A lack of effective radiation shielding is one of the biggest challenges still to be overcome if humans are to embark on long-term voyages into deep space. On Earth, the planet’s powerful magnetosphere protects us from the deadliest forms of radiation – those produced by solar flares, and galactic cosmic rays arriving from afar – that stream through the Solar System. Astronauts on the International Space Station, some 408km above the Earth, receive elevated levels of radiation, but are close enough to Earth that they still receive some shielding, and can stay on orbit for up to a year. The same can’t be said for astronauts traveling further out, to the Moon, for example, or, someday, to Mars. Future deep space voyagers will need to bring their own shielding with them – or, as a new paper suggests – grow it along the way.Continue reading “Fungi Were Able to Absorb Radiation on the ISS. Could Astronauts Grow Their own Radiation Shields in Space?”
Four astronauts splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule, despite one of the parachutes not deploying immediately. Their spectacular return in darkness from the International Space Station capped off the record-setting mission for the SpaceX Crew-2, with the longest spaceflight by a U.S. crewed spacecraft. Their 199 days in orbit surpassed the 168 days set by NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission earlier this year.Continue reading “Crew-2 Safely Returns from ISS — without a working toilet”
In 2011, NASA announced a bold new program to leverage partnerships between the government and the commercial space sector to restore domestic launch capability. As part of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop next-generation crew-rated capsules that would transport astronauts and payloads to International Space Station (ISS) and other locations in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
While SpaceX has managed to meet all the requirements of the CCP with their Crew Dragon module, Boeing’s Starliner has experienced technical problems and several delays. With the latest delay (caused by the ISS being temporarily pushed out of its orbit), NASA has decided to reassign the astronauts that were scheduled to take the Starliner on its maiden crewed flight (Starliner-1) to the next crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the ISS (Crew-5).Continue reading “The Astronauts who Would Have Tested Starliner Have Been Reassigned to an Upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch”
It appears that the International Space Station is showing its age. Or, at least, the older modules that have been in space since 1998 certainly are. According to statements made by a senior Russian space official, cosmonauts aboard the ISS have discovered new cracks in the Functional Cargo Block (FCB) module – aka. Zarya (“Dawn”). These cracks were found in seven of the module’s twenty windows and could eventually threaten the entire station.Continue reading “Cosmonauts Find Cracks in the Aging Zarya ISS Module”
One of the reasons the ISS is still alive and kicking is that it offers a unique environment for testing that is available nowhere, either on the Earth or off of it. Plenty of science experiments want to take advantage of that uniqueness. This week, a fresh crop of experiments was delivered to the ISS aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply craft. They range from 3D printers to a high school science experiment with mold, and now they each have the opportunity to make use of the ISS’s microgravity environment.Continue reading “NASA Sends a 3D Printer for Lunar Regolith and More to the ISS”
The robotic arms of the ISS are some of its most useful tools. The arms, designed by Canadian and Japanese space agencies, have been instrumental in ferrying around astronauts and shepherding modules to one side of the ISS. However, the Russian segment lacked its own robotic arm – until a new one designed by ESA was launched last week.Continue reading “Europe Launches its new Robotic arm, Which Will Crawl Around the International Space Station Like an Inchworm”
The International Space Station (ISS) is not only the largest and most sophisticated orbiting research facility ever built, it is arguably the most important research facility we have. With its cutting-edge facilities and microgravity environment, the ISS is able to conduct lucrative experiments that are leading to advances in astrobiology, astronomy, medicine, biology, space weather and meteorology, and materials science.
Unfortunately, the cost of transporting experiments to and from the ISS is rather expensive and something only a handful of space agencies are currently able to do. To address this, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Tiger Corporation partnered in 2018 to create a new type of container that would cut the cost of returning samples to Earth. With the success of their initial design, JAXA and Tiger are looking to create a reusable version that will allow for regular sample returns from the ISS.Continue reading “JAXA Using Water Bottle Technology for Sample-Return Missions From the ISS”
Humans have maintained a continuous presence in space on the International Space Station (ISS) for more than 20 years now. It is our longest-running and most comprehensive experiment in long-duration spaceflight. But the ISS is continually supplied with consumables – food, water, and oxygen – so astronauts are largely reliant on Earth. If Humanity is ever going to live and work in space long term, we’re going to have to learn to be more self-reliant – and that means growing food in space.Continue reading “What’s the Best Way to Water Plants in Space?”
Radishes are a very divisive food – most people either love them or hate them. However, they are very easy to grow, and have now been grown in one of the most inhospitable environments of all – the International Space Station.Continue reading “Attention Astronauts. Fresh Radishes Are Now On the Menu”
Mining is traditionally thought of as an activity that utilizes picks and shovels, or in more modern times, huge machines that can tear apart entire mountainsides in minutes. Industrial might isn’t the only way to rip apart rock though. A scalable and much more environmentally friendly way to access the materials mining seeks to extract is to use microbes. Such techniques are already widely used in terrestrial mining operations. But recently, a team led by the University of Edinburgh have launched an asteroid mining experiment using microbes on the International Space Station (ISS).Continue reading “We’re About to Find Out How Well Biomining Works in Space”