Ice cream goes to space!
A SpaceX capsule was fired at the International Space Station on Monday, carrying tons of scientific research. And ice cream!
As has become customary on these cargo flights, SpaceX landed its leftover reinforcement at Cape Canaveral shortly after takeoff, a key to its long-term effort to recycle rockets and reduce costs.
“Beautiful day, spectacular launch,” said Dan Hartman, NASA’s deputy director for the space station program.
The experiments make up the bulk of the 6,400 pounds of cargo, which should reach the lab in orbit on Wednesday. That includes 20 mice that will come back alive within the SpaceX Dragon capsule in about a month. The Dragon also doubles as an ice cream truck this time around.
There was extra space in the freezer, so NASA packed small cups of vanilla ice cream, chocolate and ice cream birthday cake as well as chocolate ice cream.
Those invitations should be especially welcomed by the American astronaut Peggy Whitson, in orbit since November. She must return in early September. Newcomer Randolph Bresnik turns 50 next month.
The space station was approaching 250 miles over the Atlantic, just off Nova Scotia, when the Falcon took flight.
It was the 14th successful landing for SpaceX and the sixth on giant X at the company’s landing site at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a few miles from its NASA-rented platform at the Kennedy Space Center.
“It’s right on the bull’s-eye, and a very soft touchdown,” said Hans Koenigsmann of SpaceX.
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 eyes of animals as well as the movement of the fluid in their brains.
Thirty days for mice in space is comparable to three years for humans, according to Michael Delp of Florida State University who is in charge of the experiment. The study could help explain why female astronauts do not have this vision problem, which can remain long after space flight, he added.
The Dragon also has an instrument to measure the cosmic rays of the space station. This type of device has previously flown on high altitude balloons. The Army has an onboard imaging microsatellite for launch this fall from the station.
It is a demonstration of technology; The military wants to see how small satellites like this one, with low-cost cameras and telescopes available on the market, could support critical ground operations. It’s the size of a bedroom refrigerator.
Three Americans and one Italian will tackle all this scientific work in orbit. The station is also home to two Russians; That number will be up to three in a year or so.
SpaceX Dragon is the only supply vessel capable of returning elements to Earth. Parachutes in the Pacific; The others burn during re-entry. AP