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NASA and SpaceX are Now Targeting Mid-May for Historic Crew Launch – Interesting Engineering

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NASA and SpaceX are now targeting mid-May for the first crewed orbital launch from American soil in a mission called Demo-2.

RELATED: ELON MUSK’S DRAGON CREW IS READY FOR A DEMO FLIGHT

“SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the spacecraft, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX are currently targeting no earlier than mid-to-late May for launch,” said NASA in a statement.

A second demonstration

“This second demonstration mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is another end-to-end flight test of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, which will include launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations. It is the final flight test of the system before SpaceX is certified to carry out operational crew flights to and from the space station for NASA.”

The mid-May date is in line with previous reports, but just like other launch targets, it could be changed at a later date. NASA and SpaceX also revealed in their statement that they were carefully monitoring the coronavirus outbreak which could cause some delays.

“NASA is proactively monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation as it evolves. The agency will continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and communicate any updates that may impact mission planning or media access, as they become available,” read NASA’s statement.

Contracted crew flights

Demo-2 will mark the second flight to the International Space Station (ISS) for the Crew Dragon. In March 2019, one of the capsules conducted an uncrewed test flight to the ISS and passed with flying colors. The mission was called Demo-1.

If all goes well with Demo-2, SpaceX could begin launching contracted crew flights.

“NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry through a public-private partnership to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. The goal of the program is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration.” read NASA’s statement.

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PHOTOS: Here are some of Kelowna's best photos of last night's Pink Full Moon – KelownaNow

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Last night’s Pink Full Moon was a hit, with people across the Okanagan and beyond capturing the sight on camera.

The full moon was also a supermoon – the brightest supermoon of the year – making it an even more exciting celestial event.

Here are just a few of the photos that Kelowna residents shared with us!


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ISS Crew Blasts Off From Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome Despite Virus-Hit Build-Up – The Moscow Times

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A three-man crew docked successfully at the International Space Station Thursday, leaving behind a planet overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Soyuz MS-16 capsule “docked successfully” in a statement on its website.

Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and NASA’s Chris Cassidy reached the ISS at 1413 GMT, just over six hours after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where COVID-19 caused changes to pre-launch protocol.

Usually the departing crew faces questions from a large press pack before being waved off by family and friends.

Neither was possible this time round because of travel restrictions imposed over the virus, although the crew did respond to emailed questions from journalists in a Wednesday press conference.

Cassidy, 50, admitted the crew had been affected by their families not being unable to be in Baikonur, Russia’s space hub in neighboring Kazakhstan, for their blastoff to the ISS. 

“But we understand that the whole world is also impacted by the same crisis,” Cassidy said. 

Astronauts routinely go into quarantine ahead of space missions and give a final press conference at Baikonur from behind a glass wall to protect them from infection.

That process began even earlier than usual last month as the trio and their reserve crew hunkered down in Russia’s Star City training centre outside Moscow, eschewing traditional pre-launch rituals and visits to the capital.  

The next crew to return to Earth from the ISS will be flying to their home countries on April 17 via Baikonur, rather than Karaganda in central Kazakhstan as usual, as part of new travel measures related to the pandemic. 

Tips on self-isolation

The ISS typically carries up to six people at a time and has a livable space of 388 cubic meters (13,700 cubic feet) — larger than a six-bedroom house according to NASA.

Those dimensions will sound enviable to many residents of Earth, more than half of whom are on various forms of lockdown as governments respond to Covid-19 with drastic measures.

In recent weeks, astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS and on Earth have been sharing tips on coping with self-isolation.

In a piece for the New York Times last month, NASA’s Scott Kelly said his biggest miss during almost a year in space was nature — “the color green, the smell of fresh dirt and the feel of warm sun on my face.”

During his time aboard the ISS he “binge-watched ‘Game of Thrones’ — twice” and enjoyed frequent movie nights with crewmates, he wrote. 

Two-time cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy has become the face of a 10-week challenge that will see participants post videos of themselves completing physical exercises as part of a competition aimed at both youth and adults. 

The initiative that Roscosmos is backing aims “to support people in a situation of isolation, instil a healthy lifestyle and thoughts through regular sports, without going out in public places,” Ryazanskiy said in a video promoting the “Cosmos Training” challenge.

The launch of Ivanishin, Vagner and Cassidy marks the first time a manned mission has used a Soyuz-2.1a booster to reach orbit, after Roscosmos stopped using the Soyuz-FG rocket last year. 

The newer boosters have been used in unmanned launches since 2004. 

The upgraded rocket relies on a digital flight control system rather than the analogue equipment used in prior Soyuz models.

Russia and Baikonur have enjoyed a near decade-long monopoly on manned missions to the ISS since NASA wound up its Space Shuttle program in 2011. 

But that may change as early as next month when Elon Musk’s SpaceX could be ready to launch a two-man crew to the orbital lab, NASA said in March. 

NASA said that the tech entrepreneur’s company and the space agency are targeting “mid-to-late May” for a test launch that will transport NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. 

The International Space Station — a rare example of cooperation between Russia and the West — has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.

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Tuesday's super pink moon lit up the Okanagan night sky – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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If you’ve had your fill of COVID-19 news for the time being the moon put on quite a show last night.

This photo sent to us by Dale Sitar shows the super pink moon in all its glory Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s full moon was the biggest, brightest supermoon of 2020 and the second of three supermoons this year. April’s supermoon came the closest to our planet – and thus appeared the largest. 

Turns out we are currently in the midst of a series of supermoons according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the first happened on March 9, April’s was Tuesday night and the last occurs on May 7, 2020.

April’s full moon is called the “Pink Moon” as it’s the first to occur after the March equinox and heralds the appearance of the “moss pink,” or wild creeping phlox—one of the early spring flowers.

Historically, full moon names were used to track the seasons and, for this reason, often relate closely to nature. The moon names that we use today stem from Native American and Colonial-era sources. Traditionally, each full moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, rather than just the full moon itself.

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