Monthly Archives: September 2013

Luca and company

After the successful launch of Soyuz 36S at 20:58 GMT, the new expedition crew arrived after a short voyage at 2:48 GMT. The new and old crew had a warm welcome at 4:34 GMT and finished activities in the morning at around 6:00 GMT before going to bed for a long 11-hour rest. The closeout activities include configuring the Soyuz spacecraft after arrival. Many things need to be done such as leak-checks to ensure the vehicle is tightly connected to the International Space Station. The spaceship is powered down and awaits its return flight in six months. The complete crew of six begin their joint daily activities Friday morning and return to...

Luca’s weekend – and ours

After the successful launch of Cygnus last week we were expecting the spaceship to arrive on Sunday. The weekend plans were uploaded and all teams and activities involved with the capture of the space vehicle were ready to go. Control centres check the final approach several times that all systems are ready as  there is no room for errors. A space ship weighing several tons approaching the International Space Station has to operate perfectly so that there is no risk for collision. Both the Space Station and Cygnus use data that is provided by navigation satellites, similar the ones we use in car navigation. The control centres monitor and control those systems...

Awaiting the next resupply ship

Volare mission director Roland Luettgens sends an update on the next spacecraft to visit the International Space Station: The crew on the International Space Station is getting ready for receiving another visiting vehicle at the end of this week. After a few weeks of busy vehicle traffic, the crew has been reduced to three instead of six. The next expedition crew members, Oleg Kotov, Sergei Ryazanskiy and Mike Hopkins  are still on ground and getting ready to fly to the Space Station on 25 September. They are called Expedition 38 and will be Luca’s crewmates until he returns in November. Until then a lot is happening on Station and at the Control...

Departures and arrivals

The noun ‘station’, contrary to the verb, brings to mind images of movement: the coming and going of travellers, vehicles, goods. On the International Space Station in recent weeks we have had a demonstration of the possibilities offered by our extraordinary orbital spaceship which has been my home now for little over three months. The first departing spacecraft was Kounotori4, the Japanese White Stork that kept us company for several weeks, increasing and enriching Node 2’s volume with its presence. The cargo ship has returned to Earth’s atmosphere, disintegrating in a shower of blue plasma. I was the one to send the command that started the reentry manoeuvre: I followed the cargo...

@Astro_Luca and the space robots

As I prepare to run a new experiment on the Space Station I cannot not help but think, once again, of the movie Star Wars. In one famous scene the young Luke Skywalker is trained to use his powers with a small, cute droid. As it floats in front of him the droid forces Luke to react quickly with his lightsaber to avoid being hit by laser fire. The same scene must have impressed a professor at the MIT in Boston, USA, as he asked his students to develop the same little robot. Today I am going to work with two of these three droids we have on the Space Station as...

Luca to robot: do you copy?

Hundreds of kilometres below his floating feet, a robot on Earth obeyed Luca’s commands from space. It was the first time the European astronaut remotely operated NASA’s K10 planetary rover, a little four-wheel steer robot that scouted a rocky, lunar-like terrain in the US. Luca and the robot teamed up for a teleoperation of a planetary rover from the International Space Station. The first test took place in June, when his crewmate Chris Cassidy drove K10 in the Roverscape, an outdoor field at NASA Ames Research Center in California, USA. “The idea is that one day, on a different planet, we might use a robot just like K10 to deploy equipment on...

Fear and other demons

One of the questions I am often asked is: “Are you astronauts ever afraid?” It is a question that always surprises me and I find it difficult to answer the question in just a few words. The temptation to answer simply “no” is great, everyone would breathe a sigh of relief and go on knowing that there are out of the ordinary men and women in the world who work without fear: astronauts. But super humans do not exist – and it is better this way. My humble opinion is that only fools say they are never afraid – and they are lying when they say it. Fear is a series of sensations,...