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Hello and welcome – I am taking the week off – doing some diving with my 17 year old son in the Cayman Islands…would love to be with you – but this one trumps TWIS hands down…So while I am diving – the shuttle Discovery has been getting ready to go in the other direction.
Don’t forget to join us for the launch – we are the best place to watch it all unfold. Our coverage on Spaceflight Now begins at 2am Eastern – 0600 GMT. Ouch. Hey with four launches left – I promise not to complain…
The Mars Rover Spirit missed a communications session with with ground controllers this week, which likely means it has gone into hibernation mode as winter descends on Mars’ southern hemisphere. Spirit’s operators knew this was coming. The rover has been stuck in a sand it for nearly a year – without a tow truck in sight… In January, with winter coming, mission managers gave up trying to drive to concentrate on better positioning the rover so that its solar panels would be more optimally tilted toward the sun. Unfortunately, that didn’t work very well. The best guess as to what has happened is that Spirit’s batteries have drained and there is not enough sunlight hitting the solar panels to recharge them. Will the rover survive the long cold winter and wake up six months from now to resume it’s science mission? We’ll keep you posted.
A Soyuz rocket carrying members of the Expedition 23 crew to the International Space Station has blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazhakstan. Before making their way to the launchpad, Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kominenko, and Tracy Caldwell Dyson ran the gauntlet of Russian pre-launch rituals, which include watching a movie called “White Sun of the Desert” the night before launch, sipping a glass of champagne, signing a door at the Cosmonaut Hotel, getting blessed by a Russian Orthodox priest, and taking a ceremonial leak on the tire of one of the crew buses – women can take a pass on that last one if they want, which was probably a relief to Tracy Caldwell Dyson. She also may have started a new tradition – singing to her spouse before launch.
Once they arrive at the ISS, the new crew members will only have a few days to settle in before house guests arrive aboard the shuttle Discovery.