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NASA Astronaut Takes You On A Guided Tour Of The ISS

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I’ve seen a lot of great videos on the topic of space exploration in my time here at GFR. We all thrilled to the gripping footage of Curiosity’s descent to Mars this past summer, and we’ve seen how people such as Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson can speak with a passion and eloquence about our universe that borders on poetry. But of all the videos I’ve run across while writing for GFR, I think this one may be my favorite.

This past November, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams was about to depart the International Space Station and return home to Earth. But in the hours before she boarded her ride back to the surface, she decided to give space junkies like us a wonderful, gift: a guided tour of the entire space station. She provides tons of fascinating insights into the work that goes on aboard the ISS, as well as all the day-to-day life of astronauts and cosmonauts on the station. It’s completely worth setting aside 25 minutes of your time to watch the whole thing. And not just because her hair looks awesome in zero-g. Take it away, Commander Williams…


Singer Sarah Brightman May Be Russia’s Next Space Tourist

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Way back in 2001, Russia found out the best way to irritate management at NASA was to sell seats aboard their Soyuz spacecraft and let tourists float around on the International Space Station. Since that time, only seven space tourists have gotten the chance to see what the interior of a $100 billion dollar space station smells like. That number may now get a bump to eight with the help of British soprano and actress Sarah Brightman.

Today Reuters reported that an unnamed source inside the Russian space industry has said that Brightman will be the next tourist to make the journey to the ISS, sometime during 2015. This will make the 52-year-old star of The Phantom of the Opera and…ugh…Repo the Genetic Opera the first space tourist to make the trip since 2009. This won’t be Brightman’s first brush with the space tourism industry, as she partnered with Virgin Galactic to start the Brightman STEM scholarship program. The program will help women in the U.S. pursue their education in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) throughout a four-year college term. I guess this means she decided she wouldn’t be satisfied with the short little suborbital hop that Virgin Galactic could provide.


Rocket Porn: ISS Expedition 32 Launches From The Baikonur Cosmodrome

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The space program is dead. Long live the space program! The United States may not be launching any manned missions to space from inside its borders anymore, but that doesn’t stop NASA from sending people up to the International Space Station aboard Russia’s rockets. This past Saturday, while thousands of Americans were waiting to hear the latest Iron Man 3 news out of Comic-Con, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko along with JAXA Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA Astronaut Sunita Williams launched into space aboard the Soyuz TMA-05M rocket.


SpaceX’s Launch Delayed Again

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Space flight is tricky business and it does not always come easily. SpaceX – the private space transport company founded by PayPal and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk – seems to be finding this out the hard way. In 2010, SpaceX was the first private company to ever launch and successfully retrieve a spacecraft from orbit. The launch of its new Falcon 9 rocket and unmanned Dragon spacecraft – part of its plan to be able to provide cargo and staff transport to the International Space Station – has been delayed once again.

Initially planned for April 30 then pushed back to May 7, the launch is now planned for an as-yet-unspecified future date. The shift to May 7 was partially caused by the software for remote-controlling the Dragon capsule in orbit being too sensitive. As Musk told Wired last week, “essentially Dragon got scared and ran away, when it shouldn’t have.” The ISS crew does need to be able to tell the spacecraft to retreat if that becomes necessary during its approach but, obviously, hypersensitivity can be just as dangerous as its lack.  SpaceX has not confirmed that this same software issue is to blame for the latest delay, but Wired thinks it is likely the culprit.


Russia Planning An Entire Space Industry, Not Just A Moon Return

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Yesterday we told you about Russia’s plan to put a man on the moon by 2030, but now more details of their intentions towards space have been revealed. It’s not just a return to the moon they’re targeting, but an entire industry in outer space.

Here’s a point by point breakdown of everything Russia wants to accomplish by the year 2030, as reported by Wired:

    – Construction on a new Vostochny cosmodrome is already underway in the east of Russia. Will be completed by 2018.
    – By 2020 Russia plans to have a new, six-seat rocket called the Angara in use, replacing the outdated Soyuz as the backbone of their space fleet.
    – Russian robot probes will be sent to Mars to collect samples.
    – A network of unmanned stations will land and be positioned permanently on Mars.
    – Russian astronauts will land on the moon.
    – Planetary probes will be sent to Venus and Jupiter.
    – They’re considering plans for an orbiting station to replace the International Space Station, which is only funded until 2020.

Russia Planning A Moon Colony Built Inside Lunar Lava Tubes

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The United States may have won the first leg of the space race, but the Russians are winning the space marathon. While America mothballs its space program and cuts funding, the Russians are not only continuing on with theirs… they’re making plans to be the first country to establish a base on the moon.

Researchers have recently discovered volcanic tunnels on the moon and Russia is considering using those tunnels to house a moon colony. The head of Russia’s Star City cosmonaut training center outside Moscow tells Reuters that this discovery could make establishing a permanent colony easier. He explains, “There wouldn’t be any need to dig the lunar soil and build walls and ceilings. It would be enough to use an inflatable module with a hard outer shell to — roughly speaking — seal the caves.”

It sounds like this plan is still in early stages but Russia’s cosmonauts seem to think they can get this done by as soon as 2030. Remember, unlike the United States they still have a space fleet. This may seem far fetched, but while they’re still running missions to the International Space Station, American scientists are forced to do little more than hitch rides on their ships. The idea makes a lot of sense, and with America out of the picture, Russia may be the only nation in the world which can actually pull it off.