With the landing of the shuttle Atlantis in July, 2011, the United States officially retired its manned space program. It has surrendered its leadership in space, paying the exorbitant price of $52 million per ticket for American astronauts to fly aboard Russian ships to the International Space Station. In effect, Russia has total control of access to the International Space Station. In addition, many individuals interested in the space program are irate over President Obama’s cancellation of the Constellation program which would have carried the US even further into space. (More on that tomorrow.)
In an interview with CBS Astronaut John Glenn said, “We’ll actually have to go over and have our people go up on Soyuz out of Kazakhstan with Russian launch vehicles – which I don’t like. I don’t think that’s very seemly for the world greatest space faring nation as President Kennedy termed us.”
A space.com article states, “the August 24, 2011 crash of a robotic Russian cargo spacecraft highlights the United States’ need to develop new spaceships of its own, and quickly.” The loss of the unmanned Progress 44 supply vehicle was the latest in a series of Russian launch failures over the last 10 months. NASA is encouraging American private companies to take over this orbital taxi service. But that’s not in the near future. For now, the US must insure that the expensive ride we’re hopping into space is a safe one.
UPDATE: Due to safety concerns over transporting the astronauts following the recent crash of the Progress 44, the International Space Station may be abandoned until safer arrangements can be arranged. While the ISS can operate unmanned, repairs must be carried out by the astronauts. More later. RB
Tomorrow, The Future of US Space Flight Rita Bay
The Space Shuttle program was developed by NASA to provide reusable space vehicles capable of going into low Earth orbit, docking with the International Space Station, and returning to Earth. The development of the Space Transportation System (the Shuttle’s official name) was critical to the building of the Space Station. Program development started in the late 1960s. The program operated from the April, 1981 launch of the Columbia until July, 2011 with the landing of the Atlantis.
The Space Shuttle orbiter launched vertically with a crew of four to seven and a payload of up to 50,000 pounds. Its missions involved carrying large payloads to various orbits (including segments to be added to the International Space Station), provided crew rotation for the International Space Station, and performing service missions. When its mission was complete, the shuttle re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. During descent and landing the orbiter acted as a re-entry vehicle and a glider. The five vehicles—Columbia, Challenger, Endeavour, Atlantis, and Discovery—flew a total of 135 flights. Each vehicle was designed for 100 launches—a 10-year operational life. More later.
Tomorrow, The Challenger Disaster Rita Bay
Exercising on ISS
Space Does a Body Good? Not really. In low gravity muscles and bones atrophy from lack of use. When the astronauts return to Earth, the muscle and bone loss can be dangerous. They can develop a condition similar to osteoporosis, a disease that results in a significant amount of bone loss. Other potential problems include fluid redistribution, a slowing of the cardiovascular system, decreased production of red blood cells, balance disorders, and a weakening of the immune system. Lesser symptoms include loss of body mass, nasal congestion, sleep disturbance, excess flatulence, and puffiness of the face. The effects, however, reverse quickly when the astronauts return to Earth.
Exercising on ISS
Regular exercise is critical to the health of the astronauts because it counteracts the effects of living for long periods of time in low gravity. Astronauts on the International Space Station exercise on stationary bikes and treadmills, and a device that allows weigh lifting.
Tomorrow, The US Space Shuttle Fleet Rita Bay
Sleeping on the ISS
Although the International Space Station (ISS) is an exotic environment, it is the astronauts’ home for months at a time. They must still eat, sleep, work, and exercise just as they would on Earth. The ISS was designed to make life as comfortable as possible for the astronauts within the space constraints of about two football fields. The atmosphere is bright and spacious. The temperature is maintained at a cool 70 degrees.
Eating on the ISS
Each crew member has a private area where they sleep about 8.5 hours daily anchored down in their bed so they won’t float away. The weightless environment makes personal hygiene difficult. Astronauts use a freshwater hose to take showers, shampoo, and rinse off—then a second vacuum hose to suction off the dirty water. A modified toilet uses flowing air instead of water to dispose of waste. Astronauts wear regular clothing on the ISS. The space station is equipped with microwave ovens and refrigerators that allow astronauts to eat regular foods.
Tomorrow, Space Does a Body Good? Rita Bay
The International Space Station (ISS) is the most expensive construction project ever built. The ISS is composed of joined modules about the size of two football fields which were assembled in space. Sixteen countries from around the world are collaborating on the International Space Station, led by the United States and Russia. These international partners include: United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and European Space Agency—Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Each country contributes its’ unique expertise—from research labs to construction equipment—to the ISS. When new modules are launched into orbit and docked with the space station, the astronauts and cosmonauts add them to the existing structure in space.
The first full-time crew moved into the space station in 2000. The first piece of the space station, the Zarya—the Russian control module, was launched into orbit in 1998. It was followed the U.S. module, Unity. The Russian modules were launched and docked robotically. Other modules were delivered by the American space shuttle. By 2011, the astronauts added over 150 components during dozens of spacewalks taking more than 1,000 hours of work in space. As of 2011, the station contained 15 pressurized modules and the Integrated Truss Structure. Assembly should be completed by 2012 with the addition of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module Nauka and some external components, including the European Robotic Arm.
Tomorrow, Living & Working on the International Space Station Rita Bay
A space station was originally envisioned as a structure in space that would act as a launching site for further human missions to the moon or Mars. The United States, after the successful Apollo missions to the moon, committed to establishing a piloted space laboratory orbiting the Earth. That space laboratory, Skylab, was manufactured on Earth and launched into orbit by Saturn rockets. Skylab was 58 feet long by 22 feet wide and weighed 169,950 pounds. Skylab 1 was launched in 1973, but was damaged during the flight, losing one of its solar panels and a meteoroid thermal shield which were later repaired by human-crewed missions repaired the station. The mission ended in 1974 but Skylab remained in orbit another five years before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean and Western Australia in 1979.
In 1971 the Soviets launched Salyut 1, the world’s first space station which was followed in 1973 by the United States’ Skylab. In 1986, the Soviets put the Mir Space Station in orbit which was the most successful space station until it was abandoned and burned up in the atmosphere in 2001.
International Space Station
The International Space Station resulted from a cooperative effort of 16 countries with the US and Russia contributing most of the technology. The first two parts of the International Space Station were launched in 1998. The satellite orbits more than 250 miles above the earth. International crews have been living there since 2000. The first crew consisted of one American and two Russian astronauts. International crews live aboard the satellite for months at a time performing various experiments and maintaining the facility. More on all of this later.
Tomorrow, Building the International Space Station Rita Bay