After much speculation and concern the past month whether Russia would allow a US astronaut to ride back to Earth in a Soyuz spacecraft, Mark Vande Hei and two cosmonauts landed safely in Kazakhstan on March 30.
Mostly lost amid the political tensions due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vande Hei quietly set a record for the longest single spaceflight by an American, at 355 days. Vande Hei eclipsed astronaut Scott Kelly’s seemingly more heralded long-duration mission on the International Space Station in 2015, when he and Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko spent 340 days in space. Cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov also spent 355 days on his first spaceflight, along with Vande Hei.
As countries around the world respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with sanctions aimed at crippling Moscow and Vladimir Putin, the global cooperation in space exploration that has been forged over the past 30-plus years will certainly be impacted.
It’s really true: space wants to kill us. And this time, space is trying to kill us from the inside out.
A new study on astronauts living on board the International Space Station shows that while in space, the astronauts’ bodies destroyed 54 percent more red blood cells than they normally would on Earth. Even one year after their flight and back on Earth, the symptoms of “space anemia” persisted in the 14 astronauts tested.
While it may seem like the International Space Station is just now fully hitting its stride as far as scientific output and the ability for crew rotations from several different spacecraft, the ISS has been operating with astronauts on board for over 21 years. Knowing the modules and entire physical structure cannot endure the long-term effects of the harsh space environment forever, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a new report outlining the agency’s plans to keep the space station in orbit until 2030, and to replace it with one or more commercial space stations.
When astronauts left the International Space Station in early November to return home on the Crew Dragon Endeavour, they took the opportunity to do a fly-around of the ISS and take photos. NASA just released the new images, and they are a stunning look at both the orbiting outpost and our home planet.
Early Monday, November 15, 2021, the International Space Station Flight Control team in Houston told the crew that due to a to satellite breakup, a debris field was created near the station’s orbital path. The astronauts and cosmonauts were told to “shelter in place” on board the Soyuz and SpaceX capsules attached to the ISS.
What became apparent as the day wore on is that the debris field was the result of a “destructive” test by Russia of an anti-satellite missile system against one of their own satellites. Experts from the US Space Command say the test resulted in “over fifteen hundred pieces of trackable orbital debris” which could stay in orbit for several years.
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.
On Friday, Sept. 17th, three Chinese astronauts returned safely from space following a three-month stay aboard the new Tiangong space station. This was a major milestone for the Chinese Manned Space (CMS) program, which beats its previous record for the longest crewed mission to space. Whereas the Shenzhou 11 mission (2016) lasted 33 days, the crew of Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming spent a total of 92 days in orbit.
The planned launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) has been pushed back to Tuesday, August 3 after a mishap involving a newly docked Russian module. Originally, Starliner’s flight was to take place today, July 30, 2021 but NASA and Boeing officials agreed to delay the flight following a “spacecraft emergency” on the space station after inadvertent thruster firings on the new Nauka module caused a loss of attitude control on the ISS.
The International Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, was struck by a piece of space debris. But luckily, it appears to be only a flesh wound, and the arm has been cleared for nominal operations while analysis on the strike continues.