Label: International Space Station

March 7, 2011


This morning the space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station and started its final flight back to Earth. says that this may allow people in the US and Europe to see a double flyby - Discovery and the International Space Station traveling together through the night sky!

Click here to go to the satellite tracker website and type in your zip code. It will tell you what time to look, and in which direction. If the skies are clear, you’ll be able to see what looks like two bright lights traveling close together through the night sky.

This is also a last chance to see Discovery in flight, because the orbiter will be retired after it lands in Florida on Wednesday.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, International Space Station   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 7, 2010

 Image of Expedition 24 Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock (foreground) and Tracy Caldwell Dyson working on the International Space Station’s S1 Truss during the first of two spacewalks to replace a failed ammonia pump module. Credit: NASA TV

A pair of space station astronauts ventured out on an urgent spacewalk this morning to restore a crucial cooling system - one of the most challenging repairs ever attempted at the orbiting lab. According to NASA, Expedition 24 Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson switched their spacesuits to battery power at 7:19 a.m. EDT, signaling the start of the first of two spacewalks that will focus on removing the ammonia pump module that failed last Saturday and putting its replacement in place.

The ammonia pump shut down last weekend and knocked out half of the space station’s cooling system. To cope with the failure, the six-person crew had to turn off all unnecessary equipment and halt science experiments. NASA engineers spent this week developing the emergency repair plan and astronauts in Houston rehearsed every step of the spacewalk while submerged in NASA’s huge training pool. The repair tasks, which include removing the failed pump module from the S1 Truss and retrieving a spare from an external stowage platform, are expected to take about 6.5 to 7 hours. They are scheduled to complete installation and activation of the new pump module during the second spacewalk planned for Wednesday at 6:55 a.m. EDT.

According to NASA, Wheelock is the designated extravehicular crew member, so he is wearing the spacesuit bearing the red stripes and conducting the fourth spacewalk of his career. Caldwell Dyson, designated as EV2, is wearing the unmarked spacesuit and making her first spacewalk. Flight Engineer Shannon Walker is operating Canadarm2, the station’s robotic arm, and assisting the spacewalkers from inside the station. Their mission is considered so difficult that two spacewalks are required. Each pump module weighs 780 pounds (353 kg) and is 5 1/2 feet long (69 inches) by 4 feet wide (50 inches). They are also about 3 feet tall (36 inches), making them very bulky and difficult to move.

There is streaming live video coverage on if you’d like to see this project in action. Thanks also to the folks at also for the diagram below, detailing the repair.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Space Travel, International Space Station   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 2, 2010

As we all head off for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, there may be a few mishaps as weekend sailors attempt to bring canoes, kayaks and sailfish neatly into the dock. When it comes to docking, NASA has started its holiday weekend off with a bang!

 The unmanned Progress 38 cargo ship, packed with 2.5 tons of supplies for the International Space Station (clean clothes, fresh food, etc) lost its telemetry lock while it was attempting to dock and flew right past the ISS today. NASA says the crew was never in any danger and the supplies were not critical. There were, however, reportedly some little personal treats included for each of the astronauts resident on the space station - a classic "Wait, come back!" kind of moment.

Have a great Fourth everyone. We’re taking the long weekend off here at Seymour Science and will be back blogging on Tuesday.

- Seymour

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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June 26, 2010

Last night, June 25th, we were wandering among the stars. Well, actually we were looking at the night sky with a pair of binoculars waiting for a satellite flyby of the Space Station. We knew the direction it was coming from and the exact time it would appear (WSW, 10:08:08pm). We knew that it would be very bright (-3.9 magnitude) rivaling that of Venus (a bit brighter at -4.2 magnitude). While we were waiting for the moment that the satellite would appear, we looked at the stars coming out as the sky darkened. The moon was so bright that its light washes out the dimmer stars, so only the brightest stars appear. Venus was very bright above the western horizon, appearing even before the red colors of the sunset had faded. I took this picture of Venus just to the left of the trees and you can see the last colors of a very beautiful sunset.

As the sky darkened, Liz looked up at the sky with the binoculars at two other bright stars and proclaimed them planets. I looked at them and thought that she was probably right about one of them and maybe not about the other one. The one I thought she was right about turned out to be Mars, the red planet. And indeed, it looked red. The other one she was also right about. It was Saturn. All three planets are visible in the early evening these nights, be sure to take a look!

Then, right on time, the Space Station rose and sped across the sky. It was magnificent, bright and fast moving (much faster than the high-flying ligts of planes that we saw). It took only a few minutes to travel across our viewing area and then sank below the horizon to the the NorthEast. I have to say that I did something silly. I started to cheer and applaud and Liz joined in with me. It is a beautiful sight and not to be missed. You have more chances this weekend to see. Check the times in your local area (look at the preceding blog entry for where to check). 

I cheered not only because the satellite flyby was so beautiful (it is), but because the thought of humans flying by in space made me think of myself as a small boy reading science fiction stories. I always wondered and hoped that we would get to explore in space and we have. Maybe not as far as I wanted (I wanted for us to go to the stars), but at least it’s a first step for humankind.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Sky Watching, International Space Station, Venus, Sunset   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 25, 2010

This is a great weekend for seeing the International Space Station with the naked eye. For the next few days, the  International Space Station (ISS) will be orbiting Earth in constant sunlight, which means that at times it will be almost as bright as Venus. Because the ISS is constantly reflecting light,  it shines  brightly in the night sky every single time it passes overhead - in some places, that may be as many as three or more times per night. has set up a this webpage where all you have to do is enter your zip code, and it will tell you what time the Space Station is passing overhead, and which direction to look. Grab a flashlight and head out to see this remarkable sky show!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Sky Watching, International Space Station   •  Permalink (link to this article)