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NASA To Attach First Inflatable Habitat To The ISS This Weekend

This weekend a monumental event will take place on the International Space Station (ISS), when the first-ever inflatable habitat will be attached.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was launched just last week on the SpaceX rocket that also performed a successful barge landing. This module is revolutionary, in that it launched in a compact form, but will inflate to more than five times its size by being pumped full of air.

On Saturday, April 16, the action is set to begin, and it will be broadcast live on NASA TV. At 2:15 a.m. ET (7:15 a.m. BST), controllers on the ground at NASAs Johnson Space Center in Houston will use the stations robotic Canadarm2 to remove BEAM from the trunk of SpaceXs Dragon vehicle, where it is currently stored, and attachit to the Tranquility module on the ISS. The whole process should finish by 6:15 a.m. ET (11:15 a.m. BST).

It should be noted that, although the module is being attached, it wont actually be inflated yet. Thats set to take place at an unspecified date in late May, after which astronauts will enter the habitat for the first time, with it remaining attached to the ISS for two years before being sent to burn up in the atmosphere.

Various sensors will monitor BEAM, including the amount of radiation inside, and the effect of micrometeoroids hitting its outer layers. However, its unlikely BEAM will be used for much else other than testing out its capabilities. NASA has no plans for astronauts to regularly use it as an extra room on the ISS at the moment.

When the inflation takes place in May, it should last no more than a couple of hours. The module will expand from 2.1 meters (7 feet)wide and 2.4 meters (8feet) in length to 3 meters (10 feet) wide and 4 meters (13 feet) in length which increases its total volume five times.

If the module is attached without a hitch, this will have been a good week for Bigelow Aerospace. Yesterday, the company announced that it had partnered with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) to fly a more advanced inflatable habitat, the B330, by 2020. This will either be attached to the ISS, or fly alone in orbit, an important step towards building a private space station or perhaps a space hotel that paying customers can visit.

So tune in on Saturday, andsee a bit of space history being made.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/inflatable-habitat-be-attached-iss-first-time-weekend

Could Russian Sanctions Restrict US Access To The International Space Station?

The U.S. has made it very clear that it does not agree with the way that Russia has behaved towards Ukraine, and last month NASA cut-off contact with Russia except for ISS related matters. This week, the U.S. went one step further and imposed sanctions that deny export licenses for any high-tech items that might be used to aid Russian military capabilities. Since Russia is reliant on imports from the West, this could jeopardize Russia’s plan to launch five commercial satellites this year.  

This has royally ticked off the Russian government, to say the least, and they have now started to retaliate by threatening to prevent the U.S. from utilizing Russian space shuttles. In a Twitter rant, Rogozin wrote “The United States introduced sanctions against our space industry… We warned them, we will reply to statements with statements, to actions with actions.” He then added that the U.S. should start to use a trampoline to deliver astronauts to the ISS.

Jokes aside- is this a serious threat toward the astronauts that are currently on board the ISS? Unfortunately the U.S. is dependent on Russian shuttles to get astronauts to the ISS, but given that it pays Russia a whopping $60 million per astronaut and Russia are lacking in funds at the moment, it seems likely that this is an empty threat. They’re shortly due a pay-out of $457.9 million from the U.S. for their services so far, which is an incredible amount of money to throw down the drain.

Two private American companies, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, are also hoping to be able to send astronauts to the ISS soon; therefore it seems unwise to make rash decisions that could badly backfire on Russia later down the line.

It’s incredibly unlikely that these threats will lead to the astronauts currently on board the ISS becoming “stranded” in space as some newspapers have suggested, so there is no need for panic just yet. 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/could-russian-sanctions-restrict-us-access-international-space-station

Why You Should Care About SpaceX Landing A Rocket On A Floating Barge

On Friday, April 8, Elon Musks SpaceX made history by landing the first stage of an orbital rocket on a floating bargefor the first time. Musk deservedly received plaudits far and wide, from Buzz Aldrin toPresident Barack Obama, but why is a barge landing so important for the company?

Well, it all comes down to reusability. In an effort to make space travel more affordable, by a factor of as much as 100, the company wants to reuse the Falcon 9 rockets it sends to spacein a similar manner to how we reuse airplanes rather than scrapping them after each flight. It costs as little as $200,000to fuel the Falcon 9, but $60 million to make the rocket.

The first step towards this goal was made in December 2015, when SpaceX landed the first stage (essentially the bottom half) of a Falcon 9 on the ground at Cape Canaveralin Florida. Landing on a barge instead, though, opensup a new array of landing possibilities for the company.

To land the first stage, itrotates at an altitude of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) and reignites its engine, reducing its speed from more than 8,000 kilometers per hour(5,000 miles per hour) to ultimately zero back on the ground. To do this requires quite a bit of fuel, and for regular missions to low-Earth orbit such as this Dragon cargo flight (with the an exciting inflatable moduleon board) to the International Space Station (ISS) that doesnt pose a problem.

Check out the landing in 4K resolution above. SpaceX

But for more ambitious launches, landing on the ground isnt an option. In particular, launches to higher orbitssuch as geostationary orbits, or missions beyond Earth orbit (such as to Mars, an ultimate goal for SpaceX)require a much higher velocity, and thus there is less fuel available for a landing.

On these missions, more fuel is needed to lift the spacecraft or satellite on the rocket to its intended height or velocity. So, by using a barge, SpaceX can return the first stage of the rocket to a location much further out than the launch site. For example, all launches from Florida head East over the Atlantic Ocean; having a barge in the sea means the rocket has less far to travel back to perform a landing.

“For half our missions, we will need to land out to sea,” said Musk in a press conference after the launch. Anything beyond Earth is likely to need to land on the ship.

The Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with the ISS on Sunday. NASA

With this latest mission, the rocket will be returned on the barge (named “Of Course I Still Love You” in honor of the works of Iain M. Banks) to Cape Canaveral.The first-ever ground landing by SpaceX in December will become a museum piece, but this latest landed rocket will fly again. Ultimately, SpaceX wants to reuse first stages tens of timesor more.

“We’ll bring the rocket back to Port Canaveral on Sunday and fire it 10 times in a row on the ground,” Musk said. “If things look good then it is qualified for reuse and launch. We’re aiming for relaunch around May or June let’s say June to recalibrate timing expectations.”

Eventually, the company also wants to make the second stage of the rocket the part that boosts the payload to its orbital velocity reusable too, bringing the cost of launching down even further. And SpaceX are doing all this in style, with huge public attention surrounding every launch and landing attempt.

“Well be successful, ironically, when landings becomeboring,” joked Musk.For now, the company is continuing to shake up the rocket business and this barge landing is the latest in a string of successes for the company that could herald an era of affordable space travel.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/why-you-should-care-about-spacex-landing-rocket-floating-barge

The Gross Side of Space: What Happens to Dead Skin in Microgravity

Warning: If you are looking for a story about the romance of space travel — the adventure, the wonder, the transcendence of what we know in the name of exploring a great unknown — this is not that. Turn away now.

Still with me? Great. Then here’s something from the other side of space. The less romantic, and in fact vaguely disgusting, side. The side that involves drinking recycled urine and using bathrooms that involve vacuums and trimming moustaches with clippers that resemble medieval torture devices. This one involves skin. Skin which, as it naturally does, sheds.

On Earth, we barely notice that process: Our skin cells molt and and gravity pulls them away from our bodies, conveniently and invisibly. In space, however, there is no gravity to pull the dead cells (technically: the detritus) away. Which means that the detritus, left to its own devices, simply floats. Which, given the fact that multiple astronauts live on the Space Station at the same time, and the fact that even highly trained space travelers might get skeeved out by floating clouds of dead skin, is less than ideal.

In the video above, former ISS denizen Don Pettit describes what happens when, in particular, you take your socks off on the Station. “This cloud, this explosion of skin particles — detritus — floats out,” he says. “And you’re in this weightless environment, and the particles have nowhere to go but out.”

That’s even true of foot calluses — which, after a few months of weightlessness, tend to soften. I’ll leave the details to Pettit, but the bottom line is this: If you ever find yourself living on a space station, make sure the station’s ventilation system works really, really well. Because, as astronaut Mike Massimino warns in the video: “This sounds actually pretty disgusting.”

“Well, it is,” Pettit replies. “But it’s part of being a human.”

Image: NASA

This article originally published at The Atlantic
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/08/01/dead-skin-microgravity/

Watch What Happens When You Add Dye To A Floating Ball Of Water On The ISS

Another day and another incredible post from NASA. This video shows more astronauts messing around with liquids on board the International Space Station.

A few months ago, we sawTerry Virts releasing a ball of floating water and an antacid tablet into it. In this newly released video, we see astronauts inserting dye into floating balls of water. Simple, yet spectacularly elegant.

The RED Epic Dragon camera used for this footage is cable of shooting resolutions of up to 6,144 x 3,160 pixels and 300 frames per second. It was also the same camera used for The Hobbit trilogy and is commercially available if youve got a modest $57,805 (38,000) lying around. The cameras unbelievable quality means its able to capture even more information that can aid the astronauts with scientific investigations. Back home on Earth at theMarshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA is looking into using the cameras for vehicleoperations such as docking and undocking.

NASA is also working on posting 4K videos from the ISSto itsYouTube channel every few weeks.

Make sure you watch the video in4K quality if youre using a screen capable of displaying itby clicking the settings cog in the bottom right of the player, its worth the download time.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/4k-footage-astronauts-having-fun-micro-gravity

First Vine From Space Uploaded By NASA Astronaut

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman has managed to post the first-ever Vine (a Twitter app used to share up-to 6 second looping videos) from space, recorded on the International Space Station. And it’s pretty incredible.

Wiseman managed to capture a single orbit around Earth, which usually takes the ISS around 92 minutes, and condense it into 6 seconds of incredible footage:

 

 

You’ll have probably noticed by now that the Sun doesn’t set in the video, but instead goes round and round. This is because when the video was shot, the ISS was orbiting parallel with the Earth’s terminator line. The terminator (not Schwarzenegger, this time), or twilight zone, is the moving line that separates day from night on an object illuminated by a star. The location of the terminator changes depending on the season. When the ISS lines up with the terminator it dodges the shadow from the Earth and consequently the crew onboard the satellite get an unfathomable view of the Sun.

The ISS orbit only aligns with the terminator a couple of times per year, around one of the solstices, so this footage is pretty unique. 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/first-vine-space-uploaded-nasa-astronaut

Humans Have Now Been Living In Space For 15 Years On The International Space Station

Break out the party hats, because as of today humans have been continuously living on the International Space Station (ISS)for 15 years.

Assembly of the stationbegan on November 20, 1998 with the launch of the Russian-built (and U.S. funded) Zarya module. Twoweeks later the American Unity module launched and was joined to Zarya by Space Shuttle Endeavour. Four further manned shuttle flights, and two unmanned Russian flights, completed the preliminary construction of the station.

It was not for another two years that the first crew (Expedition 1) arrived, entering on November 2, 2000. They were NASA astronaut and commander William Shepherd, and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. Together they got the station up and running, activating various critical life support systems, during intensive work days.

Expedition 1, from left to right: Gidzenko, Shepherd, and Krikalev. NASA.

”There are so many people who felt maybe we couldn’t do it,” NASAs administrator at the time, Daniel Goldin, told reporters after the launch of the first crew on October 31, 2000. ”But it’s happening, it’s here. We’re going to be in space forever with people who are circling this globe, and then we’re going on to Mars, back to the moon and with bases on asteroids.”

Michael Foale, a now-retired British-Americanastronaut who was in charge of the first crew on the ground, added: ”I have often thought this may be the last time that there were no humans in space, and I really believe that could be today.”

Since then, 217 additional people from 17 countries have visited the station, and it remains a lasting testament to our successful occupation of low Earth orbit. With Russia’sMir space station also continuously occupied for 12 and a half of its 15 years in orbit, between 1986 and2001, there have only been four years in the last three decades that humans have not been living in space.

Construction of the ISS began with the docking of the Zarya (left) and Unity (right) modules in 1998. NASA.

The beginnings of the ISS can be traced back to the proposal for the American Space Station Freedom. This complex, very similar to the ISS in appearance and purpose, was to be a U.S.-only outpost. Daunted by the scope and cost of such a project, though, President Clinton made the wise decision to partner with Russia in September 1993.

This would prove essential. Russia would not only supply some of the modules, they would also ferry people and cargo to the later named International Space Station with their Soyuz and Progress vehicles respectively. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle in July 2011, this capability is now more than ever a necessity to keep the station running.

The two superpowers had cooperated in space before, most notably on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the Shuttle-Mir program. The ISS, though, was unprecedented. The $100 billion station, located 410 kilometers (255 miles) above Earth, would ultimately be the size of an American football field, and allow for incredible research to be performed in orbit.

Astronauts including the current ISS commander Scott Kelly have, in recent years, been tweeting remarkable pictures of Earth-like this from orbit. Scott Kelly/NASA.

Originally scheduled for completion in 2006, numerous delays and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003 saw the station essentially completed in 2011. And its importance in spaceflight cannot be understated. Not only has it provided untold scientific data on how humans operate during prolonged spaceflight, it has also been the location for thousands of microgravity experiments with applications across science, technology, medicine, and many other areas.

And the science shows no sign of abating. Currently on the ISS, two astronauts NASAs Scott Kelly and Russias Mikhail Kornienko are just over halfway through the first 12-month stay, providing crucial biological data ahead of manned missions to Mars in the late 2030s, which could last more than two years.

The ISS itself is scheduled to remain in orbit until at least 2024, when parts of it likely just the U.S. segments will be deorbited. Those segments were carried into orbit by the Space Shuttle and thus cannot be moved anywhere with ease, but the Russian segments had their own thrusters, and thus could be relocated to build a new station, something Russia is keen to do.

Former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, pictured inside the Columbus module in 2012, is perhaps one of the most famous occupants of the ISS. NASA.

Until then, the ISS will remain the cornerstone of our recent endeavors in space. Following the Apollo missions to the Moon, many have bemoaned the situation where humans have not ventured out of Earth orbit since 1972, but the ISS has been vital in advancing our understanding of spaceflight, hardware, orbital procedures, and much more.

Even after the ISS is retired, it will long be remembered as one of the most successful global projects, a time when the world worked together to live and work in space in harmony. Whether there will ever be such a cooperative space project again in the near future, such as an international mission to Mars, remains to be seen.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/humans-have-now-been-living-space-15-years-iss

Watch The ESA’s Ariane 5 Rocket Launch Live!

The European Space Agency (ESA) will be launching an Ariane 5 rocket tonight at 7:47 pm EDT from Kourou, French Guiana. NASA will be streaming the event live beginning at 7:15 pm EDT, and you can check it out right here!

The rocket will be transporting an Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) into orbit that contains goods for the crew aboard the International Space Station. The vessel will reach the ISS in about 14 days and will deliver about 6.6 tons of equipment, food, water, and a 4,000-year-old meteorite that will be sent back out into space to continue its cosmic journey.

The ATV is not only ferrying goods to the astronauts, but will also be performing two experiments. Laser InfraRed Imaging Sensors (LIRIS) will be demonstrated while docking. In the future, it is hoped LIRIS will make it easier to dock with uncooperative targets like space debris. The Break Up Camera will record the ATV in infrared as it breaks up in the atmosphere upon re-entry. 

This spacecraft is the fifth and final ATV the ESA will launch. The ATV-5 has been nicknamed Georges Lemaître, in honor of the Belgian astronomer who was best known for proposing the Big Bang theory as the origin of the Universe. Others in the fleet have been named to honor Jules Verne, Johannes Kepler, Edoardo Amaldi, and Albert Einstein. 

Watch the launch live here:

 

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/watch-esa%E2%80%99s-ariane-5-rocket-launch-live

Beautiful Image Of Venus From The International Space Station

This image of Venus shining like a cosmic jewel was taken from the International Space Station (ISS) on December 5, 2015, by Kimiya Yu, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

JAXA released the photo on the heels of a recent triumph: On December 7, 2015, the Akatsuki probe successfully entered the elliptical orbit of Venus.

The probe hopes to learn about Venus’surface and atmosphere, which scientists currently believe is a nightmarish landscape of thick, toxic clouds and possiblelightning storms and volcanic activity.

The photograph was snapped during the second to last day of the Akatsuki probe’s long journey towards Venus.

David MacLean, from the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Canada, told IFLScience the image was taken when the ISS was above the western coast of India, around 60 kilometers (37 miles) inland from Mumbai, looking towards the east coast. The city lights are beaming out of Hyderabad (lowerright), Nagpur (lowerleft) and Raipur (upper left).

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/beautiful-image-venus-international-space-station

WATCH LIVE: HD streaming Of Earth From The International Space Station

One of the latest missions from the ISS is kind of amazing. The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment consists of four cameras that have been attached outside of the ISS. Though temperature is controlled, the cameras are exposed to the radiation from the sun, which will allow astronauts to understand how radiation affects the instruments.

The experiment is being run in conjunction with High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program that serves as outreach for students 9-12. Students participating in this program also helped design some aspects of the camera.

The cameras point down at Earth at all times, which makes for some breathtaking images. The feed will sometimes go down as the signal switches between the cameras, and it is hard to see when the ISS is on the dark side of the planet. If the cameras are down, the screen will be grey.

Watch the live stream here:

 

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/watch-live-hd-streaming-earth-international-space-station