The latest edition of “This Week In Space” is now available! Give us a watch…
Hello and Welcome – I had a long interesting talk with the president of the Constellation Nation – ex officio – Mike Griffin. I asked him what he things about the success of Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 test launch – you may be surprised at his response – I also asked him about the latest skirmish in the war between old and new space. The full answer – and much more – coming up after we check the rest of the weeks space news.
Let’s get started with some fire and smoke – at the Baikonur Cosmodrome – that’s the site and sound of the 24th Space Station crew leaving earth behind for a long stint at the orbiting outpost. On board the Soyuz Capsule – Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock. Their arrival at the space station went well – the crew up there had an inkling they might be dropping by – so they dressed up in their fresh jumpsuits – and didn’t say they gave at the office their new station mates knocked on the door. The arrival of Shannon Walker marks a minor milestone in space for those of you who keep track of the stats. For the first time ever – two women are a part of the long duration crew at the same time. Right now there is no room at the ISS inn – 6 station keepers are up there…working in the coolest science lab anywhere.
Among the experiments on the schedule — A new way to take a look at the world’s shipping traffic. The ESA-sponsored experiment is using the ISS to track ships from space. All big ships are required to have on-board transponders, but the equipment really only works when the ship is close to shore.
The VHF radio signals that power the system have a horizontal range of just 40 nautical miles – so open ocean traffic is largely un-tracked. But, as it turns out, the vertical range of those radio waves is much greater…all the way up the space station. The experiment runs on remote control and will last for two years.
In the meantime, another NASA eye-in-the-sky is also keeping tabs on ships. The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites captured these views of what you might think of as ship “contrails.” It turns out the sulphur in a ship’s exhaust interacts with the water vapor over the ocean to form these bright streamers. They wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye, but MODIS can sniff them out.