NASA taps Orbital Sciences, SpaceX for ISS resupply missions

The firms not mentioned here are just as important as the ones that are, as the privatization of space has just inched closer to reality. Rather than NASA handling ISS resupply chores itself or farming the job out to mega-corps such as Lockheed Martin or Boeing, the agency has instead awarded one contract each to Virginia-based Orbital Sciences (valued at around $1.9 billion) and California's own SpaceX ($1.6 billion). The two will be responsible for 20 service flights between 2009 and 2016, with each trip requiring delivery of "a minimum of 20 metric tons of upmass cargo to the space station." The agreements also call for "delivery of non-standard services in support of the cargo resupply, including analysis and special tasks as the government determines are necessary." So yeah, if FedEx / UPS have been balking at your request to ship to a Martian eBay winner, you now know who to call.

[ Via: TG Daily ]

Retromodo: The Apollo 8 Original Press Kit

Used to a thousand inane press kits announcing useless pieces of junk, I wish it was 1968. Then, I could have received this Apollo 8 Press Kit, detailing the first manned mission to the Moon. Forty years ago the crew of the Apollo 8 was—right now—on their trip back to Earth after the successful mission that took them to the Moon. In the Command Module, Mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell—who later became Mission Commander for the ill-fated Apollo 13—, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders were probably talking about what they just did in their four-day trip. Or maybe they were just sitting there, checking buttons and counters, in silence, reflecting on their journey, the most amazing ever in the history of mankind.

Like all great trips, theirs came completely out of the blue. Originally, they weren't going to the Moon at all. Apollo 8 was going to be a low-earth orbit to test the Lunar Module and Command Module but, since the Lunar Module wasn't ready, NASA decided to change the mission objectives and send the crew to the Moon. As a result, they had to retrain in record time for a completely new mission. They did, they were cool, and they kicked ass, becoming the first three humans to see the dark side of the Moon a whole five years before Pink Floyd had their other trip to the Dark Side of the Moon. Their unexpected voyage was the first ever to escape Earth's gravitational force and visit another celestial body. And if you kids think that's not cool, I don't know what is. Fortunately, nothing went wrong and their risky odyssey saved 1968 along with Johnny Cash's live concert at Folsom Prison—a terrible year in which the Vietnam War exploded, the Soviet Union invaded Prague, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Richard Nixon was elected the thirty-seventh President of the United States. Here's the original press release and the illustrations from the 101-page press kit announcing the crazy mission: Back on Earth, Neil Amstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Fred Haise Jr.—their backup crew—were probably waiting, maybe talking with them from ground control. And that, my friends, that's a complete different story for next year.

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

How to Prepare the Space Shuttle for Another Mission to the ISS [Space]

The Big Picture has a photo essay showing us every step that the Space Shuttle Endeavor goes through between missions, from touching down to taking off again. Endeavor has gone through this process a whopping 22 times in the past 16 years and will hopefully go through it many more times in the future. This batch of photos show it as it progresses from its landing from its last mission on March 26th through its return from its following mission, 9 months later. Incredible stuff.

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Huge Hole Found on Earth's Magnetic Field, Run Around In Panic Now [Nasa]

NASA's Themis, a satellite flotilla studying geomagnetic disturbances, have discovered a large hole on Earth's magnetic field, which protects us against solar particles, which can cause severe disturbances in power grids, computers, and communication. But don't fret, dear readers, because according to Marit Oieroset—Professor of the University of California at Berkeley— even while "it was growing rather fast" the hole only lasted for an hour. During that time, the amount of solar wind getting into the Earth's surface was twenty times higher than usual. The news here is that while scientists thought that the solar breach happened when the Earth's and the sun magnetic fields were in opposite directions, the data gathered from Themis has found exactly the opposite. In other words: These people don't have a clue!

[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]

Mars in 3D, Deathmatch For Charity, Closing

Today is already the last day of the Gizmodo Gallery, and we've got a few special things happening before we close up shop today at 4PM and send all the gear back to its makers. • More showings of NASA's Mars Rover images, for the first time in 3D. And to Bowie!
• More Deathmatch for Charity.
• Raffle prize collection starts near the end of the day, so check your emails if you donated earlier in the week or earlier today. (Those of you showing up today, we'll save you some goodness, probably dispensed on the spot.)
• Also, I've got another favor to ask. Chris and I and the gang are very tired from working on planning and running the Gallery for a few weeks straight now — we're almost out of steam, and if Kaiser, SteveDave or any of our other star commenters in the NYC area can come and help us close up shop later on, we wouldn't say no to the help. Thank you ladies and gents, we love you more than we love big TVs.
[ Via: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog ]