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NASA video update

The next hardware to fly to the International Space Station, the permanent multi-purpose module, has been unveiled to reporters at the Kennedy Space Centre. Once unloaded of spare parts and supplies, the PMM will be installed on the station and used for numerous microgravity experiments.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Space spin-offs

This video shows how NASA technology designed to check for toxic gases on the launch pad, is now being pressed into service to help monitor dangerous volcanoes around the world.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / Sandra Joseph and Kevin O’Connell.

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Shuttle’s final fuel tank arrives

Tugboats towing NASA's Pegasus barge carrying External Tank-138

Tugboats tow NASA's Pegasus barge carrying External Tank-138 on the Banana River toward Launch Complex 39. The barge delivered the external fuel tank to the turn basin dock at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, where it was offloaded and moved into the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The last space shuttle mission, STS-134, is due for lift-off in February next year. During the flight, shuttle Endeavour will transport the final large components and supplies up to the International Space Station.

The largest part of a space shuttle “stack” is the External Tank (ET), upon which the shuttle sits and from which it draws the hydrogen and oxygen that powers its three main engines.

Each ET is 46.9 metres high, 8.4 metres wide and has an empty mass of 26,500 kilograms. Once fully fuelled on the launch pad, its mass is a whopping 760,000 kilograms.

ETs are manufactured by Lockheed Martin at Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, and shipped to Kennedy aboard a barge.

This series of photos shows the arrival of ET-138, the last newly manufactured tank, designated to fly on Endeavour’s STS-134 mission.

The External Tank is offloaded from the barge.

The External Tank is offloaded from the barge.

The huge space shuttle External Tank is wheeled towards the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The huge space shuttle External Tank is wheeled towards the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Getting closer to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Getting closer to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

External Tank-138 is towed through the massive doors into the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building

External Tank-138 is towed through the massive doors into the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building

The External Tank is inside the Vehicle Assembly Building

Once the External Tank is inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, workers attach cables with which to lift the Tank into a vertical position.

The External Tank is lifted into the air

The External Tank is lifted into the air prior to being rotated upright.

The External Tank hangs at an angle during the slow process of tilting it upright.

The External Tank hangs at an angle during the slow process of tilting it upright.

The External Tank now upright

With the External Tank now upright, workers prepare it for its lift onto a test cell where it will be checked out before launch.

An overhead view of External Tank-138 suspended by a massive crane

An overhead view shows External Tank-138 suspended by a huge crane above the transfer aisle in the Vehicle Assembly Building

External Tank-138 is lifted high above the transfer aisle

External Tank-138 is lifted high above the transfer aisle, prior to its move to a test cell.

The Tank has been lifted into the upper levels of a high bay in the Vehicle Assembly Building

The Tank has been lifted into the upper levels of a high bay in the Vehicle Assembly Building. The final step was to lower it onto a test stand for checking before launch.

Story by Jonathan Nally, Editor, SpaceInfo.com.au

Images courtesy of NASA and photographers Jack Pfaller, Jim Grossmann and Dimitri Gerondidakis.

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Where do you land a space shuttle?

NASA’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, has one of the longest runways in the world—4,572 metres or 15,000 feet. It is used for space shuttle landings, plus landings and take-offs of the Shuttle Training Aircraft (a modified business jet), the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (a modified Boeing 747 that can carry the shuttle on its back) and other NASA, government and civilian aircraft.

The runway also has a nickname, the “gator tanning facility,” due to the number of alligators found basking on it. The Kennedy Space Centre is a wildlife refuge as well as a launch and landing facility!

Story by Jonathan Nally, Editor, SpaceInfo.com.au

Video courtesy NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre.

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Astronaut interview

This brief interview is provided courtesy of the sports TV channel, ESPN.

Tracy Caldwell arrived at the International Space Station in April, aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. She is a member of Expedition Crew 24.

According to Wikipedia, “In a television interview on the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, she said she is the first astronaut who was born after Apollo 11.”

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Don’t play with your food

What do astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) do when they get bored? Have fun with food, of course!

The microgravity environment of orbit is the perfect place to perform tricks and experiments using anything that comes to hand, including what you’re about to eat. Here’s a light-hearted look some ISS astronauts and cosmonauts having a bit of fun. All images courtesy of NASA.

Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki squeezes a water bubble aboard the ISS

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki squeezes a water bubble out of her beverage container, showing her image refracted, on the middeck of space shuttle Discovery while docked with the ISS. (April 2010)

Cosmonaut Oleg V. Kotov, Expedition 15 flight engineer from Russia's Federal Space Agency, with fresh fruit

Cosmonaut Oleg V. Kotov, Expedition 15 flight engineer from Russia's Federal Space Agency, with fresh fruit brought up via a Progress re-supply craft. Gives a whole new meaning to the term "food pyramid"! (May 2007)

JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, Expedition 20 flight engineer with two food containers. (June 2009)

JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, Expedition 20 flight engineer, holds chopsticks near food containers. (June 2009)

NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Expedition 22 flight engineer, pictured in the galley in the Unity node of the International Space Station. (Jan 2010)

NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Expedition 22 flight engineer, pictured in the galley in the Unity node of the International Space Station. (Jan 2010)

Now that's just showing off. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, Expedition 23 commander levitates fruit. Don't try this at home. (May 2010)

Now that's just showing off. Oleg Kotov levitates fruit. Don't try this at home. (May 2010)

Yum! Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, Expedition 23 commander; and NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, flight engineer, open a delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables. (May 2010)

Yum! Oleg Kotov and NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, flight engineer, open a delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables. (May 2010)

Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov gets in on the act too. (May 2010)

Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov gets in on the act too. (May 2010)

Koichi Wakata watches a water bubble float freely, showing his image refracted. (June 2009)

Koichi Wakata watches a water bubble float freely, showing his image refracted. (June 2009)

Blowing water bubbles is thirsty work! (June 2009)

Blowing water bubbles is thirsty work! (June 2009)

Astronaut Sandra Magnus and cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, both Expedition 18 flight engineers, work with food storage containers in the Zvezda Service Module of the ISS. (Feb 2009)

Astronaut Sandra Magnus and cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, both Expedition 18 flight engineers, work with food storage containers in the Zvezda Service Module of the ISS. (Feb 2009)

A spoon-sized item of food floats freely in front of cosmonaut Fyodor N. Yurchikhin, Expedition 15 commander from Russia's Federal Space Agency. (May 2007)

A spoon-sized item of food floats freely in front of cosmonaut Fyodor N. Yurchikhin, Expedition 15 commander from Russia's Federal Space Agency. (May 2007)

Koichi Wakata tries to decide what to have for dinner. (April 2009)

Koichi Wakata tries to decide what to have for dinner. (April 2009)

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A home in space

A view of the International Space Station in orbit

A view of the International Space Station from space shuttle Atlantis

These images of the International Space Station (ISS) were taken from the space shuttle Atlantis as it made its departure from the Station in May, towards the conclusion of the STS-132 mission.

The STS-132 and ISS Expedition 23 crews concluded seven days of cooperative work onboard the shuttle and station. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred at 10:22am (US CDT) on May 23, 2010. Earth and the blackness of space provide the backdrop for these scenes.

Links to the full-size, high-resolution versions of these photos are at the bottom of this story.

A view of the International Space Station in orbit

The International Space Station sails over the blue oceans below

A view of the International Space Station in orbit

Looking straight down from shuttle Atlantis, to a cloud-studded ocean.

A view of the International Space Station in orbit

Now flying over dry mountains, the slightly different angle enables other parts of the Station to come into better view.

A view of the International Space Station in orbit

A final farewell from Atlantis, with the dwindling Station just visible to the left of the shuttle's tail.

Links to full-size, high-resolution versions of the images (will open in new windows):

  1. International Space Station image 1
  2. International Space Station image 2
  3. International Space Station image 3
  4. International Space Station image 4
  5. International Space Station image 5

Images courtesy NASA.

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Amazing NASA video

  • Space Station has made 66,500 orbits since 1998
  • Astronauts see 15-16 sunrises/sunsets each day
  • Each orbit takes only 92 minutes

The International Space Station orbits 354 kilometres (220 miles) above the Earth, completing one trip around the globe every 92 minutes. Cruising along at 27,700 km (17,200 miles) per hour, the astronauts experience 15 or 16 sunrises and -sets every day.

Since the launch of the Zarya Control Module on November 20, 1998, the station has orbited the Earth over 66,500 times (as of June 27, 2010). The station’s orbit is inclined to the equator by 51.65°, meaning at its most northerly, it is at the latitude of London, England, and at it most southerly it is over the latitude of the Falkland Islands.

The video above is sequence of time-lapse photographs illustrating roughly half an orbit, from sunrise over Northern Europe (photo below) to sunset southeast of Australia, on April 28, 2010. The view looks to the north of the station’s ground track. In the upper-left, is the tail of the Space Shuttle Discovery, which docked with the Space Station during the STS-131 mission.

Sunrise over Northern Europe

Sunrise over Northern Europe, seen from the International Space Station.

The animation begins with a view of snow-covered Norway (image top) and the Jutland Peninsula (image centre). Low clouds cover Central Europe (image bottom).

The animation continues as the Station flies by Ukraine, eastern Russia, the Volga River, and then the Russian Steppes. South and east of the steppes, a dust storm comes into view over the Taklimakan Desert, followed shortly by the lake-studded Tibetan Plateau and the glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains (photo below). Smoke-shrouded lowlands hug the southern margin of the Himalaya. Smoke also covers much of Southeast Asia, including the Irrawaddy Delta.

The Tibetan Plateau and the glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains

The Tibetan Plateau and the glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains

After the Space Station passes over the sapphire-blue South China Sea, the island of Borneo appears, followed by the open expanse of the Indian Ocean. A trio of coral reefs lies off the coast of Western Australia, which is studded with clouds. Australia’s arid interior is coloured myriad shades of red (photo below).

Australia seen from orbit

The arid interior of Australia seen from orbit.

As sunset nears, cloud shadows lengthen, highlighting their structure. Night falls as the Space Station crosses the terminator (the “line” dividing the day and night halves of Earth) above the South Pacific.

Astronaut photographs STS131-E-11693 to STS131-E-12195 courtesy NASA JSC Image Science & Analysis Laboratory. Animation by Robert Simmon Text adapted from text written by Robert Simmon. Special thanks to William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.

Shuttle video: STS-132 mission highlights

This NASA video highlights the achievements of the astronauts during the recent STS-132 mission of space shuttle Atlantis.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Shuttle video: STS-132 launch

Space shuttle Atlantis has made its last planned flight, taking equipment and supplies to the International Space Station. This NASA video shows highlights the rollout, countdown and launch.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.