You know what time it is, probably because you read the headline before clicking onto this story. It’s time for another visually spectacular trip into space with some crews of the International Space Station! This time it’s a splendor-filled time-lapse photography montage from film student and computer programmer David Peterson. If you’re not watching it in high definition on a screen the size of a refrigerator, you’re doing it wrong. Well, I guess you’re doing something right by watching it at all. Crisis averted.
Earlier today, SpaceX’s website was counting down, stopping, then counting down again, then stopping again, scrubbing the launch that was scheduled to take place at approximately 5:37pm EST. On Thursday, SpaceX will again attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket for a GEO Transfer Mission. The rocket, which will launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, will put an Orbital Sciences SES-8 satellite, designed to support Southeast Asian communications needs for about 15 years, into a geostationary transfer orbit. Then, about a half-hour after launch, the Falcon 9 will deliver the satellite into geostationary orbit at about 22,000 miles above Earth, roughly 25% of the way to the moon. Many launchers deliver a satellite in two phases, or burns, depending on how long and how much power it takes to reach the first apogee. The transfer to geostatic orbit phase is usually performed via solar power, which reduces overall costs. This launch is SpaceX’s first attempt at putting a communications satellite in orbit.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve fantasized about being an astronaut. Maybe this stopped when you saw Gravity, or maybe the thought of running into George Clooney in space only deepened your desire. But if you’re anything like me, you have to content yourself with reading and watching Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson (not that those are small consolations), scouring NASA news, geeking out to incredible Hubble photos, and waiting with a mixture of hope and fear for the Mars One project to produce a spectacular success, a catastrophe, or perhaps nothing at all.
Well, today you can get one step closer to living the dream. The ESA has released a video documenting the return of astronauts from the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. You don’t just get to watch from the outside—you get to watch from the interior. The video comes from a lesson to the ESA’s 2009 astronaut class, and splices together interviews and reentry footage. At just over 20 minutes long it’s not a quick take, but if you have any interest in space whatsoever, you’ll not only watch the whole thing, you’ll likely watch it more than once.
It’s not as if I spend every minute of my day hating on the Olympic torch for getting to live a life I could only dream of, just most of them. It travels all over the world getting handled by awesome people, and sets fire without having to worry about getting hurt in the process. And now the torch is on board the International Space Station, and will take a trip out into space this weekend. Lucky bastard. I’m green, and it’s either raging envy, or that infection has spread.
The torch was taken up to the ISS aboard a Soyuz rocket, along with the crew for Expedition 38—American Rick Mastracchio, Russian Mikhail Tyurin, and Japan’s Koichi Wakata—the trio that will spend the next six months orbiting the Earth. It’s current ISS cosmonaut inhabitants Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, however, who will be in the spotlight when they take the torch out for a spacewalk on Saturday. While this isn’t the flaming wand’s first trip into space, it will be the first time it has been taken out of the spacecraft.
Despite the government shutdown, NASA was able to continue working on the Orion, NASA’s next manned spacecraft. Before any humans step aboard the ship sometimes referred to as “Apollo on steroids,” the space agency will continue working on the ship in preparation for its debut test flight in September of next year.
Next fall, a Delta IV heavy rocket will launch the Lockheed Martin-designed Orion capsule from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Exploration Flight Test is designed to assess a number of critical functions, including the capsule’s heat shield, which will be tested as it plunges into Earth’s fiery atmosphere at speeds of 20,000 mph. Orion’s heat shield, like Apollo’s features “Avcoat,” which essentially removes the heat of reentry and stores it in a honeycomb matrix. This latest model will be the largest in the world, roughly 17 feet across. The flight will also test other structural components of the craft, as well as avionics and software. Ideally the results will allow developers to assess risks and ways to mitigate them.
They say kids are growing up faster these days. There may be no better example of that than 11-year-old Michal Bodzianowski, who created a micro-microbrewery for a project at the Highland Ranch, Colorado STEM School and Academy. The project was so impressive that the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education’s Student Spaceflight Experiments Program has awarded it the green light to blast into space in December for use aboard the ISS.
Bodzianowski says that while many people think of beer as a party drink, it also has medicinal properties—I think he’s been reading a few “Guinness is good for you” posters, or maybe he read the GFR post about hydrating beer. Whatever his motivations, Bodzianowski developed a brewery that can fit into a 6-inch test tube and contains the individual ingredients one would use to make beer, including yeast, water, and malted barley. Hey kid—you forgot the moon dust!