MarkWhittington writes: Back in 2012, when NASA first proposed building a deep space habitat (DSH) beyond the moon, the Obama administration took a dim view of the idea. However, fast forward over three years, and the idea has become part of the Journey to Mars program. According to a story in Spaceflight Insider, the deep space habitat will be deployed in cis-lunar space in the 2020s to test various technologies related to sending humans to Mars. The DSH could also be part of an infrastructure that would support a return to the moon should the next administration decide to go that route.
MarkWhittington writes: Quietly, the Russians appear to be forming a space alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to a story in Sputnik. Not only is Russia in talks to launch Iranian satellites on Russian rockets but also to include an Iranian astronaut on a future space mission. What that space mission might be is open to question. A visit by an Iranian astronaut to the International Space Station would likely kick up a political firestorm with the United States, even though the Obama administration is attempting to develop a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.
MarkWhittington writes: The Verge reported that NASA has awarded the second round of contracts for the commercial resupply program. Two companies, SpaceX, and Orbital Sciences, which have been hauling cargo to the International Space Station in the first phase of the program, will receive contracts to fly at least six flights each to the ISS through 2024, the anticipated end of operations year for the space station. But Sierra Nevada has also gotten a six flight commitment, using a cargo version of its Dream Chaser spacecraft.
An anonymous reader writes: When the Sun emits a flare or a mass ejection in the direction of Earth, these fast moving particles are when Earth's magnetosphere and atmosphere are of the utmost importance for shielding us. The magnetic field bends these ions harmlessly away from our planet, only funneling a small fraction down into a ring surrounding the poles. The atmosphere absorbs the impact, shielding all living creatures below from this radiation, while simultaneously putting on a show. Thanks to a coronal mass ejection on the 28th, the northern and southern lights will put on quite a display on the night of the 30th for all skywatchers at or above 50 degrees latitude, with chances that observers further towards the equator might have something to see, too. But the best views of all will belong to the unshielded astronauts aboard the ISS, who will pass around the Earth a full 7 times during our "night," and at the peak of the storm.
An anonymous reader writes: British astronaut Tim Peake was trying to call his parents to wish them a Merry Christmas from the International Space Station, but he dialed the wrong number, giving a retired teacher one of the best pub stories ever. According to the Independent: "The pensioner who Tim Peake accidently called from space said she thought the British astronaut 'had been out down the pub.' Betty Barker, a 79-year-old retired teacher, told the Daily Mirror: 'He said, "Hello, is that planet Earth?" So I said "no"'. 'I thought it was someone who had been out down the pub who was having me on. Then because it was quiet with no giggling or noise from a pub I thought it was someone looking to go to a nightclub called Planet Earth.' Mrs Barker said she put the phone down because she didn't want to 'take any more notice of it.'"
An anonymous reader writes: NASA has issued a warning to private space companies: the agency is moving on from its focus on low-Earth orbit. William Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight, said, "We're going to get out of ISS as quickly as we can. Whether it gets filled in by the private sector or not, NASA's vision is we're trying to move out." This leaves a void for the private companies building rockets to supply the ISS. "NASA says it would like to see the private space industry "take over" low-Earth orbit, although it acknowledges that any successor space station or orbiting module will be far smaller than the $140 billion space station, a collaboration between 15 countries. The message from NASA to the US industry is simple: we're serious about the commercialization of low-Earth orbit, we have this marvelous facility available with unique capabilities, and we want you to use the heck out of it."
An anonymous reader writes: An Atlas V rocket carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station has lifted off from Cape Canaveral. This is the first flight of the Cygnus since the previous spacecraft was destroyed during an Antares rocket explosion in 2014. Ars reports: "Sunday's successful launch was the fourth attempt this week to get CRS Orb-4 into space. Three previous launch attempts—one per day since Thursday—were scrubbed due to foul weather at Cape Canaveral. The CRS-4 Cygnus capsule is currently en route to the ISS, carrying about 7300 pounds (about 3300kg) of food, hardware, and scientific equipment for the Expedition 44 crew on board the ISS (which includes US astronaut Scott Kelly, who is more than halfway through a year-long stay aboard the station)."
RockDoctor writes with news as reported by the BBC that parts of a Falcon 9 launcher have washed ashore on the Isles of Scilly off the SW coast of Britain. Early impressions are that the pieces are from the failed Falcon 9 ISS launch which exploded after take-off in June. That's not the only possibility, though; according to the article, However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission. "All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station. "It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.
schwit1 writes: NASA has awarded three different companies contracts to develop advanced ion and nuclear propulsion systems for future interplanetary missions, both manned and unmanned. These are development contacts, all below $10 million. However, they all appeared structured like NASA's cargo and crew contracts for ISS, where the contractor does all of the development and design, with NASA only supplying some support and periodic payments when the contractor achieves agreed-upon milestones. Because of this, the contractors will own the engines they develop, and will be able to sell them to other customers after development, thereby increasing the competition and innovation in the field.
An anonymous reader writes: NASA has placed its first mission order for SpaceX to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. SpaceX is now in a race with Boeing, who received a similar order in May, to see which private space company can deliver astronauts to the ISS first. NASA said, "Commercial crew missions to the space station, on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, will restore America's human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research aboard the orbiting laboratory." They anticipate dramatic reductions in cost for launching astronauts to orbit compared to similar missions aboard Russian rockets. "Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before NASA will give the final approval for flight. Each contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions. A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time."
An anonymous reader writes: Today marks the 15th birthday of the International Space Station (ISS). Since Nov. 2, 2000 the ISS has hosted more than 220 people from more than a dozen countries. Time reports: "The ISS was little more than three pressurized modules, some supplies and a couple of solar wings to help keep it powered on the day the first crew climbed aboard. Today, the station is a flying piece of cosmic infrastructure the size of a football field, containing 15 pressurized modules, which afford the astronauts as much habitable space as a six-bedroom home. It weighs 1 million pounds (454,000 kg), runs on 3.3 million lines of software code and required 115 launches just to carry all of its components up to orbit."
sciencehabit writes: There's a little known, dirty story about the International Space Station (ISS): It's filled with bacteria and fungi. A new study has found compelling evidence that microorganisms from human skin are present throughout the station, and some of the bugs could cause serious harm to astronauts.The most concerning finding was from the "high-efficiency particulate arrestance" (HEPA) air filter used in the ISS: 99.65% of the viable sequences they retrieved came from Actinobacteria. The Actinobacteria phylum includes Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium; each genus was found in the ISS samples at a high level, which is "problematic," say the researchers, because they both have species that are opportunistic pathogens. Astronauts who live in microgravity for prolonged periods also can have compromised immune systems.
NASA astronaut -- and Commander of the International Space Station -- Scott Kelly on Friday broke the record for time in space -- for U.S. astronauts, at least; the overall longest flight of 437.7 days belongs to Valeri Polyakov, and the Washington Post points out that Russia’s Gennady Padalka has spent a total of 879 days aloft. Kelly brings a unique asset to the long-term study of health for spacefarers, because his twin brother Mark, here on Earth, serves as close to a perfect control subject as NASA could hope to have. Kelly is a prolific tweeter about the progress of his year-long mission aboard the ISS; on the occasion of beating the time-aloft record, his modest acknowledgement read only, "Records are meant to be broken. Look fwd to one of my colleagues surpassing my end 500+ days on our #JourneyToMars!"
MarkWhittington writes: While NASA is planning its road to Mars, a number of commercial interests and place policy experts are discussing what happens after the International Space Station ends its operational life. Currently, the international partners have committed to operating ISS through 2024. Some have suggested that the space station, conceived by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, could last as long as 2028. But, after that, there will still be a need for a space station of some sort, either in low Earth orbit, or at one of the Lagrange points where the gravity of the moon and Earth cancel one another out.
An anonymous reader writes: NASA has announced that it's partnering with Harmonic to launch a new TV channel that delivers video at 4k resolution (4096x2160). The channel is called NASA TV UHD, and it'll go live on November 1. Content will be generated by cameras at the International Space Station and on other NASA missions, as well as any 4K content they can remaster from old footage.
MarkWhittington writes: Back in October 2011 Ardbeg Distillery on Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, sent a vial of whisky to the International Space Station courtesy of Houston based Nanoracks. The idea was the see if microgravity affects the way that whisky ages, particularly the way terpenes that are the building blocks of food and liquors behave. A similar vial was kept on Earth as a comparison. The BBC reported that the contents of the two vials were sampled and compared. As it turns out, pronounced differences were noted.
MarkWhittington writes: The Space Access Society, a group that advocates for government funded, commercially operated spacecraft, examined the annual fight between supporters of the heavy lift Space Launch System and supporters of the commercial crew program in a recent communique. In the view of the SAS and other commercial crew supporters, Congress, on the behalf of the big rocket supporters, has been shorting funding for the commercial crew spacecraft in favor of the SLS. On the surface there seems to be no reason for this, as the two undertake different missions. The Space Access Society posits a conspiracy theory so immense that at first glance would seem to be in the same class as the Apollo moonlanding hoax, The SAS accuses Space Launch System supporters of trying to arrange the premature end of the International Space Station to free up funding for the big rocket and related projects.
An anonymous reader writes: Last night, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to deliver three astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia's Sergey Volkov, Denmark's Andreas Mogensen, and Kazakhstan's Aidyn Aimbetov reached orbit without incident, and they'll dock with the ISS in the wee hours of Friday morning. Mogensen and Aimbetov will only stay until 11 September, at which point they and Expedition 44 commander Gennady Padalka will undock and return to Earth. (Here's a neat time-lapse of changing a Soyuz craft's parking space at the ISS.) Padalka was in charge for the current expedition, but he'll be passing command of Expedition 45 to NASA's Scott Kelly. Kelly and Oleg Kornienko will soon reach the halfway point of their one-year mission at the space station. It's worth noting that this was the 500th rocket launch from the Gagarin launchpad at Baikonur.
schwit1 writes: An experiment to test how whiskey ages in weightlessness is about to begin on ISS: "H-II Transfer Vehicle No. 5, commonly known as "Kounotori5" or HTV5, was launched on Wednesday from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center carrying alcohol beverages produced by Suntory to the Japanese Experiment Module aboard the International Space Station, where experiments on the "development of mellowness" will be conducted for a period of about one year in Group 1 and for two or more years (undecided) in Group 2." Don't worry, the astronauts on ISS won't be getting drunk. After the test period is complete the samples will then returned to Earth, untasted, where they will then be compared with control samples.