The summer drama of the first SpaceX crewed launch to the ISS is behind us, and Doug and Bob (being brought up on The Time Tunnel, I really think it should have been Doug and Tony! 😉 ) successfully negotiated their big splashdown. But space endeavors continue unabated and there’s lots to anticipate as we kick off a round-up of space happenings this fall.
October is a feast for planet watchers. Both Mars (Oct 13) and Uranus (Oct 31) will be in “opposition,” the point at which they appear at their brightest and most visible in the sky. Mars will be especially prominent, and second only to Venus in terms of visible brightness.
Also on Hallowe’en, you can enjoy a Blue Moon (if you subscribe to the newer of it’s two definitions), the second of October’s two full moons. Is it really blue? Sadly not, although back in 1883, some people thought so following the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano.
World Space Week
Founded by the UN in 1999, World Space Week (always Oct 4-10) celebrates science and technology and their contributions to improving humanity’s quality of life. At a time when science seems to be more under attack than ever, this event is definitely worth supporting. This year’s theme is “Satellites Improve Life.”
The Dragon returns…
The first operational Crew Dragon mission to the ISS is now anticipated to take place in late September after being delayed from August. The Crew-1 astronauts will be Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker from NASA, and Soichi Noguchi from Japan.
Curious how much money SpaceX is saving NASA? The cost-per-seat figure for the Crew Dragon has been estimated at $55 million. This compares to $170 million for the space shuttle and a staggering $390 million (adjusted for inflation) back in the days of the Apollo program.
…and so do the Russians
The ISS is a busy spot. In addition to the Dragon, they’re also awaiting the arrival of the Expedition 65 crew (NASA’s Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov) arriving courtesy of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, launching on October 14.
On September 4, the Chinese launched a “reusable spacecraft” from their Jiuquan facility at Ejin, Inner Mongolia. While no firm details are available, China has been investigating different concepts for a spaceplane for several years. Modifications to the top of the launch tower have led to speculation that the vessel may be similar to a small space shuttle, like the X-37B classified spaceplane used by the US military. How long it will remain in orbit is unknown, but it will be interesting to follow further development, if the craft returns to Earth.
Space on screen
Brand new on Netflix this season is the space drama Away, starring Hilary Swank as an astronaut on a three-year mission to Mars. Early reactions haven’t been too positive, however. Perhaps more promising is The Right Stuff, based on Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book of the same name about the Mercury Seven team. You’ll need to subscribe to Disney Plus for this one though. Look out for the 2-episode premiere on October 9.
Who’s your favorite astronaut (real or fictional)? Let me know in the comments and you’ll be entered to win an ebook copy of Kwelengsen Storm. Winner to be announced at the end of World Space Week!
My favorite astronaut…didn’t even have to think about it: Ilan Ramon.
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