This Sunday (July 1, 2012), three members of the International Space Station crew will return to Earth on board a Kazakhstan-bound Soyuz craft, after over six months in orbit. Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers, two of the returning astronauts, and Joe Acaba, who arrived at the station in May, discuss life on board ISS, the visit of the Dragon capsule, and current activities in space.
FLORA LICHTMAN: Just another day at SCIENCE FRIDAY, calling space.
Station, this is National Public Radio. How do you hear me?
DON PETTIT: NPR, we hear you loud and clear.
LICHTMAN: Don Pettit, walk us through how you’ll get back to our planet this weekend.
PETTIT: We will get in our Soyuz spacecraft and under the command of Oleg Kononenko, and Andre Kuipers will be flight engineer one or board engineer one, and I’m board engineer two. And we work together to get this spacecraft back home, starting off with undocking.
We start off, we get inside, the close the hatch, we have to do a leak check, make sure the hatches don’t leak. And then we strap in and undock, and then we do a de-orbit burn. And then as we hit the atmosphere, the spacecraft separates so that only the descent module comes through the atmosphere in one piece.
And then our parachute comes out, and we go thump, roll, roll on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
Read, or listen, to the full interview – Astronauts Prepare For Departure
SpaceX successfully test fires SuperDraco, a powerful new engine that will play a critical role in efforts to change the future of human spaceflight.
These engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make Dragon the safest spacecraft in history and enable it to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy.
In a series of tests conducted at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, the SuperDraco sustained full duration, full thrust firing as well as a series of deep throttling demonstrations.
Learn more about SpaceX:
Recently, SpaceX “announced it has assembled a team of independent experts to help the company create a safe spacecraft for NASA astronauts.”
And, one of them, Edward Lu, is on Google+:
“I’m looking forward to peeking under the hood of the SpaceX Dragon, and helping them successfully launch humans into orbit!”
More on the company’s initiatives:
The company is already building its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and has a $1.6-billion contract to do just that for NASA.
SpaceX plans to send its unmanned Dragon capsule to dock with the International Space Station on April 30 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in a demonstration flight for NASA. If successful, SpaceX would be the first private company to accomplish the feat.
Now that the space shuttle is retired, SpaceX wants in on the potentially multibillion-dollar job of ferrying astronauts to and from the station. To do that, SpaceX needs to make sure its capsule — which is built to fit up to seven people — is safe.
The independent “safety advisory panel” is composed of leading human spaceflight safety experts:
- Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut, former International Space Station commander.
- G. Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA Ames Research Center, Stanford University professor of aeronautics and astronautics, sole NASA representative on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
- Dr. Richard T. Jennings, former chief of medicine for NASA Johnson Space Center, University of Texas Medical Branch professor at the Aerospace Medicine Center.
- Capt. Mark Kelly, former NASA astronaut, former Space Shuttle commander, retired Navy captain.
- Edward Lu, former NASA astronaut.
via LA Times
More about SpaceX, including their manifesto: “transparency, low prices, and worldwide dominance for the future of space travel.”
// Photos via SpaceX Updates