Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving in Space

Even though astronauts are in space, they are still human and celebrate holidays. With thanksgiving coming up, what will the astronauts eat on ISS? Well, the same thing you and I will eat: turkey, potatoes, yams, etc. The difference is they can't cook fresh food up there; it has to be sent. It's usually sent weeks, sometimes months in advance. That doesn't mean they are freeze dried all the time, though. In fact, sometimes it is better tasting than what you get in a can here on earth.

We have come a long way from squeezing food from a tube. Now, astronauts get to eat what they want. Unlike us here on earth, though, they can't keep leftovers. It is eat it or toss it. Watch this video to learn more.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life in Space - Samantha Cristoforetti

Cristoforetti on her first full day - Credit: NASA, ESA
This is an excerpt from Samantha Cristoforetti's Google Plus page. She seems to be doing daily updates on her experiences. You can find it HERE.

----- Logbook L+1 ------

For now, I will tell you of one moment, which was so fortunate and unexpected. You know, when you fly to the Space Station in the Soyuz, unless you are the Commander sitting in the center seat, you can only see your destination from far away in the black and white camera view (the same image that is transmitted to Mission Control and usually shown during media coverage of docking). 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Commander's Thanksgiving Message

I always find this awesome. The commander of the space station (or highest ranking american at the time) usually delivers a special message for those on earth. In this case, it is Commander Butch Wilmore telling us who and what he is thankful for.

After going through what he is thankful for, he talks about what the crew will be eating for Thanksgiving. Turkey, cornbread, grits, cranberry pie and sweet tea to name a few things. Yummy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Humanity in Space

Here is a really neat video of the three newest crew members being welcomed aboard the station. I like it because it shows a lot of humanity in it. By that I mean there are friends welcoming friends to a wonderful place. These three new crew members just launched only six hours ago, and are very hungry, so we see them eat, as they talk with their family on earth about how they are doing. Also, if you look closely, you'll notice in some of the shots (where they are eating) there are a lot of religious items on the "wall" of the Russian segment, as well as other trinkets from their lives on earth. We don't send "robots" to space, we send human beings. People that are just like me and you.

Inside the ISS and a ball of water

Astronaut Reid Wiseman did a quick video where he quickly flew through the main length of the space stations modules. It was pretty fun. I would love to visit the station someday. This only makes me want to go to space that much more.

Another recently released video was that of the crew (including Wiseman) putting a GoPro inside a large sphere of water! It is amazing to watch things in a place where gravity is no longer the dominant force. In this case, it is the surface tension of water. Watch as the ball of water eventually "assimilates" the astronauts hand.

Videos like these are always released from the station and you can find them on the many NASA YouTube channels.

ISS is a life saver!

The space station has saved lives just by being up there. There is a Vessel ID system investigation on the ISS and it tracks the Automatic Identification System signals that all sea-faring ships have. One ship, the Hallgrimur, was caught in violent weather and overturned in icy waters. The following video shows how the space station helped save a mans life!

How big is it really?

Sometimes it is hard to get a fix for how big the space station actually is. Sure, I can say it is 356 feet wide, but what does that mean visually? LiveScience put together a great info-graphic years ago pitting the ISS up next to some of the most recognizable things in human engineering.

Credit: LiveScience

ISS Assembly Sequence in real pictures

Here is a slideshow of what the ISS has looked like over time. It starts in 1998, and the last picture is the iconic picture of Endeavour docked with ISS in May of 2011.

All of these images were taken by the astronauts in space - Duh...

Build your own ISS

Credit: AXM Paper Space Scale Models
I have found one of the best ways to learn about something like the ISS is to actually assemble it. An easy, and cheap way to do that is via paper models. If you have never made a paper model, it is very simple, but time consuming. I would recommend AXM Paper Space Scale Models for the ISS. You also get a good idea of the scale of the space station. Even at 1/100 scale, it is still pretty large.

Iconic Countdown lock being removed

Credit: NASA
This barely relates to the space station, but I feel like it is worth mentioning. Anytime you have ever watched a space shuttle launch (which launched dozens of times to the space station before retiring), you likely saw the iconic countdown clock.

It was used for every manned spaceflight since Apollo 8 in 1968. It has gotten to expensive to maintain, and the parts for it are getting harder and harder to come by. So, NASA will be putting it at the visitors center where Atlantis is housed. In its place will be a new LED countdown clock that will be similar to boards at baseball stadiums. It will be able to display things besides the countdown, such as NASA TV, or interviews, etc.

In the mean time, here is a picture of workers taking it apart.
Credit: NASA

For those who may not know, here is the location of the clock.

How do I find the space station?

ISS Long Exposure Photograph - Credit: Mark Humpage
Some have asked me if you can see the space station on earth. The answer is absolutely yes! In fact, you can spot it nearly anywhere, even if it is fairly cloudy, as long as you know where to look. You won't miss it either. It is the brightest object in the night sky save for the Moon. Earthly objects may be brighter, but you won't mistake them for the space station. Airplanes, for example, have strobes that blink. So if you see a star that is moving, and it blinks, it is a plane, not a flying laboratory 250 miles up.

Where to go to find where to look?

NASA has a website called Spot The Station here: You just enter your information, and it will tell you where to look.

Also, you can find out where the station is by googling where is the ISS. There will be a number of different tracker maps. My favorite is here:

While you are out looking, you might see other small satellites too. If you note where you saw them, you can check to find out what you saw. They have a large database of space objects ranging from spent boosters to active DirectTV satellites. You might even see an Iridium flare if you are lucky.

If you get a few minutes, and what to watch some pretty neat HD video from the ISS - LIVE - then you can head over to the ISS Live link at the top of the page.

Antares explosion up close

Credit: Joel Kowsky/AP
I didn't post about this event, but nearly a month ago, a cargo ship to the ISS had an anomaly seconds after launch. It was pretty spectacular, despite the fact that 230 million dollars of hardware was lost right at the pad.

It doesn't happen that often, and rarely do failures happen this close to the pad (they are usually way out to sea high in the air where nobody can see it), but it is a stark reminder that this is rocket science. It is hard.

I have to admire the small band of individuals that placed remote cameras near the launchpad. There was no embargo on posting the video or images after the failure, but since they were all close friends in the photography business they decided to wait till they all got their cameras back before posting. They did not wan to "one-up" one another, so they posted at the same time one everyone got their stuff back. They news media could learn a think or two from them.

Here is a video from Matthew Travis's GoPro. The best part in my opinion is at about 5:20. Enjoy.

Also, you can find more photos here from the story from zerognews. They cover all the remote images from the site:

Ad astra per aspera.

Get your space Java on!

For years, astronauts and cosmonauts living on the ISS have had to endure the terribleness of instant coffee. If you have never had it, its pretty bland. In space, they don't have hot water either. The best that they can get is warm water. So imagine a warm coffee that is pretty much a coffee powder mix.

Well, the Italian Space Agency aims to fix this problem. They know their lattes and espresso, so they decided to take on the task of figuring out how to make an espresso machine that is easy to use, and safe, and doesn't clog that can also be cleaned very easily, but rarely.

Enter: ISSpresso

It launched just the other day with next part of Expedition 42. On-board with the machine to try it out is none other than the first female Italian astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti. It can also brew tea and other broths with hot water.

Yay for modern commodities catching up with modern spaceflight!

Here is how it works:

Made in Space - 3D printing

3D printing is all the rage on Earth. We are doing some amazing things with the technology, like printing living tissue, small electronic devices, and even rocket engines. But would that technology, which works by printing a 2D layer on top of other 2D layers work in zero gravity?

Well, NASA is testing one on orbit right now. In this video, you can watch an interview of Niki Werheiser, the 3D project manager at the Marshall Spaceflight Center. The technology can and will be used to print tools and spare parts for long duration flights, be it on space station, or later Mars missions without resupply. Think of it like a real live "replicator" from star trek.

Here is another video.

You can find out more info from the company partnering with NASA, called Made in Space.