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Space Shuttle

The Takeaway

An Inside Look at the 1986 Challenger Disaster

Monday, June 02, 2014

This week, the Retro Report documentary team takes us back to Cape Canaveral, and the decisions that led to the Challenger disaster, the details of which emerged in a famous investigation that showed huge design and engineering flaws in the NASA Shuttle program.

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Transportation Nation

Space Shuttle Endeavour Heads West

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(photo by Mark Simpson)

The space shuttle Endeavour has taken off on its final flight across the country, where it's heading to Los Angeles. WMFE's Mark Simpson was on hand at dawn to photograph its departure from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. (You can see more of Mark's pictures in the days leading up to Wednesday's departure here, and read more about today's launch here.)

Here it is, bolted on top of a 747, prior to takeoff.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

The countdown clock -- now dark.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

Before the shuttle lands in Los Angeles on Friday, it will make a stop in Houston -- home to Mission Control.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

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Transportation Nation

PHOTOS: Space Shuttle Endeavour Prepares for Final Flight to Los Angeles

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

(photo by Mark Simpson)

The space shuttle Endeavour is waiting at the Kennedy Space Center for its final flight to Los Angeles, where it will be transported at a stately pace through the city to its final home at the California Science Center.

WMFE's Mark Simpson has been visiting the Space Center and photographing the preparations.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

The Endeavour will be flown on the back of a modified 747, known as the shuttle carrier. It was lifted onto the back of the 747 this weekend and bolted into place.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

The structure around the shuttle is called the mate/demate device.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

(photo by Mark Simpson)

(photo by Mark Simpson)

Here's a close-up of the attachment:

(photo by Mark Simpson)

If the weather cooperates, the Endeavour will leave Florida Wednesday morning. We'll have more pictures after the launch.

Can't get enough of the space shuttle program? We were there when the Atlantis made the final flight of the space shuttle program. Here's the last flight of the Discovery. The Enterprise came to New York -- and WNYC crowdsourced photos of it flying over the city. We saw it sitting on the tarmac at JFK. TN even saw it sailing up the Hudson. Now it's on permanent exhibit at the Intrepid. And some parts of the program are being repurposed: NASA's giant crawler got a tune-up for its post-shuttle life.

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Transportation Nation

NASA's Historic Giant Crawler Gets a Tune Up for Modern Times (PICS)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

NASA's crawler 2 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center (photo by Matthew Peddie)

(Listen to an audio version of the story here)

(Orlando -- WMFE) Retired space shuttles are being readied for museums, but there's one piece of equipment at the Kennedy Space Center that dates back to before the moon landing and it's not going anywhere. NASA's giant crawler transporter is the only machine with enough muscle to move Apollo rockets and space shuttles out to the launch pad, and after nearly 50 years on the job the agency's decided there's still no better way to transport heavy loads.

The Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket on the crawler (photo courtesy of NASA)

It’s about as wide as a six lane highway, higher than a two story building, with huge caterpillar treads at each of its four corners. With the mobile launch platform and a rocket or space shuttle on its back, the crawler en route for the launch pad was like a skyscraper rolling slowly down a highway.

Regular roads can’t handle the five and a half million pound weight of the crawler.

“If you drive on some of the roads out here where we’ve traversed it’s like riding a roller coaster, because we’ve done some damage to the roads with our weight, especially in the heat of the summer," says lead system engineer Russell Stoewe.

"We can tear up some asphalt" says lead engineer Russell Stoewe (photo by Matthew Peddie)

NASA has two crawler transporters.

Crawler two is being upgraded from its current lifting capacity of 12 million pounds -- the combined weight of the shuttle and mobile launcher -- to 18 million pounds, for NASA's new heavy lift rocket.

Mechanic Wilson Williams, who's worked at the space center since 1968 -- nearly as long as the crawler itself --  says it's the biggest project he's ever worked on. "It’s a challenge. A lot of new things, new engines, new exhausts, new brakes, new hydraulics, new computers."

Getting inside the crawler is like boarding a battleship -- up a ladder, along a walkway and through a low doorway. There are four big diesel engines inside, similar to what you might find on an old Naval ship.

The two engines supplying onboard power are being replaced, but the engines powering the generators which drive the caterpillar tracks are staying put. "We baby them," says Russell Stoewe. He says the manufacturers have looked inside the engines and say they're in pristine condition.

One of the original locomotive power engines (photo by Matthew Peddie)

The crawler re-fit is part of a $2 billion plan to modernize the Kennedy Space Center, and as NASA moves to partner with commercial rocket companies it aims to make the center as versatile as possible.

The crawlers are listed on a national historic register, but Frank DiBello, the CEO of the economic development agency Space Florida, says it makes sense to keep them going. “We build bridges for far longer than that," says DiBello.

"There is nothing inherent in the basic crawler transporter system that can’t be revitalized over time,” he says.

In fact, about seven years ago, NASA was considering whether to trade the crawler in for something new. Russell Stoewe says the agency looked at rubber-tired vehicles but rejected the idea, partly because of storms that hit the cape.

Image courtesy of NASA

“If lightning hits the vehicle would we have to inspect, I don’t know how many tires they had, some of them had 80 tires, some of them had 500 tires," says Stoewe.

"There’s a significant amount of labor that goes into that. All of these things were unknowns that added an unknown cost to an already high cost.”

In 1965 NASA spent $14 million to build the transporters. That’s more than $100 million in today’s dollars. Stoewe says it would cost even more now because the U.S. is no longer the industrial powerhouse it was in the 1960s.

While the crawlers are indispensible to NASA, they’ve also made their mark on popular culture, appearing in movies like Apollo 13 and Transformers 3.

Stoewe says the current transformation project won’t improve its speed or gas mileage at all: one mile an hour and 32 feet to the gallon.

But after the work’s complete in 2014, the upgrade will allow this crawler to roll out a new generation of space craft.

(Listen to an audio version of the story at WMFE)

We've got lots more NASA coverage here, and of course Mars rover pics and videos.

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Annotations: The NEH Preservation Project

Arthur C. Clarke Dabbles in Science Nonfiction and Speculates About Space Travel

Monday, August 20, 2012

WNYC

"Around the close of this century." That is when distinguished author, scientist, and visionary Arthur C. Clarke, in this 1954 appearance at a Books and Authors Luncheon, predicts man will break free of Earth and fly to the moon. 

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Transportation Nation

Space Shuttle Enterprise Makes Public Debut in NYC

Thursday, July 19, 2012

(photo by Caitlyn Kim/WNYC)

(Soterios Johnson, New York, NY, WNYC) The new space shuttle pavilion at New York's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum opens to the public on Thursday. It will offer visitors an up-close and personal view of the space shuttle Enterprise, as well as exhibits on NASA's current missions on earth and space science, research on improving aeronautics and the rockets destined to take humans to explore the solar system.

See a slideshow of pictures from the new exhibit here.

Workers were putting the finishing touches on the pavilion, as opening day approached.

"All the graphics have been installed," said Eric Boehm, the museum's curator of aviation.  "Right now, we're installing a lot of video monitors and all those shows will be test-run here the next couple days. You know, just getting everything tweaked."

The opening of the Intrepid Museum's Space Shuttle pavilion will be celebrated by a five day long Space Fest, featuring a free concert, special hands-on robotics and astronomy displays, and opportunities to meet former and current astronauts, many of whom have ties to the New York City area.

According to Boehm, visitors to the Enterprise will have much better access to this shuttle compared to the other shuttles on display at other museums.

"We've kind of propped her up a little higher," Boehm said.  "The temporary structure kind of surrounds the shuttle, so really the best views will be right underneath and right around the sides of her.  So, the public will get all around."

The shuttle and its exhibits are currently housed in a huge white inflatable structure on the Intrepid's flight deck, where it will remain for the next couple of years as the museum plans and builds a separate permanent structure to house the Enterprise.  Boehm says when that new Space Center is completed, it will be a monument to the shuttle program, NASA and New York City.

Enterprise was NASA's first space shuttle, but it never actually went into space. It was built as a prototype to perform test flights and landings.  Nonetheless, the museum considers it an important acquisition.

"We look at the Enterprise as really the test vehicle that made the rest all possible, that made all the space exploration possible with the space shuttle program,” said Matt Woods, the Intrepid Museum's senior vice president of operations.  “Without Enterprise, you never would have gotten further with the program.”

The arrival of Enterprise in New York was a year in the making. It had been on display at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington D.C., where it was the collection's centerpiece.  On April 27,  Enterprise was transported to New York's Kennedy Airport on the back of NASA's specially-modified Boeing 747 jetliner.

Before landing, the plane performed a dramatic low-altitude fly-over of its new hometown, passing by landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center and the Intrepid itself.  Then, in June, the shuttle was taken by barge to the Intrepid Museum, where it was hoisted on the museum's flight deck by crane.

With the space shuttle program's retirement in 2011, all of the surviving shuttles found homes at museums across the country.  The Discovery’s new home is the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum outside nation's capitol. Shuttle Endeavor is in Los Angeles at the California Science Center.  The Atlantis is at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

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Features

The Intrepid's Enterprise Exhibit Gets Ready to Launch

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The new space shuttle pavilion at New York's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum opens to the public on Thursday. It will offer visitors an up-close and personal view of the space shuttle Enterprise, as well as exhibits on NASA's current missions on earth and space science, research on improving aeronautics and the rockets destined to take humans to explore the solar system.

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Features

Space Shuttle Enterprise Arrives in Manhattan

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The space shuttle traveled up the Hudson River from Jersey City, N.J., on Wednesday guided by tug boat-guided barge. It passed the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center site as it made its way to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Manhattan's West Side.

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Transportation Nation

The Enterprise, Boldly Going Up the Hudson

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

(photo by Kate Hinds)

The space shuttle Enterprise floated by WNYC Wednesday morning en route to its new home at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Despite a construction elevator moving maddeningly to almost obscure the view, we were able to catch a glimpse.

The museum's Enterprise exhibit is scheduled to open to the public this summer.

Can't get enough of the shuttle? Check out photos of its arrival in New York in April here. To see WNYC listener-submitted photos of the shuttle's flyover, go here.

 

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Schoolbook

Fans of Flight Welcome the Space Shuttle

Friday, April 27, 2012

When the space shuttle Enterprise touched down in New York City on Friday, 20 New York City high school students in crisp black military uniforms with red trim and gold buttons presented the national flag during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It had to be the ultimate thrill for students who work on aircraft everyday.

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Features

Look | It's Here! Space Shuttle Enterprise Arrives in New York

Friday, April 27, 2012

PHOTOS. Enterprise zoomed around the city, riding piggyback on top of a modified jumbo jet. Its trip included flyovers over parts of the city and landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum before landing at Kennedy Airport.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

The Buzz About the Space Shuttle Enterprise Buzz

Friday, April 27, 2012

The NYC skies will have an unfamiliar visitor today as the Space Shuttle Enterprise makes its way to JFK and then to permanent display The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Today's flyover -- from the Statue of Liberty up to the Tapan Zee Bridge -- is expected between 10am and 11:30am this morning. WNYC's Richard Hake checks in from Liberty Island to talk about the morning's events.

Are you planning on watching the shuttle today? Call to check in on your plans - 212-433-9692!

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Features

Space Shuttle Enterprise Arrives in NYC

Monday, April 23, 2012

Space Shuttle Enterprise is scheduled to come to New York this week on the back of a specially modified NASA 747. That is, if the weather permits. NASA officials are keeping a close eye on the forecast before they give their go-ahead.

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Features

Space Shuttle's Arrival in NYC Delayed Due to Weather

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum may have cleared part of its deck in anticipation of the arrival of the space shuttle, but it will have to wait a bit longer. NASA's planned flight of the Enterprise, piggy-backed atop of a 747, has been pushed back due to "an unfavorable weather forecast."

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Transportation Nation

Space Shuttle Discovery Flies to Washington DC

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The crew of Discovery's final mission to space (photo by Matthew Peddie)

(Orlando - WMFE) Space shuttle Discovery flew Tuesday morning from Kennedy Space Center to Virginia where it will be displayed at the National Air and Space Museum hangar near Dulles International airport.

The flight is the first of four ferry operations to move the shuttles to new display sites around the country.

Soon after Discovery finished its final mission to space in March 2011, work began to remove hardware, fuel and toxic chemicals.

“It took a lot of time and effort to flush systems and in other cases remove components of those systems to ensure they will be safe,” said Stephanie Stilson, NASA flow director for the orbiter retirement program.

Discovery and the mate-demate device (photo by Matthew Peddie)

Getting the 167,000 pound shuttle onto the jumbo is a delicate process. Discovery was winched up into a mate-demate device- a giant steel gantry- and fastened to the 747 over the weekend.

“We have a huge torque multiplier,” said Stilson. “I don’t know the exact value, but it’s a huge wrench to ensure that along the way we don’t have any problem with those fasteners coming loose.

NASA shuttle transition manager Kevin Templin said while he’s sorry to see the shuttle leave Kennedy Space Center, putting it on display will help the public understand its value to space exploration.

“We get to see these vehicles every day, and we know how complex they are,” he said.

“It takes getting up close and understanding the scale and the complexity of what we’ve done here for the past 30 years to really appreciate the effort going into this.”

Templin said the retirement operation is only half over.

“Getting an orbiter to a museum is a big undertaking, a major achievement, but in parallel, there’s a team working to transition all that other property and building and records and things,” he said.

There’s still plenty of work ahead for the team in charge of retiring the rest of the orbiter fleet.

Enterprise, which never went into space, will be flown from Dulles to New York next week. The shuttle’s expected to fly over the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks Monday morning before touching down at JFK. In June, Enterprise will be put on a barge and towed up the Hudson River for display at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

In September the 747 transporter will fly the shuttle Endeavour from Florida to California.

Atlantis has the shortest trip of all- from the vehicle assembly building at Kennedy Space Center to the KSC visitor’s center 6 miles away.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Transit has an $80 billion repair backlog, Seamus "loved" the car roof, NASCAR goes electric, and one super commuter's bill? $800K

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Top stories on TN:

NYC 2013 Mayoral Race Begins as Stringer Backs Tax for Transit (link)

Ray LaHood drinks the BRT Kool Aid (link)

Why California Gas Prices Are So High (link)

 

 

 

 

 

Aging transit has an $80 billion repair backlog ( AP via Boston.Com) TN's earlier reporting on this here.

City cores are growing (The TransportPolitic)

Portland, ME, gets "bike taxis" (Kennebec Journal)

Discovery flies out of Florida for the last time (WMFE)

Obama abandoned a 2008 campaign pledge to tax oil companies (Politico)

While it pays to work in oil & gas industry (KUHF)

Ford builds all-electric car as NASCAR pace car (USA Today)

This super-commuter's bill?  $800K--and that's just from July (Washington Post)

And: Ann Romney: Seamus "loved" the car roof (Politico)

 

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Transportation Nation

Where Astronauts Do Their Christmas Shopping

Monday, December 19, 2011

Festive Space Shuttle with Holiday Wreath

This holiday season if you’re looking for something that is unique to Central Florida you might want go where astronauts stop off to do their shopping.  Yep, after a hard day of clocking in with the U.S. Space program astronauts head out State Road Three and stop at the aptly named “Space Shirts”.

It’s been a must stop destination for engineers, managers, tourists, and astronauts all looking for a bit of holiday space swag.  Co-owner Brenda Mulberry says more than six months after the final shuttle mission people are stilling coming in for the special bit of shuttle memorabilia, “This is going to last for the next couple of years.  It’s not like the frenzy right after the final mission.  But we still get people coming in who say the Space Center is sold out.”

She says community support is strong for the “Space Shirts” business which sells everything from embroidered shirts (done onsite) to coffee mugs, mission pins, and yes holiday items.

Nebula Tree, Orbiting Ornamenets, and ISS with Holiday Lights

Mulberry says top holiday items include holiday cards with the International Space Station decked out in Christmas lights, and tree ornaments of a shuttle and an astronaut framed by a wreath.

 

Space Shirts is easy to find. It’s located right next to the aptly named “Shuttles Dugout Bar and Grill.” So you don't have to orbit far to grab a bite after spending your shekels on shuttle swag!

There's Lots of Little Shuttles and Astronauts to Choose From

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Features

Ohio to New York: Give Us Your Space Shuttle

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In a letter to NASA, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown urged NASA to reconsider its decision to award the retired Enterprise shuttle to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum because of reports that the Intrepid is changing its original plans to house the shuttle.

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Features

Intrepid May Build Off-Site Museum to House Space Shuttle

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum may build an off-site museum to house the space shuttle Enterprise, officials close to the plans told WNYC.

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The Takeaway

Neil deGrasse Tyson Reflects on the Space Shuttle Program, 1981-2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The space shuttle Atlantis returned this morning, marking the end of an era. The space shuttle program began with the launch of Columbia on April 12, 1981. The program advanced space exploration into the twenty-first century. Contrary to the Apollo missions, which sparked fierce competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the space shuttle program existed mostly in an era of collaboration and cooperation between nations.

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