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The Ferrari Of Space Is In For One Hell Of A Crash

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GOCEThis is exactly what you should expect when you take a Ferrari into space. The European Space Agency’s GOCE (Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite is expected to run out of fuel in October and then begin its long fall back to Earth.

The GOCE satellite has been dubbed the “Ferrari of space.” In part this is because of an aerodynamic design that minimizes friction caused by low-orbit atmospheric particles, but it also comes with a $450 million price tag. Since 2009, it has been hanging out in low orbit, studying Earth’s gravity field. The satellite is only 160 miles above Earth, which isn’t very high—the International Space Station is almost twice that far. GOCE has produced a detailed and accurate model of Earth’s gravity field, as well as a high-resolution map of the planet’s geology. It was even able to identify the border between Earth’s mantle and its crust.

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Orbital Science’s Cygnus Spacecraft Docks With The ISS

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CygnusThis morning, Orbital Sciences became the second commercial space company to dock a ship to the International Space Station (SpaceX was the first).

On September 18th, Orbital’s Antares rocket launched the spacecraft Cygnus from the Virginia Wallops Flight Facility. Cygnus attempted a first docking on September 22nd, but a software glitch involving the format of the GPS data from the ISS caused the week-long delay — apparently Cygnus’s GPS format was older than the Japanese PROX system in use on the ISS. For the past week, Cygnus has been hanging out about 2.5 miles from the station, waiting for its orbit to realign with that of the ISS, and waiting for a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to arrive at the station. The ISS’s air traffic controllers apparently aren’t used to jockeying multiple spacecraft at once.

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Japan’s Kirobo Robot Talks To Us From Space

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One small step for man, one even smaller step for robots. On August 21, Japan’s adorable Kirobo robot became the first robot to speak in outer space, putting to shame — at least linguistically — all the awesome rovers and satellites hanging out in our neck of the cosmic woods.

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ISS Spacewalk Cancelled Today Due To Helmet Leakage

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issThere’s a big difference between me and astronauts, and it involves the amount of professional training required, not to mention overall space suit photogeneity. That’s an obvious statement, I know, but having familiarity with certain situations is underrated in my book.

Today was supposed to be the second spacewalk of the month for International Space Station (ISS) flight engineers Chris Cassidy of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, but the repair mission was ended early and postponed until a later date. The reason? Just a little helmet leakage is all.

The spacewalk officially started this morning at 7:57 a.m. EDT, but just an hour into it, Parmitano reported there was water floating inside of his helmet, just behind his head. This is where that training comes in handy; if it had happened to me in my current state of non-astronautness, the question wouldn’t be if anyone could hear screaming in space, but if there was any way to make it stop.

The leakage wasn’t an emergency situation, and Parmitano was never in any danger, but Flight Director David Korth decided to halt the mission at that point. Both men went back to the airlock, which depressurized at 9:39 a.m. It was the 171st spacewalk intended for system assembly and maintenance, and its 1 hour and 32 minute duration made it the second shortest of all. Not the coolest silver medal to get, but at least no one got hurt.

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Chris Hadfield Explains Water (And Urine) Conservation On The ISS

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I give all the respect in the world to people like Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin — and by “people like them,” I mean astronauts. That said, Chris Hadfield is quickly becoming the most relevant astronaut ever. He appears on our site quite frequently, showing us space nachos and letting us listen to the ambient sounds of the International Space Station. It will be a sad day in a couple of months when he comes back to Earth, but there’s no reason to cry in space about it.

Crying would be a waste of water anyway. Except the ISS is a self-sustaining environment and doesn’t have time for wasted water, as Hadfield demonstrates in the above video. Urine, sweat, and tears are all collected and filtered back into the station as purified drinking and washing water. In fact, Hadfield claims 93% of all water expelled into the ISS is reused, which is pretty astounding. It’s been even better in the last few years, once the space station was equipped with its own water filtration system for real-time filtering, rather than having to ship giant bags of water back and forth back to Earth. It allows for 6,000 extra liters of water in the station each year.

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Wringing Out A Washcloth Is More Fun On The ISS

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It’s one of life’s great truths that pretty much any activity you can think of automatically becomes more awesome when you tack “in outer space” onto the end of it. Going out for a walk…in outer space. Getting a haircut…in outer space. Filing your taxes…in outer space. On a less theoretical note, we have the video above, which addresses the question, “What happens when you wring out a soaking-wet washcloth…in outer space?”

Once again, our guide through this bit of science badassery is Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, who spends his off-the-clock time up on the International Space Station answering viewer-submitted questions about crazy space stuff such as the above. In the past, he’s demonstrated how astronauts wash their hands, what happens if they cry, and even how to make a tasty serving of space nachos. We kind of love the guy, and we’ll be sad when he finally joins us back down here at the bottom of the gravity well.