NASA astronaut Anne McClain captured this astonishing image of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaching her temporary residence, the International Space Station. "The dawn of a new era in human spaceflight," McClain tweeted with the photo.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon, containing supplies rather than humans for this test, docked at the ISS yesterday morning and the hatch was opened a few hours ago. From NASA:
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(The mission, called) Demo-1 is the first flight test of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership. The mission also marks a significant step toward returning to the nation the capability to launch astronauts on a U.S.-built spacecraft from U.S. soil.
“It’s an exciting evening,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said after the launch. “What today really represents is a new era in spaceflight. We’re looking forward to being one of many customers in a robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit.”
Apparently it's a tradition for cosmonauts to urinate on the rear right tires of the bus transporting them to the launch pad. Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev reportedly did just that Wednesday before the Expedition 56/57 crew took off for the International Space Station. While male cosmonauts release the stream directly from the source, females carry a cup of urine that they pour onto the tire. Space.com explains why:
(They are) paying tribute to the first human in space — Yuri Gagarin. The cosmonaut, who launched April 12, 1961, from the same cosmodrome, had to "go" on the way to the rocket … and the rest is history.
Various other Gagarin tributes also come into play for launch crews — they also visit Gagarin's grave in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow. And after arriving in Baikonur, they plant a tree in the same grove where Gagarin planted his; and they visit his office, which has been preserved since his death in 1968.
"Why Cosmonauts Pee on the Bus That Picks Them Up for Launches" (Space.com)
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On Tested's Offworld, Boing Boing pals Ariel Waldman and Adam Savage talk with astronaut Jim Newman about the 1983 film The Right Stuff, early NASA missions, and how "astronaut culture" has changed over the years.
Alan Shepard: Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up.
Gordon Cooper: I didn't quite copy that. Say again, please.
Alan Shepard: I said everything's A-OK.
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Space is no stranger to beer. Astronauts have farted about with beer fermentation, in orbit, in the past. The Russians have tried their hand at growing barley and hops in the International Space Station's Zvezda module and, during the early years of their space program, the USSR attempted to crank out freeze-dried beer that was halfway palatable for their cosmonauts to enjoy in the vacuum of space – but it wasn't, so they didn't. Fast forward to the present day: a pair of companies are doing their damnedest to create a beer and bottle that'll let astronauts get their drank on in the inky depths of the vacuum that surrounds our home.
Australian beer company 4 Pines Brewing and space-engineering firm Saber Astronautics Australia are building a special bottle for their pioneering "Vostok Space Beer, which was named after the vehicle that cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin rode to orbit in April 1961. The companies are asking for $1 million on Indiegogo to make the design a reality. (As of Wednesday, May 9, just 3 percent of that total had been raised, with 23 days to go.)
Participants in the Indiegogo campaign can buy a prototype of the beer bottle for themselves; the two companies are using the fundraising campaign to market the bottle and to let the public join the research effort. The funds will be used to complete the industrial design of the bottle and to fund people researching it in flight...
In order to test how the bottle and the beer, which should more accurately be described as a stout, perform in zero gravity, Saber Astronautics and 4 Pines plan on enlisting the not-for-profit space research company, Astronauts4Hire, to chug-a-lug the brew during parabolic flights. Read the rest
Gravity isn't always your friend, even when you're on the Moon.
Watch as a series of Apollo mission astronauts fall down on the job in this compilation video by YouTuber Martian Archaeology. The footage is originally from NASA's archive.
(Neatorama, Tastefully Offensive) Read the rest
Scientists have been working on a way to turn poop into an edible which, even if it winds up tasting like French fries, will never let you entirely forget about the fact that you're eating poop.
According to Penn State News, researchers at the university's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences have been puttering about their lab, looking for a way to turn human waste into a viable food source for astronauts on deep space missions.
As most people don't want to play with their own brand, the researchers turned to an artificial human waste analog, commonly used for testing purposes in waste treatment plants. The waste was placed inside of a closed cylinder and treated with microbes. These microbes broke down their faux-feces through a process called anaerobic digestion. This breakdown of the waste results in a discharge of methane, which can be used to produce a microbe called Methylococcus capsulatus. Methylococcus capsulatus is currently used in animal feed, and since humans are animals, BOOM: astronaut food. By growing the microbes at a temperature that kills harmful bacteria, the research team was able to produce a bio mass consisting of 61% protein and 7% animal fats.
According to Penn State professor of Geosciences, Christopher House, the resulting foodstuff would have the consistency of Vegemite or Marmite.
With this being the case, there could be a large contingent of future astronauts that would prefer to eat their own crap, instead.
Photo via Flikr, courtesy of Dave Young
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A German start-up has prototyped a bread oven that operated in microgravity that may someday enable astronauts to enjoy fresh-baked goods in space. Currently, astronauts eat tortillas because they aren't crumbly and have a long shelf-life. (See the below photo of a rather unappetizing tortilla cheeseburger on the International Space Station.) From Space.com:
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On Earth, bread needs to be baked at a temperature of about 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Once it’s done, the bakers remove it from the heated oven. But that would not be possible in space. Processes such as thermal convection, which helps to mix up air on Earth, don't work in space. If a bubble of air that hot were to escape from the oven in orbit, it could stay floating inside the station for quite a while, posing a serious health risk to the astronauts, (Bake In Space CEO Sebastian) Marcu said.
Marcu said the team has found a way to overcome this challenge.
"We basically put the baking product, the dough, inside the cold oven and start heating it up," he said. "Once it's almost done, we start cooling it down. But at that time, any product will start to get dry, and that's why we need to design the oven so that some water is added during the baking process."
The oven also needs to be able to operate with only 270 watts of power — about one-tenth the power used by conventional ovens on Earth. Marcu said the team hopes to have a prototype ready by the end of this year.
On June 16, 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. She orbited the Earth 48 times over a period of three days. Inspired by Yuri Gagarin who in 1961 became the first person in space, Tereshkova applied to the Russian space program and was accepted based on her extensive background as a skydiver. It wasn't until 40 years later that Tereshkova's nearly tragic experience in orbit was made public.
An error in the spacecraft's automatic navigation software caused the ship to move away from Earth. Tereshkova noticed this and Soviet scientists quickly developed a new landing algorithm. Tereshkova landed safely but received a bruise on her face.
She landed in the Altay region near today's Kazakhstan-Mongolia-China border. Villagers helped Tereshkova out of her spacesuit and asked her to join them for dinner. She accepted, and was later reprimanded for violating the rules and not undergoing medical tests first.
Valentina Tereshkova: First Woman in Space (Space.com) Read the rest
This lovely short subject documentary gives some cool insights into the awe-inspiring experience of space travel, as told by several women who have had the honor of doing so. Imagine shedding a tear at the beauty, then laughing as it floats away. Read the rest
Lego just announced its new NASA Apollo Saturn V model rocket set. It's based on a Lego Ideas submission by a builder named saabfun, it's a 1:110 scale model of the real thing. Of course the Saturn V was the workhorse rocket that took astronauts to the moon beginning in 1969 and delivered Skylab to orbit in 1973. and The 1,969 piece set will sell for $120 starting in June. It looks fantastic but I'll wait (and hope) for a Voyager Mission set complete with the Golden Record!
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Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, commander of the Expedition 50 expedition to the International Space Station, explains how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in space. He returned from the ISS earlier this month after six months in orbit.
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NASA has always been an early adopter of technology like virtual and augmented reality for training. Here's a cool glimpse into how they train future ISS and landing party astronauts. Read the rest
When Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott hopped across the lunar surface in 1971, he was carrying a pouch of tiny US flags in his spacesuit. The stash of flags was such a secret that Scott didn't even know they were there at the time. Now one of the souvenir flags, the pouch, and the bracket where it was attached are up for auction. The flag is estimated to go for $15,000 and the bracket/pouch for $30,000, but I definitely think you need both lots. From Collect Space:
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"This [hidden pouch] was apparently unknown to anybody else until the (Portable Life Support System's Oxygen Purge System where the pouch was stowed were) disassembled after the mission by some other member of the CSD (Crew Systems Division) and the flag package was discovered," wrote Scott.
The identity of the original CSD member who hid the flags, or the person who found them afterward, is unknown...
Scott was presented with some of the flags and the 7.5 by 4 inch (19 by 10 cm) bracket as mementos of his flight by his management at the same meeting where he was told of their existence. A law passed in 2012 reaffirmed Apollo-era astronauts' title to the items they retained as souvenirs of their missions...
The hidden flags were not the only secret souvenirs on the Apollo 15 mission. Scott and his two crew mates also took postmarked envelopes, a memorial statue, and timepieces that NASA later labeled as unauthorized. The hidden flags were not associated with those items, though.
Boeing revealed its new sleek and chic spacesuit designed for astronauts aboard the Boeing/Bigelow CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Launched on Atlas V rockets the Starliner capsule will shuttle commercial crew members to and from the International Space Station and other low-Earth orbit locales. From Boeing:
The Starliner spacesuit provides greater pressurized mobility and is about 40 percent lighter than previous suits. Its innovative layers will keep astronauts cooler as well. The touchscreen-friendly gloves allow astronauts to interact with the capsule’s tablets while the boots are breathable and slip resistant. Zippers in the torso area will make it easier for astronauts to comfortably transition from sitting to standing. In addition to protecting astronauts during launch and the return to Earth, the suit also helps connect astronauts to ground and space crews through the communications headset within the helmet. The suit’s hood-like soft helmet sports a wide polycarbonate visor to give Starliner passengers better peripheral vision throughout their ride to and from space.
Video from Boeing:
Photo from Boeing:
Photo from NASA/Cory Huston:
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While the "Mannequin Challenge" is a little played out at this point, I’ll make an exception for this awesome version filmed onboard the International Space Station. French astronaut Thomas Pesquet posted the short video on Facebook, noting that the crew decided to play around with microgravity on their day off. “The result is kind of sci-fi spooky don’t you think?” he added. And while Pesquet's version doesn’t feature the traditional “Black Beatles” underscoring, one fan was kind enough to add the song to the video:
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Apollo 17—the last manned mission to the Moon—landed on the lunar surface on December 19, 1972. To celebrate, here’s some delightful footage of astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt singing as they hop around the Moon. Read the rest
Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack, has just published a delightful book titled "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who've Been There?" Illustrated by Brian Standeford, it's a fun collection of astronaut anecdotes on everything from sneezing and farting in zero gravity to weird frights and the necessity of Sriracha in space. Here's an excerpt:
The early male astronauts often had leaky space suits. They would frequently complain about their urine leaking into other areas of the suit. For a while, no one could figure out what was wrong with the spacesuits. NASA eventually realized the leaking was due to the oversized condom catheters the astronauts were using. Turns out that when the astronauts were asked by doctors what size they needed, they would often ask for “large.”
Buy "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who'Ve Been There?" (Amazon)
Excerpted from What's It Like in Space by Ariel Waldman, illustrations by Brian Standeford (Chronicle Books, 2016). Read the rest