It’s Day 19 of the Great British Blast Off, and crew is finding it hard to adjust to life in the isolation of space. Mission Control is having trouble controlling its Isonauts, many of whom keep popping out of the airlock on “essential business”. Some of the Space Dogs are complaining of exhaustion from all the extra spacewalks.
Many Isonauts are also (understandably) complaining bitterly about the ongoing supply issues. The crews of well-supplied pods are happy, while those still struggling to receive deliveries of toilet paper, pasta, milk and flour are less so. Our pod was amused when our request for semolina flour for baking experiments resulted in the delivery of a single can of semolina pudding, which Isonaut Ryan has bravely volunteered to eat. For the first time since the 1970s, there’s a vast outpouring of support for the people who keep Space Station Britain running, from farmers, delivery drivers, refuse collectors and shop workers to the all-important medical personnel.
Many Isonauts are learning cooking new skills, including how to replace ingredients in recipes and avoid food waste, and recreate fast food favourites from Earth. Many more are involved in intensive educational activities or digging for victory, although it’s also true that many are retreating to classical literature or binge-watching Game of Thrones.
For those of you who’d like to try your hand at DIY space cookies, DoubleTree has made their legendary recipe available:
Meanwhile, Expedition 63 (NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner) endured tougher-than-unusual quarantine procedures before their launch to the IIS (International Isolation Station) yesterday. They’ve brought the crew complement to six for the time being, but Expedition 62 is scheduled to return to Quarantine Earth later this month.
Dragon splashed down safely on 7th April with its precious science cargo, which included hemp and coffee cells and the Sojourner potato seeds. This was the final mission for the original cargo Dragon design.
(That video is from astrobotanist Alexander Meyers. Read about how the Lockdown is affecting his work on space plants. And, if you haven’t seen it already you might like to check out my new Astrobotany page!)
Tomorrow (11th April) is the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 13 mission. What happened next is the stuff of space legends. After an explosive system malfunction, Mission Control had to overcome a series of serious problems to bring the intrepid crew – Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert – safely back to Earth. The Apollo 13 curse continues, however, as celebrations have had to be postponed indefinitely due to the planet-wide COVID-19 crisis.
“I don’t know how long this virus is going to keep us from it, but I was all planned to go say goodbye to my spacecraft in Hutchinson, Kansas, and then take the family down to the Kennedy Space Center for a final Apollo 13 50th anniversary. But all of that is on hold.”Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell (92), via CollectSpace.
“The lesson of Apollo 13 is what we had to do to survive. We had to be willing to be able to change the norm, if you will, because we had to deal with a lot of new things and new procedures to work around and get through it al. And that’s exactly what the world and people are having to deal with today.Lunar module pilot Fred Haise (86), via CollectSpace.
It is a different, whole sort of emergency and much wider spread, but those same ingredients are at play, with new rules to try to get past this thing”.
Isonauts can experience Apollo 13 in real time online, and NASA TV will be straming the premiere of a special programme, “Apollo 13: Home Safe” at 8 pm EDT today (10th April), which is 01:00 BST on Saturday morning. Read more about NASA’s Apollo 13 celebrations.
The BepiColombo spacecraft executed a flyby of Earth as the latest step on its journey into isolation around Mercury. BepiColombo is a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). It started its 7-year trajectory in October 2018, and this was just the first of 9 flybys needed to reach the solar system’s most innermost planet.
When the spacecraft finally arrives at Mercury next year, the JAXA Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will (as its name suggests) stay in orbit and study the planet’s magnetosphere. ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter will get closer to Mercury’s surface and focus on analysing the planet’s composition.
Isonauts will also enjoy two short videos from the BBC. The first is a new one on Nasa’s all-female team of ‘aquanauts’; the second is an older one, about the Biosphere 2 project: Building a new world inside a giant greenhouse. Barring an outbreak of pyjama ennui, GoffW will be back next week!