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Category Archives: Space Station

3 space station astronauts return to Earth tonight

Posted: September 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Three astronauts are preparing to leave the International Space Station tonight (Sept. 16), returning to Earth after a four-month stay aboard the huge orbiting lab.

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin is slated to undock from the space station at 7:09 p.m. EDT (2309 GMT) Sunday and land in the steppes of Kazakhstan nearly four hours later, at 10:53 p.m. EDT (0253 GMT Monday).

The astronauts' departure will bring the space station's Expedition 32 to a close. Padalka commands the expedition, while Acaba and Revin serve as flight engineers. Padalka will hand the orbiting lab's reins over to NASA's Sunita Williams, commander of the new Expedition 33.

Expedition 33 will be a three-person operation for about a month. Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide will have the station to themselves until mid-October, when the arrival of three new astronauts will bring the $100 billion orbiting complex back up to its full complement of six crewmates.

Space news from

Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: NASA's Opportunity rover has found a new kind of geological "berry" on Mars that has the experts scratching their heads ... and licking their chops.

Acaba, Padalka and Revin launched toward the station on May 14 and arrived three days later. They were originally scheduled to blast off in late March, but a botched pressure test cracked their Soyuz capsule, forcing a six-week delay while a new spacecraft was prepared.

The astronauts' four-month stint marked the first long-term stay aboard the orbiting lab for both Acaba and Revin. Padalka, however, had lived on the station for long durations during two previous missions.

Acaba, Padalka and Revin got to be part of history shortly after they first floated through the space station's hatch. They were there to welcome SpaceX's robotic Dragon capsule, which on May 25 became the first private spacecraft ever to visit the 430-ton orbiting complex.

Dragon's historic flight was a demonstration mission, to see if the capsule and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket are ready to begin a series of 12 contracted supply runs to the station for NASA. Everything went well, and the first of these bona fide cargo missions is likely to blast off next month.

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Female astronaut takes command of space station

Posted: at 10:15 pm

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who holds the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, took charge of the International Space Station Saturday, becoming only the second female commander in the orbiting lab's 14-year history.

Williams took charge of the space station from Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who is returning to Earth on Sunday after months commanding the outpost's six-person Expedition 32 crew. Williams launched to the station in July and will command its Expedition 33 crew before returning to Earth in November.

"I would like to thank our [Expedition] 32 crewmates here who have taught us how to live and work in space, and of course to have a lot of fun up in space," Williams told Padalka during a change of command ceremony. She will officially take charge of the station on Sunday, after Padalka and two crewmates board their Soyuz spacecraft for the trip home.

Padalka, NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and cosmonaut Sergei Revin are scheduled to undock from the space station Sunday at 7:09 p.m. EDT (2309 GMT) and land in the Central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan at 10:53 p.m. EDT (0253 on Sept. 17). The trio is wrapping up a five-month mission to the space station and Padalka thanked his crewmates and flight controllers on the ground for their help during the flight.

Space news from

Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: NASA's Opportunity rover has found a new kind of geological "berry" on Mars that has the experts scratching their heads ... and licking their chops.

Sunita Williams arrived at the space station on July 17 on a Soyuz spacecraft with two crewmates: Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. They will be joined by three new crewmembers in October.

Williams, 46, is a captain in the U.S. Navy and flying on her second long-duration space mission. She first launched into space in 2007 and spent 195 consecutive days in space, setting a record for the longest single spaceflight by a female astronaut. On Sept. 19, she'll celebrate her birthday in space.

In a NASA interview before launch, Williams said a friend asked her if she was nervous about commanding the space station. She said no, adding that the more than two years of training alongside her Expedition 32 and 33 crewmates, as well as the Mission Control team, prepared all the space station crewmembers for life in space.

"When you get up on the space station, you know what to do, so Im not nervous about it all," Williams said. "Im psyched."

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Female astronaut takes command of space station

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Space Station Spin-Off Could Protect Mars-Bound Astronauts From Radiation

Posted: September 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm

It's hard to think of many spinoffs from the $100 billion project to build and launch the International Space Station. In fact, there is precious little done on the ISS that isn't focused on just keeping the thing in orbit.

One exception is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which is designed, among other things, to determine whether cosmic ray particles are made of matter or antimatter.

The spectrometer consists of a giant magnet that deflects charged particles and a number of detectors that characterise the mass and energy of these particles. It was bolted to the ISS last year and is currently bombarded by about 1000 cosmic rays per second.

Today, Roberto Battiston at the University of Perugia in Italy and a few pals say that the technology developed for the spectrometer could be used for protecting astronauts from radiation during the long duration spaceflights in future.

The journey to the asteroids, Mars or beyond is plagued with technological problems. Among the most challenging is finding a way to protect humans from the high energy particles that would otherwise raise radiation levels to unacceptable levels.

On Earth, humans are protected by the atmosphere, the mass of the Earth itself and the Earth's magnetic field. In low earth orbit, astronauts loose the protection of the atmosphere and radiation levels are consequently higher by two orders of magnitude.

In deep space, astronauts loose the protecting effect of the Earth's mass and its magnetic field, raising levels a further five times and beyond the acceptable limits that humans can withstand over the 18 months or so it would take to get to Mars or the asteroids.

An obvious way to protect astronauts is with an artificial magnetic field that would steer charged particles away. But previous studies have concluded that ordinary magnets would be too big and heavy to be practical on a space mission.

However, superconducting magnets are more powerful, more efficient and less massive. They are much better candidates for protecting humans.

The only problem is that nobody has built and tested a superconducting magnet in space.

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Space Station Spin-Off Could Protect Mars-Bound Astronauts From Radiation

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Making music in outer space

Posted: at 3:16 am

Most astronauts are engineers, fighter pilots or scientists, but the next Canadian in space will bring an artists sensibility to his command of the International Space Station.

Chris Hadfield is scheduled to rocket off Dec. 5 for six months in the claustrophobic confines of the space station from a launch pad on a barren plateau in Kazakhstan, along with Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn. Where some might see a long stint of isolation, the veteran Canadian astronaut sees precious time to create music and visual art.

Video: Mars rover beams back audio recording

A man on the moon

Mr. Hadfield has collaborated with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies to write a song he will record in the space station, using the guitar, keyboard and ukulele on board, along with the clings and clangs of the machinery that scrubs carbon dioxide from the air and runs systems. The space-themed song is already being rearranged for distribution across Canada for use by childrens choirs, school bands and anyone who wants to pay homage to space travel.

Mr. Hadfield, 53, a retired Canadian air force colonel, tried out the untitled track with his band, Bandella, in a Houston club on Wednesday night. We had a big crowd and everybody loved it. Ed is a great songwriter, and hes rightfully proud of his little ditty, Mr. Hadfield said in an interview.

Mr. Hadfield is also working with a Japanese artist named Takahiro Ando to take images of the Earth using a watery lens to refract and reflect them. The process plays on a Japanese tradition of admiring the moon through liquid reflections, whether from a pond, a pan or cup of sake.

The experiment module, as it is called, is a plastic drum with a clear end that will allow Mr. Hadfield to place it against the space stations windows. He will inject water droplets into the drum while a super high-definition camera rolls and captures fine-resolution still photographs. I will try to be Andosans hands and eyes, Mr. Hadfield said from Houston.

Mr. Hadfield, who learned Russian so he can co-pilot the Soyuz spacecraft that will deliver the crew to the space station, has been training for more than two years to run the various systems and experiments under his command.

In a 20-year career in the space program, Mr. Hadfield has spent 20 days in space. Hes also ventured out on spacewalks twice, where he was struck by how it more than goes into your eyes. It fills your entire mind. Its just an overwhelming beauty.

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LIVE from the Space Station: Gotta-See Video

Posted: September 13, 2012 at 9:13 pm

YouTube is increasingly important outside the world of cat videos and people injuring themselves, and today they'll be streaming live from space.

YouTube had a call out to the youth of our planet to create an experiment that could be performed on the International Space Station (ISS). Thousands of teams entered, posting video of their experiments on YouTube. From the entries, six were chosen from various regions of Earth and then those six were narrowed down to two experiments.

In a partnership with NASA, JAXA, and the ESA as well as Space Industries and Lenovo the experiments were sent to the space station. They were launched on a Japanese rocket and transported to the ISS where they will be will be carried out TODAY.

Tune into the YouTube channel above for live video from the International Space Station at 10:50 am EST. via YouTube Space Lab

Want to recommend a video? Tweet it to @Discovery_News with the hashtag #GottaSeeVideos.

Don't miss today's Must-Read News Nuggets too!

Watch Discovery Curiosity video!

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YouTube Space Lab: Bill Nye, contest winners, share results as streamed from space

Posted: at 9:13 pm

YouTube will be streaming the results of its Space Lab contest winners experiments from the International Space Station Thursday, with a live-streamed event hosted by Bill Nye.

The contest, which asked young people from all over the world to come up with experiments that could be done in zero gravity, comes to a close with a live broadcast from the International Space Station at 10:50 a.m., Eastern.

Winners were announced in March. The experiments chosen to be conducted on the station explored how a zero-gravity environment would affect how spiders jump, and how that environment would affect the growth and virulence of bacteria.

Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma, of Troy, Mich. who submitted the bacteria experiment said that they are, of course, excited to travel to London and hear the results of their experiment, but that theyre simply hoping that there are results to report.

I hope that they find something, and that they didnt just all die, said Chen, a junior in high school.

Ma, also a junior, added that its an exciting time to be working on this kind of science.

It is such an interesting time to be working on this with the renewed interest in space, she said, citing both the Curiosity Rover and the celebration of late astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Bill Nye, known for his PBS show Bill Nye the Science Guy and his work in science advocacy, said that finding ways to test how humans could live and thrive in space is one of the most important things scientists can be doing right now.

These are wonderful questions that space exploration allows you to seek the answers to some important questions, he said. Space exploration brings out the best in us, in humans. It challenges us. Its peaceful. It raises the expectations of everyone in the world of whats possible, and its inherently optimistic.

This contest, he said, is just one example of how governments and other entities can work together to further the cause of space exploration.

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Japanese cargo ship leaves space station

Posted: September 12, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Astronauts on the International Space Station bade farewell to a Japanese cargo ship Wednesday, ending Japan's latest delivery flight to the orbiting lab.

Japan's unmanned H-2 Transfer Vehicle 3 (HTV-3) left the space station at 11:50 a.m. EDT after station astronauts used a robotic arm to detach the spacecraft from its docking port and set it free. The orbiting lab's robotic arm released the cargo ship, which is now filled with trash and unneeded items, as both spacecraft were sailing 235 miles (378 kilometers) above Canada, NASA officials said.

The HTV-3 spacecraft is expected to be intentionally destroyed early Friday, when it fires its rocket engines for the last time to leave orbit and burn up in Earth's atmosphere somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. That de-orbit maneuver is scheduled for about 12:50 a.m. EDT on Friday, NASA officials said.

Japan's HTV cargo ships are cylindrical vessels capable of hauling tons of supplies and new equipment for astronauts living on the International Space Station. The spacecraft were developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and are also called Kounotori, which is Japanese for "White Stork."

Japan launched HTV-3 to the space station on July 20, and the cargo ship arrived at the orbiting laboratory a week later. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide used the station's robotic arm to capture the craft and attach it to an available docking port. The same two astronauts performed the detach-and-release procedure for HTV-3 Wednesday. [ Launch Photos for Japan's HTV-3 Spaceship ]

The HTV-3 spacecraft delivered nearly 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms) of cargo to the space station, including care packages of food, clothes and other gear for the outpost's six-person crew. The cargo ship also delivered an aquatic habitat that will eventually house fish for a future science experiment, two student experiments for a YouTube Space Lab contest, and external experiments that were moved to a porch-like platform on the station's Japanese Kibo laboratory module.

Japan's HTV spaceships are part of an international fleet of unmanned spacecraft used to send regular cargo deliveries to the space station. The fleet includes Russia's Progress spacecraft, Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicles and the private Dragon space capsules built by the private U.S. spaceflight company SpaceX.

SpaceX's first Dragon spacecraft flew a test flight to the space station in May, with the first operational delivery flight scheduled to launch in October. Another American company, the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp., is building an unmanned space cargo ship for NASA called Cygnus. The spacecraft's Antares rocket is expected to make its first test flight later this year.

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences each have contracts with NASA to provide regular cargo delivery flights to the space station.

You can follow Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalik and on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

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Student Biology Investigations Stream Live On YouTube Space Lab

Posted: at 8:15 am

September 11, 2012

Image Caption: The jumping spider investigation, as part of the International Space Station YouTube Space Lab contest, includes the red-backed spider (left) and zebra spider (right) species. (BioServe). Credit: NASA

Several young researchers were incredibly excited when the latest Japanese cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station, in late July. Along with the usual food, clothing, and science investigations, the spacecraft delivered the two global YouTube Space Lab winning entries.

Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma (from Troy, Mich.) and Amr Mohamed (from Alexandria, Egypt) won this opportunity to do research in the orbiting laboratorys microgravity environment while attending high school.

These young scientists are working on some interesting hypotheses involving jumping spiders adaptation abilities, and how microgravity might affect the anti-fungal properties of Bacillus subtilis (also known as B. subtilis), which are naturally occurring bacteria.

Astronaut Sunita Williams, NASA flight engineer, is conducting the investigations aboard the station. The student experiments are scheduled to stream live via video from the space station on the YouTube Space Lab website Sept. 13, at 9:30 a.m. CDT.

Mohameds Salticus scenicus, or zebra spider, research looks at whether jumping spiders, like the zebra and red-backed species, can adapt their hunting abilities to microgravity. Jumping spiders do not build webs for catching their food. These particular spiders hunt using their excellent vision to track and stalk prey, jumping and striking with a lethal bite similar to cats hunting mice.

I have always been fascinated by science because with a handful of equations, I can explain the world around me, said Mohamed in his Meet the Winner YouTube video. The idea of sending an experiment to space is the most exciting thing that I have ever heard in my life.

Chen and Ma were inspired by previous Salmonella studies done aboard station, proving this type of bacteria grown in microgravity becomes more virulent. They are testing this theory on B. subtilis, to see if these bacteria will have increased anti-fungal properties when compared to the same bacteria produced on Earth. Their testing procedures involve introducing various nutrients and compounds, in particular phosphates and nitrates, separately to see if these additives affect growth and anti-fungal potency. If their hypothesis is correct, results may lead to stronger probiotics (as B. subtilis is highly stable in harsh environmental conditions), and increased knowledge concerning how bacteria cause disease.

In their Meet the Winners YouTube video, Ma said, When we first started brainstorming, we definitely wanted to do something to impact the human race. Its so cool how with science, everything relates to each other. Physics is used in chemistry, and chemistry is used in biology, and so on; everything is interrelated and its just really neat to find those relations. Chen added, The idea that something you made, something thats your experiment, being sent up into space and actually becoming a reality is pretty incredible.

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Global student space experiments transformed

Posted: September 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

International Space Station.

( experiments dreamed up by three teenage winners of an international contest that will be streamed live on YouTube from the International Space Station Sept. 13 were made flight-ready by a University of Colorado Boulder space center.

The two winning experimentsone of which tests the ability of spiders to learn how to catch prey in the low-gravity of space, and the other which investigates how nutrients and compounds affect virulent bacteria growth in spacewere announced in March. The contest is sponsored by YouTube, Lenovo and Space Adventures with the involvement of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency.

"We took the ideas of the two winning experiments and transformed them into actual experiments that could be conducted in space," said Stefanie Countryman, the business manager and outreach coordinator for BioServe Space Technologies, a NASA-sponsored center located in CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department. The CU team also manifested the payload on an unmanned Japanese HTV rocket, conducted safety verifications and trained the astronaut flight crew on using BioServe hardware aboard the International Space Station, or ISS, for the project.

The global initiative sponsoring the contest is a new program known as YouTube Space Lab. YouTube Space Lab is one component of YouTube for Schools, a program that allows educators to access YouTube's broad library of educational content from inside their school network. The contest generated more than 2,000 entries.

The student winners are Amr Mohamed, 18, of Alexandria, Egypt, who developed the idea for the spider experiment, and Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma, both 16, of Troy, Mich., who created the idea for the bacteria study. BioServe completed all of the mission integration and operations work for the two experiments and hand-delivered the loaded space flight hardware to the Tanegashima National Space Flight Center in Japan for launch to ISS on July 21.

The live, 45-minute YouTube Space Lab program stream from ISS, slated for 8:30 a.m. MDT on Sept. 13 will be hosted by Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and will include Mohamed, Chen and Ma. The winning experimentsselected by a panel that included British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, two NASA administrators, European Space Agency and Japanese Space Agency astronauts and Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Lalibertewill be performed by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

Countryman, who also will be part of the YouTube Space Lab live stream as she describes the role of BioServe in the project to Nye, said she was surprised by the sophistication of some of the experiments entered in the contest. "Seeing the level of intellect, not only from the top two winners but from six regional winners, makes us feel confident in the next generation of scientists and engineers," she said.

Countryman said BioServe worked closely with Paula Cushing at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and MaryAnn Hamilton of the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colo., to obtain the jumping spiders and analyze their behavior. BioServe designed, developed and built the flight habitat for the spiders. Once aboard ISS, the habitat will be placed inside a BioServe-built device known as a Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, or CGBA.

In addition, BioServe worked with AgraQuest in Davis, Calif., a company that manufactures and sells the bacteria strain B. subtilis, which will be used in the experiment by Chen and Ma. BioServe researchers worked with the students to design the experiment, which included 48 fluid processing devices carried in six Group Activation Packs built by BioServe and which have flown on dozens of space missions.

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Space Station fixed with $3 toothbrush

Posted: September 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm

International Space Station engineers improvised a set of tools to repair a malfuctioning power unit, using spares that included a $3 toothbrush. Picture: NASA Source: Supplied

IN a move that would have made MacGyver proud, astronauts have fixed a series of electrical malfunctions on the International Space Station - with a toothbrush.

For more than a week, astronauts on the station have been trying to figure out how to replace a malfunctioning Main Bus Switching Unit, which transfers power from the massive solar panels into the station, reported.

Without the 100kg MBSU the station was unable to get power from two of its eight panels. Then on Saturday another malfunction put a third panel offline - making for a nervous time on the station as they conserved power to keep vital life support systems functioning.

Last week a marathon eight-hour spacewalk failed to fix the problem, as a pair of stubborn bolts thwarted their efforts to install a spare MBSU.

A fisheye lens attached to an electronic still camera was used to capture this image of NASA astronaut Sunita Williams. Picture: NASA

Experts at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston worked around the clock to figure out a solution, improvising a set of tools from existing supplies on the station that could help fix the stuck bolt. Their solution included an Allen wrench taped to a bolt, and a $3 toothbrush used to clear metal shavings from the threaded bolt hole.

"It's been like living on the set of Apollo 13 the past few days," astronaut Jack Fischer said from Mission Control in Houston, referring to the brainstorming session that figured out how to save the stranded Apollo 13 astronauts - portrayed in a movie starring Tom Hanks.

On Thursday NASA's Sunita Williams and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide spent six and a half hours outside the space station fixing the MBSU.

Astronaut Aki Hoshide, Expedition 32 flight engineer, during a six-hour, 28-minute spacewalk to complete the installation of a Main Bus Switching Unit that was hampered last week by a possible misalignment and damaged threads where a bolt must be placed. Picture: NASA

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