Night Views From The International Space Station

There is little doubt that the International Space Station commands a spectacular view of our planet, but the video below hammers that point home even further. It features some of the most spectacular images of the Earth that you could ever imagine and while at times you’ll swear you’re watching a science fiction film, all of this is real and was shot by astronauts aboard the ISS.

Simply breathtaking.

View from the ISS at Night” from Knate Myers on Vimeo.

Space Travel Update: Man On Mars, Soon

As the SpaceX Dragon mission to the International Space Station comes to a successful close, the future of space travel comes a bit closer. That’s good news for NASA and America’s refocused space program. But they better not get too comfortable with their accomplishments so far, another company already has plans for a human settlement on Mars by 2023.

Mars One plans to send the first crew of four astronauts on a seven-month journey to Mars by April 2023 to establish the first human settlement. Sending a new team to the settlement every two years, the plan calls for over 20 humans to live and work on the red planet by 2033.

“A manned mission to Mars is one of the most exciting, inspiring and ambitious adventures that mankind can take on,” says Mars One on its website. “We see this as a journey that belongs to us all, and it is for this reason that we will make every tread a step we take together.”

To finance the operation, Mars One plans on bringing all of us along on the ride, watching and helping decide as the teams of settlers are selected, trained and prepared for the mission.
Secretly working out the plan since early 2011, the Mars One team has met with international aerospace companies who can design and deliver the essential hardware components for the Mars mission.

[Flickr photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center]

Commercial Space Travel Set Back But Not Discouraged

Commercial space travel, well on its way to replacing traditional space exploration, took a step back Saturday, aborting a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Just a little step back though – the launch is set to try again early Tuesday after swapping out a faulty part.

SpaceX scrubbed Saturday’s mission less than a second before liftoff after high temperatures were detected in one of the rocket’s engines.

After Tuesday’s re-launch, SpaceX will fly its Dragon capsule to the ISS to test sensors and propulsion systems, both of which have never before operated in space. If all systems are go, the unmanned capsule will practice docking at the ISS.

Saturday’s scrubbed launch is a good example of why America’s space program is headed in this “commercial” direction. Hours after the scrub, SpaceX had the solution to the problem in place and had moved on to planning for Tuesday’s re-launch. Run the old NASA way, detailed systems engineering, computer simulations and time-consuming analysis would have taken much longer and cost much more.

NASA, fully supportive of SpaceX to the tune of $2 billion, is excited and prepared.

“We’re ready to support when SpaceX is ready to go,” Alan Lindenmoyer, Manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, said in a press conference Saturday.

The new era in space exploration is coming; it’s just been slightly delayed.

Flickr photo by IronRodArt – Royce Bair (NightScapes on Thursdays)

Historic Space Travel Event Signals Start Of New Space Race

Space travel gets farther from the dream stage and closer to reality every day. Today, SpaceX will attempt to become the first private company to dock a capsule with the International Space Station. It’s a critical step in NASA’s plan for private contractors to transport cargo and crew into space and another step towards a new generation of space travel.

Called the Commercial Crew Development Program, NASA’s goal is “to accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities and reduce the gap in American human spaceflight capability. Through this activity, NASA also may be able to spur economic growth as potential new space markets are created,” the space agency said in a press release.

Just one such space market hopes to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals employing cost-effective exploration technologies.

“Water is perhaps the most valuable resource in space. Accessing a water-rich asteroid will greatly enable the large-scale exploration of the solar system. In addition to supporting life, water will also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen for breathable air and rocket propellant,” said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc., in a multi-media news release earlier this month.

Touting benefits in the tens of billions of dollars, Planetary Resources says a single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the platinum mined in history.

Late last month, SpaceX webcast a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket’s nine powerful Merlin engines in preparation for the company’s upcoming launch. Engines ran for two seconds before a planned abort.

The launch will be webcast live early Saturday morning, with commentary from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, California, at

Saturday’s flight by SpaceX is “a thoroughly exciting moment in the history of spaceflight, but is just the beginning of a new way of doing business for NASA,” said President Barack Obama’s chief science adviser, John Holdren in the Washington Times.

The webcast will begin approximately 40 minutes before launch when SpaceX hosts will provide information specific to the flight, an overview of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, and commentary on the launch and flight sequences.

Dutch Astronaut Tweets Photos From International Space Station

One of the joys of travel is taking great photographs of the places we visit and sharing them with friends and family back home. In the age of mobile Internet access, and services like Instagram and Twitter, it is easier than ever to chronicle our journeys through photos no matter where we are at any given time.

That includes the International Space Station it seems as Dutch astronaut André Kuipers has been sending a steady stream of images back to Earth since he first arrived there in December. André snaps photos with his trusty camera then uses Twitter to share those images with the more than 215,000 people who follow him. As you would expect, the photographs are often stunning shots of the Earth, the ISS or some other heavenly body.

This is the 53-year old physician’s second trip to the space station where he conducts experiments in a wide range of fields including microbiology and physiology. He is scheduled to remain in orbit until July 1st, so until then we can all continue to enjoy his fantastic photos by following him at @astro_andre. You can also read his blog, which he updates regularly as well, by clicking here.

Both images in this post are courtesy of Kuipers. The one above is of the moon setting behind the Earth while the one below is the ISS over Europe. Both are beautiful.