Sunday, September 28, 2014

Damaged Soyuz carries crew to ISS

Soyuz rocket lifts off from Baikonur.

Reinforcements for Expedition 41 left Earth for a six month stay, blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Saturday for a six-hour flight to the ISS. On board Soyuz TMA-14M were Soyuz commander Alexander Samokutyaev, cosmonaut Elena Serova, and NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore.  They will join Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev (Russia), NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from Germany.

Crew of Soyuz TMA-14M. L-R: Wilson, Samokutyaev, Serova.

Wilson has flown in space before, on the space shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-129, delivering supplies to the ISS in 2009. Samokutyaev was previously a backup for Expedition 23/24, and served on the ISS on mission 27/28. Serova is the first Russian woman to crew on the ISS, and is on her first flight to the station.

One-Wing Soyuz approaching the ISS.

After achieving orbit, and making burns for rendezvous with the ISS, one of the solar panel wing arrays failed to deploy. The right side array was still able to provide enough electrical power for the craft, which docked at the Russian-made Polsk module at a little over 8 pm Mountain time. The slight jarring of the docking maneuver may have been what the jammed panel needed, since it seems it opened on its own a little after docking.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dragon Cargo Spacecraft Arrives at ISS

View of Dragon on approach to the ISS, just before grappling with the robotic arm.

SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft has arrived at the International Space Station and was caught by the robotic arm just a couple of hours ago at 4:52 a.m. Mountain time. This was the 4th Dragon mission to the ISS by SpaceX. The craft will be docked at the US Harmony module, where astronauts will unload its supplies and experiments and eventually load it with items needing return to NASA engineers on the ground. The Dragon is the only robotic cargo ship that safely returns to the Earth. The US Cygnus, European ATV, and Russian Progress vehicles all terminate their missions by burning up in the atmosphere. Dragon will spend 4 weeks docked to the station before ending its mission. On this trip, besides all the regular supplies of fuel, water, food, and small experiments, the Dragon also brought up an experimental 3D printer that astronauts will use to create certain parts  for maintenance while in orbit.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Space crew returned to Earth

Soyuz TMA-12M departs from the ISS.

Now there's a sign that I've been too busy this last week. I missed setting a post about the departure of TMA-12M from the station! Last Thursday, Expedition 40 commander Steve Swanson, and flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev safely landed in Kazakhstan. They had left the station under the care of new commander Max Suraev, astronaut Reid Wiseman, and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. The new Expedition 41 crew will be joined by three more crewmembers on September 26th.

View of the ISS from the Soyuz craft.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Duck and Cover! Here Comes Another One!

Omigosh!  It's coming right for us! OK, maybe not.

NASA says it won't hit us. But what if it does? WHAT IF IT DOES!?!?!?

Of course I'm warning you today about Sunday's imminent arrival of asteroid 2014 RC, which will zoom by the planet at about a distance of 22,000 miles. That's close, man! It's so close that it will pass near the orbital zone of our weather satellites and those way-out there communications satellites. 

NASA asteroid plot projection. See

At the time of close approach, the rock will hurtle over New Zealand at 18:18 UTC (universal time). I'll let you do the conversion math to your own time. I'm at Salt Lake City Comic Con, so I have a waiver from having to do any math in my head today. The rock is about 60 feet long, and was only discovered on August 31 by astronomers in Hawaii. So if you feel a big thump on Sunday, maybe the NASA guys were wrong and New Zealand just got smacked. That would be bad, because they make great movies down there.