A Colorful Art Project You Can Only Do In Space

Wow! That was our reaction to seeing this picture (and others) of a light show aboard the International Space Station. After confirming with NASA that the images circulating lately on social media are real, we were directed to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), who co-ordinated this experiment.

The work is called “Auroral Oval Spiral Top” and was done in the Kibo module on May 12, 2011, JAXA said. This was the second version of the experiment, which initially ran April 30, 2009 during Expedition 19.

Spiral Top performed in 2009. The art project was an earlier version of the Auroral Oval Spiral Top experiment that was done in May 2011. Credit: NASA/JAXA
Spiral Top performed in 2009. The art project was an earlier version of the Auroral Oval Spiral Top experiment that was done in May 2011. Credit: NASA/JAXA

“Auroral Oval Spiral Top uses a spinning top that has arms illuminating with LED linear light sources and point light sources. Various movements of the spinning top floating in microgravity show aurora-like light traces,” JAXA stated on a web page about the experiment.

The project, JAXA added, is “designed to produce aurora-like luminescence traces using a spinning top with both linear and point light sources. In microgravity, the center of gravity of the spinning top continuously and randomly moves while it is spinning. Using the characteristics of the top in microgravity, the project tries to produce various light arts using its unexpected movements/spins, by changing attaching locations of its arms and weights.”

Takuro Osaka, a professor at the University of Tsukuba, was the principal investigator of this art project. What are your favorite experiments performed by astronauts in space? Let us know in the comments.

Another view of the Auroral Oval Spiral Top experiment. Credit: NASA
Another view of the Auroral Oval Spiral Top experiment. Credit: NASA

Soyuz Lands Safely; Next Crew Launch Delayed

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Three members of the Expedition 26 crew landed safely in their Soyuz spacecraft early Wednesday, but their replacements might not launch until mid-April, a delay of a couple of weeks. Commander Scott Kelly and Russian Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka landed with no problems in the cold and snow of Kazakhstan, concluding their five-month stay aboard the International Space Station. But meanwhile, the Russian Soyuz TMA-21 is experiencing a problem with the communications system, and the new crew was scheduled to launch on March 29. But the launch may be delayed until after the April 12th 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight.

Roskosmos director Anatoly Perminov said technicians were working on a faulty transistor, and if the launch doesn’t take place by about April 9, they would likely be postponed until after the anniversary celebration of the first human to orbit Earth.

The delay could increase concerns about relying solely on Russia for rides to the ISS.

The new crew half of the Expedition 27 crew consists of NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Alexander Samokutayev. Remaining on board the ISS are Dmitry Kondratyev, now commander and Flight Engineers Catherine Coleman (NASA) and Paolo Nespoli (ESA).

The Expedition 26 trio undocked from the ISS at 12:27 a.m. EDT from the station’s Poisk module, and landed at 3:54 a.m. (1:54 p.m. local time) at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk.

Working in frigid temperatures, Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz and adjust to gravity. Kaleri and Skripochka will return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside of Moscow, while Kelly will fly directly home to Houston.

The three returning crewmembers have been in space since Oct. 8, 2010 when they launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, spending 159 days in space.
During their mission, the Expedition 25 and 26 crew members worked on more than 150 microgravity experiments in human research; biology and biotechnology; physical and materials sciences; technology development; and Earth and space sciences.