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Mousetronauts Headed To The ISS

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mousetronautsSoon there won’t be any cosmonauts on the ISS, but new residents will soon arrive, and while they might not be as helpful as cosmonauts, they may be cuddlier. Elon Musk calls them “mousetronauts,” and in August they’ll fly to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship to be part of a NASA study on the physiological effects of long-duration weightlessness.

The rodent research focuses on the physiological changes that occur when living for long periods in zero or microgravity. Even though astronauts exercise while on the ISS, they invariably lose muscle, immune system capabilities, and bone density, among other problems. Prolonged stays in microgravity also affect the nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems, as well as genetic and molecular processes. Researchers believe that studying the mice will help them learn how and why these changes occur.

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Russia Bailing On The ISS

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ISSSix weeks after NASA announced that it would be cutting ties with Russia, except for their collaboration on the ISS, Russia has gone a step further, saying that it plans to stop participating in the ISS after 2020.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia will use its resources to focus on other projects. In the statement, he said, “We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicises everything.” He also mentioned “inappropriate” sanctions, including plans to deny the export of high-tech equipment to Russia. In turn, Russia says that while it is ready to deliver engines used to build widely-used Atlas V rockets, it will only do so on the “condition that they will not be used to launch military satellites.” Um…

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Firefly T-Shirt Pimped Out For International Space Station’s First Instagram Photo

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firefly issEverybody uses social media to promote and compare their likes and dislikes with millions of others doing the same thing. And while it’s hard to sift through all the noise of grumpy cats, relationship troubles, and “Which Farm Animal Are You?” quizzes, there will sometimes be a person or entity who stands above all. Quite literally, in this case, as NASA astronaut Steve Swanson posted the first Instagram picture from the International Space Station, and he just happened to be wearing a Firefly T-shirt while doing so, which technically makes it the coolest gorram shirt in the universe.

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SpaceX Sends Microbes And A Space Farm To The ISS

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UPDATE: A helium leak nixed plans for today’s launch. It has tentatively been rescheduled for 12:25PM PT/3:25 PM ET on Friday, April 18.

dragon capsuleThis afternoon, SpaceX plans to launch an unmanned Dragon capsule on a cargo run to the ISS. The launch is scheduled for 4:58 pm, and you can watch live here. This isn’t the first time SpaceX has made a cargo run for the ISS, and it certainly won’t be the last—the company has a 12-mission contract. It does make me wonder, though, what exactly the payload is. Sure, there are supplies the astronauts on the ISS need, but surely not 5,000 pounds worth. What else is riding in the Dragon?

Aboard the capsule is a mini space farm that will, if successful, allow astronauts to start growing their own veggies in space. The taste and quality of space food has certainly improved over time, but fresh vegetables would I’m sure be a welcome addition.

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NASA Cuts Ties With Russia, Except For ISS

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ISSEven though three new ISS crew members, including one American, launched into space aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule just over a week ago, NASA is calling a halt to many of its collaborative operations with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, because of the worsening situation in the Ukraine. Fortunately, the one area in which the NASA will continue to work with Russia is on ISS operations. Soyuz is currently the only manned spacecraft that makes the trip, and the fallout of not cooperating with regards to the ISS is something NASA doesn’t want to put to the test, especially given that there are two Americans currently working at the ISS.

NASA made the move because of “Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Space agency administrator Charles Bolden says that he doesn’t think Russia will try to prevent American access or communication with the ISS, and says that he believes Russia needs the U.S. as much as the U.S. needs Russia when it comes to maintaining operations. However, the halt of relations includes “NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences”—in other words, everything but the ISS.

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SpaceX To Launch Missions for the U.S. Military

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Falcon 9SpaceX seems to be taking the world—make that the universe—by storm. The private contractor hauls cargo to the ISS, and despite an initial launch glitch, it has begun taking communications satellites into orbit. The company is also working on manned flight capabilities, with the long-term goal to get people to Mars. There seems to be no aspect of space travel SpaceX isn’t involved in, and now it’s poised to launch missions for the U.S. military.

This week, Elon Musk told the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that he’s ready to get in the running for Air Force contracts based on the strength of theFalcon rocket. “Frankly, if our rockets are good enough for NASA, why are they not good enough for the Air Force?” Musk says. Fair point, though NASA has different requirements for its contracts.