Police: Rocket debris washes ashore on Texas beach

Debris found on a Brazoria County beach is reportedly from a rocket launched from South America. (Source: Freeport Police Department)

Debris that washed ashore along the south Texas coast has been identified as part of a rocket, according to law enforcement.

A police officer made the discovery last week while investigating a report of possible airplane or boat debris being found at a Brazoria County beach.

The large rectangular object is believed to be debris from a rocket launched from South America last month. Freeport Police Department notified the U.S. Coast Guard, NASA, Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. State Department, after making the mysterious find.

“It clearly did not burn up on reentry, landed in the ocean, and floated all the way here to Freeport,” the department posted on Facebook. “It is not dangerous, except for the smell of dying barnacles that called it home for the past two weeks.” Continue reading

Soccer ball recovered from Shuttle Challenger wreckage reaches space three decades later

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A soccer ball that survived the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986 is now aboard the International Space Station. (Source: Shane Kimbrough/ NASA)

A soccer ball that was to be carried to space by the ill-fated Space Shuttle Challenger has finally reached its destination, 31 years later. Prior to the January 28, 1986 launch, the ball was presented to NASA astronaut Ellison Onizuka by soccer players, including his daughter, from Clear Lake High School.

Onizuka was one of the seven astronauts killed when the shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The ball was recovered among the wreckage and returned to the school, where it has been on display for the past three decades, according to NASA.

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New spacecraft named after astronaut killed in E. Texas space shuttle tragedy

The next Cygnus spacecraft to visit the International Space Station will be named S.S. Rick Husband, Orbital ATK announced Tuesday. (Source: NASA)

The next Cygnus spacecraft to visit the International Space Station will be named S.S. Rick Husband, Orbital ATK announced Tuesday. (Source: NASA)

The next cargo spacecraft to launch to the International Space Station will bear the name of an American astronaut killed in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy over East Texas.

An Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo resupply spacecraft bearing the name S.S. Rick Husband will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 22.

Husband served as commander of the STS-107 mission aboard Space Shuttle Columbia, which broke apart during reentry over East Texas on February 1, 2003.

All seven crew members perished in the accident, just 16 minutes before the scheduled landing in Florida. Continue reading

Shuttle Columbia debris collected in E. Texas goes on public display for first time

The ‘Forever Remembered’ exhibit at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center marks the first time artifacts from the shuttle disasters are on public display. (Source: NASA)

A new exhibit at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida memorializes the Space Shuttle Columbia, which broke apart over East Texas in 2003.

The 2,000 square foot exhibit, housed at the Space Center’s visitor complex, features the personal effects of crew members and recovered shuttle hardware from both the ill-fated Columbia tragedy and the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.

It marks the first time that artifacts from Columbia will be on display to the public. Much of the debris was collected by East Texas volunteers in a months-long recovery effort that began when the shuttle broke apart on February 1, 2003. Continue reading

NASA spacesuit designer reveals changes to new ‘pumpkin suit’

NASA is testing a modified

NASA is testing a modified “Pumpkin Suit” for spacewalks on future missions to asteroids.

NASA’s aging stock of spacesuits is coming under great scrutiny as the space agency investigates the near-drowning of an astronaut. Wednesday, an investigation board released its report on the July 2013 incident involving a water leak in Italian astronaut’s Luca Parmitano’s helmet. More than a liter of liquid pooled around Parmitano’s eyes, nose and ears, before he could get to safety inside the International Space Station airlock. The report revealed that managers misdiagnosed a similar leak one week earlier.

With an ongoing presence aboard the ISS, plans for capturing asteroids, the first mission to Mars and even a return to the Moon, NASA will need a new spacesuit to make the journey.

The space agency won’t have to look very far for ideas, according to NASA engineer Cody Kelly. Last week, he spoke to a room of science and math students at Tyler Junior College, explaining his ongoing work as part of the Crew Survival Engineering Team.

Kelly said NASA is modifying its Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) for future missions of the new Orion spacecraft, relying on time-tested technology to ensure the survival of astronauts.

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10 years after Shuttle Columbia tragedy, E. Texas museum preserves crew’s legacy

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The “Remembering Columbia” Museum in Hemphill, Texas is open daily.

10 years have passed since East Texas was thrust into the national spotlight after Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry over the Piney Woods. Obviously, it’s an emotional time for the families of the seven brave astronauts, but the small town of Hemphill is reflecting on their very deep and personal connection to the tragedy.

Many of the larger pieces of debris were recovered in rural Sabine County. The remains of the crew members were recovered not far from town. Search crews came from all over the country, but the city of 1,200 people, I’m told, came to a standstill to pool their resources into the recovery effort. Residents spent weeks and months searching for the wreckage, opening up their homes to volunteers, providing transportation and food. The emotions felt by the NASA family were shared by the community, forming a bond through the tragedy. For many there, life has never been the same. Continue reading

Houston’s new space shuttle replica arrives by sea

A full-size shuttle replica atop a barge arrives at the Johnson Space Center docks in Houston.

After its hopes of landing a retired Space Shuttle were scrapped, Houston is now home to the next-closest thing — a full-size replica. Friday marked the end to an 8-day voyage across the Gulf of Mexico for the orbiter mockup that had previously welcomed visitors to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Hundreds crowded along the shoreline to witness the historic arrival of “Explorer” as it navigated the waters of Clear Lake atop a barge. The ship that never left the Earth will become the centerpiece of a new educational exhibit at Space Center Houston, the official visitors center of the Johnson Space Center.

In a salute at sea, two fire boats sprayed an arch of water for the shuttle to pass under as it approached its new home. Waiting on the shore — a crowd of onlookers and a “Shuttlebration Weekend” of activities featuring parades, fireworks, and music. A pair of  NASA T-38 Talon jets soared overhead in formation as the National Anthem was sung to mark the kickoff of the celebration. Continue reading