Entries in Landing (7)


Air Force’s Mysterious Mini-Space Shuttle Set to Land

Comstock/Thinkstock(VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.) -- After more than a year in orbit the Air Force’s mysterious mini-space shuttle is set to land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California sometime this week.  Air Force officials say a landing could come as early as Wednesday.

Measuring 29 feet in length and having a 15-foot wingspan, the unmanned re-usable X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle looks like a miniature version of  NASA’s now retired space shuttles.

The reusable spacecraft went into orbit on March 5, 2011, but as was the case during its first launch in 2010, very little has been known about its mission or what payloads it might be carrying because its missions are classified.  That has led to speculation that the spacecraft is involved in intelligence gathering operations or the testing of new technologies.

Jeremy Eggers, a spokesman for the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB, told ABC News that the spacecraft’s first available landing opportunity will be Wednesday, depending on weather and technical conditions.  The landing window extends through June 18, but Eggers says any landing is a “day-by-day situation based on the conditions.”

In keeping with the scarce mission details for the X-37B even the initial announcement of an upcoming landing was kept vague.  A May 30 Air Force statement said the spacecraft would return to Earth in the “early- to mid-June time frame.”

Designed to stay in extended Earth orbits, the X-37B remained in orbit for 225 days during its maiden mission in 2010. It will have spent almost twice as much time in orbit this time around.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Space Shuttle Endeavour Lands Safely in Florida

NASA TV(MERRITT ISLAND, Fla.) -- The space shuttle Endeavour and its crew returned safely to the Kennedy Space Station in Merritt Island, Florida at 2:35 a.m. EST Wednesday, completing the 134th and penultimate flight of the 30-year-old space shuttle program.

The six member crew of NASA's second-to-last shuttle flight -- which included Commander Mark Kelly, who is returning to his wife, shooting victim Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords -- returned to Earth after a 16-day mission.

"The space shuttle is an amazing vehicle to fly though the atmosphere … on behalf of the entire crew I want to thank all of the people that worked on the mission … it's sad to see her land for the last time, she really has a great legacy," Kelly said upon landing.

Endeavour came in on a three-mile-long runway at approximately 226 miles per hour.  Two sonic booms sounded at around 2:32 a.m. ET after a flawless re-entry.

Following a smooth undocking from the International Space Station late on Sunday, Kelly steered the shuttle through its critical re-entry and the long glide over the Pacific Ocean, Central America, the Gulf of Mexico and into Florida, according to NASA.  Greg H. Johnson was the pilot.

The astronauts, all veterans of previous flights, added the last major components to the U.S. section of the International Space Station, including the delivery of a $2 billion cosmic ray detector called Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS), which will remain mounted on the space station for the next decade.

The cosmic ray detector will be searching for antimatter and dark matter, which scientists hope will shed light on the origins of the universe.  The AMS could prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of how our universe was born.

There is only one more flight left on the shuttle schedule, a July 8 mission by the shuttle Atlantis, which which will bring a close to the 30-year program.  Atlantis' flight will be a less scientifically significant mission, a two day haul to the space station.  A crew of four -- "The Final Four," they have dubbed themselves -- will stuff the space station with as much equipment, food and miscellaneous items as the orbiter can carry.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kennedy's Space Challenge, 50 Years Later

NASA/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Fifty years ago Wednesday, a fresh-faced president named John F. Kennedy -- just four months into his presidency -- asked Congress for the funding required to send American astronauts to the moon.

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," President Kennedy said at the time. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

Eight years later, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., with three men on board. Then, on July 20, the president's goal was realized when the spacecraft and its crew of astronauts -- Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong -- touched down on the moon.

"I'm at the foot of the ladder," Armstrong told Mission Control as he descended from the lunar lander to the moon’s surface.

With his right hand on the ladder, Armstrong continued, "I'm going to step off."
Then, in an image that would become forever ingrained in the minds of millions of Americans who watched the event live on television, Armstrong planted his left foot to the moon's surface.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he said.

The Russians beat the U.S. into orbit, but Americans won the race to the moon.

Fifty years later, critics say NASA has no timetable for returning men to the moon or to any planet. And though the American shuttle program is scheduled to end this summer, astronaut Mark Kelly, commander of the STS-134 shuttle mission, remains hopeful.

"It's something we need to continue, focus on, invest in," Kelly said last week from Space Shuttle Endeavour, which is currently docked at the International Space Station.

The final American space shuttle mission is slated for July 8.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama's Plane Forced to Abort Landing Due to Mistake

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama's plane had to abort its landing at the Andrews Air Force base after it came closer to another military plane than it should have, officials said.

The first lady's plane didn't have as much "separation" from a millitary jet as it should have when approaching Andrews Air Force base, an administration source said. It was three miles away from the military jet, Federal Aviation Administration officials told ABC News, whereas the standard distance is five miles.

Air traffic controllers told the plane's pilot to do a standard go-around and circle for additional time to create the appropriate distance, which they did, and there was no panic caused by the incident.

The incident comes at a time when air traffic controllers are already under scrutiny.

There have been at least five reported incidents of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job in the last two months, which has prompted negotiations between the government and the controllers' union to change the way controllers are scheduled to work.

The incidents:

Feb. 19: A controller in Knoxville, Tenn., went to sleep on the job during a midnight shift. Sources told ABC News that the controller made a bed on the floor of the control tower with couch pillows.

March 23: A controller on his fourth consecutive overnight shift at Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport left the radio tower silent after apparently falling asleep. Two commercial airliners were forced to land on their own.

March 29: Two controllers at Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, Texas, did not hand off control of a departing aircraft to another control center and it took repeated attempts for them to be reached.

April 11: A controller at Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle fell asleep on the job. Boeing Field does not handle any commercial air travel.

April 13: A controller at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada was sleeping as a plane carrying a criticially ill patient was trying to land.

April 16: An air traffic controller fell asleep on the job at an air route control center in Florida.

April 17: An air traffic controller near Cleveland was suspened after being caught watching a movie -- Samuel L. Jackson's Cleaner -- on the job.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Sleepy Air Controllers: 'Better Do Your Job'

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama lectured air traffic controllers in an exclusive interview with ABC News, impressing on them the enormous responsibility of safeguarding flying passengers and telling them, "You better do your job."

The president spoke after several controllers were caught asleep on the job and the man in charge of air traffic control, Hank Krakowski, resigned on Thursday.

"The individuals who are falling asleep on the job, that's unacceptable," the president told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos Thursday.  "The fact is, when you're responsible for the lives and safety of people up in the air, you better do your job.  So, there's an element of individual responsibility that has to be dealt with."

Five controllers have been suspended for apparently napping on the job while planes were trying to land at their airports.

The president said a full review of air traffic control work shifts is underway.

"What we also have to look at is air traffic control systems.  Do we have enough back up?  Do we have enough people?  Are they getting enough rest time?" Obama said.

He added, however, "But it starts with individual responsibility."

In March, two commercial airliners were forced to land unassisted at Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport after a controller apparently fell asleep.

Just days later, two controllers at the Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, Texas, did not hand off control of a departing aircraft to another control center and it took repeated attempts for them to be reached.

On Feb. 19, an air traffic controller in Knoxville, Tennessee, slept during an overnight shift.  Sources told ABC News that the worker even took pillows and cushions from a break room to build a make-shift bed on the control room floor.

And this month, there were two more incidents.  A controller fell asleep on the job in Seattle, and days later a controller in Reno, Nevada, was snoozing when a plane carrying a critically ill passenger was seeking permission to land.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Federal Authorities Investigate Whether Air Traffic Controller Was Asleep on Duty

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An alarming report that an air traffic controller may have been asleep at one of the nation's major airports has now drawn the attention of federal authorities.

Pilots in two commercial planes have reported that as they approached the nation's capital Tuesday night, they were unable to contact air traffic control at Reagan National Airport before landing.

The American Airlines and United Airlines planes both had been in contact with regional air traffic controllers before being handed off to Reagan National. The pilots landed their planes safely but without help from the airport tower.

"Tower is apparently unmanned. Called on the phone. Nobody answering, so aircraft went in just as an uncontrolled airport," one pilot said, according to recorded radio communication.

In another transmission, a pilot said that "it's happened before."

The FAA, the agency responsible for air traffic control, said Wednesday it is investigating the report and promised that it is "looking into staffing issues and whether existing procedures were followed appropriate."

The NTSB added that it is looking into the incident, which occurred between midnight and 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

One pilot contacted by ABC News Wednesday said that while the incident was unusual, it would not have presented a danger to passengers, because pilots are trained to land without air traffic control.

While Reagan National is staffed with multiple air traffic controllers during the day, the overnight shift is managed by just one controller, because there are no departures overnight and few arrivals. The airport serves some 18 million passengers a year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Investigation Launched after Unusual Landing at Jackson Hole Airport

Jackson Hole Airport. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Wednesday that it would investigate an incident involving American Airlines flight 2253 at Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming.

The inbound flight from Chicago O'Hare International Airport reportedly ran off the end of the runway while landing Wednesday morning local time.  No injuries were reported among the 181 passengers and crew aboard the jetliner.

The plane came to rest 350 feet past the runway overrun area in hard-packed snow.  It was apparently snowing at the time of the incident.  No damage to the aircraft has been reported.

The Federal Aviation Association, Boeing, the  Allied Pilots Association and American Airlines have all agreed to participate in the investigation into the botched landing.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio