Archive for the ‘American-Russian space missions’ Tag

Space Junk   Leave a comment


Credit: NASA

Maybe you read The New York Time’s July 16, 2015 article regarding a fragment of a Russian weather satellite passing near ISS caused one astronaut and two cosmonauts to enter a Soyuz capsule until the all clear was issued.  It wasn’t the first time something like this happened, nor will it be the last.

Take a look at the above picture.  That’s a graphic representation of all of the flotsam and jetsam from the entire planet’s space industries. First, blame it on the United States and Russia. Then, blame it on any nation that dared test the limits of gravity.  Pretty soon, anything as minuscule as a paint fleck to a section of a satellite remained at various levels of orbit, zooming around at 175,000 mph/281,640 km/h.  Occasionally bits fall to earth, succumbing to gravity and burning up harmlessly as they enter the atmosphere.

NASA and the Department of Defense keep an excellent log of anything larger than a softball and if any debris comes close enough to the ISS, both Houston and Moscow work together to plan a strategy to keep the inhabitants safe.  If a threat is deemed plausible, all are instructed to go into the ISS’s lifeboats – the Soyuz capsules – in case a quick getaway is necessary.

But this poses a larger problem: what’s being done to clean up the mess?  Simply ask this question to Google and you’ll get numerous responses on various sites. has an article listing 7 Wild Ways.   Popular Mechanics has its own solutions.   Here’s what Mental Floss has to say.

The truth is, nothing’s being done…yet.  Sure, the idea’s been kicked around, maybe even a few plans surfaced.  It seems getting there and back takes priority over all the mess it takes to accomplish our goals.  It’s a junkyard, for sure, and like the neighbor who refuses to let go of all the cars (and their subsequent parts) owned over the past 30 years, it’s unsightly, only getting worse, and isn’t going away.

Of course, there’s been a multitude of sci-fi inspiration drawn from this.  Take, for example, the recent movie “Gravity,” wherein Sandra Bullock’s character Ryan Stone finds herself floating in space untethered thanks to a run-in with remains.  David Brin’s novel, “Existence” tells the story of an alien artifact tucked among the pieces of debris.

Sadly, this is a commentary on how the inhabitants of this planet choose to deal with exploration and conquering the impossible.  Mt. Everest is defiled by the remains of extreme tourism.  Roman ruins scattered about their former empire faced years of abuse from casual visitors seeking an up-close inspection.

SpaceX, to its credit, is developing multistage rockets that return to earth to be used in future missions.  It’s facing challenges with no successes yet, but it’s not giving up and it’s getting closer with each try.  They do seem to be one exception, though.

Until we learn that exploration often results in exploitation and near-irreversable damage, perhaps any further missions might benefit from following SpaceX’s lead.  If not, there won’t be any room up there to put a satellite nor will be be safe to remain in any space station.


Wanted: A Planet to Call Home   2 comments


Credit: NASA

Clearly, we’ve grown bored with the Earth.  It’s that lover one always strives to please, yet somehow no matter what one does, it’s never right.  In the end, one gives up and goes elsewhere to find love and acceptance.  Its inhabitants have, in equal parts, loved and abused it, ignored its warnings and acted surprised when it fought back.  In the end, we all know it’ll get its way and beat us, but no one who borrows time trodding on its grassy plains and thick muddy fields ever thinks about that prospect.

Instead, our eyes shift upward, looking elsewhere for a better situation and a second chance.

Ever since the discovery of exoplanets, or those outside of our own solar system, space explorers have been determining which of those planets will host life and, optimistically, life that we can identify, and, how we’re going to to meet up one day.  Average citizens, whose off-world opportunities are rather limited, have to rely on imagination and conjecture to supply possibilities.  After all, those alien spaceships have to come from somewhere, right?  They can’t all be bad.  Those Antarians from the movie “Cocoon” did benefit the forgotten population of greying Floridians, even supplying a ride back to Antarea to seniors deserving of a new life.

Closer to home, it’s simpler to take advantage of our backyard planets and subsequent moons.  Once humans figured out what planets actually were, they’ve also contemplated living upon them.

Take, for instance, the moon.  Relatively ancient technology got us there and back for a short visit way back when.  Nowadays, it’s entirely feasible to build a craft to ship us there en masse to create a colony there, given its relative nearness.  We already know there’s a supply of water and rare earth elements just hankering to be mined.  Nearly every genre of science is hankering to conduct experiments there, driven by desire, curiosity and the uniqueness of the lunar environment.  Americans, Russians, as well as private interests all have plans in the works to get up there by the 2020s and make a homestead claim.

Humans attach great meaning to the color red.  Anger, temptation, danger and naughtiness are all meanings associated with it – just about everything we’re not supposed to have and desperately crave.  I’m assuming that’s the subliminal reason why Mars is so magnetic.  After all, this red planet practically begs someone to come hither.  Probes coyly hint at the richness of Mars’ treasures.  Water’s there, too, although not behaving the way we’d like it to be, adding more to its mystique.  And like a forbidden love, the more determined we are to have it, the more money it costs to secure it.  I’ve no doubt there’ll be a batch of humans trying to tame the Wild Red Planet’s surface, but it’ll come at a price, no one will be happy, but we’ll be never be satisfied until we at least have a first date.  Then we’ll see.

Until then, I’m going to bide my time and see what openings Virgin Galactic has in the near future.  I might want to book a ride.

Shortsighting the Future   Leave a comment



Recently I made a post about diplomacy in space, wherein American astronauts and Russian Cosmonauts worked together through the years, regardless of events that transpired between Washington and Moscow.  It seemed like a good thing.  Offering scientists to work together peacefully as they cooperatively build such innovations as the International Space Station is unprecedented, if you think about it.  And I say unprecedented because despite all the fireworks between our two nations, our shared space mission has continued throughout a number of years.   The only explosions have come from transports launching space shuttles heavenward.

That’s coming to a close now.  Thanks to whatever’s coming down in the Crimea crisis, pretty much all cooperative efforts between Russia and the United States is ending, or, more specifically, between NASA and Moscow.  There’s a point to be had, for sure, as in there’s a right way to approach a situation (through diplomacy) and a wrong way (through invasion, or threats thereof).  Does the United States really want to have representatives from Russia’s space initiatives mingling with its American counterparts?  On one hand, they are there for the science.  On the other, their intentions might lie elsewhere.

Still, we’ve come this far, and if there’s mutual trust built between everyone who’s shared the same common goal, then what’s to quibble about?  It’s my belief that by cutting short all cooperation, we are only stopping ourselves from achieving greater things.  I mean, who has all the lock on innovation anyway?  Isn’t it possible for everyone to work together?  Or, at least, leave the scientists to be scientists and the politicians to be, well, politicians.

Think of not only what could come of the United States and Russia’s shared goals, but other nations as well.  Already, we have the ISS with any number of crew members achieving the impossible in space.  There’s all sorts of people participating in all sorts of experiments, so that those of us stuck here on earth might find some benefit to their discoveries sooner or later.

And although the US and Russia have the longest tradition, other nations are catching up to both of us.  Take, for example, India.  They’ve got some of the world’s best engineers that are trained and paid at a fraction of the cost as their Russian and American counterparts.  What’s to stop them from overtaking us and them?  China’s going full tilt ahead, as is Brazil.  There’s many more in the wings in Europe and elsewhere.  Pretty soon, we’re all going to be yesterday’s news as the up-and-coming nations put squabbles aside and perhaps partner to do a little crowing of their own regarding space achievements.

It’s not hard to conceive that these relative space newbies will find their own raison d’être to work with private enterprises to generate vast profits over what can be mined from the lunar surface and lassoing asteroids for minerals.  They’ll find the way at lower costs and higher efficiencies.  Why worry and wonder what the United States and Russia’s going to do when India, China, Brazil and the rest have their own futures to carve?

Only my opinion, folks.  But truly, there’s so much more to be gained from cooperation than not.  Need an example?  The shared history speaks for itself.

Just consider the crew of the original Star Trek.

Diplomacy and Space   Leave a comment


Credit: NASA

God, I love Twitter.

I’ve got myself hooked into a whole batch of NASA, ESA and tons of other space-related Twitter feeds that keep me posted on what’s going down up there.  You know, on the International Space Station.

I might be waxing romantic here, but why is it that for all of the problems the United States and Russia have had over the years, the space program shared between them seems to be a model of diplomacy?

I’m not dumb.  I’m certain there are complexities and complications that I haven’t even considered or comprehended.  Yet, here I was only a few moments ago, looking at the latest crew for Mission 39/40 that will ride a Soyuz up to the ISS: Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev, Steve Swanson launch on Tuesday.  In May, Reid Wiseman, Maxim Suraev, Alexander Gerst (a German, representing ESA) join them.

Looking through all of the images in the gallery, everyone seems totally preoccupied with their impending mission and what they intend to accomplish once aboard the ISS.  Everyone is intent on completing their pre-launch tasks and training.  There’s lots of photo-op shoots too, all smiles and poses.  It’s more than obvious that all are dedicated to their jobs and more than likely they deem themselves fortunate to participate in this great adventure.

Does everyone discuss the current political situation embroiling our respective nations?  Can’t say that they do, or even it they’re thinking about it.  I’m sure it enters their minds.  We’d never know about it.

Perhaps the tacit message that the crew of Mission 39/40 is sending us is this: we come in peace.  We work together towards a greater goal.  All of us can accomplish the impossible.

Maybe it’s time we all followed their example.

Posted March 21, 2014 by seleneymoon in Space Missions

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When America and the USSR Became Friends   Leave a comment


Apollo-Soyuz Crew, as shown on NASA web site, Apollo-Soyuz mission information page

Despite the fact that there always seems to be saber-rattling between the United States and Russia, our space programs get along famously.

Case in point: on July 17, 1975, Soviet and American spaceships linked together for the first time during the mission known as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.  Three American astronauts, Brig. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, Deke Slayton and Vance D. Brand and two cosmonauts, Lt. Col. Aleksei A. Leonov and Valery N. Kubasov,  changed the way our nations do business in space forever.  Slayton, by the way, was one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts

During this nine-day space mission, the American Apollo command/service module, or CSM, linked with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft.  The docking collar, which enabled the two spacecraft to connect, was developed cooperatively between NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences.  On July 15, 1975, the Soviet Soyuz-U and Delta IB launch vehicles (that’s rockets to you and me) lifted off within seven and one-half hours of each other and docked two days later.  After three hours of docking, the hatches opened.  Mission Commanders Stafford and Leonov reached towards one another and engaged in the first international handshake in space.


NASA, First international handshake in space: Stafford in foreground, Leonov in background

The joint crew spent 44 hours together conducting scientific experiments, exchanging gifts and flags, visited each other’s ships, ate together and shared a few laughs.  Stafford tended to speak Russian with a drawl, prompting Leonov to joke that he spoke “Oklahomski.”  President Gerald Ford made a phone call to congratulate the men on their mission, and a statement was read by Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev.

After the mission had ended and both crews returned to Earth, citizens of both nations delighted in shared accomplishment.  President Ford personally greeted the cosmonauts.  The Americans took their Soviet colleagues and friends on a tour of the United States, and the Soviets returned the gesture with a tour of their own.

In 1977, Soviet astronomer Nikolai S. Chernykh discovered a minor planet in the asteroid belt and named it 2228 Soyuz-Apollo, to commemorate this unique mission.

On February 19, 2014, Valery Kubasov died at the age of 79.  No cause was given, but certainly members of the space community of all nations felt the loss of this pioneer of cooperative international missions.  He served as the flight engineer and technical expert.

Today, this legacy continues on through the International Space Station and other missions, both off-world and on, through the dedicated scientists, space engineers and others, who recognize that the shared accomplishments and discoveries through cooperation far outweigh those of less peaceful purposes.  Perhaps one day scientists will become presidents, and the world will be ruled by logic instead of vice.

One can only hope.


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