Kids Talk with ISS Crew

During a May 24 Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact, students in Susan Singleton’s class at Coronado Village Elementary School near San Diego asked Expedition 11 flight engineer John Phillips, KE5DRY, about his view of Earth from orbit and the end of the world.

“When the sun collapses into itself and becomes a black hole, will it have enough gravity to suck in the other planets?” one student wanted to know. Phillips replied, reassuringly, “Our sun is not big enough to become a black hole.” Asked about his view of Earth, he told the students, “Earth is very, very beautiful. In the daytime you see the blue of the ocean, the white snow and tan deserts, and in the night you can see lights and lightning. Just the other day I flew over Coronado and saw the beach and the big hotels.”
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Big things can come in small packages, and engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are making progress on a tiny spacecraft that holds major promise for future exploration.

Work on the volleyball-sized Miniature Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera (Mini AERCam) moved forward with successful initial tests on its docking system. The Mini AERCam is designed to help astronauts and ground crews see outside the spacecraft during a mission. During ground-based testing, the device was able to work with the docking system that serves as an exterior home base for housing and refueling the nanosatellite.

Since early 2000, NASA engineers have been working to create a miniaturized spacecraft that can be deployed from a parent vehicle to inspect the exterior or provide remote-controlled views during space operations. Early development is funded by the Space Shuttle Program Office, which is considering using Mini AERCam to inspect the Shuttle’s heat shield in space. The nanosatellite will not be used on the Return to Flight mission (STS-114), but holds long-term promise for future space operations.
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NASA researchers will conduct experiments later this year on two near-weightless flights operated by the Zero Gravity (Zero-G) Corporation of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Under a contract NASA signed with Zero-G, the company will supply two demonstration flights. The flights will allow NASA to evaluate the ability of this new commercial provider to augment the agency’s parabolic research flight services.

Zero-G will conduct the flights with NASA researchers in mid-September. Much like NASA’s own specially-equipped microgravity research airplane, the Zero-G aircraft will fly a series of parabolas to simulate weightless or reduced-gravity conditions for the passengers and payloads. NASA retired its own “Weightless Wonder” KC-135 research aircraft in October 2004. The agency will begin operating a new research jet aircraft, a C-9 acquired from the U.S. Navy, later this year.

NASA’s Reduced Gravity Program is managed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston.

For information about Zero Gravity Corporation visit:


The cargo for the Space Shuttle Discovery’s historic Return to Flight mission (STS-114) arrived yesterday at Launch Pad 39-B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Discovery’s payload includes the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Raffaello, the Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier (LMC), and the External Stowage Platform-2 (ESP-2).

NASA’s Italian-built Raffaello will carry 12 large racks filled with food, clothing, spare parts and research equipment to the International Space Station. Included in the cargo is the Human Research Facility-2 that will expand the Station’s capability to support human life sciences research.
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BLAST, a balloon-borne telescope

LONGUEUIL, June 13, 2005 – Canada and three partner countries, the U.S., the U.K. and Mexico, are conducting an unusual experiment in the Arctic skies.

Attached to a huge helium balloon flying at 38,000 metres, a 2,000-kg telescope called BLAST (Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-millimetre Telescope) is staring deep into the sky to study distant stars and galaxies. Launched in Kiruna, Sweden, on June 11, BLAST is expected to fly for six days before reaching Inuvik, on the Beaufort Sea in northern Canada. The two-metre telescope will offer levels of sensitivity and resolution unmatched by any facility on Earth.

“Flying a telescope attached to a balloon is somewhat unusual, but BLAST is a very exciting astronomy mission,” said Dr. Alain Berinstain, Director of Planetary Exploration and Space Astronomy at the Canadian Space Agency. “It allows us to make observations from the upper atmosphere, achieving a quality of measurement that would be impossible from the ground.”
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NASA’s astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) made history today becoming the first to testify before Congress while in orbit. Expedition 11 crew member John Phillips appeared via satellite before the House Science Committee, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, chaired by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.

Phillips answered questions from subcommittee members about what it is like to live and work in space, focusing on the Space Station’s role in preparing humans for longer-duration missions outlined in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration.

“We constantly learn new lessons up here,” Phillips said, while traveling through space at five miles per second. “The experiences we gather will enable us to establish a long-term station on the moon and to go on to Mars.”
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