At the International Space Station, preparing for the future of commercial spaceflight.
A little more than a month ago, two NASA astronauts attached GoPro cameras to their helmets during spacewalks on the International Space Station (ISS), capturing jaw-dropping footage of the view from beyond Earth’s stratosphere. According to the Daily Mail, expedition commander Barry Wilmore and flight engineer Terry Virts shot the videos while performing maintenance and upgrades on the station, routing cables, repairing a robotic arm, and putting in a new communication system for spacecraft docking on the ISS. NASA recently released the two clips from the spacewalks, each an hour long, giving a real-life look into the kind of astronaut action most have only seen portrayed fabulously, as in the 2013 film Gravity.
After 30 years of missions, NASA finally retired its aging space fleet in 2011. Since then, they’ve been dependent on Russian capsules to take Americans to and from the ISS, at the prohibitive cost of about $70 billion per astronaut. But recently signed deals with Boeing and SpaceX are supposed to fill the gap, using commercial spacecraft to transport station personnel. Much of the maintenance shown in Wilmore and Virt’s video is in preparation for these commercial flights, which are meant to commence in 2017. The footage was intended to give future astronauts an idea of what working on the station would be like when they arrived. Here is a short edit of the clips from the AP:
But even outside the vertigo-inducing insanity that is operating a facility in outer space, astronauts heading for the ISS will have to deal with other challenges, not captured in the GoPro footage. Like when your groceries don’t show up. Yesterday, a planned launch for an unmanned SpaceX rocket carrying supplies to the station was put on hold due to poor weather conditions. When it does launch, the Dragon spacecraft will transport more than 4,000 pounds of food, equipment, experiments, and notably, a space-ready espresso machine for Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. According to the CBC, “Italian coffee giant Lavazza joined forces with the Turin-based engineering company Argotec and the Italian Space Agency to provide a specially designed machine for use off the planet.” The SpaceX supply flight has been rescheduled for Tuesday; hopefully the men and women on the station will get their snacks and coffee this time.
You can watch the full-length GoPro videos from NASA here.
UPDATE: The rescheduled SpaceX launch of ISS supplies was successful.