Welcome to the summer installment of What’s up? (In space!), a seasonal look at upcoming events in the world of space developments, projects, and people.
Space stories have been mainstream news recently with Ingenuity’s first flights, and the first photos from China’s Zhurong rover, not to mention the exciting announcement of a CSA/NASA partnership to develop a robotic lunar rover. So what can we expect for the summer? Read on to find out!
Tiangong moving along
The Chinese will be making more headlines on June 17th when they undertake their seventh crewed space mission and, more significantly, their first to the Chinese space station, Tiangong. The Shenzou 12 space flight will transport three (as yet unidentified) taikonauts to Tianhe-1, the first module of the space station. (Update: the crew consists of Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo) This is the first of four planned crewed missions leading up to completion of station construction at the end of 2022. (Update: watch footage and read more details about the successful launch.)
It’s exciting to see a second station in low earth orbit with all the potential for further research and exploration this brings, but a shame everyone can’t work together. China is out on its own and its rapid progress seems to be viewed as a threat by NASA. The new space race is here, and it’ll be interesting to see where it takes us.
Visit the ISS!
You too could be on the International Space Station this summer–virtually at least. Filmmakers Montreal-based Felix & Paul Studios have used 3D, 360-degree virtual reality footage, shot by ISS astronauts over two years, to create an immersive experience for up to 100 users at a time. After an expected launch in Montreal, the exhibit is likely to roll out to various North American cities, with perhaps an app to follow. I would definitely line up to experience this if it came to my local science center.
In other ISS news, July sees the addition of the brand new “Nauka” multipurpose laboratory module, developed and delivered by Roscosmos and designed to eventually replace an existing Russian module. Incredibly, this launch has been delayed since 2007 with a cycle of faulty and aging equipment requiring continual testing. Also along for the ride will be the ESA’s European Robotic Arm.
Boeing, Boeing, gone – again?
Turns out I was a little optimistic in my last space post. The second test flight (uncrewed) for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the ISS has been delayed multiple times, so I could be writing about it again in the fall! However, fingers crossed for a successful August launch from Cape Canaveral.
This story came out last month, but I wanted to highlight it in case you missed it. For the first time ever, candidates with certain lower limb disabilities, or who don’t meet the typical height restrictions, can apply to become astronauts with the European Space Agency as part of their Parastronaut Feasibility Project. As someone with a partial foot amputation who writes about a space engineer with artificial limbs, this news makes me very happy! Kudos to the ESA for taking this step (pun intended :-)).
Are you up for a visit to the ISS, whether real or virtual? Let me know in the comments!