Tag Archives: International Space Station

NASA astronaut: Space toilet inspires ‘sheer terror’

Forget motion sickness and adjusting to microgravity. Astronaut Jack Fischer is most worried about facing the space station’s intimidating bathroom facilities.

On Thursday, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer is scheduled to embark on his first voyage to the International Space Station. He’s excited to be working on a variety of experiments, including ones dealing with plant growth and bone growth, but he’s less than thrilled about the prospect of using the loo in microgravity.

In a NASA Q&A, Fischer reveals what he expects his greatest challenge will be. He says it’s the toilet. “It’s all about suction, it’s really difficult, and I’m a bit terrified,” Fischer says.

In case you think Fischer is exaggerating his toilet trepidation, here’s NASA description of how the commode functions: “The toilet basically works like a vacuum cleaner with fans that suck air and waste into the commode.” It also requires the use of leg restraints.

“Unlike most things, you just can’t train for that on the ground,” Fischer says, “so I approach my space-toilet activities with respect, preparation and a healthy dose of sheer terror.”


Bounce House For The Astronauts!

Applied Technology Institute offers a variety of course on Space, Satellite & Aerospace Engineering.

When Elon Musk’s SpaceX Dragon cargo ship lifts off from Cape Canaveral on April 8, there’ll be a little treat for the astronauts on the International Space Station nestled among all the supplies and consumables: a whole new room for the ISS! How’d NASA fit an entire room onto a space craft with only as much cargo room as a small U-Haul? The same way you squeeze a camping mattress into the trunk of your car: make it inflatable.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is about 8 feet in diameter in its compacted state. Once it reaches the ISS and is attached to the wing known as the Tranquility Node, it’ll be filled with air until the aluminum-and-fabric structure swells to 565 cubic feet. It will then spend the next two years attached to the ISS, before being jettisoned and left to burn up in the atmosphere. As NASA says it has no plans to store equipment inside the module, astronauts will presumably use it as a tiny, zero-g bounce house.

BEAM, which was developed in conjunction with Bigelow Aerospace, isn’t going into orbit simply so the astronauts can have a place to let loose their inner child. The module’s main purpose is to serve as a test bed for inflatable space habitats. Astronauts will measure how much radiation is entering the chamber, how much heat is leaking out, and how well it holds air, among other factors.

If the BEAM proves successful at holding its shape and deflecting nasty radiation and micrometeoroids, the basic concept could be a huge breakthrough for future deep-space missions. As anyone who’s read “The Martian” knows, inflatable habitats would be ideal for the lunar or Martian surface; they could be transported and air-dropped in compact form, then blown up to create living space.

NASA has released a quick video showing the basics of how the BEAM will be installed. Don’t worry about pausing that playlist for it, though; there’s no sound. In space, no one can hear you inflate your bounce house.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

In Space, Yesterday’s Coffee is Today’s Coffee

Do you still wish you could be an astronaut after watching the lung-flattening launches and bone-crunching landings? Has the eyeball-oscillating gimbal failed to dampen your spirits? What if we told you that coffee, the most precious of nectars essential for civilized behavior, will be brewed from your own pee?

When every gram lifted into orbit costs a fortune, “Reduce, reuse, and recycle” becomes more than just a trite saying. That covers everything, up to and including purifying liquid waste (ie, urine) into a more palatable beverage.

Or, to put it more bluntly: yesterday’s coffee is today’s coffee. Suddenly that coffee spot with the greatest view imaginable is looking a bit less appealing, even if the mechanics of making it happen is impressive engineering.

But recycling pee into water in space isn’t as easy as it is here on Earth. When the original Urine Processor Assembly went to the space station, it developed a “pee pancake,” a precipitate of that clogged up the system. The system needed to be modified to filter additional calcium ions: all that bone loss in microgravity resulted in astronauts peeing out double the normal concentration of calcium ions!

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter


Suntory is possibly best known to moviegoers as the client that brought “Bob Harris” to Japan to film a commercial, in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 gem Lost in Translation. It’s Japan’s oldest whisky distillery, and if that makes you think that it is in any way dusty or not keeping up with the current trends in whiskeyology, note that just last year its Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 secured the award for “Best Whisky in the World.”

Not only that, Suntory recently announced that it intends to send some of its delightful spirits to age in outer space. They suspect that the zero-gravity environment may result in nothing less than the smoothest whiskey ever produced.

Suntory will be sending six varieties of whiskey, aged for 10, 18, and 21 years, along with recently distilled beverages, to outer space as part of an experiment. Their theory is that the weightlessness of space will result in a smoother aged whiskey than is possible to attain on Earth. Employees at JAXA’s Tsukuba City Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture recently prepared glass flasks that will be used to transport the spirits when Konotori Vehicle 5 (HTV-5) launches from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on August 16.

The whiskey samples will be left on the International Space Station for an unspecified number of years before being brought home to be inspected. Unfortunately for drink connoisseurs, Suntory has already stated that they have no plans to sell space whiskey as a product to the general public.

Take that, Wild Turkey!

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

Name NASA New Free-Flying Robot and Win $1,000!

Applied Technology Institute (ATICourses) offers a variety of courses on Space, Satellite & Aerospace Engineering. We think the news below will be of interest to our readers.

NASA has a new “free-flying robot” they’ll be sending up to help out the International Space Station crew in 2017. But let’s be honest: “free-flying robot” is kind of a mouthful. That’s why the space agency wants help creating a name for the little guy, as well as a new mission patch design!

Of course, this robot isn’t the first free-flyer to hop aboard the ISS—NASA has a whole fleet of “SPHERES” (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, a clever acronym that would make Marvel jealous) which assist the crew in a myriad of ways. All of them are able to move autonomously throughout the outpost, but can also be controlled remotely by crew members; the new fleet, according to Topcoder, “will eventually extend the research and exploration capabilities of astronauts, as they are capable of working during off-hours and (eventually) in extreme environments.””

The full guidelines for the contest can be found at Topcoder, but here’s the main gist: to enter the contest, all you have to do is sign up and then create a name and custom graphic for the mission patch, which also needs to have the name of the space mission on it somewhere. Preliminary feedback on the initial designs will be given out on October 22nd, and the contest ends on the 27th. Oh, and there’s also cash prizes for winning, in case the thought of naming a robot wasn’t a cool enough draw for you. So start designing, team!

To participate in the challenge and learn more about it, go to http://www.topcoder.com/challenge-details/30046039/?type=design&noncache=true.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

Space Taxis by 2017-Compliments of Boeing & SpaceX

Applied Technology Institute (ATICorses) offers a variety of courses on Space, Satellite & Aerospace Engineering. We think the news below would be of interest to our readers.

NASA has selected Boeing and SpaceX to resume U.S. human spaceflight. The two companies are newly contracted to become NASA’s space taxis, flying American astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and eventually ending the county’s reliance on Russia for transport.

Since the shuttle program was retired [in 2011], NASA crew members have been hitching rides on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, at a cost of $70 million per seat.  The agency typically purchases six seats per year.

NASA’s partnership with the companies is part of the Commercial Crew Program. The program is intended to help private companies develop spacecraft to carry astronauts into low Earth orbit by 2017.

Once built, the seven passenger shuttle capsules will be owned by the private companies, not NASA.

Both companies will design crafts and undergo safety testing before manned flights are booked. Once certified, each company will launched an estimated two to six missions.

Boeing is set to build three of its CST-100 — seven passenger — crafts at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Space X will build its first passenger craft, since its existing SpaceX Dragon delivers only cargo to the space station currently. Space X Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft for cargo in 2012.

The contracts with NASA are worth $6.8 billion. Boeing has the larger share with $4.2 billion, and Space X receives $2.6 billion.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

UKRAINE CRISIS: There is At Least One Place the U.S. and Russia Are Still Getting Along. It’s Not on Earth

Expedition 38 crew members proudly sport their national flags in this March 2014 picture from the International Space Station. Pictured (clockwise from top center) are Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, commander; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins, and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, all flight engineers. Credit: NASA Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/110010/budget-2015-ukraine-crisis-not-disrupting-russian-soyuz-flights-nasa-admin-says/#ixzz2vCxFYTDY

International Space Station (ISS)  is jointly operated by the U.S., Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan. Currently, there are three Russians, two Americans, and one Japanese astronaut on board the station currently orbiting earth. Roughly 250 miles below, however, the relationship between the two superpowers is a good deal different, with Vladimir Putin refusing to rule out using military force in Ukraine and the Obama administration accusing the Russians of creating a “pretext to invade.”

The ever-increasing tension between the United States and Russia does not, according to NASA, extend to outer space, via the Washington Post:

“Everything is nominal right now with our relationship with the Russians,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden during a teleconference Tuesday. With the space shuttle retired, the U.S. relies on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to get to and from the space station. Russia charges about $71 million per seat. There is no other way for American astronauts to get back to Earth.

Tuesday’s teleconference was set up to allow Bolden to discuss the White House’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request, but he wound up fielding numerous inquiries from reporters about whether the Ukraine crisis has affected NASA’s strategic planning. No, Bolden said repeatedly. He noted that past flare-ups between the U.S. and Russia have not affected operations in space. “We have weathered the storm through lots of contingencies here,” Bolden said.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

How will Japanese robot provide emotional support to the astronauts?

The world’s first robot astronaut is pining for a conversation partner as he waits for Japanese spaceman Koichi Wakata aboard the International Space Station.

“Mr. Wakata, are you not here yet? I really want to see you soon,” the pint-sized android said in a message released by its project team in Japan Wednesday.

The wide-eyed and bootie-wearing “Kirobo” — roughly the size of a chihuahua — left Earth on a cargo-carrying rocket and reached the space station on August 10.

Wakata along with Mikhail Tyurin of Russia and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio will be aboard the Soyuz-FG rocket which set off from Kazakhstan at 0414 GMT on Thursday for a six-hour journey to the ISS.

Kirobo, which stands just 13.4 inches tall and weighs about 2.2 pounds, is programmed to communicate in Japanese and keep records of its conversations with Wakata, the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS.

The robot is part of a study aimed at seeing how a non-human companion can provide emotional support for people isolated over long periods.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

The New Age 3D Printer To Be Sent To International Space Station By NASA

It is no secret that 3D printers are the new fab. Everybody is interested in them. As a matter of fact, one of our friends has recently purchased one and gave us a demonstration. We were floored!

3D printing is a process of melting plastic filament and creating solid objects by building them up in very thin layers.

The technology is used in a wide range of industries from construction to aerospace, and is now starting to make its way into space.

It is well known that NASA wants to take 3D printers into space. The technology would be highly useful to the men and women on the International Space Station as they would be able to quickly repair components with plastic replacements. There is a problem though – how do you 3D print something in a zero gravity environment?

In a video released by NASA, the agency goes into how its experimenting with 3D printers here on earth to ensure that the technology will be able to function in zero gravity environments. Here’s what NASA has to say about its latest endeavor:The goal of 3-D printing is to take this capability to microgravity for use on the International Space Station. In space, whatever astronauts have available on orbit is what they have to use — but just like on Earth, parts break or get lost. When that happens, there’s a wait for replacement parts, or the need to have multiple spares that have to be launched. The ability to conduct 3-D printing in space could change all of that.

NASA plans to launch the first 3D printer into space in June of next year. It will hopefully be the first of many as the space agency plans to use 3D printers in a number of space missions over the next few years and decades. In fact, one of its most ambitious plans is to create a 3D printer that extrudes food to make pizzas for long manned space flights.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

Can You Control A Robot From Space? Yes, you can!

Applied Technology Institute (ATI Courses) offers a variety of short technical training courses on Space, Satellite & Aerospace Engineering.  The news below could be of interest to our readers.

An Italian astronaut drove a robot around a California parking lot Friday. He did so from space.

As part of a series of tests at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, astronaut Luca Parmitano controlled a K-10 rover from his perch at the International Space Station.

Parmitano, who was flying 400 kilometers above the robot, viewed its movements in real time and typed instructions into his space station laptop to direct the rover from one point to another in the Ames parking lot.

Telerobotics, the technology tested Friday, may allow astronauts in orbit to guide robots in real time on the surface on another planet.

Using telerobotics, astronauts could increase the speed at which rovers explore other planets. NASA astronauts currently must send a complex set of instructions to robots each morning, then wait for the rovers to execute them.

“This is a glimpse of the future of space exploration,” University of Colorado astronomer Jack Burns said during the test.

Read more here.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter