The International Space Station is about to get more crowded.
NASA will launch four astronauts aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule this weekend in the company’s first regular crew rotation to the orbiting lab. The trip, three months after SpaceX completed a high-profile trial run, will open a new era in human spaceflight for NASA as commercial firms start dominating U.S. missions in low-earth orbit.
“I hope people realize this isn’t just another launch — this is something a lot bigger,” Michael Hopkins, commander of the Crew-1 mission scheduled for Saturday, said in a NASA post on Tumblr. “Hopefully it’s setting the stage, one of those first steps to getting us to the Moon and on to Mars.”
For Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and founder Elon Musk, the flight caps almost two decades of efforts to fly people as well as cargo. The Dragon and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket won NASA approval for regular crewed missions this week, making them the first vehicles the U.S. has certified to carry humans since the Space Shuttle, which was retired in 2011.
The Crew-1 launch is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 7:49 p.m. on Saturday, with docking at the station planned eight and a half hours later. If that attempt is scrapped, a backup launch would be set for 7:27 p.m. on Sunday with docking 27 hours later due to orbital mechanics.
Beyond becoming the U.S. space agency’s first regular commercial launch, the Crew-1 mission is also the first NASA-staffed mission licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The regulator is assuming responsibility for public safety because the flight will be conducted by a commercial company.
Hopkins, 51, an Air Force colonel and test pilot, will make his second sojourn to the space station, seven years after his first. He will be joined by three others on the mission:
- Shannon Walker, 55, a physicist and Houston native, will serve her second stint on the orbiting lab.
- Victor Glover, 44, a Navy pilot from California, will be taking his first flight to space. He will be the first Black astronaut to stay on the space station for a full six-month rotation, according to NASA.
- Soichi Noguchi, 55, a Japanese astronaut and aeronautical engineer, has the most space experience among the crew and will become one of the very few people to leave the Earth on three vehicles: Russia’s Soyuz, the retired NASA Space Shuttle and the SpaceX Dragon.
The four astronauts will push the space station to maximum occupancy when they join the three people already there. That will require changes in how mission controllers schedule the daily exercise regimen for each crew member. There will also be a squeeze on personal quarters where the astronauts sleep and have time to themselves.
The space station currently has a half-dozen crew berths, and NASA is completing work on a seventh. In the meantime, Hopkins will sleep aboard the Dragon capsule.
If that doesn’t work out, a crew member could “camp out” in one of the space station’s modules, David Wiedmeyer, a training officer at Johnson Space Center, wrote Nov. 12 in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session about the mission.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration began its commercial crew program in 2010 to field a replacement for the shuttle. NASA selected SpaceX and Boeing Co. in September 2014. Boeing, which suffered delays in its work following a botched December 2019 test flight, plans a second trial without crew in the first quarter of next year.
SpaceX completed its test-flight program Aug. 2 when astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned from a two-month stay aboard the station.
Since then, the company has bolstered parts of the Dragon’s heat shield, made adjustments so that the landing parachutes deploy at a slightly higher altitude and reinforced some areas of the capsule so it can withstand rougher seas.
Three months ago, when Behnken and Hurley splashed down south of Pensacola, Florida, recreational boaters approached the spacecraft. When the crew of the latest mission returns in the spring of 2021, NASA has already announced one major change for the landing site: A larger flotilla of Coast Guard ships to keep pleasure craft away.
NOAA scientists discover new species of gelatinous animal near Puerto Rico – CTV News
Scientists have discovered a new species of ctenophore, or comb jelly, near Puerto Rico.
The newly named Duobrachium sparksae was discovered two and a half miles below sea level by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries research team. It was found during an underwater expedition using a remotely operated vehicle in 2015 and filmed by a high-definition camera.
NOAA Fisheries scientists Mike Ford and Allen Collins spotted the ctenophore and recognized it as a new species. This is the first time NOAA scientists have identified a new species using only high-definition video, according to NOAA.
“The cameras on the Deep Discoverer robot are able to get high-resolution images and measure structures less than a millimeter. We don’t have the same microscopes as we would in a lab, but the video can give us enough information to understand the morphology in detail, such as the location of their reproductive parts and other aspects,” Collins said.
The scientists also said there was another unique quality to the discovery. During the expedition, they were not able to gather any samples, so the video evidence is all they have.
“Naming of organisms is guided by international code, but some changes have allowed descriptions of new species based on video — certainly when species are rare and when collection is impossible,” Ford said. “When we made these observations, we were 4,000 metres down, using a remote vehicle, and we did not have the capabilities to take a sample.”
There are between 100 and 150 species of comb jellies, and despite their name, they are not related to jellyfish at all, according to the NOAA. The species is carnivorous, and many are highly efficient predators that eat small arthropods and many kinds of larvae.
The researchers said that there did not initially get a long look at the animal, so there is still a lot about this new species that they do not know yet. Their findings were recently published in the journal Plankton and Benthos Research.
“We’re not sure of their role in the ecosystem yet,” Ford said.
“We can consider that it serves similar roles to other ctenophores near the ocean floor and it also has some similarities to other ctenophores in open ocean areas,” he said.
The videos are now part of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Collection and publicly accessible.
You might want to stay up late: lunar eclipse to coincide with November’s Beaver full moon early Monday morning – Toronto Star
A special celestial event is set to grace Toronto skies early Monday morning.
The November full moon, which is traditionally called the Beaver moon, will coincide with a penumbral lunar eclipse.
This kind of eclipse event happens when the moon crosses Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra, giving it a reddish brown hue.
Those in Toronto will be able to observe the phenomenon starting 2:29 a.m. ET. The eclipse will be at its peak at 4:42 a.m. ET.
Environment Canada predicts partly cloudy skies at that time, but stargazing enthusiasts may be able to get a glimpse of the moon.
Although the Canadian Space Agency notes lunar eclipses are usually among the most observable because you can see them — quite safely — with the naked eye, with the more subtle penumbral eclipse they recommend using binoculars or a small telescope for the best viewing experience.
Fourth and last lunar eclipse of 2020 to occur on Monday – Geo News
The fourth and last lunar eclipse of 2020, a penumbral eclipse, will occur on November 30 (Monday).
According to Prof Dr Javed Iqbal, of the Institute of Space and Planetary Astrophysics (ISPA), University of Karachi, the eclipse will take place at 12:32pm according to Pakistan Standard Time.
The lunar eclipse will be seen in South and North America, Australia and Asian countries and will not be seen anywhere in Pakistan.
It will reach its peak at 2:42pm, Dr Iqbal said, adding that the shadow of the eclipse will be removed from the moon at 4:53pm.
The total duration of the eclipse will last 4 hours and 21 minutes, Dr Iqbal said.
The last three lunar eclipses occurred on January 10, June 5, and July 4.
A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Earth blocks some of the sun’s light from directly reaching the moon’s surface. All or part of the moon is covered with the outer part of its shadow, also known as the penumbra.
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