Space Station Sunday - Halloween Edition: Dark Matter, Blood Studies, And A Spooky Specter On The Station

Good afternoon, space fans!  For those that celebrate it, we hope everyone had a fun and freaky Halloween.  Unfortunately there's no trick or treating to the ISS (yet), but it was a great week for orbital excellence just the same.

This was on Earth...unfortunately open fires on the ISS are a no-go.
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On Wednesday, NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren spent over six hours on an extravehicular activity (spacewalk!) for station maintenance purposes.  They lubricated the Canadarm-2 robotic grabber-arm, routed cables to eventually create a new docking port, and put a thermal blanket on the station's Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to aid in maintaining its functions past its longer-than-projected operational lifespan of three years.

Kjellin' out.
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The AMS is a cosmic ray particle detector that searches for hints of dark matter.  It is theorized that up to 95% of the known universe is comprised of dark matter, which is material that cannot be observed.  However, with a device like the AMS, it can infer where these antimatter particles may exist, which will aid in understanding more about the universe and its origins, as well as learning more about the antimatter particles' mysterious behavior.  What a perfect job for Halloween week!

The spacewalk itself was executed well, with the astronauts achieving most of their desired tasks.  They had trained for the EVA not just by conventional learning methods, but also by using 3-D glasses and attendant computer programs aboard the ISS.  It was the first spacewalk for both Kelly and Lindgren.  They will undergo another EVA on November 6th.

Nice job, guys!
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The station requires such meticulous upkeep to maintain its lifespan, which, as of tomorrow, will be fifteen years in orbit.  All six of the current ISS crew will be participating in a news conference starting at 10 AM, EST.  You can watch it live on NASA TV and learn more about humanity's most significant permanent spaceship.

In other ISS efforts this week, cosmonaut and One-Year Crew member Mikhail Kornienko studied how circulation is affected by microgravity, particularly regarding the force of blood expelled from the heart (though it sounds a bit like a horror movie, no humans were harmed in this study.)  Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko observed the physics of how plasma crystals and liquid crystals behave in the micro-g environment.

Finally, astronaut Scott Kelly managed to capture a rare video of this spooky Halloween specter on the station.   Well, when you float through the heavens, you're bound to catch some ghosts!

That's all for this week, space fans!  We'll see you next Sunday with another spacewalking scoop.  Watch this space!

And to anyone who dressed up as one of their astro-heroes, we salute you!
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