I’ll be helping out with a news briefing by the Expedition 38 crew (launching in November) at work today, so I’ve got space on my mind. Here are a few cool things I’ve come across lately:
This is a really great, in-depth overview of the Soyuz launch sequence done by ESA.
A few weeks ago, this video of Karen Nyberg demonstrating how she washes her hair in space went viral. Karen even ended up on the Today show talking about it! She definitely has some of the coolest space hair of anyone I’ve seen.
And if you’re in the mood for something decidedly scarier, you can read Luca’s account of his spacewalk a few weeks ago where water started accumulating in his helmet. It’s easy to forget that spaceflight is an inherently dangerous activity.
Great little overview of the Soyuz booster. This is an ESA-produced video designed to give some highlights now that ESA is launching Soyuz boosters from their facility in French Guiana.
Neat video showing Soyuz rocket engine testing in Voronezh, Russia. It’s in Russian, but still neat to watch.
Another video in Russian, but this one’s about Elena Serova, who could become the 4th Russian woman to ever fly in space. That’s right — the Russians have only flown 3 women in space, ever.
If you made it through the Russian videos — or even if you didn’t — you can reward yourself with this cool time lapse of auroras and starry skies over cool landscapes. Because you should like time lapses as much as I do.
Here’s a roundup of some cool space things I’ve spotted online in the past couple months!
Don Pettit, who’s been living and working onboard the ISS since late December, is blogging for Air & Space Magazine. His entries have been pretty great so far, and quite candid. Make sure you read his “Forced Smile” entry if you want a real, raw look at some of the, ahem, NOT-so-fun things involved in spaceflight. His account of what a Soyuz launch is like is also good.
Two Canadian teenagers sent a Lego-naut to 85,000 feet using a weather balloon! Critics would argue that 85,000 feet is not technically space, but that’s just semantics. I love Lego-naut!
Did you hear about the big solar storm that came our way last week? It made for some spectacular auroras, as you can see above in real time. Seems like most aurora videos are time-lapse, so I had no idea the aurora moved and flickered that much in real time! Amazing. I so want to see the this with my own eyes someday. It turns out that solar activity has another benefit too — it makes our atmosphere expand a bit, which helps clear out some of the space junk floating around up there.
This is a neat mini-documentary on the AstroVan that carried astronauts to the launch pad from 1984 until the end of the space shuttle program. 0 to 35 in a minute and a half!
I mentioned recently that NASA has stepped up its game when it comes to releasing cool photos and videos, but so have the Russians. This is a neat little video from Roscosmos from a couple years ago that they just reposted, showing a Soyuz spacecraft and rocket being rolled out to the launch pad and lifting off. They have several variants of the Soyuz rocket that all look basically the same, but you can tell this is a Soyuz spacecraft because it has the launch escape system installed on top. (Well, and it says “Soyuz TMA” on the side too, which is the name of the manned spacecraft, but you’d have to be able to read Cyrillic to recognize that.)
This cool poster from Universe Today is celebrating the Opportunity rover’s 8 years on Mars. 8 years! And still going! At the moment, Opportunity is parked on the rim of a crater ready to face another rough Martian winter. Its twin, Spirit, operated for 6+ years before sending its last transmission in March 2010. And to think they were only intended for a 90 DAY mission. 90 days versus 8 years. Pretty impressive.
This is one more image from the Soyuz 27S landing last Monday night. Earlier, I posted the video of the entry taken from the ISS, but astronaut Dan Burbank posted this pretty incredible still photo yesterday to his Twitter account. You can see the entering Soyuz vehicle as a bright streak in the center of the image, just below the end of the Progress vehicle still docked to ISS. The Black Sea is at the bottom of the image and sunrise is starting to peek over the horizon at the top. Wow.
This video from astronaut Ron Garan, who came home on Soyuz 26S in September, made the Internet rounds last week but I didn’t sit down to watch until last night. You can read more about how he did the time lapses on his Fragile Oasis site, but first I recommend you just sit back and watch the whole thing. The time lapse footage they are getting is just gorgeous, especially the nighttime passes (I love the city lights and the lightning flashes from thunderstorms) and the auroras.
On Saturday morning, the Mars Science Laboratory — a spacecraft carrying a rover the size of a Mini Cooper — launched from Florida. It should arrive at Mars next August. Planetary missions are always exciting. Some part of my brain feels like the stakes are higher since the destination is so far away, although that makes no logical sense, since there aren’t people onboard. This video shows the separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage rocket that provided the thrust to get out of Earth orbit. Super cool! That’s the final step of what I’ll call the launch and departure sequence. (I don’t know if there is an official name for it.)
As if live video of the spacecraft separation wasn’t enough, astronomers in Australia spotted MSL later that day as it began its journey to Mars. It looked almost like a comet — really strange! The plume is assumed to be particles from the burn that took the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and on its interplanetary trajectory.
When MSL gets to Mars next August, it will land using a new system called the Skycrane. It sounds, and LOOKS, pretty crazy — but there were several factors that drove the engineering team to design the system. The Scientific American blog has a really good overview of Mars entry, descent and landing (EDL) systems and how the Skycrane came to be, if you’re interested.