Rosetta’s Final Mission

Tomorrow, one way or another, the ESA’s Rosetta mission is coming to an end.  In a final maneuver, the craft will attempt to land on the surface of the comet, following in the footsteps of the Philae lander, though hopefully with more success. The video shows the final orbit plan, and really highlights how amazing mission scientists are to be able to plan a landing site when the comet is rotating so quickly, relative to the craft’s motion. You can follow the link to watch the live broadcast of the event here.  The mission will end around 7:20am EST tomorrow,...

The Next Canadian Astronaut

This guy is everything you expect in an astronaut.  At least that was my first thought when I was looking at his biography.  David St. Jacques was one of only two candidates (along with Jeremy Hansen) chosen in the 2008 Canadian Astronaut draft, the third in our nation’s history. He has a degree in Engineering Physics, a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, and is a medical doctor.  And that’s just his formal education.  He’s an avid mountaineer, cyclist, skier, and sailor.  Not to mention his advanced certification as a scuba diver, his commercial pilot’s license, and his ability to converse in Russian, Spanish, and Japanese. And so...

Review: IMAX: A Beautiful Planet

I recently had the opportunity to watch a brand new IMAX feature, called A Beautiful Planet.  It features incredible views of the Earth from space, captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.  Most of the footage was taken during Expedition 42 on the ISS, starting with the arrival of Samantha Cristoforetti, Terry Virts, and Anton Shkaplerov aboard the Soyuz TMA-15M, and ending with their departure. Much of the film was focused on the views of Earth, the scenic diversity of life and land that can only be seen from space.  It was difficult to see the effects of humans during the day time,...

Space Mice With Liver Disease

Mice are a common laboratory animal for pre-human testing.  Everything from drugs to medical treatments to surgeries have been tested on mice, and the effects of spaceflight are no exception.  Animals such as Laika the dog and Rhesus monkey Albert 1 have had their own test flights, but mice offer an easy alternative when there’s not much extra room on a spacecraft. In a recent study, mice flown on the space shuttle Atlantis were shown to have developed early signs of liver disease.  Could humans in space exhibit the same symptoms? “Prior to this study we really didn’t have much information...

Launch . Land . Repeat

I talk a lot about SpaceX.  I write about their exploits, their goals, and their successes and failures.  But they are not the only major player in commercial space flight, not by a long shot.  They have been the most well-known company due to their 1.6 Billion dollar contract for supply missions to the International Space Station, but there is great work being done by others.  The one company that is starting to move into the spotlight is Blue Origin. Another company run by an internet billionaire, in this case Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Blue Origin has similar goals to Elon...

Falcon 9 Landing Video

From the recent success of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch and subsequent landing of the first stage rocket booster, space flight has been changed.  The future of space flight will become more like an airline, reusing vehicles regularly.  It’s been a long time coming, and it still has a long way to go, but it’s heading in the right direction.  SpaceX recently released video footage of the landing in full. Even though the landing was a secondary goal to the mission, which also launched over a dozen ORBCOMM telecommunications satellites into Earth orbit, it was the newsmaker.  It took a 60...

New Space Suit Tests and an American Record

This past week, American astronaut Scott Kelly, currently on a one year stint aboard the International Space Station, broke the record of 363 days for most time logged in Space by an American.  Kelly will continue to run up the tally, as he is just over halfway through his one year mission.  His record comes from a total of four space missions, including two Shuttle missions and two ISS stays. While Kelly continues his mission to determine the long term effects of space flight on humans, his fellow ISS astronaut Andreas Mogensen has been testing a new skin suit developed...

Talking Space Flight With Future Astronauts

One of the things I love most about my job at the Ontario Science Centre is that it gives me opportunities to connect with some pretty amazing people.  I’ve met some incredible communicators, scientists, leaders, astronauts, and people from all walks of life doing amazing things.  Last night my astronomy background gave me an opportunity to work a special event for future astronauts who are participating in the Virgin Galactic commercial space flight program. The group consisted of about 20 people, some of whom were lead flight engineers and technicians forking on SpaceshipTwo.  Others were commercial development and administrators for Virgin...

The Trailblazing Heroism of Vladimir Komarov

This is a story that not many know, about a Russian cosmonaut named Vladimir Komarov.  He was one of the first Soviet cosmonauts in the 1960s during the cold war space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.  He was the first cosmonaut to fly on more than one space mission, and he sadly became the first human being to die due to space flight. An Aerospace Engineer and test pilot, he was one of the few exceptional candidates accepted into Air Force Group One, the original Soviet cosmonaut program.   He wasn’t medically fit for the program on...

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Catastrophe After Launch

I was downtown Toronto this morning, dressed in a suit and holding my umbrella to stay dry and navigate the city streets as they were soaked with rain.  I was headed to the CBC building on John street to do an interview about the SpaceX CRS-7 mission that would launch an hour later.  This would be a very important mission, the seventh of twelve ISS resupply missions contracted by NASA. It was also the third attempt at a secondary goal – landing the first stage launch vehicle, the Falcon 9 rocket, upright on an ocean platform, a feat that had...