TIME Year in Space

Space: It Ain’t All Glamour

International space station
NASA

There's a lot of messy housekeeping when you're in orbit—and a lot of exciting work too

How did your pre-treated urine transfer rate work out this week? I’m sorry? You had no pre-treated urine transfer rate to worry about? Oh, then you must not be aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

It’s been a busy few days for the six crewmembers of the ISS—which pretty much describes all of their days. If there’s one point all astronauts mention about their time aloft, it’s the challenge of the schedule—the long, every-minute-accounted-for checklist of items that have to be completed every single day. Some of them are the glamour stuff of space travel—spacewalks, formation-flying with arriving vehicles, TV broadcasts to the folks back home. Some are a good deal more mundane, such as troubleshooting the stubbornly low flow rate in a system that is supposed to filter and recycle urine into ordinary drinking water.

Mission planners are not shy about revealing just how hard they make the astronauts work, as a glimpse at NASA’s ISS blog reveals. On May 22, the crew woke up to a list of 65 must-do items; three days later it was 67; the next day was a lighter day by comparison, with a scant 55.

A lot of what was done on those days was indeed very big stuff. On May 26, year-in-space marathoner Scott Kelly and crewmate Terry Virts oversaw the transfer of the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) from one berthing site to another on the station—which is both much more important and much more difficult than it sounds. For one thing, the module weighs 11 tons. And like most station modules, it’s roughly the size of a school bus.

Relocating it meant three control centers had to work in tandem: Mission Control in Houston; the Mobile Servicing Systems Operations Center in Quebec, Canada, which oversees the work of the station’s robotic arm; and the station itself, with Kelly and Virts in charge. The goal was to decouple the PMM from the Unity module and movie it to the nearby Tranquility module—by remote control, while moving 17,135 mph (27, 576 k/h), at an altitude of 259 mi. (417 km).

But it was worth the effort. By 2017, two new commercial crew vehicles built by Boeing and SpaceX will begin flying to the station, freeing the U.S. from its reliance on the Russian Soyuz as the only way to get astronauts to space. That required reconfiguring the station to open up the best docking ports to receive crew—and that meant the PMM had to find somewhere else to live.

A lot of the other work that went on in the past few days involved the extensive biomedical tests that Kelly, his fellow one-year flier Misha Kornienko, and the other astronauts regularly undergo to study the human body’s fitness for long-term space flight. Kelly and Kornienko went through their paces in what will be a year’s worth of fine-motor skill tests, tapping at touch screens to determine how their reaction time and dexterity change over the course of their stay.

Kelly and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka worked with ultrasound equipment to help study how fluid shifting from the lower body to the head affects the shape of the eyeball and the condition of the optic nerve, both of which are thought to cause long-lasting—and perhaps permanent—changes in the vision of astronauts who have spent extended time in zero-g.

Next week, Kelly will undergo similar testing while wearing a CHIBIS lower body negative pressure suit, which pulls fluid back down from the head and reduces the pressure that causes the damage. And, yes, a more colloquial description for a CHIBIS lower body negative pressure suit is rubber vacuum pants—but if your vision depended on them, you’d be happy to put them on too.

Other work on the station involved echocardiograms, with crewmembers serving sometimes as Crew Medical Officers (CMOs) and sometimes as patients as they performed the scans on one another; experiments on convection, fluid physics and the effects of the space environment on various materials subjected to long-term exposure outside the station; and maintenance work on extravehicular activity (EVA) suits in preparation for spacewalks soon to come.

None of the work is easy, some of it is monotonous, and all of it just keeps coming. On the other hand, you get to perform it while weightless, with a view outside the office window that is pretty hard to beat. As workplaces go, you could do a lot worse.

TIME weather

Forecasters Predict ‘Below Average’ 2015 Hurricane Season—But Threats Still Lurk

hurricane NOAA prediction 2015
Getty Images

'We always hope for the best and prepare for the worst'

Forecasters expect this year’s tropical storm season to be weaker than usual with zero to two major hurricanes predicted to affect the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday.

The announcement came days before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1. Hurricane season typically lasts until the end of November.

Overall, the agency predicted 6 to 11 named storms with winds of 39 mph or greater and 3 to 6 hurricanes with wind speeds of 74 mph or greater. Despite the “below average” prediction, officials from NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stressed that communities typically affected by hurricanes, particularly along the Gulf Coast, should still prepare for the worst.

“No matter how many pitches Mother Nature throws at us, from only a few to a whole lot, if just one of those pitches gets through the strike zone we can be in for a lot of trouble,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan at a press conference. “Below average doesn’t mean no pitches get thrown our way.”

The El Niño weather phenomenon, which began this spring, is at least in part responsible for the suppression of storm activity, Sullivan said.El Niño tends to increase wind shear, the difference in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance, which in turn subsequently slows down storm formation and growth.

In the NOAA press conference, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that his city is better prepared to handle a major hurricane today than it was when the Hurricane Katrina hit 10 years ago as a Category 3 hurricane, killing more than 1,800 people—but he stressed that city residents should still prepare.It’s also important to remember that a storm doesn’t necessarily have to be powerful in order to wreck a lot of havoc. Superstorm Sandy wasn’t technically strong enough to be rated as a hurricane when it made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012—yet it caused north of $60 billion in damage because of its sheer size and because it squarely hit some richest, most populated coastal territory in the U.S. There’s no way to predict today where any hurricanes that may form in 2015 could make landfall—and location matters as much as strength.

“We always hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve learned a lot of the path.”

TIME Companies

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Is About to Tap a Huge New Market

US-SPACE-SPACEX-DRAGON V2 SPACECRAFT-ELON MUSK
Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images SpaceX CEO Elon Musk introduces SpaceX's Dragon V2 spacecraft, the companys next generation version of the Dragon ship designed to carry astronauts into space, at a press conference in Hawthorne, California on May 29, 2014.

It'll take on Boeing and Lockheed

The U.S. Air Force certified SpaceX to launch satellites for the Pentagon, it was announced Tuesday.

This is significant news for Elon Musk’s 13-year-old aerospace company, which has long been involved court case over certification from the Pentagon. As the Washington Post reports, obtaining Pentagon certification means SpaceX can compete with United Launch Alliance, a joint space venture formed in 2006 by Lockheed Martin and Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

ULA provides launch services to government entities like NASA and the Department of Defense—customers SpaceX also wants to service.

The certification process began when SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in April of last year, arguing its bidding process for awarding contracts to launch Pentagon satellites had turned ULA into an unfair monopoly. (In 2012, the Air Force awarded 36 launches to ULA, which was the only contractor certified to launch under the EELV, or Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.) Musk framed the lawsuit as a broader effort to get future launches reopened to widespread competition.

The suit was a rare and risky example of a company suing the organization that would be its biggest customer if it won the suit. In January of this year, SpaceX dropped the lawsuit and the certification process began.

Now Musk has earned what he sought—the right to compete. It’s a big win for Musk and SpaceX, which last year won a contract to fly astronauts to NASA’s International Space Station. In a statement about earning Pentagon certification, Musk said it is an “important step.”

He’s not the only one that thinks so. The news is getting big reactions from major names in the defense industry. Republican Senator John McCain, for instance, said in a statement: “The certification of SpaceX as a provider for defense space launch contracts is a win for competition . . . I am hopeful that this and other new competition will help to bring down launch costs and end our reliance on Russian rocket engines that subsidizes Vladimir Putin and his cronies.”

Read next: Watch What It’s Like to Get Blasted to 100MPH in 1.2 Seconds

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TIME Innovation

Watch: This Robot Cockroach Is Surprisingly Mesmerizing

It runs extremely fast

Artificial cockroaches have come a long way since Joe’s Apartment.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have created a tiny, cockroach-like robot that can run around fast enough to launch a second, partner robot into flight.

The lab aims to mimic the ways animals sense the world around them and move about in very small robots, a.k.a. millibots. The so-called VelociRoACH above is strapped to a harness carrying another bot, the H2Bird, which it tosses into the air after a running start. (Another version of the robo-roach, dubbed the X2-VelociRoACH, is the fastest robot relative to size, according to the researches, and can reach running speeds of about 11 miles per hour.)

It’s simply cool to look at. But researchers say the system shows the benefits of getting multiple robots with different capabilities (ground speed in one, flight in another) to work together. This allows both to be more efficient. Or as the lab puts it:

Placing the H2Bird on top of the VelociRoACH decreases the cost of transport of the VelociRoACH by approximately 16 percent. This decrease in the cost of transport would be useful in a situation where the VelociRoACH and the H2Bird had to both reach a point 80 meters away and the H2Bird had to fly 20 meters in the air, where the VelociRoACH cannot reach…In situations such as these, cooperative locomotion would be more efficient than independent locomotion.

The lab’s website says, at the moment, the tiny bots are remote controlled. The next step? Making both autonomous.

TIME space

See a Rare View of Saturn’s Rings

It's the best time of year to view Saturn's rings

Saturn will come closer to earth this weekend than at any other time of the year, giving us earthbound creatures an incomparable view of its rings. For a closer look, “community observatory” Slooh trained Internet-connected telescopes on the planet during peak viewing hours. The images are shown in the video above, which includes expert commentary from Slooh astronomer Will Gater and Cornell University planetary scientist Dr. Jonathan Lunine.

TIME Innovation

Watch: This Real-Life Hoverboard Is Almost Impossible to Believe

But it's real, according to the Guinness Book of World Records

Eat your heart out Marty McFly.

According to the Guinness World Record organization, this video shows the furthest recorded flight ever made on a overboard. (You know, in real life as opposed to in the movies.) This “astonishing world record,” according to Guinness, was set by Canadian inventor Catalina Alexandru Duru.

In the video above, Duru rises 16 feet in the air and then flies forward 905 feet and 2 inches. Under him, only air and a lake. To set the Guinness World Records title, Duru had to achieve a distance of more than 50 meters. The inventor travelled over five times that distance.

“I wanted to showcase that a stable flight can be achieved on a hoverboard and a human could stand and control with their feet,” he told Guinness.

TIME innovations

Watch What It’s Like to Get Blasted to 100MPH in 1.2 Seconds

We'd almost definitely vomit

If you ever wondered what it’s like to get blasted off a launch pad going at 100 miles per hour, this SpaceX video does the trick.

The video, posted Friday, shows point-of-view footage of SpaceX’s May 6 pad abort test of its Crew Dragon vehicle. Essentially, the private space company, headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, was testing a system that could safely eject astronauts aboard a just-launched rocket should anything go wrong.

The Dragon vehicle reached 100mph in 1.2 seconds, before topping out at a peak velocity of 345mph.

“The successful Pad Abort Test was the first flight test of SpaceX’s revolutionary launch abort system, and the data captured here will be critical in preparing Crew Dragon for its first human missions in 2017,” SpaceX wrote following the successful test.

In March, SpaceX launched the world’s first completely electric satellites into space.

TIME energy

Memorial Day Weekend Gas Prices at Lowest Point Since 2009

The average retail gas price on May 18 was nearly a dollar lower than on the same day last year

Consumer gas prices are at a lower point heading into this Memorial Day weekend than any comparable weekend since 2009, according to a government report.

The average retail gas price was $2.74 per gallon on May 18, nearly a dollar lower than on the same day last year, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) reported. Gas prices vary across the country, from highs of above $3.4o throughout California and in parts of Alaska to below $2.50 throughout much of the South and Midwest.

Read More: The Cost of Cheap Gas

Cheap consumer gas has been driven by low crude oil prices, though have prices have risen in the last few months. The EIA predicted that gas prices will fall in June as refineries across the country increase production. Retail gasoline prices is expected to average $2.51 per gallon during the third quarter of 2015.

Memorial Day, when many Americans take road trips, marks the approximate start of the summer driving season when gas prices often increase. The increase is at least in part due to oil companies complying with requirements that they produce a more expensive summer-grade gasoline.

 

TIME psychology

What the Josh Duggar Fiasco Can Teach Us About Pedophilia

It raises familiar questions with no easy answers

Want a challenge? Try feeling sorry for a pedophile—those guys (and they’re almost always guys) who lust for children, stalk children and may eventually molest or rape children. Even in prison they’re targets of violence from other inmates. When a murderer finds you morally repugnant, you know you’ve fallen far.

That universal loathing is on display again with public outrage around the news that reality TV star Josh Duggar, 27, of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, responded to allegations that he molested five underage girls when he was 15, saying that he “acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret.”

There is more unknown about these charges than known: How old were the girls? What did the molestation involve? These and other questions are critical to understanding both the psychology and the alleged criminality at play.

But let’s address the worst possibility—that the girls were not teens like Duggar, but much younger. That he was drawn to them as an adult pedophile is drawn to a child, and that under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist, he would be diagnosed with clinical pedophilia. What does that mean for him—and for society?

Pedophilia is thought to be a relatively rare condition, afflicting from 1% to 5% of men, and a vanishingly small number of women. Admittedly 1% to 5% is a wide range, but unlike people suffering from, say, depression or phobias, people with pedophilic stirrings are not likely to step forward for treatment. Pedophiles are sexually drawn to children exclusively and as a group, prey on same sex and opposite sex children more or less equally. The condition has nothing at all to do with homosexuality.

Psychologists stress that not all child molesters are pedophiles and not all pedophiles molest. Only about 10% of known child abusers are thought to be clinical pedophiles. In most non-pedophilic cases of child abuse, the crime is an act of violence, of rage, sometimes a result of trauma. Often molesters were themselves molested in childhood—anywhere from one third to three quarters of them—though the studies on which these findings are based are often called into question because they rely on trusting the abusers to tell the truth about their past.

What’s barely in dispute anymore is that true pedophilia is a disorder with physiological roots. Scans of pedophiles’ brains show less connective white matter than the brains of other people; other studies show that pedophiles have a greater tendency to be left-handed, that they score poorly on visual and spatial tests and that they may even be shorter, on average, than other males. All of this points either to the genes or prenatal womb environment, or both, meaning that pedophilia is innate, unchosen and as fixed as anyone else’s sexuality.

“None of us decides the sorts of people we’re going to be attracted to,” says Dr. Fred Berlin of the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma, in Baltimore. “We discover that, and that’s true too of people who discover they’re attracted to children. This is not the result of a choice.”

That’s where treatment becomes hard, and where sympathy—if you’re inclined to feel it—may be warranted. In the days in which homosexuality was punished, gays and lesbians spent their entire lives either denying themselves a sexual outlet or doing so furtively and fearfully. That led to profound suffering—made all the worse because it was unjust suffering. In a sexual encounter with another consenting adult, no one generally gets hurt—and the laws in most countries have finally come around.

But there will be no such coming around in the case of pedophilia, nor should there be, because by definition a child incapable of consent will always be hurt by the act. That means therapy for pedophiles—with luck before they act, but certainly afterwards.

Part of this may involve libido-lowering drugs; part involves an abstinence strategy similar to what’s used in day-at-a-time groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. And part involves other kinds of group support, such as the website Virtuous Pedophiles, for people who recognize their disorder and are determined not to act on it. That can work.

“Virtuous pedophiles make the point that pedophilia is by no means synonymous with child molestation,” says Berlin. “Some people can control their urges on their own or with a group. Others who have those attractions with perhaps a higher degree of desire may need more intervention, including medicine.”

In one study of 300 patients Berlin treated, only 3% who fully complied with treatment re-offended within five years. Among men who receive no treatment, 18% re-offend within three years.

There are no good answers for pedophilia, only less bad ones. Fury at men who hurt children is not misplaced, but nor is appreciation for those who struggle with their disorder and keep it under control. No one would choose to leave a child alone with an untreated pedophile. But no one would choose to be that pedophile either.

Read next: Arkansas Police Destroy Record of Josh Duggar Investigation

TIME A Year In Space

Watch This Stunning Video of Astronauts Docking at the Space Station

It took six hours and 100,000 miles to get there

Commuting to work isn’t easy in space. After Scott Kelly, Gennady Padalka and Misha Kornienko blasted off from Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz spacecraft in the early morning hours of March 29, it took them six hours to reach the International Space Station.

Six hours doesn’t seem like much—barely a flight from New York to London. But New York to London is a trip of only 3,459 miles (5,567 km). The Soyuz crew had to make four complete revolutions of the Earth–putting a cool 100,000 miles (161,000 km) on the odometer, in a high-speed chase that, at the end, turned into a delicate pas de deux.

NASA has now released the video footage of the final 15 minutes of that approach, shot from the cockpit of the Soyuz. The clip has been sped up here to just two and a half minutes, but even at that rate, it reveals what a precision job a rendezvous and docking is.

The spinning object in the foreground of the image is the Soyuz’s docking radar. The red light that flashes in the window midway through the clip is a reflection from the camera that is recording the approach. What you can’t see are the crewmembers, both in the Soyuz and aboard the station, who were responsible for the cosmic choreography. Their work has to speak for itself—and that work was remarkable.

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