This panoramic view was photographed from the International Space Station toward Earth, looking past space shuttle Atlantis’ docked cargo bay and part of the station, including a solar array panel.
The photo was taken as the joint complex passed over the southern hemisphere. Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights can be seen on Earth’s horizon and a number of stars also are visible.
Chefs across the globe may not know it yet, but their baker’s yeast just left the kitchen and blasted off into low Earth orbit. Hitching a ride on the space shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011, the samples will be grown on the International Space Station as part of the Genotypic and Phenotypic Changes in Yeast Related to Selective Growth Pressures Unique to Microgravity or Micro-4 investigation. Capable of raising more than just breads, this useful organism will help researchers better understand the impact of the space environment on live cells in humans.
This yeast — S. cerevisiae — has been of use since the ancient Egyptians first figured out how to harness it for wine and bread making. In modern times it is still used for baking and was the first organism to have its genome fully sequenced. Scientists hope that by studying the changes of yeast in microgravity, they will better understand the changes human cells may experience during long-duration spaceflight. Gaining better knowledge of genetic alterations by studying yeast growth during this microgravity research may also help in understanding how these changes could manifest in human disease here on Earth.
This investigation is a collaboration with BioServe Space Technologies, Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the University of Toronto. According to Michael Costanzo, Ph.D. and one of the co-investigators for Micro-4 at the University of Toronto, the similarities between human cells and the yeast’s genetic makeup makes it ideal for study in space. “We are examining which genes are important for cell growth and survival in a zero gravity environment. The results of our ‘yeastnaut’ experiments may provide insight into which set of human genes are important and how these genes work together to help organisms/humans deal with extreme environments associated with space travel — such as zero-gravity and elevated radiation.”…. Continue reading Yeast Rising to the Space Station
With the final lift-off in Nasa’s space shuttle programme only hours away, weather permitting, people across the world are turning their attention to what has been a remarkable 30 years.
Most of the focus is be on the scientific achievements and tragic loss of 14 lives in the Challenger and Columbia disasters.
But it wasn’t just human astronauts who boarded the shuttles.
Many different animals have gone along for the ride too, to help mankind discover how life can adapt, or not, in space.
Among those to have made the journey are jellyfish, rats, frogs, tadpoles and honeybees.
This final journey will also be taking 30 mice to test the effect of zero gravity on bones. The findings could prove beneficial for both astronauts and osteoporosis sufferers.
Nasa’s first space shuttle flight was in April 1981; the 135th and final launch is set for today.
Now seems like the perfect time to raise a glass to these equally intrepid explorers.
Buzz lightyear: Challenger blasted-off in 1984 with more than 3,000 caged honeybees on board… Continue reading Bees, frogs, monkeys and jellyfish… the weird and wonderful creatures that joined Nasa’s shuttle programme over the years
Thirty years after the first blast-off, David Usborne reports from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, on the end of an era
Dotted across the sprawling campus that is the John F. Kennedy Space Centre in Florida are blue and white signs designed to get the thousands of workers here pepped up. “1 Days to Launch”, they declared yesterday above an image of the NASA shuttle. But they might have read “1 Days to Pack up your Bags”.
It is 30 years since the first shuttle, Columbia, lifted off from its pad here at Cape Canaveral and opened a new chapter in an American space romance that began a decade earlier with the Apollo flights. The mission about to be undertaken by the shuttle will be number 135 and the last. For the first time in half a century, the US will have no means on its own to fire humans to the stars.
The shuttle swansong will begin, of course, only when Florida’s thundery weather allows. The launch is scheduled for this morning, US time. But as hundreds of thousands of onlookers swarmed to Florida’s Space Coast last night, rain fell in chain-mail curtains and the forecast was ominous. Bad conditions, officials said, presented a 70 per cent chance of delaying today’s lift-off until Saturday or Sunday.
Whenever it begins, the last flight of Atlantis will trigger bittersweet emotions here. Even for those tourists cramming the parks and shores to watch the white bird soar on its thick thread of smoke it will, as one NASA spokesman put it, be a “bucket-list” moment, never to be experienced again.
Already as the digital countdown directed from Mission Control in Houston ticked down, a sense of nostalgia was filling the press centre. Even reporters who have been covering launches for years weren’t shy to have their pictures taken beside a vintage space suit brought into the filing centre for the occasion…… Continue reading Final countdown: The space shuttle’s last ever mission