NASA has been busy making changes since the end if the Space Shuttle program. With the redesign of the space suit, the space agency has invited the public to make the final decisions on the final product. There are three possible Z-2 designs to choose from and voters have until April 15 to go online to make their opinion heard. While many are excited to have the chance to participate, there is a lot of talk that the design ideas are reminiscent of 1950’s fan fiction theater costumes. They are a far cry from the stylish Gravity suits from the award-winning movie. The NASA suits are designed for better movement and travel to the (International Space Station) ISS.
The European Space Agency is a buzz as Germany’s own Alexander Gerst prepares to take his spot on the International Space Station in May. Gerst will serve as flight engineer for Expeditions 40 and 41. He will join the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six month comprehensive research program. Gerst joined the European Space Agency in May 2009 graduating from training in 2010 and was named for the Expeditions mission in 2011. Currently training in the US at NASA in Houston, Gerst will leave for Russia to finish up final training runs before his team loads up for the Kazakhstan launch. He will launch with crew mates Reid Wiseman and Maxim Surayev for the journey to the ISS.
The most recent launch took place this week from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Tuesday afternoon US time. Expedition 39 and it’s three new crew members joined the ISS safely after they missed the first docking window. The trip to orbit only took about nine minutes and was expected to connect with the ISS six hours later, but ended up making it a two-day trip when they missed their first docking opportunity. Astronauts already on the International Space Station took spectacular pictures of the Soyuz engines at lift off as the flares from the engines lit up the entire complex, being fully visible from space.
What many enthusiasts are calling the most exciting recent NASA news, apart from travel to ISS, is that scientists have discovered a ringed asteroid, much like Saturn. It is the first of its kind and researcher Felpi Braga-Ribas was just as surprised as anyone at the news. He told CNN, “we weren’t looking for a ring and didn’t think small bodies like these had them at all.” The asteroid, named Chariklo, joins Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus as the only known objects in the solar system to have their own ring system. The two rings surrounding Chariklo have been named Oiapoque and Chui. They measure 4.3 miles and 1.9 miles respectively with a 5.6 mile gap between the two rings. The rings are thought to be formed by a cosmic collision with an unknown body creating a huge cloud of ice and dust that became trapped within the asteroid’s own orbit.
Finally, researchers discovered an object orbiting the sun. 2012 VP113, or Biden for short, is suspected to be a dwarf planet and the furthest object in our visible solar system. The planet, located in the inner part of the suspected Oort cloud, is around one light-year away from the sun. The news from NASA and travel to the ISS is ever-changing, keeping enthusiasts returning weekly for the latest information. With the ending of an era in space shuttle missions, a new one always begins. The consensus is that the future is looking bright for space exploration.
By Kimberly Beller