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Space Update

I haven’t done any space posts in a while, so I’ll include some updates about stuff going on above the atmosphere.  As seen in the picture above, the Expedition 27 crew for the International Space Station launched from Kazakhstan on their way to the ISS.  They are flying on the Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft, lifting off from the exact same launchpad that Yuri Gagarin flew from back in 1961. 

And it’s interesting that I mention Yuri, because next Tuesday, the 12th, is Yuri’s Night.   It’s the 50th anniversary of the first time humanity orbited our home planet.  Space organizations and nerds around the globe make it a big night of celebration.  If this sounds interesting, click the link for Yuri’s night above.  They have collected there a ton of parties around the world, so you can find a local one if it sounds like your thing. 

In other news, the space shuttle Endeavour is being readied for launch on April 29th, for her last flight into space.  She’s carrying a bunch of spare parts, as well as a super cool high-energy physics experiment that will be left at the station to do science over the next decade. 

Discovery, having returned to earth for the last time is in the process of being safed and readied for transport to the Smithsonian museum.   I will definitely make a visit to see her once she’s there.  I miss that job.

The MESSENGER spacecraft around Mercury is sending back awesome photos of never-before-seen parts of that planet. 

SpaceX has made of bunch of ripples with an announcement they want to build a big super rocket to launch something like 58 tons to low earth orbit.  Unfortunately, every article I see about this reads exactly like a press release.  I’m all for SpaceX, and I wish them well.  I just wish there was a bit more skepticism out there about their claims for cost to orbit and such.  I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude. 

Not much new from the rovers on Mars.  Spirit is still silent, and I think might be gone for good, while Opportunity continues to drive merrily along on the other side of the red planet.  She’s already passed 17 miles, and is years and years past her expiration date. 

The Dawn spacecraft is due to arrive at the asteroid Vesta this July.  I really like this mission, because it’s doing something no spacecraft has done.  It’s going to arrive at Vesta and go into orbit around that.  Then, after it’s spent about a year there, it will fire up it’s ion engine again, and head off to visit another asteroid, Ceres.  Ceres is the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, and is so large it’s gravity has smooshed it into a perfect sphere, like a planet.  Dawn will spend another year there doing science.  Two asteroids, one spacecraft, lots of science.  What’s not to love?

If there is anything you can think of you’d like to ask about, please do below.  Thanks!

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