Back in August, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was surprised to learn that a leak was responsible for a slight loss in air pressure aboard the station. After investigating, they learned that the cause was a small hole in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that had docked with the ISS. While the hole was promptly sealed, the cause of it has remained a mystery ever since.
To determine a possible cause, and inspect the external hole on the spacecraft, the crew of Expedition 57 conducted an “unprecedented spacewalk” on Dec. 11th. After collecting samples from the outside of the craft, flight engineers Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev concluded that the hole had been drilled from inside the capsule, a finding which raises even more questions.
As we celebrate the Christmas tidings of 2016 here on Earth, a lucky multinational crew of astronauts and cosmonauts celebrate the festive season floating in Zero-G while living and working together in space aboard the Earth orbiting International Space Station (ISS) complex – peacefully cooperating to benefit all humanity.
Today, Dec. 25, 2016, the six person Expedition 50 crew of five men and one woman marked the joyous holiday of Christ’s birth by gathering for a festive meal in space – as billions of Earthlings celebrated this Christmas season of giving, remembrance and peace to all here on our home planet.
This year is an especially noteworthy Space Christmas because it counts as Expedition 50. This is the 50th crew to reside on board since the space station began operating with permanent occupancy by rotating crews all the way back to 1998.
The Expedition 50 crew currently comprises of people from three nations supporting the ISS – namely the US, Russia and France; Commander Shane Kimbrough from NASA and flight engineers Andrey Borisenko (Roscosmos), Sergey Ryzhikov (Roscosmos), Thomas Pesquet (ESA), Peggy Whitson (NASA), and Oleg Novitskiy (Roscosmos).
Here a short video of holiday greetings from a trio of crew members explaining what Christmas in Space means to them:
Video Caption: Space Station Crew Celebrates the Holidays Aboard the Orbital Lab. Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency discussed their thoughts about being in space during the holidays and how they plan to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in a downlink. Credit: NASA
“Hello from the Expedition 50 Crew! We’d like to share what Christmas means to us,” said Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough.
“For me it’s a lot about family,” said Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough. “We always travel to meet up with our family which is dispersed across the country. And we go home to Georgia and Florida … quite abit to meet up. Always a great time to get together and share with each other.”
“Although its typically thought of a season to get things, we in our family think about the giving aspect. Giving of our many talents and resources. Especially to those less fortunate.”
Kimbrough arrived on the complex in October, followed a month later by Whitson and Pesquet in November.
They were all launched aboard Russian Soyuz capsules from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
And Peggy Whitson especially has a lot to celebrate in space!
Because not only is Whitson currently enjoying her third long-duration flight aboard the station – as an Expedition 50 flight engineer. Soon she will become the first woman to command the station twice ! That momentous event happens when she assumes the role of Space Station Commander early in 2017 during the start of Expedition 51.
“In addition to family, there is another very important aspect to being on the ISS,” said Whitson.
“That is seeing the planet as a whole. It actually reinforces I think, that fact that we should live as one people and strive for peace.”
“I second the comments already made. I grew up in a family of 25 cousins,” said ESA’s Thomas Pesquet. “The only time we could catch up was around Christmas time…. So I always looked forward to that, although this year I can’t be with them of course … and will think of them.”
“I am making the most of this opportunity to look at the Earth. Reflect about what Christmas means to us as individuals and to the world in general. And we will have a good time on board the ISS and share a Christmas meal together.”
The crew is enjoying a light weekend of work and a day off tomorrow, Dec. 26.
After that they begin preparing for a pair of spacewalks in the new year by Kimbrough and Whitson – scheduled for Jan. 6 and 13. The crew is checking the spacesuits by testing the water among other activities.
The goal of the excursions is to “complete the replacement of old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the station’s truss structure,” says NASA.
Research work also continues.
“Whitson, who is spending her second Christmas in space, and Pesquet drew blood, urine and saliva samples for the Fluid Shifts study. That experiment investigates the upward flow of body fluids in space potentially causing lasting vision changes in astronauts.”
Among other activities, the crew is also unloading 4.5 tons of internal and external cargo, gear and fresh food – including six lithium-ion batteries – from Japan’s sixth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6), which recently arrived at the ISS on Dec 13.
SpaceX also hopes to resume Dragon cargo launches sometime in the new year after they resolve the issues that led to the destruction of a SpaceX Falcon 9 on Sept. 1 during fueling operations at pad 40 on the Cape.
Stunning high definition views of Earth’s auroras and dancing lights as seen from space like never before have just been released by NASA in the form of ultra-high definition videos (4K) captured from the International Space Station (ISS).
Whether seen from the Earth or space, auroras are endlessly fascinating and appreciated by everyone young and old and from all walks of life.
The spectacular video compilation, shown below, was created from time-lapses shot from ultra-high definition cameras mounted at several locations on the ISS.
It includes HD view of both the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis phenomena seen over the northern and southern hemispheres.
The video begins with an incredible time lapse sequence of an astronaut cranking open the covers off the domed cupola – everyone’s favorite locale. Along the way it also shows views taken from inside the cupola.
The video was produced by Harmonic exclusively for NASA TV UHD;
Video caption: Ultra-high definition (4K) time-lapses of both the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis phenomena shot from the International Space Station (ISS). Credit: NASA
The video segue ways into multi hued auroral views including Russian Soyuz and Progress capsules, the stations spinning solar panels, truss and robotic arm, flying over Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East, star fields, the setting sun and moon, and much more.
Auroral phenomena occur when electrically charged electrons and protons in the Earth’s magnetic field collide with neutral atoms in the upper atmosphere.
“The dancing lights of the aurora provide a spectacular show for those on the ground, but also capture the imaginations of scientists who study the aurora and the complex processes that create them,” as described by NASA.
Here’s another musical version to enjoy:
The ISS orbits some 250 miles (400 kilometers) overhead with a multinational crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts living and working aboard.
The current Expedition 47 crew is comprised of Jeff Williams and Tim Kopra of NASA, Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) and cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko, Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos.
Some of the imagery was shot by recent prior space station crew members.
Here is a recent aurora image taken by flight engineer Tim Peake of ESA as the ISS passed through on Feb. 23, 2016.
“The @Space_Station just passed straight through a thick green fog of #aurora…eerie but very beautiful,” Peake wrote on social media.
The first American to become a three-time, long-term resident of the International Space Station (ISS) has just arrived at the orbiting outpost this evening, Friday, March 18 after blasting off with two Russian crewmates in a Soyuz spacecraft barely six hours ago and successfully completing a fast-track four orbit rendezvous.
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams rocketed to orbit aboard the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft with Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
The Russian-American trio vaulted off from the historic Launch Pad 1 at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 5:26 p.m. EST (3:26 a.m. Saturday, March 19, Baikonur time). Its the same pad from which Yuri Gagarin blasted to orbit in 1961 to become the world’s first human to travel to space.
Williams, Ovchinin and Skripochka reached the orbiting laboratory at 11:09 p.m. and successfully docked at the Poisk module approximately 250 miles (400 km) above the Southern Pacific Ocean off the western coast of Peru, after today’s flawless launch and rendezvous with the station.
They conducted a fly around maneuver of the ISS with the Soyuz to line up with the Poisk module at a distance of about 400 meters some 10 minutes before docking. Spectacular cameras views were transmitted from the Soyuz and ISS during the final approach and docking.
“The crew is now firmly affixed to the space station,” radioed NASA mission control, after the hooks and latches were engaged to complete a hard dock and mate to the station.
Here’s a video of the spectacular overnight launch:
Their mission aboard the space station will last for nearly six months.
Overall this will be Williams fourth space mission, including three Soyuz trips and one Space Shuttle trip to space. During Expedition 47, Williams will set a new record for cumulative time in space by an American of 534 days.
Williams has already spent 362 days in space. He will thus surpass the recent American record for time in space set by NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly.
With the arrival of the new trio, the station is restored to its full complement of six crewmates and marks the start of the full Expedition 47 mission, with an international crew of astronauts and cosmonauts from America, Russia and England.
The three join Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra of NASA and Flight Engineers Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos.
The combined efforts of the six person crew are aimed at advancing NASA’s plans for sending humans on a ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s.
They also follow on and continue the research investigations of the recently concluded mission of the first ever ‘1 Year ISS crew’ comprising of Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko who returned to Earth on March 1 after 340 days in space.
After the docking probe was removed and leak checks completed, the hatches between the ships were opened at 1:15 a.m. EDT on Sat. March 19.
The new Expedition 47 crew members will conduct more than 250 science investigation in fields that benefit all of humanity, such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, during their six month mission.
Many of these research experiments for both Expeditions 47 and 48 will be launched to the ISS just three days from now, when the next commercial Cygnus cargo freighter lifts off on the commercial resupply servives-6 (CRS-6) flight.
The science studies “include a study of realistic fire scenarios on a spacecraft, enable the first space-based observations of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere from space, explore how regolith, or soil, behaves and moves in microgravity, test a gecko-inspired adhesive gripping device that can stick on command in the harsh environment of space, and add a new 3-D printer for use on station,” according to NASA officials.
The Orbital ATK CRS-6 mission with over 3500 kg of supplies and science experiments will be carried to orbit by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Tuesday, March 22.
SpaceX plans to launch its next cargo Dragon to the station on April 8, the first since a launch catastrophe on June 28, 2015 ended in failure. The SpaceX-8 mission is scheduled to carry the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). It is an experimental inflatable and expandable module that astronauts will enter.
In between, Russia will launch a Progress resupply ship with three tons of supplies, food and experiments.
Watch for Ken’s onsite Atlas/Cygnus launch reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Learn more about Orbital ATK Cygnus, ISS, ULA Atlas rocket, SpaceX, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Mar 21/22: “Orbital ATK Atlas/Cygnus launch to the ISS, ULA, SpaceX, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evening Mar 21 /late afternoon Mar 22
The first British astronaut to blast off on a journey to the International Space Station (ISS) soared gloriously skyward early today, Dec 15, following the flawless launch of a Russian Soyuz capsule with his Russian/American crewmates from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The picture perfect liftoff of the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket into clear blue skies with Expedition 46 Soyuz Commander and six time space flyer Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA, and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency), occurred at 6:03 a.m. EST (5:03 p.m. Baikonur time, 1103 GMT) on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
Plummeting to Earth during a fiery atmospheric reentry within the cramped confines of their Russian Soyuz capsule, an international trio of space flyers returned safely to the Home Planet today, Dec. 11, for a rare nighttime landing, after departing the International Space Station(ISS) which had been their home in space for the past 141 days.
The International Space Station (ISS) achieved 15 years of a continuous human presence in orbit, as of today, Nov. 2, aboard the football field sized research laboratory ever since the first Russian/American crew of three cosmonauts and astronauts comprising Expedition 1 arrived in a Soyuz capsule at the then much tinier infant orbiting complex on Nov. 2, 2000.
The ISS was only made possible by over two decades of peaceful and friendly international cooperation by the most powerful nations on Earth on a scale rarely seen.
“I believe the International Space Station should be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week during remarks to the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC., on October 28, 2015.
“Exploration has taught us more than we have ever known about our Universe and our place in it.”
“The ISS has already taught us what’s possible when tens of thousands of people across 15 countries collaborate so that human beings from different nations can live and work in space together.”
“Yet, for all these accomplishments, when you consider all the possibilities ahead of us you can only reach one conclusion; We are just getting started!”
“No better place to celebrate #15YearsOnStation! #HappyBday, @space_station! Thanks for the hospitality! #YearInSpace.” tweeted NASA astronaut Scott Kelly from the ISS today along with a crew portrait.
The space station is the largest engineering and construction project in space combining the funding, hardware, knowhow, talents and crews from 5 space agencies and 15 countries – NASA, Roscomos, ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
The collaborative work in space has transcended our differences here on Earth and points the way forward to an optimistic future that benefits all humanity.
The station orbits at an altitude of about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth. It measures 357 feet (109 meters) end-to-end and has an internal pressurized volume of 32,333 cubic feet, equivalent to that of a Boeing 747.
The uninterrupted human presence on the station all began when Expedition 1 docked at the outpost on Nov. 2, 2000, with its first residents including Commander William Shepherd of NASA and cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko of Roscosmos.
For the first station trio in November 2000, the vehicle included three modules; the Zarya module and the Zvezda service module from Russia and the Unity module from the US.
Over the past 15 years, after more than 115 construction and logistics flight, the station has grown by leaps and bounds from its small initial configuration of only three pressurized modules from Russian and America into a sprawling million pound orbiting outpost sporting a habitable volume the size of a six bedroom house, with additional new modules and hardware from Europe, Japan and Canada.
The ISS has been visited by over 220 people from 17 countries.
The “1 Year ISS crew” reflects the international cooperation that made the station possible and comprises current ISS commander NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, who are now just past the half way mark of their mission.
“Over the weekend, I called NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who is currently halfway through his one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, to congratulate him on setting the American records for both cumulative and continuous days in space,” Bolden said in a NASA statement released today.
“I also took the opportunity to congratulate Commander Kelly — and the rest of the space station crew — for being part of a remarkable moment 5,478 days in the making: the 15th anniversary of continuous human presence aboard the space station.”
The complete Expedition 45 crew members include Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
For the first nine years, the station was home to crews of two or three. Starting in 2009 the crew size was doubled to a permanent crew of six humans after the habitable volume, research facilities, equipment and supporting provisions had grown sufficiently.
“Humans have been living in space aboard the International Space Station 24-7-365 since Nov. 2, 2000. That’s 15 Thanksgivings, New Years, and holiday seasons astronauts have spent away from their families. 15 years of constant support from Mission Control Houston. And 15 years of peaceful international living in space,” says NASA.
The US contributed and built the largest number of segments of the space station, followed by Russia.
NASA’s Space Shuttles hauled the US segments aloft inside the orbiters huge payload bay, starting from the first construction mission in 1998 carrying the Unity module to the final shuttle flight STS-135 in 2011, which marked the completion of construction and retirement of the shuttles.
With the shuttle orbiters now sitting in museums and no longer flying, the Russian Soyuz capsule is the only means of transporting crews to the space station and back.
The longevity of the ISS was recently extended from 2020 to 2024 after approval from President Obama. Most of the partners nations have also agreed to the extension. Many in the space community believe the station hardware is quite resilient and hope for further extensions to 2028 and beyond.
“The International Space Station, which President Obama has extended through 2024, is a testament to the ingenuity and boundless imagination of the human spirit. The work being done on board is an essential part of NASA’s journey to Mars, which will bring American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s,” says Bolden.
“For 15 years, humanity’s reach has extended beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Since 2000, human beings have been living continuously aboard the space station, where they have been working off-the-Earth for the benefit of Earth, advancing scientific knowledge, demonstrating new technologies, and making research breakthroughs that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space.”
A key part of enabling long duration space missions to Mars is the 1 Year ISS Mission.
In coming years, additional new pressurized modules and science labs will be added by Russia and the US.
And NASA says the stations crew size will expand to seven after the US commercial Starliner and Dragon space taxis from Boeing and SpaceX start flying in 2017.
NASA is now developing the new Orion crew capsule and mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket to send astronauts to deep space destination including the Moon, asteroids and the Red Planet.
In the meantime, Kelly and his crew are also surely looking forward to the arrival of the next Orbital ATKCygnus resupply ship carrying science experiments, provisions, spare parts, food and other goodies after it blasts off from Florida on Dec. 3 – detailed in my story here.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Video Caption: See NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s extraterrestrial exploits as he breaks US record for time in space in this music video set to the song ‘Speed of Sound’ by Coldplay. Credit: NASA/Coldplay
See Kelly break the US spaceflight endurance record on the ISS at the “SPEED OF SOUND” in the beautifully space themed music video (above) set to the worldwide hit song by rock band Coldplay.
The video recounts a flurry of highlights from the yearlong space station mission with his partner, Russian cosmonaut Mikahail Kornienko, and the rest of the rotating cast of international crewmates.
On October 16, 2015, Kelly surpassed the US time in space record of 382 days previously held by NASA astronaut Mike Fincke.
The ‘1 Year ISS mission’ is aimed at conducting research to explore the impact of long term stays in space on the human body and aid NASA’s long term plans for a human ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s.
“Records are meant to be broken. Look fwd to one of my colleagues surpassing my end 500+ days on our #JourneyToMars!’ Kelly tweeted from the ISS about his record breaking achievement.
As of today, October 20, Kelly has reached the 206 day mark aboard the ISS, of his planned 342 days in space. He’s now about a month past the half way mark.
In addition to his scientific research, Kelly has been a prolific photographer of all things space – including natural wonders and natural disasters like Hurricane Joaquin.
Here’s his newly released photo titled ‘Earth Art From Australia.’
See the NASA graphic herein showing the US astronauts who have accumulated the most spaceflight experience to date.
Kelly accumulated his time in space during multiple spaceflights. Altogether this is his fourth mission and second long duration stay aboard the ISS. This flight also marks his second stint as station commander – as a member of the current Expedition 45 crew.
To be sure, Kelly is not merely passing Fincke’s record days but actually smashing through it by many months because he still has a long way to go until he returns home to Earth.
At the conclusion of his yearlong mission when he plummets back home in a Russian Soyuz capsule – along with Kornienko – on March 2, 2016, he will have compiled 522 total days living in space.
Kelly will also become the first American to spend a year in space, a feat previously achieved by only four Russian cosmonauts – all in the 1980s and 1990s aboard Russia’s Mir space station.
Next week on Thursday, Oct. 29, Kelly will break another American record for the single-longest spaceflight.
“On Oct. 29 on his 216th consecutive day in space, he will surpass astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria’s record for the single-longest spaceflight by an American. Lopez-Alegria spent 215 days in space as commander of the Expedition 14 crew in 2006.”
Kelly and Kornienko are spending a year aboard the ISS, “testing the limits of human research, space exploration and the human spirit,” says NASA officials.
The pair launched to the ISS in March 2015 along with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. He recently returned to Earth in September 2015 after setting the record for most time spent in space by any Earthling – with an accumulated total of 879 days living and working in space.
During their 342 days in space, Kelly and Kornienko are specifically “participating in studies in space that provide new insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and stress of long-duration spaceflight. Kelly’s twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, will participate in parallel twin studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects on the body and mind in space.”
“The investigations in progress on the space station will help scientists better understand how to protect astronauts as they travel into deep space and eventually on missions to the Red Planet. The strong U.S.-Russian collaboration during the one-year mission is an example of the global cooperation aboard the space station that is a blueprint for international partnerships to advance shared goals in space exploration. Strengthening international partnerships will be key in taking humans deeper into the solar system,” according to NASA.
Kelly and the crew are also surely looking forward to the arrival of the Orbital ATK resupply ship carrying science experiments, provisions, spare parts, food and other goodies after it blasts off from Florida on Dec. 3 – detailed in my story here.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
The International Space Station transits the sun on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015 with an enhanced crew of nine, as seen from Shenandoah National Park, Front Royal, VA in this composite image by NASA photographer Bill Ingalls. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The beautiful composite view of the ISS transiting the sun is shown above. It was released by NASA today, Sept. 8, and was created by combining a rapid fire series of five images taken on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015 from Shenandoah National Park, Front Royal, VA, by renowned NASA photographer Bill Ingalls.
Ingalls is NASA’s top photographer for numerous space launches and NASA events worldwide.
Exquisitely careful planning is required to capture events such as this solar transit which is over in barely the wink of an eye.
The ISS was hurtling along at about 5 miles per second which has a rarely beef up complement of nine humans serving aboard for a short period of barely a week time.
The cosmonauts and astronaut crew currently aboard comprises two Americans, four Russians, and one each from Japan, Denmark and Kazakhstan; namely NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren: Russian Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko, Sergey Volkov, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, Danish Astronaut Andreas Mogensen, and Kazakhstan Cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov.
They arrived aboard three different Russian Soyuz capsules.
They arrived at the ISS in March and are now about half way through their nearly 12 month stay aimed at conducting research to explore the impact of long term stays in space on the human body and aid NASA’s long term plans for a human ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s.
Kelly assumed command of the ISS on Saturday when it was formally handed over in a ceremony by Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka – who will soon depart for the voyage back home after completing his six month stint.
This marks Kelly’s second time serving as ISS commander. He was also a NASA Space Shuttle commander.
Mogensen and Aimbetov are first time space flyers and part of a short term 10 day taxi mission.
Along with Soyuz commander Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos, they launched to the ISS aboard the Soyuz TMA-18M from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan this past Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015 and docked two days later on Friday, Sept. 4.
Mogensen and Aimbetov will undock from the station on Friday, Sept. 11 along with Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka as Soyuz commander, the human with the distinction of the most time in space. Altogether Padalka will have accumulated 879 days in space over five missions, four on the space station and one on Russia’s Mir.
Since the forced retirement of NASA’s shuttle orbiters in 2011, US astronauts have been totally dependent on the Russians for trips to space and back.
Boeing and SpaceX are now building America’s next human spaceships under contracts awarded by NASA.
‘Starliner’ is the new name of Boeing’s CST-100 commercial crew transportation spaceship – as announced during the Grand Opening event for the craft’s manufacturing facility held at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, Sept 4. 2015 and attended by Universe Today. Read my story – here.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
The record setting flight of approximately 200 days by Italian spaceflyer Samantha Cristoforetti, along with her two Expedition 43 crewmates, will come to an end on Thursday, June 11, when the trio are set to undock and depart the station aboard their Russian Soyuz crew capsule and return back to Earth a few hours later.
NASA TV coverage begins at 6 a.m. EDT on June 11.
Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, officially announced today, June 9, a revamped schedule changing the launch dates of several upcoming crewed launches this year to the Earth orbiting outpost.
Launch dates for the next three Progress cargo flights have also been adjusted.
The next three person ISS crew will now launch between July 23 to 25 on the Soyuz TMA-17M capsule from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The exact timing of the Expedition 44 launch using a Russian Soyuz-FG booster is yet to be determined.
Soon after the Progress mishap, the Expedition 43 mission was extended by about a month so as to minimize the period when the ISS is staffed by only a reduced crew of three people aboard – since the blastoff of the next crew was simultaneously delayed by Roscosmos by about two months from May to late July.
Indeed Cristoforetti’s endurance record only came about as a result of the very late mission extension ordered by Roscosmos, so the agency could investigate the root cause of the recent launch failure of the Russian Progress 59 freighter that spun wildly out of control soon after blastoff on April 28 on a Soyuz-2.1A carrier rocket.
Roscosmos determined that the Progress failure was caused by an “abnormal separation of the 3rd stage and the cargo vehicle” along with “associated frequency dynamic characteristics.”
The Expedition 43 crew comprising of Cristoforetti, NASA astronaut and current station commander Terry Virts, and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov had been scheduled to head back home around May 13. The trio have been working and living aboard the complex since November 2014.
The 38-year old Cristoforetti actually broke the current space flight endurance record for a female astronaut during this past weekend on Saturday, June 6, when she eclipsed the record of 194 days, 18 hours and 2 minutes established by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams on a prior station flight back in 2007.
Cristoforetti, of the European Space Agency (ESA), also counts as Italy’s first female astronaut.
The Progress 59 cargo vessel, also known as Progress M-27M, along with all its 2.5 tons of contents were destroyed during an uncontrolled plummet back to Earth on May 8.
Roscosmos announced that they are accelerating the planned launch of the next planned Progress 60 (or M-28M) from August 6 up to July 3 on a Soyuz-U carrier rocket, which is different from the problematic Soyuz-2.1A rocket.
Following the Soyuz crew launch in late July, the next Soyuz will blastoff on Sept. 1 for a 10 day taxi mission on the TMA-18M capsule with cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen. After British opera singer Sarah Brightman withdrew from participating as a space tourist, a new third crew member will be named soon by Roscosmos.
The final crewed Soyuz of 2015 with the TMA-19M capsule has been postponed from Nov. 20 to Dec. 15.