Go, Discovery! Go! (STS-119)

After being dogged by several weeks of various delays, at 6:43 pm (CDT) this evening the shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and made a safe, flawless, and beautiful ascent to space. As is routine, in about an hour, the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, gave Discovery a ‘Go for orbital ops,’ meaning that all essential tasks to turn the shuttle from a rocket ship to a space ship had been successfully completed!STS-119 Launch

According to NASA Public Affairs, “The STS-119 crew members are flying the S6 truss segment and installing the final set of power-generating solar arrays to the International Space Station. The S6 truss will complete the backbone of the station and provide one-fourth of the total power needed to support a crew of six.”  Because of the delays, the initial group of four spacewalks has been reduced to three, but all the major mission objectives will still be completed.

After sitting out the last flight, I’ll be back working this one, but STS-119 will be my first flight on “the other side,” i.e. as a civil servant one-step removed from console operations in the Mission Evaluation Room of Mission Control.  It’s a bittersweet moment for me, because while I really love the level at which I’m getting to work now, I totally LOVE working console during EVAs!

As we continue to ask God’s blessing and care over our shuttle and station crews in the days ahead, let me keep with my custom here and take some space for this hymn from the Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974). (BTW, while the words are new to us, the tune for this hymn is familiar and is that for “The Navy Hymn” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” found here.)

Bless Thou the Astronauts Who Face

Bless Thou the astronauts who face
The vast immensities of space;
And may they know, in air, on land,
Thou holdest them within in thy hand.
O may the small step each doth take
Aid others giant leaps to make.

How excellent in all the earth
Thy name, O God, who gave it birth;
When first upon the moon man trod,
How excellent thy name, O God.
The heavens thy glory doth declare;
Where-e’re we are, Lo! thou are there.

We still upon thy laws depend
As our dominions thus extend,
While from the nations triumph rings
When we mount up with eagles’ wings.
Grant on each planet, far and near,
To all thy glory may appear.

Give all men, for all time to be,
The blessing of tranquility,
As galaxies and quasars share
The knowledge that our God is there!
May future aeons call to mind,
“We came in peace for all mankind.”

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Space Shuttle Challenger–January 28, 1986

It was twenty-three years ago today that the United States space program suffered the first in-flight loss of one of our crews when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded one minute and thirteen seconds after liftoff.  I will never forget my mother making a special trip to school and finding me in the lunch line at Emerson Elementary to tell me the news.  With countless other millions worldwide, the remainder of the day was spent glued to the television set to try and understand what went wrong that day.

In the words of President Ronald Reagan:

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

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Our New Space Program

When people ask what I’m involved in at NASA, I usually tell them, “the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and Constellation.”  The last answer usually draws a blank stare, as NASA (IMO) hasn’t done a very good job publicizing or creating public interest in our next efforts in space–a return to the moon.  I stumbled upon this video this afternoon, which sums things up nicely.  Enjoy!

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Go, Endeavour! Go! (STS-126)

At 6:55 pm (CST) last night the shuttle Endeavour lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and made a safe, flawless, and beautiful ascent to space. In about an hour, the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, gave Endeavour a ‘Go for orbital ops,’ meaning that all essential tasks to turn the shuttle from a rocket ship to a space ship had been successfully completed!

STS-126 Liftoff

According to NASA Public Affairs, “The prime objective of the 15-day mission is to prepare the International Space Station to accommodate six members for long-duration stays.  Four planned spacewalks will focus on servicing the station’s two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, or SARJ, which are needed to track the sun for electric power.”

Unlike every other shuttle flight over the last two years, I will be sitting on the sidelines and not playing any part in the mission at all.  Because of my current mobilization in the Texas Air National Guard, I’ll be watching this mission on NASA TV…just like the rest of the general public.  It’s a bittersweet moment, because as much as I’m enjoying my current ministry opportunities at Ellington Field, I absolutely LOVE working shuttle flights!

As we continue to ask God’s blessing and care over our shuttle and station crews in the days ahead, let me keep with my custom here and take some space for this hymn from the Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974). (BTW, while the words are new to us, the tune for this hymn is familiar and is that for “The Navy Hymn” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” found here.)

Bless Thou the Astronauts Who Face

Bless Thou the astronauts who face
The vast immensities of space;
And may they know, in air, on land,
Thou holdest them within in thy hand.
O may the small step each doth take
Aid others giant leaps to make.

How excellent in all the earth
Thy name, O God, who gave it birth;
When first upon the moon man trod,
How excellent thy name, O God.
The heavens thy glory doth declare;
Where-e’re we are, Lo! thou are there.

We still upon thy laws depend
As our dominions thus extend,
While from the nations triumph rings
When we mount up with eagles’ wings.
Grant on each planet, far and near,
To all thy glory may appear.

Give all men, for all time to be,
The blessing of tranquility,
As galaxies and quasars share
The knowledge that our God is there!
May future aeons call to mind,
“We came in peace for all mankind.”

Historic Moment in Shuttle History

These shots were just emailed around Johnson Space Center this morning.  Having two shuttles on the pad simultaneously hasn’t happened (if my homework is correct) since the early 80’s…and is not likely to happen again in the history of the program.  It’s a beautiful sight!

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Endeavour Highlights (STS-123)

Toward the end of every mission, NASA’s multimedia folks put together a mission highlights clip that, for some odd reason, never seems to make it outside the confines of our hallowed institution. They do a great job of assembling the most exciting parts and combining it with some sort of funky disco-esque tunes as only NASA can do. So in honor of a great flight and safe landing last night, here are the mission highlights from STS-123:

Go, Endeavour! Go!

At 1:28 am (EDT) today the shuttle Endeavour lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and made a safe, flawless, and beautiful ascent to space. Within the hour, the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, gave Endeavour a ‘Go for orbital ops,’ meaning that all essential tasks to turn the shuttle from a rocket ship to a space ship had been successfully completed!

Like the STS-120 flight in October, I am the Extravehicular Activity (i.e., spacewalk) Operations Safety lead for the flight and have had the great privilege of being involved in just about every facet of training and pre-launch activity…but it all comes to bear now as we actually get to go do the mission!STS-123 Liftoff

This flight will be the longest construction mission to the International Space Station ever and has five planned spacewalks to assemble a new extension to the station’s robotic arm as well as the first of several Japanese laboratory modules. Lots of action to keep us busy over the next two weeks.

As we continue to ask God’s blessing and care over our shuttle and station crews in the days ahead, let me keep with my custom here and take some space for this hymn from the Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974). (BTW, while the words are new to us, the tune for this hymn is familiar and is that for “The Navy Hymn” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” found here.)

Bless Thou the Astronauts Who Face

Bless Thou the astronauts who face
The vast immensities of space;
And may they know, in air, on land,
Thou holdest them within in thy hand.
O may the small step each doth take
Aid others giant leaps to make.

How excellent in all the earth
Thy name, O God, who gave it birth;
When first upon the moon man trod,
How excellent thy name, O God.
The heavens thy glory doth declare;
Where-e’re we are, Lo! thou are there.

We still upon thy laws depend
As our dominions thus extend,
While from the nations triumph rings
When we mount up with eagles’ wings.
Grant on each planet, far and near,
To all thy glory may appear.

Give all men, for all time to be,
The blessing of tranquility,
As galaxies and quasars share
The knowledge that our God is there!
May future aeons call to mind,
“We came in peace for all mankind.”