Hotel Constellation

On a doomed NASA Project, rumors flying anywhere
The threat of cancellation rising up in the air
Up ahead in the White House, I saw a frightening sight
My heart grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop out of fright

There he stood at the prompter;
I heard the fateful plan
And I was thinking to myself,
'This could be the end of U.S. space for man'
Then he put up the budget and he showed me his way
There were voices down in Congress,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the Hotel Constellation
Such a lonely place
Such a total waste
Plenty of gloom at the Hotel Constellation
Some time this year, you will see the tears

His mind is definitely twisted, he got the merciless axe
He got a lot of phony, phony lies, that he calls facts
How they dance around the issue, making us sweat.
Some dance to dismember, some dance to forget

So I called up the Bold One,
'Please give me a hopeful sign'
He said, 'We haven't had space spirit here since nineteen sixty nine'
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say...

Welcome to the Hotel Constellation
Such a lonely place
Such a total waste
They're givin' it up at the Hotel Constellation
What a big surprise, hear their alibis

Mirrors in the budget,
The pink slips will begin
And he said 'You are all just prisoners here, of the Prez's whim
And in the NASA chambers,
They gathered for the wake
They stab it with their steely knives,
Just how much can we take?

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find a job that's fun
Like the one I had before
'Relax,' said the Congress,
'We are programmed to deceive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!

From a NASA email


NASA 747 pilot shares experience carrying the space shuttle

"NASA 747 pilot shares experience carrying the space shuttle
Read the detailed experience of the NASA pilot who flew the 747 carrying the space shuttle ATLANTIS back to the KENNEDY SPACE CENTER. A bit lengthy, but trust me... worth every second reading! You will feel that you were there!!! Very good narrative of what it was like!

"....it's all imbedded in the software!"

From: Triple Nickel
Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2009 9:34 PM
Subject: (JSCAS ) Shuttle Carry

Well, it's been 48 hours since I landed the 747 with the shuttle Atlantis on top and I am still buzzing from the experience. I have to say that my whole mind, body and soul went into the professional mode just before engine start in Mississippi, and stayed there, where it all needed to be, until well after the flight...in fact, I am not sure if it is all back to normal as I type this email. The experience was surreal.
Seeing that "thing" on top of an already overly huge aircraft boggles my mind. The whole mission from takeoff to engine shutdown was unlike anything I had ever done. It was like a dream...someone else's dream.
We took off from Columbus AFB on their 12,000 foot runway, of which I used 11,999 1/2 feet to get the wheels off the ground. We were at 3,500 feet left to go of the runway, throttles full power, nose wheels still hugging the ground, copilot calling out decision speeds, the weight of Atlantis now screaming through my fingers clinched tightly on the controls, tires heating up to their near maximum temperature from the speed and the weight, and not yet at rotation speed, the speed at which I would be pulling on the controls to get the nose to rise. I just could not wait, and I mean I COULD NOT WAIT, and started pulling early. If I had waited until rotation speed, we would not have rotated enough to get airborne by the end of the runway. So I pulled on the controls early and started our rotation to the takeoff attitude. The wheels finally lifted off as we passed over the stripe marking the end of the runway and my next hurdle (physically) was a line of trees 1,000 feet off the departure end of Runway 16. All I knew was we were flying and so I directed the gear to be retracted and the flaps to be moved from Flaps 20 to Flaps 10 as I pulled even harder on the controls. I must say, those trees were beginning to look a lot like those brushes in the drive through car washes so I pulled even harder yet! I think I saw a bird just fold its wings and fall out of a tree as if to say "Oh just take me". Okay, we cleared the trees, duh, but it was way too close for my laundry. As we started to actually climb, at only 100 feet per minute, I smelled something that reminded me of touring the Heineken Brewery in Europe...I said "is that a skunk I smell?" and the veterans of shuttle carrying looked at me and smiled and said "Tires"!
I said "TIRES??? OURS???" They smiled and shook their heads as if to call their Captain an amateur...okay, at that point I was. The tires were so hot you could smell them in the cockpit. My mind could not get over, from this point on, that this was something I had never experienced.
Where's your mom when you REALLY need her?
The flight down to Florida was an eternity. We cruised at 250 knots indicated, giving us about 315 knots of ground speed at 15,000'. The miles didn't click by like I am use to them clicking by in a fighter jet at MACH .94. We were burning fuel at a rate of 40,000 pounds per hour or 130 pounds per mile, or one gallon every length of the fuselage. The vibration in the cockpit was mild, compared to down below and to the rear of the fuselage where it reminded me of that football game I had as a child where you turned it on and the players vibrated around the board. I felt like if I had plastic clips on my boots I could have vibrated to any spot in the fuselage I wanted to go without moving my legs...and the noise was deafening. The 747 flies with its nose 5 degrees up in the air to stay level, and when you bank, it feels like the shuttle is trying to say "hey, let's roll completely over on our back"..not a good thing I kept telling myself. SO I limited my bank angle to 15 degrees and even though a 180 degree course change took a full zip code to complete, it was the safe way to turn this monster.
Airliners and even a flight of two F-16s deviated from their flight plans to catch a glimpse of us along the way. We dodged what was in reality very few clouds and storms, despite what everyone thought, and arrived in Florida with 51,000 pounds of fuel too much to land with. We can't land heavier than 600,000 pounds total weight and so we had to do something with that fuel. I had an idea...let's fly low and slow and show this beast off to all the taxpayers in Florida lucky enough to be outside on that Tuesday afternoon. So at Ormond Beach we let down to 1,000 feet above the ground/water and flew just east of the beach out over the water. Then, once we reached the NASA airspace of the Kennedy Space Center, we cut over to the Banana/Indian Rivers and flew down the middle of them to show the people of Titusville, Port St.Johns and Melbourne just what a 747 with a shuttle on it looked like. We stayed at 1,000 feet and since we were dragging our flaps at "Flaps 5", our speed was down to around 190 to 210 knots. We could see traffic stopping in the middle of roads to take a look. We heard later that a Little League Baseball game stop to look and everyone cheered as we became their 7th inning stretch. Oh say can you see...
After reaching Vero Beach, we turned north to follow the coast line back up to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). There was not one person laying on the beach...they were all standing and waving! "What a sight" I thought...and figured they were thinking the same thing. All this time I was bugging the engineers, all three of them, to re-compute our fuel and tell me when it was time to land. They kept saying "Not yet Triple, keep showing this thing off" which was not a bad thing to be doing. However, all this time the thought that the landing, the muscling of this 600,000 pound beast, was getting closer and closer to my reality. I was pumped up! We got back to the SLF and were still 10,000 pounds too heavy to land so I said I was going to do a low approach over the SLF going the opposite direction of landing traffic that day. So at 300 feet, we flew down the runway, rocking our wings like a whale rolling on its side to say "hello" to the people looking on! One turn out of traffic and back to the runway to land...still 3,000 pounds over gross weight limit. But the engineers agreed that if the landing were smooth, there would be no problem. "Oh thanks guys, a little extra pressure is just what I needed!" So we landed at 603,000 pounds and very smoothly if I have to say so myself. The landing was so totally controlled and on speed, that it was fun. There were a few surprises that I dealt with, like the 747 falls like a rock with the orbiter on it if you pull the throttles off at the "normal" point in a
landing and secondly, if you thought you could hold the nose off the ground after the mains touch down, think again...IT IS COMING DOWN!!!
So I "flew it down" to the ground and saved what I have seen in videos of a nose slap after landing. Bob's video supports this! :8-)
Then I turned on my phone after coming to a full stop only to find 50 bazillion emails and phone messages from all of you who were so super to be watching and cheering us on! What a treat, I can't thank y'all enough. For those who watched, you wondered why we sat there so long.
Well, the shuttle had very hazardous chemicals on board and we had to be "sniffed" to determine if any had leaked or were leaking. They checked for Monomethylhydrazine (N2H4 for Charlie Hudson) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). Even though we were "clean", it took way too long for them to tow us in to the mate-demate area. Sorry for those who stuck it out and even waited until we exited the jet.
I am sure I will wake up in the middle of the night here soon, screaming and standing straight up dripping wet with sweat from the realization of what had happened. It was a thrill of a lifetime. Again I want to thank everyone for your interest and support. It felt good to bring Atlantis home in one piece after she had worked so hard getting to the Hubble Space Telescope and back.

Triple Nickel
NASA Pilot"

--taken from a NASA e-mail

EDIT: The reliability of this e-mail has been put into question (see below comments). I can neither confirm nor deny that this piece was written by the 747 pilot, I can only confirm that it was distributed through NASA e-mail by a NASA Director (where he got it I do not know).
The real 747 pilots have an official NASA blog which can be found here: http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/shuttleferry.blog/


Gizmodo Space Week

From Gizmodo:
Why We Need to Reach the Stars (and we will)
"...space exploration is the most epic and most important adventure Humanity has ever embarked upon. When we travel to space we are opening the way to the preservation of Humanity. We are trying to contact other civilizations. We are trying to answer the biggest questions of them all: Who are we? Why are we here? How did we get here? Are we alone in this rock we call Earth?"

From Earth To Moon Redux: How The Next Moonshot Will Happen
"May 2019: Our scheduled return to the moon. There's plenty of laboring to be done on the Constellation Program before then, but the foundation is set. Here's how you—as an astronaut—would experience the mission"

Are We Spending Too Much On NASA?
From comments: "1 world, 6.5 billion people and counting. We are spending FAR too little on NASA."

10 Everyday Gadgets with Ties to the Space Program
"Chances are you use a gadget touched by space technology each and every day."

Eating like an Astronaut: Our Six Course Space Food Taste Test

"Eating is one of life's most important activities, and the same applies in space. Every astronaut eats three times a day, and yesterday for lunch, Adam and I had space food. It was awesome."

The Charms of Soyuz: Blasting Off In a Crazy Russian Rocket
"Yesterday, I wrote about what launching aboard a Space Shuttle is like. This time, let's consider the Russian Soyuz rocket and spacecraft. Why? Isn't a rocket a rocket? Is it really that different? Yes and no, no and yes. They both get astronauts into space in around nine minutes. But, they are very different."

Pre-Launch Jitters and Then... Liftoff

"What's it like to go through a launch? How does it feel? Are you able to sleep the night before? Do you get scared? What do you eat before?"


Space...can it get any cooler?

Cassini's Continued Mission from Boston.com's The Big Picture
"NASA's Cassini spacecraft is now a nearly a year into its extended mission, called Cassini Equinox (after its initial 4-year mission ended in June, 2008). The spacecraft continues to operate in good health, returning amazing images of Saturn, its ring system and moons, and providing new information and science on a regular basis. The mission's name, "Equinox" comes from the upcoming Saturnian equinox in August, 2009, when its equator (and rings) will point directly toward the Sun. The Equinox mission runs through September of 2010, with the possibility of further extensions beyond that. Collected here are 24 more intriguing images from our ringed neighbor."
Even more here and here

Space Tech of the Week: Orion

What is it?: A spacecraft design currently under development by NASA. Each Orion spacecraft will carry a crew of four (for ISS missions) to six astronauts (for Lunar missions), and will be launched by the Ares I (see previous Space Tech of the Week). Both Orion and Ares I are elements of NASA's Project Constellation, which plans to send human explorers back to the Moon by 2020, and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the Solar System.

"Orion will launch from Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, the same launch complex that currently launches the Space Shuttle." The first Orion flight to the ISS is currently scheduled for 2015, but delays are expected. If commercial orbital transportation services (by Space X with its Dragon capsule) are unavailable, Orion will handle logistic flights to the Station.

"The Orion Crew and Service Module (CSM) stack consists of two main parts: a conical Crew Module (CM), and a cylindrical Service Module (SM) holding the spacecraft's propulsion system and expendable supplies. Both are based substantially on the Apollo Command and Service Modules (Apollo CSM) flown between 1967 and 1975, but include advances derived from the Space Shuttle program."

During the early phases of its development Orion was going to have the capability land on land (like the Soyuz) as well as on water (like Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury). Since then, due to weight issues, water landings have become the only method of recovery for this spacecraft.

"Another feature will be the partial reusability of the Orion CM. NASA aims to reuse each craft for up to ten flights." "Both the CM and SM will be constructed of the aluminium lithium (Al/Li) alloy currently used on the Shuttle's External Tank, and the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. This alloy is as strong as the Shuttle Orbiter's aircraft aluminium skin, but will make the spacecraft lighter than both its Apollo and Shuttle predecessors."

"Like its Apollo predecessor, the Orion Service Module (SM) has a rough cylindrical shape, but unlike its Apollo predecessor, the new Orion SM will be larger in diameter, shorter, and lighter. It too will be constructed from the same Al-Li alloy as the Orion CM, and will feature a pair of deployable circular solar panels, similar in design to the solar panels on the Mars Phoenix lander, eliminating the need to carry fuel cells and the associated hardware—mainly tanks containing liquid hydrogen [LH2]—needed for their operation. The spacecraft's main propulsion system is an Aerojet AJ-10 rocket engine, derived from the second stage of the Delta II rocket, powered by hypergolic fuels, that are kept in helium pressured fuel cells. "

Official NASA site
Official Lockheed Martin site