Tag Archives: ISS

New Horizons, Dawn, SpaceX, long ISS stays are top space stories to watch in 2015

4 Jan

The year 2015 is poised to be a busy one for space exploration.

New Horizons arriving at Pluto is perhaps the biggest story in a number of years, and has certainly been a long time coming. Humanity exploring a new world (note I say world, not planet) in our own solar system is a notable event. New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto will be on July 14, 2014 at 7:49:59 a.m. ET.

Ditto Dawn’s arrival at Ceres. The possibilities of what could be found there are very intriguing. Dawn is set to arrive in orbit of Ceres on March 6, 2015.

SpaceX makes the top three for me on account of what they’re going to be trying to accomplish this year in terms of reusable rockets (January 6 launch upcoming Tuesday is definitely one to watch). This is pushing new boundaries in terms of rocket technology. Watching the continued development of Dragon V2 is also significant.

Though along with SpaceX, I consider the ongoing expansion of private space flight truly noteworthy. It will reshape how we view space travel, and the number of people who can achieve it.

Long duration ISS stays are also something to watch, as much as anything because of how they fit into the puzzle that is humans one day reaching Mars.

There’s also a solar eclipse upcoming on March 20, 2015, and two lunar eclipses this year: April 4 and September 28, 2015.

And much much more.

Artist's concept of the New Horizons spacecraft during its planned encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon. The craft's miniature cameras, radio science experiment, ultraviolet and infrared spectrometers and space plasma experiments will characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon, map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Pluto's atmosphere in detail. The spacecraft's most prominent design feature is a nearly 2.1-meter dish antenna, through which it communicates with Earth from as far as 7.5 billion km away. Image Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft during its planned encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon. The craft’s miniature cameras, radio science experiment, ultraviolet and infrared spectrometers and space plasma experiments will characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon, map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Pluto’s atmosphere in detail. The spacecraft’s most prominent design feature is a nearly 2.1-meter dish antenna, through which it communicates with Earth from as far as 7.5 billion km away. Image Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Ukrainian dispute takes toll on space cooperation

5 Apr

A version of this article appeared on Saturday across the Sun Media chain.

Amid the ongoing dispute between Russia and the west over Ukrainian territory, the American government added their space agency to the list of government agencies prohibited from contacting Russian officials.

The International Space Station, which is the focus of NASA-Russian cooperation, is however exempt.

In a memo to employees, NASA Associate Administrator Michael O’Brien wrote, “This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or video conferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted.”

The internal memo was posted on the website NASAwatch.com

When asked for comment on the NASA-Russian relationship, the Canadian Space Agency provided the following statement: “While the Government views the current situation in the Ukraine with great concern, the Canadian Space Agency will continue to work with its Russian counterpart to ensure the safe and effective operation of the International Space Station.”

Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield also offered his take on the impact of the international dispute on space agencies.

“Both Russia and the United States, and all international partners (including Canada,) have huge multifaceted programs going in all different areas at the same time.

“It would be great if everybody was always together on everything, but we surely aren’t. This isn’t the only area of dispute between nations. Canada and the U.S. have areas that we dispute all the time, and yet we cooperate on most things,” he told me in a conversation we had on March 21.

Currently, three Russian cosmonauts, two U.S. astronauts and one Japanese astronaut are living aboard the orbital outpost. The International Space Station orbits 400km above the surface of the Earth at a speed of 28,000km/h.

Hadfield continued to explain his wide perspective on the issue, “You remember that I used to intercept Soviet bombers in Canadian airspace in the late ‘80s (as a Canadian Air Force pilot), and in ‘95 I helped build the Russian space station (during Space Shuttle mission STS-74)”.

Hadfield has flown into space three times: in 1995, 2001, and most recently in 2012-2013.

His first two flights were aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle. His five month flight in ’12-13 was to the International Space Station, which utilized a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft. His stint on board the station also included becoming the first Canadian to command the outpost in March 2013.

He also explained that the International Space Station program is not being driven by politics over a, “thousand-year-old dispute,” and called the orbiting laboratory, “a visible example of cooperation.”

In response to NASA’s decision to cut ties with Russian counterparts, Scott Pace, director of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute told Reuters, “If we want to express our opposition to their actions I hope that we would choose other instruments.”

11 things you may not have known about Chris Hadfield’s time in space

16 Mar

feathadfield
This article also appeared on Sun News Network, Canoe.ca, The Toronto Sun, and other Sun Media properties to celebrate the first anniversary of Chris Hadfield becoming ISS commander on March 13, 2013.


After arriving on the International Space Station on Dec. 21, 2012, Chris Hadfield took the reins of command on March 13, 2013 — becoming the first and only Canadian to command humanity’s most distant outpost. During the mission, Hadfield flew nearly 100 million kilometres during a five-month stay in space.

Here are 11 things you might not know about his time in space:

1. Hadfield has flown into space three times: On the Space Shuttle Atlantis in November 1995, on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in April 2001, and to the International Space Station from December 2012 – May 2013.


2. Hadfield was the first and only Canadian to board the Russian space station Mir while in orbit, which he did during the STS-74 mission in November 1995. On this mission, Chris was also the first Canadian to operate the Space Shuttle’s Canadarm while in space.


Haruna, a large and powerful tropical cyclone, wreaks clockwise destruction across Madagascar. @Cmdr_Hadfield tweeted Feb. 23, 2013.

3. During Hadfield’s first spacewalk — the first spacewalk for any Canadian — on mission STS-100 in April 2001, he was temporarily blinded when his spacesuit’s anti-fog solution got into his eyes. He recovered after about 30 minutes and successfully completed his mission, which was to install the new Canadarm2 on the ISS. Over two spacewalks he spent nearly 15 hours “outside”.

4. During Hadfield’s time on the ISS, he gained about 950,000 followers on Twitter.

5. Hadfield filmed the first music video ever made in space: his version of David Bowie’s 1969 hit Space Oddity. Before recording though, Chris asked his son Evan to re-write the lyrics to exclude the lines about the astronaut dying. The video debuted on YouTube on the eve of Hadfield’s return to Earth (May 13, 2013) and today has more than 22 million views. On his own Facebook page, David Bowie posted, “It’s possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created.”

6. Hadfield has spent a total of 166 days in space, including 14 hours 53 minutes and 38 seconds of time “outside” on his two spacewalks in April 2001.

7. Hadfield unveiled Canada’s new $5 note from space on April 30, 2013 while he was aboard the ISS. The new bill features two Canadian-built robots: Canadarm2 and the satellite-fixing DEXTRE. The note also features an image of Hadfield from his 2001 spacewalk.

8. Hadfield was the first, and to this date only, Canadian ever to be commander of the International Space Station. He took command on March 13, 2013, and held it until his return to Earth on May 13, 2013.


9. The now infamous Toronto Maple Leafs collapse in Game 7 versus the Boston Bruins in the 2013 NHL playoffs took place while Hadfield was re-entering the atmosphere on his return to Earth. Hadfield — a die-hard Leafs fan — had even substituted his NASA-regulation undershirt for a Maple Leafs T-shirt for his fiery return to Earth. The first phone call he made after landing was to his wife, who had to break the news about the Leafs loss via satellite phone.


10. Hadfield, while ISS Commander, surprised his crewmates with an Easter Egg hunt for the holiday in 2013.

11. Hadfield was the fourth Canadian to fly in space when he first flew in 1995 (Marc Garneau: 1984, Roberta Bondar: 1992, Steve MacLean: 1992). He is one of two Canadians to visit space three times (Garneau: 1984, 1996, 2000), and one of nine Canadians to venture to the final frontier at least once (trained astronauts: Garneau, Bondar, MacLean, Robert Thirsk, Bjarni Tryggvason, Dave Williams, Julie Payette, Hadfield; Cirque founder Guy Laliberte bought a ticket to the ISS in 2009).

— On Twitter: @HarrisonRuess

Happy 15th birthday Space Station!

19 Nov

Sing it with me: Happy birthday, ISS!

On November 20, 1998 the International Space Station (ISS) was born with the launch of the Zarya module from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 81 in Kazakhstan. Zarya is Russian for ‘dawn’ and it was given this name to signify the dawn of new international cooperation on the ISS project.

A couple short days later on December 4, 1998 the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from Florida on mission STS-88 with the primary goal of connecting its cargo – the Unity module (Node 1) – to Zarya. On December 5 Unity and Zarya were connected, using the Shuttle’s Canadarm. On December 10, 1998 the hatch between Unity and Zarya was opened, and for the first time astronauts floated aboard the ISS. STS-88 also included three spacewalks to connect power systems between the two modules.

This first piece of construction was historically significant, though it was only the beginning of ISS construction. And it would be nearly two years before anyone could live up there.

In all, ISS construction required more than 25 Space Shuttle flights, some 150 spacewalks – adding up to more than 1000 hours of spacewalking!

In July 2000 the third component of the ISS launched from Russia, the Zvezda (Russian for ‘star’) Service Module. It was controlled remotely and docked with the ISS without any human presence aboard. On September 11, 2000 during Space Shuttle flight STS-106 astronauts on a spacewalk made the final connections to activate the module.

ISS construction during STS-116 in December 2006

ISS construction during STS-116 in December 2006

With Zvezda in place, the first crew on Expedition 1 arrived on November 2, 2000 and humans have been living aboard ever since – a record 13+ years. The previous record, held by Russian cosmonauts aboard Mir, was just less than 10 years (3,634 days).

STS-100 in April 2001 saw the installation of the ISS Robotic Arm – Canadarm2 – by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. This marked the major contribution to the ISS by the Canadian Space Agency, and I have since heard Hadfield brag that ‘Canadians built the ISS’, as Canadarm2 was vital to ISS construction as modules arrived from Earth.

Major construction of the ISS continued until STS-133 in March 2011, when NASA installed their last “room” – the Permanent Multipurpose Module, which is generally used for storage. Though additional components are continually being added or upgraded on the ISS, and this is expected to continue for years to come, the ISS is generally considered to have been ‘completed’ in 2011.

The ISS is currently funded up until 2020, though there are discussions it could remain functional and useful (and funded) up until 2028. Considering some of the historical hurdles that the ISS had to overcome (least of which was the Columbia disaster in 2003) just to make it this far, I am optimistic it still has a bright future.

Besides the unique research being done aboard the ISS everyday – it is after all the only laboratory that enjoys the perk of microgravity – there is speculation that the ISS could be used as a launching point for future missions to the Moon, asteroids, or even Mars.

It’s a remarkable example of human ingenuity and cooperation, as the ISS is generally considered the largest and most complicated piece of equipment humanity has ever built. Weighing in at 450,000 kg (just less than one million pounds), travelling 27,600 km/h, 400 km straight up, and the size of a football field, it is an amazing accomplishment.

Join in the worldwide celebration of the ISS 15th birthday by “waving” to the ISS and using the Twitter hashtag #ISS15.

I look forward to writing about the ISS, and its story of cooperation, achievement, and success for many years to come.

A brief photo history of the ISS:

Zarya Module (1998)

Zarya Module (1998)

Zarya (left) and Unity (1998)

Zarya (left) and Unity (1998)

Top to bottom: Unity, Zarya, Zvezda (2000)

Top to bottom: Unity, Zarya, Zvezda (2000)

US Solar Panels installed in 2000

US Solar Panels installed in 2000

Canadarm2 (2001)

Canadarm2 (2001)

The ISS in August 2005

The ISS in August 2005

The ISS in February 2008

The ISS in February 2008

The 'complete' ISS in 2011

The ‘complete’ ISS in 2011