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Making Space via Kazakhstan

By Dave Armstrong - 14 Nov 2011 11:23:35 GMT
Making Space via Kazakhstan

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Curiosity - The Next Mars Rover. This artist concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Preparation for launch in In this picture, the rover examines a rock on Mars with a set of tools at the end of the rover's arm, which extends about 2 meters (7 feet). Two instruments on the arm can study rocks up close. Also, a drill can collect sample material from inside of rocks and a scoop can pick up samples of soil. The arm can sieve the samples and deliver fine powder to instruments inside the rover.

The American shift to Russian rockets for Space Station duty began in Kazakhstan today. With last week's Mars mission, Phobos-Grunt, grinding to a halt, in orbit at least, and several cargo rocket cancellations, questions are being asked about engine breakdowns and upper stage failures. Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency reports three astro-cosmonauts travelling in the Soyuz rocket, adding to the three already on the ISS to make up a normal complement of six scientists.

Dr Scott Pace, ex-NASA, directing the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, explained, "The reliability of rockets has traditionally been a strength of the Russian space program, and the problems with three different rockets this year may indicate underlying issues. I hope there are full and frank discussions going on between NASA officials and their Russian colleagues." The three astronauts currently finishing their term on the ISS return this week, or possibly they'll wait for the next Greyhound.

Launch of Russian Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft to International space station, Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Launch of a Russian Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft to International space station via Shutterstock

Back in space, the Phobos - Grunt mission has contact with base when it orbits around Kazakhstan while the US space administration fires off its own Mars mission on Thursday. The Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity have been trundling successfully over the planet since the last Mars mission. On Thursday, 25th November the newest rover, Curiosity will be blasted off from Cape Canaveral.

From August 2012, it is hoped it will laser Martian rocks and use its spectrometer to analyse the material for organic molecules.

Best of luck to all involved with these fabulous adventures, built upon Sputnik and Apollo. We all benefit from the human demand for the novel and the curious, even when the result is largely spiritual. Perhaps human endeavour is now to be purely international, in the rest of the solar system, at least.

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Topics: Space