Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label International Space Station. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Space Station. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, An Immortal Farewell

This is a post I wish I did not have to write, on the passing of the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking. He died today, aged 76.

Image Source: Reuters via Voa News.

This time last year, it was reported that Richard Branson offered Hawking transportation on Virgin Galactic to the International Space Station. In 2007, the famous physicist became the first quadriplegic to experience simulated zero gravity on a modified Boeing 727-200 and looked incredibly happy when he became weightless.

Click here to read my references to his work. If you have not read his books, you can listen to some audiobooks and films on his work, below the jump.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Constitutional Dance around Surveillance

Julian Assange has posted a link today to the document below, uploaded by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. This is the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's (FISA) ruling on NSA activities, which was declassified on 11 May 2017. This secret court gives intelligence agencies permission to conduct surveillance activities. The ruling reveals the constitutional balancing act and/or illegality of NSA spying on US citizens and non-US citizens for five years. It shows the contorted legalese used to justify, and question, American government surveillance of domestic and foreign populations. From Circa:
"The American Civil Liberties Union said the newly disclosed violations are some of the most serious to ever be documented and strongly call into question the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to police itself and safeguard American’s privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure."
The Sinclair Broadcast Group has a curious small collection of documents, including the NSA's 2016 Inspector General Report. In a reflection of the broad impact of science and technology, this FISA release acquires an additional surreal touch, juxtaposed with another uploaded article: Healthy offspring from freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the International Space Station for 9 months.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

SpaceX: Not an Explosion

SpaceX's Falcon 9 on fire in Florida today. Image Source: Ahomka FM.

Sadly, SpaceX's Falcon 9 exploded today on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. The Falcon 9, which I have discussed here, is the great hope of company founder, Elon Musk. Report UK:
"In a statement, the company blamed the blast on 'an anomaly' and said no-one had been injured. It said the rocket's payload, a satellite due to be launched on Saturday, was also destroyed. ... The Falcon-9 booster is designed to return to Earth and land on a floating platform. SpaceX is seeking to create a new era of reusable rockets and affordable private space travel and has used its Falcon-9 rocket to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). In December last year, the California-based company successfully landed a Falcon-9 back on Earth after a mission – a first in rocketry. It went on to recover five more boosters, with most of them touching down on an ocean platform. The idea is to re-fly these rockets, and the first such 'second hand' vehicle is scheduled to launch in October. SpaceX is run out of Hawthorne near Los Angeles by Elon Musk, who made his fortune with internet companies. As well as being the rocket company”s CEO, he also heads up the Tesla electric car company."
The lost rocket cost USD $62 million and Musk's companies took a stock hit of almost USD $400 million; in one day, Musk's personal loss on his shares was USD $350 million. The satellite on the rocket, Amos-6would have enabled Facebook and Eutelsat to provide connectivity to entrepreneurs in Africa, a subject I will cover in a later post.

SpaceX failed Falcon 9 launch (1 September 2016). Musk called the ball of fire "not an explosion." Video Source: Youtube.

See all my posts on SpaceX.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Baikonur Soyuz Launch TMA-20M

Image Source: European Space Agency.

On 18 March 2016, a Soyuz spacecraft successfully launched to bring cosmonauts and supplies to the International Space Station. From the European Space Agency:
"Tim Peake, Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko on the International Space Station will be joined by three new astronauts after they are launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos will begin their six-month mission with a lift off in a Soyuz spacecraft at 21:26 GMT on Friday, March 18 [2016]."
Flight Crest of Soyuz TMA-20M. Image Source: Wiki.

"Soyuz TMA-20M crew patch: The Soyuz TMA-20M patch pays tribute to the origins of heraldry by its use of the classic shield shape. Its fields are divided by band of colors representing the Russian and American flags. The silhouette of a Soyuz spacecraft is at the centre of the shield, which is crowned by an outline of the International Space Station. Three stars against the blackness of space symbolize the three astronauts of the spaceship, while animals feature in the other three quadrants. The black bear comes from the coat of arms of the city of Rybinsk, birthplace of spaceship commander Alexey Ovchinin. This city on the Volga is also the 'capital of barge-haulers,' called Burlaks in Russian. 'BURLAK' is the callsign for the crew of this Soyuz mission. The American bald eagle, carrying the vector from the NASA logo it its beak, represents American astronaut Jeff Williams. The grey crane with its wings outstretched is for cosmonaut Oleg Skripotchka, who used the same bird in the patch of his first flight on board of the first in the current series of Soyuz spacecraft, on this one, the final Soyuz TMA-M."

Video Source: Roscosmos via Youtube.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Anniversaries: The Last Voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery

Video Source: William Shatner via Youtube.

It seems like yesterday, but on 9 March 2011, five years ago today, the first of three American space shuttles retired. Above, hear William Shatner's wake-up call to the crew of Discovery on 7 March 2011, while they were still in orbit, but soon to come home for the final time.

In 1990, the Discovery crew installed and later maintained the Hubble Space Telescope, which hugely expanded our view of the stars. Image Source: flickr.

Built in 1979, the spacecraft was named after four great ships from the European age of exploration: she took her name from HMS Discovery, commanded by Captain James Cook during his final voyage from 1776 to 1779; Henry Hudson's Discovery, used in 1610–1611 to explore Hudson's Bay and search for the Northwest Passage; the HMS Discovery of the 1875–1876 British Arctic Expedition to the North Pole; and RRS Discovery, which led the 1901–1904 "Discovery Expedition" to Antarctica.

Image Source: The Atlantic.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Photo of the Day: Spaceflower

Image Source: Scott Kelly.

The first flower to bloom on a spacecraft greeted the sun for the first time today on the International Space Station. I'm not surprised it's a zinnia (an edible orange variety). Zinnias are hardy, easy to grow, and beautiful. They are a genus of the sunflower tribe in Asteraceae, also known as the aster or daisy family. This one survived a crisis mold infestation in December 2015; its flower bud appeared on 12 January 2016.

NASA's page on the space flower garden is here. People are discussing the plant on Twitter under the hashtag #spaceflower. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is caring for the plant. The flower garden project is part of the joint NASA-Roscosmos ISS Year Long Mission, which involves experienced astronauts Kelly and Mikhail Korniyenko conducting tests and experiments to assess human physical and psychological health over long periods in preparation for extended missions to Mars. For my previous post on space gardens and space farming, go here.

See all my posts about the International Space Station.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Space Farming: Little Green Tendrils of Chaos

You can take it with you: Nigella damascena, a type of buttercup, germinated in a lab on the International Space Station. Image Source: Wiki.

When we depart for the Final Frontier, we will have to become very good at farming in zero gravity and on other worlds. Anyone who has tried the most basic seed planting and coaxed a plant to maturity under ideal earthly conditions may start to appreciate what a daunting task that is. Even in today's era of Frankenfoods, plants don't care what humans think they should be or do. If you try to force plants or their environment to run counter to the laws they expect to follow, they simply die. If scientists are able to force plants in the short term via genetic modification to satisfy artificial human fads and demands, there will always be a correction in the environment, somewhere, that will decimate the plan. Period. For thousands of years, people have tried to play god with plants. Even when they achieve some success, that never become god. Biology will never be fully instrumentalized by humans, and it's a good thing too. It is that scary unknown factor in agriculture which brings a host of problems to space colonization.

On 12 March 2015, NASA confirmed via Hubble's observations that Jupiter's moon Ganymede has a huge water ocean under an ice crust, which could mean that it harbours life. Image Souce: Sci Tech Daily.

Experts claim that the only way for humanity to survive over the long term is that we clear that hurdle in the future. According to Stephen Hawking, whatever problems we may have down here on earth, a bigger one trumps them all. Our future lies in the stars, he argues, and humanity must eventually abandon this planet or face extinction. Does God play dice he asks, paraphrasing Einstein? Yes, He does, Hawking argues, asserting that there is an underlying range of chaotic variability, an unpredictability, to everything. Hawking contradicts Einstein's insistence that there had to be an underlying order in everything which we could not yet grasp. Despite Hawking's faith that the future cannot be predicted, he is certain humankind must go through a cataclysmic bottleneck, a test of survival, a possible extinction event. Over the next thousand years, space exploration must be our inevitable future. There is no wiggle room on this, he concludes, due to global warming, nuclear annihilation, or a genetically-engineered virus.

Cultural expectations of transcendent Singularity (which include a faith in space colonization) continue the very mechanistic mentality, a 19th century positivism, which quantum physicists criticize. Humans-as-machines is a very popular idea now, and culturally speaking, it is big, but not that deep. Humans are now addicted to, and obsessed by, their species' new computing power. Pause to observe the stunning fact that 40 per cent of the world's population got a new heroin habit over the past 20 years that was socially acceptable, economically profitable (if also economically tumultuous), politically unstable, and governmentally dubious. Then imagine that the most hard core tech addicts insist that we must lose ourselves in the addiction, becoming more and more like the technological objects of our adoration.

In fact, successful space exploration might be achieved only by an antithetical stance, a renewal of the organic, in a move that counters the seductive, semi-sexual love affair with computer gadgetry. In this post, I noted how popular ideas in the 1920s and 1930s shaped scientists' early conceptions of dark matter. In cultural terms, today's Singularity and quantum aficionados are 1920s' and 1930s' revivalists.

That is the kind of point that confirms that culture and science are not contending opposites; instead, they make an unexpected pair of yoked oxen. How scientists interpret and conceptualize their findings is heavily influenced by their cultural values, about which they are rarely objective or intensively schooled. This is why science fiction author Charlie Stross argued that space colonization is not a story about extending technology, despite all the technical trappings of the exercise. It is a story, as Frank Herbert knew well, about our relationship with the environment. And that relationship, given our psychology, almost always is expressed mystically and philosophically through the expansion and transformation of religion; Stross pondered some of this:
I'm going to take it as read that the idea of space colonization isn't unfamiliar; domed cities on Mars, orbiting cylindrical space habitats a la J. D. Bernal or Gerard K. O'Neill, that sort of thing. Generation ships that take hundreds of years to ferry colonists out to other star systems where — as we are now discovering — there are profusions of planets to explore. And I don't want to spend much time talking about the unspoken ideological underpinnings of the urge to space colonization, other than to point out that they're there, that the case for space colonization isn't usually presented as an economic enterprise so much as a quasi-religious one. "We can't afford to keep all our eggs in one basket" isn't so much a justification as an appeal to sentimentality.
A response to that post, quoted at the Daily Galaxy, dismissed these culturally-derived warnings because transhumanists believe we will meld with machines and morph into something non-human, or superhuman, or post-human:
[Stross doesn't take] into account the possibility of post-Singularity, Drexlerian, Kardashev Type II civilizations. Essentially, we're talking about post-scarcity civilizations with access to molecular assembling nanotechnology, radically advanced materials, artificial superintelligence, and access to most of the energy available in the solar system. "Stross also too easily dismisses how machine intelligences, uploaded entities and AGI will impact on how space could be colonized. He speculates about biological humans being sent from solar system to solar system, and complains of the psychological and social hardships that could be inflicted on an individual or crew. He even speculates about the presence of extraterrestrial pathogens that undoubtedly awaits our daring explorers. This is a highly unlikely scenario. Biological humans will have no role to play in space. Instead, this work will be done by robots and quite possibly cyborgs.
That is such a 2000s' thing to say. Super-this, nano-that.  In 2005, Ray Kurzweil maintained in The Singularity is Near that we could interface with our technology, the way computers interface with each other, and in so doing we could transcend our biology. It was a fashionable, and now dated, thing to assume. The post-Singularity hypothesis tells you more about 2005 than it does about 2500.

Part of that hypothesis suggests that our addiction to computers is reaching blind adoration, and extends to the assumption that they are, or will be, smarter than we are. We love them so, such that we will either join with them (a typical, unreflective psycho-sexual assumption), and/or they will out-survive us. This is exactly the kind of thing an addict would say about his or her drug: it's stronger than I am; it's destroying me in the long term; but I love it anyway in the short term because it enhances my capabilities. The Daily Galaxy:
In a futuristic mode similar to Hawking, both Steven Dick, chief NASA historian and Carnegie-Mellon robotics pundit, Hans Moravec, believe that human biological evolution is but a passing phase: the future of mankind will be as vastly evolved sentient machines capable of self-replicating and exploring the farthest reaches of the Universe programmed with instructions on how to recreate earth life and humans to target stars. Dick believes that if there is a flaw in the logic of the Fermi Paradox, and extraterrestrials are a natural outcome of cosmic evolution, then cultural evolution may have resulted in a post-biological universe in which machines are the predominant intelligence.
There is so much blind confidence in the secular window dressing around science and technology, that there is no warning that Millennial technological prophets employ the language of cult leaders. They speak the high-priestly language of a sacred mentality with religious fervour, and remain unaware of what they are actually doing, because they are scientists. They predict the future, while in the same breath admit that science tells them that the future cannot be predicted.

Eco horror from John Wyndham: alien trees might be triffid-like on planets in binary, two-sun systems. Image Source: Passenger Films.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #1.

Image Source.
Will the techno-rapture break down over space farming, when the plants remind us about our bottom line dependence on the environment? That is the final cultural pre-condition. We breathe air. We drink water. And despite our love affair with our shiny tools, we need the other earthly organisms which have evolved alongside us. What will the galaxy gurus do when the plants refuse to grow, or start to die, or grow tendrils 12 feet long so that they can snag and eat the colonists?

What if, in the wilds of space, space colonies and spaceships, plants can survive better than we can, arise to occupy a superior evolutionary niche to do so, and eventually overthrow and destroy us? They are only tamed here on earth because terran conditions allow us to be dominant. Space colony die-hards forget that humans evolved to a dominant position out of, and within, this earthly ecosystem, and no other. Once humankind leaves this planet with other terran species, to interact in long-haul spacecraft and space colony ecosystems, there are no guarantees that humans will dominate those systems. Even with humans supported by the technology they developed, plants may not remain their silent slaves. And this is before animal husbandry comes into the mix.

In a related vein, Mars One - the plan to send colonists on a one way trip to Mars by 2027, aka the final apex of reality television - came under harsh criticism this week. Their candidate selection practices and media entertainment fund-raising took a bashing. Critics dismiss Mars One as a pyramid scheme, even though that is only symptomatic of a more pressing problem. The reason private companies are taking over space exploration is because of politics. For years in the United States, a bizarre scenario has unfolded in which global warming has been pitted politically against space explorationObama's government slashed NASA's budget and money for other Big Science projects, which meant that other countries are now challenging or outcompeting America in these fields. Under these conditions, private companies will merge commercial capitalism with space aspirations and exploration technology. This week, Mars One's technological feasibility critics came through the loudest because a 2014 MIT study declared that Mars One's colonists' first wheat crop would blow their life support systems.

An independent MIT study from October 2014 concluded that the maturation of Mars One colonists' wheat crops would blow their life support systems by creating an overabundance of oxygen. Image Source: Extreme Tech.

Agriculture adds an element of the universe's chaos into any plan for survival in space and space colonies. This is the chaos whose metrics physicists like Hawking constantly seek and which eludes them. This is the chaos which makes them admit that they cannot predict the future, right at the moment when technology dangles a future in front of them that they want to believe (rather than prove). This agricultural element of the unseen, of perceptual error, of the unknowable, confirms that space farming would constantly remind us of our essential humanity, right when space exploration threatened to dehumanize its technologists and engineers. It is organic chaos, culminating in our unpredictable relationship with the unwieldy environment and other organisms which may have the last laugh, which reminds us how fragile we are and that we must colonize the stars with humility. Luke, the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy, was raised as a farmer. It's no wonder why George Lucas did that. This is why, this week, the Mars One project came under fire around the question at the heart of all human civilizations: not media, not money, but agriculture.

An earlier post on HOTTC discussed the film, Silent Running (1972), in which the 1970s' back-to-the-land movement met the 1970s' space opera. You can hear Joan Baez's performance for the film's folksy soundtrack below the jump. Will the calls for space colonization overlap with the Millennial back-to-the land movement? So far, they haven't. Below the jump, see a selection of plants which have been planted on the International Space Station, and which plants are planned for future greenhouses on the moon and Mars. Several foods have been tested on the ISS, including the first bagels in space.

"Plant growth chambers, seeds and watering devices that made up part of an experiment flown to the space station during the STS-118 space shuttle mission [in 2007]. The seeds were later returned to Earth and grown within lunar growth chambers designed by students." Image Source: NASA via Phys.org.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Photo of the Day: Newton in Space

Image Source: Koichi Wakata.

Today's photo was taken and posted on Twitter on 6 February 2014 by Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. It is a spaceview from inside the International Space Station, looking at the rest of the station, the edge of earth in the background. The scene is sidelit by the sun; and there is an apple floating in zero gravity past the camera inside the spacecraft.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Plutonium at the Bay of Rainbows

The Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridum). Image Source: NASA via Space.com.

Next month, China will launch an unmanned lander mission to the moon, which, if successful, will be the first non-crash landing on the moon since Apollo 17's 1972-1973 manned mission and Russia's unmanned Luna missions from the mid-1970s. Although the International Space Station has contributed invaluably to our knowledge of how to live in outer space, there is a sense now (not least with mythical movies like Apollo 18 - see my posts on that film, here and here) America got sidetracked when she abandoned the moon. Of course that myopic view also excludes NASA's great accomplishments in the exploration of Mars over the past twenty years.
Apollo 17 mission insignia. Image Source: Wiki.

Nevertheless, it was an American flag that was first planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Apollo 17 was also the most recent, and sixth, manned mission to the moon. For all Russia's contributions, humans had walked on the moon, and the moon was American! For over a generation, that claim has rested on laurels which lay neglected and undisturbed.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

How to Wash Your Hair in Space

NASA astronaut and Gen Xer, Karen Nyberg. Image Source: Wiki.

This story comes from the excellent blog, Spaceports, whose blogger discovered a Youtube video showing Expedition 36/37 (Soyuz TMA-09M) Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg demonstrating how she washes her hair aboard the International Space Station. Walgreens advertises the no-rinse shampoo that Nyberg uses for $7.99 here. The shampoo's features:
  • Soft, clean, manageable hair without water.
  • Ready to use.
  • Absolutely no water necessary.
  • Just apply, lather and towel dry.
  • Hospital tested and approved.
  • Leaves hair fresh, clean and odor free.
  • The choice of healthcare professionals throughout the world.
  • Effective, efficient personal hygiene since 1948.
  • No Rinse Shampoo is the comfortable, convenient and safe alternative to traditional shampoos.
  • pH Balanced to be mild and non-irritating to the scalp, hair is left sparkling clean, odor free, soft and manageable.
  • Used by NASA.
  • Made in USA.
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed.
Apply generously until hair is completely wet. Massage to a rich lather. Immediately towel dry with an absorbent towel. Repeat for heavily soiled hair. No Rinse Shampoo can be used as often as necessary.
The shampoo is made by No Rinse Laboratories in Springboro, Ohio. Their products are also used by the US Military Special Forces, for disaster and survival prep, and for convalescent and senior care.

The Soyuz TMA-09M mission patch. Image Source: Wiki.

ISS mission 36 mission patch. Image Source: Wiki.

ISS mission 37 mission patch. Image Source: Wiki. 

The Soyuz TMA-09M mission members, Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen L. Nyberg, and Luca Parmitano in Red Square before their mission, 8 May 2013. Image Source: Wiki.

See the video below the jump.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wonders of the Millennial World 6: Canadian Astronauts are Cool

Image Source: Healing Ana.

And now for a space first. Someone had to do it: half the world has probably seen Commander Chris Hadfield doing a cover of the 1969 hit Space Oddity by David Bowie on 12 May on the International Space Station. For those of you who haven't seen him, the video is below the jump. My earlier post on Peter Schilling's related 1983 hit, Major Tom is here.

Unlike David Bowie's famous fictional astronaut, Hadfield landed safely in his Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan on 14 May 2013; from the LA Times: "During his sojourn on the station, Hadfield effectively reset the bar for social media with his tweets from space, including the video he posted Sunday. He is the first Canadian to command the station, heading the six-man Expedition 35 crew."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Elon Musk Plans Retirement on Mars

Image Source: Wired.

Elon Musk, Gen X founder of PayPal and SpaceX, wants to retire on Mars and live as the poster boy for his next big business: colonizing Mars as a profitable venture. From a 2010 Guardian report:
The fresh-faced 39-year-old man, in a dark T-shirt and jeans, is talking about travelling to Mars. Not now, but when he's older and ready to swap life on Earth for one on the red planet. "It would be a good place to retire," he says in all seriousness. Normally, this would be the time to make one's excuses and leave the company of a lunatic. Or to smile politely and humour a space nerd's unlikely fantasies. But this man needs to be taken seriously for one compelling reason: he already has his own spaceship.
Musk is planning to fund the first round of Mars missions with his personal fortune and spend his old age building the first Mars colony, anticipated population 80,000.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Night Views

This is a new video of earth at night from the International Space Station by Knate Myers (Hat tip: Lee Hamilton and Spaceports). You can also see the video at Youtube.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Photo of the Day

From Imgur, this is: An air bubble, trapped inside a water droplet, on the International Space Station.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Photo of the Day

Image (11 May 2012) © AndrĂ© Kuipers; Image Source: ESA/NASA via Flickr.

This is the Atlantic Ocean from the International Space Station on 11 May 2012. The photo was taken by Dutch astronaut André Kuipers: "We fly into the night over the Atlantic Ocean. Looking back at the sunset over Rio de la Plata and Buenos Aires."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Private Spaceflight Watch: SpaceX Launches New Space Era

History has been made in the past few minutes. The launch of the commercially-made SpaceX Falcon 9 with the unmanned Dragon Capsule was successful. You can see a live feed (at the time of this posting) at the bottom of my post, here. See the Youtube video of the launch below the jump.

Welcome to the new era of private space exploration. Kate Sherrod has already written a sonnet to commemorate history being made tonight, here. Tweets and blogs cheered SpaceX on: see Stepto's blog here. Wil Wheaton tweeted: "Dear Humanity: You can do amazing things when you work hard, and you work together. Love, Wil." This is what it means to live at the turn of the Millennium: poetry written and circulated worldwide, at the very moment history turns.

2464 Dream (2010) © Chris Reccardi. Image Source: Boing Boing.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Private Spaceflight Watch: Falcon 9 Rocket [Not] Ready to Launch

BBC reports on the launch of the unmanned rocket, the SpaceX Falcon 9, scheduled this morning for 4:55 EDT (in about 50 minutes from the time of this post):
California's SpaceX company is ready to make history by sending a capsule containing half a tonne of supplies to the space station.

It will be the first time the private sector has provided such a service.

The task is usually performed by the vehicles belonging to government space agencies, such as Nasa and Esa.

The unmanned Dragon cargo ship is due to launch atop SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Controllers are targeting a time of 04:55 EDT (08:55 GMT; 09:55 BST), and despite some storms in the area in recent days, the mission team should get favourable weather conditions.

"There's no question - this is a historic flight," said SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell on the eve of the mission.

"There've been only four nations, or groups of nations, that have berthed or docked a spacecraft to the International Space Station: Europe, Russia, the United States of course, and Japan. So, we really stand in awe at having the opportunity to attempt this."
See another report at Wired and my earlier posts here and here. This test flight is known as the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Demo Flight 2, and its official emblem is below (the four-leafed clover is a nice added touch).
Image Source: Wiki.

The goal of the mission is to have the Falcon 9, with its unmanned Dragon crew vessel dock at the International Space Station with the help of the Canadarm2 and bring supplies to the ISS once it is docked. It will also bring Earth-bound cargo back home.

Artist's rendition of the expected manoeuvre whereby the Canadarm2 helps the Dragon dock at the ISS. Image Source: NASA (2008) via Wiki.

Hobby Space provides links to the live streams of this event online:
Countdown is proceeding for the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon at 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT).

Spaceflight Now also has this Q&A with Elon Musk, a gallery of photos of the Falcon 9/Dragon rolling to the launch pad, and a gallery of photos of F9/Dragon on the pad at Complex 40.
Other sites with coverage, webcasts, etc. :
/-- NASA TV - starts at 3:30 am EDT
/-- SpaceX webcast starts at 4:15 am EDT (8:15 GMT)
/-- Florida Today offers coverage starting at 3:30 AM EDT.
Here is the Spaceflight Now webcast:

Addendum (6:45 a.m., 19 May 2012): Due to problem with the fifth engine, the launch was cancelled and will be rescheduled to May 22 or 23. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Private Spaceflight Watch: SpaceX Marks the Dawn of a New Era

The Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral. Image Source: Fox.

Last year, when the Space Shuttles made their final flights, the Americans marked the end of an era of publicly-funded space exploration (see my posts on this here, here, here and here). This month, SpaceX, under the leadership of Gen Xer Elon Musk, picks up the baton and carries that legacy forward.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled today to launch the first private mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida to the International Space Station. This historic, unmanned flight is delayed, likely until May 19.

A test crew, a mix of NASA and SpaceX personnel, recently evaluated SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule; for details, see the SpaceX Website. For a gallery on SpaceX's ISS mission and NASA contracts, go here.

Musk spent his entire private fortune on the earlier parts of this project, and saw it through some narrow spots. This launch is another of these moments. If it succeeds, the Americans will mark the beginning of a new era when private companies, rather than governments, challenge the 'final frontier.'

Artist’s rendition of the Dragon spacecraft docking at the International Space Station. Image Source: SpaceX.

See all my posts on Space Exploration.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Time Lapses: Earth from the International Space Station

Image Source: NASA via Flickr.

See below the jump for a fantastic time lapse video of the Earth at night as seen from the International Space Station. (Hat tip: Lee Hamilton's blog.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

End of an Era: The Last Space Shuttle Launch

STS-135, final mission patch. Image Source: Wiki.

Today, the Space Shuttle Atlantis makes its final run up to the International Space Station.  This is NASA's last Space Shuttle launch, and the end of the entire program, which I have blogged about here and here; and there is a related post here.  As I noted in those posts, this marks the end of a thirty-five-year vision about space exploration that emerged after the Apollo moon missions.