Entries in International Space Station (6)


Russian Spacecraft Carrying Supplies to ISS Crashes

NASA(MOSCOW) -- Six months worth of food and supplies for the International Space Station were lost Wednesday when an unmanned supply ship launched from Kazakhstan failed to reach orbit and fell apart over Siberia.

“Just about three minutes shy of achieving orbit, the Russian control teams reported an abnormal situation on board the Progress and a loss of telemetry with the vehicle,” said NASA’s Pat Ryan.

Officials with NASA stress that the six astronauts aboard the ISS have plenty of supplies after Shuttle Atlantis docked there in July.

This rocket was unmanned, but the incident could be seen as worrying to the agency: with the space shuttle program mothballed, NASA astronauts must hitch rides to and from the space station on Russian rockets, at a cost of roughly $60 million a seat.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


The Sky is Falling! Perseid Meteor Shower Coming

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock (file photo)(NEW YORK) -- Go outside before dawn, and if the Perseid meteor shower of 2011 is good to you, you will be able to see the sky falling.

Every year at this time, the Earth passes through the orbit of a comet called Swift-Tuttle, and the result is a meteor shower -- shooting stars, up to 50 or 60 per hour -- streaking across the night sky as debris from the comet enters the Earth's atmosphere and burns up.

Even though the comet is far away now, in an elliptical orbit that brings it close to the sun just once every 133 years, rock and ice from it have spread out in a ring all along its path.  The comet itself will probably be pretty good to see if you can hang on until July 2126, but in the meantime, like clockwork, it gives us an annual meteor shower in mid-August.

This is not the best year to see the Perseid.  A full moon will brighten the sky on Friday night and Saturday morning, just as the shower peaks.

"The best time to look is during the hours before dawn especially on Saturday morning, August 13th," writes Tony Phillips, an astronomer who manages the Science News page at NASA's website.  "The full Moon will be relatively low, and the meteor rate should be peaking at that time."

There's an added bonus if you're willing to give up some sleep.  The International Space Station -- visible as a bright star moving steadily across the sky -- will pass over North America several times each morning this week, and can be seen at different times in almost every part of the U.S.  For specific times and directions where you live, take a look at NASA's Human Spaceflight site, which now includes a "SkyWatch 2.0" applet.

Be alert; most meteors streak by in a second or less, sometimes in clusters.  Most of the shooting stars are created by small cometary fragments, some as small as grains of sand, completely vaporized as they plunge into our protective blanket of air.

The best way to see them is to find a dark place with no street lights and as few trees as possible, and look up.  The streaks could appear anywhere in the sky, though they'll all appear to come from the constellation Perseus, in the northeastern sky, after midnight.

You're best off if you park yourself so that the moon, setting in the west, is behind you, and you let your eyes get used to the darkness.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Space Shuttle Aftermath: Will China Eclipse US in Space?

George Doyle/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- When Chris Ferguson, commander of the space shuttle Atlantis, left the International Space Station for the last time, he left behind a symbolic gift.  It was a small U.S. flag that had flown in space 30 years before, on the very first shuttle flight in 1981, and it is to be retrieved by the next astronauts to be launched from U.S. soil -- something that may be several years away.

The astronauts of Atlantis are ending the space shuttle era just as other countries ramp up their own space programs.  If U.S. astronauts are going to fly over the next few years, they will have to hitch rides on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for $56 million each--with that ticket price souring past $60 million in years to come.  If a space explorer is going to plant a new flag on the moon, it may very well be Chinese.

And if that is bittersweet for the astronauts, it gets some leaders in Washington angry.

"The United States needs a reality check on China," said Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican whose appropriations subcommittee oversees NASA.  "China also is aggressively spying on our country, including stealing the very technology needed for a space program.  We cannot cede the space frontier to the Chinese."

China has a smaller, slower-moving space program than the United States, but one that appears to be methodically planned.  It didn't launch its first astronaut until 2003, but Chinese leaders say it will start assembling a small space station this year, launch a rover to the moon next year, and land astronauts on the moon in the 2020s.

"As countries like China attempt to challenge U.S. leadership in space, we need a similar sense of mission to guide NASA going forward," Rep. Wolf said.

Some politicians and space people see the shuttles' retirement as a threat to U.S. security, technological leadership, and pride as well.  A lot of people, including some of the best-known figures in U.S. space history, don't like the idea of depending on other countries.

"What if something goes wrong with the Soyuz?" asked John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth in 1962.  Glenn turned 90 this week.  "If we have a hiccup on the Soyuz right now, we don't have a manned program."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said, "The administration's delays put current and future American jobs and industries at risk, and hand over to competing nations a golden opportunity to take the global lead in technology."

Rep. Wolf said he hopes the Chinese threat, in particular, prompts America to reinvigorate its space effort, even in tough budget times.

"We need to make cuts, but we need to make smart cuts," he said in an interview with ABC News.  "If we cut NASA, if we cut cancer research, we're eating our seed corn."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


International Space Station Crew Misses Collision with Space Junk

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Potential orbital disaster was averted Tuesday, and the crew of the International Space Station didn't have to move an inch.

NASA had told the three astronauts aboard the ISS that they might have to duck into their Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft because a six-inch piece of space junk was heading their way.

The debris was from the Chinese Feng Yun 1C satellite that was blown up in an anti-satellite test four years ago.  Since then, the wreckage has been descending slowly, posing a threat to other satellites, as well as the ISS, as it does so.

Usually, NASA catches sight of space junk well in advance to give the ISS crew enough time to move the spacecraft slightly to avoid any collision that might put a hole in the floating station.  However, that wasn't the case Tuesday, necessitating the warning to take shelter in the Soyuz.

Hours later, the red alert turned to green as flight controllers told commander Dmitri Kondratyev, flight engineer Paolo Nespoli and NASA flight engineer Catherine "Cady" Coleman that the probability of collision was nil and they could resume business as usual.

All this was good news for the crew because their replacements, who lifted off from Kazakhstan Monday, are due to dock with the ISS Wednesday evening.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japanese Cargo Rocket Headed to ISS

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TANEGASHIMA, Japan) -- An unmanned Japanese rocket headed for the International Space Station was launched Saturday.

The Konotori 2's cargo includes several tons of food, clothing, and equipment for the ISS's six-person crew. The space station can expect the cargo rocket to arrive on Thursday, before it essentially takes out the trash and self-destructs in the atmosphere to conclude its mission.

It was launched on Tanegashima Island, south of the Japanese island of Kyoshu. The Japanese space agency JAXA intends to increase the number of similar missions in the wake of NASA cutbacks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Russians Plan To Put Space Hotel in Orbit

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- A Russian company has announced it plans to launch a spacecraft into orbit in the next six years that will serve as a hotel for space tourists.  Orbital Technologies said the proposed Commercial Space Station (CSS) will offer an alternative to non-astronauts who until now have been limited to visiting the International Space station (ISS).

"The ISS was designed to carry out scientific and research work at the request of the government. We plan to create a space hotel," company CEO Sergei Kostenko told news agency RIA Novosti.  "Our planned module inside will not remind you of the ISS. A hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes."

Orbital Technologies is teaming up with state-run Rocket and Space Corporation Energia and Russian space agency Roscosmos for the project.  Kostenko said he expects the first clients to be private citizens, professional crews and corporate researchers doing their own experiments.  He added they'll be chosen by an American company, Space Adventures, that currently selects the paying passengers on Roscosmos missions.

The first module launched into orbit will be 706 cubic feet with four cabins that can hold a total of seven passengers.  They hope to have a module built sometime in 2012 to 2013, and have it launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket in late 2015 or early 2016.  Orbital would not say how much the project will cost, beyond saying that it will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Kostenko said that American and Russian investors have already signed on.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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