Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nose Landing Gear Broom Crew :)

When the main landing gear and nose landing gear door operations are complete, it means were pretty close to wrapping things up for the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA - modified 747) to be towed underneath the orbiter for mating.

The main landing gear and nose landing gear door are hydraulically closed. Sometimes the nose landing gear needs a little extra boost to close at the end if it doesn't clear completely. I was so excited today as the crew let me help them close the doors. It literally is using a modified broom-design tool. At first I thought I wasn't going to be able to reach the tiles with the broom tool, but I could. Below are some pictures of us performing the final closure of the nose landing gear doors.

It still looks like take off for Atlantis will be early Monday morning.

Tail Cone Installation Complete!

After the weather calmed down last night were given access to get back to work on the vehicle. The tail cone installation is almost complete. After the tail cone is fastened in, the cranes will suspend the vehicle a bit, and then the nose and main landing gear will be ready to close.

Monday is our target for Atlantis will leave Edwards Air Force Base for a journey back home to Florida.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My desert storm experience when I took these pictures...the tail cone was about to be installed on Atlantis. The purpose of the tail cone is to cover the aft section so it reduces aerodynamic drag and turbulence. The plan is to try to get Atlantis leaving California early on Sunday morning, but that's all dependent on how processing operations go and if everything stays on track with no other issues.

Well, then we took a quick lunch....only to come out to see some bad weather over the mountains that eventually was going to near over the Orbiter! We quickly rushed back and performed a walkdown to make sure there were no loose tools or anything around that could damage Atlantis since we heard warnings for 50mph winds.

As we were performing the walkdown, the dust started picking up from the desert and visibility was poor. Here I am in a picture below thinking fighting dust storms is cool.

The tail cone was not installed due to the high winds and it's taking cover in a hanger. We just hope it doesn't rain on the Orbiter! The waterproofing agent on the thermal protection system gets burned off during re-entry. That's what helps the thermal protection system not absorb water. If it rains out here...we'll absorb water and there is a maximum weight that the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft can carry.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Enjoying a Day in Sunny California

Today I did not have to go in to work because some orbiter operations were going on that were going to temporarily leave us without access for the day to work on the thermal protection system. I was able to take this day and rest up before we go back in and continue getting Atlantis ready!

I started off my day by doing some hiking at Devil's Punchbowl. The Punchbowl is a deep canyon cut by the runoff of large quantities of water from the higher San Gabriel Mountains occurring over a long period of time. These mountain peaks above the park are 8,000 feet in elevation while the Nature Center where I started from was at 4,740 feet above sea level.

After reaching the Devil's Punchbowl, I took the Devil's Chair Trail which took me to the eastern canyons of the park. In all, I hiked about 8 miles. My legs were so tired after 4 hours of walking, but the view was so worth it!

As if my hiking workout wasn't enough...I also visited Vasquez Rocks County Park to climb some rocks! The rock formations are part of the San Andreas Fault. Vasquez Rocks have been used innumerable times in motion pictures, various television series and in moving and still photography advertisements, and continue to be used today.

To finish off my day, I headed to Avenue G in Lancaster, Ca. to visit the Musical Road. A portion of the road is paved with grooves in it as to play the William Tell Overture. The idea is to use rumble strips to reproduce a song. The strips must be carefully placed (after doing some serious calculations) so that when a car drives over them, the driver (and passengers) will hear the music play. Check out my video below!

So at the end of the day, I am tired, sunburned, and ready to go to sleep and start an early day tomorrow. But man, I had an awesome day today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Atlantis Enjoys California Weather :)

So here we are at Edwards Air Force Base! The weather is amazing in California. The 1st picture shows the Mate-Demate Device (MDD) structure that is similar to the one at Kennedy Space Center. The structure helps workers access areas of the orbiter and also help mount and unmount the Orbiter to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (a modified 747). The 2nd picture is of Atlantis’ lower surface. And lastly there is the 747 that will help carry Atlantis back to KSC!

At Edwards Air Force Base

I flew out today to Edwards Air Force Base where we completed our initial inspection of Atlantis since landing. Tomorrow we will continue a more detailed inspection of the areas of interest that we observed in flight. This week we will be assessing any repairs that need to be completed before the ferry flight back to Kennedy Space Center. It's been a long day for me..but I have some awesome pictures and info to share. I will post them tomorrow! :)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Atlantis safely lands in California

Atlantis to land at Edwards Air Force Base

With weather conditions still up in the air here at Kennedy Space Center, Atlantis will be landing in California today.....which means I need to pack my bags!! We'll be helping out with landing operations for the week.

The deorbit burn ignition time will be 10:24:41 a.m. EDT. The twin braking rockets will fire for two minutes and 36 seconds, slowing the shuttle by about 307 mph. The deorbit burn will drop Atlantis out of its 303 x 160 nautical mile orbit and put the shuttle into a trajectory for entry over the Pacific Ocean and bound for landing at the Mojave Desert military base. Once near Edwards, the shuttle will make a 200-degree left-overhead turn to align with Runway 22 for touchdown at 11:39 a.m. EDT.

Obama's NASA Chief Administrator Nomination: Charlie Bolden

President Barack Obama chose four-time space shuttle astronaut and retired Marine Corps General, Charles Bolden, as NASA’s next Chief Administrator.

Bolden is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a Marine aviator with 100 combat missions in Vietnam, Bolden will now begin a series of courtesy calls to senators on Capitol Hill who will review his nomination, starting with the 25-member Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

He would be coming in at a time where there is great uncertainty about the future of our space program. The agency faces deepening budget constraints as it prepares to retire the shuttle fleet by 2010, contract with the Russians to deliver astronauts and U.S. cargo to the orbiting International Space Station for five years and at the same time, deployment of the next space exploration system to return astronauts to the moon by 2020.

I personally feel Charlie Bolden is an excellent choice. He has the right experience, background, training and temperment. He'd be a great leader.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Landing postponed until tomorrow

Again, the weather does not look favorable today as well to land at Kennedy Space Center. The astronauts will spend another day in space and try again tomorrow at 10:11 a.m. EDT for KSC. It does look like we will have improved weather conditions. However, if that changes, we would land at Edwards Air Force Base.

Friday, May 22, 2009

KSC Landing attempt waved off for today

The weather just does not look good to land here today so Mission Control has waived both attempts to land at Kennedy Space Center. The astronauts will spend another day in space and try again tomorrow at 9:16 a.m. EDT!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Come Home, Atlantis!

The weather has been so rainy and stormy here all week and we're really hoping that it doesn't interfere with Friday's landing attempt. There are various scenarios that could occur for a landing regarding location and day if the weather doesn't look favorable.

The astronaut crew on Atlantis were asked to power down less-critical equipment to conserve hydrogen and oxygen for the orbiter's fuel cell system in case landing is delayed. Touchdown currently is planned for 10:01 a.m. Friday, but additional opportunities on both coasts are available Saturday and Sunday. If we end up landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, I would join my team and fly out to support the landing operations!

Earlier this evening, the crew received a call from President Obama. The President commended the crew on a job well done for the repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Flight Day 8: 5th and Final Spacewalk Complete!

The last spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope has been completed! The spacewalk entailed installing another set of batteries, a fine guidance sensor, and thermal insulation panels in preparation for deploying the telescope tomorrow. Currently, the servicing platform on Atlantis that is holding Hubble is rotating the telescope into the correct orientation for tomorrow's deployment.

Landing of Atlantis is scheduled for this Friday 11:41 a.m. EDT at Kennedy Space Center!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Sun and Atlantis

It's amazing to see this photo and magnitude of the Sun versus Orbiter Atlantis.

This image was made before Atlantis and the crew of STS-125 had grappled the Hubble Space Telescope. The photographer, Thierry Legault, made this image using a solar-filtered Takahashi 5-inch refracting telescope and a Canon 5D Mark II digital camera. Definitely check out his website for more of his astrophotography work!

Friday, May 15, 2009

STS-125: Flight Day 5

One down, four more spacewalks to go! Astronauts Michael Massimino and Michael Good are now 5 hours into the second spacewalk to swap out the Hubble Space Telescope's six stabilizing gyroscopes and three of its aging nickel-hydrogen batteries. They're running a little behind schedule, but Mission Control has determined that the astronauts have a few more hours of spacesuit consumables, giving ample time to get the planned battery replacement task completed today!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

STS-125: Flight Day 4

We have officially cleared the Orbiter for re-entry as the the thermal protection system appeared to be in great shape.

Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel are already 2 hours into a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk today to install a new wide-field camera and a replacement data processing computer. The spacewalkers also plan to install new handles on Hubble equipment bay doors to improve access and a grapple fixture that will permit future astronauts, or a robotic spacecraft, to latch onto the telescope so it can be driven out of orbit at the end of its life.

By the way, you can follow Astronaut Mike Massimino's live-from-space twitter page at

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Atlantis to reach Hubble today!

Right now, Atlantis is less than 9 miles from the Hubble Space Telescope!!

The crew is in the final rendezvous stages and is closing in on the telescope. Atlantis will capture the Hubble Space Telescope using the robotic arm. Astronaut Megan McArthur will be the primary operator of the Orbiter's 50-foot-long robotic arm and plans to grapple the telescope around 12:54 p.m. EDT and then mount it on a service platform at the back of Atlantis' payload bay. Once captured, it will set the stage for five spacewalks.

STS-125: Thermal Protection System Inspection

With the exception of some minor surface damages across four tiles on Atlantis, the rest of the Orbiter is in fantastic shape! We did not see any protruding gap fillers or other damages that were outside of our criteria. The damages that we did detect are in the final process of being evaluated by the aeroheating analysts and briefings are being put together to present to the Mission Management Team. We should be clear for a reentry by tomorrow morning after all the analysis is complete.

If you watched NASA TV today, you should have seen footage of slowly passing by tiles. That was the exact scan we were evaluating!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

STS-125: Flight Day 2

Today, the astronauts will spend the day inspecting Atlantis for launch damage to the thermal protection system. Other activities include checking out the spacesuits to be worn during the mission's spacewalks and preparing equipment for tomorrow's arrival at the Hubble Space Telescope.

The shuttle's 50-foot-long robotic arm has already begun inspecting Atlantis' wing leading edge, nose cap and lower surface tiles of the thermal protection system for any launch damage.

My shift begins today at 3:00 p.m. and I will work until 3:00 a.m. The team is working in shifts so we already have people reviewing for any damage from the video scan downlinked from the camera at the end of the robotic arm.'s Mission Status Center: Updates

Atlantis' Launch Today!

The launch of Atlantis was spectacular today. I started my morning by heading over to the Launch Control Center. Each group is assigned to sit at a designated console. We put on headsets to listen to updates on different monitored and controlled systems. We're able to listen to anything that may be a concern prior to launch. If there was an issue regarding the Thermal Protection System, my group would evaluate the concern.

Here are a couple of views of the consoles in front of me.

Then I quickly stepped outside to view the launch.

There has been a tradition since the beginning of the shuttle program in having beans and cornbread after a successful launch. Find out why at the following link: Click here

Monday, May 11, 2009

STS-125 Launch Update!

The external fuel tank has been completely filled with supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. We have 90% acceptable we are good to go!! I am on my way to support in the Launch Control Center!

Get up-to-the-minute updates of launch coverage with's live feed: Mission Status Center

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Atlantis' Launch Window

For the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis tomorrow, a 62-minute window will open at exactly 1:41:56 p.m. EDT and close at 2:43:47 p.m. EDT.

NASA is targeting the actual liftoff of Atlantis 20 minutes into the window. Currently, the launch is scheduled for 2:01:56 p.m. EDT. But this could change tomorrow and is all based on final radar tracking of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Two things I want to mention are that will be broadcasting their live feed from KSC starting at 8:30 a.m. EDT. They have a lot of special guests they will be interviewing.

Also, if you happen to speak or understand Italian, there will be a live AstronautiCAST hosted by Forum Astronautico that will begin about 2 hours before launch. I will be live from KSC for a quick interview somewhere in that time frame. The broadcast should be available at the following link:

I just returned from Philadelphia from the wedding I was in over the weekend. Now I am off to unpack, just to pack again and leave for Houston tomorrow after launch. :) I am supporting at the Launch Control Center tomorrow, so I will definitely upload some photos from the STS-125 action going on there. :)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Ares I-X Progress...

In High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) are various segments of the Ares I-X, the test vehicle for Ares I which will get us to the moon and beyond! Components are being installed and the segments will be assembled. The launch to test the Ares I-X is targeted for August of this year.

Launch next week :)

I haven't blogged in a while because I have been busier that usual, and May will continue to be a challenging month for me.

We're set to launch Atlantis on May 11th at 2:01 p.m. EDT!!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a simulation on the way we're going to be inspecting the thermal protection system. Since we won't have a space station crew to take high-res photos, we'll be relying on camera scans using the robotic arm. The imagery will be different, but we have a great team who's prepared!

This week I am going out of town because I am a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding. Then I get back on Sunday just in time for launch on Monday, May 11th....THEN I leave that same day of launch to Houston to support the thermal protection system imagery review!

I'm excited for this launch because on the day of launch I will be supporting the Launch Control Center (LCC) up to lift-off. In the time I have worked here at Kennedy Space Center, I haven't had the opportunity to support the LCC. I'll basically be in the firing room as a representative of the thermal protection systems. If there are any concerns related to our subsystem, I'd be there to help out. The firing room is the headquarters from which launch operations are supervised and controlled. Responsibility of shuttle remains with the LCC until it clears the launch tower. At that point, everything is handed over to the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center!

Geesh....I have not let so much time pass between posts!! :)