Columbia and Challenger disasters, dates back to the beginning of the agency.Related LinksHNN Hot Topics: Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster NASA brass meet with President Kennedy in 1961. Photo via Wiki Commons.

  • Originally published 08/09/2005

    HNN Hot Topics: Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

    The underside of the Space Shuttle Columbia shortly before it began to burn up upon re-entry on February 1, 2003. Credit: U.S. Air Force. Columbia shuttle crew not told of possible problem with reentry (1-31-13) Jonathan Coopersmith: After Columbia, Now What? (8-5-05) NYT: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Space Program (2-2-03)