Friday Links is getting published early, for once, in honor of the Expedition 30 crew who are leaving ISS in a few hours to end their marathon mission! Dan Burbank, Anatoly Ivanishin, and Anton Shkaplerov arrived at ISS on November 21, 2011 – which feels like ages ago. Their launch and docking was cause for relief for the world’s civil space programs as it was the first Soyuz flight following the failed Progress 44 flight last summer. I don’t think Expedition 30 quite breaks the record for longest ISS flight, but it comes darn close (nowhere close of course to the longest MIR missions).
It will be good to have Commander Burbank back in Houston. Return to Earth is always accompanied by award ceremonies, parties, and decorating… yes I said decorating. After touchdown tomorrow the Expedition 30 training team will get to work putting up photos and inside jokes in the hallway of building 4 at JSC to welcome Dan Burbank back on his first day in the office. It must suck to come back from a stay in space and have to go sit at a desk, eh?
If you want to stay up and watch the Soyuz TMA-22 undocking at about 3 AM Central time, go over to Spaceflight Now for good coverage and live streaming of NASA TV. The Soyuz entry capsule will land only a few hours later in Kazakhstan at about 6:45 AM Central time. I will just be arriving at the Mission Control Center for an integrated ISS simulation so maybe I will catch the touchdown on TV.
With that, let’s get on with the other stories!
Down to Earth
Also scheduled for tomorrow is the ferry flight of Space Shuttle Enterprise from Dulles to New York City! They are scheduled to depart in the late morning so I would expect to see the internet afire with everyone in NYC watching the space shuttle just a couple of hours later. There should be some great photo ops from tomorrow’s flight!
Here’s a more detailed discussion of Enterprise arriving at NYC from Universe Today.
SpaceX has rescheduled their planned Falcon 9 launch from April 30 to May 7. It’s a minor delay – as of now – and I am still looking forward to the excitement next month if and when we grapple a commercial vehicle for berthing at ISS for the first time.
Similarly, Orbital Sciences has released a new flight schedule for their Cygnus program. The new milestones indicate a delay of at least 2 months or so from the previously expected first demonstration flight to ISS. They intend to fly that first flight sometime in the “fourth quarter” of 2012.
Speaking of Soyuz flights, the second half of the Expedition 31 crew is getting ready to launch in Kazakhstan. Joseph Acaba will be launching with crew mates Sergei Revin and super-veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka on May 15.
In order to prepare ISS for their arrival, ISS performed a reboost on Wednesday morning using the ATV engines. I was honored to be a part of the reboost team! We are now in a good orbit to expect new guests…
Of course, the most anticipated aspect of a new Soyuz launch is the question, what stuffed toy is going to be their microgravity indicator? Okay, no one actually cares that much. But it’s a fun human touch – one of many superstitions – in the Russian space program that the crew always hangs a toy in the capsule so that everyone watching from Earth can tell when they have reached a microgravity environment. For the Expedition 31 crew, Joseph Acaba has selected Smokey the Bear.
Here’s a good view of the Soyuz hatch from inside one of the capsules currently docked to ISS.
And to round out the discussion of ISS vehicle traffic, the new Progress 47 successfully docked to ISS this past Sunday. Here is a shot from Andre Kuipers of some of the cosmonauts monitoring rendezvous operations from inside ISS.
This week was the 22nd anniversary of Hubble launching into orbit aboard Discovery. Phil Plait has a repost that he posted for the 20th anniversary with “Ten thinks you don’t know about Hubble”.
One of the more exciting events this week was the press conference by new asteroid mining startup Planetary Resources. You can watch the video of their press conference here. Every space outlet on the internet has voiced their opinion about this new company so I’m not going to add too much to the noise right now. You should definitely go watch Jon Stewart talking about the venture (with a cameo by Neil DeGrasse Tyson).
If you can stomach reading a lot about law, The Legal Spaceman blog has an intriguing discussion of the legality of Planetary Resources and how they are affected by the Outer Space Treaty and the Moon Treaty.
I’ve been wanting to read Mining the Sky for years (written by a Planetary Resources adviser), now seems like a pretty good time to pick up a copy…
Because it’s Cool
How cool is this shot of Saturn with half a dozen moons?
And the obligatory Milky Way panorama. This one from Crater Lake during the Lyrids meteor shower last weekend.