Thursday, January 5, 2012
ISS astronauts do the interview thing.
As the world turns...
Up in the International Space Station, six astronauts and cosmonauts continue to work in zero gravity, performing maintenance and science experiments in their orbital home. While space-faring nations busy themselves with rocket launches, space politics, and capsule testing, the ISS Expedition 30 crew keeps working on the frontier of space adventure.
Comet Lovejoy as seen from the ISS.
Commander Dan Burbank was in the observation cupola at the right moment on December 22. Carefully aiming his camera, he managed to take a beautiful shot of Comet Lovejoy as it appears just above the Earth's atmosphere. Actually many millions of miles away, the comet's tail seems to float leisurely above our planet. This picture will undoubtedly become one of the iconic memorable moments of ISS history.
Astronaut Shannon Walker works on the SAME.
When the crew of Expedition 30 isn't studying the Earth, they are busy maintaining the station's life support systems, working on experiments, or exercising to keep up their health. The SAME (Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiment) experiment is located in the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox. Using the SAME helps our scientists develop new ways to detect the difference between smoke and dust particles. This technology will help our engineers build effective detectors for spacecraft and aircraft in the future.
SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule is being prepared for a launch to the ISS.
During today's interview with Space.com and Fox News Radio, the astronauts mentioned they were looking forward to the upcoming visit of the Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft. Built by SpaceX, the Dragon will give the ISS program a new way to return valuable equipment and materials back to Earth-bound scientists. The Dragon launch is set for February 7.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Second GRAIL probe above lunar surface.
Launched last September, the GRAIL lunar probes have finally arrived at the Moon and successfully entered orbit. GRAIL-A fired its thruster on Sunday, and 24 hours later, GRAIL-B joined its partner to circle the Moon. Over the next coupe of months, the two spacecraft will use minute bursts of thrust to align themselves into a stable orbit of 55 kilometers above the surface.
Once in their stable orbit, the two probes will maintain a communications link with each other, and measure the disturbances in altitude and separation of spacecraft to help probe the gravity field of the Moon, helping scientists to understand more about the Moon's interior.
Students in 5th through 8th grades are participating in this exploration. Each probe includes a GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students). The cameras will receive requests from students across the country, and the returned images will be studied by students in their science classes.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Yes, more rocks from space. Duck and Cover!
Tonight marks the appearance of the Quadrantid meteor shower. For some time, it was not known what the source was for this small but sometimes spectacular show of rocky debris burning up in the atmosphere. Eventually it was determined that the meteors might be remnants of a rocky fragment of "2003 EH-1," a rocky Near-Earth-Orbit object which in turn may be broken off from comet C/1490 Y1. The breakup may have occurred only 500 years ago, so the Quadrantids are a fairly new meteor shower.
The meteors will most likely appear coming from the constellation of Bootes, near Polaris, at about 2:20 am January 4 (Wednesday morning) EST. It's supposedly a short-event shower, which means tit may peak quickly at about 60-80 streaks per hour. This indicates the debris lies in a narrow band as the Earth passes through. Checking weather forecasts indicate hazy skies and very cold tonight.
Here at the SpaceRubble Command Bunker, work has started this week after the holiday vacation so it's doubtful I'll be willing to witness this shower. It may depend as well on the fickle weather here in Utah. Still, the relatively brief intensity of this shower is interesting and some fireballs have been seen in past showers, so it may be worth it. Working against this is also the freezing temperatures, so if you decide to brave the danger, dress warm and be prepared to duck!
Glenn in the cockpit of an F-106 trainer.
NASA passed the near year of 1962 preparing for the first flight of an American in orbit of the Earth. Astronaut and Marine John Glenn continued his training in aircraft, simulators, and laboratories as the Mercury capsule he would fly was mated to the Atlas rocket at Cape Canaveral. The flight of the mission was designated MA-6, and was scheduled for January 23rd 1962. The Atlas rocket for the flight had been designated as Atlas 109D, and the capsule was Mercury capsule number 13 (ominous?) which had been built at McDonnell Aircraft's space craft assembly plant in St. Louis, Missouri.
Training with Glenn were astronauts Scott Carpenter, who would be Glenn's backup pilot, and astronauts Deke Slayton and Wally Schirra who were training for the second Mercury-Atlas spaceflight. Glenn's flight would be launched from Launch Complex 14.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
GlobalStar navigation satellites in production.
After last week's launch failure, Russia has replaced its malfunctioning third stage on the Soyuz rocket with ArianneSpace's Fregat orbital stage. On Wednesday Russia launched 6 GlobalStar navigational position satellites into orbit successfully. This is the third set of 6 launched for the system, replacing an old and failing system. The happy launch also brings relief to Russian space managers, although they still have to investigate the cause of the Russian third stage failures.
China also added to the vast assembly of satellites in orbit with the launch of a "Compass" GPS satellite. Ten of the system's satellites are already in orbit, and six more are scheduled. Their goal is to compete with the USA's GPS system.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Chinese Taikonaut in orbit of Earth. Credit: CCTV.
China continues to make ambitious plans for its space program development. There are plans to expand the Tiangong-1 space station and send a human crew to visit. There are also plans to exceed 2011's number of space launches. You can see a video of their space plans at Parabolic Arc's website : http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/12/28/video-chinas-ambitious-human-spaceflight-program/
Last year, China beat the USA in the number of space launches, 19 to 18. Each country suffered one launch failure. This was the first year China has exceeded the number of USA launches. Their space launch program has definitely improved over the old days of failures and explosions on the launch pads.
I still don't hear any mention of thanks to the USA for the technology they have improperly obtained through spying and computer espionage. I doubt we ever will.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Santa docks at the ISS.
The secret is out: Santa has no problem dealing with world-wide travel. We knew he was able to bend time and space to deliver gifts to billions around the world in one evening, but now we have proof that the secret is in his advanced technology sled. Images are now available showing Santa docking with the International Space Station and receiving a refueling of some sort of top-secret power source. This also explains how the world was convinced to work together to build the ISS and keep it manned even during difficult times.
Santa maneuvers over the ISS after refueling.
The images come courtesy NASA and the Canadian Space Agency and a bit of computer animation magic. You can find the complete animation at Parabolic Arc: http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/12/24/video-nasa-falls-behind-santa-claus-in-human-spaceflight/
Soyuz rockets are used both for human and satellite launches.
I'm afraid it's coal for Christmas from Santa for the Russians. On Friday, Russia suffered yet another rocket failure, this time a Soyuz rocket third stage. The communications satellite failed to achieve orbit., and apparently has crashed somewhere in Siberia. This is the fifth failure in a year and a half for the Russians, and has many space leaders concerned. The major concern from the USA is that the Soyuz rocket is also used to launch astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS.
TMA-03M 290 miles above Africa, approaching the ISS.
The satellite launch failure was tempered by the successful docking on Friday of additional crew to the ISS. Thankfully no problems with THIS Soyuz. The additional Expedition 30 crew will bring the crew total to six on the station, and full operations will begin immediately. THe crew had been limited to three temporarily, due to delays in the Russian launches caused by previous Russian rocket failures.
Without the Shuttle program, the US is totally reliant on rides to ISS with our Russian partners, who promptly began overcharging for seats on the capsule. With the dangers now inherent in Soyuz launches, I imagine our space insurance rates will be increasing as well. One can only imagine the true thoughts of our brave astronauts who have to ride the Soyuz at these times.