Thursday, September 12, 2013


Japan's HTV-4 prior to release by the robotic arm.

Spaceships come and spaceships go.  The last week saw a couple of spaceships leave the ISS while a space probe lost contact. On September 4, the HTV-4 space cargo module was undocked and released into orbit using the station's robotic arm. Japan's 4th cargo module had been unloaded of supplies and filled with trash and other disposables. Since the craft was not designed to return to Earth safely, it was guided to a de-orbit burn-up over the ocean.

The glow from HTV-4's re-entry lights up the night sky.

Ground controllers timed the re-entry so that the ISS would be overhead while it occurred, thus providing a great light show over the Pacific that could be pictured from space. Check Sp
aceflight Now for more pictures:

Expedition 36 comes to a bumpy end in 3, 2, 1...

Expedition 36 has completed with the safe landing of Soyuz TMA-08M. Touchdown in Kazakhstan took place on Tuesday the 10th, and the crewmembers Pavel Vinogradov, Alexander Misurkin, and Christopher Cassidy were quickly surrounded by support crew who helped them out of their cramped capsule and into comfy warm seats. After their 5 month stay on the ISS, it will take a while to readjust to the Earth's gravity (and normal life).

Change of Command ceremony. Farewell, Expedition 36!

On Monday September 9, Expedition 36 commander Pavel Vinogradov officially turned over command of the station to Fyoder Yurchikhin who becomes the commander of Expedition 37. Expedition 36 will be remembered for several spacewalks in preparation for the upcoming arrival of a new Russian module. One of those EVA's saw a near disaster as astronaut Luca Parmitano suffered from a leak of water into his space helmet. The next reinforcements for the ISS will launch on September 25.

Lost in space: Deep Impact. (NASA illustration)

Gone for good? JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) controllers indicate that they may have permanently lost contact with the Deep Impact space probe. Apparently a software problem began to continually reboot the system, which cut off commands to use the thrusters to maintain attitude control. Without that control, the spacecraft cannot reorient itself to maintain radio contact with Earth. More importantly, power will run down as the craft's solar panels will not be pointed in the right direction for recharging.

During its 4.7 billion mile journey so far, Deep Impact has deployed an impact probe into comet Tempel 1, completed a close flyby of comet Hartley 2, and imaged comets C/2009 P1 and comet ISON.

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