Space Station Sunday: Happy Anniversary (Don't Mind The Mishap!)

Happy Anniversary, ISS!  Fourteen years ago today, Expedition 1's Commander William Shepherd and Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko docked to the space station (then only 3 modules large) after flying up in a Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft.  The crew pioneered admirably upon the first phases of the orbital lab, and returned home aboard space shuttle Discovery after nearly 141 days in space.  Nearly a decade and a half later, their early endeavors have paved the way for more superb science, after initiating operations on humanity's longest manned outpost in orbit.

Cosmonaut Yuri P. Gidzenko, astronaut William M. Shepherd and cosmonaut Sergei K. Krikalev, the first in a long line of humans to play with their food aboard the ISS.
(Image courtesy

Unfortunately, even well-wrought science has mishaps, as evidenced in the explosion of the Cygnus resupply spacecraft aboard an Antares rocket on Tuesday.  While Orbital Science Corp., the commissioned creators of the spacecraft, are still examining the cause for the malfunction, Russia Today reported that the rocket was voluntarily detonated when an anomaly-sensing self-destruct trigger went off to assure that further trouble would not ensue were it to reach a higher altitude.  The Antares had previously completed three trips as a cargo craft to the ISS.

According to, a variety of science experiments selected as winners from over 1500 student groups were among the items lost in the explosion, including "red worms from Oakland, houseflies from San Marino, chrysanthemum seeds from Washington, D.C., soybean seeds from Louisiana, mosquito eggs from New Jersey, and Dry Lake fairy shrimps from Kalamazoo."  Several pieces of NASA hardware, including a meteor tracker and an array of miniature satellites, were also lost.

Everything is more extreme in rocket science.
(Image courtesy

Thankfully, a Russian cargo ship, Progress 57, arrived on Wednesday, ferrying up nearly 3 tons of cargo.  Although the Progress 57 mission was a great boost to the ISS supply chain, the Antares accident will not stop American spacecraft from making ISS deliveries.  According to a statement made by NASA, William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate explained, "Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback. Today's launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”

Speaking of cargo, some of the most important elements of the ISS are due for an update. Namely, the astronauts themselves. A fresh ISS crew will arrive on November 23rd after a launch from Baikonur, Kazahkstan. They will be replacing German astronaut Alexander Gerst, American astronaut Reid Wiseman, and Russian cosmonaut Max Suraev, who will all be heading home on November 9th. American astronaut Butch Wilmore as well as Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Yelena Serova will remain aboard to continue their mission.

Wiseman (the Jack O' Lantern) and Gerst (R) have celebrated their final major holiday on the ISS.
(Image courtesy

Until next week, stay safe on the ground, air, or orbit, and watch this space!

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