Breathtaking Images From an Astronaut Aboard the ISS

Space has always provided a glimpse into many a fascinating world over the years, from research that has been undertaken by NASA to the Astronauts who have boarded the International Space Station as well as successfully landing on the moon. One such Astronaut, Scott Kelly, has been posting breathtaking images on social media that have included Twitter (1,158 photos and counting) and Instagram (684 posts and counting) during his yearlong visit to the ISS, below is a snapshot of these images.

The first image represents the massive blizzard passing over Chicago on Saturday 23rd January 2016, the image looks awe-inspiring.

The next image below is of what is known as “thundersnow” from the blizzard and was captured, again, on the 23rd January 2016.

The next image below, wow, is of an aurora and was captured on the 27th August 2015, this looks akin to a science fiction film.

The next image below is of Spain, well, more specifically Barcelona and was captured on the 28th July 2015, this is both a stunning and a detailed image.

The next image below is the Astronauts latest Twitter post as of writing (26th January 2016) and has the caption “Day 304. That’s 4,864 orbits a’round’ our beautiful planet #Earth. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace”, it is certainly a brilliant image.

The last image is of Scott Kelly undertaking a Q&A on Reddit from space, well, yes, as you do, this image was posted on the 23rd January 2016

Spacewalk Cut Short Due to Water Found in Helmets

Space can be a scary place, the only thing keeping you alive being a highly advanced suit tethered to a spacecraft or station. When a problem is found in these suits, it risks catastrophe for the astronauts in question. This is why Friday’s ISS spacewalk was cut short by mission control after US astronaut Tim Kopra found water was building up in his helmet. Thankfully, both Tim Kopra and his partner on the spacewalk, British astronaut Tim Peake made it back inside the space station safe and sound.

The water was first discovered by Kopra at 16:56 GMT, just over 4 hours into the 6.5 hour planned spacewalk, at which point mission controllers on the ground decided to terminate the EVA as a precaution. At this point, the two astronauts had already accomplished their primary objective, repairing a faulty power module, and had set about performing secondary tasks. By 17:31, both astronauts were safely back inside the International Space Station.

“I could definitely tell the sides were swollen,” Kopra stated in reference to his helmet’s moisture-absorbing pad. “The first time I noticed it was probably just about the same time that I saw the water start to come down from the top, and it was fairly noticeable. The difference between nominal and what I initially felt was pretty small.”

This isn’t the first time that water has found its way into the helmet of an astronaut on a spacewalk, with a similar case occurring in July 2013, to Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano. In that case, the leak was determined to stem from the space suit’s water-circulating cooling system, which had sprung a leak. Kopra’s issue was far less severe, with less water being present in his helmet. The water in Kopra’s helmet was cold, which would hint at it being from the cooling system, rather than a problem with the drink bag’s bite valve, which is kept at ambient temperature. NASA have ordered those onboard the ISS to take water samples from the helmets of the two astronauts in order to determine the cause of the leak.

Image credit to astronaut Tim Peake

A Look At Time Magazines Selected Space Images Of 2015

Long lasting American magazine “Time” has recently announced a selected list of 55 space images that have captured the imagination of readers and experts alike, below is a look at just a few of these amazing and awe-inspiring pics.

Below is a fantastic image that was captured by The Hubble Space Telescope of the Eagle Nebula “Pillars of Creation”, this was published in January 2015 and it is an incredible image, the detail certainly captures the imagination of space for both budding and also veteran astronomers.   

The image below was captured by the New Horizons spacecraft of Pluto in July 2015, “The New Horizons mission is helping NASA understand worlds at the edge of the solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation”.   The image is fantastic and conveys a world that has previously been out of reach for explorers.  

Below is an image that was captured of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket which exploded just after launching from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, on Oct. 28, 2014. The rocket was carrying an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft filled with NASA cargo, this image was finally released in 2015.  The image feels as if it has just been lifted from a blockbuster movie set or a newly released video game, certainly a spectacular image.

This image below is of Astronaut Scott Kelly who re-entered the International Space Station (ISS) after a space walk, as you do, the image is again spectacular and was released in October 2015. 

The final image was released in December 2015 and is of the Vega rocket that was launched with the aim of testing a variety of methods to detect gravitational waves, the image was released in December 2015. The image certainly conveys the power needed to propel a rocket into space.

Astronaut Accidentally Misdials From Space

It happens to everyone at times, even to the best, that we misdial and get the wrong person on the other end when we make a phone call and enter the digits manually instead of picking a number from our address book. Sometimes this can be more hilarious than other times, depending on your own mood and that of the person you are calling by accident.

Shortly before Christmas, British astronaut Tim Peake took to Twitter to apologize for what some at first believed was the first prank phone call from space. It wasn’t and it was just a minor mistake, but I am sure that the person receiving the call was slightly confused when she picked up the phone and heard the words: “Hello, is this planet Earth?”.

The incident is hilarious and at the same time as it underlines how fragile and dependent our technology really is. Despite the fact that we can send people into space, we still can’t get the number right all the time. This isn’t the first time something like this happened either as astronaut Sam Crritoforetti replied to Tim Peake’s Tweet, admitting she once called 911 by mistake.

These things happen and I’m sure no one would mind a call from space now and then. Say hi to E.T. from me if he should call you.

NASA to Send Humanoid Robots to College

Hardly the typical vision of a model student, the latest high-tech admittance to MIT and the Northeastern University of Boston is 6-feet tall, weighs 290 pounds and goes by the names Valkyrie and R5. This new student is a robot, developed by NASA’s JSC team who have sent Valkyrie out into the world of academia to prepare it for the extreme environments it would have to handle in the process of space work and exploration.

Designed as part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge to develop robots that would be able to assist humans in crisis situations, R5 was revealed to the world back in 2013 when it was put through a series of tasks, that while mundane to a human are challenges to a humanoid robot. The end-goal of Valkyrie’s development team was to send it to Mars, to pioneer technologies that would allow for manned missions to Mars to go ahead. By cooperating with fellow entrants of the DARPA Robotics Challenge to combine R5 hardware with their AI and software developments, they hope to give Valkyrie a future in space.

The two teams selected to work with the R5 are MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory’s “Robust Autonomy for Extreme Space Environments” and Noetheastern University’s “Accessible Testing on Humanoid-Robot-R5 and Evaluation of NASA Administered (ATHENA) Space Robotics Challenge.” Both of the teams will be provided $250,000 per year for the two-year scheme to put towards their research as well as access to the units themselves.

They share the joint aims of entering their systems and algorithms into NASA’s Space Robotics Challenge, which will see both teams R5 units compete in a number of activities performed by astronauts in space, such as operating an airlock and ladder to reach a terrestrial surface and repair or replace damaged components on complex equipment. All of these are part of a process to see the R5 into a role of assisting astronauts on missions with tasks too dangerous for humans. Maybe in future send out whole armies of R5 units as maintenance assistants and exploration units to all manner of moons and planets.

Who knows, the future of space exploration could be in the hands of this slick Iron Man-like robot, and I for one look forward to the day we see humanoid robots that can operate on two legs as well as a human.

NASA Celebrates 15 Years of the ISS With a Song

Today, the International Space Station turns 15 years old. And to mark this occasion, NASA have released a lighthearted and rather educational song and video.

The song itself is delightfully upbeat and played in a country-style, perhaps inspired by NASA’s home in Houston, Texas, full of twangy banjos and low, rhyming vocals that fail to lapse throughout. Accompanying the song is a charming, family-friendly animated video, helping to visualize the details of the lyrics and come complete with a little banjo-playing astronaut.

It is also a great way to learn more about the ISS, for both adults and children too, being packed full of interesting facts and trivia about the space station, from simple facts such as the station taking around an hour and a half to orbit the Earth at an altitude of over 200 miles all the while weighing around 1 million pounds and, more important facts, such as that it only has two toilets and no bath! Yet despite this, over 200 astronauts have lived on board since 2000.

This wouldn’t be the first musical number to be associated with the ISS either, with astronaut Chris Hadfield releasing a video of him covering David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded on the ISS itself, back in 2013.

Now the real question is whether the ISS will manage reach 30, as its operational time currently gives it until 2024, and NASA having stated it could even last to 2028.

Patented Space Elevator to Put Astronauts into Orbit

A Canadian space applications company has been awarded a patent for 20km-long ‘space elevator’ that will help propel astronauts into orbit of the Earth. At over 20 times the size of the largest skyscraper, the top of the pneumatic tower would act as a staging point for high-altitude planes.

“Astronauts would ascend to 20km by electrical elevator. From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refueling and reflight,” Dr Brendan Quine, the inventor of the space elevator, said.

The tower will be constructed from a series of segmented, pneumatically pressurised cells, filled with gas and connected by cables, surrounding a shaft through which the electric elevator will travel. Cargo elevators can also be propelled across the exterior surface of the tower.

Caroline Roberts, President and CEO of Thoth Technology, the company awarded the patent, is excited about the endeavour, believing that it will usher in a new era of space travel and transportation. “Landing on a barge at sea level is a great demonstration,” she said, “but landing at 12 miles (20km) above sea level will make space flight more like taking a passenger jet.

Of course, a patent is one thing, actually being able to pull it off… well, we’ll have to wait and see if this idea gets off the ground.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Tim Peake Uploads Images Of International Space Station Toolbox

Everyone loves a good tool, no matter who we are, there is a tool that we prefer or can’t live without. Many people can’t live without WD-40 and Duct tape, this combination will help you do a quick repair on just about anything. For the International Space Station or ISS you will need a little bit more to do repairs.

European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake, photographed and uploaded several photographs of the toolbox located on the ISS to share this interesting toolbox to us civilians.

When you look in a mechanics personal tool box sometimes they are organized, sometimes they are not, this toolbox is very well organized and labeled. Another thing you might notice when you look in a mechanics toolbox, you are likely to one brand of tools. With the toolbox on the ISS you will notice that they use multiple brands, Craftsman, DMC and Snap-on tools.

Tim Peake uploaded these images to his personal account, and are not the greatest quality, but they give us the opportunity to see the tools that are used and trusted by astronauts.

Personally I would have loved to see a full list of the tools that they use, unfortunately there was not a list of tools uploaded with the photographs, so I will ask you, the readers; What tools do you see?

Images courtesy of Flickr