For NASA, 2009 proved to be a stellar year, one filled with five extremely successful Space Shuttle missions (one of which repaired the Hubble Space Telescope), the test flight of the Ares I-X rocket, the launch of the Kepler Space Telescope, the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and companion spacecraft the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), and the launch of the WISE spacecraft earlier this month.
In all, the first half of 2009 proved an extremely challenging and rewarding time for NASA. Form January to June, NASA completed a complicated analysis of the Space Shuttle fleets Flow Control Valves, launched the Kepler Space Telescope to search for extra-solar Earth-like planets, conducted the STS-119 Shuttle mission, performed a dual-pad flow for STS-125 and STS-400 and the subsequent and highly successful STS-125 mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, and launched LRO/LCROSS.
In a recent interview with NASASpaceFlight.com, Space Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager Mike Moses talked extensively about the incredible year the Shuttle processing teams had and their ability to accomplish everything they did in 2009.
“It was all about the teams and their ability to create triple and quadruple redundancies in schedules,” Moses said.
“On the surface, it didn’t appear that we had all that challenging of a year. But if you take it month by month you can really see the issues the teams worked through and the amazing jobs those teams did to get us into a launch posture six times this year.”
Late Sunday night is the peak of the year’s most prolific annual cosmic fireworks show—the Geminid meteor shower (Geminids picture).
The meteor shower has been growing in intensity in recent decades and should be an even better holiday treat than usual this year, since it’s falling in a nearly moonless week.
Coming fast on the heels of its more famous cousin the Leonid meteor shower—which peaked less than a month ago—the Geminid show should feature as many as 140 shooting stars per hour between Sunday evening and Monday morning.
The Geminids are slow meteors that create beautiful long arcs across the sky—many lasting a second or two.
One of the best annual meteor showers will peak in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, and for some skywatchers the show could be quite impressive.
The best seats are in Asia, but North American observers should be treated to an above average performance of the Leonid meteor shower, weather permitting. The trick for all observers is to head outside in the wee hours of the morning – between 1 a.m. and dawn – regardless where you live.
The Leonids put on a solid show every year, if skies are clear and moonlight does not interfere. This year the moon is near its new phase, and not a factor. For anyone in the Northern Hemisphere with dark skies, away from urban and suburban lighting, the show should be worth getting up early to see.