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NASA astronaut set to launch on Russian rocket as US transitions to private spacecraft

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A new crew of three astronauts are launching to the International Space Station late tonight, blasting off on a Russian Soyuz rocket out of Kazakhstan. The trio are heading to the station about a month ahead of SpaceX’s next crewed Dragon launch, which will bring another set of four astronauts aboard the ISS in mid-November.

Heading up on this Soyuz flight are two Russian cosmonauts — Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov — and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, on her second trip to space. The trio will join three crew members who have been living on the ISS since April: Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. However, their living arrangement won’t last long. Cassidy and his cosmonaut crew mates are slated to head back to Earth on October 21st, riding inside the Soyuz capsule that brought them to the space station.

Just a few weeks later, in early- to mid-November, Rubins and her team are set to welcome the four-member crew of SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon mission, called Crew-1. That flight will carry three NASA astronauts — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker — and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the ISS for a six-month stay. Their arrival on SpaceX’s new passenger vehicle will bring the total population of the ISS to seven — a larger cohort than usual for the ISS, which has typically held six-person crews since the end of the Space Shuttle program.

Rubins’ flight on the Soyuz comes amid a time of transition in NASA’s human spaceflight program. Since the last flight of the Space Shuttle in 2011, the only way NASA astronauts could get to the station was on Russia’s Soyuz rocket. But through NASA’s Commercial Crew

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This spacecraft is being readied for a one-way mission to deflect an asteroid

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In a clean room in Building 23 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, a spacecraft called DART was splayed open like a fractured, cubic egg. An instrument called a star tracker—which will, once DART is in deep space, ascertain which way is up—was mounted to the core, along with batteries and a variety of other sensors. The avionics system, DART’s central computer, was prominently attached to square, precision-machined panels that will form the sides, once the spacecraft is folded up. Wires ran from the computer to the radiosystem that DART will use to communicate with Earth. Gyroscopes and antennas were exposed. In a room next door, an experimental thruster system called NEXT-C was waiting its turn. Great bundles of thick tendrils wrapped in silver insulation hung down from the spacecraft and ran along the floor to the control room, where they connected to a towering battery of testbed computers operated by four engineers.

A clock over one of the computers read, “Days to DART Launch: 350:08:33.”

DART—the Double Asteroid Redirection Test—is designed to crash into an asteroid called Dimorphos. The impact will change Dimorphos’s speed by about one millimeter per second, or one five-hundredth of a mile per hour. Though Dimorphos is not about to collide with Earth, DART is intended to demonstrate the ability to deflect an asteroid like it that is headed our way, should one ever be discovered.

Since a Soviet probe called Luna 1 became the first spacecraft to escape Earth’s orbit on January 2, 1959, humanity has sent about 250 probes into the solar system. DART is unique among them. It is the first that sets out not to study the solar system, but to change it. 


By 1980, astronomers had determined the orbits of about 10,000 asteroids, including

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Former NASA astronaut who helped build new Boeing spacecraft won’t fly on first mission

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Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson says he no longer plans to command the first-ever crewed mission of the Boeing Starliner, the spacecraft he’s spent the last decade helping to build.



a man wearing sunglasses: Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson looks on during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. They will be part of the first crew to fly on the Starliner spacecraft some time next year.


© Terry Renna/AP
Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson looks on during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. They will be part of the first crew to fly on the Starliner spacecraft some time next year.

NASA and Boeing made the announcement Wednesday morning, saying Ferguson made the decision for “personal reasons.” Ferguson said in a follow-up tweet that he plans to prioritize his family, and he “made several commitments which I simply cannot risk missing.”

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He did not provide further details.

Ferguson, an engineer and veteran of three Space Shuttle missions, left the NASA astronaut corps in 2011 to help Boeing design and build a next-generation spacecraft that could take over the task of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

In 2018, Boeing announced Ferguson would command the Starliner’s first-ever crewed test flight, and he was expected to become the first-ever NASA astronaut to travel to space after retiring from NASA. He was also seen as the first corporate astronaut — his flight suit bares a Boeing logo where others have the NASA emblem.

The astronauts who traveled on SpaceX’s first-ever crewed mission in May, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, were both active members of the NASA astronaut corps, not SpaceX employee.

Ferguson was supposed to be the only Boeing employee onboard the Starliner test flight, and he was to be joined by two NASA astronauts inside the capsule on its maiden flight.

But now the flight will be all NASA astronauts.

NASA’s Barry “Butch” Wilmore, who’s served two prior stints on the International Space Station,

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Cargo Spacecraft Carrying New Toilet to ISS Finally Launches

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After several scrubbed attempts, a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket has taken off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, launching an uncrewed Cygnus cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The Cygnus spacecraft is carrying a total of 8,000 pounds of crew supplies and science experiments for the ISS.

The mission had been expected to originally launch on Tuesday, September 29, but this had to be pushed back due to unfavorable weather conditions. The new launch date was set for Thursday, October 1, and the rocket was fueled and ready to go but was then scrubbed again after an issue with ground support equipment. The launch was pushed back once more to late on Friday, October 2, and this time the launch went ahead as planned at 9:16 p.m. ET.

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launches to the International Space Station on Oct. 2, 2020, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia. The rocket is carrying a Cygnus spacecraft with 8,000 pounds of supplies and experiments.
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launches to the International Space Station on Oct. 2, 2020, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia. The rocket is carrying a Cygnus spacecraft with 8,000 pounds of supplies and experiments. NASA Wallops/Patrick Black

The Antares rocket made it safely into orbit and the Cygnus spacecraft deployed its solar array successfully. The craft is now traveling toward the space station, where it is expected to arrive at 5:20 a.m. ET on Monday, October 5. It will be captured using the station’s robotic arm, controlled by NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy, from where it will be installed onto the station’s Unity module.

Included on the Cygnus are a new crop of radishes to be grown in the microgravity of the space station in order to learn more about how plants grow in space and to provide more nutritious and fresh food for astronauts in the future, an investigation into drugs used to treat leukemia which could be made

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Here’s the first ‘selfie’ of China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft on its way to Mars

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tw1-crop

Tianwen-1 is en route to Mars, hoping to make China the third nation to successfully land on the red planet.


Chinese Lunar Exploration Program

This is our first look at China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft on the way to Mars. Against the black backdrop of the eternal void, but shining in the sun, Tianwen-1 has its solar panels The Martian exploration mission, which launched in July, is travelling away from the Earth and scheduled to reach the red planet in Feb. 2021 and make a controlled landing in May.

The image was released by the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) and the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China. In a blog post, the team write the probe is now nearly 15 million miles from the Earth and is “in good condition.” The post details how the golden orbiter and silver landing device are “shining brightly” and highlights China’s national flag, which can be seen on the bottom right corner of the probe. 

It also claims this is the first “deep space self-portrait” of a Chinese probe. It’s a selfie. Of a spacecraft. On the way to Mars.

2020 ain’t so bad, I guess.

The camera took a few pictures and then became space junk.


CNSA/CLEP

To snap the image, Tianwen-1 released a tiny, wide-angle camera. You can see it being hurled away from the spacecraft. As it departed it took an image every second and then relayed the images back to the spacecraft, which forwarded them back to Earth. The camera had a single mission and, until it reaches another planetary body, it’s doomed to drift aimlessly in space, adding

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