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Astronauts Aboard The Soyuz Rocket Land Safely on The ISS

The Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle that can ferry crews to the space station.

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Astronauts, Soyuz
Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques waves upon uniting with the rest of the crew members on the International Space Station after its capsule hatch opened upon docking in this still image captured from NASA video in space. VOA

Three astronauts who were launched into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Monday entered the International Space Station nearly eight hours later, a relief to relatives and scientists months after a rocket failure aborted another mission.

The hatch of the capsule carrying NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of Russian space agency Roscosmos was opened while the station was flying over the southern coast of Yemen.

The three were greeted upon arrival Monday by the station’s current crew members, who had waited outside the hatch after the astronauts’ capsule docked and underwent safety checks.

 

Soyuz Rocket, Astronauts
The Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft carrying the crew formed of David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and Anne McClain of the U.S. blasts off to the International Space Station, Kazakhstan. VOA

 

Their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft launched from the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday at 5:31 p.m. (1131 GMT; 6:31 a.m. EST) then entered a designated orbit just under nine minutes later. The spacecraft made four orbits over six hours as it chased down the space station for the docking.

The astronauts were the first sent to be sent to the space station since a crewed Soyuz launch was aborted in October after a booster rocket failed to separate properly, crippling the rocket. The families of the crew, other astronauts and space officials from several nations breathed a sigh of relief after observing the flawless launch.

NASA and Roscosmos said all onboard systems operated normally and the astronauts felt fine during the six-hour trip to the space station. After two hours of waiting in their capsule to confirm their ship was firmly docked to the station, they exited the capsule to join three astronauts already aboard the orbiting outpost at 1:37 a.m. (1940 GMT; 2:40 p.m. EST.)

Russian Rocket, Soyuz, Astronauts
From left: CSA astronaut David Saint Jacques, Russian cosmonaut Оleg Kononenko‎ and U.S. astronaut Anne McClain pose in a mock-up of a Soyuz space craft at Russian Space Training Center in Star City, Russia. VOA

The station’s current crew of NASA’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian Sergei Prokopyev and German Alexander Gerst were waiting to greet the newcomers. They are scheduled to return to Earth on Dec. 20.

McClain, Saint-Jacques and Kononenko will spend more than six months at the space station doing research and experiments in biology, Earth science, physical sciences and technology.

A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on Oct. 11, activating an automatic rescue system that sent their capsule into a steep ride back to Earth. They managed to emerge safely despite the harrowing ordeal.

A Russian investigation attributed the failure to a sensor that was damaged during the rocket’s final assembly.

NASA, rocket, Astronauts
Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

NASA announced Monday that Hague and Ovchinin will now launch to the space station on Feb. 28, along with NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch.

The Soyuz accident in October was the first aborted crew launch for the Russian space program since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch pad explosion.

Russian space officials took measures to prevent the repeat of such a rocket failure. Since the October mishap, four successful unmanned Soyuz satellite launches have been conducted to clear the path for the crew’s launch on Monday.

Also Read: The Soyuz-FG Rocket Failure Due To Technical Malfunction: Russian Space Agency

After Monday’s successful launch, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted his thanks to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Rogozin and to NASA and Roscosmos space teams “for their dedication to making this launch a success.”

The Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle that can ferry crews to the space station, but Russia stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner crew capsules. (VOA)

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Robot Equipped with Emotion-Sensing Heads to International Space Station

Emotion-sensing Robot Heads to Space Station to Help Astronauts

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Robot
Bret Greenstein, IBM Global Vice President of Watson Internet of Things Offerings, holds a clone of an artificial intelligence bot named CIMON, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. VOA

An intelligent robot equipped with emotion-sensing voice detectors was headed to the International Space Station after launching from Florida on Thursday, becoming the latest artificial intelligence-powered astronaut workmate in orbit.

The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion 2, or CIMON 2, is a spherical droid with microphones, cameras and a slew of software to enable emotion recognition.

The droid was among 5,700 pounds (2,585 kg) of supplies and experiments aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, whose midday launch had been delayed from Wednesday because of high winds.

Create a companion

“The overall goal is to really create a true companion. The relationship between an astronaut and CIMON is really important,” Matthias Biniok, the lead architect for CIMON 2, told Reuters. “It’s trying to understand if the astronaut is sad, is he angry, joyful and so on.”

Based on algorithms built by information technology giant IBM Corp and data from CIMON 1, a nearly identical prototype that launched in 2018, CIMON 2 will be more sociable with crew members. It will test technologies that could prove crucial for future crewed missions in deep space, where long-term isolation and communication lags to Earth pose risks to astronauts’ mental health.

Robot companion
The overall goal of creating this robot is to create a true companion. (Representational Image). Lifetime Stock

While designed to help astronauts conduct scientific experiments, the English-speaking robot is also being trained to help mitigate groupthink — a behavioral phenomenon in which isolated groups of humans can be driven to make irrational decisions.

“Group-thinking is really dangerous,” Biniok said. In times of conflict or disagreement among astronauts, one of CIMON’s most important purposes would be to serve as “an objective outsider that you can talk to if you’re alone, or could actually help let the group collaborate again,” he said.

Inspired by Professor Simon, HAL

Engineers have said CIMON’s concept was inspired by a 1940s science fiction comic series set in space, where a sentient, brain-shaped robot named Professor Simon mentors an astronaut named Captain Future. CIMON 2 also parallels HAL, the sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” film.

Also Read- Measles Kills 140,000 people, WHO disappointed

SpaceX is the first private company to fly to the space station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations. Along with CIMON 2, the cargo aboard its 19th resupply mission to the orbital research lab included 40 live mice that will show scientists how muscles change in the microgravity of space. (VOA)