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SpaceX Capsule by NASA Carries tons of Science Experiments, Ice Cream to the International Space Station

This is the 13th delivery by the Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, one of two private shippers hired by NASA

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International Space Station
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket launches from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Aug. 14, 2017. The mission of the spacecraft is a cargo and supply delivery to the International Space Station. VOA
  • SpaceX landed its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral shortly after liftoff, a key to its long-term effort to recycle rockets and reduce costs.
  • Experiments make up most of the 6,400 pounds of cargo, which should reach the orbiting lab Wednesday
  • The space station was zooming 250 miles above the Atlantic, just off Nova Scotia, when the Falcon took flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA, August 14, 2017: A SpaceX capsule rocketed to the International Space Station on Monday, carrying tons of scientific research, plus ice cream.

As has become customary on these cargo flights, SpaceX landed its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral shortly after liftoff, a key to its long-term effort to recycle rockets and reduce costs.

“Gorgeous day, spectacular launch,” said Dan Hartman, NASA’s deputy manager of the space station program.

Experiments make up most of the 6,400 pounds of cargo, which should reach the orbiting lab Wednesday. That includes 20 mice that will return alive inside the SpaceX Dragon capsule in about a month.

ALSO READ: To Save Earth, NASA plans to Crash a Refrigerator-Sized Spacecraft

Ice cream aboard

The Dragon is also doubling as an ice cream truck this time.

There was extra freezer space, so NASA packed little cups of vanilla, chocolate and birthday cake ice cream, as well as ice cream candy bars. Those treats should be especially welcomed by U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, in orbit since November. She’s due back at the beginning of September. Newly arrived U.S. spaceman Randolph Bresnik turns 50 next month.

The space station was zooming 250 miles above the Atlantic, just off Nova Scotia, when the Falcon took flight.

It was the 14th successful booster landing for SpaceX and the sixth on the giant X at the company’s touchdown spot at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just a few miles from its NASA-leased pad at Kennedy Space Center.

“It’s right on the bull’s-eye, and a very soft touchdown,” said SpaceX’s Hans Koenigsmann.

The experiments

The mice on board are part of a study of visual problems suffered in space by some male astronauts. Scientists will study the pressure in the animals’ eyes, as well as the movement of fluid in their brains. Thirty days for mice in space is comparable to three years for humans, according to Florida State University’s Michael Delp, who’s in charge of the experiment. The study may help explain why female astronauts don’t have this vision problem, which can linger long after spaceflight, he added.

The Dragon also holds an instrument to measure cosmic rays from the space station. This type of device has previously flown on high-altitude balloons. The Army has an imaging micro-satellite on board for release this fall from the station. It’s a technology demo; the military wants to see how small satellites like this, with low-cost, off-the-shelf cameras and telescopes, might support critical ground operations. It’s about the size of a dormitory-room refrigerator.

Also going up on behalf of the Michael J. Fox Foundation: protein crystals that, in space, might shed light on Parkinson’s disease. The mission got a televised plug from Fox, an actor who has the disease.

Three Americans, one more than usual, and an Italian will tackle all this scientific work in orbit. The station also is home to two Russians; that number will go back up to three in a year or so.

SpaceX delivery

This is the 13th delivery by the Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, one of two private shippers hired by NASA. The other is Orbital ATK; its next supply run is in November from Wallops Island, Virginia.

The SpaceX Dragon is the only supply ship capable of returning items to Earth. It parachutes into the Pacific; the others burn up during re-entry.

This particular Dragon is brand new, as is the Falcon rocket. In June, SpaceX launched its first reused Dragon, and in March, its first reused Falcon. From now on, the company said it may only fly used Dragons.

SpaceX is also developing a crew Dragon for NASA astronauts, set to debut next year. Boeing is working on its own capsule to ferry space station astronauts.

In the meantime, SpaceX is aiming for a November debut of its Falcon Heavy rocket, which will feature three first-stage boosters and 27 engines, versus the single booster and nine engines on the Falcon 9. It will have two-thirds the thrust of NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which was used during the Apollo moon program. All three of the Falcon Heavy’s first-stage boosters are meant to fly back to a touchdown. (VOA)

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NASA Renames Washington Headquarter Street Block “Hidden Figures Way” in Honor of Black Women

Less than 11% of the 500-plus people who have traveled to space have been women, said NASA

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nasa, hidden figures way, black women
FILE - Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, the inspiration for the film "Hidden Figures," poses in the press room at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 26, 2017. VOA

NASA renamed the street block in front of its Washington D.C. headquarters “Hidden Figures Way” on Wednesday in honor of black women who have contributed to the U.S. space program. The work of three black mathematicians – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during the 1960s race to the moon was captured in the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures.”

“When little girls and little boys come to see NASA, they’re going to look up and see that sign,” said Senator Ted Cruz, who cosponsored a bill to rename the block, at a ceremony where officials unveiled the new street signs.

“This sign is a powerful testament that anyone who is telling a little girl or a little boy ‘You can’t do something,’ is not telling the truth.” Less than 11% of the 500-plus people who have traveled to space have been women, said NASA.

nasa, hidden figures way, black women
Less than 11% of the 500-plus people who have traveled to space have been women, said NASA. VOA

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the first moonwalk by NASA astronauts, one of 11 flights in the Apollo space program of the 1960s and 70s, named after the Greek sun god. NASA announced in May that it plans to land Americans back on the moon by 2024 with the Artemis initiative, named after Apollo’s twin sister who was goddess of the hunt and the moon.

ALSO READ: NASA Preparing to Launch Twin Sisters to Study Signal Disruption from Space

For the first time, a female astronaut will walk on the surface of the moon, NASA said. Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the book “Hidden Figures” on which the 2016 film was based, encouraged those attending the ceremony to think beyond Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk to the collective effort it took to achieve the Apollo 11 mission.

“‘Hidden Figures’ is about taking off our blinders and recognizing the contributions of the unseen individuals who were there at the beginning of the story,” she said. “And whose persistence and whose courage delivered us to where we are today.” (VOA)