Walking in the Void: 45 Years Since the Last Deep-Space EVA

Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans hauls the cylindrical film canister from the SIMbay mapping camera back to the safety of the command module, during humanity’s most recent deep-space EVA, 45 years ago, today. Photo Credit: NASA

Forty-five years ago, today, a fully-suited astronaut poked his helmeted head out of the side hatch of the Command and Service Module (CSM) into an environment like no other. Ron Evans, one of the three astronauts of Apollo 17—our most recent piloted voyage to the Moon—was tasked with retrieving film from cameras in the Scientific Instrument Bay (SIMbay) aboard the service module. To do that, he had to clamber, hand over hand, across a distance of 30 feet (9 meters), and back again. “Spacewalks” had been performed several times by Evans’ day, but most had been done in low-Earth orbit, with the Home Planet in relatively close proximity. Evans remains one of only three men to have made a “deep space walk”, in the cislunar void between Earth and our nearest celestial neighbor.

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Soyuz MS-07 Crew Launches, Bound for Six-Month Space Station Increment

Soyuz MS-07 during first-stage boost. Photo Credit: Roscosmos/Twitter

Three spacefarers from three nations have launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a two-day chasedown of the International Space Station (ISS) and four months of residency aboard the orbital outpost. Veteran Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov—embarking on his third long-duration voyage to the station—is joined by “rookies” Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The trio rose from Baikonur’s historic Site 1/5 aboard Soyuz MS-07 at 1:21 p.m. local time (2:21 a.m. EST) on Sunday, 17 December, and are due to dock at the station’s Earth-facing (or “nadir”) Rassvet module at 3:43 a.m. EST on Tuesday, 19 December.

Even as the new crew began their pursuit of the station, the incumbent Expedition 54 crew of Commander Aleksandr Misurkin and Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba were hours away from capturing SpaceX’s CRS-13 Dragon cargo ship at around 6 a.m. EST Sunday. The cargo ship launched successfully from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Friday, 15 December.

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SpaceX Launches Fourth Dragon of 2017, Nails 20th Landing with CRS-13 Mission

LIFTOFF of Falcon-9 with Dragon on the CRS-13 mission for NASA to the International Space Station. The mission marked the first launch off the newly rebuilt Space Launch Complex 40 since the AMOS-6 explosion over a year ago. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., which endured significant damage in the wake of last year’s Amos-6 explosion, has been triumphantly returned to flight operations, ticking off more than 80 launches in over five decades of service. SpaceX’s venerable Upgraded Falcon 9 roared aloft from the old pad at 10:36 a.m. EST Friday, 15 December, smoothly delivering the CRS-13 Dragon cargo ship onto a two-day rendezvous profile to reach the International Space Station (ISS).

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NASA Astronaut Bresnik and Crewmates Return to Earth From Space Station

Russian Search and Rescue teams arrive at the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft shortly after it landed with Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Bresnik, Nespoli and Ryazanskiy are returning after 138 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 52 and 53 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth on Thursday, landing in Kazakhstan after opening a new chapter in the scientific capability of humanity’s premier microgravity laboratory.

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Blue Origin Launches, Lands New 'Crew Capsule 2.0' in Latest Flight Test

New Shepard crew capsule 2.0 launching on flight test mission 7 on Dec 12, 2017. Photo: Blue Origin

Billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos and his Kent, Wash.-based company Blue Origin conducted a successful flight test of a new ‘2.0’ version of their New Shepard crew capsule on Tuesday, Dec 12, at the company’s west Texas launch site.

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Opportunity Rover Survives Worst Part of Another Martian Winter As It Continues Study of Ancient Gully

Winnemucca mesa, near the entrance to Perseverance Valley. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As incredible as it is to believe, NASA’s Opportunity rover is still going strong on Mars, nearly fourteen years after landing in January 2004. And now once again, it has just passed the shortest daylight time of the Martian year, the worst part of the Martian winter, with pretty clean solar panels to boot. Unlike the newer Curiosity rover which uses nuclear power, Opportunity, and its now-dead twin Spirit, uses solar panels for energy. At the same time, the rover continues to study an ancient gully thought to have been carved by water in the distant past.

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SLC-40 Ready for Return to Flight, With Fourth ISS-Bound Dragon of 2017

The CRS-6 Dragon spacecraft is robotically detached from the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2015. Friday’s CRS-13 mission will reuse the pressurized module of the CRS-6 Dragon. Photo Credit: Terry Virts/Twitter/NASA

SpaceX stands ready to launch its fourth Dragon cargo mission of 2017 to the International Space Station (ISS) at 10:35 a.m. EST Friday, 15 December, marking the first use of Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in more than a year. The pad has been out of service since the Amos-6 explosion in September 2016 and its return to operational use is expected to free up historic Pad 39A at the neighboring Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for the long-awaited maiden voyage of the Falcon Heavy booster.

Meanwhile, at the space station, the incumbent Expedition 53 crew bade farewell to Orbital ATK’s OA-8 Cygnus cargo ship on Tuesday, 5 December, as U.S. astronaut Randy Bresnik, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky and Italy’s Paolo Nespoli prepare for their own return to Earth next week.

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'Like a Big Ol' Freight Train': 45 Years Since the Launch of Apollo 17

Apollo 17 launches into the night at 12:33 a.m. EST on 7 December 1972. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Forty-five years ago, the combined spacecraft of Apollo 17—the Command and Service Module (CSM), named “America”, and the spider-like Lunar Module (LM), dubbed “Challenger”—slipped smoothly into lunar orbit. In doing so, it represented the ninth time in four short years that humans had ventured from Earth, across a gulf of 240,000 miles (370,000 km), to reach the Moon. And for Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan, Ron Evans and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, they would be the last men to depart low-Earth orbit for the rest of the 20th century. Even today, as we head towards the end of the second decade of the 21st century, theirs is the most recent occasion that humans have journeyed to the Moon.

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Expedition 55 Crew Primed for March 2018 Launch to Space Station

The Soyuz MS-08 crew, from left, consists of Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. The trio will spend approximately 5.5 months aboard the International Space Station (ISS), launching in March 2018. Photo Credit: Michael Galindo/AmericaSpace

Three experienced spacefarers, including an ex-teacher, a former soldier in the Soviet Army and a veteran “Hubble Hugger”, gathered before the media at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, on Thursday, 7 December, to discuss their upcoming voyage to the International Space Station (ISS). Two-time shuttle astronaut Drew Feustel, seasoned spacewalker Ricky Arnold and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev are slated to launch out of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft early next spring and return to Earth in late summer.

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SpaceX Says New Improved SLC-40 Ready for Launches Again Following CRS-13 Test Fire

FILE PHOTO: Falcon 9 v1.1 and CRS-3 Dragon payload undergoing a static “hot-fire” test on Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 ahead of its opening launch attempt. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) is back in business after supporting a successful Falcon-9 static test fire on Dec 6 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where SpaceX is currently preparing the booster to launch an un-crewed Dragon spacecraft with about 4,800 pounds of goods to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. 

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