Friday, November 30, 2007

Posing with Carlos, Sonia, Sarina and Hao at the Orchid Lounge in Los Angeles.

TONIGHT, I attended my friend Sonia’s birthday part at the Orchid Lounge in Los Angeles. It was fun... It was mostly drinking and singing karaoke, haha. I sang Sisqo’s "The Thong Song"—which was a bit faster than I expected. I haven’t heard that song for about 7 years, ya know... Should’ve just stuck with Bon Jovi’s "It’s My Life" or Aerosmith’s "Jaded" like I originally intended. Some other dude at the party sang Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise"...which would've been my third choice. It would've KICKED ASS if Warren G's "Regulate" was on the song list! Too bad it wasn't. Oh well.

Singing Sisqo's 'The Thong Song' in the karaoke room at the Orchid Lounge.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Olivia Wilde.
FOX / NBC Universal

MORE ON RANDOM BABE #2... In this previous Blog, I talked about how I hoped Thirteen (played by Olivia Wilde) would get chosen as the final doctor on House’s team on the hit TV show, um, House. Well, she did (at the end of Tuesday’s episode)...but only after Dr. Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) reprimanded House for selecting two other male doctors (Kutner, played by Harold and Kumar's Kal Penn and Taub, played by Transformer's Peter Jacobson) to be on his team. Of course, that was part of House's plan all long. He could only hire two applicants...and by not having a woman on his staff (no pun intended), Dr. Cuddy would take issue with it and make House hire a third medic. Good job House. New episodes premiere on FOX in January.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Mist approaches...

THE MIST... I saw the horror/sci-fi flick this weekend, and needless to say, I don’t think I’ve EVER felt so much anger or clapped this much for characters in a movie before. In fact, in the case of this film, I could type down two lists in this journal entry... The first one being for CHARACTERS WHO DESERVED TO SURVIVE (but didn’t) and the other for CHARACTERS WHO DESERVED TO DIE (and did). But first, let me point out the fact that the audience (at least the one I saw the movie with) reacted so strongly to the folks on-screen is a testimony to how well the actors and actresses portrayed them (and the script might have something to do with it too, haha). Well done. The characters you were suppose to like you did like, and the characters you were suppose to hate you REALLY hated. Now...onto the lists:

(BELOW: SPOILERS BEWARE!! Don't continue reading if you haven't seen the movie yet. And are planning to.)

Laurie Holden, Thomas Jane, Nathan Gamble, Jeffrey DeMunn and Frances Sternhagen in THE MIST.

AMANDA DUMBFRIES (played by Laurie Holden)... Amanda had such a sweet personality that you wished she’d REALLY open a can of whup-ass on Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) for treating her like crap—and literally calling Amanda ‘crap’—throughout most of the film. She had to meet her fate with a bullet (won’t tell you by which character...yet).
OLLIE (played by Toby Jones)... The audience I watched the film with cheered whenever he killed a mist creature, and Mrs. Carmody (more on this one later) with his revolver. He met his fate by one of those creatures.
DAN MILLER (played by Jeffrey DeMunn)... He didn’t do anything special, but it sucks that he ate the bullet (by the same character who capped Amanda) as well.


IRENE (played by Frances Sternhagen)... Irene instantly won the audience over after throwing a can of soup at Mrs. Carmody’s head to shut her up, and then using a barbecue lighter and what looked like a can of Raid as a blowtorch to incinerate a giant alien spider that was about to attack her in a drug store. Too bad her fate was the same as Amanda and Dan Miller.

Now, let’s get to the other list...

Norm (Chris Owen) is dragged out into The Mist by an unseen tentacled creature.

NORM (Chris Owen)... The bagboy was such a douchebag that you were glad those giant tentacles that made their way into that loading dock first mauled Norm before taking him out into the mist and chewed him up. Looks like Norm should’ve stuck with being the "Shermanator". Watch the American Pie films if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
BRENT NORTON (Andre Braugher)... It’s actually ambiguous as to what happened to Norton the minute he stubbornly exited the market door...but you wished something bad happened to him after mocking David Drayton (the main character played by The Punisher’s Thomas Jane) after Drayton tried to warn the judge about the dangers that lied out in the mist. That, and failing to cut down the tree that destroyed Drayton’s boathouse during a storm at the beginning of the film. Interestingly, how funny that it was mostly the other African-American customers who followed Norton out of the market...and apparently met their fate at the hands of the alien creatures as well. The token black folks always get killed off in Hollywood movies...


Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden).  The TRUE danger in the film...

MRS. CARMODY (Marcia Gay Harden)... If ever you were looking for a movie that taught you about the dangers of cults, or how extreme religious fanaticism can get, THIS is the movie. Marcia Harden did a bang-up job playing this crazy character, and you end up hating Mrs. Carmody more and more each time you saw her on screen. In fact, I would have to go out on a limb and say that Mrs. Carmody posed a much greater threat to the other customers than the creatures did out in the mist. In fact, she did. You hate Carmody for getting that one Army soldier (Wayne Jessup, played by Sam Witwer) killed by the mob that you want HER to meet The Maker as quickly as possible. And she SPECTACULAR fashion. Almost everyone in the audience (including I) clapped at the moment Carmody eats not one but two bullets by in the stomach and the other right in her forehead. Sorry for sounding so sadistic, but trust me... If you watch this film, you’ll be so fired up over how psychotic Carmody is that you want her to meet her fate as violently as possible. I don’t need to tell you that there are religious fanatics out there in real life who ARE as extreme as this character. 9/11 is a good reminder of that.

I deliberately waited till the end of this Blog to write about Thomas Jane’s character. David Drayton is an artist who does movie posters for Hollywood studios, and throughout much of the movie, you find it ironic that it is the showbiz guy who’s the most level-headed and noblest one among everybody in the market. However, this noble dude ends up doing something crazy at the end of the film that not even Mrs. Carmody would think of (unless she had Kool-Aid in hand). Wanna know how Amanda, Dan and Irene eat the bullet? Let’s just say... Drayton, in possession of the revolver after Ollie bites the dust, was determined NOT to let any of the people he cared about meet their fate at the hands of the mist creatures. KA-BLAM!!

For a mere horror film, The Mist sure does carry a lot of messages. The first one being about the dangers of religious fanaticism. The second one about how people become less civilized the minute "machines stop working and people are left out in the dark". The third one about the U.S. military engaging in secret projects at the expense of the general populace, and the last one being about how you act the minute you're faced with your mortality. Do you sacrifice your own life so you won’t face a painful death? Or do you let things play out as fate intended and wait till the end comes naturally? This last one is what makes the ending to The Mist a surprising one. I won’t necessarily say it’s a good ending, but it IS a lot lot more interesting than the finales you usually see in horror films (and people in this film do stupid things for valid reasons). Frank Darabont and Stephen King... You guys are craaazay.

Artwork depicting Amanda Dumbfries (Laurie Holden) and David Drayton (Thomas Jane) staring out at the U.S. military...who has something to do with The Mist...
All images courtesy of Dimension Films / MGM

UPDATE (ANOTHER SPOILER): The reason why this film is science fiction is because the mist has something to do with the U.S. military opening a gateway to another world...causing those alien creatures to get through and wreak havoc on the town (set in Maine but actually filmed in Louisiana) where the movie takes place. Hence that major electrical storm at the beginning of the movie.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

According to, presidential candidate Barack Obama stated that his education plan—if he is elected—will involve diverting funds from the Vision for Space Exploration and delay NASA’s Constellation program (which involves developing and launching the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle) for five years. Let’s see... There’s already a projected five-year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the first manned mission by Orion in 2015... That means the U.S. will be relying on Russia to send our astronauts into space till 2020 (which is when we would have returned humans to the Moon). Do the math, and that’s a 10-year absence where America isn’t gonna have its own manned spacecraft to send its own astronauts into orbit. As an advocate of the space program (in case you didn’t notice from most of the Blogs on this page), this is totally freakin’ unacceptable.

Overlooking Hilary Clinton's presumably positive stance on human spaceflight, I'm probably not gonna vote Democrat in 2008. Additional reasons would be that I wasted my vote on this losing side in 2000 (to the dull, but Nobel Prize-winning vice president) and 2004 (the bunny suit-wearing flip-flopper from Massachusetts). Obama's plan is hypocritical. And foolish. He wants to motivate kids to get more interested in math and science, and yet he wants to cut funding to the one government agency whose work is the epitome of math and science being used to the fullest. Good one, dude. I was thinking about voting for him until I read about his nonsense. Politics piss me off.

No to Obama as President in 2008.

UPDATE: Found this interesting tidbit on a message board:

"Just a note on survivability of a program beyond a President's term...ISS (the International Space Station) started under Reagan in 1984 and has survived—albeit not without change and compromise—through four presidencies, ten Congresses (a "congress" officially lasts two years) and 24 attempts to kill it in the Congress along the way. It's just not as simple as an initiative of a single presidential term...which is why the Congress "adopted" it as "national policy" in the 2005 NASA Authorization it wouldn't be tied to the president alone.

Obama, if elected, could propose diverting funds from Constellation to education, and the Congress could simply tell him "no." They are the ones that ultimately decide where the money goes; the president, whoever he or she is, only requests a budget."

Hm- That makes me feel a whole lot better. If you overlook the fact Congress is currently controlled by the Democrats.

Friday, November 23, 2007

"MEN AND WOMEN can’t be friends. The only reason why one would get a girlfriend is to eventually make out with her. If one just wanted to talk and hang out he’d chill with his male friends. The reason why a guy hangs out with a girl is because he finds something particularly attractive about her. If he doesn’t find her attractive, then the only reason why he’d talk to her is either because they’re co-workers and they’re working an assignment together...or he’s asking her about another girl she knows that he IS attracted to. Other than that, he’s not gonna pay that much, if any, attention to her. There is no such thing as ‘platonic love’ between a man and a woman. Unless that man, um, bats for the other team. Haha. That’s why one-sided love between a guy and a girl leads to a ruined friendship."

If that ain’t obvious-galore, I don’t know what is.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

HITMAN poster.

HITMAN... Tomorrow, the FOX film starring Timothy Olyphant (who played the main villain in Live Free or Die Hard) will be released in theaters. Looks pretty interesting...otherwise, I wouldn’t have typed a Blog on it, haha. Though I have one question: Was the barcode-tattoo-behind-the-head idea originally from the video game Hitman is based on, or was it taken from the long-defunct TV show Dark Angel? Or did the video game itself rip the idea off of Dark Angel? Or did Dark Angel rip the idea off of- Nevermind. All I can say is, I’ll actually be disappointed if they don’t play that "Ave Maria" song in the film. I think that’s what gives Hitman its the trailers and TV spots, that is.

TOP PIC: Olga Kurylenko and Timothy Olyphant in HITMAN.  BOTTOM PIC: Do you think Agent 47 ever gets the urge to get that barcode scanned at the local Albertsons market?  Probably not.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yvonne Strahovski.

RANDOM BABE BLOG #3... Today’s entry goes to Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Sarah Walker...the sexy CIA agent and unofficial love-interest of Zachary Levi's title character on NBC’s Chuck. I only saw one episode of the TV show (tonight), and Levi’s geeky store clerk being able to score with Strahovski and Rachel Bilson’s character is about as likely as Chuck actually being able to download secret government files into his brain in real life. Or Shia Labeouf getting with Megan Fox in real life. Just felt like throwing a Transformers reference in here, haha. Other than that, Chuck is still an entertaining program. Though you know which show I’m gonna watch on Mondays when Prison Break returns next January. Yes— Suspenseful drama wins out over hot blondes here. Speaking of suspense, I’m sooo peeved that Season 7 of 24 was delayed indefinitely by FOX. Damn strike.

CHUCK poster.

It’s only fitting that she’d be touching lots of wieners everyday. Who said that?

Yvonne Strahovski as CIA agent/Wienerlicious clerk Sarah Walker on CHUCK.
All images courtesy of NBC Universal

Yvonne Strahovski on Youtube:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Which NFL team would Al Bundy have been on if his life wasn't screwed over by his wife Peggy?  And if he and his lady from Wanker County were real?

AL BUNDY WOULD BE PROUD... Today, Terrell Owens scored four touchdowns during the Dallas Cowboys’ 28-23 victory over the Washington Redskins, and Randy Moss connected for four TD’s of his own (during the first half of the game) in the New England Patriots 56-10 romp of the Buffalo Bills. Pretty good for two players on different teams who share the same jersey number (81). Oh, and Tom Brady threw five touchdown passes (the first four going to Moss and the fifth going to Benjamin Watson), and the Pats are now 10-0 in the NFL. Al would be crying in his sleep right now...if the shoe salesman from Chicago was real. And Peggy didn’t keep asking for sex.

Married...with Children. Such a great show.

LEFT PIC: Terrell Owens scores one of his four touchdowns against the Redskins today.  RIGHT PIC: Randy Moss celebrates after scoring one of his quadruple touchdowns against the outmatched Bills.
AP / Tony Gutierrez and Don Heupel

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A GHOST AT THE GAS STATION... A few days ago, posted an interesting video reporting on a mysterious apparition that showed up on a gas station’s surveillance footage. It was mentioned that the station, located in Ohio, was built on what used to be an old Indian reservation. Numerous theories abound...with some people online either saying it’s a plastic bag (unless it could fly around on a windless day like that feather at the beginning and end of Forrest Gump, I don’t think so) or shoddy Disney animation (this footage looks a whole lot more interesting than the trailer and TV spots to Disney’s upcoming "masterpiece", Enchanted). You decide for yourself.

You can view the video here.

Still shots from a video showing a ghostly object flying around outside an Ohio gas station.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Olivia Wilde.

RANDOM BABE BLOG #2... No, I’m not posting these ‘cause I can’t think of any other thing to write about, haha (I have more awesome Space Blogs to write if that’s what you’re lookin’ for). Today’s gal is Olivia Wilde...who plays the aspiring doctor known as Thirteen on the hit FOX medical drama, House. If you guys are watching the current season on TV right now (Season 4), Dr. House is looking for a new staff to take the place of his original team (played by Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer) after the members either got fired or resigned at the end of last season. House is holding a competition where an applicant gets eliminated/fired at the end of each medical case—or show-wise: at the end of each week’s episode.

Dr. House leads Thirteen and all the other applicants to their first medical case in HOUSE.

Here’s hoping Thirteen either gets chosen as the final doctor, or is at least a runner-up. Kind of like how there’s always a hot girl who either wins or is a runner-up on American Idol or Hell’s Kitchen (overlooking the first season), haha. Of course, that’s assuming all the episodes for House this season were completed or close to completion prior to the WGA strike. Wilde has sexy eyes.

All images courtesy of FOX / NBC Universal

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The ORION logo that will be used by NASA on future Crew Exploration Vehicle missions.

ORION Update: This past week has seen a number of milestones for the Constellation Program...which is responsible for developing NASA’s replacement for the space shuttle after it is retired in 2010: The Ares rocket and Orion space vehicle. On November 9, construction began at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B for a trio of lightning towers that will protect the Ares rocket when it is out on the pad during a severe thunderstorm. Ares will begin test flights from Florida in 2009. The launch tower at LC-39B itself will not undergo renovation until late 2008...since it will be used one last time for the space shuttle next year. LC-39B will host a second shuttle (Endeavour) in case it has to launch on a rescue mission if Atlantis (the orbiter assigned to the mission) is found damaged in orbit after launching on next summer’s final Hubble Space Telescope servicing flight. Additional photos of the construction can be found here.

TOP PIC: Construction begins on the first of three lightning towers at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B.  BOTTOM PIC: An artist's concept of how LC-39B will look after being modified for the ARES rocket.
NASA / George Shelton

In other Ares-related news, NASA successfully tested the main parachute for the Ares’ first stage rocket booster during a drop test today at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Click here for more details.

The main parachute for Constellation Program rockets is tested Nov. 15 over the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz. Measuring 150-feet in diameter and weighing 2,000 pounds, the parachute is the largest of its kind that's been tested.
NASA / Marshall Spaceflight Center

In New Mexico, workers broke ground on a pad where NASA will test a launch abort system for the Orion spacecraft at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range. You can read more about it here.

TOP PIC: A computer rendition of a launch abort system (LAS) test taking place in White Sands, New Mexico.  BOTTOM PIC: A computer rendition showing NASA's ORION Crew Exploration Vehicle separating from its LAS during flight.

Damaris Sarria, a NASA engineer widely known for a Blog that is chronicling her exploits to become an astronaut, posted a brief entry on Tuesday talking about a prototype heat shield for Orion being shipped to NASA by Boeing. The shield was constructed at the Boeing facility in Huntington Beach, California. Too bad the actual spacecraft itself won’t be constructed at Huntington Beach...which is only a half-hour drive from me. Oh wait— Orion is being built by Lockheed Martin. Nevermind.

TOP PIC: Boeing engineer Elizabeth Chu inspects a prototype heat shield for the ORION Crew Exploration Vehicle.  BOTTOM PIC: A computer rendition showing ORION re-entering Earth's atmosphere.
NASA / Damaris B. Sarria

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Juliet Huddy.

A RANDOM BABE BLOG... Just felt like posting an entry about Juliet Huddy...of The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet (a TV talk show on the FOX channel) fame. She’s pretty hot... Actually, the way she first caught my attention is that she looks a lot like a former co-worker of mine. My co-worker was a hot Norwegian girl who I nicknamed Nina in this Blog—though her real name is Heidi. Heidi went back to Norway last December and then traveled to the United Kingdom to pursue acting. She came back to SoCal for another co-worker’s birthday party in June...but since I injured my shoulder a few weeks before that, I decided not to go since driving aggravated the pain. Oh well. Maybe Heidi will visit L.A. again next year, haha.

Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick on THE MORNING SHOW WITH MIKE AND JULIET.

So anyways, yea... Huddy is hot.

All images courtesy of FOX

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A series of still shots taken from Kaguya's 'Earthset' video.

KAGUYA Update... The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) released new video footage today showing the Earth rising and setting behind the Moon’s horizon. The footage was taken by the Kaguya spacecraft’s high-definition television camera...and was anticipated by folks long before Kaguya launched to the Moon exactly two months ago.

The Earth rises above the lunar horizon in this video screenshot from the Kaguya spacecraft.

The Earth sets below the lunar horizon in this video screenshot from the Kaguya spacecraft.

The first image above, a screenshot from the video itself, shows the Earth rising above the lunar horizon...and was taken using wide-angle lens on the HDTV camera. The second screenshot, as well as the series of still pics at the top of this journal entry, shows our home planet setting below the lunar horizon...and was taken using telephoto lens on the HDTV camera. There are two components to Kaguya’s camera—the wide-angle lens that faces in the direction of flight (when the "Earthrise" video was taken) and the telephoto lens that points backward behind the spacecraft (when the "Earthset" video was shot). Compare the images above to the ones below...which were taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 and Apollo 8 astronauts, respectively, around 40 years ago:

TOP PIC: The Earth rises above the Moon's horizon in this pic taken by the Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft in 1966.  BOTTOM PIC: Earth rises above the lunar horizon in this image taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968.

Below are the videos as they were posted on Youtube. The videos were combined into one long clip, which is why it runs almost 9-minutes long. The Earthrise footage is the first one shown, while the second one starts about 4 minutes, 20 seconds into the clip.

KAGUYA Blog Entries Archive:

April 11, 2007
September 5, 2007
September 13, 2007
October 4, 2007
October 26, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christian Bale reprises his role as the Caped Crusader...aka the Dark Knight...aka Batman.

THE DARK KNIGHT Update... Below are several photos from next summer’s anticipated blockbuster film. Heath Ledger plays The Joker, Christian Bale returns as—you guessed it—the Dark Knight, Michael Caine reprises his role as the faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman is back as James Gordon, Morgan Freeman is once again Lucius Fox, Cilian Murphy will make another appearance as the villainous Scarecrow, and Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Bruce Wayne’s love interest, Rachel Dawes. Prison Break and Black Hawk Down’s William Fichtner plays a bank manager, and Thank You for Smoking’s Aaron Eckhart is Harvey Dent. Oh, and Christopher Nolan is once again directing. Of course, I could’ve just provided a link to The Dark Knight’s IMDb page and spare my fingers of all that typing, haha. The Bat Pod looks awesome...though I hope the Batmobile (a.k.a. the Tumbler) returns in the sequel. The Dark Knight will be released on July 18, 2008.

The Clown Prince of Crime...aka The Joker, in THE DARK KNIGHT.
THE DARK KNIGHT Photo Montage.
THE DARK KNIGHT Photo Montage.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Most of the vehicles that were used in TRANSFORMERS are shown above.  The MH-53 Pave Low chopper that was used for Blackout, the minesweeper that was used for Bonecrusher and the M1A1 Abrams tank that was the alternate mode for Brawl (mistakenly called Devastator in the movie) are not shown.  And, of course, the Cybertronian jet that played Megatron is also nowhere to be seen.  Maybe Lockheed Martin is secretly working on making it a real aircraft, haha.

THIS BLOG would’ve been a bit more relevant if it was posted back in July (when the movie came out), but oh well. I found these awesome images on this site, and thought it would be cool to post them here. What’s great about these pics is that they are PNG files...meaning there are no backgrounds in them, and I can superimpose the robots onto any other image. Thank God for Photoshop. Here’s hoping that Michael Bay’s official website, which originally provided these snapshots, will do the same thing for all the new 'bots that will be in Transformers 2. I’m sure he will. Anyways, enjoy.

The Mountain Dew Bot.

NOTE: Ratchet, Bonecrusher, Devastator/Brawl, Scorponok and Barricade aren't shown. Neither are the Mountain Dew Bot, the Nokia Bot, the X-Box Bot (or X Bot) nor that Escalade Bot whose steering wheel attacks that hot girl's face. Sorry.

Optimus Prime.








Thursday, November 08, 2007

The WGA Strike... I’d be indifferent, if not for the fact the screenplay for Transformers 2 hasn’t been completed yet, and production on the sequel will most likely be delayed. How this affects the film’s June 26, 2009 release date, we shall see. Also, the seventh season of 24 may be delayed because of the walkout as well. Worse-case scenario: Day 7 will be pushed back to 2008-09! In the words of Jack Bauer: Damn it! Curse you Writers Guild of America! And curse those screenwriters’ hides! Just kidding. Anyways, I need to re-register my Hard-Cores II script (which I wrote in 2001) with the Guild as soon as I can. Which would The screenplay’s first certificate expired in February. No, I didn’t write a porno flick...

24 logo.

Back to Transformers... The DVD sold 8.3 million units in the first week since its October 16 release. If you want to put this in perspective, 300 took 10 weeks to sell 8.3 million copies, and Happy Feet took 6 months to sell 9 million copies. In its second week, Transformers remained No. 1 with 5.1 million units sold and a two-week gross of $117,010,180. In its third week of release, Transformers fell to second place after the Spider-Man 3 DVD made its debut. However, the Michael Bay flick is still No. 1 in HD DVD sales. Thank the Transformers Live Action Movie Blog and Superhero Hype for the details.

Mikaela and Sam are awed by how cool the 24 Logo looks.  That is, if they were staring in the right direction.

UPDATE (February 12, 2008): The writers' strike has finally ended. WOOHOO!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The crew of shuttle mission STS-120 gather inside the Harmony module a day after it was attached to the International Space Station.

7 MISSIONS DOWN, 11 MORE TO GO... Of course, this excludes two as-yet unconfirmed contingency shuttle flights around 2009 or 2010. The orbiter Discovery touched down at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 10:01 AM, PST today...paving the way for one more shuttle flight in 2007 as Atlantis prepares for launch next month. Atlantis is now mated to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters, and will be rolled out to the launch pad on Saturday. Its cargo, the European Space Agency’s Columbus science module, arrived at the pad last night. With each completed mission, the International Space Station (ISS) continues to grow in size [except during next year's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission... I'll get to that soon]. And yet sadly, each mission accomplished means the shuttle is getting closer to retirement 3 years from now...after 29 years of being America’s primary way of sending astronauts into space. Atlantis herself is scheduled for deactivation after she flies the very last servicing mission to HST in 2008 (this is the only remaining flight in the program where the shuttle won’t be going to the ISS). The third image below contains artwork depicting the shuttle’s replacement, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, in its latest incarnation. Orion is scheduled to become operational no earlier than 2014, when it will initially be used to carry out logistical flights to the ISS. From 2016 on, however, the CEV will hopefully be utilized for what President Bush announced back in January of 2004: Returning humans to the Moon, and eventually setting the stage for a manned flight to Mars. Or at least a Near-Earth Asteroid. That last one seems a bit more doable right now. Somewhat.

Space shuttle DISCOVERY touches down at Cape Canaveral in Florida on November 7, 2007.
NASA / Tom Farrar & Kim Shiflett

Computer renditions of the ORION Crew Exploration Vehicle.
Courtesy of

UPDATE (November 8): President Bush greets the STS-120 crew outside Air Force One, on the tarmac at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas:

President Bush greets the STS-120 crew outside Air Force One, on the tarmac at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.
White House / Eric Draper

UPDATE (November 10): Last flight of the year... Rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building around 1:43 AM PST this morning, space shuttle Atlantis was officially secured at the launch pad around 8:51 AM PST today. Its launch on mission STS-122 is still set for December 6.

Rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building around 1:43 AM PST this morning, space shuttle ATLANTIS was officially secured at the launch pad around 8:51 AM PST today.  Its launch on mission STS-122 is still set for December 6.
NASA / Kim Shiflett