'Beautiful, Beautiful Moment': Ten Years Since Europe's Columbus Lab Arrived at Space Station

Spacewalker Rex Walheim works to outfit the exterior of Europe’s Columbus lab during STS-122, which launched ten years ago, this week. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Ten years ago, this month, Space Shuttle Atlantis sprang from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, to kickstart the final phase of International Space Station (ISS) construction. A decade since the first elements of the football-field-sized outpost had been placed into orbit, the core structure was in place, ready to accept the pressurized modules of the international partners. First up was Columbus, the largest single contribution of the European Space Agency (ESA).

More than 22.5 feet (6.8 meters) in length and 15 feet (4.5 meters) in diameter, it would be permanently attached to the starboard port of the station’s Harmony node and, over its first decade of operational life, saw no fewer than 13 European astronauts from France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom float through its hatch, support a broad range of scientific research and display their national flags in its roomy interior. In its ten years, Columbus has supported more than 1,700 discrete experiments and an estimated 800 terabytes of data has passed through its Data Management System (DMS).

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Don't Freak Out Sunday California, It's Just SpaceX Launching the PAZ Satellite

The launch of Iridium-4 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 22, 2017, from Vandenberg AFB, CA, caused a lot of clueless people to freak out as the booster was an amazing sight in sunset’s fading twilight. Photo: SpaceX

UPDATE FEB 17:

 – The Falcon 9 was rolled out to its launch pad this morning, but was then rolled back into its hangar a short while ago. SpaceX says they need additional time to perform final checkouts of the rocket’s upgraded fairing, and due to “mission requirements” liftoff is now targeting Feb 21.

ORIGINAL STORY BELOW:

Four launches within the first 50 days of the year is an impressive accomplishment, and that’s exactly what SpaceX is aiming to do in dawn’s twilight Sunday morning, Feb. 18, targeting liftoff of their last Block-3 variant Falcon 9 rocket to launch a satellite for Spain at 6:16 a.m. PST (14:16 UTC) from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Sunrise will occur at 6:44 a.m., which means the Falcon 9 will launch in darkness, but should ascend into sunlight as it roars through the upper atmosphere on the power of its nine Merlin 1D+ engines to deploy the $180 million, 3,000-pound (1,400 kg) Paz radar-imaging satellite into low-Earth orbit. A rideshare payload of two SpaceX Starlink test satellites for the worldwide internet program are also onboard the rocket.

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U.S.-Japanese Spacewalking Team Wraps Up Replacement of Canadarm2 'Hands'

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai spent five hours and 57 minutes outside the International Space Station (ISS) on U.S. EVA-48. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter

The spectacular sight of the Sun rising from behind the limb of the Home Planet was closely mirrored by the “circle of the Sun” on the sleeve of an astronaut’s space suit earlier today (Friday, 16 February), when Japan’s fourth spacewalker ventured outside the International Space Station (ISS). Astronaut Norishige Kanai—who launched to the orbiting outpost for his first mission, last December—spent five hours and 57 minutes stowing and repositioning a pair of Latching End Effectors (LEEs) for the 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm. Norishige’s spacewalk with seasoned NASA veteran Mark Vande Hei comes a little over two decades since Takao Doi became Japan’s first spacewalker and the first to wear the white flag, emblazoned with the blood-red rising Sun on his sleeve. Today’s excursion was the third EVA of 2018, following one U.S. spacewalk last month and a record-breaking Russian spacewalk, earlier this month, involving Expedition 54 cosmonauts Aleksandr Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov.

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Former Bomber Commander, Second European ISS Skipper and Cuban-American Flight Surgeon Prepare for June Launch to Space Station

The Soyuz MS-09 crew (from left) comprises Alexander Gerst of Germany, Sergei Prokopiev of Russia and U.S. astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor. Photo Credit: Michael Galindo/AmericaSpace

Three spacefarers from three nations, including a former Russian Air Force strategic bomber pilot, the second European commander of the International Space Station (ISS) and a Cuban-American flight surgeon recently moved from the backup to the prime crew, assembled at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, earlier today (Wednesday, 14 February), to discuss their upcoming five-month expedition.

Veteran astronaut Alexander Gerst and “rookies” Sergei Prokopiev and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will launch aboard Soyuz MS-09 in early June and initially join Expedition 56, before rotating into the core of Expedition 57 and returning to Earth in November. During their stay, the crew are expected to welcome as many as four unpiloted cargo visitors—two Russian Progress ships, a SpaceX Dragon and a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)—together with the long-awaited unpiloted maiden test-flights of the Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner.

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New Astronaut Training and Mars Base 1 at KSC Visitor Complex Offers Incredible Experience

Performing some tasks on an ISS truss in a microgravity trainer at the new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSVC) recently opened its new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) Center, giving the public a really fun and interesting interactive learning opportunity to not only train like an astronaut for Mars missions, but to also simulate what a day living and working on Mars would be like, while also helping with real NASA research along the way.

From floating in microgravity chairs simulating spacewalking activities, to conducting surface missions on Mars in Virtual Reality, strapping in to a full-motion Mars Landing and Rover Simulator, launching on NASA’s Orion Capsule for docking with a Mars Transfer Vehicle or conducting a full day of operations on the Red Planet, the new ATX and Mars Base 1 is well worth spending a couple days at for any space geek or aspiring astronaut, young and old.

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First to the Moon: Upcoming Documentary Film Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Apollo 8

Due for release later in 2018, “First to the Moon” traces the lives of the Apollo 8 crew and their remarkable voyage to the Moon. Image Credit: Paul Hildebrandt/FirstMoonMovie.com

“If I have seen further,” the great English scientist Sir Isaac Newton once remarked, writing about the Dutch philosopher and physicist René Descartes, “it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In 2018, the world will recognize three giants of our age, as we observe 50 years since the epochal Apollo 8 mission, which saw a centuries-long human dream of traveling to the Moon finally turn to reality. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were the first men to ride the gigantic Saturn V rocket, the first to depart Earth’s gravitational well, the first to cross 240,000 miles (370,000 km) of cislunar space and the first to behold our nearest celestial neighbor, up close and personal, in readiness for an eventual piloted landing. Even more significantly, their jaw-dropping glimpse of “Earthrise”, behind the barren lunar limb, and a haunting reading of the opening verse of Genesis, offered a true perspective of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

Five decades later, director/producer Paul Hildebrandt and producer Jon Martin will explore the audacious journey of Apollo 8 and the lives of the three men who accomplished it. Through restored NASA archival films, the National Archives and the astronauts themselves, their KickStarter-funded film First to the Moon aims to transport its audience back in time through the upbringing of Borman, Lovell and Anders to their selection as astronauts and their voyage to lunar orbit. This visually and musically enthralling film, told through archival film and often unseen photography, together with animated representations, is accompanied by an orchestral score from the film’s composer and live musicians, generating “a truly cinematic experience”.

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Means and the Muscle: Where Does Falcon Heavy Stand Alongside the Heavylifters?

Last week’s launch of the maiden Falcon Heavy has opened a niche in the market for super-heavylift launch vehicles. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

“If you can hear me over the cheering,” intoned SpaceX’s John Insprucker in the seconds after 3:45 p.m. EST Tuesday, 6 February, “Falcon Heavy, heading to space on her test-flight. Building on the history of Saturn V-Apollo, returning Pad 39A to interplanetary missions.” He was right. Last week’s spectacular maiden voyage of the 230-foot-tall (70-meter) behemoth was properly trumpeted as the world’s newest holder of the title for most powerful operational launch vehicle in the world, as SpaceX opened a niche in the market for super-heavylift launch vehicles, capable of lofting in excess of 110,000 pounds (50,000 kg).

Yet a single test-flight does not definitively prove a system, of course, and potential clients, including the Department of Defense and other U.S. Government entities, will demand a string of successful missions before they commit their multi-billion-dollar national assets to the Falcon Heavy.

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Record-Breaking Images from New Horizons are Farthest Ever Taken From Earth

False-color image of KBO 2012 HE85, taken by New Horizons on Dec. 5, 2017. Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is way, way past Pluto now and still nearly a year away from its next encounter with an object in the Kuiper Belt, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been busy. In fact, the probe just broke the record for the farthest images from Earth ever taken by a spacecraft, with new images of a field of stars and two other Kuiper Belt objects. The new images break the record formerly held by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990.

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SpaceX Hired Company to Destroy Floating GovSat Booster, Not USAF

The flight-proven first stage which launched GovSat-1, floating in the ocean after conducting a very high retrothrust landing in water. SpaceX hoped to tow it back to shore, but claims the booster fell apart before they could carry out an unplanned recovery. Multiple trusted anonymous sources claimed it was taken out by the U.S. Air Force, however further investigation has found that instead, a commercial demolition company was used instead too sink the Falcon 9. Credit: Elon Musk via Twitter

As we reported yesterday, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket first stage used to deliver the SES-16/GovSat-1 communications satellite to orbit on Jan 31 did not make it back to Port Canaveral, and was intentionally destroyed after remaining surprisingly in tact upon splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

“This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived,” said Elon Musk on Twitter shortly after the rocket splashed down in the Atlantic. “We will try to tow it back to shore.”

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Air Force Didn't Take Out SpaceX's GovSat Booster, Private Company Did (UPDATED WITH CORRECTION)

The flight-proven first stage which launched GovSat-1, floating in the ocean after conducting a very high retrothrust landing in water. SpaceX hoped to tow it back to shore, but called in the Air Force to blow it up instead. Credit: Elon Musk via Twitter

UPDATE 2/9/2018:

SpaceX issued a statement denying any USAF involvement, instead stating their rocket “broke apart”. Several trusted anonymous sources have since clarified that, while the USAF was considered for destroying the stage, SpaceX actually ended up hiring a private company to take care of it instead.

Read our update HERE.

Continue reading Air Force Didn’t Take Out SpaceX’s GovSat Booster, Private Company Did (UPDATED WITH CORRECTION)