Two Russian cosmonauts conducted a spacewalk on Thursday intended to activate a new segment on the International Space Station so it can dock Russian spacecraft.
The effort was expected to last nearly six hours, and Americans Jeff Williams and Timothy J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi of Japan were supporting the mission from inside the space station.
Cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Oleg Kotov ventured into open space at 1:05 p.m. Moscow time (1005 GMT, 5:05 a.m. EST) to activate the new module and make it ready for docking, said Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin.
They will work on the Russian Poisk module to link it to the station’s communications and power systems, and prepare it for future dockings with the Russian spacecraft, Lyndin said. The research module was launched in November.
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At the moment, no programme for its use nor any funding has been put in place to support the platform beyond 2015.
But the European Space Agency’s (Esa) Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, told the BBC the uncertainty was undermining best use of the ISS.
He said he was persuaded of its worth, and expressed the desire to keep flying the station until at least 2020.
Only by guaranteeing longevity would more scientists come forward to run experiments on the orbiting laboratory, he argued.
“I am convinced that stopping the station in 2015 would be a mistake because we cannot attract the best scientists if we are telling them today ‘you are welcome on the space station but you’d better be quick because in 2015 we close the shop’,” he said.
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Three astronauts have landed safely on the International Space Station
floating 220 miles away from Earth. The newest residents of the space station are NASA astronaut T.J.
Creamer, Japanese Aerospace
Exploration Agency astronaut and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov. The crew met up with Jeff Williams and Maksim Suraev, who have been on board the ISS since October 2009.
The crew has several projects planned during their stay on the ISS over the next several months. The newest crew is slated to stay until May 2010. Kotov and Suraev are scheduled for a space walk in January with the others beginning work on various other projects.
Williams and Suraev are scheduled to return to Earth in March. Three more crew members from various space agencies
around the world will land on the ISS in April bumping the space crew total to six.
The newcomers brought plenty of Christmas cheer aboard the ISS. They brought a Christmas tree and Santa hats for a family photo aboard the ISS. The astronauts will have the Christmas holiday off before jumping back into work.
Taken by astronaut William Anders from the Apollo 8 spacecraft, this December 1968 photo of Earth rising over the lunar surface would become one of the most famous images of the 20th century. Credit: NASA
NASA heads into 2010 with the bittersweet assignment of retiring the space shuttle after nearly three decades. But that’s not all the agency has planned: There are also launches of three new satellites aimed at better understanding the Earth’s climate and oceans, and the sun.
Two of the probes will examine Earth — specifically the concentration of salt in the world’s oceans and the presence of aerosol particles, such as soot, in the atmosphere. A third mission will study the sun and its effect on space weather including solar flares that can disrupt communication on Earth.
All three come at a critical time for NASA. Data from the two Earth probes will likely influence global-warming research, and the trio of launches could serve as bright spots in a year otherwise dominated by debate over the future of the agency’s manned space program.
“They are extraordinary timely,” said Michael Freilich, head of NASA’s Earth-science division, of the two Earth probes. “It is a quest for understanding of the Earth system and [to improve] our ability to predict how our wonderful environment and our planet is going to change in the future.”
Combined, the three missions will cost more than $1.5 billion.
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Each year, the crew gets to choose when to hold their official holiday feast, during which they gather to share special delicacies beyond the scope of their normal daily rations.
Christmas comes twice to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station this year as the multi-nation crew celebrates the traditional Dec. 25 holiday as well as Russian Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7.
Current station commander Jeff Williams of NASA is leading a crew of five, including Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Oleg Kotov, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, and American spaceflyer Timothy “T.J.” Creamer.
Kotov, Noguchi and Creamer arrived just recently, docking at the station aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft on Tuesday.
“We’re privileged this time of year to be in this unique place looking back at our planet,” Williams said in a video beamed down from the orbiting outpost. “It’s a time for us to be thinking about our family and friends… It’s also a time to look forward to the future year, finishing the assembly of the International Space Station.”
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How close are we to long-term human habitation beyond low-Earth orbit? Colonies on the moon or Mars are still many years off, but the good news is there are several serious efforts underway to make it happen.
The ISS. The closest thing we currently have to a space colony is the International Space Station. While it can be considered a success in terms of international cooperation and scientific research, the ISS far from self-sufficient. Sweat and urine can be recycled into fresh water and filters and scrubbers keep the air breathable, but without regular resupply missions, the station’s occupants wouldn’t last long. Still, the future looks bright up there – NASA has several ISS missions scheduled for 2010, expanding the station and adding new components (as well as spare parts).
Lunar Colonization. The best prospect for a human colony on the moon seems to be NASA’s Constellation project. The Altair Lunar lander will be able to carry a crew of four astronauts to the moon and support them there for a seven-day mission. Alternately, it can descend robotically to the moon carrying critical infrastructure for a longer-term lunar outpost. When completed, that outpost will support a crew of four for up to 180 days. NASA has a slick interactive website that explains Constellation.
The United States and China have agreed to step up discussions on cooperative space exploration, as both countries separately pursue ambitious plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by around 2020.
US president Barack Obama and Chinese president Hu Jintaro have agreed during a summit in Beijing this week to formalize joint space talks, beginning with exchange visits of their respective space agency chiefs next year.
“The United States and China look forward to expanding discussions on space science cooperation and starting a dialogue on human space flight and space exploration, based on the principles of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit,” a US-China joint statement released Tuesday said. “Both sides welcome reciprocal visits of the NASA Administrator and the appropriate Chinese counterpart in 2010.”
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Two astronauts breezed through the first spacewalk of their mission Thursday as they upgraded the International Space Station with a spare antenna and other gear.
Atlantis shuttle astronauts Mike Foreman and Robert Satcher Jr. zoomed through more than six hours of orbital work outside the station to install the large antenna and connect some new data cables. At times, they were two hours ahead of schedule.
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Track the exciting countdown to the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 mission beginning at 9:30 a.m. EST on Nov. 16. Liftoff is scheduled for 2:28 p.m. Blogger Steve Siceloff will deliver live updates from the Firing Room inside the Launch Control Center as the clocks tick backward to launch.
Follow the coverage at www.nasa.gov
The new Russian Mini-Research Module 2, also known as Poisk, docked to the space-facing port of the Zvezda service module of the International Space Station on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 10:41 a.m. EST. It began its trip to the station when it was launched aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 10.
Poisk is a Russian term that translates to search, seek and explore. It will provide an additional docking port for visiting Russian spacecraft and will serve as an extra airlock for spacewalkers wearing Russian Orlan spacesuits.
Poisk joined a Russian Progress resupply vehicle and two Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station.