Lose a soccer game and lose your hair. That’s apparently the deal that American astronauts made on the International Space Station last week, as commander Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman both were shaved bald after the U.S. lost to Germany 1-0 June 26 in the FIFA World Cup. Gleefully wielding the shaver was Alexander Gerst, who happens to be from Germany.
Despite their busy science schedule, the astronauts have been enthusiastically following (and tweeting about!) the games. Not to mention they did a couple of improvised soccer matches in zero gravity, complete with awesome celebratory dances. You can check out all the video action below.
I checked with Peter Caltner, who regularly tweets information on astronaut photos and he said the image shows Western Sahara, near El Aaiun (coordinates 26.824071,-13.222504) and the straight white line is a conveyor belt facility from a phosphate mine at Bou Craa that goes to a loading port at the coast. The conveyer belt is about 60 miles/100 km long, Peter noted.
You can see more images of this feature in this Google search, but none of them have quite the angle Wiseman had, which gave it the straight-edge box-like appearance from space.
Oh, man you’re killin’ me Reid! Astronaut Reid Wiseman has been flooding the Twitter-waves with photos and news from the International Space Station, (you really need to check out his feed if you haven’t yet) and he’s also doing that crazy Vine video thing too. (In fact he did the first Vine from space earlier this month). This one is just awesomely beautiful.
Isn’t there something so soothing about watching the Sun go around and around in this short video? This is the first Vine video from space. Vine is a social website that publishes short videos (around six seconds), and it’s used to great illustration in this message beamed from the International Space Station.
Going around Earth usually takes the space station around 90 minutes, but NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman explained that at this time of year, it is flying parallel with the “terminator line” — the location where the Sun rises or sets on Earth.
This left the space station in 24-hour sunlight, providing some great marathon space station watching for those people wanting to wave at the guys from the ground. According to Universe Today writer Bob King, the marathon wraps up tomorrow, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the space station from your location.
On May 28 the crew of Expedition 40/41 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, their Soyuz TMA-13M arriving at the International Space Station about eight and a half hours later. And it didn’t take much time for the newly-arrived NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to start taking photos from his new vantage point in orbit and sharing them on Twitter for the rest of us to enjoy! Here are some of Reid’s latest images from the edge of space, looking down on the beautiful blue world we call home.
In a few hours, you’ll be able to watch three crew members of Expedition 40/41 rocket to space — live from Kazakhstan!
At 3:57 p.m. EDT (7:57 p.m. UTC) a rocket carrying a Soyuz spacecraft is expected to lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying Reid Wiseman (NASA), Alexander Gerst (ESA) and Maxim Suraev (Roscosmos). Full schedule details are below.
NASA TV will turn on the cameras at 3 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. UTC) and stay on the crew until after they make it to orbit. If all goes to plan, NASA TV will then resume coverage at 9 p.m. EDT (1 p.m. UTC) for docking to the International Space Station 48 minutes later.
Next comes the hatch opening. NASA will start coverage at 11 p.m. EDT (3 a.m. UTC) for the opening about 25 minutes later. Greeting the arriving crew members will be the other half of the Expedition 40 crew: Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). The incoming crew traditionally participates in a televised chat with their families once they are a little settled in.
Because these are live events, all schedules are subject to change. Make sure to follow the NASA Twitter feed for any adjustments. For example, during the last launch the Soyuz spacecraft failed to make a burn to bring the crew members to the station quickly, making the crew go to a standard backup procedure that brought them to the station about two days later. No one was at risk, NASA said, and the delayed docking happened flawlessly.
Imagine that you were in the middle of a module on the International Space Station. Floating in mid-air, far from handholds or any way to propel yourself. Is there any way to get out of that situation?
The short answer is not easily, and the longer answer is it could be an effective way to trap criminals in space, joked veteran cosmonaut Maxim Suraev in a press conference today (March 18) for the upcoming Expedition 40/41 mission, which also includes rookies Alex Gerst and Reid Wiseman.
Speaking in Russian, Suraev explained that during his last 2010 mission, he had crew members set him up in the middle of the station’s Node 3. “It is true that you can twist as much as a contortionist, but you won’t be able to move because you have nothing to bear against,” he said in remarks translated into English.
That said, the ventilation system on station does tend to push objects (and people) towards the vents after a time, he observed. What if you had multiple vents set up, however?
“I thought that if ever we have a permanent human habitation in space, this would be the best way to keep a person confined — like in a prison — in the middle of the room, where he or she could not move anywhere,” Suraev continued. “Being in limbo, as you will. The only thing that is required is a large room, a person and several fans blowing in different directions to keep the person in the middle of the room. That’s scary, trust me!”
There’s no fear on Suraev’s part that it will happen with his crewmates, however. “My new crew, they’re really good guys and I’m really looking forward to being with my new crew in space, and to spend five and a half months aboard the space station,” he said in an English phone interview after the press conference. (Good news given that Suraev will assume command of Expedition 41.)
The crew (who lifts off in May) will have an action-packed mission. It will include the arrival of the last Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and — if NASA fixes on a spacesuit leak allow — two American maintenance spacewalks. There also are 162 experiments to perform (this according to Gerst) and if there’s time, checking out our home planet.
“Earth observation was not one of the primary goals that [station] was designed for,” he cautioned in a phone interview, but he added that one of its strengths is there are people on board the orbiting laboratory that can fill in the gaps for other missions.
Gerst (who was a volcano researcher before becoming an astronaut) pointed out that if a volcano erupts, a typical Earth satellite would look straight down at it. Astronauts can swing around in the Cupola and get different views quickly, which could allow scientists to measure things such as the volcano plume height.
Another example of flexibility: The Expedition 39 crew right now is (news reports say) helping out with the search for the missing Malaysian Airline Flight 370.
“We’re really good at capturing things quickly and then sending the pictures down to the ground,” Gerst said.
Wiseman, as one of the rookies on mission, says he is interested in comparing the experience to his multi-month Navy missions at sea. It’s all a matter of mindset, he said in a phone interview. He once was assigned to a naval voyage that was expected to be at sea for six months. Then they were instructed it would be 10 months, leading to fistfights and other problems on board, he recalled.
Astronauts for the forthcoming one-year mission to station, he pointed out, will launch with different expectations than someone expecting about a six-month stay. “If you know you’re up there for one year, you’re going to pace yourself for one year,” he said.
But there still will be sacrifices, as Wiseman has two daughters (five years old and eight years old). He’s asking the older child to do a bit of social media, and the younger one to draw pictures that could be included in the “care packages” astronauts receive from Earth. “It’s going to be tough not to see them on a daily basis. They grow so fast,” he said.
Other things to watch for on this mission include the arrival of the station’s first 3-D printer, setup of an alloy furnace to make new materials in microgravity, and a potential Wiseman-led “come out and wave campaign” that would encourage families to go outside and tweet about the space station as they watch it.
You can follow Expedition 40/41’s continuing adventures at Universe Today as well as on social media: @astro_reid for Wiseman, and for Gerst, @astro_alex or his Facebook page.
Facing a fire in space? It’s among the most catastrophic situations possible, according to NASA, so the agency spends a lot of time thinking of what to do. Here’s what you do with NASA training: Don a mask, grab an emergency book, and head quickly but calmly to the nearest control post to plot an attack.
This is presumably what is happening in the recent picture above, where Alexander Gerst (from the European Space Agency, on the left) and NASA’s Reid Wiseman are doing a fire drill on the ground.
Astronauts practice emergency procedures so often that their first instinct is to go to the procedures, Gerst said in a previous Universe Today interview. “They sink in and become a memorized response or a natural reaction,” he said in August. And in his case, Gerst has training from a previous career that would come in handy if a fire broke out on the International Space Station.
Gerst was a volunteer firefighter when he was attending school, and although Expedition 40/41 this year will be his first spaceflight, he’s well-used to extreme environments: he also has done science in Antarctica, where researchers are essentially responsible for themselves for months at a time.
NASA strives to make the fire training as real as possible to keep astronauts on their toes, including creative combinations of smoke machines. Gerst said the agency won’t go to extremes, however: “We don’t light our modules on fire,” he said.
Check out more about emergency training in this past Universe Today article, which also explains the difference between fighting a fire on the space station and dealing with one in a Soyuz spacecraft. Gerst and Reid (both rookie astronauts) and Russian astronaut Maxim Suraev (who was on Expeditions 21 and 22) are supposed to head into space in May.
A major goal was to test the Comex-designed Gandolfi spacewalk training suit (based on the Russian Orlan spacesuits) during the sojourn. The mission was considered the first step (literally and figuratively) to figuring out how Europeans can train their astronauts for possible Moon, asteroid and Mars missions in the decades to come.
“The Gandolfi suit is bulky, has limited motion freedom, and requires some physical effort – just like actual space suits. I really felt like I was working and walking on the Moon,” Clervoy stated.
Even the photos come pretty darn close to the real thing. Compare this picture of Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad during his Moon walk in 1969:
Water is considered a useful training tool for spacewalk simulations. NASA in fact has a ginormous pool called the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. Inside are duplicate International Space Station modules. Astronauts are fitted with weights and flotation devices to make them “float” similarly to how they would during spacewalks.
With trained divers hovering nearby, the astronauts practice the procedures they’ll need so that it’s second nature by the time they get into orbit. (NASA astronaut Mike Massimino once told Universe Today that one thing he wasn’t prepared for was how spectacular the view was during his spacewalk. Guess it beats the walls of a pool.)
The first tests for the Apollo 11 underwater simulations began at a pool run by Comex, a deep diving specialist in France, before the big show took place in the Mediterranean Sea off Marseille on Sept. 4. The crew members used tools similar to the Apollo 11 astronauts to pick up soil samples from the ground.
“Comex will make me relive the underwater operations of [Neil] Armstrong on the moon, but with an ESA-Comex scuba suit and European flag,” Clervoy wrote in French on Twitter on June 4, several weeks ahead of the mission.
And ESA promises there is more to come: “Further development for planetary surface simulations in Europe will be co-financed by the EU [European Union] as part of the Moonwalk project,” the agency wrote.
Clervoy isn’t the only European astronaut working in water these days. Starting Tuesday (Sept. 9), Andreas Mogensen and Thomas Pesquet joined an underwater lab as part of a five-person crew. Called Space Environment Analog for Testing EVA Systems and Training (SEATEST), it also includes NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Kate Rubins, as well as Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
“The crew will spend five days in Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base undersea research habitat, conducting proof-of-concept engineering demonstrations and refining techniques in team communication. Additional test objectives will look at just-in-time training applications and spacewalking tool designs,” NASA stated on Sept. 6.
“We made it to Aquarius n [sic] did our first “spacewalk” today. From the ocean floor to space: Aquanaut to Astronaut. It is quite the adventure,” Acaba wrote on Twitter on Sept. 10. He walked twice in space on shuttle mission STS-119 in March 2009.
And a few days ago, ESA astronauts Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman, both bound for the station in 2014, were doing underwater training in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. “Worked with @astro_reid in the pool today, and guess who we met?”, Gerst said on Twitter Sept. 5 while posting this picture below.