TIME space travel

A Japanese Drinks Company Just Sent Some Whiskey to the International Space Station

But the astronauts won't get to drink a drop

A Japanese resupply spacecraft successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, and on board there was some unusual cargo.

Included in the 10,000 lb. of supplies were five whiskey samples sent into orbit by Japanese alcoholic-drinks conglomerate Suntory, reports the Associated Press.

But astronauts on board the ISS won’t be able to drink a drop of the liquor, which was sent as part of an experiment to see whether spirits mellow at the same pace in microgravity as they do on earth.

The research is being conducted in the Japanese Experiment Module on the ISS and researchers at Suntory hope the experiments will help find a scientific explanation for the “mechanism that makes alcohol mellow.”

An identical set of samples is being stored in Japan and after a year or so the samples in orbit will return to earth to be compared, analyzed and tasted.

The whiskey experiment isn’t the first drinks-related study to take place on the ISS. Already on board are specially designed coffee cups that have revolutionized how astronauts drink in space and could help scientists build better and safer advanced fluid systems.

And on earth a company called Cosmic Lifestyle Corp. has even invented a zero-gravity-friendly martini glass.

TIME space travel

The Smithsonian Needs Your Help to Display Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit

The museum wants to raise $500,000 in 30 days on Kickstarter

The Smithsonian Institution launched its first-ever Kickstarter campaign on Monday to fund the conservation of the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore when he stepped foot on the Moon in 1969.

The fully conserved suit is expected to be unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on July 20, 2019, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. The spacesuits currently on display at the Washington, D.C., museum are only replicas of those worn during the Apollo 11 mission by Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the Moon.

“The complete suits aren’t on display — they’re not even in this building. They’ve been stored away in a special facility for their own protection,” said astronomer and science blogger Phil Plait in the Kickstarter campaign’s video. “The years have taken their toll on Neil’s suit, but now, the technology exists to bring it back to its former glory, digitize it and put it on exhibit.”

Since the Smithsonian’s federal funding covers only parts of the museum’s operating budgets and core functions, projects like Armstrong’s spacesuit conservation — nicknamed “Reboot the Suit” — require outside support, the museum says. The Kickstarter campaign aims to raise $500,000 within 30 days. As of Monday morning, the campaign to reboot Armstrong’s spacesuit had raised over $18,000 by 162 backers.

“It’s a national treasure,” said Lisa Young, objects conservator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “If we don’t take time it preserve it, and look at it, and make sure it’s displayed correctly, we will not have it forever in the collection.”

 

TIME space

Space Junk Forces Space Station Crew to Seek Shelter

The debris was a fragment from an old Russian weather satellite

A chunk of space debris traveling more than eight miles per second forced three crew members aboard the International Space Station to seek emergency shelter on Thursday. NASA said the debris was a fragment from an old Russian weather satellite.

For almost an hour, American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka were instructed to stay inside the Soyuz capsule, which is docked to the International Space Station. This is only the fourth time in the 15-year life of the space station that it has had to implement this procedure, NASA said.

Video aboard the station showed Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka moving throughout the station to close hatches.

“Happy there was no impact,” Kelly said via Twitter. “Great coordination with international ground teams. Excellent training.”

Normally, NASA learns about incoming debris with more lead time. When it has more warning, jets on the station fire to maneuver the football-field sized structure out of the way. The ISS has been moved twice for debris since Scott Kelly came aboard in late March. But on Thursday, the crew only had 90 minutes notice. Another hour-and-a-half later, the crew received the all-clear and went back to work.

NASA estimates there may be as many as half-a-million pieces of debris that could pose a threat to spacecraft like the International Space Station, which orbits at a speed of about 17,500 mph, or four miles per second.

The debris that crossed the space station was estimated to be traveling about twice that speed.

Next week, three more crew members are scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan to join those on board.

Kelly and Kornienko are 110 days into a yearlong mission aboard the space station. It’s being covered by time in a multi-part TIME series, “A Year in Space,” which premiered last week. Click here to watch the series, or watch Episode 1, “Leaving Home,” below.

Read next: See the First Close-Up Photo of Mars Ever Taken

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TIME space travel

See an Extraordinary Photo of the International Space Station Passing Over the Moon

This image of the Moon was taken by amateur photographer Dylan O’Donnell as the International Space Station passed by at 28 800 km/h. At such speeds the weightless research laboratory was visible for only about a third of a second before returning to the dark skies.
Dylan O’Donnell This image of the Moon was taken by amateur photographer Dylan O’Donnell as the International Space Station passed by at 28 800 km/h. At such speeds the weightless research laboratory was visible for only about a third of a second before returning to the dark skies.

The ISS moves so fast it's only visible for one-third of a second

Amateur photographer Dylan O’Donnell has captured a stunning image of the International Space Station (ISS) flying by the Moon.

The photo, shared on Tuesday by the European Space Agency (ESA), was taken on June 30 with a Canon 70D camera placed behind a 2300 mm / f10 telescope, O’Donnell wrote on his website. The shutter speed was set at 1/1650th of a second, allowing him to capture the one-third second long moment during which the ISS — which orbits Earth at 28,000 km per hour (17,400 mph) — transits across the Moon.

“I take many types of pictures but the International Space Station is a wonderful target and one I’ve wanted to capture for a long time,” O’Donnell said in a statement.

TIME space

What I Learned Watching SpaceX’s Rocket Explode

It felt terrible, but lives will be saved in the future

By now, everyone knows the outcome of the story. On the morning of Sunday, June 28, SpaceX CRS-7 launched in spectacular fashion from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Just two minutes and 19 seconds into flight, the Falcon 9 rocket and cargo-laden Dragon capsule exploded above the Atlantic ocean, incinerating approximately 4,000 pounds of supplies to be delivered to the ISS. The cause remains unknown.

Rundowns of the items aboard CRS-7 have been circulated throughout news reports and abbreviated in terse, 140 character tweets: student science projects, privately-funded experiments, food, water filtration systems, hardware, oxygen. The astronauts aboard the ISS are safe until October. The Russians launched a resupply mission last week; the Japanese have one set for August. Surely we can’t all fail.

I watched the Falcon 9 lift off that sunny morning in June while standing atop an empty causeway at Kennedy, as close as any civilian could hope to get to a launch. By the time CRS-7 failed, it was only a small speck of light high above my head. I squinted into the bright sun and craned my neck, turning to the woman beside me and asking: “Was that separation or an explosion?” We weren’t sure.

When the failure was confirmed by nearby NASA employees, I felt a sinking in the pit of my stomach, like waking up from a good dream and feeling it all slip away. Thankfully, there were no humans aboard the Dragon capsule that day. But all American space missions in today’s experimental age of public-private partnerships are defined by a sense of potential, carrying a degree of hope — the hope that one day, blasting equipment and human beings out of Earth’s atmosphere could be as routine as a neighborhood grocery run. While CRS-7’s failure won’t single-handedly kill that dream, it does remind us that future is a little father off than we might have thought.

I was on site at Kennedy to witness the launch that morning thanks to something called a NASA Social, part of a program run by the space agency’s public affairs department that invites high-profile social media users to get the same access to a launch or other major event afforded to the credentialed press.

On the morning of Friday, June 26th, approximately 48 hours before launch, 30 people assembled in the nondescript Press Annex that sits on site at Kennedy Space Center in direct view of the famous VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). I was among them, an eager participant in NASA Social. Investment in unconventional social media ambassadors is nothing new for NASA. Its Curiosity Rover has been sending updates from Mars via a colorful Twitter account that boasts nearly 2 million followers, more than most sentient beings. But allowing space geeks with little connection to mainstream news outlets access to an otherwise inaccessible experience is a smart exercise in public relations.

“Our target audience is humanity,” NASA Social Media Manager John Yembrick told us of the NASA Social program. Our group was stuffed with such strange bedfellows as PhDs in theoretical physics and geology, a former wrestling star, a fashion photographer, Florida natives and a woman who flew from Australia. Human beings with vastly different skill sets and social audiences united for three days to furiously tweet, post, share, like and tag every second of the adventure.

We spoke with the likes of NASA Chief Scientist for the International Space Station Dr. Julie Robinson, SpaceX Vice President Hans Koenigsmann, and Microsoft’s Alex Kipman, who arrived carrying a HoloLens augmented reality headset he hopes will revolutionize communication between astronauts and Earth. We met young students who described an experiment they would launch on CRS-7: a genius proposition to use earthworms for trash composting aboard the space station. We toured the facilities where spacecraft are assembled and parts are created. We saw the second of two identical International Docking Adaptors meant to standardize the ISS docking process for different companies and countries; the first was already loaded on the ill-fated Dragon, now lost.

If NASA’s goal with the NASA Social program is to pay service to the Space Believers while cultivating new ones, it’s a rousing success — the sense of potential was palpable among the group. But none of that energy can change this immutable rule: space is hard, and we have much to learn. In his reply to my Facebook post about the loss I felt after watching the Falcon 9 rocket disintegrate into oblivion, NASA Astronaut Ron Garan offered the following: “The lessons learned from the failure will save lives down the road when Dragon launches crew.” He’s right, of course. But it’s still difficult to get swept up in the excitement of space travel, only to be confronted with an explosive reminder of how far the future remains.

Erin Sharoni is a Creative Strategist at biotech startup InsideTracker, a writer for DJ Mag and an electronic dance music DJ and producer.

TIME space travel

NASA Says New Horizons Pluto Probe Is Okay After a Scary Glitch

pluto new horizons
NASA

We could finally get a clear picture of Pluto on July 14

NASA said Sunday its New Horizons space probe remains on track for a historic flyby of Pluto after the mission suffered what appeared to be a nail-biting glitch.

Team scientists were on edge this Fourth of July when the New Horizons spacecraft entered “safe mode” just 10 days before its final destination, briefly cutting out communications with Earth before reconnecting, NASA said in a statement. Investigators said the anomaly was caused by an operational glitch that will not compromise the quality of the mission. New Horizons was launched in 2006 and has already traveled 3.5 billion miles.

“I’m pleased that our mission team quickly identified the problem and assured the health of the spacecraft,” said Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “Now — with Pluto in our sights — we’re on the verge of returning to normal operations and going for the gold.”

The New Horizons mission is expected to provide the first close-up observations and detailed measurements of the icy dwarf planet when it approaches Pluto at about 7:50 a.m. ET on July 14. To date, NASA said, only Voyager 2 has explored the far reaches of our solar system, though the spacecraft did not visit Pluto.

TIME space travel

Resupply Ship Reaches International Space Station After String of Failed Attempts

"Feels like Christmas in July," the astronauts said

A Russian resupply spacecraft docked on Sunday at the International Space Station (ISS), delivering long-awaited supplies to the crew after a string of failed attempts.

The unmanned Progress 60 cargo craft docked at 3:11 a.m. E.T. after taking off two days earlier from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA said in a statement. The spacecraft was carrying 106 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water, 1,940 pounds of propellant and 3,133 pounds of spare parts. “Feels like Christmas in July,” the astronauts reported, though the crew had enough supplies to live and work safely aboard the ISS until October.

The success of Progress 60 came after a series of failed resupply attempts, including the explosion of an unmanned SpaceX rocket in late June and the burn-up of another Russian resupply spacecraft in May.

TIME space travel

Watch Explosive New Video of SpaceX’s Rocket Landing Test

The April test ended unsuccessfully

SpaceX on Thursday released new video of an April landing test of the Falcon 9 rocket that nearly ended in success — until it tipped over and exploded.

Unlike previous footage, this video comes from a tracking camera that followed the first stage Falcon 9, or the part of the rocket that detaches from the cargo vessel bound for the International Space Station, according to SpaceX. A rocket’s first stage normally falls back into the ocean — a harmless but expensive loss. If the Falcon 9 could land successfully, it would mark a huge step towards SpaceX’s goal of more efficient spaceflight.

Another landing test is scheduled for June 28 shortly after the Falcon 9 launches at 10:21 a.m. ET from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The event is subject to weather and other delays.

TIME space travel

NASA Prepares ‘Flying Saucer’ for Take Off

NASA flying saucer
NASA/JPL-Caltech

The disc-shaped spacecraft was designed for more spacious flights to Mars

Correction appended, June 4

NASA will launch a disc-shaped vehicle into space on Wednesday, in order to test a roomier spacecraft designed for long-haul missions to Mars.

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator will lift off from a launchpad off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, carried into the stratosphere by a massive high-altitude weather balloon. The vehicle will detach from the balloon and blast off at four times the speed of the sound, soaring to a peak altitude of more than 22 miles above the Earth.

MORE: 20 Breathtaking Photos of the Earth From Space

“As NASA plans ambitious robotic science missions to Mars, laying the groundwork for even more complex human expeditions to come, the spacecraft needed to land safely on the Red Planet’s surface will become larger and heavier in order to accommodate explorers’ extended stays on the Martian surface,” read a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the peak altitude the spacecraft will reach. It is more than 22 miles above the earth.

TIME space travel

Watch This Vine of Jeff Bezos’ Rocket Taking Off

The BE-3 engine had a test flight on April 29

Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin appears to have had a successful test flight of its New Shepard rocket on April 29, as seen in a Vine posted by the company on Thursday.

The rocket uses a BE-3 engine and has 110,000 pounds of thrust, according to the company. Had any astronauts been on board, Bezos said in a statement, they “would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return.”

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