22 February 2011

New Zealand’s second deadliest earthquake happens in Christchurch, killing 185 people.

At 12.51 p.m. on Tuesday 22 February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake caused severe damage in Christchurch and Lyttelton, killing 185 people and injuring several thousand.

The earthquake’s epicentre was near Lyttelton, just 10 km southeast of Christchurch’s central business district. It occurred nearly six months after the 4 September 2010 earthquake.

The earthquake struck at lunchtime, when many people were on the city streets. More than 130 people lost their lives in the collapse of the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings. Falling bricks and masonry killed 11 people, and eight died in two city buses crushed by crumbling walls. Rock cliffs collapsed in the Sumner and Redcliffs area, and boulders tumbled down the Port Hills, with five people killed by falling rocks.

Although not as powerful as the magnitude 7.1 earthquake on 4 September 2010, this earthquake occurred on a shallow fault line that was close to the city, so the shaking was particularly destructive.

The earthquake brought down many buildings damaged the previous September, especially older brick and mortar buildings. Heritage buildings suffered heavy damage, including the Provincial Council Chambers, Lyttelton’s Timeball Station, the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. More than half of the buildings in the central business district have since been demolished, including the city’s tallest building, the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Liquefaction was much more extensive than in September 2010. Shaking turned water-saturated layers of sand and silt beneath the surface into sludge that squirted upwards through cracks. Thick layers of silt covered properties and streets, and water and sewage from broken pipes flooded streets. House foundations cracked and buckled, wrecking many homes. Irreparable damage led to the demolition of several thousand homes, and large tracts of suburban land were subsequently abandoned.

The government declared a national state of emergency the day after the quake. Authorities quickly cordoned off Christchurch’s central business district. The cordon remained in place in some areas until June 2013. Power companies restored electricity to 75 per cent of the city within three days, but re-establishing water supplies and sewerage systems took much longer.

9 March 2011

The Space Shuttle Discovery makes its final landing after 39 flights.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The shuttle Discovery braved the hellish fire of re-entry for the last time Wednesday and glided back to Earth to close out the space plane’s 39th and final voyage, an emotion-charged milestone marking the beginning of the end for America’s shuttle program.

Dropping through a partly cloudy sky, the commander, Steven W. Lindsey, and Col. Eric A. Boe of the Air Force guided Discovery through a sweeping left overhead turn, lined up on Runway 15 and floated to a picture-perfect touchdown at 11:57 a.m. Eastern time to wrap up an extended 13-day space station assembly mission.

As it coasted to a stop under a brilliant noon sun, Discovery had logged some 5,750 orbits covering nearly 150 million miles during 39 flights spanning a full year in space — a record unrivaled in the history of manned rockets.

“And Houston, Discovery, for the final time, wheels stopped,” Mr. Lindsey radioed flight controllers in Houston.

The space shuttle Discovery ended its final mission Wednesday, landing smoothly in Florida.
“Discovery, Houston, great job by you and your crew,” replied Charles Hobaugh, an astronaut in mission control. “That was a great landing in tough conditions, and it was an awesome docked mission you all had.”

Mr. Lindsey and Colonel Boe were joined aboard Discovery by Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr.; Nicole P. Stott; Michael R. Barratt, a physician-astronaut; and Capt. Stephen G. Bowen of the Navy.

Continue reading the main story

Museums Compete for NASA’s Soon-to-be-Retired Space Shuttles MARCH 8, 2011
Shuttle Discovery Makes Final Landing MARCH 9, 2011, 3:01 P.M. E.S.T.
FEB March 12, 2011
Not science. Nostalgia.Please provide more real science articles and less paparazzi journalism.

FEB March 12, 2011
Schlock!The truly sad part about his is that we hold this pathetic space program in any regard. Poorly made with a poor safety record and…

Dave Huntsman March 11, 2011
As a proud veteran of 20 years on the space shuttle team, I nevertheless want to correct BIll Harwood when he says “But between Atlantis’s…

As support crews swarmed onto the broad runway, engineers in the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building were busy preparing the shuttle Endeavour for rollout. The target date for Endeavour’s 25th and final flight is April 19.

NASA’s remaining orbiter, the Atlantis, is scheduled for liftoff June 28 on the shuttle program’s 135th flight, the final chapter in a post-Apollo initiative that produced what is arguably the most complex, capable and costly manned rockets ever built.

”We’re seeing a program come to a close here, and to see these shuttles, these beautiful, magnificent flying machines, end their service life is obviously a little bit sad for us,” Dr. Barratt said.

“But it is about time — they’ve lived a very long time, they’ve had a fabulous success record,” he added. “We look forward to seeing them retire with dignity and bringing on the next line of spaceships.”

What sort of spaceship might ultimately replace the shuttle is an open question, and it is not yet clear how NASA will fare in the budget debate.

But between Atlantis’s landing this summer and the debut of whatever vehicle replaces it — several years from now at best — the only way for American astronauts to reach orbit will be to hitch rides aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft at $55 million a seat.

That is a bitter pill for the thousands of men and women who have worked on the shuttle fleet over the past three decades, who now face layoffs and the prospect of seeing Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis — the world’s most sophisticated spacecraft — turned into museum displays.

“We won’t do anything nearly as complex with another vehicle for a very long time,” Mr. Drew said. “Five or 10 years from now, they’re going to look back and say ‘How did we ever build a vehicle that could do all these things?’ ”

Correction: March 9, 2011
An earlier version of this article misstated the military standing of the astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr. He retired from the Air Force as a colonel; he is not a captain in the Air Force.

27 August 2011

Hurricane Irene hits the United States east coast. 47 are killed.


Irene was one of the costliest storms in U.S. history and killed at least 47 people here and at least eight more in the Caribbean and Canada.

Irene was not considered a major hurricane because it did not have winds exceeding 111 mph, or Category 3, when it made landfall in North Carolina on Aug. 27.

You would think the impacts would be somewhat light, but the damages caused by Irene will be up there in one of the top 30 or so storms.The season produced the third-highest number of tropical storms on record, with 19, but only a slightly higher-than-average number of hurricanes, with six.

Read said low pressure systems on the East coast and high pressure systems over the central U.S. created favorable steering currents that kept the storms mostly churning far out to sea.

Storms won’t move into high pressure, clearing the way for an easy storm season for the U.S. Gulf Coast. An exception was Tropical Storm Lee, which formed off the Louisiana coast and drenched much of the eastern U.S.The rare combination of near-record ocean temperatures but unusually dry, stable air over the Atlantic was partially responsible for the unusually high count of named storms.

9 March 2011

The space shuttle Discovery makes its final landing after 39 flights.

The oldest and most traveled space shuttle, Discovery, landed back on Earth after its final space flight and will now end its days as a museum piece to the delight the crowds.The shuttle cruised onto the runway at Kennedy Space Center at 1657 GMT, wrapping up a rich, 27-year career in spaceflight that has spanned more distance and endured longer than any of the remaining three US shuttles.

Discovery’s arrival back on Earth marks the beginning of the end for the three-decade old US shuttle program, which will formally end after Endeavour and Atlantis take their final spaceflights in the coming months.“Discovery is an amazing spacecraft and she has served her country well,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “The success of this mission and those that came before it is a testament to the diligence and determination of everyone who has worked on Discovery and the Space Shuttle Program, over these many years. As we celebrate the many accomplishments of this magnificent ship, we look forward to an exciting new era of human spaceflight that lies ahead.”

Discovery’s last trip to the International Space Station was initially scheduled to last 11 days but was extended to 13 so that astronauts could work on repairs and install a spare room.