Toward a History of the Space Shuttle

27 11 2012

I was very excited to see an announcement from NASA’s Communication Support Services Center in my inbox today, because only good things ever come from that office. Today’s e-mail directed me to the download site for a new NASA e-book, Toward a History of the Space Shuttle: An Annotated Bibliography Part 2, 1992–2011, compiled by Malinda K. Goodrich, Alice R. Buchalter, and Patrick M. Miller of the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress.

So exciting! If you’ve ever looked at the 1992 edition of Toward a History of the Space Shuttle An Annotated Bibliography compiled by Roger D. Launius and Aaron K. Gillette, you probably have a sense of what’s in this new edition. In short: everything. I’m reproducing the table of contents for you here, just in case you doubt my word (click on each image to make them larger).

Table of Contents, Toward a History of the Space Shuttle: An Annotated Bibliography, 1992

Table of Contents, Toward a History of the Space Shuttle: An Annotated Bibliography Part 2, 1992–2011, 2012

Any book, article, or bulletin even remotely related to the Space Shuttle program is likely to be cited in one or the other volume. The annotations cover popular publications (Popular Science, Washington Post), professional journals (Nature, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society), and technical/government reports (U.S. General Accounting Office, U.S. Congress).

Some neat things about the second volume: it opens with a list of abbreviations, a necessary tool when you’re reading NASA; it contains annotations for DVDs, so you can get your space on in front of the television; it covers children’s books, so you can get you kids in on it; and most usefully, the new volume has embedded links that connect to the parallel section in the first volume.

Visiting Space Shuttle Discovery (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

23 10 2012

First Sighting at James S. McDonnell Space Hangar. Photo credit: JR

I left for Los Angeles and my encounter with Endeavour just two days after returning from a visit to the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The highlight of the Smithsonian visit was the Space Shuttle Discovery, of course, but after spending three days with Endeavour, I was a little hesitant to go back and look at my photos from my day at the museum. I was worried that the experience, even though it was so recent, wouldn’t hold up to the weekend following Endeavour. Of course, it doesn’t in many ways, but in others, seeing Discovery was also a great experience.

Landing Gear, Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo credit: JR

Endeavour’s landing gear was retracted during its move to the California Science Center, of course. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but when I started sorting through my Smithsonian photos, I realized how different the undersides of the two spacecrafts appeared, one staged for landing, the other staged for transport. The experience of scale was quite different, too. On the streets of L.A., Endeavour seemed like a behemoth, lumbering down the center lane. At Udvar-Hazy, Discovery seems quite small, although not as small as the Mercury capsule perched off to the side.

James S. McDonnell Space Hangar. Photo credit: JR

Otherwise, the real lesson I learned by comparing the two sets of photos: it’s vastly easier to figure out exposure and white balance when I’m outdoors in persistent lighting/weather conditions. Museum lighting continues to be a challenge for me. Most of my problems could be solved with a tripod, but white balance is always difficult in a creatively lit museum. It’s a good thing I’m not being paid for this.

Endeavour Day Two (Photos)

17 10 2012

Intersection of Crenshaw Dr., Crenshaw Blvd., 82nd. Photo credit: JR

I added Endeavour: Day Two photos to my flickr site last night (to go with Morning One, Afternoon One and Videos). It took me longer than I thought it would because I kept stopping to (re) watch the L.A. Times timelapse video of my weekend. Anyway, the Day Two collection is as much about the spectators as it is about the shuttle (don’t worry, there are plenty of Endeavour photos and all the engine porn you’d ever want). After being jostled around all day Friday—particularly at Randy’s Donuts—I was feeling a bit grumpy about the crowds. Saturday, I tried to use them to my advantage instead of fighting all the people. So, fewer clear sight lines, but more awesome moments of stranger happiness.

p.s. If you follow my twitter feed, you know I left the sidewalk unexpectedly at Crenshaw and King on Saturday night. A few days later, my right knee is definitely feeling the impact, but otherwise, all is good.

Endeavour Day One (Photos/Videos)

16 10 2012

See you later! Photo credit: JR

So far, my answers to the question “How was your weekend?” have been fairly inarticulate. “Amazing!!” is the quick answer, but even that extra exclamation point doesn’t convey the depth of my emotions. The people (friendly, excited), the sounds (beep-beep-beep-beep, endless-drone-of-LAPD-helicopter), the movement (slow and then slower), the spacecraft (OMFG)…it was overwhelming at times. In addition to sorting through all the meanings of the move for the history and future of the U.S. space program, I had to grapple with the idea of escorting the space shuttle through parts of the city known to me only as sites of social strife and political/racial oppression. My personal history with South Central L.A. meant that I couldn’t just chat blithely with my neighbor about the installation of the space shuttle at the California Science Center. Every conversation bumped up against a memory, many of them bad. For instance, on my second day, I walked through the intersection where I saw my first dead body in 1991—how weird is that? My mind was spinning simultaneously in fast-forward and reverse all weekend long and now I really need a nap. I’m going to need to rest before I can really process what this weekend meant for me, what it meant for the nation, what it meant for future space exploration. You know. The easy topics.

I’ve started the photo/video upload on my flickr site. If you want to see motion vignettes of the move, check out my Endeavour Videos collection. They’re short, from 20 to 90 seconds long, but some of them are pretty impressive (in terms of seeing Endeavour, not in terms of cellphone cinematography).

I’ve also uploaded a few photos from Day One: Morning and Day One: Afternoon. Day One began at 12:30 a.m. October 12, 2012 and ended at 11:00 p.m. October 12, 2012 (yes, almost 24 hours on 2-1/2 hours of sleep!); the photos start at the point at which the public was allowed to view the shuttle—the corner of Sepulveda Westway and Manchester—and finish with the rush across the 405 freeway at the end of the day.

JR! Photo credit: some random stranger with my iPhone

More later, I promise.

Endeavour On the Move

12 10 2012

Endeavour’s passing. Photo credit: JR

Here’s just a bit to let you know how well it’s all going out here in L.A. That’s a close-up of Endeavour’s flank as she (it?) moves out of temporary holding in the parking lot of Bed, Bath & Beyond at Manchester near LAX. That move occupied my afternoon. My early morning hours… Well, my early morning hours were spent getting as close to Endeavour as possible (or as allowed by the LAPD). Here’s what I saw when I looked up at about 4:30 a.m.

More soon—must get some sleep before the next stage of the move!

Intrepid Museum

3 10 2012

Douglas A4 Skyhawk, Intrepid Museum, New York, NY. Photo credit: JR

I failed to upload my photos from our trip to the Intrepid Museum in September. Imagine forgetting about visiting the Space Shuttle Enterprise! I was happy to see the spacecraft again and overall, I liked the new exhibit more than I liked its predecessor at the Smithsonian. Well, on the positive side, Enterprise was better lit at the Smithsonian, making it easier to see all the details and fine lines. On the negative side, visitors were kept well back from the orbiter. At the Intrepid, you can walk underneath it, practically kick its tires. So, while I’m not too happy with the darkness of the temporary pavilion (reminded me of the National Museum of the Air Force), I was pleased they let me get so close.

Endeavour-SCA Mating Time Lapse

19 09 2012

Oh, yeah. NASA Kennedy posted a time lapse video of Endeavour’s mating to the SCA. Watching it, I had the same thought I posted a few days ago: the Shuttle retirement process is just about as fascinating as the spaceflight program.

Wallpaper Wednesday

19 09 2012

Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134) on LC-39a. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

I made it home from my run this morning just in time for Endeavour’s last list off from Kennedy Space Center—on the back of a Boeing 747. Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) seem to be part of my daily life now. NASA has already uploaded a photo set of this morning’s ferry flight on its flickr site, but I’m taking this opportunity to link to a wallpaper that already feels vintage: a classic storm shot from April 2011 showing Endeavour on launch complex 39a before the rollback of the Rotating Service Structure.

This is a bit of belated information that I shared on twitter but forgot to post here: if you know the tail number of a NASA aircraft, you can use FlightAware to check for flight times. Endeavour’s last hop will take place courtesy of SCA N905NA, as did all the Shuttle ferry flights. You can type that tail number in at FlightAware to produce a list of scheduled flight times and destinations. I also use FlightAware to check on Super Guppy flights (tail number NASA941).

Click on the image above to reach the appropriate spot in NASA’s flickr stream. Once you’ve reached that page, right click on the image to save a copy to your harddrive.

Final Voyage of the Endeavour

15 09 2012

Endeavour, ready to travel. Photo credit: Mike Killian /

Mike Killian posted some sweet photos to the “Welcome Endeavour/Spot the Shuttle” group on facebook. Killian is a professional photographer out of Florida and his portfolio includes some fantastic Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral shots. Check out his Final Voyage of the Endeavour photos. I’m finding the decommissioning the Space Shuttles almost as impressive as their space flights.

Endeavour’s Final Flight

14 09 2012

In case you missed it, Spaceflight 101 has a nice summary of Endeavour’s planned ferry flight next Monday, September 17. I have never been so envious of our relatives who live in California’s central valley as I am now.

Observatories and Instruments