The space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station for the last time this morning and started its two-day journey back to the Kennedy Space Center.
The shuttle fired its jets to separate from the ISS at 8:37am Eastern, NASA said. Discovery is scheduled to land at 11:58am on Wednesday; at this point, weather conditions are favorable.
Overall, the astronauts engaged in seven days, 23 hours, and 55 minutes worth of joint activities with the ISS crew. This is Discovery's 39th and final mission.
The crew received a special wake-up call at 3:23am this morning: the theme from "Star Trek" and a recorded message from actor William Shatner. "Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before," Shatner said.
Remember how we told you to vote Colbert for the new ISS node? They may not select his name for the capsule, but NASA got so much hype that Expedition 14 and 15 astronaut Sunita “Suni” Williams is going to announce the winner on the show. Colbert had this to say about the hoopla surrounding his nomination, “I certainly hope NASA does the right thing. Just kidding, I hope they name it after me.”
More than a million entries were received in total. Tune in to Comedy Central tonight at 11:30 p.m. EDT for the results.
Read More | Information Week
Lucky Charles Simonyi is going back into space March 26, the first private citizen to make a return trip. He will conduct a series of experiments as well as communicate with students via HAM radio on the ISS (ARISS) during the 12 day trek. We first mentioned him back in 2007 and now, like then, he will continue to blog from his website and feature live video and audio content from NASA TV in his “Follow the Updates” section. Although the second flight is undoubtedly still costing him a fortune, we expect he will reuse his suit.
Read More | Charles in Space
The Endeavor finally made it back home to NASA’s spaceport Friday. Forced to take a detour when coming home Nov. 30 because of a nasty storm at Kennedy Space Center, it ended up at California’s Edwards Air Force Base where it met up with more bad weather. The space shuttle was finally attached to the top of a modified jumbo jet to make the flight back. The trek cost a whopping $1.8 million. For that amount of money, we think it should have retired in (mostly) sunny California.
Read More | USA Today
Space Barley is finally ready for humans. The grain was kept aboard the ISS for 5 months in 2006 and the beer was made from barley that descended from that batch. The Japanese company Sapporo provided the original seeds that eventually produced 100 liters and will be holding tasting parties at their six factories in January. About 60 people will be selected by lottery to attend the event. The project was designed to come up with a new type of barley that can grow in harsh environments on our planet.
Read More | Mainichi News
Richard Garriott landed in a Soyuz capsule in Kazastan Friday with 2 cosmonauts after a fun 10 day trip to the ISS. Garriott, who followed in his father Owen’s footsteps, deemed the trip a success. “What a great ride that was,” said Garriott “This is obviously a pinnacle experience.”
The space tourist earned part of the $30 million ticket by testing a watch in microgravity (we wonder if it was a Timex) and conducting an experiment for a biotech company.
Read More | CNN
NASA has announced that the final flight of their shuttles will be May 31, 2010. It will be carrying spare parts for the ISS. One of the flights before that time will be taking up the 1.8 ton Cupola, a European-built structure that gives astronauts a 360º view of space. Going up December 10, 2009, the space agency believes that this will be an incredible outlet for pictures. Once the shuttle has been retired, European and Japanese ATVs and Russian Progress crafts will be doing all the flying. And there will always be the commercial vehicles for taking billionaires into the final frontier.
Read More | BBC
This week, the Japanese brewing company Sapporo Holdings announced that it was creating a new “space beer.” They will be using the third generation of barley grain that had been stored on the ISS in 2006 for five months. Okayama University biologist Manabu Sugimoto, who teamed with Sapporo, claims that humans may have to grow their own food on extended space missions. While there is enough grain to make about 100 bottles, there are no plans to market it. We expect to see it on eBay by its due date in November.
Read More | Yahoo News
Good news for those of you who couldn’t wait to find out if a boomerang bounces back in space. According to astronaut Takao Doi, it does indeed. Chatting to his wife from the ISS, he confided that he was surprised but that it worked the same there as it does on the planet. Although there is no video evidence as yet, NASA says they will release some at a later date. Uh-huh. This reminds us of a “scare” many years back when skeptics of the space race claimed that we never made it to the moon and that it was simply faked on a movie set.
Read More | Digital Journal
With all that fuss about the recent Endeavor launch, we just couldn’t resist this ZFlyer Hand Command. This astronaut is no ordinary toy. You can lead it around since it has stabilizing rotors and sensors. It will then recharge on its base unit in 10 minutes for another 7 minute flight. We don’t know if it will make it all the way up to the Space Station, but maybe it will meet the returning paper airplane half way. The ZFlyer will become available March 30 and you can pre-order for £17.99 (~$36.00.)
Read More | Toyology