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Olympic torch to go on a spacewalk

TWO RUSSIAN COSMONAUTS will carry the Olympic torch when they venture outside the International Space Station Saturday, November 9, for a six-hour spacewalk to perform maintenance work on the orbiting laboratory.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the spacewalk beginning at 1:00am Australian Eastern Summer Time.

Expedition 37 Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) will open the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment airlock at 1:30am and float outside for a brief photo opportunity with the unlit torch. They then will stow it back inside the airlock before they begin their chores 420 kilometres above Earth.

Expedition 38 flight members holding the Olympic torch

Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, left, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA, hold an Olympic torch that will be flown with them to the International Space Station, during a press conference held Wednesday, November 6, at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The torch, an icon of international co-operation through sports competition, arrived at the space station Thursday aboard a Soyuz spacecraft carrying three crew members Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. It will return to Earth on Sunday, November 10, aboard another Soyuz spacecraft vehicle along with crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos, Karen Nyberg of NASA, and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

The spacewalk is a high-flying extension of a relay that began in Olympia, Greece, in October. The relay will culminate with the torch being used to light the Olympic flame at the February 7 opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

This is not the first time that an Olympic torch has been carried into space, but it will be the first time in which one has been taken on a spacewalk.

After the photo opportunity, Kotov and Ryazanskiy will prepare a pointing platform on the hull of the station’s Zvezda service module for the installation of a high resolution camera system in December, relocate of a foot restraint for use on future spacewalks and deactivate an experiment package.

The spacewalk will be the 174th in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the fourth in Kotov’s career and the first for Ryazanskiy. This will be the eighth spacewalk conducted at the station this year. In December, Tyurin will accompany Kotov on his fifth spacewalk.

All the times of International Space Station programming, key Soyuz event coverage and other NASA Television programming can be found at: nasa.gov/stationnews

VIDEO: Two amazing views of Planet Earth

THESE TWO AMAZING NASA VIDEOS were taken by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The one above was made in mid March, and shows the view looking down as the Station sailed across Brazil and out into the Atlantic Ocean and across the Earth’s “terminator”. The terminator is the line dividing the half of the planet lit by the Sun and the half in shadow. The camera view also shows Soyuz (manned) and Progress (unmanned) spacecraft docked with the Station.

The video below was taken a little later in March and shows what it’s like to see an aurora from above. The Station was flying over the southern part of the Indian Ocean at the time. Toward the end of the video we can see daylight beginning to break across the horizon in the right-hand half of the screen.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Videos courtesy NASA.

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Earth from Space – Videos of our World, Pt 2

HERE ARE SOME MORE AMAZING short videos put together from images taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

This first one was made from images taken on December 4, 2011, and shows a pass from just northwest of Morocco to central Kazakhstan. The first thing that can be seen is Spain and Portugal, with Lisbon lit up brightly in the foreground near the Atlantic Ocean and Madrid in the middle of Spain.

The pass continues into France, with the English Channel in the far left and the Italian Peninsula in the far right. Further down the pass and on the left video, the Baltic Sea appears as a dark patch surrounded by light as the ISS continues to the east-northeast towards Moscow, Russia. The pass continues toward central Russia before the sunrise in the east comes up.

This next one was taken November 24, 2011 and shows a pass over the South Pacific Ocean northeast to the North Atlantic Ocean, just east of Newfoundland. The video begins over the dark Pacific Ocean as the ISS travels northeast towards the western coast of Mexico. The bright lights of Mexico City can be seen left of track, along with the lights of Honduras and Guatemala just right of track.

The pass continues over the Yucatan Peninsula, where Cozumel and Merida are visible as brighter spots on the peninsula. As the ISS tracks northeast over the Caribbean Sea, southeastern United States becomes visible, with the Florida Peninsula standing out well. The city lights of the larger cities such as Miami, Tampa, and Orlando light up the peninsula. The pass ends by tracking up the eastern coast of the United States, where Washington D.C., Baltimore, and New York City stand out.

The third video was taken November 18 to 19, 2011, and shows a pass from South Africa, west of Johannesburg, to southern Pakistan. The Russian vehicle Soyuz is shown off-centre throughout the video, just days before astronauts Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa, and Sergey Volkov boarded this vehicle to come back to Earth.

Near the beginning of the video, the bright lights of Johannesburg as displayed as the ISS tracks northeast up the eastern Africa coastline. A few lightning storms can also be seen near Johannesburg. As the pass continues, the Arabian Peninsula is only briefly seen in the far right of the video before the pass ends over the Arabian Sea, just south of Pakistan.

This one was taken on November 16, 2011, on a pass over the Pacific Ocean, from just west of California to just west of Costa Rica and Panama in Central America. The camera in the cupola is facing west-southwest towards North and Central America. The pass begins looking just north of the Baja Peninsula, where Los Angeles and San Diego can carefully be seen near the coast. Continuing down the Baja Peninsula and the Gulf of California, the pass continues looking into Mexico. Finally, as the cloud cover thickens, the pass closes over Central America, looking far west at Costa Rica and Honduras.

Taken on October 15, 2011, this sequence of shots shows a pass from just west of San Francisco, California over the Pacific Ocean to the southern tip of the Hudson Bay. The video begins as the ISS is just west of San Francisco flying northeast. The coastal lights distinguish the land and water here.

The pass continues northeast toward Wyoming and North Dakota, before crossing over into Canada. From here, the Aurora Borealis is seen, with an interesting looking angle from underneath the lights. A blanket of clouds covers Manitoba and Ontario as the ISS tracks closer to the Northern Lights.

This video was taken on December 4, 2011,, on a pass from just northwest of Morocco to central Kazakhstan. The first thing that can be seen is Spain and Portugal, with Lisbon lit up brightly in the foreground near the Atlantic Ocean and Madrid in the middle of Spain.

The pass continues into France, with the English Channel in the far left and the Italian Peninsula in the far right. Further down the pass and on the left video, the Baltic Sea appears as a dark patch surrounded by light as the ISS continues to the east-northeast towards Moscow, Russia. The pass continues toward central Russia before the sunrise in the east comes up.

The next video was taken on October 20, 2011, on a descending pass from eastern China to western New Guinea, and rounds out to an ascending pass just as the video ends north of Australia. As the pass begins southeastward towards the South China Sea, the first noticeably-lit area is that of Hong Kong and Macau. The island of Taiwan can also be easily seen left of track.

The ISS passes over the South China Sea towards the Philippines, which have some cloud cover and storms. Finally, the pass ends just north of Australia, where the Yorke Peninsula can be seen as a dark, rusty colour protruding into the water.

And this final video was taken on October 22, 2011, on a pass from the North Atlantic Ocean, just west of Portugal and Spain, to northwest of Mozambique in southeastern Africa. This video begins just northwest of the United Kingdom and shows the ISS travelling southeast towards Africa. The camera points at the sky, capturing clusters of stars as they seem to fly by.

Videos courtesy NASA and the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Centre.

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Relive the Soyuz landing

THE EXPEDITION 29 CREW from the International Space Station returned to Earth today, having spent five-and-a-half months in orbit.

Sergei Volkov, Satoshi Furukawa and Mike Fossum rode the Soyuz TMA-02M capsule back to Earth, landing on the icy cold steppes of Kazakhstan.

This video shows remarkable footage of the re-entry, taken from the Space Station, plus post-landing activities as the astron/cosmonauts were removed from the capsule.

Towards the end of the video we get a good view of just how small the Soyuz is. With three people crammed inside, there’s almost no room to move.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Soyuz launches crew to the Space Station

IT WAS A COLD, SNOWY DAY at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as Expedition 29 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov, NASA Flight Engineer Dan Burbank and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin launched on the Russian Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft to begin a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

The trio will dock with the station on November 15, USA time, to start a five-and-a-half-month stay on the complex, joining station Commander Mike Fossum of NASA, Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Volkov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa, who have been on the outpost since June.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Russian rocket prepares for lift-off

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket with the Fregat upper stage and 6 Globalstar-2 satellites has been rolled out to launch pad 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

AT THE BAIKONUR COSMODROME in Kazakhstan, a Soyuz-2.1a/Fregat rocket is being prepared for launch with a payload of six communications satellites for the Globalstar company.The Soyuz is one of the world’s most reliable commercial launch vehicles. On October 19, 2010 a Soyuz booster was used to successfully launch six new Globalstar second-generation satellites. It was also successfully utilized on eight previous occasions to launch Globalstar’s first generation satellites. Later this year Globalstar plans to conduct two additional launches of six satellites per launch also using the Soyuz. The human-rated Soyuz launcher is used to transport astronauts and cosmonauts to the international space station.

The Globalstar second-generation satellite constellation is designed to last for 15 years, twice the lifespan of Globalstar’s first generation satellites.

Launch is due for 0258 GMT on July 11. To get an idea of what it will be like, here’s a video of a similar Russian launcher lifting off from Baikonur:

And here’s a bunch of photos of the Soyuz being prepared for launch:

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

Soyuz-2.1a is the latest version of the venerable Soyuz rocket family.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

This Soyuz-2.1a has a Fregat upper stage attached, enabling it to carry a heavier payload.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

The Soyuz-2.1a is 46.1 metres high, 2.95 metres wide on its main body, and weights 300 tonnes.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

Soyuz rockets can be launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, Plesetsk in Russia, and soon from the French spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

The modern 2.1a version of the Soyuz launcher has improved engines and a new digital flight control system.

Soyuz-2.1a rolling out to the launch pad at Baikonur

Since May 2009, there have been five successful Soyuz-2.1a launches out of six attempts.

Adapted from information issued by Roscosmos PAO / Yuzhny Space Centre / Globalstar.

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Europe’s year ahead in space

THIS VIDEO FROM THE European Space Agency (ESA) gives a preview of what to expect in 2011.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight: it was half a century ago that Yuri Gagarin made his historic orbit around our planet. Today, cosmonauts and astronauts from many nations are living and working together aboard the International Space Station.

Among them is ESA’s Paolo Nespoli, due to return in May from the 3rd European long-duration stay. He will later be joined by fellow ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori aboard one of the last space shuttle missions.

Other important ESA missions in 2011 are the debut of the second ATV unmanned cargo craft, planned for launch by Ariane 5 in February. Later, Europe’s spaceport in French Guyana will see the inaugural launches of the Russian Soyuz rocket and the new Vega.

ESA is also expecting interesting results from its Earth observing satellites and its Mars probe, Mars Express.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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