Endeavour to launch Wednesday

By Phil Plait | June 15, 2009 3:01 pm

NASA has decided: Endeavour will attempt a launch Wednesday June 17, at — get this — 05:40 Eastern time (09:40 GMT). So I won’t be watching, as that’s 3:40 a.m. my time.

This means the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will be delayed once again, this time due to launch on Thursday June 18. There are three launch opportunities on that day: 17:12, 17:22, and 17:32 Eastern time (21:12 etc. GMT).

Interestingly, Endeavour will carry on board the 500th human to go to space! Who that is specifically is still to be not easily determined, as it depends on where their seats are on the Shuttle as well as the position of Endeavour when it hits the 100km mark, the official demarcation of space, but has been confirmed to be Chris Cassidy. That link has the list of all people who have gone into space previously, which is actually pretty cool. That might be handy to have around for those of you doing school reports…

Don’t forget that you can follow NASA on Twitter as well as STS-127 mission commander, Mark Polansky.

Tip o’ the spacesuit helmet about the 500th space human to BABloggee regular Michael Lonergan.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Space

Comments (38)

Links to this Post

  1. links for 2009-06-16 | Yostivanich.com | June 16, 2009
  1. Another website is saying that the crew has decided to give Chris Cassidy, a former naval commander who saw combat in Afghanistan the honor of being the 500th person. (Skymania News).

  2. We did report (in the collectSPACE article linked above — thanks Phil!) that #500 will be Chris Cassidy:

    “We decided between the crew that it would be Chris [Cassidy],” Hurley shared with collectSPACE. “Officially, it is Chris, which I think is awesome.”

  3. Davidlpf

    I don’t believe that there have been 500 people in space. Some of those names are clearly made up like Pavel Popovich. I never might someone with such a name therefore it must be fake. Clearly there is some sort of conspiracy here to hide the money was diverted from the program so NASA can take over the world.

    Hopefully it will take less time for the next 500.

  4. IVAN3MAN

    Interestingly, Endeavour will carry on board the 500th human to go to space!

    According to legend, a manned rocket sled with 47 gunpowder-filled rockets was attempted in China by Wan Hu in the 16th Century. The alleged flight is said to have been interrupted by an explosion at the start, and the pilot did not seem to have survived — he was never found!

    Maybe he was the first man in space. :P

  5. Too bad… at least during daylight or early evening i can watch with my kids.

  6. I won’t be watching here in England either, as that’s mid-morning at work. Oh, well – can’t win ‘em all!

  7. Overlord

    And the two SpaceShipOne pilots are the only ones on that list not in government controlled spaceships – namely Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie at 435 and 436. Hopefully there’ll be many more of them :)

  8. Thanks Robert! I somehow missed that, but corrected my article.

  9. Jennifer

    There’s also the X-15 pilots who aren’t counted but got astronaut wings back when the limit was 50 miles. One of them, Michael Adams, was killed when his X-15 exploded. No one remembers Joe Walker, either, who was the first man to go into space twice (and did beat the 100km mark).

    One question I’d like Phil to answer in a blog post is — Why is the international limit 100KM? Other than it just being a nice round number and a more common unit of measurement, what makes it more “spacey” than 50 miles? The atmosphere goes thin at a fairly low altitude, but there are faint tendrils even at the highest altitudes, right? Where does “outer space” really begin?

    Also, is there a reason why we don’t consider the Nazis to have reached space first? We counted Al Shepard as going into space, so why does Sputnik beat out the V2? Or other suborbital rockets?

  10. neost

    Pushed back to Thursday per twitter.

  11. neost: I just checked NASA’s twitter feed and it still says the Shuttle goes Wednesday and LRO on Thursday.

  12. Jennifer, as a starting point you might read the article “100 km. Altititude Boundary for Astronautics” presented by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the world governing body for aeronautics and astronautics records, to understand some of the history behind the choice of 100km (62 miles).

    http://www.fai.org/astronautics/100km.asp

  13. Bob Portnell

    I, for one, will force myself out of bed at 2:00 AM (PDT) so that I can enjoy the go/no-go polls at about L-20:00 minutes. I love that stuff and always have.

  14. #13, Bob Portnell:
    I will be up as well here in Sunny Vancouver!

  15. T.E.L.

    Jennifer,

    Defining where space begins is a lot like deciding what a so-called planet is. It’s an exercize in sentimentality. No one needs to know where space begins: it’s everywhere. A rocket engineer doesn’t need to know how high up space is; the engineer needs to know where the air gets rare enough to be of little consequence. Even that varies from one job to the next. A hundred miles up a satellite can stay on orbit for days or some weeks before aerodynamic drag decays the orbit. If the sat’s job can be done in that time, then the air is no big deal. The ISS is between two and three times that height; but it is always plowing through extremely thin air. It will fall earthward within months if not occasionally boosted. By some practical criteria, the space station isn’t even in “space”.

  16. 10. Jennifer Asks: “Why is the international limit 100KM? Other than it just being a nice round number and a more common unit of measurement, what makes it more “spacey” than 50 miles? The atmosphere goes thin at a fairly low altitude, but there are faint tendrils even at the highest altitudes, right? Where does ‘outer space’ really begin?”

    I think you did a pretty good job of answering your own question, Jennifer. The difficulty in defining “outer space” is that any attempt to use objective criteria is bound to fail. Atmospheric pressure drops off asymptotically so it gets to be a p*ssing contest as to what “significant” means. Since the French seem to have taken the role as coordinator for all things aerospacey, they decided to make it 100 Km. Yes, that’s higher (by 12 miles) than our previous definition of 50 miles, but that’s still too low for satellites to fly. At the altitude that the Shuttle flies (roughly 200 Km) the pressure is still about 10 x higher than inside the processing chambers used to deposit circuit layers on silicon.

    “Also, is there a reason why we don’t consider the Nazis to have reached space first? We counted Al Shepard as going into space, so why does Sputnik beat out the V2? Or other suborbital rockets?”

    First off, most of the aerospace history books I know of do acknowledge von Braun/Dornberger as the developers of the first man-made craft to reach space. The V2 (actually, the official designation is “A4″) flight of 3 October 1943 reached about 165 Km (103 miles) IIRC. That was a ballistic flight, however, and Sputnik orbited. The difference is that to orbit you not only have to get 200 Km or so up, but you have to be going sideways at nearly 30,000 Km/hr. The difference is that it takes something like 100x more energy to get a payload to that altitude at orbital velocity than just to altitude and right back down.

    Also, Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight (“Freedom 7″) was about three weeks after the Soviets launched Gargarin.

    - Jack

  17. Chris A.

    FWIW, when Hubble launched in 1990 (near solar maximum, when the Earth’s atmosphere is more swollen than usual), it was dropping out of orbit at a rate of about 1 km/month due to atmospheric drag. And Hubble flies as high as the shuttle has ever gone (560 km/350 mi.). So not only is there still atmosphere at Hubble’s orbit, but the atmosphere grows/shrinks due to solar activity. Thus, even if we did come up with some sort of arbitrary atmospheric density cutoff to define where space begins, its altitude would vary over the solar cycle (and over longitude and latitude due to tidal effects from the Moon and Sun).

  18. Jennifer

    “Also, Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight (”Freedom 7″) was about three weeks after the Soviets launched Gargarin.”

    I know, but I also recall that they hoped to send him up before Gagarin. My thought is that if sending a man on a suborbital hop is every bit as “good” (at least according to the media) as orbiting a man, then why all the fuss over Sputnik?

    Well, I know the answer to that — a vehicle that can orbit can do a lot more than one on a ballistic trajectory. But still. Given how the US cheered Shepard, and given the panic after Sputnik, I’m surprised some newspaper didn’t just point out, “Hey, we’ve been flying in space just as long as the Soviets.”

  19. 18. Jennifer Says: “I also recall that they hoped to send him up before Gagarin. My thought is that if sending a man on a suborbital hop is every bit as “good” (at least according to the media) as orbiting a man, then why all the fuss over Sputnik?”

    Again, you’ve answered your own question. The “fuss” was all propaganda. Yes, we’d planned to have a manned flight prior to April 1961, but so did the Soviets. They just got their bugs fixed sooner (plus were willing to risk the pilot’s life with fewer safety systems).

    The US tried to spin Shepard’s flight exactly the way you stated. I was only 8 at the time, but I still have the encyclopedia yearbook from that year that shows a diagram of Shepard’s vs. Gagarin’s flight. They show the American’s apogee (115 miles) and the Russian’s perigee (112 miles) just to make sure we looked “better.”

    No one bought it, really, which is why John Glenn’s flight orbital flight nine months later was such a big deal. We’d finally “caught up” with the Soviets. Except that we hadn’t. By the time Glenn made three orbits of the Earth in “Friendship 7″, the Soviets had already flown Vostok 2 with Titov (17 orbits). A few months after Glenn, Scott Carpenter repeated the 3 orbit mission (and embarrassed NASA by overshooting his recovery target by ~200 miles), but the Soviets responded by flying Nikolaev (Vostok 3) and Popovich (Vostok 4) on missions at the same time. We looked pretty second rate at that time.

    - Jack

  20. This whole 500th person thing reminds me of a question I haven’t been able to find a reference to, but I’m sure someone here will know. With the ISS, and Mir before that, and Skylab/Salute before that, we’ve had a human presence in continuously for quite some time. The question is, when was the last time there *wasn’t* a human in space?

    Secondly, I note that this list counts individuals, not number of flights. So Story Musgrave only counts as one, not five or six (I forgot how many flights he made). Does anyone have the number for the number of flights, counting each time an astronaut goes up separately?

    - Jack

  21. IVAN3MAN

    @ Jennifer,

    Extract from Wikipedia:

    The Kármán line lies at an altitude of 100 km (62.14 miles) above the Earth’s sea level, and is commonly used to define the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. This definition is accepted by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which is an international standard setting and record-keeping body for aeronautics and astronautics.

    The line was named after Theodore von Kármán, a Hungarian-American engineer and physicist who was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He first calculated that around this altitude the Earth’s atmosphere becomes too thin for aeronautical purposes (because any vehicle at this altitude would have to travel faster than orbital velocity in order to derive sufficient aerodynamic lift from the atmosphere to support itself). Also, there is an abrupt increase in atmospheric temperature and interaction with solar radiation.

    Overview

    Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an end to Earth’s atmosphere: An atmosphere does not technically end at any given height, but becomes progressively thinner with altitude. Also, depending on how the various layers that make up the space around the Earth are defined (and depending on whether these layers are considered as part of the actual atmosphere), the definition of the edge of space could vary considerably: If one were to consider the thermosphere and exosphere part of the atmosphere and not of space, one might have to place the boundary to space as high as about 10,000 km (~6214 miles) above sea level.

    When studying aeronautics and astronautics in the 1950s, Kármán calculated that above an altitude of roughly 100 kilometers (62 mi), a vehicle would have to fly faster than orbital velocity in order to derive sufficient aerodynamic lift from the atmosphere to support itself. Though the calculated altitude was not exactly 100 km, Kármán proposed that 100 km be the designated boundary to space as the round number is more memorable and the calculated altitude varies minutely as certain parameters are varied. An international committee recommended the 100 km line to the FAI, and upon adoption it became widely accepted as the boundary to space for many purposes. However, there is still no international legal definition of the demarcation between a country’s air space and outer space.

    Another hurdle to strictly defining the boundary to space is the dynamic nature of Earth’s atmosphere. For example, at an altitude of 1000 km (621 miles), the atmosphere’s density may vary by a factor of five, depending on the time of day, time of year, AP magnetic index, and recent solar flux.

    [...]


  22. Wayne

    I’m glad to see they didn’t forget the two pilots who won the X-prize. Took me a while to find it, though, “SS1″ just blends in with “STS” too much. I finally had to search the page for Melvill’s name to find them.

    PS @ Jennifer #10 – They did include one X-15 pilot, #13 Joseph Walker. Guess he met the higher 100 km requirement.

  23. Adolfo

    Anyone interested in listening to the prep work going on right now for the flights can go to http://www.scanamerica.us/index.php then click on Florida, then Brevard County, then Kennedy Space Center Communications.
    I’ve been hearing lots of chatter even at 10 p.m. Eastern.

  24. Davidlpf

    ok this is thrid time I tried to post this, Mr Hagerty the link below will get you to the BA’s review.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/05/08/ba-review-star-trek/

    oops you asked a couple of threads ago.

  25. Sparky

    Jack Hagerty Asked: “With the ISS, and Mir before that, and Skylab/Salute before that, we’ve had a human presence in continuously for quite some time. The question is, when was the last time there *wasn’t* a human in space?”

    The final crew to visit the Mir Space Station before it’s deorbit, landed on June 16, 2000.

    The first crew of the International Space Station launched October 31, 2000. To my knowledge, outer space has been continually occupied by at least two people at any given point since then.

  26. Stone Age Scientist

    To IVAN3MAN @ #4

    Maybe (Wan Hu) he was the first man in space.

    According to Battlestar Wiki, Hera Agathon, the Mitochondrial Eve, came from outer space. :)

  27. DrFlimmer

    11:40 am local time. I will be in my office in my university with a fast internet connection. I think this is doable, although my institute always goes to have lunch at that time. They’ll have to wait :D

  28. aaron

    I was actually there at Space View Park in Titusville early Saturday morning hoping to witness my first live Shuttle Launch (it was to be the finale of my summer vacation in Florida). Oh well, It was worth a shot, and better safe than asplodey. Now I’m actually glad I failed to get the fancy Causeway viewing tickets.

  29. Charles Boyer

    @Stone Age Scientist: strictly speaking, we all came from outer space. As in the Big Bang.

  30. Stone Age Scientist

    Charles @ #30,

    Well, I don’t know about The Big Bang, but the last time I saw Gaslight, Ingrid Bergman was nearly done in. Thank God for Joseph Cotten. Oops!! :)

  31. Hey, Phil, Lighten up. The new miniseries “Impact” is only mindless entertainment. But it was interesting and educational that you pointed out the show’s scientific flaws. Cool down, cool down.

  32. 26. Sparky Says: “The final crew to visit the Mir Space Station before it’s deorbit, landed on June 16, 2000. The first crew of the International Space Station launched October 31, 2000. To my knowledge, outer space has been continually occupied by at least two people at any given point since then.”

    Thank you, I knew someone would have the answer directly. It would be interesting to see a timeline of occupation starting in 1961.

    - Jack

  33. 25. Davidlpf Says: “ok this is thrid time I tried to post this, Mr Hagerty the link below will get you to the BA’s review.”

    Thanks! I must have missed this. There was a period the past week where I wasn’t able to check this blog for three days in a row, and probably would have missed it anyway.

    - Jack

  34. Reggie

    Ugh, I had a dream last night that a space shuttle exploded in orbit. It’s a good thing I am not superstitious…..but I’m crossing my fingers just in case. Might knock on some wood, too, for good measure.

    For the record, there were rather loud thunderstorms last night in my area that probably intruded in on a space dream I was having.

  35. Naomi

    SWEET, that’s 7:40 PM Australian EST! Perfect timing :D (I might drag my Mum in to watch, as well XD)

  36. Scrubbed again? Teh suck!

  37. Bazza

    Why did they chose an aggressor from a current war zone?

    Ah yes, American…

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