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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Off-Duty Day for New Expanded Crew

ISS022-E-014044 -- Expedition 22 crew

Image above: Wearing festive holiday hats, the Expedition 22 crew speaks with officials from Russia, Japan and the United States. In the front row are Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev (left) and Commander Jeff Williams. Behind them, left to right, are newly-arrived Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov, T.J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi. Credit: NASA

Following the arrival of the three new Expedition 22 crew members Tuesday, the crew aboard the International Space Station had an off-duty day Wednesday.

The crew members spent most of the day sleeping due to the late finish of the docking activities.

NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi docked with their new home at 5:48 p.m. EST Tuesday. The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft at 4:52 p.m. Sunday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

From inside the station, Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev monitored the approach of the Russian spacecraft as it docked to the Earth-facing port of the Zarya module.

After completion of leak checks, the hatches between the two vehicles were opened at 7:30 p.m. Williams and Suraev, who arrived at the station Oct. 2 aboard the Soyuz TMA-16, welcomed the new Expedition 22 flight engineers aboard their orbital home for the next five months.

Creamer, 50, is making his first flight into space. Selected as an astronaut in 1998, Creamer was a support astronaut for the Expedition 3 crew and worked with hardware integration and robotics.

Kotov, 44, is making his second spaceflight, having previously served six months aboard the station as an Expedition 15 flight engineer in 2007. Kotov will be a flight engineer for Expedition 22 and assume the duties of Expedition 23 commander when Williams and Suraev depart in March 2010.

Noguchi is making his second spaceflight. He flew on the STS-114 return-to-flight mission of Discovery in 2005 and conducted three spacewalks totaling more than 20 hours.

› View imagery of Expedition 22 docking

› Read more about Expedition 22
› View crew timelines

› Read more about the station's butterfly experiment

2010 International Space Station Calendar

NASA is offering a 2010 calendar that describes the work being done on the International Space Station and gives information about the crews that have lived there. The calendar contains photographs taken from the space station and highlights historic NASA milestones and fun facts about the international construction project of unprecedented complexity that began in 1998. (Note: In order to print the document correctly, please select the two-sided print option in your printer dialog box)

Gaza's Christians: gaze to tunnels for scant holiday cheer

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GAZA CITY — This year Santa had to ditch his sleigh in Egypt and crawl through a smuggling tunnel to bring a little Christmas joy to the Gaza Strip.

"Some of these gifts came from Egypt through the tunnels because the crossings were closed," Emad Barakat, a Gaza City gift shop owner said, pointing to rows of chocolate Santas. "They've been selling well."

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Israel and Egypt have imposed a strict blockade on Gaza since the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June 2007, preventing all but vital goods from reaching the territory where the vast majority of people rely on foreign aid.

That has meant that many of the decorations lining the Catholic Church of the Holy Family and its adjacent school and kindergarten -- where most students are Muslim -- were brought through tunnels from Egypt.

Some 2,500 Christians, most of them Greek Orthodox, live in Gaza alongside 1.5 million Muslims.

They generally have good relations with Hamas but have been targeted in the past by smaller, more radical Islamist groups and have long been caught in the crossfire of the Middle East conflict.

On this Christmas Eve there was little cheer as the holiday came days before the first anniversary of a massive Israeli offensive on the Hamas-ruled territory.

Eyad Sayegh, a Christian pharmacist in Gaza City, went ahead and set up a tree with lights but expected a low-key holiday.

"The climate is not appropriate for celebrating Christmas because it coincides with the anniversary of the war," he said, referring to the invasion launched on December 27, 2008 that killed some 1,400 Palestinians.

Thirteen Israelis were killed during the onslaught, which was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire from the territory.

"We are going to limit it to religious rituals and prayers at the church and exchanging visits with family and friends," Sayegh said.

Sayegh had originally planned to go to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank with his wife but she was not able to get a permit from the Israeli military because she is less than 35 years old.

Of the 750 Gaza Christians who applied for permits to attend the midnight mass in Bethlehem on the site of the manger where Jesus is believed to have been born, just 300 were given permission to leave.

And the Christmas spirit was further relegated into the background by intense speculation over a possible deal to exchange hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants since June 2006.

In past years Tareq Abu Dia's gift shop was stocked with Christmas kitsch, but now the shelves are lined with posters of famous prisoners.

"Regrettably we do not have anything this year for Christmas, no Santas or gift baskets," he says. "The political situation and the subject of the prisoners have overwhelmed it."

“U.S. plane” overshoots Jamaica runway, dozens hurt

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KINGSTON (Reuters) - An American Airlines Boeing 737 carrying more than 150 passengers and crew overshot the runway while landing in torrential rain in Jamaica late on Tuesday, cracking open its fuselage and halting just short of the Caribbean sea, authorities and eyewitnesses said.

U.S.

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Jamaican Information Minister Daryl Vaz said none of the 145 passengers and six crew on board Flight AA 331 was killed, but 90 people were taken to local hospitals, where they were treated for broken bones, cuts and bruises, as well as shock.
"The situation is pretty much under control, there have been no fatalities and the injured are being cared for," Vaz told reporters. "So far 90 persons have turned up at hospitals with broken bones, cuts and bruises," he added.

An American Airlines spokeswoman, Andrea Huguely, said at least three people were kept at the hospitals for observation and treatment. Others were treated and released.

"Upon impact, the aircraft hit an embankment when it overran the runway, so the landing gear and the engines detached from the aircraft, as they are designed to do. The left wing tip also broke away from the aircraft," she said.

"The fuselage is intact, but there are cracks in two areas," she added.

PASSENGER REMEMBERS "HUGE THUD"

The cracked, battered fuselage of the airliner, which plowed through an airport fence, across a perimeter road and up over a stone-lined embankment, ended up lying on grass-covered dunes a few meters (feet) short of the sea.

One passenger told a local radio station in Kingston that the flight was "bumpy along the way and the landing was terrible.

"The plane did not seem to be slowing down when it landed. There was a loud sound, then a huge thud and then we started to feel rain coming through the top," he said.
"The plane crashed and broke almost in front of me," another passenger, Naomi Palmer, told the Jamaica Observer.

The exact causes of the accident were being investigated but experts said weather could have been a factor. Heavy rain can reduce visibility and make a jetliner harder to stop.

"You will find a combination of things that caused the aircraft to touch down long or very fast," said Bill Voss, chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation, a research and advocacy group.

world news today
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to assist the authorities in Jamaica


Heavy rain and flooding occurred on the Caribbean island, a popular tourist destination, in the last few days. Authorities reported one local child drowned.
The Jamaica incident is the second runway mishap for American this month. On December 13, the wing of an American MD-82 struck the runway in Charlotte, North Carolina, while landing, causing damage to the plane. No one was hurt.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three New Expedition 22 Crew Members Welcomed "Aboard Station"

ISS022-E-014333 : Soyuz TMA-17

The Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Expedition 22

Wearing festive holiday hats, the Expedition 22 crew speaks with officials from Russia, Japan and the United States. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi docked with their new home at 5:48 p.m. EST Tuesday. The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft at 4:52 p.m. Sunday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

From inside the station, Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev monitored the approach of the Russian spacecraft as it docked to the Earth-facing port of the Zarya module.

After completion of leak checks, the hatches between the two vehicles were opened at 7:30 p.m. Williams and Suraev, who arrived at the station Oct. 2 aboard the Soyuz TMA-16, welcomed the new Expedition 22 flight engineers aboard their orbital home for the next five months.

Creamer, 50, is making his first flight into space. Selected as an astronaut in 1998, Creamer was a support astronaut for the Expedition 3 crew and worked with hardware integration and robotics.

Kotov, 44, is making his second spaceflight, having previously served six months aboard the station as an Expedition 15 flight engineer in 2007. Kotov will be a flight engineer for Expedition 22 and assume the duties of Expedition 23 commander when Williams and Suraev depart in March 2010.

Noguchi is making his second spaceflight. He flew on the STS-114 return-to-flight mission of Discovery in 2005 and conducted three spacewalks totaling more than 20 hours.

Endeavour set for Holidays

Space shuttle Endeavour's hatch has been closed and purging systems are set up to blow warm air into the shuttle and critical systems during the holiday break. Standing inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Endeavour has been bolted onto its external tank and twin solid rocket boosters. The temperature inside the shuttle will be kept at about 70 degrees with about 50 percent humidity. Warm air is circulated around the main engines and orbital maneuvering system thrusters to protect them from the colder temperatures. They will come on when the forecast calls for temperatures of 45 degrees or lower for four hours.

Endeavour's next major milestone is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2010, when it is rolled out to Launch Pad 39A. Liftoff of the spacecraft on the STS-130 mission is targeted for Feb. 7 at 4:39 a.m. EST.

Endeavour crew training for STS-130 mission

Image above: Crew trainer Patrick Jones (right) briefs STS-130 crew members during a training session in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Pictured from the left are Pilot Terry Virts Jr., Mission Specialists Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken, Commander George Zamka and Mission Specialists Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire. Photo credit: NASA/JSC
› High-res image

› Meet the STS-130 Crew

Endeavour's STS-130 Mission
Commander George Zamka will lead the STS-130 mission to the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Endeavour. Terry Virts will serve as the pilot. Mission specialists are Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken, Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire. Virts will be making his first trip to space.

Endeavour will deliver a third connecting module, the Tranquility node, to the station in addition to the seven-windowed Cupola module, which will be used as a control room for robotics. The mission will feature three spacewalks.

Liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is targeted for February 7, 2010, at 4:39 a.m. EST

Monday, December 21, 2009

AcrimSat Celebrates 10 Years of Measuring “the Sun's Energy”

Artist's concept of AcrimSat

Artist's concept of AcrimSat. Image credit: NASA/JPL
› Larger image

Launched Dec. 20, 1999, the Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor Satellite (AcrimSat) monitors the total amount of the sun's energy reaching Earth. It is this energy, called total solar irradiance, that creates the winds, heats the land and drives ocean currents. Some scientists theorize a significant fraction of Earth's warming may be solar in origin due to small increases in the sun's total energy output since the last century. By measuring incoming solar radiation, climatologists are using AcrimSat to improve their predictions of climate change and global warming over the next century.

For more information on AcrimSat, see: http://acrim.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Astronauts Test Glenn implements Harnesses

Imagine that you want to exercise on a treadmill. You step onto the machine and select your desired speed. As the belt starts moving, you start walking and eventually running. Your feet rhythmically hit the belt, and you get a nice workout.

In space, it isn't that simple.

Bob Thirsk exercises with the Glenn Harness aboard the International Space Station

Bob Thirsk (Canadian Space Agency) exercises with the Glenn Harness aboard the International Space Station during ISS Expedition 20/21. Image Credit: NASA
For astronauts living in space, like those who reside on the International Space Station, getting a good workout is equally -- and in some ways even more important -- than for earthbound people.

"Crew members exercise for a host of important reasons. There's a psychological benefit to exercise, and crew members work out to combat spaceflight deconditioning -- to help fend off the bone loss that they experience in microgravity and to help maintain muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance. All of these things are adversely affected by long-duration space flight," says Gail Perusek, Manager for Exercise Physiology and Countermeasures Project at NASA's Glenn Research Center.

Like your local gym, the space station has a variety of exercise equipment. The exercise complement includes a resistance device, a cycle ergometer and two treadmills.

The two different types of treadmills on the space station are the Treadmill with Vibration Isolation System (TVIS) and the newly-installed Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT), named after comedian Stephen Colbert. They're different in many ways, but both treadmills share the need for an exercise harness. Astronauts must use a harness to attach themselves to the treadmill while running in space due to the lack of gravity. The harness prevents them from floating off the machine, provides friction against the treadmill belt as they run and exerts an external load, or force, on their body to simulate the resistance of gravity that a terrestrial workout would naturally provide.

The current harness, which has been in use for several years, has some drawbacks. It isn't comfortable and has limited adjustability. Some crew members have reported chafing, as well as pain in their hips and shoulders from using the harness. As a result, the astronauts are not loading their bodies to the optimal amount needed to maintain muscle and bone health. The thinking is, the more load applied to an astronaut while running (ideally the equivalent of their full body weight on Earth) the better the workout; it increases the health benefits and decreases health risks.

"Bone loss occurs at a more rapid rate in space than it does on Earth," Perusek says. "In space, astronauts don't get nearly the same amount or quality of repetitive loading as we do here on earth, and bone mineral density loss occurs when the skeleton is unloaded."

The need for a new treadmill harness that is more comfortable and effective inspired the development of a new harness by NASA's Glenn Research Center. This effort, undertaken in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic and funded by the Human Research Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, resulted in the creation of a new harness design called the Glenn Harness. The team also developed custom instrumentation to measure the loads on the harness during exercise. Two Glenn Harnesses are currently being tested by space station crew members on orbit, in a study called the Harness Station Development Test Objective, or Harness SDTO. Additional harnesses will soon be tested on the station by different crewmembers.

harness jacket for ISS

The Glenn Harness incorporates technology from the world of backpacking, with shoulder straps and a hip belt distributing load. Image Credit: NASA Four years ago, the team from the NASA Glenn, ZIN Technologies of Middleburg Heights, Ohio and the Cleveland Clinic began work on their re-imagined harness. They realized that the treadmill harness operates much like a backpack, with shoulder straps and a hip belt distributing load. The team travelled to Colorado to consult with backpack companies, such as Osprey and Kelty. Upon their return, the team designed and created prototypes of the new harnesses (initial prototypes were actually crafted from disassembled backpack components) and began testing.

"At Glenn, we have an Enhanced Zero-gravity Locomotion Simulator (eZLS) where we can simulate zero-g treadmill exercise with human subjects," Perusek says. "We tested the prototypes with our treadmill and determined that indeed the harness was more comfortable than the current harness in a side-by-side comparison on the eZLS, and was able to distribute loads more evenly."

The team also sought extensive input from former space station crew members regarding the new harness. The idea to use antimicrobial fabric (containing silver ions) for the harness, for example, came from an astronaut who commented on the amount of sweat the harness must endure without a lot of washing.

After all of the research, designing and testing, the team worked with Terrazign, Inc. of Portland Oregon, to create the finished flight harnesses. The flight harnesses were shipped to Johnson Space Center in the spring of 2009, and packaged with additional equipment from Johnson to capture the load data. The first harnesses were blasted into space in September 2009.

The crew members participating in the study will use and evaluate the new and existing harnesses, and will complete questionnaires after each session to provide qualitative comfort data. The team also designed special sensors, called buckle transducers, which will measure the amount of tension in the harness straps and external loading each astronaut uses during their workout.

Once the crewmembers have returned to earth, they will share their experiences with Perusek and her team during the crew debriefing process. If the feedback proves favorable, the hope is to incorporate the new harness as part of the standard crew exercise equipment.

The in-flight study is expected to continue through November 2010 on Expedition 24, and encompass the results from up to seven participating crewmembers.

"Working on a project that has the potential to positively affect crew members so directly is very rewarding. A lot of great effort has gone into this, and we're very hopeful that it will be of benefit for the crew," Perusek says. "As long as we have a manned presence in space, humans will be exercising in zero gravity or even partial gravity, like on the moon, and we'll need comfortable harnessing systems."

Expedition 22 Keeps Busy While Awaiting Additional Crew Members

Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams

Image above: Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams works in the U.S. Destiny laboratory aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

High above the Earth, the International Space Station’s Expedition 22 crew kept busy with science and maintenance Monday as they awaited Tuesday’s scheduled arrival of additional crew members.

Commander Jeff Williams performed an inspection of an important piece of the crew’s exercise equipment, the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED). Used as part of a daily workout routine, ARED helps the station inhabitants preserve muscle strength during their extended time in microgravity.

Williams also recorded some video of the Advanced Plant EXperiments on Orbit - Cambium (APEX-Cambium) experiment. APEX-Cambium uses willow plants flown on the International Space Station to better understand the fundamental processes by which plants produce cellulose and lignin, the two main structural materials found in plant matter. Understanding the role of gravity in wood formation is expected to enable wiser management of forests for carbon sequestration as well as better utilization of trees for wood products. Later, he harvested some of the plant specimens that will be chemically preserved for post-flight analysis.

Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev worked on a replacement of the condensate separation and pumping unit, part of the water reclamation system in the Russian segment of the orbital outpost. He then spent the majority of his afternoon performing maintenance on the station’s smoke detectors.

Additionally, Suraev completed his periodic fitness evaluation using one of the station’s treadmills.

NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, all space station flight engineers, launched in their Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:52 p.m. EST Sunday to begin a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

› View video of Expedition 22 launch

NASA astronaut Williams and Russian cosmonaut Suraev are currently the sole residents on the station, having arrived Oct. 2 aboard their Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft.

Creamer, Kotov and Noguchi will complete the Expedition 22 crew when they dock to the station Tuesday. Docking is scheduled for 5:54 p.m.

› View imagery of Expedition 22 crew preparing for launch

› Read more about Expedition 22
› View crew timelines

› Read more about the station's butterfly experiment

2010 International Space Station Calendar

NASA is offering a 2010 calendar that describes the work being done on the International Space Station and gives information about the crews that have lived there. The calendar contains photographs taken from the space station and highlights historic NASA milestones and fun facts about the international construction project of unprecedented complexity that began in 1998. (Note: In order to print the document correctly, please select the two-sided print option in your printer dialog box)

› Download calendar (8.6 Mb PDF)