Entries in International Space Station (21)


Astronaut Scott Kelly to Spend Year in Space, Make Room for Space Tourists

NASA/Bill Ingalls(WASHINGTON) -- Astronaut Scott Kelly will become the first U.S. astronaut to spend a year in space. Why? He is volunteering to be a human guinea pig -- to help NASA collect detailed medical and psychological data about the effects of long-term spaceflight on a human. He and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in 2015 and return to Earth in 2016.

He was on the space station when his twin brother Mark was struggling to deal with the trauma of his wife's shooting. Mark Kelly, now retired from the astronaut corps, is married to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – and Scott could only offer long-distance support to his twin brother when his wife was shot in January 2011.

Jared Loughner has now pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges in the mass shooting that killed six and injured 13, including Giffords, who was hosting a congressional event that day.

Scott Kelly wished he could have done more to help. That is one of the drawbacks of a long-term mission -- there is no easy way home if something happens to a loved one on Earth.

Kelly clearly understands the risks -- and the rewards -- of long-duration space flight. He is, after all, a Navy fighter pilot, used to assignments overseas. He told ABC News in an interview before his last mission to the space station that his research was important to the future of space travel.

"We need to learn how people can live and work in space for long periods of time, also how the equipment can survive and operate for long periods," he said. "If we are ever going to send people to live on the Moon, we are three days away, or to live on Mars where you are potentially 18 months away, we need to have some very robust systems to allow them to survive there. And the only place you can learn how to build and operate those systems is on the space station."

We already know many of the risks -- NASA has documented the damage to the eyesight of seven astronauts after they returned from spending months in space. Their flight surgeons have gone on record discussing bone density loss, decreased muscle mass, and the psychological isolation.

Why would anyone volunteer for this? The International Space Station is, after all, the only game in town if you are an astronaut and a mission to the dark side to the moon, while a popular topic, isn't funded yet, and Mars? Still decades away.

When will the U.S. space program get back into flying NASA astronauts into space? Hopefully by 2017. Several companies are working to build and certify human-rated spacecraft to take crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

While NASA touts the medical research accumulated from a year in space, the reality is that this also frees up a couple of seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to sell to tourists.

When the U.S. space shuttles quit flying last year, they created a conundrum for companies like Space Adventures, whose business -- sending rich tourists into space -- depended upon the resources of Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency. Roscosmos is the only space agency willing to send tourists to space (NASA won't do it, and now they don't have a spacecraft anyway so it's a moot point). Singer Sarah Brightman announced she is buying one of the seats -- and then launched a concert tour, so time will tell if she is really serious about training for a flight.

Kelly is an experienced astronaut -- he served as pilot on space shuttle mission STS-103 in 1999, commanded STS-118 in 2007, was flight engineer on the International Space Station Expedition 25 in 2010 and commander of Expedition 26 in 2011.

Kelly has logged more than 180 days in space, and a yearlong mission would bring his total to almost 550 days. Impressive numbers, but the record will still belong to Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who, over six missions, spent 803 days, 9 hours and 39 minutes of his life in space.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


SpaceX Dragon Heading Back to Earth

NASA(HOUSTON) -- The SpaceX Dragon capsule is making its way back to Earth after becoming the first commercial spacecraft to successfully dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

The Dragon is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean off Los Angeles at 11:44 a.m. ET on Thursday.

Early Thursday morning, the capsule was released from the space station's robotic arm.

"Dragon is free from the International Space Station.  The crew backing away the robotic arm," Mission Control said.

The Dragon launched into space last Tuesday and arrived at the ISS on May 25 to deliver a half-ton of food and other supplies.  The capsule was also carrying the ashes of 308 people -- including James Doohan, who played Scotty in the original Star Trek series, and American astronaut Gordon Cooper -- which were in a cannister and jettisoned into space.

The milestone launch was NASA's first attempt to outsource its missions to privately-funded companies, in this case, Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Up to now, deliveries in manned rockets have been handled by the European Union, Japan, Russia and the U.S.  Last year, NASA retired its shuttle program after 30 years in anticipation of such private and international missions.

SpaceX, a Hawthorne, California-based company, has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make 12 trips to the ISS.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dragon Links With Space Station

Earth // Comstock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- The first privately funded capsule has docked at the International Space Station.

The unmanned capsule brought one thousand pounds of supplies to astronauts, Donald Pettit and Andre Kuipers, who caught the ship with a robotic arm on Friday. When caught, Pettit told mission control in Houston, “"Looks like we've got us a dragon by the tail.”

The astronauts plan to spend Memorial Day unloading the cargo from the ship.

Space X Dragon is a spacecraft developed by SpaceX, a company located in Hawthorne, CA. Dragon is primarily designed to carry supplies, not passengers. On their website, SpaceX explains their mission, “SpaceX aims to change this paradigm by developing a family of launch vehicles which will ultimately reduce the cost and increase the reliability of space access by a factor of ten.”

On Saturday, Flight Engineer, Don Pettit, explained the significance of this ship by comparing it to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, “It was celebrated or commemorated by driving in a golden spike.  And, this is kind of the equivalent of the golden spike.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


First Privately-Funded Rocket Headed to International Space Station

NASA TV(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- For the first time in the history of the U.S. space program, a commercial rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday morning to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

The unmanned rocket, dubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9, is topped with the Dragon space capsule and, barring any difficulties, should arrive at the ISS by Friday with a half-ton of food and other supplies.

The capsule is also carrying the ashes of 308 people, including James Doohan, who played Scotty in the original Star Trek series, and American astronaut Gordon Cooper.  The ashes are in a cannister that will be jettisoned into space.

Tuesday's milestone launch is NASA's first attempt to outsource its missions to privately-funded companies: in this case, Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Up to now, deliveries in manned rockets have been handled by the U.S., Russia, Japan and the European Union.  Last year, NASA retired its shuttle program after 30 years in anticipation of such private and international missions.

SpaceX, a Hawthorne, California-based company, has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make 12 trips to the ISS.

Following lift-off, the White House issued a congratulatory statement that declared in part, "Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American spaceflight.  Partnering with U.S. companies such as SpaceX to provide cargo and eventually crew service to the International Space Station is a cornerstone of the President’s plan for maintaining America’s leadership in space."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Who Wants to Be an Astronaut? NASA to Hire Civilian Candidates

Chris Cohen/NASA(HOUSTON) -- NASA called for all willing candidates to apply for a spot in the next astronaut class by midnight Friday. It’s a leap of faith because there is no great space race anymore and Newt Gingrich is the only candidate who even mentions a future in space for the U.S.

Nevertheless, NASA said that as of late Friday, it had received 5,700 applications, more than ever before. Only about a dozen new astronauts will be chosen.

NASA is building a capsule called Orion, and the rocket to launch it remains to be determined. It could be a Delta or a Falcon, or a new NASA rocket on steroids called the SLS (Space Launch System).

The astronauts are all dressed up with no place to go because until the president and Congress agree on a new mission for them, the only game in town is the International Space Station, which veterans privately say ranks as one of the most boring missions on the books. The ISS has a crew of six, all launched, for now, in Russian Soyuz capsules. Between them, the crew members only do 35 hours of research a week; the rest of the time is spent maintaining their orbiting colony.

NASA’s most ambitious mission, at the moment, is the robotic Mars Curiosity Rover -- no astronauts needed -- which is humming along to Mars to land in August.

What would an astronaut even have to look forward to besides fixing the toilet on the space station? They have no hot showers, no pizza, no ice cream. A stiff drink? Forget about it. But the view is great, and they have Internet now on the space station. The benefits are fabulous (lifetime health care -- the perks of being a human guinea pig for NASA, which wants to know about vision loss, muscle mass loss, decreased bone density and radiation exposure).

Salaries for civilian astronaut candidates are based on the federal government’s general schedule pay scale for grades GS-12 through GS-13. Each person’s grade is determined according to his or her academic achievements and experience. Currently, a GS-12 starts at $65,140 per year and a GS-13 can earn up to $100,701 per year.

Military astronaut candidates are assigned to the Johnson Space Center and remain on active duty status for pay, benefits, leave and other similar matters.

NASA currently has 57 active astronauts. It says it needs more because a person can only stay in space six months at a time. After that, you exceed the allowable limits for radiation exposure, and it takes months to recover from a tour of duty on the space station. Not every astronaut is willing to commit to the three years it takes to train for a mission to the ISS. So they are having a tough time staffing the space station.

Here’s where to apply: … If you think you have the right stuff.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


International Space Station to Go Unmanned for Months?

NASA(HOUSTON) -- A safety problem with a Russian rocket might force NASA to leave the International Space Station empty for months.

The six-member crew working on the ISS has already been told their return to earth will be delayed and they might not be replaced right away because of safety concerns with the rocket that carries astronauts up to orbit.

Not a problem, says NASA's Michael Suffredini, because the space station can be operated by remote control from earth.

"We're going to do what's safest for the crew and for the space station," Suffredini said.

With the NASA space shuttles retired, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is the only way to get astronauts up to orbit. A failure in a Russian rocket caused an unmanned supply ship to crash -- and now it could be months before new crew members could be sent up to the space station.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Space Shuttle Atlantis Lands for the Last Time

NASA/Bill Ingalls(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- For the last time, space shuttle Atlantis returned back to Earth early Thursday morning after embarking on a 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

Atlantis and its four-man crew -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- landed safely at 5:57 a.m. EDT at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"Reaching for the ground ... shuttle Atlantis headed for the runway," ABC's Vic Ratner, who called the landing, said as the shuttle was approaching the space center.

"Main gear touch down," announced Mission Control.

"Main gear touch down tells you it's home safe, home after more than 5 million miles in space on this mission," Ratner continued.  "Rolling out on the runway in front of me to the cheers and applause of the crowds around me. ... The final landing of the space shuttle program after 30 years of history."

With Thursday's landing, NASA's space shuttle program has officially come to an end.

After 135 flights in 30 years, the space shuttles are now history.  NASA said before landing that with Atlantis' flight over, the five shuttle orbiters would together have traveled 537,114,016 miles in orbit.  Three hundred and thirty-five astronauts have flown on them; 14 died when the shuttles Columbia and Challenger were lost.

Atlantis alone made 33 flights, carried 191 space fliers, spent 307 days in orbit, circled Earth 4,848 times and put 125,935,769 miles on its odometer.

The three surviving shuttles will now become museum pieces.  Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center visitors' center.  Its seniormost sister ship, Discovery, goes to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, and Endeavour will be sent to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Space Shuttle Atlantis Undocks from Space Station

NASA TV(HOUSTON) -- Space shuttle Atlantis and its four-man crew successfully undocked from the International Space Station early Tuesday morning and is now preparing to make its way back to Earth.

The shuttle detached from the orbiting outpost at 2:28 a.m. EDT, marking the last undocking in NASA's culminating space shuttle program. Atlantis' 13-day mission to the space station is the final one for the space agency.

Less than two hours later, Pilot Doug Hurley performed a final separation burn, firing Atlantis' jets to leave the vicinity of the ISS.

Hurley and the three other astronauts on board -- Commander Chris Ferguson, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- are scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday at 5:56 a.m. EDT.

Copyright 2011 ABC New Radio


Space Shuttle Atlantis' Mission Extended; Spacewalk on Tuesday

NASA(HOUSTON) -- Space shuttle Atlantis' mission to the International Space Station -- the final one for the space shuttle program -- has been extended by one day, NASA announced Monday.

Originally, the four-man crew aboard Atlantis, which lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center last Friday, were to embark on a 12-day mission to the ISS, carrying critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.  They were scheduled to return on July 20 at 7:06 a.m. ET.

Now, NASA says the shuttle will land on Earth on July 21 at 5:56 a.m.

On another note, the first and only spacewalk of the now 13-day mission will take place on Tuesday.  The 6.5-hour excursion will be conducted by Expedition 28 Flight Engineers Mike Fossum and Ron Garan, according to NASA.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Orbiting Junk Threatens Shuttle Atlantis, Space Station

NASA(HOUSTON) -- Space shuttle Atlantis, which safely docked with the International Space Station on Sunday, may face a close call with space junk early this week.

NASA has been notified that space debris will pass close to the space station/space shuttle on Tuesday, when the one spacewalk of this mission is scheduled.  Mission Management Team Director Leroy Cain says it is too early to tell what, if any, evasive maneuvers are required.  They have teams working around the clock to determine whether there's a real threat to the spacecraft.

The space shuttle would use its thrusters to move the space station out of harm's way, if necessary.  Mission managers also have an imaginary safety zone set up around the two spacecraft.

"There is a lot of junk in orbit, there are a lot of objects being tracked," Cain said.  "Fortunately we have a good process for dealing with it, we have a number of spent rocket bodies, and over time these things drag down from their original orbits."

The news came after an emotional, complicated rendezvous by Atlantis with the ISS, the last the two are scheduled to ever make.  With shuttle Commander Christopher Ferguson at the controls, Atlantis pulled up beneath the station, did a slow back flip so that station astronauts could photograph its heat shield for possible damage, and then came in for docking.

The astronauts' job was complicated by a computer glitch.  One of Atlantis' five main computers unexpectedly turned itself off during the rendezvous.  NASA said it did not threaten the mission, but there might be trouble if a second computer quit.

"Atlantis arriving," called out space station astronaut Ron Garan.  "Welcome to the International Space Station for the last time."

"And it's great to be here," Ferguson said.

Concerning the debris, there is no word yet on the size of the object, or if it is related to a close call two weeks ago, when the ISS crew had to shelter in their Russian Soyuz return capsules.  That debris came within 1,000 feet of the space station.

NASA expects any maneuvers would be made Monday night and doesn't know yet how this will affect Tuesday's spacewalk.

The item NASA is tracking is from a Soviet 1970s rocket -- its orbital debris catalog number is 4664.  The incident from two weeks ago caught NASA by surprise, and mission managers are uneasy about having 10 people on board the space station with only two Soyuz escape vehicles that seat three crewmembers each.

The space shuttle can't undock and escape that quickly and its size and sensitive heat shield make it a vulnerable target.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio