Tag Archives: ISS

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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Discovery Update 2

Discovery arrived at the ISS on Saturday.  I always love watching the actual docking, because the piece of equipment used, the Orbiter Docking System was one I got to work on during my co-op with United Space Alliance.  It’s a pretty cool piece of equipment.  It was made in Russia, originally intended to allow the Russian shuttle, Buran, to dock with the Mir space station.   The markings on the mechanism are all in Cyrillic, and even the electrical schematics are in Cyrillic.  Kinda funky when you are trying to read those schematics to locate a problem, like we had in the summer of 2009. 

Anyway, back to this mission.  Check out these NASA Videos for the highlights of the flight so far.  Each is just a little 3-5 minute bit of video and voice over about the highlights of each mission day.  Today is also the first spacewalk, or EVA, of the mission.  The astronauts are putting away a broken coolant pump module that had been replaced on the last mission, but had been left attached to the outside of the ISS.  They are also rerouting a power cable to get ready for the new PMM module that discovery brought up (see my first post on Discovery).  EVAs are interesting, but can be a little boring if you don’t understand what is going on.  everything the astronauts do seems to be in slow motion, due to the bulky nature of their suits, as well as all the other concerns on their mind.  Something as simple as turning a wrench is not so simple, as if the astronaut is not braced, he could end up turning himself around, and not the bolt. 

All the EVAs and other shuttle activities are broadcast on NASA TV.  Because of the timing of this mission, all the interesting stuff is happening during the work day, which means I’ve not been able to watch.  IF you are in the same boat, I recommend the highlight videos I mentioned above.  Enjoy!

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Space Shuttle Discovery

Yesterday, Feb 24, the space shuttle Discovery lifted off on her last flight.  This mission is going to the International Space Station (ISS) to drop off a new Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM).  This is a big new room that will be used on the ISS as a place to store spare parts, experiments and whatever else the astronauts on board need to stash somewhere.  The PMM is actually the former Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) named Leonardo.  The MPLM has been used in the past to take supplies up to the station, and to bring experiments, broken parts and trash back to earth in the space shuttle.  This PMM is the last habitable section to be added to the US side of the ISS.  The Russians however are planning to launch several modules to expand the ISS over the coming years. 

Discovery is also carrying along a cool new robot, called Robonaut 2, or R2 (Seriously guys, R2?  I guess it’s harmless publicity, but still).   It’s a humanoid torso robot that is supposed to be able to perform construction tasks and work with repetitive experiments to space the astronaut crew some boring or hard or dangerous labour.  Initially R2 will work inside the ISS with the astronauts, but at some later point the plan is to add some lower appendages and to use R2 outside the station.  There are even ground version of robonaut that use wheels that could be used on the moon or mars (Someday.  I’ll talk about that in some other posts.) 

This is Discovery’s 39th and last flight.  She’s been flying since 1984 as the third space-worthy shuttle to be built and, with Challenger and Columbia having been lost, is the oldest shuttle in the fleet.  Discovery flew a number of notable missions over the years, including the launch of the Hubble space telescope, she was the first shuttle to visit the russian Mir space station, John Glenn flew on her as the oldest person ever in space, and she was the shuttle chosen to make the first flight after both the Challenger and Columbia disasters. 

All the space shuttles (Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour) are being retired after 1 or two more mission.  Endeavour will fly the next mission, STS-134 sometime this spring or summer.  She will carry a cool new experiment that will mount on the outside of the ISS called AMS-02 that will act like the detector of a particle accelerator.  Instead of using a huge machine to accelerate particles, AMS-02 will use detect the particles already zooming through space from supernova and other cool space stuff. 

Atlantis may or may not fly one more time.  Congress told NASA they can fly it, and NASA wants to fly it.  Problem is Congress didn’t feel like giving NASA any more money to actually pay for the mission.    So, we’ll have to see.  But yeah, that would be it for the old space shuttles.  I’ll write more in the future about what’s next, but my crystal ball is still pretty cloudy. 

And back to the launch, here you can find some cool videos and photos, and photos, and photos.  And if you want to follow the mission as it happens, check out this site with live video of the mission, and a blog with updates.  This site is a bit harder to follow, but sometimes has information you won’t find anywhere else.  And for the really hard-core, the mission flight plan and press kit (careful, that last one is a ~15MB pdf) are available. 

 Let me know if you want any more information, or any other feedback.  Thanks!

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