Spacewalking Astronauts Plug Leak, Finish Fixing Detector Outside the International Space Station

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — Spacewalking astronauts plugged a leak in a cosmic ray detector outside the International Space Station on Saturday, completing a series of complex repairs to give the instrument new life.

The $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer could resume its hunt for elusive antimatter and dark matter by midweek.

Team members around the world expressed relief as NASA’s Andrew Morgan and Italy’s Luca Parmitano wrapped up work on the spectrometer. It was their fourth and final spacewalk since November to revive the instrument’s crippled cooling system.

“Congratulations … the AMS pump system is now leak tight,” tweeted the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, which helps run the spectrometer.

Mission Control cautioned it was too soon to declare success with the space station’s premier science instrument, but noted: “It still has a good heartbeat.”

Last month, Morgan and Parmitano installed new coolant pumps on the spectrometer. They went back out Saturday to check for any leaks in the plumbing.

Parmitano quickly discovered a leak in one of the eight coolant lines — the first one he tested — and tightened the fitting. “Our day just got a little more challenging,” Mission Control observed.

The line still leaked after a mandatory one-hour wait, and Parmitano tightened it again. Finally, success — the leak was gone. “Let us all take a breath,” Mission Control urged. By then, the astronauts were already halfway into their six-hour spacewalk.

Mission Control acknowledged the leak added some unwanted “drama” to the spacewalk. “Everybody’s hearts stopped,” Mission Control told the astronauts. Parmitano wondered aloud what his heart rate was when the leak erupted. “It either flat-lined or spiked, one of the two.”

“It was hard fought today, really well done. Cool heads prevailed,” Mission Control said as the spacewalk drew to a close.

Barring further trouble, the spectrometer — launched to the space station in 2011 — will have its coolant lines filled with more carbon dioxide Sunday. One pump will be turned on as early as Monday and the remaining three Tuesday. That could lead to the resumption of science observations by Wednesday.

NASA described the spectrometer spacewalks as the most complicated since the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions a couple decades ago. Unlike Hubble, this spectrometer was never intended for astronaut handling in orbit, and once it started faltering in 2014, it took NASA years to devise a repair plan.

Morgan and Parmitano had to cut into stainless steel pipes to bypass the spectrometer’s …read more

Source:: Time – Science

      

Trump Unveils Logo For New United States Space Force, With Nod to Star Trek

(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon’s new U.S. Space Force is not Star Trek‘s Starfleet Command, but their logos bear a striking similarity.

President Donald Trump unveiled the Space Force logo Friday, writing on Twitter that he had consulted with military leaders and designers before presenting the blue-and-white symbol, which features an arrowhead shape centered on a planetary background and encircled by the words, “United States Space Force” and “Department of the Air Force.”

The logo, which bears the date 2019 in Roman numerals, also is similar in design to that of Air Force Space Command, from which Space Force was created by legislation that Trump signed in last month.

Space Force is the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947. It is meant mainly to improve protection of U.S. satellites and other space assets, rather than to put warriors in orbit to conduct combat in outer space. The idea became a regular applause line for Trump at his political rallies. He originally wanted a Space Force that was “separate but equal” to the Army, Navy and Air Force, but instead Congress made it part of the Department of the Air Force.

“After consultation with our Great Military Leaders, designers, and others, I am pleased to present the new logo for the United States Space Force, the Sixth Branch of our Magnificent Military!” Trump wrote.

George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series and films, tweeted in response, “Ahem. We are expecting some royalties from this.”

…read more

Source:: Time – Science

      

In Groundbreaking Experiment, Astronauts Have Baked Cookies in Space. But What Do They Taste Like?

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — The results are finally in for the first chocolate chip cookie bake-off in space. While looking more or less normal, the best cookies required two hours of baking time last month up at the International Space Station. It takes far less time on Earth, under 20 minutes.

And how do they taste? No one knows.

Still sealed in individual baking pouches and packed in their spaceflight container, the cookies remain frozen in a Houston-area lab after splashing down two weeks ago in a SpaceX capsule. They were the first food baked in space from raw ingredients. The makers of the oven expected a difference in baking time in space, but not that big.

“There’s still a lot to look into to figure out really what’s driving that difference, but definitely a cool result,” Mary Murphy, a manager for Texas-based Nanoracks, said this week. “Overall, I think it’s a pretty awesome first experiment.”

Located near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Nanoracks designed and built the small electric test oven that was launched to the space station last November. Five frozen raw cookies were already up there.

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano was the master baker in December, radioing down a description as he baked them one by one in the prototype Zero G Oven.

The first cookie — in the oven for 25 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius) — ended up seriously under-baked. He more than doubled the baking time for the next two, and the results were still so-so. The fourth cookie stayed in the oven for two hours, and finally success.

“So this time, I do see some browning,” Parmitano radioed. “I can’t tell you whether it’s cooked all the way or not, but it certainly doesn’t look like cookie dough any more.”

Parmitano cranked the oven up to its maximum 325 degrees F (163 degrees C) for the fifth cookie and baked it for 130 minutes. He reported more success.

Additional testing is required to determine whether the three returned cookies are safe to eat.

As for aroma, the astronauts could smell the cookies when they removed them from the oven, except for the first.

That’s the beauty of baking in space, according to former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. He now teaches at Columbia University and is a paid spokesman for DoubleTree by Hilton. The hotel chain provided the cookie dough, the same kind used for cookies offered to hotel guests. It’s offering one …read more

Source:: Time – Science