TIME weather

See Astronaut’s Photo of Hurricane Jimena From Space

Hurricane Jimena Space Station Kjell Lindgren
Kjell Lindgren—NASA A view of hurricane Jimena taken from the International Space Station and posted to Twitter by NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren on Aug. 30, 2015.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren captured this image of Hurricane Jimena from the International Space Station and posted it to Twitter on Sunday.

Jimena is a Category 4 hurricane that’s located more than 1,330 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii. Weather experts predict it will remain a Category 3 hurricane or greater through Tuesday. According to The Weather Channel, on Saturday and Sunday Jimena was one of three Category 4 hurricanes in the Pacific, along with hurricanes Kilo and Ignacio. Such a concentration of storms is rare.

TIME space

Astronauts Successfuly Join Colleagues on the International Space Station

The crew is slated to stay in space for five months, returning on Dec. 22.

Three astronauts have docked with the International Space Station and are joining three existing members on board the station for the next five months.

The three astronauts arriving at the International Space Station include American astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, who are flying for the first time. They are led by Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko. The crew is slated to stay onboard for five months, returning on Dec. 22.

The trio will join American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, who have already been in space for 117 days. They launched in the early hours of March 28.

TIME is following the yearlong mission between American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. Click here to watch the series, or watch Episode 1, “Leaving Home,” below.

TIME space

Watch Astronauts Dock With the International Space Station

The crew is slated to stay in space for five months, returning on Dec. 22.

After a successful launch, three astronauts are slated to dock with the International Space Station at 10:46 p.m. E.T. on Wednesday.

The astronauts launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz rocket at 5:02 p.m. EST. Over six hours, the crew orbited the Earth four times as they caught up with the space station, which orbits the Earth at 17,500 mph.

The three astronauts arriving at the International Space Station include American astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, who are flying for the first time. They are led by Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko. The crew is slated to stay in space for five months, returning on Dec. 22.

The trio will join Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, who have already been in space for 117 days. They launched in the early hours of March 28.

TIME is following the yearlong mission between American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. Click here to watch the series, or watch Episode 1, “Leaving Home,” below.

TIME space

Watch 3 Astronauts Launch for the International Space Station

Three astronauts who will spend the next five months in space launched from the desert in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

The astronauts launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz rocket at 5:02 p.m. EST. Over six hours, the crew orbited the Earth four times before catching up to the space station, docking at 10:46 p.m. EST.

The astronauts’ launch was delayed after two consecutive failures of cargo vehicles that were meant to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

The first setback occurred in April when the Russian Federal Space Agency was not able to regain control of a vehicle after launch. As a result, the Progress vehicle and the cargo it was carrying burned up in Earth’s atmosphere.

The second failure occurred on June 28 when the SpaceX Falcon exploded just two minutes after the launch.

The unsuccessful supply missions created a ripple effect through the public and private agencies that work with the International Space Station, delaying American astronaut Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren’s planned first spacewalk, which was supposed to occur between Aug. 10 and Labor Day. The failures also delayed work on the reconfiguration of the space station for the arrival of commercial cargo and crew vehicles.

The three astronauts arriving at the International Space Station on Wednesday include Lindgren and Kimiya Yui, who are flying for the first time. They are led by Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko. The crew is slated to stay in space for five months, returning on Dec. 22.

The trio will join Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, who have already been in space for 117 days. They launched in the early hours of March 28.

TIME is following the yearlong mission between American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. Click here to watch the series, or watch Episode 1, “Leaving Home,” below.

TIME A Year In Space

Liftoff! A Year in Space Begins

Scott Kelly and his crewmates take off for the International Space Station

You’d think you’d have trouble deciding how to spend your last day on Earth if you were about to leave it for a year. But the fact is, you’d have nothing to decide at all. Every bit of it would be planned for you—literally second by second—as it was today for cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and astronaut Scott Kelly, in advance of their liftoff at 1:42:57 AM local time. Kornienko and Kelly are set to be aboard the International Space Station for the full year; Padalko will be there for six months.

The three men were instructed to nap until nine hours before launch, or precisely 4:42:57 PM in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where the Russian launch facilities are located. They left their quarters exactly one hour later, at 5:52:57 PM, settled into the space center ready-rooms and began their pre-flight preparations at 6:52:57. And on the day would tick.

For the families, all those hours were a much more ambling business—time they had to contrive to fill on their own. As Kelly was getting his final hours of mandated terrestrial sleep, his daughters, Samantha and Charlotte, 20 and 11, his partner Amiko Kauderer and his twin brother Mark—a retired astronaut—visited Baikonur’s outdoor market in a hunt for spices Kauderer and the girls wanted to take home. Mark, who had arrived in Baikonur yesterday still wearing his characteristic mustache—the only thing that allows most people to distinguish between him and Scott—had shaved it off this morning.

“Do I look like my brother now?” he asked, and then added mischievously, “Maybe I am…”

Kauderer, who works as a NASA public affairs officer and has witnessed her share of launches as well as her share of spouses steeling themselves—at least outwardly—for the experience, carried herself with the same apparent calm. So did the girls, who have seen their father fly off to space three times before. As for what Scott himself was feeling, Mark was reasonably sure it was nothing terribly special.

“He’s been through this routine four times already,” he said. “Actually, when you count the times you don’t launch, it’s probably six or seven.”

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

That routine pressed on today regardless of what Scott might or might not have been feeling. At 7:52 PM, the crew, still clad in Earth-appropriate jumpsuits, left the ready-rooms for the 100-yard walk to the buses that would take them to the suit-up building. A rousing Russian song played over loudspeakers, while crowds were kept behind rope lines, both to prevent a crush and protect the astronauts who, though walking without surgical masks, were still under medical quarantine.

Once they were sealed inside their bus, however, the lines collapsed and the crowd surged forward. A child was lifted to touch the window. Padalko pressed both of his hands on the glass while a woman reached up and pressed hers opposite. In Russia—if not in the U.S.—cosmonauts are every bit the cultural phenomena they were half a century ago.

No one outside of flight technicians saw the crew again for another two hours—until they had been suited up and the families were brought in for a final goodbye—the men leaving the Earth on one side of a glass and the loved ones staying behind on the other, communicating via microphones. “Poka, poka”—Russian for “bye-bye”—Padalko’s daughters called to him again and again.

Mark, who made two visits to the space station on his shuttle flights, was less sentimental in bidding farewell to his brother. “I left some old T-shirts up in the gym,” he said. “Want to bring them down for me?”

“You look good without that mustache,” Scott answered.

“Yeah, I’ll probably grow it back on the flight home. I miss it already.”

Scott’s exchanges with Amiko, Charlotte and Samantha were less playful, more tender, and afterwards, when Roscosmos officials declared the five minutes allotted for the visit over, Amiko gathered the girls in a hug. “We have to hold it together,” she says. “That’s our job, to hold it together and to help him.”

Finally, family, media and space officials left the suit-up building and walked to the parking lot just outside. The crew emerged a few minutes later to a fusillade of camera flashes and walked to three designated spots painted on the asphalt. American, Russian and Kazakh flags fluttered behind them and Roscosmos officials stood before them, bidding them a final goodbye. Padalko, the commander, stood in the middle during the little ceremony, and he occupies the middle seat in the spacecraft as well. A Soyuz veteran, he has joked that he could fly the craft with nothing but a pair of cabbages in the seats on either side of him.

Maybe. But if he meant that in the months and years he was training for this flight, there was no sign of it on the night he left. The crew, who would depend on one another for their lives tonight, boarded their bus, drove to the pad and climbed into their spacecraft. Two and a half hours later, at the designated second, their Soyuz rocket’s 20 engines lit and they left Kazakhstan—and the planet—behind them.

TIME will be covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME space

Operator in Rocket Blast Hit Self-Destruct When Problem Became Clear

The Antares rocket exploded and scattered debris over a wide area

The unmanned rocket that exploded seconds after liftoff Tuesday on its way to the International Space Station did so because the operator hit self-destruct once problems with the launch became apparent, the company that owns it said.

The Antares rocket, operated by Orbital Sciences Corp., crashed in a large fire Tuesday night, scattering debris over a wide area. It was carrying more than 5,000 pounds of scientific instruments, food and other supplies for the astronauts aboard the space station when down with the rocket. NASA says the space station is equipped with plenty of food to last while additional resupply missions are organized.

Orbital spokesperson Barron Beneski told CNN the crash was initiated by the flight termination system. Such an order is typically given after it’s clear the rocket will not meet its intended trajectory in order to ensure that it goes down over a relatively small and unpopulated area. No injuries were reported in the crash.

The problem occurred in the first stage of launch, Orbital said late Thursday, in a possible sign that its vintage, Russian-designed engines could have been the cause.

[CNN]

TIME space

You Should Worry (a Little) About Falling Space Debris

Clean up your room: A NASA rendering of the low Earth orbit debris field
NASA/JSC Clean up your room: A NASA rendering of the low Earth orbit debris field

A satellite's fiery reentry over Melbourne is a reminder of the danger of putting too much junk in space

Australia knows a thing or two about getting clobbered by stuff from space. It was in 1979 that America’s out-of-control Skylab space station came auguring in from orbit and scattered its remains across the Australian outback—a story captured by this memorable TIME cover. On Thursday there was a repeat performance, when a truck-sized piece of debris from a Russian rocket streaked across the skies over Melbourne—this time in the era of smartphones, which meant that videos and stills of the fireworks went viral instantly, with all sorts of sky-is-falling commentary.

That, in fairness, is perfectly understandable. There’s no light show quite like an incoming meteor or other hunk of ordnance—equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, depending on the size of whatever’s heading earthward. But we really ought to get used to these events, because there’s no shortage of rubbish in space — and the cosmic junk yard is only growing.

It’s been nearly 60 years since Russia’s Sputnik satellite went into orbit, starting its brief life as the planet’s first artificial moon and ending it as its first bit of space garbage. The satellite itself wasn’t the only piece of rubbish that was involved. Its spent booster fell back toward Earth well before Sputnik reached orbit, but all manner of minor debris—bolts, paint chips and other shards of stuff—made it to space. In the six decades since, those early bits of litter have multiplied exponentially. According to NORAD, NASA and other groups that track space debris, there are at least 21,000 orbiting objects 10 cm (3 in.) or larger currently circling the Earth, at least 500,000 in the 1 to 10 cm range, and more than 100 million smaller than 1 cm. The Union of Concerned Scientists lists 1,167 operational satellites now in orbit—and there may be at least as many dead ones.

All of them, eventually, will have to come home, and that gets people spooked, but it shouldn’t—at least not most of the time. First of all, most satellites will incinerate on their way down, though the bigger a piece of junk is and the denser the materials that make it up, the greater the chance it has of striking the surface. Still, fully 70% of that surface is water and most of the land that’s left is entirely uninhabited or only sparsely so. Yes, a burnt-out satellite falling earthward with central Shanghai in its crosshairs would create a deadly mess, but any one individual’s odds of getting hit (which, like it or not, is how most of us reckon these things) are very low.

NASA’s and NORAD’s continuous surveillance lowers that risk even further by modeling orbits and predicting just which pieces are coming in next, and some websites make it easy for the public to stay up-to-date too. The much greater risk from out of control satellites is not to people on Earth, but to other objects still in orbit. Even then though, collisions are less common than they’d seem. The biggest of the relatively small handful of errors in the blockbuster Gravity was (unfortunately) its central premise, which was that a collision between two satellites had created a high speed storm of debris that was racing around Earth in the same orbit as the shuttle and space station and pummeling both structures on each pass. But orbital physics make that impossible.

All objects in the same orbit move at the same speed, so a collision between them is no more likely than if all of the cars on a highway were moving at exactly 60 mph. The gap between any two would never widen or narrow at all. The moment an orbiting object increases its speed even a little, it climbs to a higher orbit, in the same way a lasso will strain to inscribe a wider circle—and will if you loosen your grip on the rope enough—when you spin it faster. When a satellite slows, it drops to a lower orbit. It’s in those orbital shifts that a collision risk exists.

There’s an even greater danger if two satellites orbiting at the same altitude but at different inclinations—say 23º and 56º above the equator—cross paths. Here the accident is more analogous to a westbound car running a stop sign and colliding with a northbound one in the intersection. Such an accident happened in 2009, when an active American satellite and a defunct Russian one crossed paths 500 miles (800 km) above Siberia.

Both of those ships were utterly demolished—which naturally led to a lot of nervous gulps about what would have happened if one of them had been carrying people, though the same regular satellite tracking that goes on every day would likely allow a crewed ship to take evasive action well in advance. Of greater concern is small debris, the kind that’s way too tiny to see but powerful enough to do real damage. The back-of-the-envelope calculation back in the Apollo days was that a chip of paint moving at orbital speed packs about as much of a wallop as a bowling ball moving at 60 mph (96 k/h), and those physics haven’t changed—and never will. Shielding on big-target structures like the space station helps reduce that risk, though nothing can eliminate it entirely.

Ultimately, the answer, as with any environmental issue on Earth, is for people to quit making such a mess of space and clean up what’s already there. But consider how often we actually follow that straightforward advice on Earth. So again: gulp.

TIME video

Watch TIME.com Chat With the Crew of the International Space Station

A few minutes with 3 men putting in a very long day

It’s awfully easy down here on Earth to forget about the International Space Station (ISS)—and that’s awfully hard to understand.

This remarkable feat of human engineering shouldn’t be ignored: a flying machine that measures 357 ft. (109 m), by 239 ft. (73 m), weighs nearly one million lbs. (420,000 kg) and has logged more than 80,000 orbits of the Earth since it began carrying crews in 2000.

Is this our Roman Coliseum? Our Pyramid of Giza? History will judge that, but in the contest for wonders of the world, the ISS at least makes the medal round.

On July 9, Time.com got a chance to talk via video downlink with three of the six astronauts aboard the ISS, who shared with us a little bit about their schedule, their work, what they miss on Earth—and about following the World Cup from 230 miles up in space.

TIME space station

Join Us for a Conversation Between TIME and the Space Station

The space station as photographed by the shuttle Endeavour
NASA; Getty Images The space station as photographed by the shuttle Endeavour

Astronauts flying a million-pound machine 230 miles overhead don't have a lot of time to chat, but Time snagged them for a few minutes. Join us for some live air-to-ground chatter.

Everything about the International Space Station (ISS) is built to wow. It’s almost exactly the size of a football field, has as much habitable space as a six-bedroom house, orbits 230 miles overhead, required 115 space flights to build and carries a solar panel array with a surface area of one acre. The offices of TIME magazine—located on the slightly less glamorous Avenue of the Americas and 51st St. in New York City, and with about as much habitable space as, um, an office— can hardly compete. But on July 9, the two worlds will briefly collide, as TIME chats via video downlink with the ISS.

There are currently six crewmen aboard the station, and we’ll be talking to three of them: commander Steve Swanson and flight engineer Reid Wiseman, both of NASA, as well as flight engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency. Like all space station crews, this one has been tending both to matters celestial (conducting biomedical, engineering and materials science experiments, as well as maintaining the station itself) and matters terrestrial, most recently their eye-in-the-sky observations of Hurricane Arthur.

Other matters down on Earth concern the crew too. It may have been fun and games when Gerst’s native Germany bested the U.S. in the first round of the World Cup, but the dust-up between Russia and the U.S. over Ukraine is awfully hard to ignore when the other three members of the crew are Russian cosmonauts. TIME will be chatting with the crew about these and other matters—and would like to hear your suggestions.

Consider what you’d like to ask three men in a million-pound machine flying over head at 17,500 mph if you had the chance—because now you do.

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