Soyuz launchers for Arianespace

Russia’s Soyuz launcher has taken one step closer to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. In a Moscow ceremony February 14, Arianespace and the Roscosmos Russian space agency signed a supply contract for the initial four Soyuz vehicles to be operated from French Guiana.

Arianespace already has lined up several launch orders for Soyuz, which is set to make its maiden flight from the Spaceport in November 2008.

Oxygen Generation System for ISS

NASA is preparing to launch an oxygen generation system to the International Space Station. The system uses water to generate breathable oxygen for crew members. Life support systems like this are necessary to support future long-duration missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.

The system was shipped from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., on Jan. 24, and arrived the next day at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The system will be installed in a pressurized cargo compartment later this month for a possible May launch aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

“Delivering this hardware to the space station is a major step toward achieving the full potential of the complex,” said Mike Suffredini, station program manager. “Once complete, the regenerative life support system will sustain additional crew members onboard that can conduct more scientific research. It also will give us experience operating and sustaining a ‘closed-loop’ life support system similar to that necessary for future human spaceflight missions farther from Earth,” he added.

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NASA honored John Glenn, one of the original seven NASA astronauts, with the presentation of the Ambassador of Exploration Award.

The award was presented at 4:00 p.m. EST, Monday, Feb. 20 at the John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Public Policy, 300 Page Hall, Ohio State University, 1810 College Road, Columbus, Ohio.

NASA is presenting the Ambassador of Exploration Award to the 38 astronauts who participated in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs for realizing America’s vision of space exploration from 1961 to 1972. The award is a small sample of lunar material encased in Lucite mounted for public display. The material is part of the 842 pounds of samples brought back to Earth during the six Apollo lunar expeditions from 1969 to 1972. Glenn’s award will be displayed at the institute.

Glenn was born in 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio. As a Marine aviator, he flew combat missions during WW II and the Korean War. He was selected as one of the original NASA Mercury astronauts in April 1959. On Feb. 20, 1962, he piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 “Friendship 7” spacecraft on the first U.S. orbital mission, circling Earth three times during the four hour, 55 minute flight. In 1998, he completed his last space flight on the Space Shuttle Discovery, completing 134 Earth orbits during the nine-day mission.

For Glenn’s astronaut biography on the Web, visit:

Status of Hayabusa Spacecraft

Last November, Hayabusa suffered from a serious fuel leak immediately following its successful second touching down to the surface of Itokawa, a near Earth asteroid. Since the chemical engines were not available, the strong attitude disturbance occurred on December 8th caused the communication lost since then. According to the analysis, the chance of having the spacecraft communication resumed was found 60 to 70 percent high during a year ahead, while the spacecraft is captured well within the ground station’s antenna beam width. JAXA decided to take an alternative flight plan that makes Hayabusa return in June of 2010, three years behind the nominal schedule, assuming the spacecraft starts driving its ion engines from early 2007. In this context, the Hayabusa project team had started the rescue operation from the middle of December, 2005. (JAXA Press Release on December 14th, 2005)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon.

“We realize that this is a radical conclusion – that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. “However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms.”

High-resolution Cassini images show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting large quantities of particles at high speed. Scientists examined several models to explain the process. They ruled out the idea the particles are produced or blown off the moon’s surface by vapor created when warm water ice converts to a gas. Instead, scientists have found evidence for a much more exciting possibility. The jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.

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Sixteen youngsters attending the Discover Engineering Family Day event February 18 in Washington, DC, had the rare opportunity of talking to International Space Station Commander Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, via ham radio. Operating from the space station’s NA1SS a few days later, McArthur also answered a series of questions from pupils at Itaki Elementary School in Japan. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program arranged both events. During the Engineering Day contact, one participant wanted to know if the Expedition 12 crew had “learned anything really cool” during its science experiments.

“One of the biggest experiments is just the crew members on board, just the human beings on board, so we learn how our bodies change in space,” McArthur said, noting that ISS research centers on finding out what’s needed for a journey to Mars. On other fronts, he’s growing crystals in space, while crewmate Valeri Tokarev is growing seeds.

As for the really cool stuff: “I think the coolest thing I’ve learned is that living in space is a very pleasant, very nice thing to do,” McArthur added.

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