Friday, November 18, 2011

2 Space Station Updates

Soyuz rocket blasting off in snowstorm.

Two international dockings this week made the news. Our first story is the return of human spaceflight to Russian space Operations, as a successful Soyuz launch was made to the ISS. On board the TMA-22 Soyuz spacecraft were two cosmonauts and an astronaut of Expedition 29. Even though the launch occurred during a snowstorm, the spacecraft successfully made it to the ISS and docked to the Russian Poisk module on Wednesday.

Expedition 29 all together now.

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and astronaut Dan Burbank join the rest of the Expedition 29 team for a six month stay aboard the station. Burbank is in the middle of the front crewmembers in the photo. Station Commander Mike Fossum (middle in back row), astronaut Satoshi Furukawa (left back row) and cosmonaut Sergei Volkov (right back row) will return to Earth next week. Another group of three astronauts will launch to the station in December.

Meanwhile, the Chinese have been continuing their tests with their Tiangong-1 space module which acts as a remote-control station for practice purposes.

Tiangon-1 (left) and Shenzou-8 (right)

Chinese ground controllers have been practicing undocking and redocking the Shenzou-8 spacecraft. No Taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) are on either craft. Notice the Shenzou-8 (right side of picture) looks remarkably like a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Why start from scratch when you can borrow (?) from something that has worked well for decades. The Chinese are actually doing very well and making good progress in their goal to establish an inhabited space station and then press on to the Moon. Certainly they have benefited from the American and Russian technology. Sure would be nice if they paid for the use of those patents, though.

Recovering the landed Shenzou-8.

Like the Russian Soyuz, the Chinese Shenzou spacecraft land in an open wilderness for recovery. In this case, Inner Mongolia. It had undocked from Tiangong-1 on Wednesday and returned to Earth on Wednesday. It is expected that Taikonauts will be on either the next flight to the station or for certain the third flight up.

Picture credits NASA and Chinese Space Agency.

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