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Success! Astronaut Don Pettit successfully captured SpaceX’s Dragon capsule today at 9:56am EDT with the space station’s robotic arm. They will now bring the Dragon capsule in and dock it with the ISS. This is an historic moment- the first time a commercial spacecraft has ever docked with the ISS. Hopefully within a few years, these amazing private spaceflight companies such as SpaceX can fully take over the duties of ferrying cargo and people to and from the ISS. More at NASA.gov.

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(Fast forward to about 2:30 to get to the actual launch.)

SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a Dragon capsule filled with supplies and experiments bound for the International Space Station this morning at 3:44am EDT. This mission is far from complete, however, and with the capsule now in orbit the company must also prove their capsule can be docked with space station, unloaded, reloaded with used experiments, and splash back down safely in the pacific ocean. This flight is historic because it will be the first private, non-NASA rocket to complete a full mission to the ISS.

SpaceX has thus far been the leader among the various private companies vying for the top NASA contract to ferry cargo and astronauts to the ISS. The Dragon capsule will catch up to the ISS and perform a few maneuvers before slowly and incrementally approaching until the crew of the ISS can latch onto the capsule with the station’s robotic arm. They will then bring it in for docking using that arm this Friday May 25th. I really hope this mission is successful because as I’ve said all along, I’m a big fan of private companies taking over the low earth orbit duties for NASA. Keep your eye on the NASA website for updates. (Video via Universe Today)

Thundersnow is possibly the coolest-sounding meteorological term I can think of. It happens very rarely, but when it does it’s awesome. Convection strong enough to cause lighting during a snowstorm is simply amazing, as are most things that rare. Through a ridiculous stroke of luck, scientists in Huntsville, AL got a rare opportunity to study this bizarre phenomenon in-depth. As you may know, Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. There are meteorologists and other scientists there with a barrage of better-than-average instruments that monitored the inner-workings of the snowstorm that hit the area Jan. 9th. They got the most thorough data ever recorded for thundersnow, and observed one bolt of lightning that traveled a whopping 50 miles horizontally before hitting the ground. The fact that such a rare and interesting phenomenon happened right on top of a facility so well-equipped to study it is quite remarkable, and those scientists were very excited to be able to study the thundersnow in such great detail. I look forward to seeing what is learned from this experience. (Via Discovery News)

NASA has been presented with yet another viable commercial option for replacing the Space Shuttle’s role of ferrying astronauts to and from the space station, as well as carrying cargo. A U.S. company called Alliant Techsystems teamed up with Europe’s Astrium to draft the proposal for a new rocket called Liberty. This new rocket would combine research of the now-dead Constellation program with the proven components of the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 launch system. Since this collaborative effort combines mostly well-proven technology, it would be both cheap and relatively quick to build, shortening the problematic gap between the last Space Shuttle flight and the first availability of commercial access to space. If it truly will shorten said gap, I’m all for it. I hope it’s really as good as it sounds, but things like this always run into unforseen problems/delays. Right now, SpaceX still has the edge simply because it’s already had 2 very successful tests of its launch system, the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. But Liberty could give SpaceX a run for their money. Check out the promo video below. (Via Universe Today)

Rivers Cuomo… YES, MAN!

December 29, 2008

One of the gifts I received for Christmas this year (in addition to my new Sony HDTV, Lost season premier party anyone?) was the new Rivers Cuomo solo compilation, Alone II: Home Recordings. I almost enjoy this album a little more than his first home recording compilation. I especially enjoyed reading the narrative liner notes he wrote for it, which go into the stories behind the songs and give a little more insight into his odd life. Weezer’s first two albums were a major part of my formative years and those songs will always resonate with me in a very awesome way. Even though their new material is… well… awful in comparison, I will always be interested in what Rivers is up to, and always keep an open mind to his new material. He is now happily married, though, thus I doubt that he’ll ever write anything good again. Too much contentment and happiness does not lend itself to good songs. With that, I give you this video I came across on You Ain’t No Picasso of Rivers doing an acapella version of the Beach Boys’ Don’t Worry Baby, with a group of backup vocalists. He included an early demo cover of this song on the new home recordings album as well.

While on Stereogum, I also found this video of Rivers in the studio doing a new song he co-wrote with Jermaine Dupri, (a different version of this also appears on Alone II).

Megan and I saw Yes Man yesterday, and it did not dissappoint. I was definitely in the mood for a more entertaining movie, and it really hit the spot. Don’t go into this movie expecting anything more than just pure entertainment… there are no deep meanings nor is there anything remotely intellectual about it. I must say that this is one of the best performances I’ve seen from Zooey Deschanel. Her looks and personally fit her character perfectly…. and I can’t think of anyone more perfect to fill that role. Jim Carrey is… well, Jim Carrey. I’ve enjoyed him in every movie of his that I’ve seen.

Just a tidbit of space news for you: NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. through 2016 to fill the need to carry cargo to the Internation Space Station. This is the kind of thing NASA needs to keep doing- the future of space exploration lies in the combined efforts of goverment and the private sector. Link via Bad Astronomy.

I leave you with this:

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