International Space Station

Antares Spacecraft Delivers and Gets Trashed

Private companies are once again helping NASA achieve its missions. SpaceX has grabbed most of the news, but Orbital Sciences is another company on the move. Orbital's Antares rocket launched this past weekend with the its Cygnus spacecraft on board, filled with 3,300 lbs of valuable supplies for our astronauts in the ISS.  Supplies on the Cygnus spacecraft include:

  • Nanosatellites designed to take images of Earth. The more pics, the better!
  • TechEdSat-4, which will help small samples to be returned to Earth from the space station.Being able to send small samples back to the planet, instead of needing to launch a retrievable spacecraft to collect it, will result in much quicker experiment turnaround.  
  • Satellites (SPHERES) to enable 3-D mapping and robotic navigation inside the space station.

After the supplies are moved from the Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS, Cygnus gets trashed.  No, Cygnus doesn't stop by a local bar - the astronauts literally fill the spacecraft with trash and send it back down to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. Gotta go out with a bang!

 Check out an amazing pic by one of NASA's incredible photographers:

Image Credit:   NASA/Bill Ingalls

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Space Living: Now and the Future

Astronauts are currently enjoying space living and travel via the International Space Station (ISS), but what about the future? If the answer is on a government owned site, we're all lost. Almost all government websites and social media accounts are offline due to the government shutdown here in the good old United States. Luckily, the inefficiency of Congress doesn't reach out to Earth orbit, because past and present astronaut bios are still online (probably hosted on a non-government server), and the astronauts in the ISS are still tweeting!  Check out this wonderful shot from astronaut Luca Parmitano (@Astro_Luca)

Luca and others are living that space life. Former astronaut Garret Reisman visited the Q&A website Quora to give us some insight on what it's like to transition into life in space. Via Quora:

At first it's just weird.  
All kinds of things are happening to your body.  Your vestibular system is all messed up - your inner ear isn't working at all and it's sending garbage signals to your brain.  Your heart, which is used to pumping against gravity to do its most important job, delivering oxygenated blood to your brain, is now pumping too much and your head gets all puffed-up.  (I woke up in the middle of my first night in orbit and wondered why I was standing on my head for a few seconds, until I realized, no - I was just in space.)  When you close your eyes to go to sleep, you see lightning flashes inside your eyeballs.
And you have a hard time just moving around.  The first day is filled with apologies as you inevitably kick or elbow your crewmates as you thrash around like a fish out of water.
But eventually you get the hang of it, and for those of us who were lucky enough to do long-duration missions, about a month into flight you finally really get used to it.  Then you wake up in the morning, float out of your sleeping bag, shoot across the space station like superman and turn a few somersaults on the way to the galley for breakfast. 
Now you are a real spaceman!

It's pretty amazing that it takes a month to get used to it.  It usually takes me a few days to get over something as simple as jetlag if I'm flying across the country.  Then again, I may be at home in space since here on Earth I'm already known for inevtiably kicking or elbowing people close to me due to my clumsiness.

Below are a few more interesting videos from the Quora thread. Former ISS Commander Sunita Williams gives us a walk through in Nov 2012 before she departs back to Earth.  On the second video, YouTube user VSauce speaks about how long it may take us to truly live amongst the stars. Check them out!

Gravity + Neil deGrasse Tyson = Awesome

I like space. I like movies. I like space movies. Contact is one of my favorite movies of all time, and introduced me to Carl Sagan. Moon is a lesser known flick that I've recommended to many folks. And Apollo 13 was better than most Tom Hanks movies.

I saw Gravity this weekend and it left a huge impression on me.  The acting and dialogue was good, but the breathtaking portions involved little to no dialogue and facisnating shots of the Earth, stars, floating astronauts, and satellites that may or may not survive.  

There was even a Shareef in the movie! Ok, a Sharif.  Close enough. 

The movie was extremely fun, and there were some great scientifically accurate parts (i.e. sound can't carry in space so there is no sound). With that said, it is a movie, and some things are exaggerated for truth.  Everyone's favorite astrophysicist Neil deGrasse tyson does his best job to ruin the party.

 

Neil just can't help being a scientist.  I don't blame him at all. I couldn't even bring myself to criticize the movie though because I LOVED it.

 

Preparing To Go To Mars + ISS Video

The International Space Station (ISS) will be testing a new module that will eventually help toward long duration spaceflight to places like Mars. If that isn't cool enough, the module, named BEAM, will be delivered by the private SpaceX Dragon spacecraft in 2015!  This is another example of the private industry taking on the challenges of spaceflight and coordinating not only with the US government, but the other governments involved with the ISS as well. I've covered the previous SpaceX launches here.

The astronauts inside of the ISS will be testing the BEAM module to make sure it is up to task. If you want to check out where they'll be testing, check out this video from inside the ISS that I found this while browsing CNET's Australian site.

In her final days as Commander of the International Space Station, Sunita Williams of NASA recorded an extensive tour of the orbital laboratory and downlinked the video on Nov. 18, just hours before she, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency departed in their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft for a landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan.

If you can't see the video below, click here.